Restoring Ties With Cuba

June 12, 2015 • Volume 25, Issue 22
Can easing sanctions spur democracy?
By Peter Katel


President Obama greets Cuban President Raúl Castro (AFP/Getty Images/Mandel Ngan)
President Obama greets Cuban President Raúl Castro during the Summit of the Americas in Panama City, Panama, on April 11. Castro has cautiously endorsed Obama's plans to normalize ties with Cuba, but he notes, “we have agreed to disagree.” (AFP/Getty Images/Mandel Ngan)

President Obama is opening a new chapter in the long and turbulent history of U.S. relations with Cuba. In December he announced plans to ease U.S. trade and travel restrictions and proposed re-establishing full diplomatic relations with Cuba. Then, in April, he met with Cuban President Raúl Castro. With those moves, Obama cast aside five decades of U.S. policy designed to isolate the island nation, a communist state since shortly after Raúl's brother, Fidel, seized power in a 1959 revolution and made common cause with the Soviet Union. Cuba has welcomed Obama's new policy, but cautiously, expressing doubts, for instance, about giving U.S. diplomats free rein on the island. American supporters of Obama's actions argue that trade and other sanctions have failed to motivate Cuba to abandon its communist ideology and improve its human rights record. But critics say Obama is giving up leverage that he could have used to force political and economic change at a time when Cuba faces new economic uncertainties.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Jun. 12, 2015  Restoring Ties With Cuba
Jul. 20, 2007  Cuba's Future
Dec. 12, 1997  Castro's Next Move
Nov. 29, 1991  Cuba in Crisis
May 20, 1977  Cuban Expansionism
Dec. 19, 1973  Cuba After 15 Years
Jul. 03, 1968  Cuba Under Castro
Apr. 06, 1960  Subversion in Latin America
Jun. 25, 1930  Cuban-American Relations
Cold War
Diplomacy and Diplomats
Economic Development
Global Issues
Military Bases
Powers and History of the Presidency
Regional Political Affairs: Latin America and the Caribbean
Regional Political Affairs: Russia and the Former Soviet Union
Sports and Recreation
Travel and Tourism
U.S. at War: Cold War