Cuba | Soviet-Missile Crisis
- Cuba Main Page
- Revolution Leader Fidel Castro Breaks Ties with U.S. and Allies Himself with the Soviet Union
- Bay of Pigs Disaster
- Soviet-Missile Crisis
- In Poor Health Castro Announces His Retirement
- Cubans Begin to Win Small Freedoms
- Cuba Takes Possible Steps Toward a New Leader Not Named Castro
- Pope Makes Long-Awaited Visit
- Exit Visa Requirement Is Dropped
- Cuba Resumes Diplomatic Relations with U.S.
A Soviet attempt to install medium-range missiles in Cuba—capable of striking targets in the United States with nuclear warheads—provoked a crisis in 1962. Denouncing the Soviets for “deliberate deception,” President Kennedy promised a U.S. blockade of Cuba to stop the missile delivery. Six days later, Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev ordered the missile sites dismantled and returned to the USSR in return for a U.S. pledge not to attack Cuba.
The U.S. established limited diplomatic ties with Cuba on Sept. 1, 1977, making it easier for Cuban Americans to visit the island. Contact with the more affluent Cuban Americans prompted a wave of discontent in Cuba, producing a flood of asylum seekers. In response, Castro opened the port of Mariel to a “freedom flotilla” of boats from the U.S., allowing 125,000 to flee to Miami. After the refugees arrived, it was discovered that their ranks were swelled with prisoners, mental patients, homosexuals, and others unwanted by the Cuban government.
Cuba fomented Communist revolutions around the world, especially in Angola, where thousands of Cuban troops were sent during the 1980s.
Russian aid, which had long supported Cuba's failing economy, ended when Communism collapsed in eastern Europe in 1990. Cuba's foreign trade also plummeted, producing a severe economic crisis. In 1993, Castro permitted limited private enterprise, allowed Cubans to possess convertible currencies, and encouraged foreign investment in its tourist industry. In March 1996, the U.S. tightened its embargo with the Helms-Burton Act.
Christmas became an official holiday in 1997 as a result of Pope John Paul II's 1998 visit to Cuba, raising hopes for greater religious freedom.
In June 2000, Castro won a publicity bonanza when the Clinton administration sent Elian Gonzalez, a young Cuban boy found clinging to an inner tube near Miami, back to Cuba. The U.S. Cuban community had demanded that the boy remain in Miami rather than be returned to his father in Cuba. By many accounts, the influential Cuban Americans lost public sympathy by pitting political ideology against familial bonds.
In March and April 2003, Castro sent nearly 80 dissidents to prison with long sentences, prompting an international condemnation of Cuba's harsh supression of human rights.
The Bush administration again tightened its embargo in June 2004, allowing Cuban Americans to return to the island only once every three years (instead of every year) and restricting the amount of U.S. cash that can be spent there to $50 per day. In response, Cuba banned the use of dollars, which had been legal currency in the country for more than a decade.
In July 2006, Castro—hospitalized because of an illness—temporarily turned over power to his brother Raúl. In October, it was revealed that Castro has cancer and will not return to power.