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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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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