Breaking the Logjam

Obama's Cuba Policy and a Guideline for Improved Leadership

Breaking the Logjam : Obama's Cuba Policy and a Guideline for Improved Leadership - Klaas Hinderdael


Cuba provides an ideal lens through which to study the Obama administration’s foreign policy of engagement. For half a century, the US economic embargo, coupled with diplomatic isolation or limited engagement, has failed to force democratization on the island. As Raúl Castro has led Cuba down a path of economic reform, the Obama administration has slowly transformed its Cuba policies. This article contends that these recent shifts in US-Cuban relations will allow American policymakers to capitalize on an essential set of political, economic, and strategic gains by ending the embargo and normalizing diplomatic relations.


During his inaugural address, US president Barack Obama stated, in an attempt to ease tensions with some of America’s more traditional adversaries, “we will extend a hand, if you are willing to unclench your fist.”1 Indeed, when countries have indicated a readiness to make domestic reforms, the Obama administration has shown an increased willingness to engage them.

Cuba, in particular, offers policymakers an ideal case study of how the administration has reacted to internal reforms. It also demonstrates how the administration, in an attempt to bolster its position as the world’s leader, has relied primarily upon soft power to develop its ties with other countries.

In light of Raúl Castro2 charting a new course for Cuba, recent US policy initiatives have been aimed at a limited engagement and an easing of tensions with Cuban leadership. While these efforts constitute a vital first step in the transformation of US-Cuban relations, it is in America’s best interest to more firmly “extend a hand.” In fact, Cuba provides President Obama an opportunity to highlight the potential benefits of America’s foreign policy of engagement.

In 2002, Cuban American scholar Louis Pérez Jr. noted that the US embargo policy has been “derived from assumptions that long ago ceased to have relevance to the post-Cold War environment, designed as a response to threats that are no longer present, against adversaries that no longer exist.”3 to be sure, American policymakers have been unable to sufficiently adjust Cuba policy to the realities of post-Cold War relations with the island.

The economic embargo, which has been in place for half a century, coupled with either diplomatic isolation or limited engagement, has failed to force democratization on the island. If anything, it has taught that democracy cannot be imposed or coerced, but must grow from within. In this light, ending the embargo and engaging Cuba will allow the united States to better influence a process of political reform on the island. Conversely, as America stalls, other countries are playing a larger role in what traditionally has been considered America’s backyard.

Fortunately for American policymakers, recent and drastic shifts in the realities of US-Cuban relations show that there is much to gain, and surprisingly little to lose, from transforming US-Cuba policy. Though for too long domestic politics has trumped international security goals, pragmatic leaders will soon grasp the full extent of these new realities.

At a time when the United States runs a large trade deficit and holds a rising national debt, President Obama’s foreign policy of engagement could provide essential political, economic, and strategic gains for America. In order to capitalize on these opportunities, the administration should end the embargo and open diplomatic relations with Cuba.

Obama: Change and Hope for Cuba?

In a May 2008 campaign speech to Cuban Americans in Miami, Obama shifted away from the firm traditional election year stance toward the island. Arguing that US soft power would be a more effective tool for inducing internal reforms in Cuba, he stated, “there are no better ambassadors for freedom than Cuban Americans. That’s why I will immediately allow unlimited family travel and remittances to the island.”4 Obama even expressed a willingness to engage in a dialogue with Raúl Castro during the Democratic primaries, concluding, “Cuban-American connections to family in Cuba are not only a basic right in humanitarian terms, but also our best tool for helping to foster the beginnings of grassroots democracy on the island.”5

President Obama won the state of Florida and made substantial inroads with Cuban Americans, gaining 16 more points than gore in 2000 and 10 more than Kerry in 2004.6 upon assuming office in 2009, he immediately fulfilled a key campaign pledge by signing an executive order to close the prison at the Guantanamo naval base. Shortly thereafter, on April 13, 2009, at the Summit of the Americas, he implemented a second campaign promise by lifting travel and remittance restrictions for CubanAmericans.7

Legislative momentum for engagement of Cuba, which had been stymied for years by President George W. Bush’s veto threats, picked up as well. On March 30, 2009, Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN), the top-ranking republican on the Senate foreign relations Committee, called for the creation of a special envoy for Cuba in order to “recognize the ineffectiveness of our current policy and deal with the Cuban regime in a way that enhancesUSinterests.”8

Perhaps the most significant shift in Cuba policy under the Obama administration has been the abandonment of a single and primary aim to remove the Castro’s from power. By dissolving the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba (CAFR), created by Bush in 2003 with a mandate to “identify ways to hasten the arrival of that day when Castro’s regime is no more,”9 President Obama has moved quickly to ease tensions with its neighboring island.

