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Timeline: Post-Revolution Cuba

1958-1976 | 1977-2004  



1977

March 19: U.S. president Jimmy Carter, ignoring Cuba's continuing presence in Angola, initiates rapprochement. He allows U.S. citizens to travel to Cuba and spend $100 there.

April 27: The U.S. and Cuba sign a maritime boundary and fishing rights accord.

May 25: The U.S. State Department warns that Cuba's recent deployment of military advisers to Ethiopia, a northeast African country experiencing political turmoil following a coup, could "impede the improvement of U.S.-Cuban relations."

September: The U.S. and Cuba open interest sections in each other's capitals.

November 5: Somalia expels all Soviet advisers and breaks diplomatic relations with Cuba, citing the presence of Cuban and Soviet advisers in Ethiopia.

Mid-December: Cuban combat troops begin to arrive in Ethiopia (eventually totaling nearly 20,000). They will fight Somali forces with Soviet weapons and under Soviet command.

1978

January: Cuban troops help block the Somali invasion of Ethiopia with the aid of East German and Soviet officers.

February 27: Because of Cuban military activity in Africa, U.S. Secretary of State Cyrus Vance declares that he does not immediately anticipate better relations with Cuba, much like the failed Kissinger initiative over Angola in 1975.

July 31: Castro demands the eviction of U.S. military bases from Guantanamo Bay. Anti-Castro exiles begin a bombing campaign against the Soviet mission, Cuban United Nations mission, and the Cuban interests section in the United States.

December: In an announcement by the U.S. government, officials declare that those responsible for the July bombings will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

1979

January 1: Cuban-Americans are now allowed to visit their families in Cuba. More than 100,000 visitors will make the trip in the coming year.

March 12: Cubans begin construction of a new airport. U.S. officials believe that it could be used for military purposes.

June 19: In an attempt to abolish the trade embargo, U.S. Congressman Ted Weiss (D-NY) introduces an ambitious, yet unsuccessful bill to re-establish diplomatic relations with Cuba.

July: Since 1977, Cuba has supported the Sandinista insurgency against Anastasio Somoza's rule in Nicaragua. In July, the Sandinista Liberation Front takes power, resulting in a new western ally for Castro.

September 3-9: In Havana, Castro is elected chair of the Non Aligned Movement. He will travel to New York to speak to the United Nations in October.

October 21: Huber Matos is freed after 20 years in a Cuban prison, and transported to Nicaragua. He creates Cuba Independiente y Democrática, an organization that will work to raise awareness of human rights violations in Cuba.

December 31-January 1: Cuba supports the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, a non-aligned nation. As a result, the U.N. takes punitive measures against Cuba.

1980

March: For the first time, Cuban farmers are allowed to sell the remaining produce above their state quotas in an unregulated market to private individuals.

April 1: After a shooting incident leaves the Peruvian embassy unguarded, ten thousand Cubans descend upon it seeking sanctuary. This begins the Mariel boatlift during which 125,000 refugees make their way to the U.S. Twice as many are left behind to wait at the port of El Mariel.

April 15: Cuban human rights activist Ricardo Bofill is arrested for disseminating "enemy propaganda" and sentenced to another fourteen years in prison. While he had succeeded in sending his reports on human rights abuses out of Cuba, most friends and university colleagues avoided contact with him. During this prison term, many political prisoners will ask to become members of the group Bofill co-founded, the Cuban Committee for Human Rights (C.C.C.P.D.H.), and compile accounts of prison atrocities.

September 11: Anti-Castro terrorists assassinate a representative of the Cuban mission to the United States.

1981

January: The new U.S. president, Ronald Reagan, enters office committed to fighting Communism. He establishes the most aggressive policy against Cuba since the Bay of Pigs invasion.

Jorge Mas Canosa institutes an anti-Castro lobbying group in the U.S., the Cuban-American National Foundation (C.A.N.F.), which quickly gains power.

October 30: For four weeks, the U.S. Navy carries out maneuvers in the Caribbean. A week later Pentagon officials state that the maneuvers were expected to send a message to Cuba.

October 31: Cuba anticipates a U.S. invasion and goes on full alert, preparing the country's entire military.

