Order Code RL30386
CRS Report for Congress
Received through the CRS Web
Chronology of Key Events 1959-1999
Updated December 14, 1999
-name redactedSpecialist in Latin American Affairs
with the assistance of
Suzanne L. York
Foreign Affairs, Defense, and Trade Division
Congressional Research Service ˜ The Library of Congress
Chronology of Key Events 1959-1999
This chronology outlines major events in U.S.-Cuban relations from Fidel
Castro's rise to power in 1959 through 1999. The chronology provides more detailed
information on events since 1994, including U.S. legislative action and congressional
hearings and significant economic and political events in Cuba.
In the 1960s, U.S.-Cuban relations deteriorated quickly as the Castro
government espoused Communism and aligned itself with the Soviet Union. After
Cuba began expropriating U.S. property in 1960, the United States began imposing
economic sanctions. In 1961, diplomatic relations were broken in January, and in
April the United States sponsored the failed Bay of Pigs invasion led by Cuban exiles
to overthrow Castro. President Kennedy imposed a near total embargo on Cuba in
February 1962. In the October 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, the United States
confronted the Soviet Union over the introduction of nuclear missiles in Cuba.
In the 1970s, there were some efforts toward normalizing relations, but these
were undermined by Cuba’s policy of supporting revolutionary movements abroad.
The U.S. embargo was modified in 1975 to allow U.S. foreign subsidiaries to trade
with Cuba. Under the Carter Administration, the United States essentially lifted its ban
on travel with Cuba and “interests sections” were established in Havana and
Washington in 1977. In the late 1970s, prospects for normalized relations dimmed
with Cuba’s increased military role in Africa and its support for revolutionary
movements in Central America and the Caribbean.
The 1980s began with the Mariel boatlift in which some 125,000 Cubans were
allowed to leave their island nation for the United States by boat. The Reagan
Administration adopted a harder line policy toward Cuba. In 1982, it reimposed
restrictions on travel to Cuba, although certain categories of travel were permitted.
The 1983 U.S. invasion of Grenada ended Cuban support for the revolutionary
government of that country. U.S. government-sponsored broadcasting to Cuba, Radio
Marti, began operations in 1985.
In the 1990s, U.S. sanctions were strengthened, while a policy of providing
support to the Cuban people gained momentum. In 1992, the United States tightened
its embargo on Cuba with the Cuban Democracy Act, which again banned U.S.
foreign subsidiary trade with Cuba. The act also included measures of support for the
Cuban people such as the establishment of direct telephone service. With the loss of
backing from the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, Cuba experienced rapid economic
decline. In the summer of 1994, thousands of Cubans began fleeing to the United
States by boat. This led to two U.S.-Cuban migration accords. In February 1996,
Cuban military jets shot down two U.S. civilian planes, killing four Americans. The
action led to approval of the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act, which
strengthened U.S. sanctions. In the aftermath of Pope John Paul’s visit to Cuba in
January 1998, the Clinton Administration has taken policy initiatives to support the
Cuban people, including an expansion of direct flights and increased exchanges.
1959 - 1993 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
1994 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
1995 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
1996 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18
1997 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 28
1998 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31
1999 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 36
Terrence Lisbeth of the Foreign Affairs, Defense, and Trade Division is
acknowledged for providing considerable production support for this chronology.
Chronology of Key Events 1959-1999
1959 - 1993
01/01/59 — Facing widespread opposition and a formidable rebel force, President
Fulgenico Batista, who ruled essentially as a dictator and was Cuba’s
dominant leader for over 25 years, fled the country. Fidel Castro's
armed 26th of July Movement became the predominant political force.
In the new revolutionary government that was established, Castro's
supporters gradually displaced members of less radical groups. (The
26th of July Movement was named for a July 26, 1953 attack on the
Moncada army barracks in Santiago, Cuba by an armed opposition
group led by Castro. Castro was imprisoned after the attack, but was
subsequently released in 1955 under an amnesty law. Soon after,
Castro went to Mexico to help form a guerrilla group to overthrow the
Batista government. In December 1956, Castro returned to Cuba
aboard the yacht Granma with a force of 81 men. Castro's forces
eventually grew to several thousand.)