Nevertheless, after making several prominent reversals to the Bush administration’s Cuba policies, Obama has moved cautiously, waiting perhaps for more concessions in the arena of human rights. For his part, Raúl has attempted to signal a process of internal political transformation to the world, first by signing two human rights agreements only four days after becoming president, and shortly thereafter by altering the sentences of most of Cuba’s prisoners sentenced to capital punishment.10

Open discourse, however, is still severely limited, as repression has continued. In 2009, the Human rights Watch noted, “Raúl Castro has kept firmly in place and fully active Cuba’s repressive and legal institutional structures.”11 to expect a sudden shift toward democracy is unreasonable, as Raúl has indicated that changes will occur only within a framework of the party and the revolution. In an August 2009 address to the Cuban Parliament, Raúl insisted that he was elected to “maintain and continue perfecting socialism, not to destroy it.”12 therefore, it should come as little surprise that Obama has treaded carefully.

As a result of the administration’s hesitancy to drastically shift its Cuba policy, Abraham Lowenthal, an expert on Cuban-American relations, has concluded, “far from ushering in a new beginning, the Obama administration seemed to revert to the stance of several previous US administrations: it would wait for Cuba to change.”13 Despite sluggish progress in shifting policies and improving relations, this analysis seems to disregard President Obama’s consistent ideological rejection of an America working only with a league of Democracies.

In fact, it appears that engagement, albeit slowly, is continuing to gain traction within the administration. In particular, this has been visible since mid-2010, when Raúl began a second round of economic reforms,14 bringing many experts to claim that “a new phase in Cuban history is unfolding.”15 In September 2010, Raúl announced that the state was cutting a half-million jobs, simultaneously giving incentives to citizens to open new private businesses and instituting a new payroll tax on a sliding scale to increase the hiring of labor.16

It is telling that Raúl’s reforms alter the founding principles of the post-1959 Cuban society. Raúl himself implied an internal shift when he noted, “Socialism means equality of rights, not of income... equality is not egalitarianism.”17 At the most fundamental level, these economic reforms indicate a transformation in the relationship between Cuban society and its government. In addition, Raúl has indicated an increased willingness to make political reforms, releasing nearly all of the island’s political prisoners, including 52 in July 2010.18 though they leave much to be desired in the realm of human rights, the scope of Raúl’s newest era of reforms is unprecedented in post-Cold War Cuba.

As Cuba has moved down a path of internal transformation, beginning to unclench control over its own society, President Obama has slowly reached out. On January 14, 2011, the administration stepped toward a more active engagement by restoring higher education exchange programs, extending travel remittance allowances to all Americans, and permitting chartered flights to Havana from anyUSairport.19 though this progress indicates that relations are steadily improving, a potential breakthrough in relations and America’s Cuba policy is only possible by opening high-level diplomatic relations and eliminating the US embargo.

A Guideline for Breaking Through the Logjam

The strategic, economic, and political background that has helped shape America’s Cuba policy has shifted tremendously since the end of the Cold War. For half a century, the United States has attempted—and failed—to force democratization on the island by combining an economic embargo with either diplomatic isolation or limited engagement. In recent years, however, Raúl has increasingly charted a new course for Cuba. Despite many of these reforms being in line with American values and interests, there has not been a drastic change in US-Cuba policy. Given the continued failure of past Cuba policies to achieve the stated goals, American leaders should understand that there is much to gain from ending the embargo and opening diplomatic relations with Cuba—and surprisingly little to lose.

