Cuba Politics

Timeline: Cuba - A chronology of key events

Posted January 25, 2004 by publisher in Cuba Politics.

1492 - Christopher Columbus visits Cuba and claims it for Spain.

Population: 2.1 million
Founded in 1519
Became capital in 1607

1511 - Spanish conquest begins under the leadership of Diego de Velazquez, who establishes Baracoa and other settlements.

1526 - Importing of slaves from Africa begins.

1762 - Havana captured by a British force led by Admiral George Pocock and Lord Albemarle.

1763 - Havana returned to Spain by the Treaty of Paris.

Wars of independence

1868-78 - Ten Years War of independence ends in a truce with Spain promising reforms and greater autonomy - promises that were mostly never met.

1886 - Slavery abolished.

1895-98 - Jose Marti leads a second war of independence; US declares war on Spain.

1898 - US defeats Spain, which gives up all claims to Cuba and cedes it to the US.

US tutelage

1902 - Cuba becomes independent with Tomas Estrada Palma as its president; however, the Platt Amendment keeps the island under US protection and gives the US the right to intervene in Cuban affairs.

1906-09 - Estrada resigns and the US occupies Cuba following a rebellion led by Jose Miguel Gomez. 

Born in 1902
1933: Leads military coup
1952: Leads second coup
1954: Becomes president
1959: Flees Cuba
Died in 1975

On This Day 1959: Castro’s rebels edge closer to capital

1909 - Jose Miguel Gomez becomes president following elections supervised by the US, but is soon tarred by corruption.

1912 - US forces return to Cuba to help put down black protests against discrimination.

1924 - Gerado Machado institutes vigorous measures, forwarding mining, agriculture and public works, but subsequently establishing a brutal dictatorship.

1925 - Socialist Party founded, forming the basis of the Communist Party.

1933 - Machado overthrown in a coup led by Sergeant Fulgencio Batista.

1934 - The US abandons its right to intervene in Cuba’s internal affairs, revises Cuba’s sugar quota and changes tariffs to favour Cuba.

1944 - Batista retires and is succeeded by the civilian Ramon Gray San Martin.

1952 - Batista seizes power again and presides over an oppressive and corrupt regime.

1953 - Fidel Castro leads an unsuccessful revolt against the Batista regime.

1956 - Castro lands in eastern Cuba from Mexico and takes to the Sierra Maestra mountains where, aided by Ernesto “Che” Guevara, he wages a guerrilla war.

1958 - The US withdraws military aid to Batista.

Triumph of the revolution

1959 - Castro leads a 9,000-strong guerrilla army into Havana, forcing Batista to flee. Castro becomes prime minister, his brother, Raul, becomes his deputy and Guevara becomes third in command.

1960 - All US businesses in Cuba are nationalised without compensation; US breaks off diplomatic relations with Havana.

1961 - US sponsors an abortive invasion by Cuban exiles at the Bay of Pigs; Castro proclaims Cuba a communist state and begins to ally it with the USSR.

1962 - Cuban missile crisis ignites when, fearing a US invasion, Castro agrees to allow the USSR to deploy nuclear missiles on the island. The crisis was subsequently resolved when the USSR agreed to remove the missiles in return for the withdrawal of US nuclear missiles from Turkey.

1965 - Cuba’s sole political party renamed the Cuban Communist Party.

1972 - Cuba becomes a full member of the Soviet-based Council for Mutual Economic Assistance.

Interventions in Africa

1976 - Cuban Communist Party approves a new socialist constitution; Castro elected president.

BBC’s Stephen Gibbs pays tribute to Buena Vista pianist Ruben Gonzalez
1976-81 - Cuba sends troops first to help Angola’s left-wing MPLA withstand a joint onslaught by South Africa, UNITA and the FNLA and, later, to help the Ethiopian regime defeat the Eritreans and Somalis.

1980 - Around 125,000 Cubans, many of them released convicts, flee to the US.

1982 - Cuba, together with other Latin American states, gives Argentina moral support in its dispute with Britain over the Falkland islands.