01/07/59 — The United States recognized the new Cuban government. Trials and
executions of former Batista supporters began in January.
05/17/59 — The Cuban government approved an agrarian reform law providing for
the expropriation of farmlands over 1,000 acres and forbidding foreign
— Seizures of U.S.-owned ranches and farms began.
02/13/60 — Cuba signed trade and economic agreements with the Soviet Union.
05/08/60 — Cuba and the Soviet Union established diplomatic relations.
06/29/60 — The Cuban government seized U.S.-owned oil refineries.
07/06/60 — President Eisenhower cut the remainder of Cuba’s 1960 sugar quota.
Cuba passed a “nationalization law,” authorizing the expropriation of
08/06/60 — Cuba began to nationalize U.S.-owned companies in response to the
U.S. reduction of Cuba’s sugar quota.
10/19/60 — The Eisenhower Administration prohibited exports to Cuba, except
nonsubsidized food, medicines, and medical supplies.
10/24/60 — Cuba expropriated remaining U.S.-owned properties.
01/03/61 — The United States broke diplomatic relations with Cuba in response to
a Cuban demand to decrease the size of the U.S. Embassy staff within
04/16/61 — Castro made a public admission that the Cuban revolution was
04/17-19/61 The United States sponsored the ill-fated Bay of Pigs invasion led by
Cuban exiles to overthrow the Castro government.
— A U.S. covert action program was developed to assist Cuban internal
opposition to overthrow the Castro government; known as Operation
Mongoose, the program lasted through October 1962.
12/02/61 — Castro declared himself to be a Marxist-Leninist: “I am a MarxistLeninist and will be a Marxist-Leninist until the last day of my life.”
01/22/62 — At the initiative of the United States, the Organization of American
States (OAS) excluded Cuba from the organization.
02/07/62 — President Kennedy imposed a near total embargo on trade with Cuba.
Pursuant to the President’s directive, the Department of the Treasury,
Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), issued the Cuban Import
— The United States confronted the Soviet Union over its attempts to
place offensive nuclear missiles in Cuba. After the United States
imposed a naval blockade on Cuba, the crisis ended with a Soviet
decision to withdraw the missiles and a U.S. pledge not to invade
12/23-24/62 More than 1,000 Cuban exiles imprisoned after the Bay of Pigs
invasion were released and returned to the United States under an
agreement that included delivering $53 million in private donations of
— On July 8, 1963, the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets
Control issued a more comprehensive set of economic sanctions, the
Cuban Assets Control Regulations (CACR), which replaced the Cuban
Import Regulations issued in February 1962. (The regulations which
have been amended many times, remain in force today.)
— In July, the OAS voted to suspend diplomatic and trade relations with
Cuba because of its support for subversive activities in Venezuela.
— More than 3,000 Cubans leave from Camarioca in a boatlift to the
— Freedom flights to the United States began with some 250,000 Cubans
emigrating to the United States by 1971.
— Congress enacted the Cuban Adjustment Act (P.L. 89-732). This gave
the Attorney General the right to grant permanent resident status to
Cubans who had been inspected and admitted or paroled into the
United States after January 1, 1959, and had been physically present in
the United States for one year. The objective was to give Cubans who
had fled the island a preferential procedure for seeking permanent
— Cuba and the United States signed an anti-hijacking agreement in
February, with each side agreeing to prosecute hijackers or return them
to each other's country for prosecution.
— The United States modified its trade embargo on Cuba to allow U.S.
subsidiaries in third countries to trade with Cuba. This change took
place after the OAS approved a resolution in July allowing members to
individually determine the nature of their respective economic and
diplomatic relations with Cuba.
12/20/75 — President Gerald Ford denounced Soviet and Cuban military
involvement in Angola's civil conflict, stating that Cuban actions would
preclude an improvement in U.S.-Cuban relations. This effectively
ended secret normalization talks by U.S.-Cuban officials (meetings had
taken place in January and July 1975.)
— Cuba suspended the 1973 anti-hijacking agreement with the United
States after a bomb exploded on a Cubana airlines flight taking off
03/18/77 — The Carter Administration did not renew restrictions on U.S. travel to
Cuba. (The authority that imposed the restrictions had to be renewed
every six months.)