Strategic Implications

The fall of the Soviet union in 1991 had severe economic repercussions for Cuba, causing its economy to contract by 34 percent between 1990 and 1993 alone.20 It also meant that, almost overnight, the strategic threat the island presented to the united States had drastically diminished. With Fidel Castro subsequently abandoning a policy of internationalism by announcing that he would no longer support armed struggle in the third world, Cuba became even less of a strategic threat.21 As a result, with regard to America’s Cuba policy, domestic politics has trumped international security concerns for over 20 years. Raúl’s recent economic reforms, in an attempt to spur job creation, have allowed an increase of foreign investment in what has traditionally been seen as America’s backyard. Countries quickly exploited such opportunities—with Venezuela and Cuba signing the Integral Cooperation Accord in 2000, according to which Cuba sends thousands of doctors and teachers to Venezuela in return for 90,000 barrels of oil daily.22 China has also strengthened its ties with Cuba since President Hu Jintao’s 2004 visit, and it will soon overtake Canada to become the island’s largest trade partner, purchasing 18 percent of its exports.23

In light of such inroads by friends and foes alike, several concerns might arise for American policymakers. First, the leverage that America’s embargo holds is severely diminished. Second, China, with nearly half of its 2004 foreign direct investment going to Latin America, might slowly impede upon American hegemony in the Western hemisphere.24 third, increased ties with Hugo Chávez’s Venezuela may cause Cuba and Venezuela to attempt to “drive a wedge between the U[nited] S[tates] and its Caribbean partners” in regional relations.25 In other words, the economic embargo in place could potentially lead to geopolitical instability and have enormous repercussions for American security.

Perhaps just as consequential, the embargo undermines the living conditions and exacerbates the struggle of the Cuban people. As the Human rights Watch correctly notes, the embargo “continues to impose indiscriminate hardship on the Cuban people, and has done nothing to improve the situation of human rights.” this allows the Cuban government to use the United States as its scapegoat for any economic hardships, legitimizing and heightening anti-Americanism.

As countries like China, Venezuela, Canada, Spain, and Brazil continue to invest in Cuban oil, minerals, and tourism, they will also have increased influence on Cuban domestic policies. This is already evident, as Raúl’s 2008 signing of two United Nations (UN) human rights agreements, as well as the mid-2010 release of nearly all its political prisoners, was a direct response to European Union (EU) human rights condemnations. Unsurprisingly, after gaining concessions from Raúl, the EU signed an EU-Cuba cooperation agreement.26 In the aforementioned case, the outcome of the EU’s influence in Cuba was in line with American interests, but this may not always be the case.

The United States does hold a strategic card that could transform relations with Cuba, while improving its own credibility and goodwill across the globe. Over a century ago, the forced inclusion of the Platt Amendment in the 1901 Cuban Constitution allowed the United States to occupy the Guantanamo naval base on the island. It has stood as a symbol of American imperialism and an infringement on Cuba’s sovereignty ever since. Used by Fidel Castro over 50 years ago to legitimize and radicalize the revolution, the naval base is still used by Raúl today to show that there remains a “symbol of solidarity with the rest of the world against the U[nited] S[tates].”27

Ending the occupation of Guantanamo, not simply closing the detainment center, would send a signal to Cubans, while showcasing a new and more engaging foreign policy to the world. It would also severely undercut one of the main sources of Cuban anti-Americanism, simultaneously increasing American legitimacy and weakening the viability of harsh Cuban rhetoric.

By January 2011, President Obama had failed to successfully implement the closing of the detention center on Guantanamo, as public opinion increasingly opposed moving detainees to the United States for trials and detentions. With Congress barring the transfer of such suspects to the united States in its 2011 Defense Authorization Act, Obama has been forced to delay his campaign promise for at least another nine months.28 nonetheless, the Guantanamo occupation is a promising issue for future US-Cuban relations, particularly as a change in policy could garner goodwill, weaken anti-Americanism, and put pressure on Raúl to respond in kind.

Another symbolic unilateral action that would have no impact on national security would be to remove Cuba from the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism. Although a 1997 intelligence review indicated that the island no longer posed a threat to US national security, the Bush administration’s “Patterns of globalism” report in 2001 indicated that Cuba was a state sponsor of terrorism because Fidel Castro “vacillated over the war on terrorism,” and provided a safe haven for the Colombian Ejército de Liberacion Nacional (ELN) and the Basque Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA) members.29 In fact, Fidel Castro allowed ETA members to retire in Cuba due to an agreement reached with Spain, and the island has served as a location for peace-talks between Colombia and its rebel groups.30

Ultimately, Cuba no longer presents a strategic threat to America’s national security. Its leaders have denounced internationalism, and it has begun a marked shift toward market reform. The only potential for strategic threats arises, in fact, from continuing current policies. Therefore, the United States should unilaterally end the occupation of Guantanamo, remove Cuba from the State Sponsors of terrorism list, and eliminate the embargo. For the united States, this will enhance its bargaining power on human rights policies, engender international goodwill, improve geopolitical positioning, and move forward relations with the Cuban government and its people.

