After the 1959 Cuban Revolution, the relationship between the United States of American and Fidel Castro’s regime began to suffer. This was due in part to Communist influence and the nationalization of private industry in Cuba – two factors which weakened American influence on the island nation. By early 1960, the United States had begun restricting trade with Cuba and eventually cut off all economic and diplomatic ties to the country, forcing Castro to increase his trade partnerships with the Soviet Union. One of the first restrictions the United States placed on Cuba was the banning of Cuban sugar – a significant blow to Cuba’s economy. At the time, American imports of Cuban sugar were 2.8 million metric tons per year. This number is higher than current American sugar imports from all other countries. Congressman John Dowdy, the representative for Texas’s 7th district, praised the sugar quota and argued for a harder line against perceived Communist aggression.
There have been very few bus-burning sprees, few stone throwings, few mysterious political manifestations in the last seven years which do not trace back in some degree to [Communist plots]… Venezuela, Cuba, Turkey, Peru, Mexico, South Korea, Argentina, Japan have all had their student riots – so has San Francisco – and the sit-down demonstrations, including Marshall, Texas. All were Communist-directed, so we see it can happen here. – Congressman John Dowdy, July 27, 1960
Like many politicians, Dowdy viewed Communism as an affront to the American way of life. Today, tensions between the United States and Cuba have cooled. In 2000, the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act authorized the sale of medical equipment, food, and medicines to a number of countries including Cuba. Since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, real-world problems like natural disasters increased pressure on Cuba to import American agricultural goods. Many contemporary politicians, economists, and foreign affairs experts argue that the trade embargo has done little to affect Fidel Castro’s hold on Cuban government and that rescinding the embargo would do more to effect change within the country. Others maintain that the embargo has succeeded and that lifting the embargo would be seen as rewarding a dictator. Regardless, the fears about Communist influence that plagued American politics in the ‘60s have long since dissipated.