November 23: In a secret meeting in Mexico, Cuban vice president Carlos Rafael Rodriguez and U.S. Secretary of State Alexander Haig discuss the escalating situation, but reach no compromise.

1982

April 19: The Reagan administration reissues the ban on U.S. citizens traveling to Cuba. The administration also allows the 1977 fishing accord to end.

June 16: Cuban vice president Rodriguez announces to the U.N. that Cuba's military power has nearly doubled since 1981, in reaction to the U.S.'s aggressive stance.

October: Armando Valladares is released from prison and flown to France. Regis Debray, a socialist French writer who once fought in Havana with Castro's forces, travels to Cuba to escort him. Valladares is received with great fanfare, and he founds Resistance International. Though nobody knows it, he is already working with Bofill and the C.C.P.D.H.

1983

October 25: Suspicious of Cuban involvement in Grenada following a coup, the U.S. invades the small Caribbean island with 8,000 troops and establishes a provisional government. Of the 784 Cubans on the island, 636 are construction workers and 43 are military personnel. The U.S. captures 642 Cubans, kills 24, and wounds 57.

1984

March 19: Cuba and Angola outline provisions for the removal of Cuban troops from Namibia and support U.N. Security Council Resolution 435, which calls for Namibian independence.

May 14: The U.S. Department of Defense announces that it will spend $43 million restoring Guantanamo Naval Base.

June 29: U.S. presidential candidate Jesse Jackson meets with Cuban officials and negotiates the release of 26 prisoners, establishment of more churches, and a promise to open up discussions on immigration issues with the U.S.

December 14: The U.S. and Cuba reach an immigration agreement, beginning with the return of 2,746 Mariel refugees to Cuba. The U.S. will allow 20,000 Cubans to emigrate each year.

1985

January 1: A new housing law allows Cubans to purchase, and eventually sell, property they rent from the government.

January 24: Castro and other high Cuban officials meet with five U.S. Catholic Church leaders. In early January, the Office of Religious Affairs opens its doors, signaling a deeper relationship between church and state.

May 20: Radio Martí starts in Miami. Backed by Reagan Republicans and Cuban hard-liners, the station broadcasts news and information from the U.S. to Cuba. Its constant mention of the C.C.P.D.H. offers Bofill and his colleagues some protection -- they become better known than ever, and much harder to silence.

1985

Armando Valladares's memoir of his time in a Cuban prison, Contra Toda Esperanza ("Against All Hope"), is published. President Reagan's daughter gives a copy to her father and introduces them. Reagan names Valladares as a delegate to the United Nations's Human Rights Committee.

October 4: Reagan prohibits Cuban government or Communist party officials to travel to the U.S., thus banning most artists, students, and scholars.

1986

February 17: An international conference on the church in Cuba is sponsored and hosted by the Cuban Catholic Church.

May 18: Farmers markets, which have been legal for six years, are banned in Cuba.

1987

Cuban infant mortality is lowered to 13.6 deaths per 1000, a lower figure than the rest of South America and even the U.S.

March 11: A U.S. resolution criticizing Cuba for supposed human rights violations is voted down by the United Nations Human Rights Commission.

March: Armando Valladares brings up the issue of Cuban human rights abuses at a U.N. meeting, and the U.S. demands Cuba be inspected. Cuba's deputy minister of foreign affairs, Raul Roa Kouri responds, "any attempt by the United Nations Human Rights Commission to send an investigative team would be rejected outright." Ultimately, the resolution will fail in a 19 to 18 vote because many Latin American countries doubt U.S. reports of the problems.

November 11: "Stalinism and Repression in Cuba," a report created by Ricardo Bofill and other members of the C.C.P.D.H., is broadcast on Radio Marti.

1988

February 14: Armando Valladares once again asks the U.N. to look into Cuba's possible rights violations. Facing mounting pressure, the Cuban government gives in and invites U.N.H.C.R. members from countries including Ireland, Columbia, Nigeria, the Philippines, and Bulgaria to visit Cuba and assess the situation.

February 21: In an interview with Castro in Havana, American journalist Maria Shriver asks about the C.C.P.D.H. He responds irritably that there is only a "tiny little group of counterrevolutionaries being manipulated by the American Interest Section." He firmly denies the existence of human rights organizations and calls any who might be involved liars and cheats.