Economic Implications

In 2008, the UN general Assembly, voting 185 to 3, rejected the US economic embargo on Cuba; it has done so every year since 1992.31 the United States is isolated in its approach to Cuba policy. As the island rapidly expands its economic and diplomatic ties with other countries, America increasingly sacrifices the potential economic benefits of trading with Cuba. Worse yet, its economic policies with regard to Cuba appear impractical in light of its policies toward other Communist governments.

By signing bilateral trade agreements with China and Vietnam, in 1999 and 2001 respectively, the United States has indicated a willingness to actively build economic ties with countries that, while Communist, have enacted economic reforms and largely reintegrated themselves into the international community. In the wake of Raúl’s reform agenda, the island has diplomatic relations with over 160 nations and has significantly increased foreign investment.32 As such, it is generally speculated that Raúl Castro favors continued adoption of Chinese political and economic models, which would allow Cuba to maintain elements of its socialist system.33

The economic benefits stemming from even limited trade with Cuba are unmistakable. After Bill Clinton signed into law the Trade Sanctions Reform Act (TSRA) in early 2000, exports to Cuba jumped from $4 million in 2001 to $392 million in 2004, and $710 million in 2008.34 Despite importing only food and medical products, Cuba has ranked as high as twenty-fifth among importers of American products.35 these economic benefits have further diversified the political debate, amplifying the influence of Midwestern congressmen, many of whose constituencies profit significantly from the sale of corn, poultry, wheat, and soybeans to Cuba.36

Business groups, politicians, and economists are also illuminating the benefits of ending the embargo. Kenneth Lippner, a university of Miami economist, estimates that the embargo costs the Florida economy between $750 million and $1 billion per year.37 far short of ending the Cuban embargo, the Department of transportation found that simply ending unrestricted travel to Cuba for all Americans would generate up to $1.6 billion annually, and somewhere between 17,000 and 23,000 jobs.38 With such economic and political gains to be made, it is no surprise that the legislatures of California, Texas, and many others have already passed resolutions for improving and opening economic relations with Cuba.

Early in the nineteenth century, Cuba and the United States became inseparable as trade relations and the slave trade grew; big American businesses continued to prosper in the country until Fidel Castro’s 1959 revolution. Despite having blocked itself off from trade with Cuba ever since, geographic proximity, as well as Cuba’s need for cheap agricultural goods, provide a strong basis for future trade. At the moment, Cuba is already buying more food from the United States than any other country, and Raúl has indicated that it would purchase much more with eased restrictions.39

Ending the embargo would also help Cubans, lowering the cost of consumer goods and raising the standards of living, while simultaneously challenging Raúl’s assertions of American imperialism. In realizing that the embargo is too insignificant to have a fatal impact on the Cuban government, and that the usage of sanctions and practice of isolation are no way to be seen as a credible advocate of democratic reform, American policymakers should realize that the economic embargo only diminishes the United States’ ability to influence change in Cuba. Furthermore, over time, increased economic ties can provide the leverage needed to push for political reforms.

As a result, with regard to economic and political return, there is little reason to keep the economic embargo in place. Its repeal should be easy to sell to the American people given popular domestic support, recent Cuban internal reforms, and the precedent set with Vietnam and China. It would also provide the United States with a more united front when confronting key Cuban issues by not drawing the ire of the UN for its policies toward the island. Most importantly, repealing the embargo could guide the two countries toward improved relations by employing economic policies that are mutually beneficial.

Political Implications

In the wake of a markedly diminished strategic threat from the Cuban island after the end of the Cold War, domestic political goals trumped other goals in terms of setting Cuba policy, particularly during election years. Nonetheless, legislative momentum for engaging Cuba has picked up decidedly, even as some presidents have lagged behind. This momentum has coincided with a slow shift in public opinion and demographics that make ending the embargo and engaging Cuba popular amongst both the majority of American voters, as well as the majority of the Cuban-American constituency.

