The Early Days:
Just 90 miles from the Florida coast, Cuba and Cuban President Fidel Castro
have been thorns in the side of American presidents since the Kennedy Administration. Castro came to power in 1959. He nationalized all American property on the island, and relations between the United States and Cuba have been downhill from there.
In 1960, the United States gave weak support to a failed invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs
. In 1962 Castro allowed the Soviet Union to install nuclear missiles on the island. The resulting Cuban Missile Crisis
led the world to the brink of nuclear war.
The U.S. has had an almost full embargo on Cuba since 1961. Travel and trade between the U.S. and Cuba is heavily restricted. Supporters of the policy say it is the best way to squeeze Castro out of power. Critics say it is time to try something new since Castro uses American hostility as a way to rally support for his government.
When Condoleezza Rice appeared at her Senate confirmation hearings to become Secretary of State she said, "In our world there remain outposts of tyranny - and America stands with oppressed people on every continent - in Cuba, and Burma, and North Korea, and Iran, and Belarus, and Zimbabwe."
Current Political State of Cuba:
In the summer of 2006 Castro, 80, underwent surgery and turned over temporary control of the island to his brother Raul
. Rumors have swirled that Fidel Castro is suffering from a terminal illness
. Cuban officials insisted he would return to power shortly. Instead, Raul Castro became
the official president of Cuba in February of 2008.