Front Door to Cuba

Timetable History of Cuba

1980-1999 - 2

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June 13. Mexican telecommunications company Grupo Domos signs an agreement with the Cuban Ministry of Communications to modernize the telephone network through a joint venture with the Cuban state.

July 13. At least 35 men, women and children die at sea when their tugboat (called the "13 de Marzo") sinks seven miles out of Havana. 31 survivors are picked up by the coast guard. Some claim that their boat was deliberately rammed by two other vessels that made no attempt to stop or rescue them.

August. Following Castro's declaration of an open migration policy, a new boat lift begins as economic conditions in Cuba continue to deteriorate. 32,000 Cubans are picked up by the US Coast Guard and taken to the US naval base in Guantanamo Bay. A "picketline" prevents additional seaborne migrations.

September 9. A migration agreement is reached between U.S. and Cuba, allowing for a minimum of 20,000 immigrants per year.

October 26. For the 3rd year in a row, the United Nations General Assembly votes overwhelmingly for a measure to end the U.S. Embargo of Cuba. The vote is 101-2, with 48 abstentions, and only Israel votes with the U.S.

November 1. A report issued by Americas Watch and the Fund for Free Expression called "Dangerous Dialogue: Attacks on Freedom of Expression in Miami's Cuban Exile Community" details attacks on academic freedoms and other serious restrictions on freedoms of expression for those who dissent from a rigid anti-Castro stand.

November 14. In Puerto Rico, a vote is held (not sponsored by the US government), asking Puerto Ricans to choose their political status in relation to the US. The results are as follows: 826,326 votes for commonwealth (48.6%), 788,296 for statehood (46.3%), and 75,620 for independence (4.4%). Blank ballots receive 1% of the vote.

December 5. US President Bill Clinton approves the establishment of an Inter-Agency Working Group to "construct positions on issues related to Puerto Rico."


January 12. InterNIC grants CENIAI (The National Center for Automated Exchange of Information) a Class B internet address (allowing Cuba to join the internet).

May 2. An Immigration agreement is reaffirmed by Cuba and the U.S., providing for the direct return of rafters to the island.

July 13. In a small private plane belonging to Brothers to the Rescue, Jose Basulto takes his first illegal flight over Havana, dropping religious and anti-Castro flyers and bumper stickers. A cameraman from the Miami NBC affiliate is on board and the film airs on Miami television that evening.

October. Concilio Cubano is formed, bringing together over 100 political, humanitarian, union and professional groups that agree on five points: a nonviolent stance, an amnesty for all political prisoners, an orderly transition to democracy, a juridical system that assures human rights, and the right of all Cubans worldwide to participate in the transition.

November 2. The UN General Assembly recommends an end to the embargo (for the fourth consecutive year) by a vote of 117 to 3 (38 abstentions). Only Israel and Uzbekistan join the U.S. in saying no. Since then, each time the vote comes up at the UN, the number of nations voting against the embargo increases.


January. Cubaweb, the official Cuban web site, appears on the World Wide Web.

January 9 and 13. Planes belonging to "Brothers To The Rescue" fly over downtown Havana at low altitude, dropping leaflets calling on the Cuban people to oppose their government.

January 15. "Brothers To The Rescue" pilot Jose Basulto is interviewed on Radio Martí (a station owned and operated by the U.S. government) and acknowledges that he had flown that mission over Havana and would do it again.

January 15. The Cuban government decides to crack down on exile groups such as "Consilio Cubano" and "Brothers To The Rescue," and tries to persuade the U.S. government to curb their actions. They issue loud warnings, including an official diplomatic note to the U.S. government; that exile planes violating Cuban air space will be shot down.

January 16. Jose Casin, a commentator on Radio Martí, dares the Cuban military to shoot down the planes, adding that they will not be able to respond in time to stop the fly-overs.

February 24. Cuban MiGs shoot down two airplanes (over international waters) belonging to the anti-Castro organization "Brothers To The Rescue," resulting in the death of four exiles. Basulto, in the third plane, is able to escape.

March 12. President Clinton signs the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity (Libertad) Act (also known as the Helms-Burton Act) which imposes penalties on foreign companies doing business in Cuba, permits U.S. citizens to sue foreign investors who make use of American-owned property seized by the Cuban government, and denies entry into the U.S. to such foreign investors. (He cites the planes shot down as a deciding factor in his approval of this measure.)

April. In Havana, a new Computer Technology Video Library opens, containing over two-thousand videos, many of which offer instructions on using the Internet.

November 12. By a vote of 137 to 3, the United Nations General Assembly recommends, for the fifth consecutive year, that the U.S. end the embargo against Cuba.

November 19. Pope John Paul II receives Castro at the Vatican. The Pope accepts an invitation to visit Cuba.


April. A terrorist explosion in the discotheque of Havana’s most fashionable hotel, the Melia Cohiba, begins a series of similar attacks on hotels, restaurants and night spots of Havana and Varadero.

June 29. According to a poll taken by the Miami Herald, a majority of Cuban Americans under the age of 45 support "establishing a national dialogue with Cuba, while their elders opposed it.

August 13. A paid advertisement in the Miami newspaper El Nuevo Herald by the CANF supports the bombings, and states that "Cuban people, like all peoples fighting for their freedom, have the right to choose whatever instruments are within reach to obtain freedom." CANF president Francisco Hernandez explains that "we don't consider these actions terrorism because people fighting for liberty cannot be limited by a system that is itself terrrorist."

September. Cuban authorities arrest a 25-year-old Salvadoran, Raúl Ernesto Cruz León, for carrying out a half-dozen of the hotel attacks.

