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Thursday, 19 March, 1998, 21:22 GMT
US sanctions against Cuba explained

The United States imposed sanctions against Cuba in 1962 shortly after Fidel Castro seized power in a revolution on the island.

The embargo was a response to Castro's nationalisation of American-owned enterprises; it sought to deprive Cuba of foreign exchange and hasten the end of communism.

Before 1962, more than two-thirds of Cuba's foreign trade had been with the United States -- so when the embargo came into effect Cuba had to find alternative markets, and itbecame highly dependent on the Soviet Union.

The embargo has since been strengthened, most recently by a 1996 bill -- the Helms-Burton bill -- which punishes foreign companies dealing with Cuba.

The sanctions are strongly supported by an influential expatriate Cuban lobby based in Florida, but opposed by most other countries, and by increasing numbers of Americans including the former president Jimmy Carter.

From the newsroom of the BBC World Service

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