Cuban Embargo: History & Economic Effects

Instructor: Grace Pisano

Grace has a bachelor's degree in history and a master's degree in teaching. She previously taught high school in several states around the country.

The Cuban Embargo lasted for approximately fifty years and had a significant effect on the economy of the island nation. In this lesson, you will learn the history of the embargo and its economic effects.

Severing U.S.-Cuba Relations

In 1960, President Dwight D. Eisenhower banned all trade with Cuba in what was known as the Cuban Embargo. This was done in response to decisions made by the communist dictator, Fidel Castro. Eisenhower's embargo lasted about fifty years and had huge, lasting impacts on daily life in Cuba. Let's talk about the tumultuous relationship between the U.S. and Cuba, the ending of the embargo and its economic effects.


  • 1959: Fidel Castro came to power by overthrowing a president the United States supported, Fulgencio Batista and made Cuba's government communist. Castro nationalized all U.S. businesses in Cuba, essentially incorporating them into a part of the Cuban government. The American businesses in Cuba at the time were valued at 1.8 billion dollars!

Although close in proximity, the U.S. (green Florida Peninsula) and Cuba (red) have had a tumultuous history.

  • 1960: In response to Castro, President Dwight D. Eisenhower banned all trade between the U.S. and Cuba. Eisenhower froze Cuban money in the U.S. so that it was inaccessible. This was due to Castro nationalizing the businesses, but Eisenhower also worried about Cuba's close relationship with the Soviet Union. Since these events took place during the Cold War, Eisenhower worried that the Soviet Union would attack the U.S. from Cuba.
  • January 3, 1961: Eisenhower officially ended U.S.-Cuba diplomatic relations by closing the U.S. embassy in Havana.
  • 1961: President John F. Kennedy attempted to overthrow Castro with the Bay of Pigs Invasion. However, this plan failed. When American-backed soldiers tried to overthrow Castro, they witnessed the Soviet Union bringing missiles into Cuba, a cause of great alarm.
  • 1962: President Kennedy instituted a full, official embargo with Cuba. He also created restrictions on travel. Since the Cuban economy depended on the U.S., this significantly impacted life in Cuba.
  • 1963: Travel from the U.S. to Cuba was outlawed and the Cuban Assets Control Regulations were issued. These regulations outlawed purchasing or importing goods made in Cuba.
  • 1966: President Lyndon B. Johnson lessened restrictions slightly. Cuban immigrants living in the U.S. were allowed to apply for citizenship.
  • 1980: Despite President Johnson's new law, Cuba restricted emigration. This ban in Cuba was lifted in 1980 and resulted in 125,000 Cubans moving to the US. This was known as the Mariel Boatlift. Critics of Cuba say that the country did this to trick the United States--they allegedly sent over critics of the government, prisoners and mentally ill people.
  • 1982: The U.S. added Cuba to the ''State Sponsors of Terrorism'' list, saying that the country supported terrorists in Latin America and Africa. However, this was criticized by many who claimed that Cuba was only on this list because of the feud between the countries.
  • 1996: The Helms-Burton Act was passed. This act intensified the Cuban embargo and punished other nations and companies that did business with Cuba. It included a provision that the embargo would be lifted if Castro and his family were no longer in power.
  • 1995 - 1998: President Bill Clinton eased some restrictions on Cuba. He began by lessening travel restrictions and later allowed for humanitarian relief (medicine and food) to go to Cuba. Clinton was criticized for these actions. In fact, Clinton confided that if not for the backlash, he would have ended the embargo all together!
  • 2003: President Fidel Castro gave power to his brother, Raul Castro, due to health problems.
  • 2009: President Barack Obama allowed Americans to travel to Cuba for religious and educational reasons. He also allowed for U.S. residents to send money to Cubans and for telephone companies to do business in Cuba.
  • 2014: In exchange for releasing fifty-three political prisoners, Obama opened relations with Cuba more. A part of this included raising the amount of money Americans could send to Cubans. Also, people were allowed to use their U.S. credit and debit cards in Cuba.

President Obama and President Raul Castro met in Panama in 2015.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account