October 27. U.S. Coast Guard gets a call for help from the 46-foot yacht La Esperana (owned by Jose Antonio Llama, a member of the CANF board of directors) which is in international waters off Puerto Rico. A search of the boat uncovers two .50-caliber sniper rifles (one of which is registered to CANF president Francisco J. Hernández) 70 rounds of ammunition and an array of military-type equipment. One of the men, Angel Manuel Alfonso, 58, says that he alone smuggled the weapons because he "planned to kill Castro." The FBI begins an investigation. [Seven exiles are indicted on August 24 1998, and after the trial is moved to Miami, all are found Not Guilty.]

November 5. For the sixth straight year, the U.N. General Assembly passes a resolution to end the Cuban embargo. The vote is 143 to 3.

November 6. In Havana, Walter Van der Veer, an American member of exile group "Comandos L," goes on trial for "trying to overthrow the Cuban government." He is given a sentence of 15 years in prison.

November 18. A U.S. defense intelligence report concludes that "Cuba does not pose a significant military threat to the U.S. or to other countries in the region."

November. Jorge Mas Canosa, the most influential anti-Castro activist and founder of the CANF, dies in Miami.


February. Pope John Paul II visits Cuba.

March. The Pentagon concludes that Cuba poses no significant threat to U.S. national security, and senior defense officials urge increased contact with their counterparts on the island.

May – June. European countries call for an end to the embargo. Some warn that Title III of the Helms-Burton Act contradicts international law and may cause problems if not revoked.

July 12. The New York Times runs an article in which Luis Posada Carriles admits to over a decade of terrorist activities and assassination attempts on Castro wilfully funded by leaders of the Cuban-American National Foundation (CANF). Posada admits that Raúl Ernesto Cruz León, arrested in September of ’97, was one of his operatives. He boasts that there are additional anti-Castro operatives still on the island, and warns of a major surprise soon.

July 29 – Aug. 3. Castro visits the Caribbean: Jamaica, Barbados and Grenada.

August 24. Seven Cuban exiles are indicted in Puerto Rico on charges of plotting to assassinate Fidel Castro. Among the defendants is Jose Antoio Llama, 67, who serves as director at the Cuban American National Foundation.

September 9 – 12. The U.S.-Cuba Business Summit is held in Cancun, Mexico, but participants will spend a day and a night in Havana. Their expenses are fully paid by Cuba and several foreign companies that are co-sponsoring the event to comply with U.S. embargo regulations restricting spending by U.S. citizens in Cuba.

Sptember 12. The FBI arrests five Cubans who later are known as The Cuban Five; René González Sehweret, Ramón Labañino Salazar, Fernando González Llort, Antonio Guerrero Rodríguez and Gerardo Hernández Nordelo.

September 12-13. The New York Times, runs an interview by Ann Louise Baldach with Luis Posada Carriles, who acknowledges that Jorge Mas Canosa, chairman of the Cuban American National Foundation (CANF) has been his financier.

October 13. In the U.S., senator John W. Warner and 23 other senators recommend establishing a National Bipartisan Commision to review U.S.-Cuba policy.

October 16. The UN General Assembly adopts a resolution against the U.S. embargo on Cuba. The vote is 157 to end the embargo and 2 (U.S. & Israel) to keep it.


January 1. The Revolution celebrates 40 years.

January 5. U.S. President Bill Clinton declines the recommendation of 10/13/98 to establish a National Bipartisan Commission to review U.S.-Cuba policy. [Minnesota Republican Senator Rod Grams: "By rejecting this Commission, the President has rejected common sense; after years of an ineffective embargo, it is time to independently revise our relation with Cuba." Senator Warner (Virginia Republican): "The current policy treats Cuba more cruelly than Iraq and North Korea, where US embargoes are less restrictive." Senator Dodd: "I am disappointed that nothing was done to deal with the critical impediments to the sales of medicines to Cuba."]

February 18. Six members of the U.S. Congressional Black Caucus visit Cuba to evaluate the U.S.-imposed embargo. Among the visitors: Maxine Waters and Barbara Lee of California, Sheila Jackson-Lee of Texas, Julia Carson of Indiana and others.

February 22. Cuba's State Prosecutor asks for the death penalty for Raúl Ernesto Cruz León, the Salvadoran terrorist charged with bomb attacks on the island in 1997.

February 22. The First Annual "Festival del Habano," (a showcase for cigar enthusiasts world wide) begins. The festival ends on February 26.

February 23. The coalition of Americans for Humanitarian Trade With Cuba join the United States Association of Former Members of Congress to call on the Clinton administration to end the embargo on food and medicines to Cuba. "The U.S. embargo on Cuba is the single most restrictive policy of its kind. Even Iraq is able to buy food and medicine from U.S. sources," says George Fernandez, Executive Director at AHTC. "As a Cuban American, I speak for the vast majority of us who do not think the U.S. should be in the business of denying basic sustenance to families and children in Cuba."

October. Illinois governor George Ryan heads a delegation to Cuba that includes many businessmen-the first by a U.S. governor since before the Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961.

November 9. A resolution is passed in the UN General Assembly on the need to end the U.S. embargo against Cuba. The vote is 155 in favor and 2 against (U.S. and Israel). This is the 8th time in as many years that the resolution is passed.

November 25. Elián Gonzalez is rescued at sea two or three days after boat capsizes, killing his mother and 10 others.

December 7. In San Juan, Puerto Rico, a federal jury acquits 5 Cuban exiles on charges of plotting to assassinate Fidel Castro; Jose Antonio Llamas (director of CANF), Angel Manuel Alfonso, Angel Hernandez Rojo, Francisco Cecundino Cordova and Jose Rodriguez Sosa.

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