August 15, 2015 | The flag-raising ceremony at the U.S. Embassy in Havana marks the successful conclusion of what Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez called the “first stage” in the process of normalizing relations.
Now comes the hard part.
Myriad other issues still divide Washington and Havana, but none is more consequential that the U.S. economic embargo — or, as the Cubans call it, el bloqueo, the blockade.
Since President John F. Kennedy imposed it in 1961, the embargo has been the centerpiece of Washington’s policy of hostility, and remains today the oldest and most comprehensive set of U.S. economic sanctions against any country in the world.
The embargo’s original purpose was straightforward: to make the Cuban economy scream–to use Cuba’s economic dependence on the United States to plunge it into a crisis so severe that the Cuban people would rise up and overthrow Fidel Castro’s revolutionary government. “If they are hungry, they will throw Castro out,” President Eisenhower surmised when first contemplating economic sanctions.