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Government, International Relations

Miami decision, international approval, American Telegraph, Cuban relations, economic blockade

Since the revolution, Cuba has tried to export the ideals of the revolution throughout the world as a means of bringing down capitalism and opposing the U.S. model of constitutional government. United States policy has been to oust Castro and bring Cuba back under U.S. influence. The two nations have clashed in nearly every continent of the world, and Cuba’s survival has often relied heavily on the support of the USSR. Since the USSR collapsed and Cuba’s economic crisis began, active support for international revolutionary causes has ceased. Cuba’s leadership has turned its attention to redesigning socialism to include some capitalist activity and trade with capitalist nations. To this end, Cuba has formed new alliances with Latin American countries with which it previously had no relations. Trade agreements with capitalist nations, such as Canada, France, Spain, Italy, and the Russian Federation, have more to do with economics than politics.

The United States has continued to oppose Cuba, regardless of the changes in Cuba’s foreign policy over the past 25 years. In the late 1970s the United States refused to establish diplomatic relations unless Cuba withdrew its military from foreign countries, specifically Angola, released political prisoners, and paid compensation to former owners of nationalized properties. Cuba not only did not leave Angola, but Castro committed troops in Nicaragua, where rebels were fighting to overthrow the dictatorship of Anastasio Somoza. This action brought an end to secret peace talks between Cuba and the United States. During the 1980s, U.S. president Ronald Reagan viewed Cuba as the source of Communist influence in the Western Hemisphere.

Since 1991 the Cuban government has offered compensation for seized property, released political prisoners, permitted U.S. news bureaus in Cuba, and stopped trying to export the ideals of the revolution. However, the United States has not reestablished relations with Cuba despite these concessions. The Congress of the United States, first through the Torricelli Law of 1991 and then in the Helms-Burton Law of 1996, demanded elections in Cuba similar to those in the United States and the removal of Castro and his associates. Between 1996 and 1998 U.S.-Cuban relations once again grew hostile after Cuban fighter planes shot down two civilian aircraft piloted by U.S.-based Cuban exiles, which convinced U.S. president Bill Clinton to sign the Helms-Burton Law.

As a result of 40 years of hostility between the Cuban and U.S. governments, citizens of both countries have experienced a prohibition against travel, communications, and knowledge about the other country. But despite attempts to ignore or vilify one another, during the 1990s the diplomatic policies of each nation remained focused on the other as both governments battled for international approval.

In December 1998, President Clinton responded to international condemnation of the U.S. economic blockade by relaxing restrictions on the admittance of food and medicines, and on money sent to Cuban citizens from individuals in the United States. Both governments disagreed with the decision of a Miami civil court to hold Cuba liable for the deaths of the two pilots shot down in 1996. When the court froze $30 million in assets owed to Cuba by American Telegraph and Telephone Company (AT&T), Castro cut telephone communication between the two countries. The U.S. Justice Department supported an appeal of the Miami decision.

Sports served as the medium for cultural exchange when an arrangement worked out in 1998 through informal diplomatic channels allowed the Baltimore Orioles, a professional U.S. baseball team, and the Cuban All-Stars baseball team to play games in Baltimore, Maryland and Havana.

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