— Cuba and the United States signed an accord on fishing rights in
boundary waters between the two nations.
— Cuban and U.S. diplomats began serving in "interests sections" in each
— Prospects for improved U.S.-Cuban relations dimmed during the year
because of Cuba's increasing military role in Africa. In September,
anti-Castro Cuban exile groups bombed Cuba’s Mission to the United
Nations in New York. In October and November, U.S. press reports
indicated that the Soviet Union had provided Cuba with a squadron of
MIG-23s, causing some to question whether the U.S.-Soviet
agreement of 1962 had been violated; on November 30, President
Carter stated that the Soviets had provided assurances that no shipment
of arms to Cuba had violated the 1962 agreement and that the United
States had no evidence of nuclear weapons in Cuba.
— The Carter Administration confirmed an announcement by Senator
Frank Church in August of the presence of a Soviet combat brigade of
2,000-3,000 men in Cuba. (Congressional hearings later established
that the brigade had been in Cuba since 1962.) Cuba's encouragement
for revolutionary movements in Central America and the Caribbean,
including support for the leftist government of Maurice Bishop in
Grenada, increased tensions between the United States and Cuba and
further dimmed prospects for improved relations. By the end of the
year, Cuba had freed a total of 3,900 political prisoners in a program
begun in 1978.
— From April through September, around 125,000 Cubans fled their
island nation for the United States in the so-called Mariel boatlift. The
exodus was precipitated when more than 10,000 Cubans crowded the
grounds of the Peruvian Embassy seeking political asylum after the
Cuban government withdrew its guards around the embassy.
Subsequently, the Cuban government opened the harbor at Mariel,
encouraging a mass exodus by allowing Cuban Americans in the United
States to pick up by boat anyone who wished to leave from Mariel.
U.S. officials particularly objected to the fact that the Cuban
government encouraged criminals and mental patients to leave. On
September 11, 1980, an official of Cuba’s Mission to the United
Nations in New York was assassinated by anti-Castro terrorists.
02/24/82 — The Secretary of State added Cuba to the list of countries supporting
international terrorists, for its complicity with the M-19 Movement in
Colombia. (Being on the list excludes Cuba from a wide range of U.S.
foreign assistance programs.)
04/19/82 — The U.S. Treasury Department announced the reimposition of travel
restrictions to Cuba, although it did not impose restrictions for certain
categories of travelers (U.S. government officials, scholars, journalists,
and Cuban Americans visiting their relatives).
— The United States intervened militarily in Grenada to protect U.S. lives,
restore stability to the island, and end Cuban influence. Eighteen U.S.
servicemen, 24 Cubans, and 45 Grenadians were casualties in the
— On December 14, the United States and Cuba signed a migration
agreement for the normalization of immigration procedures. The
United States agreed to issue up to 20,000 preference immigration
visas each year, and to continue granting immigrant visas to Cuban
residents who were close relations of U.S. citizens, but these
immigrants would not be counted against the annual 20,000 limit.
Cuba agreed to accept the return of 2,746 so-called excludables who
had arrived in the 1980 Mariel boatlift. In addition, up to 3,000 former
Cuban political prisoners would be allowed into the United States
during FY1985, with the size of the program and any increases in
subsequent fiscal years to be determined.
— U.S. government radio broadcasting to Cuba (Radio Marti) began
operations in May. As a result, Cuba suspended the 1984 migration
agreement with the United States.
— Cuba announced that it was going to reactivate the 1984 migration
agreement with the United States to allow for the repatriation of
"excludables" to Cuba. Subsequently, riots broke out at a U.S. federal
prison holding these Cubans.
— Cuba signed an agreement with Angola and South Africa for a phased
withdrawal of Cuban troops from Angola and for the independence of
Namibia, ending South African occupation.
— U.S. Government television broadcasting to Cuba (TV Marti) began on
an experimental basis in March and regular operations began in August.
— The breakup of the Soviet Union resulted in the loss of annual Soviet
assistance and subsidies to Cuba that U.S. officials estimated at about
$4.5 billion each year. On March 6, the U.N. Commission on Human
Rights approved a resolution requesting the appointment of a U.N.
special representative to examine the human rights situation in Cuba.
