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Failed Sanctions

Why the U.S. Embargo against Cuba Could Never Work

Paolo Spadoni

Publication Year: 2010

For almost five decades, the United States has maintained a comprehensive economic embargo on Cuba. U.S.-based travel to the island is severely restricted, and most financial and commercial transactions with Cuba are illegal for U.S. citizens. In the 1990s the United States tightened the embargo further, seeking to promote change in Cuba by depriving the Castro government of hard currency revenues. And yet the stalemate remains.

How effective has the embargo been in achieving its main goal? Paolo Spadoni dispassionately answers, "Not very." By extending his analysis to non-state actors (including multinational corporations, migrants, international travelers, indirect investors, and food exporters), Spadoni demonstrates that the United States has not only been unable to stifle the flow of foreign investment into Cuba but has actually contributed to the recovery of the Cuban economy, particularly from the deep recession it entered following the demise of the Soviet Union.

Failed Sanctions is a must-read book for those who closely follow Cuban-U.S. relations and for anyone interested in the efficacy of economic sanctions as a foreign policy tool.

Published by: University Press of Florida

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. ix


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pp. xi

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pp. xiii-xiv

I extend my sincerest gratitude to the many people who provided help with this study. I owe an enormous debt to the Center for Inter-American Policy and Research (CIPR) at Tulane University for granting me a generous research fellowship from August 2008 to July 2010 that greatly facilitated the completion of this work. The CIPR’s director, Ludovico Feoli, ...

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pp. xv-xxvii

For almost five decades, the United States has maintained a comprehensive economic embargo on Cuba that severely restricts U.S.-based travel to the island and makes most financial and commercial transactions with Cuba illegal for U.S. citizens. During the cold war, the Castro government weathered the economic impact of the embargo in large part because of generous subsidies offered by the former Soviet Union, mainly through ...

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1 Transnationalism in the Context of Economic Sanctions

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pp. 1-24

Transnational linkages are broadly defined as movements of information, money, objects, and people across borders that are not controlled by organs of governments (Vertovec 2003, 642). The concept of “transnationalism” in the study of international relations came into prominent use in the early 1970s amid rapid growth of international organizations and particularly relations ...

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2 Relations between Cuba and the United States, 1959–2009

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pp. 25-59

For better or worse, the United States and Cuba had enjoyed a “special relationship” for at least a century and a half before the Cuban Revolution of 1959 led by Fidel Castro. During this period, the United States first tried many times unsuccessfully to purchase Cuba from Spain and then controlled developments on the island through military interventions and ...

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3 Evolution and Results of Foreign Investment in Cuba

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pp. 60-96

Cuba’s response to the deteriorating economic situation subsequent to the collapse of its former benefactor, the Soviet Union, was the implementation in September 1990 of an economic austerity program called the “special period in time of peace.” The program consisted of a series of measures intended to conserve energy and raw materials, stimulate food production, expand markets ...

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4 The Impact of the Helms-Burton Law on Foreign Investment in Cuba

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pp. 97-127

The previous chapter offered a comprehensive analysis of foreign investment in Cuba to shed light on the evolution of FDI and the main features of the island’s business environment. It also demonstrated the decisive role of the Castro government in influencing FDI trends and the benefits for the Cuban economy of FDI projects with transnational corporations based outside the United States. ...

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5 U.S. Financial Flows in the Cuban Economy

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pp. 128-176

During the 1990s, the United States reinforced its decades-long economic embargo against Cuba with the enactment of the Torricelli law in 1992 and the Helms-Burton law in 1996. Although one of the stated goals of additional sanctions was to offer positive inducements to democratic reforms in Cuba, the key objective of U.S. policy was to intensify economic ...

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pp. 177-186

Throughout the cold war, the intent of the U.S. embargo to cause Cuba economic pain and the embargo’s ability to produce political changes on the island were greatly inhibited by the fact that Cuba conducted most of its trade with socialist countries and received massive financial aid from the Soviet Union. The true test for yet another round of U.S. economic ...


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pp. 187-204


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pp. 205-221


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pp. 223-230

E-ISBN-13: 9780813045511
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813035154
Print-ISBN-10: 0813035155

Page Count: 260
Illustrations: 25 figures, 15 tables
Publication Year: 2010

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Economic sanctions, American -- Cuba.
  • Embargo.
  • United States -- Foreign economic relations -- Cuba.
  • Cuba -- Foreign economic relations -- United States.
  • Cuba -- Economic conditions.
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