Two events in the late 1990s have often been pointed to as significant turning points in the political views and weight of Cuban-American voters. First, many traveled to Cuba for the 1998 papal visit, and embraced Pope John Paul II’s call for “Cuba to open to the world, and the world to open to Cuba.”40 then, two years later, the Elián González episode of 2000 allowed for a shift dubbed by Daniel Erikson the “Elián meets the China syndrome.”41 With the majority of Americans calling for Elián to be reunited with his father in Cuba, a position that anti-Castro Cuban-Americans opposed vehemently, the Cuban-American community, by taking such a hard-line stance, lost some of its legitimacy in the American political system. Furthermore, a harsh Cuba policy stood in stark contrast to a simultaneous broadening of America’s economic and diplomatic ties with China.

Polls over the last decade have revealed the dramatic shift in the views of Cuban-Americans. They indicate that, while in 1997, only 22 percent of Miami-Dade County Cuban-Americans favored ending the embargo, by 2004, that percentage had risen to 34 percent, and by December 2008 to 55 percent (in 2008, 65 percent also supported ending restrictions on travel and remittances).42 these statistics indicate that Obama’s positions in the run-up to the 2008 presidential election may not have been such a bad political strategy after all. Furthermore, we should expect to see politicians increasingly catering to these beliefs as they continue to gain political expediency.

Perhaps more significantly, Americans on both sides of the political spectrum support significant changes in Cuba policy, from relaxing travel and remittance restrictions to opening up diplomatic relations. They also believe that the island provides little threat to the United States, and that engagement is the most likely policy to lead Cuba towards democratic reform. An April 2009 World Public opinion poll drew the following conclusions from republican (r) and Democrat (D) pollsters:43

In terms of the US embargo policy, just days before the World Public opinion poll was released, separate Gallup and ABC polls showed that approximately 55 percent of Americans believe the embargo should be ended, with 35 percent believing it should be continued, and the rest unsure.44 Due to such strong public support for a shift in Cuba policy, the risks of making a drastic shift in the country’s Cuba policies are decreasing rapidly. Leaders willing to promote such a transformation stand to reap significant political gains.

A steady demographical shift in the Cuban-American population also makes such a stance politically pragmatic. As experts have noted, first generation Cuban-Americans, traditionally more linked to Cuba policy hardliners, “are retreating from the political stage, if for no reason other than age.”45 In contrast, later-generation immigrants are no longer single-issue voters, made particularly evident during the 2008 election, as the majority of Cuban-American voters agreed with Obama’s Cuba policy, but still voted for Senator John McCain.

In fact, Florida International University (FIU) polls show that on a variety of issues, including ending restrictions on remittances and travel, ending the embargo, and reestablishing diplomatic relations, there is a 15 to 20 percent hike in support for these policies among those who immigrated between 1980 and 1998, as opposed to earlier immigrants. There is an additional increase of 5 percent for those who came to America after 1998.46 Clearly, as these demographics continue to provide rising support for engagement and ending the embargo, politicians should and will attempt to shift Cuba policy accordingly.

Nonetheless, while the above views do provide increasing political clout, one cannot discard the historical significance of election year Florida politics. During his campaign, President Bush repeatedly condemned the June 2000 seizure of Elián González and made it clear that “he intended to confront [Fidel] Castro.”47 Harsh anti-Castro rhetoric ultimately helped Bush win the election, as he won 80 percent of the Cuban-American vote and the state of Florida by only 537 votes.48

In the aftermath of the 2000 presidential election, it is inevitable that candidates continue to fear alienating a strong voting bloc in a key swing state. Similarly, republican campaign finance money going into Democratic coffers bolsters the status quo and prevents policy modifications.49 Florida can still determine an election, but candidates should note the weakening correlation between the voting patterns of Cuban-Americans and the Cuba policies touted by politicians, as well as the demographical changes that have taken place since 2000.

Ultimately, public support amongst Americans as a whole, as well as Cuban-Americans in particular, shows that pragmatism is winning, and that the majority prefers engagement over isolation. More recently, Raúl’s reforms are also providing domestic momentum for a transformation of US-Cuba policy. Forward-looking American leaders will see these shifts and take advantage of the political gains that they provide by ending the embargo and normalizing relations with Cuba.


The two countries’ histories have long been intertwined, particularly after the Monroe Doctrine of 1823 gave rise to the American belief that it would become the hemisphere’s protector. Until the immediate aftermath of Fidel Castro’s revolution, Cuba provided a testing ground for the promotion of American ideals, social beliefs, and foreign policies.