— Castro stated that Cuban support for insurgents abroad was a thing of
03/03/92 — The U.N. Commission on Human Rights approved a resolution (by a
vote of 23 to 8, with 21 abstentions) expressing concern about the
numerous reports of violations of basic human rights and fundamental
freedoms in Cuba and urging Cuba to cooperate with the U.N. special
representative on Cuba.
04/18/92 — President Bush instructed the Department of the Treasury to issue
regulations implementing a provision of the Cuban Democracy Act, still
pending before Congress, that would prohibit entry into U.S. ports of
vessels engaged in trade with Cuba.
— Cuba announced the suspension of construction of Cuba's nuclear
power plant at Juragua that was being built with Russian assistance.
10/23/92 — President Bush signed the Cuban Democracy Act of 1992 into law
(P.L. 102-484, Title XVII), which included provisions to tighten the
embargo and measures of support for the Cuban people.
11/24/92 — The U.N. General Assembly approved a resolution (59 in favor, 3
opposed, and 71 abstaining) on the need for the United States to lift its
embargo on Cuba.
— For the first time, the Cuban government allowed for direct elections
to the National Assembly of People’s Power, the national legislature.
However, voters were not permitted a choice of candidates, the
candidates were screened by candidacy commissions composed of
members of government-controlled mass organizations.
03/10/93 — The U.N. Commission on Human Rights approved a resolution (by a
vote of 27 to 10, with 15 abstentions) calling upon Cuba to permit the
Special Rapporteur to carry out his mandate to investigate the human
rights situation in Cuba and to carry out the recommendations of the
Special Rapporteur to improve the human rights situation.
06/29/93 — The Clinton Administration slightly amended restrictions on U.S. travel
to Cuba, adding to the categories of travel allowed persons seeking to
travel "for clearly defined educational or religious activities" and "for
activities of recognized human rights organizations."
07/01/93 — In Cojimar, Cuban Border guards opened fire on a boat of Cubans
attempting to flee to the United States; three people were killed. The
incident led to protests by several hundred Cubans in Cojimar; the
Cuban military dispersed the protesters.
07/23/93 — The Clinton Administration issued guidelines for improved
telecommunications between Cuba and the United States as provided
for in the Cuban Democracy Act.
07/26/93 — Cuba announced that its citizens would be allowed to own U.S. dollars
and would be allowed to shop at dollar-only shops previously limited
to tourists and diplomats.
07/29/93 — The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence held an open hearing on
the prospects for democracy in Cuba.
08/04/93 — The House Foreign Affairs Committee's Subcommittee on Western
Hemisphere Affairs held a hearing on recent developments in Cuba
policy, including telecommunications and the dollarization of the Cuban
— The Cuban government announced two economic reforms. First,
regulations were issued authorizing self-employment in more than 100
occupations, mostly in the service sector. Second, cooperative farms
were given more autonomy and private citizens were allowed to farm
unused state land to create cooperatives.
— A group of 174 U.S. citizens of the Committee for Freedom to Travel
defied U.S. travel restrictions and traveled to Cuba to protest U.S.
restrictions. While some passports were confiscated when the travelers
returned from Cuba, the Justice Department did not prosecute any of
11/03/93 — The U.N. General Assembly, for the second consecutive year,
approved a resolution (88 in favor, 4 opposed, and 57 abstaining) on
the need for the United States to lift its embargo on Cuba.
11/18/93 — The House Foreign Affairs Committee's Subcommittees on Economic
Policy, Trade, and Environment and Western Hemisphere Affairs and
on International Operations held a joint hearing on U.S. policy and the
future of Cuba. The hearing focused on the Cuban Democracy Act and
U.S. travel to Cuba.
— The U.N. Commission on Human Rights approved a resolution
condemning Cuba's violations of human rights and its failure to
cooperate with the Special Rapporteur. The resolution was approved
by a vote of 24 to 9, with 20 abstentions.
03/17/94 — The House Ways and Means Committee's Subcommittees on Select
Revenue Measures and on Trade held a hearing on H.R. 2229, the Free
Trade with Cuba Act. The hearing featured testimony by Members of
Congress, the Administration, and outside witnesses.
