Cuba and the United States:
A Chronological History

 Jane Franklin

Publication 1997, Ocean Press. 420 pages, index, glossary. ISBN 1-875284-92-3. US $21.95/A$29.95/£12.95. Order from
"Whether one reads it as a history, or keeps it handy as a ready reference,...this is a book that no serious student of U.S.-Cuba relations can afford to be without."



--Philip Brenner, American University



"A marvelous work that puts the U.S. Government's outrageous aggression into stark and stunning context."



--John Marciano, State University of New York



"This chronology provides scholars with an essential and long overdue research tool."



--Louis A. Pérez, Jr., University of North Carolina



Cuba and the United States: A Chronological History begins with an introductory chapter on the background that led to revolution, tracing Cuba-U.S. relations from the time when both countries were colonies of European powers. Then comes the detailed, year-by-year chronology from January 1959 through 1995. The connections between these two nations are placed in the context of global events and politics.

 Designed to be used in many ways, this book may be read as narrative history or consulted as a reference guide to a wide range of topics. The chronological method establishes historical context, organizes a maximum amount of information, and conveys the interconnectedness of lesser-known occurrences with major developments. Widely-discussed episodes such as the Bay of Pigs invasion or the Missile Crisis are shown to be part of a continuum of events.

 The index, an integral part of the book, may be used to reveal historical context. For example, if a reader wants to find out about the exodus from Mariel in 1980, the index will of course list direct references but it can do much more, for Mariel is just one episode in a long complex story indexed under "migration."

 The index may also be used to disclose the course of various people and issues--e.g., the U.S. trade embargo (including the Torricelli Act and the Helms-Burton Act), the travel ban, nationalization and compensation, CIA operatives like Félix Rodríguez, Jorge Mas Canosa and the Cuban American National Foundation, elections, hijackings, human rights, Radio and TV Martí, and the U.S. invasions of Vietnam, Grenada and Panama.

Sample Entries 
Sample Entries from the Introductory Chapter

1801-1808 In his first presidential inaugural address March 4, 1801, Thomas Jefferson declares that the people of the United States are blessed by "possessing a chosen country, with room enough for our descendants to the thousandth and thousandth generation." Two years later the Jefferson Administration approximately doubles the size of the original states with the Louisiana Purchase from France. In 1808, Jefferson sends General James Wilkinson to Cuba to find out if the Spanish would consider ceding Cuba to the United States. Spain is not interested. 

 April 28, 1823 Having acquired East and West Florida from Spain a few years earlier, the United States has expanded to within 90 miles of Cuba. In a letter to Minister to Spain Hugh Nelson, Secretary of State John Quincy Adams describes the likelihood of U.S. "annexation of Cuba" within half a century despite obstacles: "But there are laws of political as well as of physical gravitation; and if an apple severed by the tempest from its native tree cannot choose but fall to the ground, Cuba, forcibly disjoined from its own unnatural connection with Spain, and incapable of self support, can gravitate only towards the North American Union, which by the same law of nature cannot cast her off from its bosom." Cubans calls this policy la fruta madura (ripe fruit); Washington would wait until the fruit is considered ripe for the picking. 

 October 10, 1868 The Ten Years' War or Cuba's First War of Independence begins when plantation owner Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, accompanied by 37 other planters, proclaims the independence of Cuba in the Grito de Yara issued from his plantation. Céspedes frees and arms his slaves. Two days later the brothers Antonio and José Maceo--free blacks--join the rebel ranks. Some Dominican exiles, including Máximo Gómez, help to train the rebels, using their experience from fighting against Spain on nearby Hispaniola. 

 April 25, 1898 The U.S. Congress formally declares war [against Spain], saying that the state of war between the United States and Spain began April 21. In the United States, this is known as the Spanish-American War. In Cuba, it is known as the U.S. intervention in Cuba's War of Independence. 

 August 12, 1898 Spain and the United States sign a bilateral armistice. Cuba is not represented at the negotiations. 

 1901 To codify control of Cuba, the U.S. Congress on March 2 adds the Platt Amendment to an Army Appropriations bill. The amendment provides that Cuba has only a limited right to conduct its own foreign policy and debt policy; the United States may intervene militarily at any time....Since the U.S. Government makes it clear that its military occupation will not end until this amendment becomes part of Cuban law, Cuba incorporates the Platt Amendment into its 1901 Constitution. 

 September 5-10, 1933 A junta (the Pentarquía-- Ramón Grau San Martín, Sergio Carbó, Porfirio Franco, José Miguel Irisarri, and Guillermo Portela) runs the country. Ambassador Welles describes the rebels as having "communistic" ideas and on September 7 he asks for U.S. military intervention. President Roosevelt, despite his promotion of the Good Neighbor Policy toward Latin America, orders at least 29 warships to Cuba and to Key West, alerts the U.S. Marines, and prepares bombers for use if necessary. 

