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Cuba Under Castro, International Relations

Nicaraguan Revolution, Cuban troops, Sandinistas, Non-Aligned Movement, Che Guevara

Following the rupture of Cuban-U.S. relations in the early 1960s, the United States pressured Latin American countries to break ties with Cuba. At U.S. insistence, the Organization of American States (OAS), an organization that coordinates economic, social, and security issues among the nations of the Western Hemisphere, expelled Cuba. As a result, Cuba sought diplomatic relations with the Communist nations of Eastern Europe and developing countries in Africa.

Cuba also encouraged revolutionary movements in Latin America. In 1967 Che Guevara was captured and executed while trying to start an insurrection in the mountains of Bolivia. Cuba’s commitment to exporting revolution caused a serious disagreement with the USSR in the mid-1960s. The Cubans showed little patience with the world’s traditional Communist parties, which in the 1950s and early 1960s tried to win power through democratic methods, rather than by armed revolt. However, the rift between Cuba and the USSR narrowed significantly after the USSR showed its displeasure by reducing shipments of oil to Cuba and withdrawing its technical advisors.

In 1973 relations between the USSR and the United States improved, and Cuba benefited from a reduction in international tensions. The OAS voted to allow its members to determine their own relations with Cuba. Under U.S. president Gerald R. Ford secret meetings with Cuban authorities dealt with diplomatic and economic openings with Cuba. This changed abruptly in 1975 when Cuba sent military forces into the African nation of Angola, which had just won its independence from Portugal. Cuban troops aided leftist forces fighting for control of the newly independent nation. From 1975 to 1989 Cuba committed 250,000 troops to Angola before a peace settlement was eventually reached.

Under the administration of U.S. president Jimmy Carter, Cuba and the United States each established a diplomatic office in the other country. In 1977 Americans were allowed to visit Cuba as tourists. But attempts to improve Cuban/U.S. relations foundered on a buildup of Soviet technicians and advisers in Cuba and on Cuba’s commitment to the Sandinista rebels. The Sandinistas ousted Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza in September 1979 following a bitter struggle known as the Nicaraguan Revolution.

Cuba’s prestige as an international leader peaked in 1979 when Castro became the head of the Non-Aligned Movement, a group of nations that sought to remain neutral during the Cold War. Although Cuba was an ally of the USSR, members of the movement supported Castro’s leadership to demonstrate their disapproval of the 19-year-old U.S. embargo. Cuba also became the host country for international humanitarian meetings, such as the International Youth Conference in 1980.

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