03/24/94 — The House Foreign Affairs Committee's Subcommittee on the Western
Hemisphere held a hearing on H.R. 2578, "The Free and Independent
Cuba Assistance Act of 1993." The hearing featured testimony by
Members of Congress, the Administration, and outside witnesses.
04/22-24/94 Cuba hosted a conference of Cuban exiles entitled "Emigration and the
Nation" that included the participation of some Cuban Americans who
favor a change in U.S. policy toward Cuba. (Subsequently, in late April
a videotape of a conference reception featuring a Cuban American exile
greeting Castro warmly was broadcast on Florida television, and
incensed many in Miami's conservative Cuban American community.)
04/29/94 — According to U.S. officials, the Cuban Border Guard rammed and sank
a private vessel, the "Olympia," which had fled Cuba and was about 25
nautical miles offshore. Three of the 21 Cubans on board drowned,
including two six-year old children.
05/01-02/94 Cuba's National Assembly approved a measure giving the government
broad authority to implement an economic adjustment program.
The Cuban government issued a decree-law providing for the
confiscation of goods and assets obtained through illegal enrichment.
05/19/94 — The House Committee on Agriculture's Subcommittee on Foreign
Agriculture and Hunger held a hearing on the agricultural implications
of renewed trade with Cuba. The hearing featured testimony by
Members of Congress and outside witnesses.
06/23/94 — A group of about 200 U.S. citizens organized by the Committee for
Freedom to Travel arrived in Cuba. The Treasury Department's Office
of Foreign Assets Controls had recently frozen the group's bank
account that was to be used for the trip, but the group managed to
raise alternative funds. (Subsequently, in October 1994, the Treasury
Department released the money after the group submitted statements
that the funds were not controlled by Cuban interests and would not be
used for unlicensed travel to Cuba.)
07/13/94 — According to U.S. officials, approximately 40 Cubans (many of whom
were children) drowned when the tugboat "Trece de Marzo" — stolen
by a group of Cubans attempting to flee Cuba — sank after being
rammed by a Cuban Border guard vessel. President Clinton later
condemned the sinking as "an example of Cuban brutality." The Cuban
government maintained that the tugboat sinking occurred when a
pursuing Cuban vessel collided with the tugboat causing it to sink.
Cuban officials blamed the incident on the United States for an
immigration policy that encouraged Cubans to leave the island illegally.
07/22/94 — The Senate approved an amendment to H.R. 4603 (the FY1995 State
Department appropriations bill) which expressed the sense of the
Senate condemning the sinking of the tugboat by the Cuban
government on July 13.
08/03/94 — Cuba's National Assembly approved a new tax law to take effect in
1995. The measure would initially begin taxing self-employed people,
but would be extended to salary earners when the nation's current
economic crisis was over.
08/05/94 — Castro threatened to unleash an exodus of Cubans if the United States
continued to encourage Cubans to leave illegally. In response, U.S.
officials reiterated statements that the United States would not allow
a replay of the 1980 Mariel boatlift and stated that Castro would not
dictate U.S. immigration policy.
Press reports indicated that several thousand Cubans rioted in a
seafront Havana district and adjacent downtown area after Cuban
security forces attempted to prevent Cubans from hijacking boats to
flee the country; 35 Cubans, including 10 policemen, were reportedly
injured in clashes with police.
08/07/94 — More than a half million Cubans gathered in Havana to show support
for the Cuban government and to pay tribute to a policeman killed in
an attempted ferry hijacking on August 4.
08/15/94 — The Cuban government stopped preventing Cubans from fleeing to the
United States by boat. The change in Cuban policy led to a surge of
migration to the United States, the largest since the Mariel boatlift of
08/19/94 — With escalating numbers of Cubans fleeing to the United States,
President Clinton abruptly changed U.S. migration policy toward
Cubans and announced that, instead of welcoming Cubans fleeing their
island nation, "illegal refugees from Cuba" would not be allowed to
enter the United States. Instead, the Coast Guard was directed to take
refugees rescued at sea to the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo while the
Administration explored the possibility of other "safe haven" nations in
the Caribbean Basin region.
