The Past and Future of Cuban Foreign Relations

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Cuban politics has long been defined by foreign relations. One of the charges of the revolutionary leaders Fidel Castro and Che Guevara against Fulgencio Batista was his support from the United States of America. Batista was part of a military coup in 1933, and became President himself by election in 1940. His party lost the next election in 1944 after which he lived in the U.S., gaining allies. On his return to Cuba in 1952 he led a second coup to end an election which he was losing. His government was quickly recognized by the U.S., giving him legitimacy, which he turned into unopposed electoral victory in 1954. His regime was characterized by relationship both with the U.S. government and with the American Mafia. He faced almost immediate opposition from the Communist revolutionaries, who fought a six year guerilla war starting in 1953. The war was one of many “proxy” wars between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, with the U.S. providing weaponry including napalm to Batista which he used brutally against the population. The guerillas received aid from the U.S.S.R., succeeded in winning popular support and eventually overthrew the Batista government in 1959.

Despite the support they received from the U.S.S.R., and the support the U.S. had given to their enemy, the revolutionary leaders were not blind to the importance of the U.S. to Cuban economic viability and military security. Cuba is only ninety miles from the coast of Florida, and at the time of the revolution the majority of the Cuban economy was either trading with the U.S. or serving American tourists. Because of this, the more moderate Dr Manuel Urrutia Lleó was briefly made President in an attempt to soften tensions with the U.S,. The outreach was rebuffed and short live...

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...ess. The continued oppression presents a barrier to any attempt to normalize relations between the U.S. and Cuba. On February 23rd of this year, this was starkly illustrated with the death of Orlando Zapata Tamayo. A dissident given a thirty six year long sentence for “disobedience,” considered a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International, he died following a hunger strike and instantly became a symbol of the political repression that still exists in Cuba. In the U.S., his death has stalled efforts to further relax sanctions. Will the Cuba government be able to rejoin the international community while maintaining political control through oppression?

Whatever the answers to these questions turn out to be, it is clear that the history and future of Cuba will be defined by its foreign relations, both with its natural political allies and with the United States.
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