What is the U.S. embargo against Cuba and what needs to happen for it to be lifted

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What is the U.S. embargo against Cuba and what needs to happen for it to be lifted
HAVANA, CUBA - DECEMBER 17: Alan Gross on the tarmac with his wife, Judy Gross, attorney Scott Gilbert, Sen. Jeff Flake, (R-AZ), Sen. Patrick Leahy, (D-VT) and Rep. Chris Van Hollen, (D-MD) during his release December 17, 2014 at an airport near Havana, Cuba.. Obama announced plans to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba, over 50 years after they were severed in January 1961. In a prisoner exchange, U.S. contractor Alan Gross was freed after being held in Cuba since 2009 and sent to Cuba three Cuban spies who had imprisoned in the U.S. since 2001. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)
HAVANA, CUBA - DECEMBER 17: Alan Gross boards a government plane during his release December 17, 2014 at an airport near Havana, Cuba.. Obama announced plans to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba, over 50 years after they were severed in January 1961. In a prisoner exchange, U.S. contractor Alan Gross was freed after being held in Cuba since 2009 and sent to Cuba three Cuban spies who had imprisoned in the U.S. since 2001. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)
HAVANA, CUBA - DECEMBER 17: Alan Gross greets Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Az., Sen.and Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md. December 17, 2014 at an airport near Havana, Cuba.. Obama announced plans to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba, over 50 years after they were severed in January 1961. In a prisoner exchange, U.S. contractor Alan Gross was freed after being held in Cuba since 2009 and sent to Cuba three Cuban spies who had imprisoned in the U.S. since 2001. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)
HAVANA, CUBA - DECEMBER 17: Judy Gross greets her husband, Alan Gross, December 17, 2014 at an airport near Havana, Cuba.. Obama announced plans to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba, over 50 years after they were severed in January 1961. In a prisoner exchange, U.S. contractor Alan Gross was freed after being held in Cuba since 2009 and sent to Cuba three Cuban spies who had imprisoned in the U.S. since 2001. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)
HAVANA, CUBA - DECEMBER 17: A Cuban man reads the Granma, a Cuban communist party paper, as he has his shoes shined, shortly after a live broadcast a speech by Cuban President Raul Castro about the re-establishment of official diplomatic relations with the U.S., on December 17, 2014, in Havana, Cuba. It was also announced that Alan Gross, an American contractor for USAID, who had been in prison in Cuba for the past five years on spy charges, had been released and could return to the U.S. The U.S. released three Cuban agents of the so-called group 'The Cuban Five', who have been in prison for 16 years, and returned to Cuba. (Photo by Sven Creutzmann/Getty Images)
HAVANA, CUBA - DECEMBER 17: Cuban school kids watch a live broadcast of the speech by Cuban President Raul Castro about the re-establishment of official diplomatic relations with the U.S., with a poster of the 'The Cuban Five' hanging on the wall on December 17, 2014, in Havana, Cuba. It was also announced that Alan Gross, an American contractor for USAID, who had been in prison in Cuba for the past five years on spy charges, had been released and could return to the U.S. The U.S. released three Cuban agents of the so-called group 'The Cuban Five', who have been in prison for 16 years, and returned to Cuba. (Photo by Sven Creutzmann/Getty Images)
HAVANA, CUBA - DECEMBER 17: Cubans applaud and cheer after a speech by Cuban President Raul Castro about the re-establishment of official diplomatic relations with the U.S., under a poster of the 'The Cuban Five' on December 17, 2014, in Havana, Cuba. It was also announced that Alan Gross, an American contractor for USAID, who had been in prison in Cuba for the past five years on spy charges, had been released and could return to the U.S. The U.S. released three Cuban agents of the so-called group 'The Cuban Five', who have been in prison for 16 years, and returned to Cuba. (Photo by Sven Creutzmann/Getty Images)
HAVANA, CUBA - DECEMBER 17: Alan Gross greets Patrick Leahy, (D-VT) Sen. Jeff Flake, (R-AZ), Sen.and Rep. Chris Van Hollen, (D-MD) December 17, 2014 at an airport near Havana, Cuba.. Obama announced plans to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba, over 50 years after they were severed in January 1961. In a prisoner exchange, U.S. contractor Alan Gross was freed after being held in Cuba since 2009 and sent to Cuba three Cuban spies who had imprisoned in the U.S. since 2001. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)
HAVANA, CUBA - DECEMBER 17: Alan Gross chats with Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md. as the final paperwork gets signed by a Cuban official on his release December 17, 2014 at an airport near Havana, Cuba.. Obama announced plans to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba, over 50 years after they were severed in January 1961. In a prisoner exchange, U.S. contractor Alan Gross was freed after being held in Cuba since 2009 and sent to Cuba three Cuban spies who had imprisoned in the U.S. since 2001. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)
HAVANA, CUBA - DECEMBER 17: Alan Gross on the tarmac with his wife, Judy Gross, attorney Scott Gilbert, Sen. Jeff Flake, (R-AZ), Sen. Patrick Leahy, (D-VT) and Rep. Chris Van Hollen, (D-MD) during his release December 17, 2014 at an airport near Havana, Cuba.. Obama announced plans to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba, over 50 years after they were severed in January 1961. In a prisoner exchange, U.S. contractor Alan Gross was freed after being held in Cuba since 2009 and sent to Cuba three Cuban spies who had imprisoned in the U.S. since 2001. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)
Relations with the Castro regime should not be revisited, let alone normalized, until the Cuban people enjoy freedom – & not 1 second sooner
Alan Gross should've never been jailed. Obama’s unilateral move is propaganda coup 4 #Castro regime, may violate law http://t.co/tB9z0w6Pd0
Relations with the Castro regime should not be revisited, let alone normalized, until the Cuban people enjoy freedom – & not 1 second sooner
There is no ‘new course’ here, only another in a long line of mindless concessions to a dictatorship. http://t.co/cjuXvwFET8 #Cuba
If anything, this emboldens all state sponsors of terrorism: http://t.co/cjuXvwFET8 #Cuba
Happy for Alan Gross & family but dismayed Obama admin agreed to release Cuban spies. Legitimizes Castro regime's coercive tactics.
The President has done it again, bypassing Congress and making changes on his own, this time to Cuba policy. http://t.co/1nJHiM7LRm
“I am pleased #AlanGross will be reunited with this family after suffering years of unjust imprisonment” http://t.co/sQ9k5alj7s #Cuba
I will do all in my power to block the use of funds to open an embassy in Cuba. Normalizing relations with Cuba is bad idea at a bad time.
I welcome the return of Alan Gross to the United States and celebrate his release from imprisonment
Since 1961, nine different Republican and Democrat presidents have opposed normalizing relations with Cuba
President Obama’s announcement is further evidence that his foreign policy objective is appeasement
The president’s action rewards the Castro regime at the expense of the Cuban people, who are denied fair elections and free speech
My statement on #Cuba & #AlanGross: http://t.co/96XNrJe2se
Diaz-Balart on Release of Alan Gross and Concessions by President Obama http://t.co/6mUiJr3g3B
Alan Gross. Back on U.S. soil. http://t.co/Ut5jvdQGg2
Alan and Judy Gross. Together again. Just before leaving Cuba this morning. #alangross http://t.co/cdIlIkYfF3
Great moment for @JebBush to condemn Castro brothers and stand for liberty and democracy abroad.
The Admin's decision to release three Cuban spies and seek normalized relations with Cuba is a dangerous mistake http://t.co/3jDourKGv1
The U.S. embargo against Cuba has a decades-long history. President Obama can gut the embargo, but he'll need Congressional approval to get rid of it.
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What is the U.S. embargo against Cuba and what needs to happen for it to be lifted
"I look forward to engaging Congress in an honest and serious debate about lifting the embargo," President Obama said in a press conference.