08/20/94 — President Clinton announced four measures against the Cuban
government. First, cash remittances to Cuba would no longer be
permitted. Previously, U.S. citizens could provide up to $300 quarterly
to their relatives in Cuba. Second, charter flights between Havana and
Miami would be restricted to those designed "to accommodate legal
migrants and travel consistent with the purposes of the Cuban
Democracy Act." Restrictions on travel to Cuba were tightened,
prohibiting family visits (except in cases of terminal illness or severe
medical emergency) and requiring professional researchers to apply for
a specific license, whereas in the past they could travel freely under a
general license. Third, the United States would use all appropriate
means to increase and amplify its broadcasts to Cuba. Fourth, the
United States would continue to bring before the U.N. and other
international organizations evidence of human rights abuses in Cuba.
08/22/94 — The first Cuban refugees interdicted at sea were brought to the U.S.
base at Guantanamo.
08/24/94 — Cuban officials announced that Cuba was ready to talk with the United
States about the migration crisis, but indicated that the United States
must be willing to discuss the "true causes" of the exodus, including the
08/25/94 — President Clinton offered a resumption of talks on the issue of
immigration, but stated he had no interest in expanding the talks into
a broad discussion of issues between the two countries.
The Senate Committee on Armed Services held a hearing on the
escalating numbers of Cubans fleeing Cuba for the United States. The
hearing featured testimony by the Department of Defense and the
Department of State.
08/27/94 — The Clinton Administration announced that it would participate in
limited talks with Cuba dealing with "issues related to the promotion
of legal, orderly and safe migration."
09/01/94 — U.S.-Cuban talks on migration issues began in New York.
09/04/94 — Panama agreed to accept up to 10,000 Cubans to be housed on U.S.
military bases for not more than six months.
09/09/94 — The United States and Cuba signed a migration agreement that
stemmed the flow of Cubans fleeing to the United States by boat.
Under the agreement, the United States and Cuba would facilitate safe,
legal, and orderly Cuban migration to the United States, consistent with
a 1984 U.S.-Cuba migration agreement. The United States agreed to
ensure that total legal Cuban migration to the United States would be
a minimum of 20,000 each year, not including immediate relatives of
U.S. citizens. The United States agreed to discontinue the practice of
granting parole to all Cuban migrants who reach the United States
(consistent with the Administration's August 19, 1994 policy change),
while Cuba agreed to take measures to prevent unsafe departures from
09/17/94 — Cuba announced that all farmers would be allowed to sell part of their
produce on the open market.
10/05/94 — The Senate Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on the Constitution
held a hearing on the constitutional right to international travel
featuring testimony by a Member of Congress and outside witnesses.
10/12/94 — The U.S. State Department announced it would hold a visa lottery for
about 6,000 Cubans pursuant to the migration accord of September 9,
10/24-26/94 Cuban and U.S. officials held talks in Havana to review the
implementation of the September 9, 1994 agreement on immigration
issues. Dennis Hays, Director of the State Department's Office of
Cuban Affairs, headed the U.S. delegation, while Ricardo Alarcon,
President of the National Assembly of People's Power, headed the
10/26/94 — For the third consecutive year, the U.N. General Assembly approved
a resolution on the need for the United States to lift its embargo on
Cuba. The vote was 101 to 2, with 48 abstentions. Israel joined the
United States in voting against the resolution.
11/25/94 — Direct dial long distance service between the United States and Cuba
began. Companies offering the telephone services were AT&T, IDB
Worldcom, LDDS Communications, MCI, Sprint, and Wil-Tel.
12/07-08/94 Over 200 U.S. military personnel were injured in riots by more than
1,000 Cuban refugees at U.S. camps in Panama. The Cubans were
protesting their prolonged detention amid continuing uncertainty
regarding their final destination.
01/18-19/95 U.S. and Cuban delegations met in New York for a second round of
talks reviewing the 1994 migration accord. The U.S. delegation,
headed by State Department official Dennis Hays, announced that
20,000 visas would be issued by September.
01/25/95 — The House International Relations Committee's Subcommittee on the
Western Hemisphere held hearings on the sinking of the "March 13th
Tugboat." (See entry for July 13, 1994.)
