Yesterday, President Trump’s National Security Adviser John Bolton announced sanctions against Cuba that hope to have the wide-ranging effects of weakening the country’s socialist government, punishing the country for supporting Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, vilifying Former President Obama for his U.S.-Cuba policies, and winning points among Florida voters who would be sympathetic to policies designed to contradict the legacy and historical policies of Fidel Castro. The sanctions will go into effect on May 2nd.
The most notable sanction pertains to the “trafficking” of property seized from citizens by the Castro administration during its efforts to nationalize industries. Beginning next month, Cuban-Americans have the opportunity to wage lawsuits in an attempt to reclaim ownership or win compensation from companies and individuals who currently are profiting off of seized property. Legal experts have suggested that winning such cases will be a long shot for most plaintiffs. The sanctions will also place a significant restriction on travel between the U.S. and Cuba, essentially ending tourism to the country.
Conchita Beltrán, a Cuban exile, told the New York Times that her grandmother died of a heart attack the day that Fidel Castro announced that his administration would take over a sugar cane field that had been in her family for generations. “We have written to every president, and everybody ignored us,” she told the publication. “We are very grateful to Trump. He is doing something nobody else had the courage to do.”
Experts, however, have characterized the new policy not as an act of courage but rather a decision that will ultimately hurt the goals that the U.S. has set out. “Over the past 60 years, hard-line policies, along with Cuban attempts to break free of dependence upon the United States, have repeatedly driven Cuba to seek closer relations first with the Soviet Union, then with Vladimir Putin’s Russia,” wrote a historian in the Washington Post op-ed. Instead, we should be working to stabilize the Cuban economy so that it won’t need to rely upon superpowers like Russia and China. “Cuba needs willing partners, and if the United States isn’t one, its nemeses will fill the void.” Russia has already indicated that they will be ramping up their support for Cuba and Venezuela in response to the new U.S. sanctions.
The European Union has also condemned the sanctions, citing their concerns that the opening up of lawsuits will hurt business investments that are currently in place. They have suggested that they are very willing to sue the U.S. if they find that American firms are “taking advantage of the new policy.” By the way, Time Magazine pointed out that Cuba has offered — at least rhetorically — to compensate Cubans and exiles who lost property, but only on the condition that the U.S. agreed to compensating the Cuban government for damages that have resulted from the trade embargo.
Bolton was in Miami yesterday to give a speech honoring veterans of the Bay of Pigs. The military confrontation took place 58 years ago to the day. In a nutshell, the CIA and U.S.-trained forces invaded the Bay of Pigs on the southern coast of Cuba in an attempt to overthrow the Castro regime on behalf of “Democracy.” U.S. forces failed to do so, which pushed Castro toward building stronger relations with Russian and consolidating his own powers as a revolutionary leader. It’s worth noting that the U.S. had helped to install the previous leader of the country, the pro-American strongman dictator Fulgencio Batista, who was overthrown by Castro and his peers in the Cuban Revolution.