Cuba has been at odds with the United States since Fidel Castro assumed power in 1959. Successive U.S. administrations have tried a range of tough measures, including prolonged economic sanctions and designation of Cuba as a State Sponsor of Terrorism, none of which substantially weakened Castro's rule. In February 2008, Fidel formally resigned from office, sixteen months after transferring many powers to his brother Raul due to illness. Despite some stirrings of U.S. economic interest in Cuba and the possibility of policy softening under President Barack Obama, experts say that normalization of U.S.-Cuba relations is unlikely in the near to medium term.
What is the status of U.S.-Cuba relations?
U.S.-Cuba relations are virtually nonexistent. There is a U.S. mission in Havana, Cuba's capital, but it has minimal communication with the Cuban government. Since 1961, the official U.S. policy toward Cuba has been two-pronged: economic embargo and diplomatic isolation. The Bush administration strongly enforced the embargo and strengthened travel restrictions. Americans with immediate family may visit once every three years for a maximum of two weeks, while the total amount of family remittances an authorized traveler may carry to Cuba is $300, reduced from $3,000 in 2004. Obama signaled an intention to remove travel and remittance restrictions during his campaign. As of March 2009, these restrictions remained while the State Department conducted a Cuba policy review led by Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Shannon.
Congress amended the trade embargo in 2000 to allow agricultural exports from the United States to Cuba. In 2008, U.S. companies exported roughly $710 million worth of food and agricultural products to Cuba, according to the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council; in 2001 that figure was virtually zero. Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Texas have all brokered agricultural deals with Cuba in...