 1952 Fidel Castro, who graduated from law school in 1950, is running for Congress as a member of the Orthodox Party (Partido del Pueblo Cubano--Ortodoxo). General Batista runs for president but has little chance of winning. On March 10, Batista stages a coup, suspends the Constitution, cancels the elections and becomes dictator. The Truman Administration quickly recognizes his government and sends military and economic aid. Organized resistance begins. 

Sample Entries from 1959-1995


January 1 Troops under the command of Che Guevara take Santa Clara, and General Fulgencio Batista flees to the Dominican Republic in the early morning hours. Revolutionary forces assume control in Havana. Fidel Castro and his troops enter Santiago de Cuba and seize the Moncada Army Barracks without firing a shot as 5,000 soldiers surrender to the July 26 Movement. Castro calls a general strike to prevent a counterrevolutionary coup. Cubans whose sympathies are with Batista start leaving Cuba while many Cubans in exile begin returning. In Washington, supporters of the revolution take over the Cuban Embassy. 

 January 7 The United States recognizes the new Cuban Government, already recognized by several countries in the Western Hemisphere. 

 January 8 After marching across the country from Oriente province, Fidel Castro and the main body of the revolutionary army enter Havana. 

 January 10 Earl E. T. Smith resigns as U.S. ambassador to Cuba. Philip W. Bonsal will replace him. 

 October 11-21 Three raids by planes flying from the United States bomb sugar mills in Pinar del Río and Camagüey provinces. Cuba is making efforts to purchase planes for its defense. 

 October 16 The United States tells Britain that it opposes a British plan to sell jet fighters to Cuba. Britain later cancels the sale, saying U.S. pressure has nothing to do with the decision. 

 October 22 In Las Villas province, an airplane strafes a train full of passengers. Responding to such attacks, Cubans form popular militia. 


January Cuba expropriates 70,000 acres of property owned by U.S. sugar companies, including 35,000 acres of pasture and forests owned by United Fruit Company in Oriente province. United Fruit owns approximately 235,000 acres in addition to this. By confronting United Fruit (later United Brands and Chiquita Brands), Cuba is antagonizing a powerful organization that played a major role in the 1954 overthrow of the elected Arbenz Government in Guatemala. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles has been both a stockholder and a longtime legal adviser for the company, including preparation of contracts in 1930 and 1936 with the Ubico dictatorship in Guatemala; his brother Allen W. Dulles, director of the CIA, was once president of the company; UN Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge has been a member of its board of directors; Walter Bedell Smith, head of the CIA before Dulles, became president of United Fruit after the overthrow of Arbenz. 

 August The CIA takes steps to recruit members of organized crime for help in assassinating Prime Minister Castro. According to testimony by Colonel Sheffield Edwards on May 30, 1975, to the Senate Select Intelligence Committee on Assassinations, Richard Mervin Bissell Jr., former Yale professor turned CIA chief of covert operations, asks Edwards, director of the CIA's Office of Security, to locate someone who could assassinate Castro. Bissell confirms this in his own 1975 testimony. 


January 3 The U.S. Government breaks diplomatic relations with Cuba and arranges for the Swiss Embassy in Havana to assume its diplomatic and consular representation in Cuba. Later the Czechoslovakian Embassy in Washington provides the same service for Cuba. 

 January 5 The UN Security Council rejects without a vote Cuba's charge that an invasion is being planned by the United States, which formally denies any such plan. 

 April 7 The New York Times runs an article about the plan for invasion. Originally the article was to appear under a four-column headline, but it is cut to one column. The published article omits the original's mention of the role of the CIA. Instead, it refers to "experts" who have been training "anti-Castro forces" in Guatemala, Florida and Louisiana. This training is "an open secret" in Miami, says the Times, and couriers' boats "run a virtual shuttle between the Florida coast and Cuba carrying instructions, weapons and explosives." 

 April 17 Before dawn, a CIA public relations man releases to the press a message supposedly from the president of the Revolutionary Council, José Miró Cardona, but actually written by CIA agent E. Howard Hunt Jr. It announces that "Cuban patriots" have begun "to liberate" Cuba. The CIA's Radio Swan broadcasts to the Cuban people a call to arms. The CIA's invasion force, Brigade 2506 of some 1,200 men, invades at Playa Girón (Girón Beach) on the Bahía de Cochones (Bay of Pigs). (In Cuba, the Bay of Pigs invasion is known as the Battle of Girón.) The invaders are led and commanded by CIA agent Grayston (Gray) Lynch and CIA operative William (Rip) Robertson....The internal support anticipated by the CIA fails to materialize. 