In the context of Raúl shifting course in Cuba, the Obama administration has the opportunity to highlight the benefits of both the use of soft power and a foreign policy of engagement. As evidence mounts that the United States is ready to engage countries that enact domestic reforms, its legitimacy and influence will grow. Perhaps future political leaders, in Iran or North Korea for example, will be more willing to make concessions knowing that the United States will return in kind.

The United States should not wait for extensive democratization before further engaging Cuba, however. One legacy of the Cold War is that Communism has succeeded only where it grew out of its own, often nationalistic, revolutions. As it has with China and Vietnam, the United States should look closely at the high payoffs stemming from engagement. By improving relations, America can enhance its own influence on the island’s political structure and human rights policies.

At home, with the trade deficit and national debt rising, the economic costs of the embargo are amplified. Recent studies estimate that the US economy foregoes up to $4.84 billion a year and the Cuban economy up to $685 million a year.50       While US-Cuban economic interests align, political considerations inside America have shifted, as “commerce seems to be trumping anti-Communism and Florida ideologues.”51 Clearly, public opinion also favors a new Cuba policy, with 65 percent of Americans now ready for a shift in the country’s approach to its neighboring island.52

At this particular moment in the history of US-Cuban relations, there is tremendous promise for a breakthrough in relations. In a post-Cold War world, Cuba no longer presents a security threat to the united States, but instead provides it with economic potential. American leaders cannot forget the fact that an economic embargo, combined with diplomatic isolation, has failed to bring democracy to Cuba for over 50 years.

American policymakers should see Cuba as an opportunity to reap the political, economic, and strategic rewards of shifting its own policies toward engagement. By ending the economic embargo and normalizing diplomatic relations with the island, President Obama would indicate that he is truly willing to extend his hand once America’s traditional adversaries unclench their fists.

