After the fall of European communism and the loss of trade sanctions with the Soviet Union, Cuba’s economy struggled and the island experienced severe oil shortages. In response, Castro instituted various austerity measures. During these deteriorated living conditions, thousands took to the Straits of Florida to seek exile in America. In order to resuscitate the economy, the Cuban government began to change foreign investment laws, create free trade zones, and promote the tourist industry in their attempts to diversify their markets. 

Change in Cuba was signaled in 2008 when Fidel retired, leaving the presidency to his brother Raul Castro. Since then, Cuba has experienced several departures from orthodox Marxist economic principles and developed new international relations. Significantly, Europe restored diplomatic ties and lifted previous sanctions. The U.S. continued to have rocky relations with Cuba throughout the 1990s and early 2000s; the U.S. and Cuba continued to have tense relations despite their close geographical proximity, reaching several political stalemates, maintaining a standing embargo, and reinforcing diplomatic bans.

Restoration of Cuba-U.S. Relations

However, in December 2014, the U.S. government, under the Obama administration, ordered the full restoration of diplomatic relations with Cuba. A U.S. embassy is now being opened in Havana, and Obama pledged to break away from the vestiges of distrust remaining from the Cold War and the tangled past stretching into the 19th century.