Front Door to Cuba

Timetable History of Cuba

1980-1999 - 1

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March 12. In Grenada, Cubans begin to work on a new international airport.

March. Farmers are allowed to sell the surplus to their state quotas in "farmer's markets" where prices are unregulated and transactions are between private individuals.

April 1. 12 people crash a minibus through the gates of the Peruvian Embassy in Havana and seek asylum. Within the week, embassy guards are removed and Peru opens the embassy grounds to those who wish to enter. Over 7,000 storm the Peruvian embassy.

April 21. Cuba announces that anyone who wishes to leave the country could be picked up at the port of Mariel. The Mariel Boatlift continues until September and brings 125,000 new refugees to the U.S.

April 24. Alejo Carpentier dies in his home in Paris (51 bis av. De Sígur). He is buried in Cuba in the Necropolis de Colón.

September 11. Cuban Diplomat ”Félix García Rodríguez, an attache of the Cuban Mission to the United Nations, is murdered by Pedro Remon, who uses the very same weapon he used in the Negrin murder (Nov. 25, 1979); a MAC 10 machine gun. Secretary of State Muskie calls the murder "reprehensible."

Women account for 27.3 percent of the Cuban labor force.


January. Ronald Reagan is innaugurated as U.S. president, and institutes the most hostile policy against Cuba since the invasion at Bay of Pigs. Despite conciliatory signals from Cuba, the new U.S. administration announces a tightening of the embargo.

In the U.S., Jorge Mas Canosa founds the Cuban-American National Foundation (CANF), which quickly becomes the most influential proponent of a hard-line policy against Cuba.

October 30. The U.S. Navy begins four weeks of exercises in the Caribbean. (On November 6, Pentagon officials state that the maneuvers are expected to send a message to Cuba.)

October 31. Cuba mobilizes its reserves and goes on full alert in preparation for an anticipated U.S. invasion.

November 23. In Mexico, Cuban Vice-President Carlos Rafael Rodríguez and U.S. Secretary of State Alexander Haig meet secretly but reach no agreements.


April 19. The Reagan Administration reestablishes the travel ban, prohibits U.S. citizens from spending money in Cuba, and allows the 1977 fishing accord to lapse.

June 16. At the U.N., Cuban Vice-President Rodríguez states that Cuba has almost doubled its military strength since 1981 in response to the aggressiveness of the Reagan Administration.


An agreement to refinance Cuba's foreign debt is signed in Paris.

October 25. The U.S. invades Grenada with 8,000 troops, occupies the island and establishes a provisional government. Of the 784 Cubans on the island, 636 were construction workers and 43 were military personnel. Invading troops capture 642 Cubans, kill 24, and wound 57.


March 19. Cuba and Angola outline conditions for the withdrawal of Cuban troops from Namibia and implementation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 435.

May 14. The U.S. Department of Defense reports that it will spend $43 million to refurbish Guantanamo Naval Base.

June 29. U.S. Presidential candidate Jesse Jackson leaves Cuba after a series of meetings that result in the release of 26 prisoners, further openings for the church in Cuba, and the agreement to open talks on immigration issues with the U.S.

December 14. Cuba and the U.S. reach an agreement on an immigration program under which 2,746 refugees (Marielitos) are returned to Cuba, and the U.S. agrees to permit the immigration of 20,000 Cubans annually. (In fact, only about 2,000 applicants per year are allowed.)


January 1. A new housing law takes effect under which occupants of rental property (house or apartment rented from the state) are permitted to purchase and ultimately sell their dwellings.

January 24. Five U.S. Catholic Church leaders meet with Castro and high Cuban officials. This follows the opening earlier in the month of the Office of Religious Affairs, which signals improved relations between churches and the Cuban government.

May 20. RADIO MARTÍ, backed by Reagan Republicans and Cuban hard-liners, begins to broadcast news and information from the U.S. to Cuba. [In protest of these broadcasts, Cuba cancels the existing immigration agreement with the U.S.]

October 4. U.S. President Ronald Reagan bans travel to the U.S. by Cuban government officials or their representatives, which includes most students, scholars, and artists.


February 17. The Cuban Catholic Church hosts an international conference about the Church in Cuba. Attending are bishops from most Latin American countries and the U.S., and includes a representative from the Vatican.

April 11. The Soviet Union agrees to a 5-year, $3 billion program of economic credit and aid to Cuba.

May 18. Farmer's markets (legal since 1980) are banned.


Infant mortality is down to 13.6:1000 (lowest in South America and lower than the U.S.).

March 11. The United Nations Human Rights Commission votes down a U.S. resolution that harshly criticizes Cuba for alleged human rights violations.

May 28. An Official in the Cuban Air Force defects to the U.S. Throughout the summer, General Rafael del Pino speaks on Radio Martí charging the Cuban leadership with a lack of morale.

July 6. Cuban television begins airing a 7-part documentary about the espionage activities carried out by U.S. officials stationed in the U.S. Interests Section in Havana.

August 13. After a two-day meeting with Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, Fidel Castro asserts that Cuba would be willing to abide by agreements that call for the removal of all foreign military advisers from Central America.

