Timeline: Cuba-US Relations | Institute for War and Peace Reporting



Timeline: Cuba-US Relations

For more than half a century, relations between Washington and Havana have been characterised by aggressive rhetoric, sanctions and outright hostility.

January 1, 1959

Castro & CienfuegosRevolutionaries led by Fidel Castro oust the Cuban dictator Fulgenico Batista and declare a revolutionary socialist state.


Fidel Castro and Camilo Cienfuegos in Havana, 8 January 1959. (Photo: Luis Korda)


October 1960

“CubaA commercial, economic and financial embargo by the US against Cuba begins.


Miami News clippings from 1960 announcing the embargo over Cuba.


January 3, 1961

Dwight D. EisenhowerUS President Dwight D. Eisenhower breaks all diplomatic relations with Cuba.


Dwight D. Eisenhower, U.S. President 1953-61. (Photo: The White House)


April 17, 1961

“BayThe Bay of Pigs   Cuban exiles in coordination with the CIA launch a botched invasion that is defeated within two days.


Bay of Pigs/Bahia de Cochinos in Cuba.


October 1962

NY Times/Cuban CrisisThe Cuban Missile Crisis   The US discovers Soviet nuclear missile bases on Cuban territory, leading to a 13-day stand-off, the closest the Cold War ever came to all-out nuclear conflict.


New York Times cover page on October 21, 1962.



Congress approves the Cuban Adjustment Act, which gives work and residency rights to illegal immigrants from the island who reach US territory.



“JimmyJimmy Carter asks to open an office of US interests in Havana.


Jimmy Carter, President of the United States, 1977-81. (Photo: DoD)


April-October 1980

cuban refugeesMariel boatlift   More than 125,000 Cubans flee the island for the US in just seven months, mostly heading for Miami.


Cuban refugees arriving in crowded boats during the Mariel boatlift crisis. (Photo: DHS)



Miami/Joe Raedle/GettyThe US’s Cuban Democracy Act asserts that sanctions will continue as long as the government refuses to take steps toward “democratisation and show more respect for human rights”.


Photographs of arrested Cuban dissidents. The number of all political prisoners in Cuba, in 2004, has been estimated at more than 300 by human rights activists on the island. (Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)


March 12, 1996

The Helms Burton Act states that any non-American company that has dealings with Cuba can be subjected to legal reprisals and its directors banned from entering the US. This meant that international companies have to choose between trade with Cuba or with the US.



Bill Clinton/Bob McNeely/White HouseUS president Bill Clinton authorises sending limited remittances and medical supplies to Cuba.


Bill Clinton, U.S. President 1993-2001. (Photo from 1993 by Bob McNeely/The White House)


November 2001

Guantanamo/Joe Raedle/GettyUnited States opens a high security prison at the naval base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba for the “detention, treatment and trial of certain foreigners in the war against terrorism” despite Havana’s protests.


Razor wire is seen on the fence around Camp Delta which is part of the U.S. military prison for 'enemy combatants' in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. June 26, 2013. (Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)


February 19, 2008

Castros/GettyFidel Castro retires from politics, leaving his brother Raul Castro in power.


Cuban President Fidel Castro (L) talks to his brother Raul Castro (R) during the Cuban Parliament's session in the Palacio of the Conventions December 23, 2004 in Havana, Cuba. (Photo: Jorge Rey/Getty Images)


April 13, 2009

Barack Obama/Doug Mills-Pool/GettyBarack Obama allows unlimited family travel and remittances from the US to Cuba. “It's time to let Cuban-Americans see their mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers,” he said.


U.S. President Barack Obama speaks to the nation about normalizing diplomatic relations the Cuba in the Cabinet Room of the White House on December 17, 2014 in Washington, DC. (Photo: Doug Mills-Pool/Getty Images)


January 14, 2013

Cubans are allowed to travel abroad without having to seek permission from the Cuban government.


December 10, 2013

ObamaObama and Castro exchange a historic handshake at the funeral of Nelson Mandela.


U.S. President Barack Obama shakes hands with Cuban President Raul Castro during the official memorial service for former South African President Nelson Mandela on 10 Dec 2013, Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)


December 17, 2014

Obama and Castro agreed to improve political, social and economic relations. Three Cuban agents still imprisoned in the US and a US citizen held in Cuba are freed.


May 29, 2015

Cuba is removed from the US’s annual official list of state sponsors of terrorism.


July 20, 2015

Obama and Castro/Anthony Behar-Pool/GettyUS and Cuba reestablish diplomatic relations and their interests sections in Washington and Havana begin to function as embassies.


U.S. President Barack Obama (R) and President Raul Castro (L) of Cuba attend a bilateral meeting at the United Nations Headquarters on September 29, 2015 in New York City. (Photo: Anthony Behar-Pool/Getty Images)


August 14, 2015

John Kerry/Chip Somodevilla-GettyJohn Kerry formally reopens the US embassy in Havana, the first visit to Cuba by a US secretary of state since 1945.


Secretary of State John Kerry delivers remarks during the flag-raising ceremony at the recently reopened U.S. Embassy August 14, 2015 in Havana, Cuba. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)


February 16, 2016

Havana airport/Jorge Rey/GettyThe US and Cuba sign an agreement to restore scheduled flights between the two countries.


People pass under a departures board at the International airport in Havana, Cuba. (Photo: Jorge Rey/GettyImages)


March 21-22, 2016

Obamas/Joe Raedle/GettyObama visits Cuba in first trip by a US president to the island in 88 years.


President Barack Obama arrives with his family for a 2 day visit to Havana, Cuba. 20 March 2016. (Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)