Written by Puff Staff

Saturday, 06 April 2013

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cuban embargopolitics
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While there’s been a significant uptick in support for lifting the 50-year-old trade embargo against Cuba during the Obama administration, there have been dissenting opinions on the blockade almost as long as it’s been in place.





Over the last four decades, there have been many attempts to end both the embargo and travel sanctions against Cuba, but none have been successful. Here’s a history of opposition to the Cuban blockade, with efforts to lift it coming from both political parties.

In 1975, just 13 years after President John F. Kennedy signed the embargo, his brother Senator Edward Kennedy declared that the U.S. should lift the embargo as well as normalize its relations with Cuba. In an interview from Mexico City, the Massachusetts democrat stated, “I believe the idea of isolating Cuba was a mistake. It has been ineffective. Whatever the reasons and justifications may have been at the time, now they are invalid.”

Later that year, a pair of Democrats from Louisiana, Senator J. Bennett Johnson Jr. and Representative John B. Breaux, proposed that their state be allowed to sell rice to Cuba. As Breaux told the New York Times, “…my constituents say that if the United States can sell grain to the Soviet Union and China, why can't they sell rice to Cuba?”

In 1979, Democratic Representative Ted Weiss of New York introduced the first legislation to end the blockade and resume relations with Cuba, but it was not successful. This would be the last friendly gesture for a while.


In 1981, President Ronald Reagan began his first term and took a harder line against Cuba, tightening the embargo, reestablishing the travel ban, banning U.S. citizens from spending money in Cuba and allowed the 1977 fishing accord to lapse. Not surprisingly, no progress toward lifting the embargo took place during Reagan’s eight years in office.

In 1996, President Clinton signed the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act, also known as the Helms-Burton Act. This legislation enacted penalties on foreign countries that did business with Cuba, allowed U.S. citizens whose properties had been seized by the Cuban government to sue foreign investors making use of them and denied such investors entry into the U.S. Later in the year, Clinton suspended enforcement of some provisions of this act.

Change was in the air as the 90s came to an end, as in 1998, Senator Christopher Dodd of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee urged the U.S. to consider a “new conversation for the new millennium” with Cuba.

Then in 1999, President Clinton announced major changes to the relationship of the U.S. and Cuba, including allowing sales of select food and agricultural products to private individuals. Also new was an increased number of charter flights to Cuba and the Baltimore Orioles were allowed to arrange an exhibition game in Cuba. All citizens were given permission to send up to $1,200 per year to Cuba and the amount of money visitors from the U.S. were allowed to spend in Cuba was increased from $100 per day to $185.

In 2002, Arizona Republican Representative Jeff Flake led a new campaign to repeal the ban against travel to Cuba, stating, “This is all about freedom. Our government shouldn't tell us where to travel and where not to travel.” This effort was also unsuccessful.


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