On February 8, 1963, travel between Cuba and the United States was cut off.
The Cuban missile crisis had ended months before, and the world was still reeling from a brush with nuclear doomsday when Kennedy brought the hammer down to punish Cuba for it's allegiance to the Soviets as well as it's role in the incident. In the following decades, as Fidel Castro's government came to resemble the corrupt Batista dictatorship it had overthrown in 1959 and refugees from Castro's tyranny flocked to all points between Key West and West Palm Beach, a trip to Cuba became something of a forbidden status symbol to many Americans.
Many made the journey, claiming Mexico or any number of Latin American countries as their final destination before quietly making the final leg into Havana. The Cuba they found once out of the major cities was often an untouched paradise, with the strict laws of the Communist Party of Cuba keeping much of the natural environment unmolested (though the human population hasn't fared nearly as well). Now, 22 years after the end of the Cold War, the embargo against Cuba stands as one of the last mighty relics of that bygone era, the Berlin Wall of the West Indies, and it's time for the bastard to be ripped down just like the wall was.
I've never been able to make a solid personal stance on the issue of Cuba. The liberal side of wants to see the embargo ended entirely as it does no one any favors. People might gripe about how the US shouldn't be doing a tyrannical country with no regard for human rights any favors, but those people always seem to forget just how close the U.S. and Saudi Arabia are. First and second generation Cuban-Americans have a more understandable opposition to the lifting of the embargo; They were driven from Cuba for one reason or another and would loathe any favors being done to the Castro family (And woe unto any local politician who suggests anything other than continuing the embargo.) Finally, the Cuban Government has proven that it can and will survive, the embargo be damned.The Embargo now sounds as nothing but an empty monument to 50 years of failed foreign policy.
On the flip side though, Fidel Castro and his regime have been every bit as cruel and brutal as Batista and his regime. It's a great irony that Fidel became the same corrupt power mongering beast that Batista was, but such is the nature of power. To be fair, the constant assassination attempts by the CIA and the great botched tragedy that was the Bay of Pigs Invasion did nothing to warm Castro to the U.S. or anyone who might have issues with the moves he made once in power, but it's no excuse for the atrocities and human rights violations his government committed. They're the standard carte blanche acts you see in any dictatorship: Not allowing free elections, suppressing dissent, executing anyone suspected of trying to overthrow the Government, actions that don't endear a population to it's government (or endear the government to the international community).
There is one final matter to take into consideration, though most would argue that in light of the gross human abuses it is of lesser importance; It is that of just what effect a sudden influx of tourists to Cuba would have. Not economically, but environmentally. As stated earlier, many parts of Cuba are natural paradises that (due to the strict laws of the Cuban government) locals are forbidden from exploiting. A sudden slackening of laws combined with the inevitable influx of American tourists (and there would be a veritable exodus) would turn pristine Cuba into yet another paradise lost to be mourned by western civilization.
I doubt I will be able to safely identify myself in Miami after this article goes live (the collective grudge against the Castro family and anyone against the embargo will outlive both Fidel and Raul), but despite my personal indecision on it all, the embargo must end. It hasn't harmed the Cuban government in any long term sense, serving to only keep the Cuban people themselves that much more impoverished. Fifty years have shown the ineffectiveness of total isolation in battling the tyranny of the Cuban government, so it's time for a change of tactics.
By ending the embargo against Cuba, the U.S. can make an economic first strike, and as a result of the influx of visitors, the Cuban government would have no choice but to liberalize laws and slacken the stranglehold they have on the average Cuban, else they would soon find themselves in the same shoes Batista did when faced with the young lawyer and activist that was Fidel Castro.