The Cuban Revolution
1952, March 10
With elections approaching and victory for the
opposition likely, Gen. Fulgencio Batista overthrew Prío Socorras
and assumed power. During the next seven years, Batista allowed U.S.
influence to pervade the entire Cuban economy, including public utilities,
petroleum, sugar, and tourism. Famous for its African-Cuban music and
freewheeling nightlife, Havana became the tourism capital of the Americas.
1956, Nov. 24
Castro and 81 followers, including his brother
Raúl and ERNESTO “CHE” GUEVARA, sailed for Cuba from
Mexico to renew the struggle. After a difficult landing, Castro and
a handful of survivors barely made it to the Sierra Maestra in Oriente.
1957, May 20
Castro appealed to the U.S. to stop sending arms
to Batista. He led many raids in Oriente Province, gaining sympathy
from peasants. Guerrilla actions and strikes had paralyzed the region's
economy by the end of 1957. Repression only generated more support for
his 26th of July Movement.
1959, Jan. 1 > Jan. 5
Manuel Urrutia, named provisional president by
Castro (Jan. 3), named José Miro Cardona premier, and the following
day announced rule by decree for 18 months. The U.S. recognized the
new regime on Jan. 7.
FIDEL CASTRO became premier of Cuba following
the victory of the revolutionary forces, and Cuba became a radical force
in the Western Hemisphere.
1959, Jan. 1 > June 4
An agrarian reform law was promulgated, providing
for appropriation (with remuneration) of large landholdings. U.S. sugar
companies, expecting to lose 1,666,000 acres, responded by demanding
full and prompt payment in cash.
1959, Jan. 1 > Oct
Maj. Huber Matos, revolutionary leader and virulent
anti-Communist, was arrested for treason. His trial, which resulted
in a 20-year prison sentence on little evidence, indicated the direction
of the revolution. This occurred as Castro was moving toward an alliance
with the PSP, as well as assuming an increasingly nationalist stance
vis-à-vis the U.S. Right-wingers and moderates were pushed out
of the government and the unions.
1959, Jan. 1 > Nov. 3
The U.S. State Department declared it would not
tolerate the establishment, by anti-Castro Cuban refugees, of an exiled,
provisional government in the U.S.
1960, Feb. 13
Premier Castro signed an agreement in Havana
for the Soviet purchase of 5 million tons of sugar and for $100 million
of Soviet credit to Cuba.
1960, Feb. 13 > March 17
The Eisenhower administration approved plans
for a future invasion of Cuba.
1960, Feb. 13 > June 23
After American-owned oil companies (on the advice
of the U.S. State Department) refused to process Soviet crude oil, Castro
seized the refineries.
1960, Feb. 13 > July 6
In retaliation for the oil refinery incident,
Pres. Eisenhower cut Cuba's sugar quota by 95 percent. Eisenhower declared
economic war on Cuba, stating that the U.S. would never allow a regime
“dominated by international Communism” in the Western Hemisphere.
Following this, the CUBAN GOVERNMENT BEGAN EXPROPRIATING ALL U.S.-OWNED
PROPERTY in Cuba, without compensation.
1960, Feb. 13 > July 9
Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev, in a Moscow
address, threatened Soviet use of rockets if the U.S. intervened militarily
1960, Feb. 13 > Oct. 14
The Cuban government nationalized all banks and
all large enterprises.
1960, Feb. 13 > Oct. 19
The U.S. imposed an embargo on all exports to
Cuba except for medical supplies and most foodstuffs.
Declared as the Year of Education, 1961 saw almost
250,000 Cuban students and teachers working in rural areas to teach
1961 > Jan. 3
The U.S. severed diplomatic relations with Cuba
after Castro demanded that the U.S. cut its embassy personnel.
1961 > March 22
In New York, the Democratic Front and the Revolutionary
Movement of the People, two major Cuban opposition groups, announced
agreement on setting up a revolutionary council with ex-premier José
Miro Cardona as president. He urged all Cubans to revolt against Castro.
1961 > April
Rumors became rife of anti-Castro forces led
by the Cuban revolutionary council. At the UN on April 15, Cuban foreign
minister Raúl Roa accused the U.S. and the Latin American nations
of preparing an invasion.
