What began over 50 years ago as Cold War posturing, has evolved into one of the longest standing embargoes in world history. “Posturing” might be a little unfair – Cold War fears and hysteria presented themselves as ever present dread. Communists were the enemy – an enemy poised to unleash global nuclear annihilation. Communists were the reason we built shelters and stock piled supplies. Only 2 years old in 1961 as the Bay of Pigs played out, my mother tells of utter despair listening to news reports – convinced unthinkable was inevitable.
Capsulizing Cuba”s predicament isn’t easy – In 1959 Fidel Castro led Cuban rebels to victory by ousting Cuban president Fulgencio Batista. Castro’s revolutionary government drastically altered American interests in Cuba. Socialist land reform (three quarters of arable Cuban land, owned by foreigners under Batista) led to seizure of U.S. owned sugar plantations. America countered in 1960 by reducing Cuban sugar imports, the Soviet Union agreed to purchase the difference. Escalating reform of privately held land, business ,and education, coupled with increased Soviet trade, and expulsion of religious organizations (Cuba declared itself an Atheist nation in 1962 – a prohibition removed by the Communist government in 1991) meant one thing, and one thing only – Communism. Cold war anti-communists lost their minds over socialist reforms and Soviet presence – in 1962 president John F. Kennedy signed an executive order, effectively severing all ties with Castro’s Cuba. Linked below, a good timeline of embargo progression….
The Cold War resides in history books, America trades with Russia, and Cuba is now a member of the UN Human Rights Council – a council that’s voted 22 consecutive times to end the U.S. embargo. The latest vote, an overwhelming majority (188 UN general assembly members in favor) with America and Israel the only hold-outs. More astounding is news that Barrack Obama signed up for another year of embargo under the Trading With the Enemy Act of 1917 – a federal law restricting trade with nations hostile to America – a law requiring yearly review by the President. A law pertaining to Cuba alone, after George Bush removed North Korea from the naughty list in 2008.
Not even the fact I’m Canadian, negates bat shit absurdity of continued embargoes with Cuba. Ponder Obama’s about face – help me make sense of this crazy world.
John Oliver on the Daily Show….