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Cuba Oveview

The conflict with between the US and Cuba began in May 17, 1959 when Fidel Castro initiated the Agrarian Reform law prohibiting the ownership of farms larger then 1000 acres. Prior to this act the US supported Castro and in 1958 imposed an arms embargo against the Fulgencio Batista government which assisted Castro’s ascent to power. After the passing of the Agrarian reform law the US government accused the Cuban government of becoming Communist. The Cuban government then nationalized all US business in Cuba without providing compensation to said businesses. Castro’s government also taxed American products to a point that US exports to Cuba were halved by 1962. In response to this the Eisenhower Administration imposed trade restrictions on every export to Cuba except for food and medical supplies.

To authorize this growing union between the Soviet Union and the Castro regime, in February 1961, the two parties signed the Cuban-Soviet trade agreement in which the Soviet Union agreed to give Cuba crude oil. The US and British response to this agreement was to refuse to refine the oil coming from the Soviet Union. The Eisenhower Administration then cut the Cuban sugar import quota by 700,000 tons and Castro responded by seizing all American refineries. Khrushchev then increased the Soviet's imports of Cuban sugar and promised Soviet missiles to defend Cuba against a possible American attack.”[1]

In response to earlier actions by Cuba and on March 1960 President Eisenhower approved a CIA plan to train Cuban exiles. Camps in Guatemala were established, and by November the operation had trained a small army in guerilla tactics and conventional assault landing procedures.[2] This objective of this training was to prepare a group of Cuban exiles to invade Cuba and establish a non-communist government friendly to the United States. This Bay of Pigs invasion took began on April 15, 1961 when the US sent 8 bombers from Nicaragua to bomb Cuban Airfields. “On April 17, the Cuban-exile invasion force, or Brigade 2506, landed at beaches along the Bay of Pigs and immediately came under heavy fire.”[3] In the aftermath of the failed invasion Castro proclaims Cuba a communist state and begins to more closely ally Cuba with the USSR. “The CIA then began to make plans to assassinate Castro as part of Operation Mongoose. At least five plans to kill the Cuban leader were drawn up between 1961 and 1963.”[4] The Bay of Pigs invasion and its aftermath was the precursor a more proactive and dangerous confrontation between the US and Cuba.

On October 14, 1962 an American U2 spy-plane took pictures, in Cuba of nuclear missile sites being built by the Soviet Union. President Kennedy, in a televised address on October 22, announced the discovery of the installations and proclaimed that any nuclear missile attack from Cuba would be regarded as an attack by the Soviet Union and would be responded to accordingly. President Kennedy then ordered a quarantine of Cuba to prevent any additional supplies from reaching the island. This even knows as the Cuban Missile Crises pushed the United States and USSR to the brink of nuclear war. On October 26, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev sent President Kennedy a long letter proposing that the missile installations would be dismantled and personnel removed in exchange for United States assurances that it or its proxies would not invade Cuba.[5] October 27, another letter to President Kennedy arrived from Premier Khrushchev, suggesting that missile installations in Cuba would be dismantled if the United States dismantled its missile installations in Turkey. The American administration decided to ignore this second letter and to accept the offer outlined in the letter of October 26. Premier Khrushchev then announced on October 28 that he would dismantle the installations and return them to the Soviet Union, expressing his trust that the United States would not invade Cuba.[6] 25 years after the missile crisis documents were declassified that showed the United States also agreed to remove its nuclear missiles from Turkey.

The United States continued to tighten the embargo it had in place through out the 1960s, making commercial relations with the island all but impossible for Americans. In February 1963, President Kennedy made it illegal for almost all Americans to travel to Cuba. The 1970s brought periodic initiatives toward improving relations between the two countries. Secret talks between the United States and Cuba over normalization of relations occurred during the Ford administration in 1974. In 1977 under President Carter, diplomatic ties were restored somewhat through the establishment of “Interests Sections” in each country, though the U.S. embargo remained.[7]

In the 1980s the focus of friction in U.S.-Cuban relations shifted to include immigration, as well as Cuba’s international engagements, when a migration crisis unfolded.[8] This peak of tension happened in April 1980 when “10,000 Cubans storm the Peruvian Embassy in Havana seeking political asylum. The Cuban government then opened the Port of Mariel and encouraged departures. A flotilla of Cuban migrants (eventually 125,000) began an exodus from the port of Mariel in Cuba to the United States.”[9] A number of criminals and mentally ill people were involuntary included in the exodus. This was one event lead to the change of policy concerning Cuban refugees. In response to this mass exodus “President Carter demanded that the Cuban government impose an orderly departure and ordered a blockade to prevent private boats from the U.S. traveling to Cuba to pick up refugees. The Cuban government in response eventually closed the harbor.”[10] In 1984, the United States and Cuba negotiated an agreement to resume normal immigration, interrupted in the wake of the 1980 Mariel boatlift, and to return to Cuba those persons who had arrived during the boatlift who were "excludable" under U.S. law. Cuba suspended this agreement in May 1985 following the U.S. initiation of Radio Marti broadcasts to the island. In March 1990, TV Marti transmissions began to Cuba.[11]

In 1992 US strengthened its long held embargo towards Cuba. On February 24, 1996, Cuban MIG fighters shot down two civilian planes. Aboard the planes were four Cuban-Americans who worked with Brothers to the Rescue, a Miami-based group of Cuban exiles opposed to the Castro Government.[12] On March 12, 1996 in response to the downing of the American civilian aircraft President Clinton signed H.R.927 -- Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity (LIBERTAD) Act of 1996 in to law with the purpose of the law is[13]:

(1) to assist the Cuban people in regaining their freedom and prosperity, as well as in joining the community of democratic countries that are flourishing in the Western Hemisphere;
(2) to strengthen international sanctions against the Castro government;
(3) to provide for the continued national security of the United States in the face of continuing threats from the Castro government of terrorism, theft of property from United States nationals by the Castro government, and the political manipulation by the Castro government of the desire of Cubans to escape that results in mass migration to the United States;
(4) to encourage the holding of free and fair democratic elections in Cuba, conducted under the supervision of internationally recognized observers;
(5) to provide a policy framework for United States support to the Cuban people in response to the formation of a transition government or a democratically elected government in Cuba; and
(6) to protect United States nationals against confiscatory takings and the wrongful trafficking in property confiscated by the Castro regime.[14]

In November 1999 a 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.[15] Elian Gonzalez is repatriated to Cuba to rejoin his father.

The Chief of the US Interest Section in Havana from 2002 to 2005, James Cason, draws the distain of the Cuban government due to his support of the internal opposition on the island. Section Chief James Cason erects a digital billboard on the US interest section which towers over Havana and proceeds to broadcast the UN Declaration of Human Rights as well as news and information he believes the Cuban people do not have access to. In 2003 President George W Bush announces fresh measures which tighten the travel embargo to the island and creates the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba. In response to this the Cuban government imposes a 10% tax on dollar to peso conversions and bans transactions made in US Dollars. On February 19 2008 Fidel Castro formally a stepped down as Cuba’s president, although he handed over power to his younger brother, Raul Castro, in August 2006. On 18 December 2008: Raul Castro says he is ready to consider releasing some political prisoners as a "gesture" with the US. But he calls for the US to free the Cuban Five - five men who were convicted in Miami in 2001 of spying.[16]