U.S.-Cuba Relations

With only 90 miles separating them, Cuba and the United States have shared, at worst, a tumultuous history and, at best, an uneasy relationship.

1898–1912 1917–1960 1961–1994 1996–2008 2009–present


Spanish-American War begins and ends, with Spain ceding Cuba to the United States.


To end U.S. occupation after the Spanish-American War, Cuba incorporates the articles of the Platt Amendment in its constitution. The terms of this amendment include control of any land transfer, rights to a naval base (Guantánamo Bay), and the ability to intervene "for the preservation of Cuban independence." This rider is appended to a U.S. Army appropriations and thus establishes American oversight of Cuba and dictates U.S.-Cuba relations until 1934.


Reciprocal trade agreements are established between Cuba and the U.S.


U.S. intervenes: Cuban president Tomas Estrada Palma resigns and the U.S.occupies Cuba following a rebellion led by Jose Miguel Gomez.


U.S. intervenes: President Taft orders American forces to return to Cuba to help restore order caused by Cuban black protests against discrimination.


U.S. intervenes: The 1916 Cuban presidential elections are deemed fraudulent and usher in a period of violence. Forces are sent to protect American property owners on the island. Marines are temporarily removed due to U.S. involvement in WWI, but are reestablished at highly visible "training sites."


President Franklin D. Roosevelt launches his Good Neighbor policy, which end the Platt Amendment's provisions allowing intervention in Cuba's affairs, except for U.S. rights to the naval base.


In the face of guerilla warfare between the government forces of General Fulgencio Batista and Fidel Castro in Cuba, the U.S. ends military aid.


Batista flees and Castro takes over the government. Among his first orders of business are establishing military tribunals and jailing hundreds of political opponents, confiscation of U.S. assets, and the creation of collective farms.


The United States ends diplomatic relations with Cuba and imposes a trade embargo in response to Castro's reforms.


Castro allies himself and his country with the Soviet Union.

Bay of Pigs, April 17, 1961: Okayed by President John Kennedy, a U.S.-backed group of Cuban exiles invades Cuba. The invasion does not receive vital air support from U.S., nor Cuban support on the ground and is deemed a major failure.


Cuban Missile Crisis: An American spy plane photographs Soviet nuclear missile sites in the process of construction in Cuba. The U.S and the Soviet Union are poised at the brink of war. The crisis is ultimately resolved when the Soviets agree to dismantle the missile sites if the U.S. will remove missiles from Turkey.


The Lyndon B. Johnson administration signs a new law, the Cuban Adjustment Act, allowing Cuban refugees the right to apply for citizenship one year after arrival. Later reforms result what is known as the "wet-foot, dry-foot" policy which sends Cuban nationals found in the waters between the two nations back to Cuba while those who make it to land can remain in the United States.


The Cuban government allows citizens to leave the country with a permit. Almost 125,000 Cubans flee to the U. S. in what is called the "1980 Cuban Exodus." .


The U.S. agrees to accept 20,000 Cubans each year as long as the Cuban government controls the exodus.


Two U.S. planes are shot down by the Cuban air force. President Bill Clinton signs the "Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity (Libertad) Act of 1996," which strengthens and codifies the embargo on Cuba.


The rescue of Elián González, a 6-year-old Cuban boy, off the coast of Florida ignites a international custody battle between his father in Cuba and his relatives in Miami.


Armed U.S. federal agents seize Elian Gonzalez from his relatives in Miami and the boy is returned to his father in Cuba.


In response to the devastation of Hurricane Michelle on the Cuban coast, the U.S. exports food to Cuba for the first time in four decades.

The case of the Cuban Five makes headlines—five Cubans convicted in Miami of spying—and adds to Cuban discontent with America.


Jimmy Carter is the first former or current president to visit Cuba since Castro took over in 1959. His tour is in response to American allegations of Cuban development of biological weapons.


Under President George Bush, the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba is established, which supports the end of communist rule and corruption.


Raul Castro becomes president of Cuba.


The U.S. Congress votes in March to repeal the long-standing restrictions on Cuban-Americans visiting Havana and sending money into the country. President Obama signals a willingness to establish warmer ties with Cuba.

U.S. citizen Alan Gross is detained in Cuba, accused of spying


Castro announces the release of 52 political prisoners. The prisoners—activists and journalists—have been held since a 2003 crackdown on dissidents.


8,795,386 immigrants arrive.The U.S. releases Rene Gonzalez, one of the Cuban Five.


The Cuban government frees U.S. aid contractor Alan Gross, who had been in captivity for five years. The exchange of a U.S. intelligence officer who had been held in Havana for the three remaining Cuban Five prisoners leads to the announcement by President Barack Obama that the U.S. will resume full diplomatic relations with Cuba, which includes opening an embassy in Havana. Canada hosted most of the talks that led to the deal, while Pope Francis also hosted a meeting at the Vatican to help with negotiations between the two countries.


With diplomatic relations restored, travel bans for Americans traveling to Cuba are lifted. While general tourism is still prohibited, the various approved methods of getting into the country no longer require a special license from the Treasury Department. Visitors may use credit cards for the first time, and internet access and the opening of an American embassy are expected to follow. Also, authorized U.S. travelers to Cuba will be allowed to import up to $400 worth of goods acquired in Cuba for personal use, including no more than $100 of alcohol or tobacco products. Cuban cigar makers estimate that their sales will double from three to six million in as a result.

In April, the State Department sends a recommendation to the president that Cuba be removed from the State Sponsors of Terrorism List, a major hurdle in the path toward normalizing relations. De-listing Cuba would open many doors for the island country including removing financial and political sanctions, and allowing for international aid.

President Obama announces in July that Cuba and the U.S. have reached an agreement to open embassies in Washington D.C. and Havana. The U.S. Embassy in Havana is scheduled to open by the end of July.

by Catherine McNiff
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