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On the eve of the 60th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s executive order imposing “an embargo on all trade with Cuba,” the National Security Archive today posts a collection of previously declassified documents that record the origins, rationales, and early evolution of punitive economic sanctions against Cuba in the aftermath of the Castro-led revolution. The documents show that the initial concept of U.S. economic pressure was to create “hardship” and “disenchantment” among the Cuban populace and to deny “money and supplies to Cuba, to decrease monetary and real wages, [and] to bring about hunger, desperation, and the overthrow of [the] government.” However, a CIA case study of the embargo, written twenty years after its imposition, concluded that the sanctions “have not met any of their objectives.”

The selected declassified records chart the secret deliberations of both President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who cut sugar imports from Cuba and restricted U.S. exports, and President Kennedy, who imposed a full trade embargo against the island nation on February 3, 1962. They also examine the “lard” scandal that led the Lyndon B. Johnson administration to add food and medicine to the embargo, Henry Kissinger’s considerations of using the embargo as a bargaining chip to potentially normalize relations, and the Jimmy Carter administration’s resistance to congressional efforts to lift restrictions on the trade of food and medicine to maintain leverage in negotiations with the Castro government on engagement. A secret 1982 CIA case study, “US/OAS Sanctions Against Cuba (1962-Present),” concluded that early on the trade sanctions were “significantly damaging to Cuba’s growth and general development,” but that the embargo had failed to meet its objectives and the political advantages for Castro outweighed its benefits for the United States. 

In his comprehensive chronology of the 60-year evolution of the embargo, American University Professor William M. LeoGrande describes it as “a complex patchwork of laws, presidential proclamations, and regulations that Fidel Castro once called ‘a tangled ball of yarn.’” According to Peter Kornbluh, who directs the Archive’s Cuba Documentation Project, “the endless embargo has become an enduring symbol of perpetual hostility in the U.S. posture toward Cuba.”

READ THE ARTICLE: https://nsarchive.gwu.edu/briefing-book/cuba/2022-02-02/cuba-embargoed-us-trade-sanctions-turn-sixty
Founded in 1985 by journalists and scholars to check rising government secrecy, the National Security Archive combines a unique range of functions: investigative journalism center, research institute on international affairs, library and archive of declassified U.S. documents (“the world’s largest nongovernmental collection” according to the Los Angeles Times), leading non-profit user of the U.S. Freedom of Information Act, public interest law firm defending and expanding public access to government information, global advocate of open government, and indexer and publisher of former secrets.