April 11, 2015: Barack Obama and Raúl Castro meet in Panama
Since March 14, 1958, the United States has maintained a trade embargo with Cuba. Although its sanctions have primarily strengthened over time, President Barack Obama took the first steps toward resolution since the Cuban Revolution that overthrew the US-backed government run by Fulgencio Batista.
Opening new doors
President Eisenhower and his successors sought to regain and maintain some semblance of control over Cuba following the rise of the Castro regime at the end of the Revolution. To do so, they enstated an embargo that restricted trade and travel between Cuba and the United States. On April 11, 2015, President Barack Obama made history by extending an invitation for negotiation between the two countries for the first time in 57 years. They agreed to meet during the Summit of the Americas, in Panama City.
Their meeting provided an opportunity for the two countries to begin making amends for over half a century of isolation. During their conference, the pair of leaders reached new terms to thaw relations between the US and Cuba. One of the primary points was to reinitiate diplomatic relations with Cuba, an avenue that had been closed off in 1961 during the Kennedy administration. Also discussed were provisions to relax travel sanctions and reformat regulations that were stunting the economic and social growth of the country. Although there were many elements to their agreements, one of the most noticeable to Americans was the reinitiation of trade between the two countries.
The Trump administration’s approach to relations with Cuba has been a stark contrast to the progress made during the Obama administration. Motions to roll back the Obama-era provisions from the Panama summit have been occasionally headlining in the news since 2017. New policies seek to tighten the embargo once more and restrict trade and travel regulations, making it more difficult for the two countries to benefit from one another economically. As of March 2019, no legislation has been passed by the Trump administration regarding the embargo.