It’s been 52 years since the U.S. withdrew recognition of the Castro regime, and refused to sit at a negotiating table with the Cuban government.
But considering this week’s landmark nuclear deal with Iran, there might be reason to think that the Cuban embargo, the United States’ single longest-standing foreign policy, could end.
When diplomatic relations were shut off in 1961, the Castro regime had just overseen the largest seizure of private US property in history, and was in the midst of exacting a brutal campaign to silence political dissent. More than 4,000 people were killed during the revolution, sending hundreds of thousands of political refugees to the U.S. shore.
The reasons for imposing the embargo and cutting off relations were understandable. Considering the similarities of the Iranian and Cuban situations, it’s not impossible to imagine a future where there is actual dialogue between the nations.
SIMILARITIES BETWEEN IRAN AND CUBA
When Castro’s Revolution took off, it was partly because of the United States’ continual support of the brutal Batista military dictatorship, a policy that JFK would later say “put the U.S. on the side of tyranny.”
“We did nothing to convince the people of Cuba and Latin America that we wanted to be on the side of freedom," he added, noting the existing US policies did not live up to our own democratic standards.
Feeling he had been betrayed by continuing U.S. support to the Batista regime, any American-friendly democratic reform that Castro’s new government might have had in mind quickly turned hostile. Land and capital seizures ensued, and relations quickly soured, leading to the embargo and travel ban that was implemented in the early 1960s.
In 1979 Iran, a very similar situation unfolded. The Islamic Revolution of that year saw a public rejection of the Shah— a dictator put in place by a US-assisted coup.
Following the revolution, an anti-Western authoritarian theocracy took the Shah’s place, bringing discontent with the United States and its agenda along with it. This sentiment climaxed during the Iranian Hostage Crisis later that year.
But as the U.S. strategy of non-engagement with Iran comes to a close, there are positive signs that the deal might reverse some of that sentiment and breathe new life into the dynamics of the Middle East. Yes, there were non-believers from the get-go, but to many the big takeaway from this deal is that pragmatism can offer more hope than absolutism.
In other words, refusing diplomacy doesn’t solve the problem; it merely prolongs it.
Photo: Getty Images
SIGNS THAT THE TIDE IS TURNING WITH CUBA
Less than a month ago at the United Nations’ General Assembly, a symbolic vote was taken to end the Cuban Embargo. The final tally was 188-2. Only the United States and Israel voted in favor of maintaining it.
Domestic calls to end the embargo and to engage with Cuba have also been growing for some time now, even among Cuban-Americans who are historically here as political exiles of the regime.
According to the 2011 Cuba Poll conducted by Florida International University, 53 percent of Cubans polled in the United States said the embargo has worked “not at all”.
“The incentive for US engagement with Cuba is driven by different factors than with Iran,” Guillermo Grenier, a sociologist that specializes in U.S./ Cuban policy at FIU told Fusion. “Many countries have coalesced to form a group of interested parties [in the case of Iran]… We have proven to be open to influence from allies, but not when it comes to Cuba.”
But there is an emerging consensus from both sides of the Florida Straits that the policy is an utter failure.
Earlier this year, the Cuban government nixed the need to acquire an exit visa to leave the country, and as a result, thousands of Cubans have been finding their way to Miami, the capital of the Cuban diaspora, for a variety of reasons. Among these arrivals, many of whom are political dissidents, the embargo is extremely unpopular.
To some, it is as if the policy only grants the Cuban government a scapegoat for all its own shortcomings.
“Politically there are all kinds of reasons [for the embargo],” says Grenier, adding that the Cuban Americans in Congress with political clout are “increasingly out of touch” with their own people in their approach.
“But [this Iran deal] does show that there is a willingness to engage where there is a lot of skepticism,” Grenier says. “If you isolate a country, you cannot influence their behaviors.”
Daniel Rivero is a producer/reporter for Fusion who focuses on police and justice issues. He also skateboards, does a bunch of arts related things on his off time, and likes Cuban coffee.