02/01/95 — Since the agreement to house Cubans on U.S. bases in Panama was
scheduled to expire March 6, 1995, and Panama indicated that it would
not be renewed, the Department of Defense began to transfer the
Cubans in Panama back to Guantanamo. The transfer, dubbed
"Operation Safe Passage," was completed by late February 1995.
02/09/95 — Senator Jesse Helms introduced S. 381, the Cuban Liberty and
Democratic Solidarity (Libertad) Act, a comprehensive initiative
designed to: strengthen international sanctions against the Castro
government in Cuba; develop a plan to support a transition government
leading to a democratically elected government in Cuba; and protect
American property rights abroad.
02/14/95 — In the House, Representative Dan Burton introduced, H.R. 927, the
House version of the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity
02/23/95 — The House International Relations Committee's Subcommittee on the
Western Hemisphere held a hearing on Cuba and U.S. policy.
03/07/95 — The U.N. Commission on Human Rights approved a resolution (by a
vote of 23 to 8 with 23 abstentions) calling upon Cuba to end all
violations of human rights, including permitting freedom of peaceful
expression and assembly and ending immediately the detention and
imprisonment of human rights defenders. The resolution also extended
the mandate of the U.N. Special Rapporteur for one year and called
upon Cuba to permit the Special Rapporteur the opportunity to carry
out his mandate in full by allowing him to visit Cuba.
03/16/95 — The House International Relations Committee's Subcommittee on the
Western Hemisphere held a hearing on the Cuban Liberty and
Democratic Solidarity Act and on the U.S. embargo on Cuba, featuring
testimony by Members of Congress, the Administration, and outside
03/22/95 — The House International Relations Committee's Subcommittee on the
Western Hemisphere marked up H.R. 927, the Cuban Liberty and
Democratic Solidarity Act and reported the bill to the full committee.
03/25/95 — Cuba signed the Tlatelolco Treaty, a Latin American regional nuclear
04/17-18/95 U.S. and Cuban delegations, headed by State Department official
Dennis Hays and Cuban official Ricardo Alarcon, met in New York for
a third round of talks reviewing the September 1994 migration
agreement. Hays noted that the September 1994 agreement was
working and that both sides expressed commitment to maintain it.
04/21/95 — Cuban dissident and human rights activist Francisco Chaviano was
sentenced to 15 years in prison for falsifying documents to help people
obtain visas to the United States. In an April 24, 1995, statement, the
U.S. State Department called on the Cuban Government either to
dismiss the charges against Mr. Chaviano and release him, or to present
the charges in open court in accordance with internationally recognized
standards of jurisprudence. These included representation by a lawyer
of his own choosing, access to the evidence against him, and the
capability to present exculpatory evidence and witnesses in his own
04/27/95 — Canada and Mexico agreed to work together to oppose the passage of
U.S. legislation to impose sanctions on countries that trade with Cuba.
05/02/95 — The United States and Cuba reached a new migration accord that
would build upon the September 1994 U.S.-Cuban migration
agreement. Under the new accord (which was negotiated outside of
the regular rounds of talks reviewing the September accord), the
United States would parole those Cubans housed at Guantanamo into
the United States, but would intercept future Cuban migrants
attempting to enter the United States by sea and would return them to
Cuba. Cuba and the United States would cooperate jointly in the
effort, and according to the Administration, "migrants taken to Cuba
will be informed by United States officials about procedures to apply
for legal admission to the United States at the U.S. Interests Section in
Havana." Both countries also pledged to ensure that no action would
be taken against those migrants returned to Cuba as a consequence of
their attempt to emigrate illegally.
05/18/95 — The House International Relations Committee's Subcommittee on the
Western Hemisphere held a hearing on the Clinton Administration's
change in U.S. immigration policy toward Cuba.
05/22/95 — The Senate Foreign Relations Committee's Subcommittee on Western
Hemisphere and Peace Corps Affairs held a hearing on the Cuban
Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act that featured testimony by
Members of Congress and the Administration.
05/23/95 — A French human rights group, France-Libertés (which visited Cuba
between April 28 and May 5, 1995, interviewing political prisoners
held in eight prisons) announced that Cuba would release six political
prisoners, including two prominent dissidents, Sebastián Arcos Bergnes
and Yndamiro Restano, both sentenced in 1992.