April 21: The Archbishop of New York, John Cardinal O'Connor, makes the first visit to Cuba by a Roman Catholic cardinal since 1959.

September 16- 25: The U.N. delegation visits Cuba to investigate human rights issues. Because of an endorsement on Radio Martí, almost 4,500 people gather to testify on human rights violations. Some of the abuses include torture, executions, disappearances, and inhumane medical experiments in the prisons of Cuba. Fidel Castro sends police to the delegation's hotel, where more than 300 of the gathered people are physically abused. The visiting delegation finds out and protests further. Castro tries to distract the committee by showing them flourishing hospitals and well treated prisoners in rehabilitation programs. However, back at the Hotel Commodoro, the group hears over 1,500 testimonies about rights violations.

1989

Castro's revolution turns 30.

February 21: The U.N. delegation publishes its findings in an extensive, 400-page report. It states that Cuban citizens are deprived of freedoms such as speech, movement and the right to assemble, and details specifics including the names of people abused for political and social reasons.

November: The Berlin Wall falls.

1990

March 23: An anti-Castro station funded by U.S. tax dollars, TV Martí, is launched. The Cuban government blocks the signal.

October: Congress passes the Mack Amendment, prohibiting all trade with Cuba by subsidiaries of U.S. companies located outside the U.S., and proposing sanctions or cessation of aid to any country that buys sugar or other products from Cuba.

1991

December 8: The Soviet Union is dissolved, resulting in a severe loss in economic subsidies to the Cuban government ($6 billion in aid per year).

1992

January: An e-mail link between Cuba and Canada is established.

February 5: U.S. Congressman Robert Torricelli introduces the Cuban Democracy Act, which prevents foreign-based subsidiaries of U.S. businesses from trading with Cuba, travel to Cuba by U.S. citizens, and families to transfer funds to Cuba. He says the bill is designed to "wreak havoc on the island."

October 15: The Cuban Democracy Act is passed. Over two-thirds of the trade between Cuba and the U.S. is in food and drugs. However, the law does permit private businesses to deliver food and medicine to Cuba. Because of this, the act is believed to violate an international law stating that food and drugs can not be used as weapons in international disputes.

October 23: President George H. W. Bush signs the Cuban Democracy Act into law. Congressman Torricelli predicts Castro's regime will fall.

1993

August 14: Castro ends the ban on U.S. currency in Cuba as the nation's economy declines without Soviet subsidies.

1994

June 13: Angling to update Cuba's telephone network, Grupo Domos, a Mexican telecommunications company, signs a work agreement with the Cuban Ministry of Defense.

July 13: The tugboat "13 de Marzo" sinks a few miles outside of Havana. Out of 66 passengers, 31 survivors get picked up by the Coast Guard and claim that two other boats tried to sink theirs, and did nothing to help save them.

August: As the economic situation in Cuba worsens, a new boat lift begins. More than 32,000 Cubans are picked up by the U.S. Coast Guard and taken to the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay.

September 9: The U.S. and Cuban governments decide on a cap of 20,000 Cuban immigrants annually.

1995

May 2: The U.S. and Cuba endorse their agreement that all rafters leaving Cuba will be returned.

October: More than 100 social, political and scholarly groups form Concilio Cubano to seek a peaceful solution to Cuba's problems. Their five-point plan includes pardons for political captives, nonviolence, a peaceful evolution toward democracy, a system that enforces human rights, and the right of Cubans all over the world to take part in that transition.

November 2: For the fourth time, voting 117 to 3, the U.N. General Assembly advocates abolishing the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba. Israel and Uzbekistan join the U.S. in the minority.

1996

January 9 and 13: Fliers urging citizens to revolt against the government are dropped over Havana by planes owned by a Miami-based group, Brothers to the Rescue.

January 15: The Cuban government asks the U.S. government to stop actions by exile groups like Consilio Cubano and Brothers to the Rescue. The Cuban government warns that it will shoot down exile planes in Cuban airspace.

January 16: A Radio Martí reporter challenges the Cuban military to follow up on their threat of shooting down rebel aircraft.

