History of Cuba

A Chronology of Key Events, 1940-2011

By Leonardo Rodriguez

 

1940


 July 14: Fulgencio Batista won presidency in a free election.

October 10: Constitution of 1940 became effective.

 

1941


December 8: Cuba declared war against Japan and on the 11th on Germany.

 

1944


October 10: Dr. Ramón Grau San Martín replaced Batista as president.

 

1948


 October 10: Carlos Prío Socarrás became president.

1952


March 10: Batista overthrew Prío and seized power in a coup d’etat.

 

1953


July 26: Fidel Castro attacked an army garrison (Moncada barracks) in an unsuccessful revolt against Batista. Castro was sentenced to fifteen years in prison. Others in the group received lighter sentences; none greater than ten years.

 

1955


May 15: Batista declared an amnesty. Castro, his brother Raúl, and their accomplices were freed. They served twenty-one months and fifteen days.

 

1956


April 29: Another groups of anti-Batista fighters attacked the Goicuría Army Barracks in Matanzas. The attack failed.

December 2: Fidel and Raúl Castro, Ernesto “Ché” Guevara, and a group of eighty-two men aboard the yacht Gramma reached Cuba: several were killed in clashes with the Cuban Army. The remaining group reached the Sierra Maestra Mountains.

 

1957


March 13: A group led by Menelao Mora unsuccessfully attacked the presidential palace in Havana in an attempt to kill Batista. Mora died in the attack. José Antonio Echeverria, a student leader at the University of Havana, died after announcing the attack on a radio station. Pelayo Cuervo Navarro, a respected opposition leader who was not involved in the attack was assassinated by the police.

September 5: Cuban Navy units in the port of Cienfuegos rebelled and were crushed.

 

1958


March 27: U.S. suspended the sale of arms to Batista’s government.

April 9: A call for a national strike to bring down Batista’s regime failed. Several were killed.

In December, guerrilla warfare was intense in Cuba’s three eastern provinces.

 

1959


January 1: Batista fled Cuba with family and close friends.

January 2: Guevara occupied La Cabaña fortress and Camilo Cienfuegos occupied Columbia military garrison, both in Havana.

January 8: Fidel arrived in Havana. Revolutionary government began to use firing squads after quick conviction by “kangaroo courts.”

January 12: Seventy-one persons were killed by firing squads in Santiago de Cuba. It was the largest mass execution in Cuban history. The new Cuban government requested the withdrawal of the U.S. Military Mission.

February 13: José Miró Cardona resigned as prime minister.

February 16: Fidel Castro replaced Miró Cardona.

March 2: Revolutionary tribunal acquits former Batista Air Force pilots of charges of bombing innocent civilians. Castro demanded they be tried again.

March 9: Batista pilots convicted in a second trial and sentenced to twenty to thirty years in jail.

April 23: Raúl Castro asked for Soviet military assistance. The Soviet Union agreed to provide it.

May 17: Agrarian Reform Law signed, which for all practical purposes gave the government control of agriculture in Cuba.

July 17: Castro forced President Manuel Urrutia Lleó to resign. He was replaced by Osvaldo Dorticós, a Communist.

October 21: Major Húber Matos, military commander in Camagüey, was forced to resign and arrested.

October 28: After arresting Matos, Major Camilo Cienfuegos, disappeared on a flight from Camagüey to Havana. Neither Cienfuegos nor his plane were ever found.

1960


Cuban government confiscated U.S. businesses and branches of American banks on the island without compensation.

In October the government confiscated all Cuban-owned businesses, industries and banks. No compensation was paid.

October 14: Government approved Urban Reform Law that affected ownership of rented property.

October 24: Resolution No. 3 resulted in the expropriation without compensation of the remaining foreign and privately owned commercial, industrial, and service enterprises in the country.

By the end of the year, all media companies had been confiscated and taken over by the government.

December: Cuban parents began sending their unaccompanied children to the United States in an operation that became known as Pedro Pan. Over fourteen thousand children were part of this program.

