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President Obama's Trip to Cuba

Yesterday history was made when President Barack Obama and the First Family arrived in Havana, Cuba.President Obama's visit to Cuba the first by a sitting U.S. President in 90 years. It comes after both countries agreed to reestablish a historically severed relationship.

Since the 1960's, successive U.S. administrations have maintained a policy of economic sanctions and diplomatic isolation from Cuba. The sentiments between the two geographically near neighbors was initiated by a prisoner swap followed by a U.S. trade embargo. 

The tumultuous relationship has its beginnings in the Cold War with Fidel Castro seizing power of the Cuba national government in 1959. Castro later increased trade with the Soviet Union, raised taxes on American imports, and misinformed the U.S. about his communist views. As result, President John F. Kennedy levied a full economic embargo on Cuba that included heavy travel restrictions.

The 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion and subsequent Cuba-Soviet Union agreements for the Soviet Union to build a missile base on the island heightened U.S. suspicion and mistrust. President Kennedy demanded the missile sites be destroyed. The Cuban Missile Crisis ended with the agreement that Cuba would destroy the sites if the U.S. pledged not to invade Cuba. The U.S. also agreed to remove nuclear missiles from Turkey. 

The events of 1961–62 define the economic and diplomatic isolation of the U.S.'s policy toward Cuba, even after the Soviet Union collapsed. Washington strengthened the embargo with the 1992 Cuba Democracy Act and 1996 Helms-Burton Act (PDF), which state that the embargo may not be lifted until Cuba holds free and fair elections and transitions to a democratic government that excludes the Castros. Current Cuba President Raul Castro has already publicly stated that he will leave office in 2018. Some adjustments have been made to the trade embargo to allow for the export of some U.S. medical supplies and agricultural products to the island.

Human rights in Cuba is also a major concern for U.S. policymakers, including President Obama. In a 2014 report, Human Rights Watch said Cuba "continues to repress individuals and groups who criticize the government or call for basic human rights" through detentions, travel restrictions, beatings, and forced exile.The culmination of these events makes President Obama visit and peace talks with President Castro all the more important historically, economically, internationally, and humanely. 

Here are some helpful links to more information about U.S.-Cuba Relations


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