About the U.S. Embargo on Cuba


The United States embargo against Cuba is a series of trade and travel restrictions established in 1960, two years after the Cuban Revolution. The policy was intended to force Cuba into economic isolation and catalyze a popular movement toward democratization. It is the longest-enduring trade embargo in history. 

Today, there are six main statutes through which the embargo is enforced: 

Trading with the Enemy Act (1917)

Foreign Assistance Act (1961)

Cuban Assets Control Regulations (1963)

Cuban Democracy Act (1992)

Helms-Burton Act (1996)

Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act (2000)

These statutes prohibit most forms of import and export between the United States and Cuba, with exceptions such as goods sold to individuals and private-sector Cuban entrepreneurs rather than state-run enterprises. They also restrict Americans from traveling as tourists to the island, though recent regulatory amendments allow for 12 other types of travel licenses. While the Administration has amended these sanctions considerably since the reestablishment of diplomatic relations, it is up to Congress to repeal the embargo's legislative pillars. And despite the easing of restrictions, the embargo is still strictly enforced--companies have been fined $5.2 million for violations since December 2014. 

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce estimates that the embargo costs the U.S. economy $1.2 billion annually, while Cuba cites its own losses at $753.69 billion. The restrictions have pushed Cuba into relative economic isolation, as trading partners of the U.S. have been hesitant to enter Cuban markets for fear of repercussions. The Administration has since removed the restriction on third-party or "U-turn" financial transactions--which fined third countries for running Cuba transactions through American banks--but potential business partners remain hesitant.