In the article, “Why Do We Still Have an Embargo of Cuba?” Patrick Haney explores the history of the embargo and the different factors which have maintained and tightened its restrictions over the past fifty years. The embargo consists of a ban on trade and commercial activity, a ban on travel, a policy on how Cuban exiles can enter the U.S., and media broadcasting to the island. These once-executive orders now codified into law by the Helms-Burton Act, have become a politically charged topic which wins and loses elections, spawned influential interest groups, and powerful political action committees. One year and a half after Castro’s forces took power in Cuba, President Eisenhower first imposed an embargo on Cuba, with the exception of food and medicine. In 1962, President Kennedy tightened the embargo and U.S. products to Cuba from third party countries via the Trading with the Enemy Act. One year later, Kennedy bans travel, a restriction that has existed ever since. President Ford’s Secretary of State Henry Kissinger is the first to mention that the isolation of Cuba is actually isolating the United States. Up until the Carter Administration, policy on Cuba was driven by presidential advisors. Starting with Carter, the growing Cuban-American political clout forces the issues to be discussed by the politicians and candidates. Most of these Cuban-Americans are Republicans, as they blame Kennedy for the failed Bay of Pigs operation in 1961, which intended to overthrow the Castro regime. With the end of the Cold War, the original reasons for the embargo have all gone away. However, with the influence of interest groups like the Cuban American National Foundation and PACs like the U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC, the subject has become an important one when elections are approaching. Analysis
The package of policies that has made up the United States’ embargo of Cuba has been in place for over fifty years and spanned eleven of our forty-four presidents. While the original reasons for creating the embargo have deteriorated over the years, the restrictions on Cuba have remained, and the justification for this has been altered over the years. The influence of interest groups, political action committees, and election-driven politics has stemmed American foreign policy innovation on loosening sanctions.
Interest groups have been a decisive factor in maintaining an embargo on trade and travel to Cuba. In 1980, the first powerful lobby group with Cuban interest was formed, the Cuban American National Foundation (CANF). The group was founded by the charismatic leader, Jorge Mas Canosa, and was made up of mostly Cuban-Americans who left their homeland after the 1959 revolution when Fidel Castro took power (Borer, 2007). President Reagan utilized CANF’s influence to appeal to Congress to ask them for tighter restrictions on Cuba. The interest group’s motives were to put pressure on the Castro regime, but Reagan’s was to take a harsher stance against the Soviet Union and against communist revolutions in South America. Ronald Reagan and CANF began Radio Marti, as a way of sending information and propaganda to the masses in Cuba. Mas Canosa and CANF also partnered with Reagan on the National Endowment for Democracy, which was a way to help spread democratic revolutions around the world (Haney, 2010).
Throughout the 1990s, CANF lost a notable amount of its influence, but was still the preeminent interest group on Cuban policy. CANF put significant effort into the campaigns for several House of Representative-hopefuls. Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Cuban-American won a special election in 1989. Republican Lincoln Diaz-Balart and Democrat Robert Menendez are two Cuban-American Congressmen who also won with CANF support. With Mas Canosa’s untimely death in 1997, the group was shaken and lost organization. In 2001, twenty-four members of CANF’s board of directors resigned, and formed the Cuban Liberty Council. This group...
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