Cuba and US: so close and yet so far

Former US President, Barack Obama, and the president of Cuba, Raúl Castro, began the approach between both countries in 2016, after decades of broken relations. (Carlos Barria / Reuters)

The governments of Cuba and the United States represent completely opposite models and beliefs

The relationship between Cuba and the United States is difficult and complicated. Their governments defend very different political systems and that has prevented any approach for the past six decades. But what is the reason of their differences?

After winning the War of Independence against Spain in 1898, Cuba became an independent country. But the Cubans could not have won if it hadn’t been for US help, so in 1901 they approved the Platt Amendment, which allowed the US government to have some control over the political affairs of the island.

The United States got unequal treatment which they benefited of: it controlled the sugar, tobacco and lands of the island. The Cuban population was increasingly unhappy with the situation, but could not do anything because the Cuban rulers were controlled by the Americans.

Everything got worse when, after a long guerrilla war, Fidel Castro came to power in 1959 and rebelled against the abusive treatment of the United States.

The world divided in two

To understand the confrontation between the Cuban and American governments, it is important to know what was happening in the world at that time. After the World War II (1940-1945), the world was divided into two blocks that fought to impose their social, political and economic model: capitalism against communism.

All countries were forced to choose a side: the capitalist, led by the United States, or the communist, represented by the policy of the USSR (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, which included the current Russia). This is what was called the Cold War, which lasted until the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

Rivalry between the US and the USSR affected all countries and affected the relationship with other countries like Cuba.

At first, when he defeated the regime of Fulgencio Batista (a dictator who ruled the island thanks to the support of the US), Castro considered himself not a communist but a “revolutionary.” He wanted to rebel against Yankee domination and privatized businesses and lands, most of them owned by Americans.

In response, US President Dwight Eisenhower decided to impose sanctions on Cuba to harm its economy. A year later, commercial relations between both countries were suspended. And in 1961, the Americans sent 1,500 soldiers to the Bahía de Cochinos to invade the island, but Cuban troops stopped the attacked.

In the middle of the Cold War and before the aggressiveness of the United States, Cuba approached the USSR. The Cubans allowed them to install a missile base on the island, which was a threat to the United States and a full-blown provocation: it was the so-called Missile Crisis, when the world was on the verge of suffering a Third World War.

In the end, diplomacy beat violence, but the relationship between both states was frozen until 2009.

The consequences of the ‘embargo’

For almost 50 years, the United States banned any kind of commercial relationship with Cuba: no country could buy or sell with the island. This caused a significant shortage of products and materials that affected the Cuban population.

But things change in 2009. Fidel Castro retires for health reasons and his brother Raúl replaces him as president, with a more open mentality. Meanwhile, in the United States, the Democrat Barack Obama replaced the Republican George Bush Jr. Both leaders decide to bury the hatchet and restore relations.

Barack Obama met with Raúl Castro in Cuba in March 2016. It was the first time in 88 years for a US president to visit the island. (Reuters)

Everything was going smoothly until Donald Trump came to power. The new president of the United States does not seem to be as willing as Obama to take up relations with Cuba. So far, he has already ordered to limit trips to the island and trade with the Cuban armed forces.

Translated by Chaplin’s Languages | Find out more in Junior Report

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