Notes & References

  1. The White House, “President Obama’s Inaugural Address,” Office of the Press Secretary, January 21, 2009. 
  2. 2. From here on, Raúl Castro will be referred to as Raúl to distinguish him from his brother Fidel Castro. 
  3. Louis Pérez Jr., “fear and loathing of Fidel Castro: Sources of U.S. Policy toward Cuba,” Journal of Latin American Studies 34, no. 2. (May 2002): 227-254.
  4. Mike Dorning, “Obama Defends Engagement with Cuba,” The Swamp, May 23, 2008. 
  5. Barack Obama, “Our Main Goal: Freedom in Cuba,” Miami Herald, August 21, 2007. 
  6. Abraham Lowenthal, Theodore Piccone, and Laurence Whitehead, The Obama Administration and the Americas: Agenda for Change (Washington, DC: Brookings Institute, 2009), 128. 
  7. The White House, “reaching out to the Cuban People,” office of the Press Secretary, April 13, 2003.
  8. Senator Richard Lugar, “Lugar: Cuba Sanctions have Failed the Purpose of Bringing Democracy to the Cuban People,” March 30, 2009,
  9. The White House, “President Bush Discusses Cuba policy in rose garden Speech,” office of the Press Secretary, October 10, 2003.
  10. Lowenthal, Piccone, and Whitehead, The Obama Administration and the Americas, 127. 
  11. “Human Rights Watch World Report 2010: Events of 2009,” (New York: Human Rights Watch, January 2010), 218. 
  12. Shasta Darlington, “Cuban president vows to defend socialism,” CNN, August 2, 2009, 2009-08-02/world/
  13. Abraham Lowenthal, “Obama and the Americas,” Foreign Affairs 89, no. 4 (July/August 2010): 116. 
  14. The first set of economic reforms were enacted upon Raúl’s assumption of the Cuban Presidency in February 2008, when he outlined a set of market transformations intended to improve productivity and decrease centralized control of the economy by boosting the agricultural sector, liberalizing the sale of technology, distributing property, and eliminating wage ceilings for state-run enterprises. 
  15. Julia E. Sweig, “Absent at the Creation,” The New York Times, October 1, 2010. 
  16. Marc Frank, “Cuba Unveils a Capitalist Revolution,” The Financial Times, November 1, 2010. 
  17. Raúl Castro, “Socialism significa justicia social e igualdad, pero igualdad no es igualitarismo,” Granma, April 29, 2008. 
  18. Julia E. Sweig, “A reform Moment in Cuba?” Council on Foreign Relations, July 8, 2010, accessed January 14, 2011,
  19. The White House, “Reaching out to the Cuban People,” Office of the Press Secretary, January 14, 2011,
  20. Julia Sweig, Cuba: What Everyone Needs to Know (oxford: oxford Press, 2009), 128. 
  21. Ernesto F. Betancourt, “Changing U.S. Cuba Policy,” Society Abroad 43, no. 5 (July/August 2006): 64-71. 
  22. Stephanie Hanson, “U.S.-Cuba Relations,” Council on Foreign Relations, January 11, 2010, accessed January 6, 2011,
  23. United States Department of State, “Background note: Cuba,” March 25, 2010, r/pa/ei/bgn/2886.htm
  24. Philip Brenner and Marguerite Jimenez, “U.S. Policy on Cuba Beyond the Last Gasp,” North American Congress on Latin America 39, no. 4 (January/February 2006): 20. 
  25. Daniel Fisk, “Statement Before the Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, House Committee on International Relations,” October 19, 2005. 
  26. Lowenthal, The Obama Administration and the Americas, 143. 
  27. Hanson, “U.S.-Cuba Relations.” 
  28. Alister Bull, “Obama, in Blow to Closing Guantanamo, Signs Law,” Reuters, January 7, 2011. 
  29. “Patterns of Global Terrorism 2001,” United States Department of State, May 2002, 63, documents/organization/10319.pdf
  30. Sweig, Cuba, 183. 
  31. Vicki Huddleston, Learning to Salsa: New Steps in U.S.-Cuba Relations (Washington DC: Brookings, 2010), 17. 
  32. “Background Note,” Department of State
  33. Tim Padgett and Dolly Mascarenas, “Why Raúl Castro Could end up a reformer,” Time, August 2, 2006, accessed January 7, 2011,,8599,1222009,00.html
  34. “Economic eye on Cuba,” U.S.-Cuba trade and economic Council, Inc., July 2010,
  35. Ibid. 
  36. When the TSRA passed in 2000, the bill managed to garner bipartisan support; many republicans broke rank, noting the potential that eliminating food sanctions provided Midwest farm states. Their voice has only grown since. By the time Clinton left office he had successfully built a bipartisan consensus in Congress that supported engagement of Cuba. 
  37. Lissa Weinmann, “Washington’s Irrational Cuba Policy,” World Policy Journal (Spring 2004): 26. 
  38. Weinmann, “Washington’s Irrational Policy,” 29. 
  39. “U.S. Agricultural Sales to Cuba: Certain Economic Effects of U.S. Restrictions,” United States International Trade Commission, 2007,
  40. Eugene Wittkop and James McCormick, The Domestic Sources of American Foreign Policy (Oxford: Rowman & Littlefield, 2004), 78. 
  41. Daniel Erikson, “The New Cuba Divide,” The National Interest 2, no. 67 (Spring 2002): 1-7.
  42. Huddleston, Learning to Salsa, 229. 
  43. “Americans Favor New Approach to Cuba: Lift the Travel Ban, Establish Diplomatic Relations,” World Public, April 14, 2009, brunitedstatescanadara/600.php
  44. “ABC news and Washington Post Poll,” April 21-24, 2009, as well as “Gallup Poll,” April 20-21, 2009,
  45. Sweig, Cuba, 237. 
  46. Huddleston, Learning to Salsa, 229. 
  47. John Maggs, “New President, Same Old Cuba Policy,” Foreign Affairs, June 6, 2001. 
  48. Sweig, Cuba, 179. 
  49. Julia E. Sweig, “Media Conference Call: Fidel Castro and Cuba,” The Council on Foreign Relations, September 13, 2010,
  50. Margot Pepper, “The Costs of the Embargo,” Dollars and Sense: Real World Economics (March/April 2009),
  51. William M. Leogrande, “The United States and Cuba: Strained Engagement,” in Cuba, The United States, and the Post-Cold War World: The International Dimensions of the Washington-Havana Relationship, eds. Morris Morley and Chris McGillion (Gainesville, Florida: University Press of Florida, 2005), 12-58. 
  52. Sweig, Cuba, 230.
Klaas Hinderdael is an M.A. candidate at SAIS Bologna Center, concentrating in American Foreign Policy and Energy, Resources, and Environment. He was born in Belgium and has spent much of his life in the United States, graduating from the University of Virginia in 2009 with a degree in History and Economics. He is continuing his research on Cuban-American relations, writing his master’s thesis on Kennedy’s two-track policy toward Cuba in 1963.