1961 > April 17-20
A CUBAN REBEL FORCE of about 1,600 men, funded
and trained by the CIA, INVADED SOUTHERN CUBA and established a beachhead
near the Bay of Pigs, but it was driven off with heavy losses. The force
had been directed by CIA officials, but at the last moment the U.S.
government withdrew air support, effectively guaranteeing a massive
defeat. In the aftermath of the invasion, popular support for Castro
in Cuba reached new heights, and Castro began to refer to the revolution
as a socialist one. Members of the former PSP also assumed more prominent
roles in his government.
1961 > Dec. 2
PREMIER CASTRO DECLARED HIMSELF A MARXIST-LENINIST
and announced the formation of a vanguard party to bring communism to
Castro initiated a major restructuring of the
economy. A brief experiment with diversification and industrialization
failed because of poor planning. By 1963 Castro decided to reemphasize
the sugar economy, realizing that the capital for industrialization
could only be generated by sugar. Rural production actually fell by
7 percent between 1962 and 1969, but as early as Oct. 1963 the government
began efforts to revitalize agriculture. The Agrarian Law of 1963 expropriated
thousands of medium-size farms, making centralized state farms dominant.
During the subsequent period of Communist construction, Castro concentrated
economic authority in the government. Working closely with Che Guevara,
in 1965 Castro introduced moral incentives and promoted the idea of
the new Socialist man in order to increase productivity. Cuba became
dependent on Soviet subsidies as production targets were missed and
absenteeism became endemic. In 1969, Castro launched a revolutionary
offensive aimed at producing a ten-million-ton sugar harvest. This campaign
severely disrupted the national economy, draining manpower and resources
from other sectors before falling short with a harvest of 8.5 million
tons. Following this failure, Castro's economic policies became more
eclectic and his dependency on Soviet aid more pronounced. Despite these
problems, the Cuban government was able to achieve noteworthy improvements
in education, social services, and health care.
1962, Sept. 11
The USSR accused the U.S. of preparing aggression
against Cuba and warned that this would mean war. Khrushchev declared
that Soviet arms were being sent to Cuba “exclusively for defensive
1962, Sept. 11 > Oct. 10
The U.S. government agreed to help pay the $60
million ransom set by Castro for the release of 1,113 Cuban prisoners.
1962, Sept. 11 > Oct. 22-Nov. 20
THE CUBAN MISSILE CRISIS came to a head in a
U.S.-USSR confrontation over the installation in Cuba of Soviet offensive
missile and bomber bases [>]. Pres. Kennedy announced a U.S. air
and naval “quarantine” to prevent arms shipments and proceeded
to negotiate for the removal of Soviet offensive weapons from Cuba.
Kennedy and Premier Khrushchev reached agreement on Oct. 28 that (1)
the Soviets would halt construction of missile bases in Cuba and remove
weapons under UN supervision, and (2) the U.S. would end the quarantine
and give assurances that it would not invade Cuba. The U.S. blockade
was ended on Nov. 20.
1962, Sept. 11 > Dec. 23-24
The remaining 1,113 Cuban rebels were returned
to the U.S. in return for food and medicines valued at $53 million.
1964, Jan. 22
Concluding a visit by Castro to Moscow, Cuba
and the Soviet Union signed a long-term trade agreement calling for
increased Soviet purchase of Cuban sugar.
1964, Jan. 22 > July 21-26
Cuba was condemned by the Organization of American
States for supplying pro-Communist Venezuelan guerrillas with arms.
The OAS invoked sanctions and called on members to sever diplomatic
and trade relations. Only Mexico and Jamaica refused.
Castro announced that Cubans were free to leave.
On Nov. 6 an agreement was reached with the U.S. government to airlift
3,000-4,000 Cuban refugees monthly. In the next five years several hundred
thousand, many from the educated classes, left the island, joining those
who had left during the first great wave of out-migration from 1959
1965, Oct > Oct. 3
Che Guevara departed for an unspecified destination.
During his time in the revolutionary government, Guevara had been second
in command in Cuba, serving as president of the National Bank, minister
of industry, and architect of the policy of exporting the Cuban revolution.
