My name is Jesse Friedman and I am a senior at Tulane University majoring in Political Science and Spanish.
Last year, I studied for a semester at the University of Havana, in Cuba, where I became interested in the political dynamics between the U.S. and Cuban governments. Cutting through the inflammatory rhetoric in Cuba could be difficult. There is a large billboard on the highway just outside Havana that reads: “The Blockade/Embargo: The Longest Genocide In Human History.”
Nevertheless, I was intrigued by the ongoing contention between these two nations, so close in geography but so far apart in ideology and system of government. I took to learning the history of the U.S.-Cuban Embargo. The embargo, a series of sanctions initiated by President Kennedy and officially signed into law in the ‘90s, was initially a strategy to condemn and punish Fidel Castro’s revolutionary communist regime.
Upon returning to the U.S., I grew intrigued by how this policy, seemingly an ideological remnant of the Cold War, could persist to this day. I began to wonder whether the confluence of forces that created the embargo—the Cuban ethnic lobby, anti-communist fervor, the significance of the Cuban-American electorate in Florida—could be fading away. My paper will look at the decline of these political factors, while examining recent indicators that may point to the dismantling of the embargo: increasing state-led trade missions to Cuba, legal provisions allowing agricultural and medical trade, rising numbers of student and cultural-exchange visas. I will analyze whether the incremental changes in the Cuban regime might allow holes in the 1990 embargo legislation to be exploited that would nullify the embargo.
The Obama Administration has already taken steps, via executive order, to loosen certain travel and economic restrictions pertaining to Cuba. Multiple appeals and potential bills to end the embargo are active in Congress. I want to determine whether and to what extent shifts in national ideology and political and economic interests anticipate a new era in U.S.-Cuban relations.
To any Cuban-Americans out there (or anyone else)—let me know if you have any comments.
-See everyone in DC!