 November 1 In a memo to President Kennedy, Richard Goodwin, the White House specialist on Latin America, advises that Attorney General Robert Kennedy would be the most effective commander of a new plan to overthrow Prime Minister Castro: Operation Mongoose. Goodwin and the Attorney General have been joined in planning Operation Mongoose by CIA operative General Edward G. Lansdale, who engineered the presidency of Ramón Magsaysay in the Philippines against the Hukbalahap rebellion and then went to Vietnam where he set up the Saigon regime of Ngo Dinh Diem. 


February 3 The Kennedy Administration announces a total embargo of trade with Cuba to take effect February 7. Since the prohibition of exports (see October 19, 1960), the embargo has become extraterritorial with regulations barring re-export to Cuba of any commodities or technical data that originate in the United States. 


March 19 President Carter does not renew the ban (renewable every six months) on travel by U.S. citizens to Cuba, Vietnam, Cambodia, and North Korea. 

 March 21 As a corollary to ending the travel ban, the Carter Administration lifts the ban on U.S. citizens' spending dollars in Cuba. In addition, surveillance flights over Cuba have been quietly suspended (satellites continue to provide surveillance). 


April 19 The Reagan Administration re-institutes the travel ban, announcing that, effective May 15, U.S. citizens are prohibited from making expenditures incidental to travel to Cuba, effectively banning such travel for the ordinary U.S. tourist despite the fact that U.S. courts have upheld the constitutional right to travel. 


March 23 Launching plans for "Star Wars," President Reagan shows on television some high-technology, aerial photographs of what he calls threatening installations in Cuba, Grenada, and Nicaragua, including the airport being built in Grenada, which Reagan maintains is for military use. The United States turned down Grenada's request for aid to build the 9,000-foot runway, the minimum length for accommodating jumbo jets needed to compete for tourism in the Caribbean. Layne Dredging Ltd., a Miami company, working with Cuban engineers, recently completed a $2.9 million dredging contract. Another U.S. company designed the fuel storage tanks shown in the photo. The prime contractor is Plessey Airports, subsidiary of the British conglomerate, Plessey, with a $9.9 million contract underwritten by the British Government. Cuban construction workers are providing labor. More than a dozen countries are involved, including Canada. 

 October 28 White House deputy press secretary Les Janka writes a letter of resignation (effective October 31) because he believes his credibility has been damaged "perhaps irreparably" by the erroneous information he has disseminated about the invasion of Grenada. 


September 28 In a major speech, President Castro declares there is no doubt that Cuba is entering "a special period during peacetime" when the unreliability of former CMEA [Council for Mutual Economic Assistance, a trade alliance of socialist countries from 1949 until disbanded in February 1991] trading partners creates scarcities in Cuba of a magnitude similar to what would be caused by a wartime naval blockade. CMEA members have been accounting for 85 to 88 percent of Cuba's trade. 


February 5 Representative Torricelli (D-New Jersey) introduces the "Cuban Democracy Act" (see July 31, 1991) in the House of Representatives. Bob Graham (D-Florida) introduces the same legislation in the Senate. The bill would tighten the embargo in many different ways, including punishment of third nations which trade with Cuba and prohibition of trade with Cuba by U.S.-owned subsidiaries in third countries, thus incorporating the Mack Amendment (see July 20, 1989). Cuban Americans divide sharply over this legislation. While the Cuban American National Foundation helped write the CDA, many Cuban Americans, even those who oppose President Castro, believe that tightening the embargo will only lead to more economic hardship for the Cuban people. For Torricelli, this is precisely the purpose; later, he tells a Georgetown University audience that he wants to "wreak havoc on that island." 

 October 7 From an offshore speedboat, a group from Comandos L [Cuban American group based in Miami] fires shots at the Hotel Melia on Varadero Beach. Owned jointly by Cuba and Spain, the Melia is one of Cuba's main resort hotels. 

 October 14 The Miami Herald reports that Comandos L faxed this "war communique" to the Herald: "On the evening of October 7, 1992, Comandos L attacked a military objective off the coast of the province of Matanzas, Cuba." The fax does not mention that the "military" target is a tourist hotel and that the "military objective" would be to scare tourists away from Cuba. 

October 14 Cuba sends a letter formally protesting the October 7 terrorist attack to the State Department, which refers the protest to the Justice Department, which in turn asks the FBI to investigate. Cuban officials present to the chief of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana two volumes of evidence, including eyewitness accounts, photographs, and bullets taken from the Hotel Melia. 


January 7 At a news conference, [Comandos L leader] Tony Bryant announces plans for more raids against targets in Cuba, especially hotels. Warning tourists to stay off the island, he declares, "From this point on, we're at war," adding, "The Neutrality Act doesn't exist." 