1988 - Cuba agrees to withdraw its troops from Angola following an agreement with South Africa.

Surviving without the USSR

1991 - Soviet military advisers leave Cuba following the collapse of the USSR.

1993 - The US tightens its embargo on Cuba, which introduces some market reforms in order to stem the deterioration of its economy. These include the legalisation of the US dollar, the transformation of many state farms into semi-autonomous cooperatives, and the legalisation of limited individual private enterprise.

1994 - Cuba signs an agreement with the US according to which the US agrees to admit 20,000 Cubans a year in return for Cuba halting the exodus of refugees.

1996 - US trade embargo made permanent in response to Cuba’s shooting down of two US aircraft operated by Miami-based Cuban exiles.

1998 - Pope John Paul II visits Cuba.

1998 - The US eases restrictions on the sending of money to relatives by Cuban Americans.

1999 November - Cuban child Elian Gonzalez is picked up off the Florida coast after the boat in which his mother, stepfather and others had tried to escape to the US capsized. A huge campaign by Miami-based Cuban exiles begins with the aim of preventing Elian from rejoining his father in Cuba and of making him stay with relatives in Miami.

2000 June - Elian allowed to rejoin his father in Cuba after prolonged court battles.

2000 October - US House of Representatives approves the sale of food and medicines to Cuba.

2000 December - Russian President Vladimir Putin visits Cuba and signs accords aimed at boosting bilateral ties.

2001 October - Cuba angrily criticises Russia’s decision to shut down the the Lourdes radio-electronic centre on the island, saying President Putin took the decision as “a special gift” to US President George W Bush ahead of a meeting between the two.

2001 November - US exports food to Cuba for the first time in more than 40 years after a request from the Cuban government to help it cope with the aftermath of Hurricane Michelle.

2002 January - Prisoners taken during US-led action in Afghanistan are flown into Guantanamo Bay for interrogation as al-Qaeda suspects.

2002 January - Russia’s last military base in Cuba, at Lourdes, closes down.

2002 April - Diplomatic crisis after UN Human Rights Commission again criticises Cuba’s rights record. The resolution is sponsored by Uruguay and supported by many of Cuba’s former allies including Mexico. Uruguay breaks off ties with Cuba after Castro says it is a US lackey.

2002 May - US Under Secretary of State John Bolton accuses Cuba of trying to develop biological weapons, adding the country to Washington’s list of “axis of evil” countries.

2002 May - Former US president Jimmy Carter makes landmark goodwill visit which includes tour of scientific centres, in response to US allegations about biological weapons. Carter is first former or serving US president to visit Cuba since 1959 revolution.

2002 June - National Assembly amends the constitution to make Cuba’s socialist system of government permanent and untouchable. Castro called for the vote in response to criticisms from US President George W Bush.

Dissidents jailed

2003 March-April - Crackdown on dissidents draws international condemnation. Seventy-five people are jailed for terms of up to 28 years; three men who hijacked a ferry in an attempt to reach the US are executed.

2003 June - European Union says it will impose diplomatic sanctions on Cuba over its recent human rights record.

2003 October - US President George W Bush announces moves to tighten US travel embargo to Cuba as part of package of measures intended to hasten end of communist rule.

Member Comments

On April 13, 2004, Ericka Huttoe wrote:


On April 21, 2004, tt hh wrote:

Thank You Sooooooooooooooooooo much for the information in the timeline!

On November 10, 2004, Sharon wrote:

Thanks so much for this info! Couldn’t have done my report withought it very good!!

On December 10, 2004, Leila wrote:

This was extremely useful, thank you very much. However I was wondering if anyone had any more detailed information about Fidel Castro or Guantanemo bay? For example, recent relevant news articles or good websites? I would be very grateful if anyone could help. Thanks.

On December 10, 2004, Leila wrote:

his was extremely useful, thank you very much. However I was wondering if anyone had any more detailed information about Fidel Castro or Guantanemo bay? For example, recent relevant news articles or good websites? I would be very grateful if anyone could help. Thanks.