Describe the level of autonomy that Cuba obtained after the Spanish-American War.

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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When the United States intervened in Cuba for the first time, it did so in support of the Cuban effort to become independent from Spain.  However, after defeating Spain and allowing Cuban independence, the US did not treat Cuba as a truly sovereign state.  Cuba did become an independent country, but the US continued for decades to maintain control of the new country in important ways.

Before American troops left Cuba after the Spanish-American War, the US passed the Platt Amendment and required Cuba to incorporate that amendment into their constitution.  The Platt Amendment gave the US significant control over Cuba.  The amendment gave the US the power to dictate Cuba’s relations with foreign countries.  It also gave the US the power to intervene if the Cuban government was not to America’s liking.  In other words, while the US did not directly control the island, it retained the right to dictate Cuba’s foreign policy and much of its domestic policy as well.

The US took advantage of the terms of the Platt Amendment at least twice in the decades after Cuba became independent.  In 1906, the US launched a military occupation of Cuba that lasted for more than two years.  It did this because it felt that Cuban politics had become unstable and that American economic interests were being threatened.  In 1917, American military personnel went to Cuba again to protect American economic interests and to help prop up a pro-American government against a rebellion.  The US was also trying to make sure that Germany could not meddle in Cuban affairs by supporting the rebellion.

From this we can see that Cuba only achieved partial autonomy after the Spanish-American War.  For decades, the US was legally empowered to intervene in Cuban affairs.  This only ended with the implementation of the “Good Neighbor” policy under President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

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