Since President Obama's comments Wednesday it's been hard not to talk about the U.S. embargo on Cuba and Obama's proposed shift in relations with the country.

"I think all of us hope Congress will lift the embargo," Rep. Chris Van Hollen said.

"The embargo is not what's hurting the Cuban people. It's the lack of freedom," Sen. Marco Rubio told Fox News.

So, where did the embargo come from in the first place? And, with President Obama's intention to try and get rid of it, what does the White House need to do to make that happen?

President Dwight Eisenhower first imposed a limited embargo against Cuba in the late '50s after the communist country expanded its relationship with the Soviet Union. President John F. Kennedy widened the embargo in 1962 to include all Cuban trade, including food and medicine. Kennedy later imposed travel restrictions to Cuba after the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1963. (Videos via Euronews,National Archives)

According to many, the U.S. embargo against Cuba was also about deposing former President and former Prime Minister of Cuba Fidel Castro - a Marxist leader who violently overthrew the previous government.

In the years following the embargo, Cubans suffered.

"Cuba's economy, once so dependent on its huge neighbor to the north, withered. ... Cubans paid a heavy price in economic hardship and political repression," BBC reporter Paul Adams said.

Fast-forward to 2014, opinions are split on re-establishing ties with Cuba. Some have said the embargo has lasted too long and actually didn't serve its purpose of creating an uprising against Castro.

Others, like Sen. Marco Rubio, believe lifting the embargo would be a mistake.

"It is a victory for the oppressive Cuban government, but a serous setback for the repressed Cuban people," Rubio said.

Opinions are also split within Miami, Florida's Cuban population.

"The older generation says, 'I feel betrayed twice. First, by Fidel Castro, which caused me to flee Cuba. And now, by my own president, President Obama.' Whereas the younger generation ... they say, 'Look, our president is doing this in the best interest for us,'" Al Jazeera reporter Morgan Radford said.

Obama's plans to shift U.S.-Cuba relations are divisive, but he's vowed to gut much of the restrictions against Cuba himself.

John Kavulich of the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council told The New York Times, "President Obama is saying, 'I'm going to leave a shell, but it's going to be a proverbial Easter egg - it's going to be hollow.'"

President Obama can establish an embassy, allow for certain banking transactions between Cuban and American institutions and issue general licenses for traveling. What he can't do: completely lift all restrictions for travel and completely get rid of the embargo. He'll need congressional approval for that.

Obama has said he'll work with Congress to make those things happen but - considering early opposition from some Congressional lawmakers - he said Friday it'll probably be a while we'll even see a debate on lifting the embargo.

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