February 9 Senator Jesse Helms introduces the "Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity (LIBERTAD) Act" that would tighten the embargo. Ignacio Sánchez, a trustee of the Cuban American National Foundation, helped draft this legislation, including the following measures: Cuban Americans would be empowered to make new claims on property expropriated decades ago; the International Claims Settlement Act of 1949, which currently applies only to U.S. citizens at the time of expropriation, would be amended to allow retroactive claims by any Cuban who has since become a U.S. citizen; U.S. citizens who formerly owned property in Cuba could pursue claims in U.S. courts against those who "traffic" in such properties; it would be unlawful for any U.S. "person" (citizen or corporation) to extend financing to any foreign person who "traffics" in Cuban property claimed by a U.S. person; within 90 days of enactment and each year thereafter, the President would have to submit a report to Congress on all foreign commerce with Cuba, including joint ventures merely "under consideration" along with names of the parties involved; no foreign "corporate officer, principal, or shareholder of an entity" involved in deals concerning any property claimed by a U.S. person could enter the United States nor could such a person's husband or wife or child. The bill describes the kind of "transitional" government that would be acceptable to Washington, including an edict that neither Fidel Castro nor Raúl Castro could participate in "free and fair elections." 

 February 14 Representative Dan Burton (R-Indiana), chair of the House International Relations (formerly Foreign Affairs) Committee's Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere Affairs, introduces the House version of the Helms bill. Cuba begins nationwide teach-ins to inform the Cuban people that Cuban Americans could try, under the Helms-Burton law, to seize private homes, public schools, union halls, day-care centers, sugar mills, and other property. 

April 17 Appearing at a rally in Miami alongside Jorge Mas Canosa, Senator Jesse Helms endorses the Cuban American National Foundation's call for a naval blockade of Cuba. The Baltimore Sun reports that a fund-raiser adds $75,000 to Helms's re-election campaign during this visit. 

 May 2 The Clinton Administration announces the new migration agreement. The U.S. Government will allow all of the 20,916 Cubans held at Guantánamo to enter the United States at a rate of around 500 a month (some 6,000 were already scheduled for entry). About 5,000 will be eligible for entry on the same grounds as over 11,000 who have recently been admitted (children, the elderly, the medically ill, with their families); the remaining number, approximately 15,000, will be credited against the 20,000 annual Cuban migration figure at the rate of 5,000 per year for three years, beginning in September 1995 regardless of when they arrive in the United States. Cuba agrees to accept all Cubans who want to return or who are deemed ineligible for U.S. entry. To avoid another wave of balseros (rafters), the U.S. Coast Guard will return Cubans picked up at sea to Cuba once it is determined that they have no acceptable claim to asylum. Attorney General Janet Reno says Cubans who reach the U.S. mainland will be processed like immigrants from any other country. 

 May 12 The New York Times reports that U.S. intelligence officials, speaking anonymously, say Cuba has neither the money nor the will to support anti-American guerrillas and that of the seven countries labeled sponsors of terrorism by the State Department--Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, the Sudan, and Syria--only Iran promotes "terrorism" aimed at the United States and its allies. 

 June 23-30 On a trip organized by the Freedom to Travel Campaign, 34 U.S. students, ages 10 to 24 years, challenge the travel ban by going to Cuba on vacation. Prior to departure they received a letter from the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control warning that they could receive sentences of ten years in jail and $250,000 each in fines. 

 August 17-18 President Castro attends the Summit Meeting of the Association of Caribbean States (ACS) in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. Because of Cuba's membership, the U.S. does not allow Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands to participate as observers. 

 September 22 Cuba establishes diplomatic relations with Swaziland. Cuba has diplomatic relations with more than 150 countries. 

 October 19 The Senate passes the Helms-Burton legislation, minus Title III, with a vote of 74 to 24. Before this bill can be sent to President Clinton for signature or veto, it must go to a House-Senate conference to resolve differences between Senate and House versions. On March 12, 1996, President Clinton signs this bill, including Title III, into law. 

 October 22 While President Clinton hosts a party for heads of state excluding the Cuban leader, President Castro returns to Harlem for the first time in 35 years. Invited by a coalition called Africans in the Americas Committee to Welcome Fidel Castro, he addresses more than 1,300 people in Reverend Calvin Butts's Abyssinian Baptist Church, filled to overflowing with invited guests, including Representatives Charles Rangel, José Serrano, and Nydia Velazquez, all Democrats of New York. He elicits one of several standing ovations with an offer to send Cuban doctors to help look after people in Harlem or any place in the United States in need of medical care. 

 November 2 For the fourth year in a row, the United Nations General Assembly votes overwhelmingly for a Cuban resolution calling for an end to the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba. The vote is 117 to 3 (the United States, Israel and Uzbekistan) with 38 abstentions and 27 not voting. 

 November 8 A group of U.S. veterans--from World War II, Korea, and Vietnam--arrive in Havana from Cancún, Mexico, on the seventh Freedom to Travel Campaign, challenging the travel ban by not requesting permission for going to Cuba. 

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