Date of Award

Spring 5-13-2016

Degree Type


Degree Name


Degree Program

Urban Studies


Planning and Urban Studies

Major Professor

Stich, Bethany

Second Advisor

Gladstone, David

Third Advisor

Renne, John

Fourth Advisor

Ehrenreich, Jeffrey


Throughout the Cold War antagonisms of the twentieth century, the United States (US) championed greater global economic cooperation and an embrace of free market principles to encourage economic growth. Post World War II, passage of the Bretton Woods Agreement institutionalized this political agenda effectively establishing the rules of global commerce. The result has been increased economic participation and trade liberalization. One of the last remaining vestiges of Cold War hostility and impediments to trade is the US economic embargo of Cuba, in place since 1960. Increasingly seen as a policy failure, the US has taken steps in the past two years to normalize relations with Cuba. At the same time, after extended conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, economic recession, and political polarization over the last fifteen years the US finds itself in a position of ambiguity towards additional foreign commitments. American efforts to open Cuba to two-way commerce serve both national security and economic foreign policy agendas. For Cubans, removal of the embargo represents an opportunity for normal relations with the world’s largest economy and access to capital and markets that come with it. The purpose of this study is to test the theory political economy, which attempts to understand society through the intersection of economic, political, and social functions, using US-Cuba diplomacy as a case study (Yin, 2009). Working within a multiple streams framework, the investigator examined how economic policy is changed under politically ambiguous conditions through a series of 20 semi-structured qualitative interviews and content analysis of secondary data sources (Zahariadis, 2014). Specifically, the study explored the behavior of interested individuals from the US and Cuba, so-called policy entrepreneurs, and their influence on the policymaking process during an open policy window. Research results suggest that policy entrepreneurs operate at the individual, state, and national scales of society using a variety of symbols to create and broaden opportunities for policy change. Across all three levels, US and Cuban policy entrepreneur’s behavior is guided by the search for rationality in ambiguous times, but their agency is bounded by the institutionally determined parameters of what is legally and politically acceptable.


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