Guevara went on to lead a failed guerrilla war in Bolivia and was killed
on Oct. 8, 1967, by Bolivian troops.
A new trade agreement was signed with the USSR.
Cuba was increasingly dependent on Soviet Russia for both direct and
indirect aid. Serious friction developed between the two countries,
however, leading to savage attacks on the Cuban ideology in Pravda and
a cooling of relations in 1967.
Despite economic problems and poor productivity,
the Castro government made advances in housing, employment, health care,
and education. In part as a result of Soviet aid, rural income jumped,
and hunger was largely eradicated.
Under pressure from the Cuban Federation of Women,
the government introduced the national Family Code. The code gave equal
rights to women, as well as legal rights to children, but was never
aggressively enforced. The year 1974 also saw the inauguration of Assemblies
of Popular Power, meant to counter the central state's style of governing
from the top down. Real power remained in the higher echelons of the
Cuban Communist Party (PCC) and Castro's inner circle, but these assemblies
did express some popular concerns.
The OAS lifted a trade embargo that it had imposed
on Cuba in 1964.
The new constitution was approved in a national
At the Soviet Union's urging, 11,000 Cuban troops
were sent to Ethiopia to help defend the country against a Somalian
The FSLN came to power in Nicaragua after years
of Cuban assistance. The Cuban government immediately pledged aid to
the regime. By June 1982 there were over 2,000 Cuban military advisers
After the Peruvian embassy refused to turn over
six refugees, Castro declared that all those who wished to could leave
Cuba. Ten thousand Cubans swamped the embassy grounds, seeking asylum.
Over the following months, some 125,000 fled Cuba in the Mariel boatlift
to Florida. Some of those who left were criminals released from Cuban
Cuba provided military assistance to the major
guerrilla offensive in El Salvador.
With the collapse of the Soviet Union and dramatic
disruptions in Cuba's trading relationships, the Cuban economy contracted
by 45 percent. The resulting shortages and rationing brought the standard
of living back down to pre-1959 levels and threatened to wipe out most
After a period of tense Soviet-Cuban relations
because of Castro's heavy criticism of perestroika, the two countries
signed a trade agreement to increase trade by 7.5 percent. Tourism also
became an important source of foreign exchange earnings, bringing 360,000
visitors who spent over $200 million in Cuba during 1990, and reviving
prostitution, which had been nearly wiped out after 1959.
1992, Jan > Sept. 18
The U.S. tightened its trade embargo by forbidding
foreign subsidiaries of U.S. companies from trading with Cuba.
1994, April 22-24 > July 26-Aug. 4
A new exodus of Cubans to the U.S. began as the
Cuban government allowed people to leave at will; widely seen as a move
by Pres. Fidel Castro to pressure a U.S. government fearful of a repeat
of the 1980 Mariel boatlift.
1994, April 22-24 > Aug. 19
U.S. president Clinton announced that Cuban refugees
intercepted at sea by the U.S. Coast Guard or navy would be transferred
to holding camps in the U.S.'s Guantánamo Bay naval base and
other locations. Immediately following the announcement more than 7,000
Cubans were intercepted at sea.
1994, April 22-24 > Oct. 26
Cuba made a move toward a more mixed economy
by implementing economic reforms that opened some new markets. As part
of this initiative, the government announced (Dec. 20) a “convertible
peso” with a fixed value of one U.S. dollar, placed in circulation
for international transactions.
1996, Feb. 24
Two civilian U.S. planes were shot down in Cuban
airspace by Cuban jets; the U.S. called for international sanctions
against Cuba and heightened its own embargo.
1997, Oct. 8-10
Some 1,500 delegates attended the fifth Communist
Party Congress in Havana. No major changes in economic or political
policy emerged. Pres. Castro reaffirmed supremacy of the Communist state,
anointed his brother Raúl Castro as his successor, and called
for Cubans to stand by revolutionary ideals in the face of adversity
and outside pressure for change.
1999, Jan. 5
The United States modified its embargo on Cuba
to encourage communication with Cuba and ease poverty without supporting
the Cuban government.