Sample Entries from the Introductory
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
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
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
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
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,
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.