55 years after Fidel Castro’s revolution, the United States and Cuba resume diplomatic relations. In exchange for the release of Alan Gross, a US citizen held for five years in Havana after accusations of espionage, the US president Barack Obama has agreed to lift the embargo against Cuba, opening the door to the re-establishment of diplomatic relations. Now, after the death of Fidel Castro and the arrival of the Trump-cyclone in the White House things could change yet again…
But why was there an embargo in the early 60´s?
The first sanctions against Cuba date back to 1959, when Fidel Castro took power and nationalized over a billion dollars worth of American goods on the island. Between 1960 and 1961, President John F. Kennedy imposed new sanctions, formalizing the embargo in 1962. Diplomatic relations between the US and Cuba were completely broken in 1961 after Cuba signed a trade agreement with the Soviet Union.
Nowadays what restrictions still exist?
Not only does the embargo not allow US companies to do business with Cuba, it also forbids American citizens to travel to the island as tourists. An American who was caught spending money in Cuba could face up to $ 65,000 in fines. The embargo also restricts the travel of those who intend to visit family members in Cuba.
So what will change after the new agreement?
Both countries will launch negotiations to open embassies. The United States will lighten restrictions on travel, making it easier for US citizens to travel to Cuba and to do business. American institutions will be able to open correspondent accounts at Cuban financial institutions and will be allowed to use American credit cards in Cuba. The levels of remittances, will also be increased from $ 500 to $ 2,000 per quarter, and at the same time legalize the “import of goods from Cuba” of up to $ 400, of which no more than $ 100 worth may be tobacco or alcohol.
And what will Cuba do?
Havana will free 53 political prisoners and reduce the restrictions on access to the Internet (Gross was arrested after delivering satellite phones and other communication equipment to a small Jewish community on the island).
So why did Obama not cancel the embargo altogether?
Simply, he couldn’t. Only Congress can lift the embargo altogether. But according to White House officials, the President may reduce some restrictions whilst advantage of his executive power.
And what are the international community saying?
Over the past two decades, the General Assembly of the United Nations has always voted against the embargo, calling on the United States to reverse course. Israel alone has supported the US.
What do the people of the United States think?
Several political leaders have asked several times to change the US policy towards Cuba. Formerly the Cuban refugees in the United States are those that have always pushing for an embargo. But today, however, nearly 7 out of 10 Cubans say they are in favor for US-Cuba diplomatic relations and about half in favor of the embargo.
How much does the embargo cost the Cuban people?
It’s hard to know exactly. In 2011, Havana said that in 50 years the economic damage the embargo had done had exceeded $ 1 trillion. But in recent months the Cuban Deputy Foreign Minister Abelardo Moreno stated that ‘the price paid by Cuba for the US embargo effect is about one hundred and sixteen billion dollars lost, of which nearly four billion dollars was lost last year alone. ” Moreno recalled that “el embargo” (as they call the Cubans) has an international dimension, since it also affects the Cuban trade with a third of all countries and affects the possibility of foreign investment in the island.
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