 

1961


January 2: Castro demanded the U.S. to reduce its embassy personnel to eleven employees.

January 3: U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower retaliated by breaking diplomatic relations with Cuba.

April 16: Castro for the first time referred to the Cuban revolution as Socialist.

April 17: U.S. sponsored Cuban exiles Brigade 2506 invaded Cuba at the Bay of Pigs. Without adequate air coverage, after three days the invasion failed.

May 1: Castro proclaimed Cuba a Communist state.

September 16: Government clashed with the Catholic Church and expelled more than three hundred priests and religious persons from the island.

December 2: Castro in a television speech indicated that for many years he had been a Marxist-Leninist.

 

1962


October 4: Atomic missile warheads arrived in the port of Mariel. This was the start of the missile crisis that brought the world to the edge of nuclear holocaust.

October 14: U.S. confirmed the Soviet Union had installed offensive missiles in Cuba.

October 23: U.S. President John F. Kennedy ordered U.S. naval forces to quarantine Cuba.

October 28: Soviet President Nikita Khrushchev and President Kennedy reached an agreement to end the crisis. The Soviet Union would remove offensive missiles from Cuba while the United States promised not to invade Cuba and to prevent Cuban exiles from attacking the island.

November 20: The missile crisis ended. The Soviet government agreed to withdraw the Ilushin-28 bombers from Cuba.

December 23-24: Bay of Pigs Brigade 2506 prisoners in Cuba arrived in the U.S. after months of negotiations with the Cuban government. The price for their release was $53 million.

December 30: President Kennedy met with returning Brigade prisoners at the Orange Bowl in Miami Florida and received the Brigade’s flag with a promise to return it in a free Cuba.

 

1965


Cuba officially became a one-party state. It was the Cuban Communist Party.

In October, Castro opened port of Camarioca for exiles to go and pick up family and friends.

President Lyndon Johnson approved for freedom flights to replace boats to make the migration from Cuba orderly. The flights began in December.

 

1966


On November 2, 1966, The U.S. Congress passed Public Law 89-732, “The Cuban Adjustment Act,” commonly known in Spanish asLey de Ajuste Cubano”.

 

1967


October 9: Ché Guevara was killed in Bolivia.

1973


 

Freedom Flights ended after 2,879 flights bringing more than 270,000 Cuban refugees to the U.S.

 

1976


 

February 24: Cuban Communist government approved a new constitution.

 

1978


 

November-December: Dialogue between a group of seventy-five exiles and the Cuban government resulted in the release of 3,600 political prisoners.

The U.S. and Cuba reach an agreement that would allow Cuban exiles to go visit their relatives on the island.

1980


April 1-6: Peruvian Embassy incident. Over 10,800 Cubans sought asylum in the embassy.

April 15 to September 26: The Mariel Boatlift (the Exodus): more than 125,000 Cubans came to the U.S.

 

1985


May 20: Radio Martí began to broadcast.

 

1988


Agreement between Cuba, South Africa, and Angola on a ceasefire in Angola and Namibia. Cuba agreed to withdraw 50,000 troops from Angola. Last Cuban troops left Angola in May 1991.

 

1989


July 13: Angola war veteran General Arnaldo Ochoa was executed by firing squad. Also executed that day were Colonel Antonio de la Guardia and Captains Antonio Padrón and Jorge Martínez.

November 9: The Berlin Wall fell, signaling the collapse of the Soviet Empire.

1990


March 27: TV Martí began to broadcast.

 

1991


December 1991: The Soviet Union is broken up into fifteen separate

countries. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Soviet military advisors left Cuba and support for the Cuban economy came to an end.

 

1993


July 21: Mario Chanes de Armas, longest-held Cuban political prisoner, was released after serving his full thirty-year sentence.

 

1994


July 13: Cuban tugboat named “13 de Marzo” was hijacked from the port of Havana. It was rammed by Cuban government ships and thirty-two of the sixty-three people aboard drowned.

