From the Monitor archives: US slaps Cuba with trade embargo

Today's announcement of restored diplomatic ties between Cuba and the US comes after five decades of antagonism, including the 54-year-old US trade embargo against the Communist island. The Christian Science Monitor covered the embargo from the start.

Melanie Stetson Freeman/Staff/File
Cuban streets often features American cars like this 1940s Buick with its enormous silver grille and bumper, shown in April 1999. Cars are precious to Cubans and they are experts at keeping older automobiles running.
The Christian Science Monitor, ProQuest
Page 1 of the Oct. 19, 1960, edition of the Monitor. The story about the US embargo of Cuba appears on the far right.

Today, President Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro announced that the United States and Cuba are restoring diplomatic ties after five decades of antagonism. The US has maintained a trade embargo against Cuba since Oct. 19, 1960. Below is The Christian Science Monitor's story from that day.

U.S. Slaps Cuba With Trade Embargo

By Bertram B. Johansson Latin America Writer of The Christian Science Monitor

The Eisenhower administra­tion’s Oct. 19 announcement of economic embargoes against Cuba on all United States ex­ports except food and medicines, is a tactical move carrying mul­tiple overtones and implica­tions.

It indicates the administration is completely finished with its policy of patience toward the Fidel Castro government.

It is obviously a retaliation for the confiscation by the Castro government of nearly a billion dollars’ worth of business and plantation properties belonging to American citizens, and for which no compensation has been evident or forthcoming.

Trade Dries Up

With the exception of food and medicine, it will all but terminate the rapidly decelerat­ing trade between Cuba and the United States, which before Pre­mier Castro came into power in January, 1959, amounted to as much as $450,000,000 annually in United States exports to Cuba and some $808,000,000 in Cuban exports (mainly sugar) to the United States.

In past months, many United Slates exporters voluntarily have stopped sending products to Cuba because of the large num­ber of unpaid invoices on previously transmitted goods.

Export trade to Cuba in recent months has dropped to a rate of $125,000,000 a year. As of June, 1960, United States exporters were owed $150,000,000 for goods sent to Cuba, and were under pressure to export more in order to obtain some of the money owed to them.

There is not the slightest doubt that the embargo will be interpreted as economic inter­ference within Cuba, and in many parts of Latin America will be scored as intervention.

Coming in the last three weeks of the United States presidential campaign, when Cuba has become one of the heated issues, the timing of the move already is being interpre­ted in Latin-American circles as wholly political.

Though many Latin Ameri­cans are becoming uneasy about Premier Castro’s tactics, even to his infiltrating Cuban-Communists into their own countries, these same Latin Americans feel, generally, that Premier Castro should be allowed to work out his own destiny with­out interference from the United States.

Soviet Oil Flows In

Speculation as to what Pre­mier Castro’s reaction to the embargo will be ranges from his confiscating the remaining United States citizen-owned properties in Cuba, amounting to about $250,000,000 in value, to more than verbal threats on the United States Naval Base at Guantanamo, or possible rup­ture of diplomatic relations.

The embargo announcement will likely drive the Castro gov­ernment more inexorably into Soviet arms, if that is possible.

It will force the Soviet Union, meanwhile, to funnel quantities of consumer goods now supplied from the United States.

More strategically, it will cut off machine parts necessary for the running of the several pe­troleum refineries which Cuba confiscated from British and United States owners and which now are running Soviet pe­troleum through their pipes. Thus far, the supply of Soviet oil has been steady, according to the Cuban Petroleum Insti­tute. But replacement parts are constantly needed.

The move also will terminate the flow of machine parts necessary for operation of Cuba's 161 sugar grinding mills, replacements for which are needed every year. It is entirely possible that Cuba has obtained sugar mill parts for the 1961 January-June grinding season already.

The embargo, anticipated by Cuba, has meant that in the past few weeks huge orders for automobile spare parts, such as spark plugs, fuel pumps, and carburetors, have shown up on ship manifests, as well as parts for petroleum refineries and sugar mills.

Some parts-dealers offices have suddenly opened in Mexico City, in an attempt to obtain United States machine parts for Cuba.

The Department of Commerce order for the embargo, besides specifying a cutoff of exports, coincided with an order from the Maritime Administration making it illegal for American-owned ships to be sold, transferred, or chartered to Cuban interests unless the agency approves the deal in advance.

Sugar Curb Cited

The Department of Commerce earlier had imposed a require­ment that advance approval be obtained before Americans could ship any trucks or jeeps to Cuba. Fear was expressed at the time that such vehicles might be used for military purposes.

In July, the President issued an order cutting the Cuban sugar quota by more than 800,­000 tons, thus preventing that amount of sugar to be shipped in from Cuba.

Vice President Richard M. Nixon, in his campaign address Oct. 18 before the American Legion in Miami, indicated the administration would be mov­ing soon to embargo United States exports. He said that “our goal must be to quarantine the Castro regime in the Amer­icas, . . .” and that “while this process goes forward, we will very promptly take the strong­est possible economic measures to counter the economic band­itry being practiced by the re­gime against our country and our citizens.

Roa Levels Blast at US

Senator John F. Kennedy, on the other hand, has been assert­ing for weeks, and again before the Legion convention, that “Cuba has been lost, for the time being.” He said Oct. 18 that Communists have “captured the Castro movement in Cuba. . . . They’re working to capture other movements in other parts of Latin America, and without a soldier crossing into those coun­tries, without a shot being fired.”

Meanwhile, at the United Nations, Cuban Foreign Minis­ter Raul Roa Oct. 18 submitted new charges of “aggression" against the United States to UN Assembly President Frederick H. Boland.

He said the United States is waging aggression against the Castro government as a prelude to a “grand scale” invasion.

Señor Roa’s memorandum cited the recent capture of three United States citizens executed for their part in an expedition that landed in Oriente Province, the alleged dropping of bazookas and other arms in central Cuba by a four-engine plane with United States markings, and other developments in United Stales-Cuban relations.

The current application of ex­port embargoes no doubt will raise questions as to whether the United States should not have waited to act with “con­certed” action with other Latin-American countries through the Organization of American States, though it is doubtful such uni­fied action could have been taken.

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