On Oct. 19, 1960 the Eisenhower Administration showed its displeasure with the new Castro regime by declaring a partial embargo on trade with Cuba, prohibiting all exports except food, medicines, medical supplies and a limited number of other specially licensed items. Cuban goods could still be imported into the United States. Out of the public eye, the U.S. was training Cuban exiles for what would become known as the Bay of Pigs invasion.
In February 1960, President Kennedy announces a total embargo on trade with Cuba. Regulations are passed that prohibit the re-export to Cuba of any goods or technical data that originates in the U.S. Congress has also passed legislation to prohibit U.S. aid to any country that “furnishes assistance” to the Cuban government. However, the sale of non-subsidized foods and medicines were still exempt.
In February 1963 Kennedy tightened the embargo by ordering that any foreign merchant ship that has docked at a Cuban port cannot carry U.S. government financed shipments. Later these ships were simply not allowed to dock in the U.S. for one year after they touched port in the island.
In July Kennedy furthered tighten the embargo and made most travel to Cuba illegal for U.S. citizens. Using its authority under the trading with the enemy act of 1917, the Treasury Dept. revoked Cuban Import Regulations and replaced them with the Cuban Assets Control Regulations, containing the basic restrictions of the embargo. All Cuban assets in the United States were frozen.
The two latest and most important additions to the embargo laws are: 1. Congressional passage in 1992 of the Cuban Democracy Act, which among other things made it illegal for subsidiaries of U.S. companies in foreign countries to trade with Cuba, even in goods of local origin and, 2. In Oct. 1995 President Clinton signs the just passed Helms-Burton law, known as the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act which among other things sanctions foreign companies who trade in nationalized U.S. property in Cuba.
Cuba describes the embargo as “economic warfare” that has inflicted losses of $72 billion on the country. It also claims an additional $54 billion in damages from terrorist actions and sabotage.