February 24: Four exiles are killed when the Cuban military shoots down two Brothers to the Rescue airplanes over international waters.

March 12: President Bill Clinton signs the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act. This law, also known as the Helms-Burton Act, enforces penalties on foreign companies conducting business in Cuba. It also permits U.S. citizens to sue foreign investors who use property that the Cuban government took from America, and denies them entrance into the U.S.

November 12: The United Nations General Assembly votes 137-3 for an end to the U.S. embargo against Cuba.

November 19: Castro visits the Vatican. Pope John Paul II reciprocates by agreeing to visit Cuba.

1997

April: Terrorists bomb a dance club in the Melia Cohiba, Havana's premiere hotel. A series of attacks on local nighttime attractions in Havana and Varadero follows.

June 29: According to the Miami Herald, a majority of young Cuban Americans wish to begin a dialogue with Cuba, even though Cuban-Americans over the age of 45 oppose such talks.

July 16: Cubans Vladimiro Roca, Félix Bonne, René Gómez and Marta Beatriz Roque, the authors of La Patria Es de Todos ("The Homeland Belongs to Us All"), are arrested. They are imprisoned without a trial. Not until 2002 will the last to be released, Vladimiro Roca, leave the high security prison where he has been kept in isolation.

August 13: In a paid advertisement that supports the Havana bombings, C.A.N.F. president Francisco Hernandez states, "We don't consider these actions terrorism because people fighting for liberty cannot be limited by a system that is itself terrorist."

September: Salvadoran Raúl Ernesto Cruz León is arrested for committing six of the attacks in Havana and Varadero.

October 27: The FBI begins an investigation of seven Cuban exiles after the U.S. Coast Guard examines a boat in international waters requesting assistance. The boat has military equipment including weapons and ammunition. One man on the boat admits plans to kill Fidel Castro. As a result of the investigation, the seven will be indicted in August 1998.

November 5: For the sixth year in a row, the U.N. votes to end the Cuban embargo by a vote of 143-3.

November; The founder of C.A.N.F., Jorge Mas Canosa, dies in Miami, Florida.

1998

January: Pope John Paul II visits Cuba.

March: The Pentagon decides that Cuba is no longer a significant threat to the U.S., and urges dialogue with Cuban officials.

May-June: European countries claim parts of the Helms-Burton Act violate international law and call for an end to the Cuban embargo.

July 12: Luis Posada Carriles admits to over ten years of anti-Castro terrorist actions in Cuba in an article in The New York Times.

August 24: In Puerto Rico, seven Cuban exiles are convicted of plotting to assassinate Fidel Castro. Some are members of the Cuban American National Foundation.

October 13: Senator John W. Warner and over 20 other U.S. Senators recommend the formation of a bipartisan commission to review U.S. policies on Cuba.

October 16: The U.N. General Assembly once again tries to end the U.S. embargo of Cuba in a vote of 157 to 2. Only the U.S. and Israel favor keeping the embargo.

1999

The Cuban Revolution turns 40.

January 5: President Bill Clinton refuses to establish a commission to review Cuban policy.

February 22: Cuba calls for a Salvadoran bomber, Raúl Ernesto Cruz León, who has been convicted of attacking Cuban businesses, to receive the death penalty.

February 23: The Coalition of Americans for Humanitarian Trade with Cuba unite with former members of the U.S. Congress and ask the Clinton administration to end restrictions on food and medicine supplies to Cuba. They argue that it is unfair to supply it to other countries, such as Iraq, when Cuba's people are in desperate need.

November 9: For the eighth time, the United Nations General Assembly votes to end the U.S. embargo against Cuba by a vote of 155 to 2.

November 25: Eleven Cuban refugees are killed when their boat capsizes in the Caribbean Sea. A five-year-old boy, Elián Gonzalez, survives, but his mother is among those who die. Brought to America to stay with relatives, Elian becomes a symbol of the struggle between Cuba and the U.S.

2000

June 28: After seven months of a bitter legal and political battle, Elián Gonzalez is sent home to his father in Cuba.

September 7: The Cuban government announces that two American newspapers, the Dallas Morning News and Chicago Tribune, will join CNN and The Associated Press by opening branches in Cuba.

