Study Guide

Platt Amendment Main Idea

By U.S. Congress

  • Main Idea

    America Sets Cuba's Rules

    In this story, Cuba is the kid discovering their new independence and America is the strict parent setting the rules. The U.S. just kicked Spain out of Cuba, but America wanted to keep a tight grip on the island's people and precious, precious sugar and coal resources.

    The Platt Amendment was a set of seven rules that Cuba was forced to follow, and most of the rules have to do with Cuba being closely watched and influenced by the U.S.

    It's independence…but it's independence with seven very thick strings attached.

    Questions About Main Idea

    1. How independent really was Cuba, with the restrictions of the Platt Amendment being enforced by the U.S.?
    2. Did the U.S. create the Platt Amendment to genuinely help Cuba get on its newly independent feet, or was it to control the country's people and resources? Could it be both?
    3. What right did the U.S. have to set rules and restrictions for Cuba, considering Cuba's history of colonization and oppression?
    4. Why might the U.S. be so concerned with a small island such as Cuba when it was dealing with much bigger issues on the world stage?

    Chew on This

    America saw a bit of itself in scrappy, rebellious Cuba, and created the Platt Amendment in order to protect and guide Cuba in the scary new world of independence.

    America valued Cuba solely for its resources and its close location, and created the Platt Amendment in order to take advantage of the newly independent nation.

  • Brief Summary

    The Set-Up

    "A resource-rich island just off the coast of Florida is now independent? Yeah, we're going to have to set some rules for them." That's what Congress probably said right before writing the Platt Amendment, the official legislation that ended up placing Cuba's fate almost entirely in America's hands.

    The Text

    After a bit of rambling in the beginning, Congress gets to the point—well, seven points to be exact—telling Cuba what they can and can't do with their new independence. The basic idea of these rules can be boiled down to two themes:

    1. Cuba can't let any countries other than the U.S. help them, trade with them, or make alliances with them.
    2. Cuba has to let the U.S. get involved on the island whenever they want, for either resource-gathering or placing military forces.

    As should be painfully obvious, the Platt Amendment's purpose was to completely restrict Cuba's actions on the world stage and let the U.S. control the island in almost every way.

    Was America being a brutal bully or a wary caretaker? Only time would tell.

    TL;DR

    Too close and too full of resource goodies to be left alone, America sets seven restrictive rules for newly independent Cuba.

      
  • Questions

    1. What would be different, or the same, in Cuba (or in the U.S. for that matter) if the Platt Amendment had never been passed?
    2. Should bigger, more powerful countries be allowed to set the rules for smaller, less powerful ones?
    3. Might the Platt Amendment have led directly to some of the historical tensions between the U.S. and Cuba (such as the Cuban Missile Crisis in the Cold War, or the Guantanamo Bay military prison in recent decades), or was that tension bound to happen thanks to the close proximity of the island to American soil?
    4. Would it be possible for the United States (or any other strong nation) to force another country to agree to rules like those of the Platt Amendment today?
    5. Do people in Cuba today hold a grudge against America for the Platt Amendment, or is it not that big of a deal?
    6. Why does Congress insist on writing documents with extremely long sentences?