US Relations with Cuba and Recent Attack on the Cuban Embassy

by Izzy Mignardi ’27 on November 9, 2023

National and Global News

On Sunday, Sept. 24, the Cuban embassy in Washington, D.C. was attacked by an unidentified man who threw two Molotov cocktails at the building around 8 p.m. The device, a glass bottle of flammable liquid sealed with a cloth wick, is often used as an incendiary weapon that spreads flames to its target as the fuel burns. Although there were no injuries or significant damage done to the building, this incident is still problematic because it’s seen by the Cuban government as a “terrorist attack,” whereas the Biden administration has denounced the attack but has not labeled it as terrorism. The Cuban government hopes for a speedy and thorough investigation and for the perpetrator to indeed be treated as a terrorist. This attack occurred just as international pressure increased on the United States to end sanctions against Cuba.

 In May of 2015 under the Obama administration, the U.S. State Department removed Cuba from its terrorism list—a list of countries that the Secretary of State deems to have provided support for international terrorism. Being on this list prevented Cuba from accessing international finance and engaging in certain trade. The removal of Cuba from this list relaxed relationships between the United States and Cuba, and the following July the two countries reopened embassies although the U.S. trade embargo remained in place. However, Donald Trump reinstated travel and business restrictions on Cuba in 2017. That same year, the U.S. cut the embassy staff in Cuba after diplomats residing there developed health issues that consisted of hearing loss and dizziness. Then in 2021, the country was re-added to the terrorist list because of Cuba’s harboring of U.S. fugitives and Colombian rebels. Although Biden eased some of these sanctions last year, such as expanding U.S. flights into the country and increasing visa processing, many still believe that the sanctions should be lifted completely. Advocates claim that this only isolates Cuba more and damages the economic and political situation for Cubans. In fact, the 2022 United Nations General Assembly voted to end the American economic embargo of Cuba, with the only countries opposing this being the United States and Israel.

In this year’s General Assembly, President of Cuba Miguel Díaz-Canel describes Cuba as “being the main victims of the current global multidimensional crisis, unequal exchange, scientific and technological gaps, and the degradation of the environment.” He reiterated the fact that the efforts from developing countries alone are not significant enough to make a change; they must be supported by actual actions from other countries to help achieve fairer financial relations and cooperation between nations.