America's Cuban Conundrum the Helms-Burton Act and Essay

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America's Cuban Conundrum

The Helms-Burton Act and the Cuban-American Trade Relations

The United States and Cuba have had increased amounts of hostility toward each other present in their relations ever since the Cuban revolution. Not only did Cuba nationalize property held by U.S. interests during the revolution, but also Cuba became an ally to Russia during the Cold War; which was critical to the Soviet strategy since Cuba is in close proximity to the U.S. Both actions consequently undermined the stated values of the American free-market system in regards to America's corporate holdings in the country. This tension has furthermore been manifested by blatantly vocal opposition on both sides of the dispute. In this paper such ongoing tension will be illustrated by one of the most timely and extreme examples of hostility in foreign relations as well as propose an avenue for future trade arrangements.

Cuban Pretexts for Military Action

In 1991 a group formed, known as Brothers to the Rescue, which was based in Miami and composed of Cuban exiles (Brothers to the Resue, 2010). This group stands in strong opposition to the Cuban government and conducts aerial search missions to identify refugee rafters fleeing from Cuba. However, such activities often placed the planes used for such missions close to or directly in Cuban airspace (Alejandre & Costa, 1999). After Cuban authorities issued numerous warnings to the group, they Cuban Air force finally engaged these planes and shot down two of three planes involved in that particular mission.

This incident was widely condemned by the international community on the grounds that it was an excessive use of force. However, from the Cuban perspective, they also made a reasonable claim to the legitimacy of their actions. The Cuban air forces gave a reported twenty
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five plus warnings to the group before the incident. They even went as far as to notify the U.S. government which consequently issued warnings to the public which were published in newspapers throughout the country. It would be hard to imagine, that if the scenario was reversed, that unauthorized aircraft would receive as many warnings for flying over Washington airspace before being shot down by the U.S. Air Force. Regardless, the incident sparked a new wave of political angst in the U.S. toward the Cuban government.

The Helms-Burton Act

In response to the heightened tensions produced by the shooting down of planes incident, two senators from the U.S. senate, Jesse Helms and Dan Burton, introduced legislation in 1996 that expanded greatly upon the existing Cuban embargo. The law included an aggressive set of provisions that attempted to penalize any foreign organization who actively traded with Cuba. The intent was to make international companies chose either to trade with the U.S., which is a much larger market, or Cuba, which has comparatively little economic power. It also included provisions that made it illegal to trade any of the American property that was confiscated in the Cuban Revolution.

The reactions to the Helms-Burton Act by the countries who traded regularly with Cuba ranged from general opposition to legal actions meant to counter-act the Act. The European Union was so outraged by the legislation that they made an official complaint to the United Nations. The UN consequently created a panel to investigate the situation but was later dropped in favor of bi-lateral negotiations. Canada even went as far as to propose a bill that made a mockery of the Helms-Burton Act by proposing that any property confiscated by America during the American Revolution…

Sources Used in Documents:

Works Cited

Alejandre, A., & Costa, C. (1999, September 29). Human Rights Library. Retrieved January 29, 2010, from University of Minnesota:

Brothers to the Resue. (2010, January 29). Background and Information. Retrieved January 29, 2010, from

Canadian Senate. (1996). 45 Elizabeth II. Retrieved January 29, 2010, from House Publications:

Snow, A. (2010, October 26). Cuba embargo: UN vote urges U.S. To lift embargo. Retrieved January 29, 2010, from The Christian Science Monitor:

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