November 20. The U.S. and Cuba restore the immigration agreement cancelled in 1985.


The Cuban Revolution turns 30 years old.

February-March. A delegation of U.S. human rights leaders inspect Cuban prisons as part of an exchange agreement under which a Cuban delegation would later inspect U.S. prison facilities. The U.S. group reports that conditions in the prisons are generally no worse than those in U.S. prisons, that there is no evidence of systematic abuses, and that some practices such as conjugal visits are more humane than those in the U.S.

April 21. John Cardinal O'Connor, Archbishop of New York, meets with Fidel Castro in Havana. It is the first visit by a Roman Catholic cardinal to Cuba since 1959.

November 8. Rafael Hernández Colón is reelected governor of Puerto Rico.


The Berlin wall falls.

May. The U.S. State Dept. denies Orlando Bosch asylum due to his "career in terrorism."

July 16. Nicolás Guillén dies. He was known as Cuba’s most important poet of the 20th century.

August 17. According to an article in the New York Times, Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen meets with President Bush to negotiate a release for Orlando Bosch.


March 23. TV Martí, an anti-Castro, U.S.-taxpayer-funded station is launched. The signal is jammed by the Cuban government.

June. The Cuban Museum of Arts and Culture in Miami is bombed for exhibiting work by artists living in Cuba.

July 17. The U.S. Justice Department reverses itself and frees convicted terrorist Orlando Bosch.

July 18. Orlando Bosch receives a presidential pardon from President Bush.

October. The U.S. Congress passes the Mack Amendment, which prohibits all trade with Cuba by subsidiaries of U.S. companies located outside the U.S., and proposes sanctions or cessation of aid to any country that buys sugar or other products from Cuba.

Read a brief excerpt from Jacobo Timerman's "Cuba: A Journey."| Read a brief excerpt from the introduction to C. Peter Ripley's "Conversations With Cuba."

Women comprise 38 percent of the Cuban labor force. | The government operates about 1,100 day-care centers throughout the country.

July 20. The New York Times runs an editorial opposing the pardon of Orlando Bosch (it seems to be the only paper to do so).


Soviet troops leave Cuba. | Women comprise 21.5% of the Communist Party.

April. Under the direction of Carlos Aldana, the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party approves the establishment of an email connection between Cuba and Canada.

October. After Cuba's 4th Party Congress, only 5 of the Political Bureau's members from 1975 are still at their posts.

Of 225 party members elected, 37 (16%) are women.

December 8. The Soviet Union disbands, ending economic subsidies worth approximately $6 billion annually.


January. Email link between Cuba and Canada is finally established.

February 5. U.S. Congressman Robert Torricelli introduces the Cuban Democracy Act, and says the bill is designed to "wreak havoc on the island."

June 15. From an editorial in the NY Times:
"…This misnamed act (the Cuban Democracy Act) is dubious in theory, cruel in its potential practice and ignoble in its election-year expediency… An influential faction of the Cuban American community clamors for sticking it to a wounded regime… There is, finally, something indecent about vociferous exiles living safely in Miami prescribing more pain for their poorer cousins."

October 7. From an offshore speedboat, a group of "Comandos L" fires shots at the Hotel Melia on Varadero Beach. When Cuba formally protests to the State Department, the protest is referred to the Justice Department, which in turn asks the FBI to investigate. Comandos L carry out at least eight raids against Cuba this year.

October 15. U.S. Congress passes the Cuban Democracy Act, which prohibits foreign-based subsidiaries of U.S. companies from trading with Cuba, travel to Cuba by U.S. citizens, and family remittances to Cuba. The law allows private groups to deliver food and medicine to Cuba. (At this time, 70% of Cuba’s trade with U.S. subsidiary companies was in food and medicine. Many claim the Cuban Democracy Act is in violation of international law and United Nations resolutions that food and medicine cannot be used as weapons in international conflicts.)

October 23. President Bush signs the Cuban Democracy Act into law. Congressman Torricelli says that it will bring down Castro "within weeks."

November 3. Pedro Rosselló is elected governor of Puerto Rico.

November 24. The United Nations General Assembly votes heavily in favor of a measure introduced by Cuba asking for an end to the U.S. Embargo. The vote is 59 in favor, 3 against (the U.S., Israel and Romania), and 79 abstentions. State Department spokesman Joe Snyder in the LA Times; "The Cuban government, in violation of international law, expropriated billions of dollars worth of private property belonging to U.S. individuals and has refused to make reasonable restitution. The U.S. embargo - and I point out it's not a blockade - is therefore a legitimate response to the unreasonable and illegal behavior of the Cuban government."


January 7. At a news conference, Tony Bryant, leader of "Comandos L", announces plans for more raids atainst targets in Cuba, especially hotels. He warns tourists to stay off the island, adding that, "From this point on, we're at war. The Neutrality Act doesn't exist."

December 20. The United Nations General Assembly reprimands Iran, Iraq, Sudan and Cuba for abusing the human rights of their citizens. The vote on Cuba is 74-20, with 61 abstentions.

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