November 17: At the 10th Ibero-American Summit, Posada Carriles and three other Cubans are arrested for plotting to assassinate Castro.

November 29: A bipartisan task force in the U.S. calls for end to the trade embargo.

December 13: Russian president Vladimir Putin visits Cuba.

2001

March 16: Norwegian legislator Hallgeir Langeland nominates Fidel Castro to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for his help to other developing nations. On October 12, former U.S. president Jimmy Carter receives the prize.

March 22: On the 40th anniversary of the Bay of Pigs invasion, a 3-day conference is held in Havana. Attendees include the CIA chief for the Miami base, five members of the Brigade 2506, two former Kennedy administration officials, and scholars.

March 28: A lobbying group created by former State Department officials, scholars, and businessmen, the Cuba Policy Foundation, announces itself to be a "centrist organization." The C.P.F. will challenge the lobbying power of the anti-Castro exile group C.A.N.F.

April 1: The Cuban Foundation for Human Rights issues a report stating that 30 of Cuba's 300 political prisoners have been jailed simply for expressing their opinions.

April 5: The Cuban government awards over 4,000 scholarships to students to study medicine in the Latin American School of Medical Science.

April 18: A C.P.F. poll determines that the majority of Americans think the U.S. should do business with Cuba and allow travel there. They also agree that reuniting Elián González with his father in Cuba was the appropriate decision.

September 12: Former U.S. Surgeon General Jocelyn Elders tours Cuba's hospitals. She states that Cuba is better than the U.S. at keeping people healthy and out of the hospital, but that America has a better health care system for those who are already sick.

September 16: A memorial Mass in Havana Cathedral is held for the victims of the September 11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York.

November 4: Hurricane Michelle hits Havana. It is the worst hurricane to hit in a half century.

November 22: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announces that Cuba has purchased 130,000 tons of grain from two American suppliers, Cargill, Inc. and Archer-Daniels-Midland.

November 28: The U.N. votes 167 to 3 to end the embargo against Cuba.

November 30: Cuban officials offer to compensate Cuban Americans for properties seized during the revolution 40 years ago. The U.S. turns down the proposal.

December 14: Cuban test scores and literacy levels top those of the rest of Latin America, reports the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

2002

January 3: The U.S. Treasury Department grants licenses for Cuban travel, and 2,000 Americans make the trip.

January 8: In Havana, six members of the U.S. Congress meet with Fidel Castro and members of two insurgent groups. In the coming months, more U.S. elected officials will tour Cuba.

May 6: Undersecretary of State John R. Bolton accuses Cuba of developing biological terrorism capabilities.

May 10: At the Cuban National Assembly, the Varela Project presents a petition with over 11,000 signatures calling for electoral reforms, free speech, and the release of 250 political prisoners.

May 14: Former president Jimmy Carter travels to Cuba. In a three-minute address on Cuban television, he says he believes it is time to end the embargo. He also makes direct reference to the Varela Project, urging Cuban authorities to institute democratic reform.

May 15: Carter's speech runs in Granma, Cuba's official newspaper.

June 3: Firebombs are thrown at the buildings of the rebel groups C.A.N.F. and Alpha 66. No one is hurt, little damage is reported.

2003

March 18: On the day before the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Cuba arrests 80 people for their political beliefs. The government also searches homes, seizing personal papers and electronic equipment.

April 3-7: Of those detained in March, 75 are tried and convicted on treason charges. Denied lawyers before the start of the trial, the defendents are tried in coutrooms closed to all but immediate family members. Foreign diplomats and reporters are barred from the proceedings. The sentences range from six to 28 years in prison, and average over 19 years.

April 11: After summary trials, the Cuban government executes three men who were captured while attempting to hijack a ferry leaving Havana and take it to the U.S.

April: Human rights watchdogs denounce Cuba's re-election into the U.N.H.R.C., claiming the country's presence in the organization is shameful.

2004

February: President George W. Bush restricts travel to Cuba from one visit per year to one visit in three years, and reduces the amount of money that can be spent.

October 26: Cuba's central bank announces a ban on the use of U.S. dollars. Castro tells Cubans to ask their U.S. relatives to send other foreign currencies.




1958-1976 | 1977-2004  

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