August 5: The first massive protest against the Cuban government in thirty-five years took hundreds of Cubans to the waterfront of Havana in a protest known as the “maleconazo” in reference to the site where it happened. Castro said he would allow anyone who wanted to leave Cuba to do so. This was the start of the rafters crisis.

From August 19 to September 23, 38,000 Cuban rafters were picked up in the Gulf of Mexico and taken to U.S. bases in Guantánamo, Cuba, and Panama.

September 9: The U.S. set a quota of 20,000 immigrant visas annually for Cubans.

 

1995


May 2: The Wet-Foot, Dry-Foot immigration policy applicable to Cubans was announced by the Clinton Administration. Those who made it ashore would be allowed to remain in the United States while those picked up at sea would be returned to Cuba. This was a revision of the Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966. The Clinton Administration also approved the admission of 21,000 Cuban refugees that had remained in Guantánamo.

 

1996


February 24: Cuban warplanes in international waters shot down two small U.S. aircrafts piloted by Cuban-Americans of Miami-based Brothers to the Rescue. Four were killed.

March 12: As a result of the downing of the two planes, the U.S. strengthened the trade embargo against Cuba. The U.S. Congress passed the Helms Burton Act, which was signed by President Clinton.

 

1997


November 23: Jorge Más Canosa died.

 

1998


January 21-25: Pope John Paul II made a historical visit to Cuba asking for Cuba to open to the world and for the world to open to Cuba.

 

1999


November 25: Elián González, a six-year-old Cuban boy, was rescued by fishermen along the coast of Florida floating on an inner tube, after his mother and several others accompanying him had drowned in an attempt to escape from Cuba.

2000


April 22: After a legal battle between Elián’s family in the U.S. and the U.S. government, Elián was forcibly removed from his family home in Miami by the U.S. immigration authorities. He was given to his father, who came from Cuba to return Elián to his country.

June 28: Elián and his father returned to Cuba after a long legal and political battle between his family in the U.S. and the Cuban and American governments.

 

2001


Five Cuban spies known as the “Red Avispa” were sentenced to stiff prison terms in Miami. They were found guilty of spying for the Cuban government and for their role in tipping off Havana to the flight plans of Brothers to the Rescue that killed four of their members in 1996.

 

2002


March 12-17: Former U.S. president Jimmy Carter visited Cuba. Carter was the only former or serving president to visit Cuba.

 

2003


March/April: The Cuban government sentenced and jailed seventy- five dissidents up to twenty-eight years in prison in what was known as Primavera Negra (Black Spring).

April 1: The Damas de Blanco (Ladies in White) began to march every Sunday after mass to protest the arrest of the seventy-five dissidents.

April 11: Three young Cuban men tried to hijack a ferry boat in an attempt to escape to the United States. They were apprehended and executed by the Castro government.

 

2004


April: The United Nations Human Rights Commission censured Cuba over its human rights violations.

 

2006


July 31: Fidel Castro announced that he would be temporarily handing over the control of the Cuban government to his brother, Raúl. Fidel Castro had undergone emergency surgery, the nature of which was a closely guarded state secret.

 

2008


February 24: Raúl Castro, seventy-six, officially was elected as president of Cuba, José Ramón Machado Ventura, seventy-seven, became the new No. 2 man and Gen. Julio Casas Regueiro, seventy-two, was chosen defense minister. The average age of Cuba’s new leaders was seventy years old.

 

2010


February 23: Orlando Zapata Tamayo a Cuban political prisoner, died after eighty-five days of a hunger strike.

July: The Cuban government began to release fifty-two political prisoners of conscience of the Primavera Negra (Black Spring) as a result of an agreement between the Cuban Catholic Church, the Spanish government, and the Cuban government.

July 13: Seven Cuban political prisoners of the Black Spring were set free and expatriated to Spain.

July: Fidel Castro reappeared publicly for the first time since 2006.

 

2011


March: Dr. Oscar Elías Biscet, the last of the prisoners arrested in the Black Spring of 2003, was freed.

May: Raúl Castro promised to fire half a million state workers.

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