05/25/95 — Pastor Orson Vila Santoyo, a Pentecostal minister in Camagüey
province who refused to refrain from holding religious services in his
home, was arrested, charged with "illicit association," and tried and
sentenced on the same day. Human Rights Watch Americas also noted
that scores of "casas culto," or evangelical meeting places operating
out of homes, were closed by Cuban authorities in late May 1995,
indicating that the Cuban government was worried by the increasing
popularity of evangelical Christianity. (see entry of April 22, 1996 for
06/07/95 — A Cuban nuclear energy official, Miguel Serradet Acosta, stated that
an international team was expected to recommend that construction be
renewed on the Juragua nuclear plant.
06/08/95 — U.S. officials stated that Cuban authorities arrested Robert Vesco, a
U.S. fugitive who fled the United States more than 20 years ago to
escape fraud charges.
06/13/95 — The Cuban government added 19 new job categories to the list of some
130 self-employment occupations that have been legalized since
06/14/95 — The Cuban government legalized the operation of private food
catering, including the operation of home restaurants or paladares that
already had sprung up in cities across Cuba. The new regulations
reportedly include large monthly licensing fees that could force some
operations out of business.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee's Subcommittee on Western
Hemisphere and Peace Corps Affairs held a second hearing on the
Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act that featured testimony
by Members of Congress and outside witnesses.
06/30/95 — The House Committee on Ways and Means' Subcommittee on Trade
held a hearing on "The Economic Relationship between the United
States and Cuba after Castro."
07/09/95 — Cuba held elections for over 14,000 seats in 169 municipal assemblies.
About 97% of eligible voters participated, although estimates of
opposition (as demonstrated by abstention and blank or spoiled ballots)
ranged from 14% by the Cuban government to 25% by opposition
sources. While there were generally two candidates for each assembly
position, the candidates did not include any known opponents of the
07/11/95 — Twenty-five Members of Congress asked Secretary of State
Christopher to deny a visa to Fidel Castro, who reportedly planned to
attend ceremonies in New York for the 50th anniversary of the U.N.
The House International Relations Committee approved, by a vote of
28-9, H.R. 927, its version of the Cuban Liberty and Democratic
07/13/95 — According to press reports, a Cuban Border Guard vessel rammed at
least one boat in a flotilla of boats carrying Cuban Americans
attempting to enter Cuban territorial waters to protest the Cuban
government's sinking of a tugboat on July 13, 1994. In addition to the
boats, six small aircraft entered Cuban airspace. The Cuban
government condemned the incursion, and maintained that it did not
ram the boat, but simply maneuvered to keep it from entering Cuban
waters. The U.S. State Department noted that the United States
deeply regretted the incident, although it did reiterate that when
Americans enter the airspace or territorial waters of another country,
they are subject to the rules and laws of that country.
07/17-18/95 U.S. and Cuban officials held a fourth round of talks in Havana
reviewing implementation of the U.S.-Cuban migration agreements.
08/01/95 — The House International Relations Committee's Subcommittee on the
Western Hemisphere held a hearing on the yet to be finished Juragua
nuclear plant near Cienfuegos in Cuba.
09/02/95 — One small boat sank (with one rescued man dying from a heart attack)
and two dozen others were forced back by rough seas as a flotilla of
Cuban Americans attempted to sail to Cuba's territorial waters to
protest Castro's rule.
09/05/95 — Cuba's National Assembly of Peoples Power approved a new foreign
investment law which allows fully owned investments in Cuba by
foreigners in all sectors of the economy, with the exception of defense,
health, and education. The new law allows Cubans living abroad to
invest in Cuba, although this provision had been criticized during
debate because it discriminates against Cubans living in Cuba who
09/09/95 — Cuba announced that its citizens would be able to open savings
accounts in hard currency or Cuban convertible currency at the
National Bank of Cuba and the Popular Savings Bank.
09/21/95 — The House approved H.R. 927, its version of the Cuban Liberty and
Democratic Solidarity Act, by a vote of 294 to 130. As approved by
the House, some of the bill's sanctions were softened. The bill retained
a number of provisions designed to increase pressure on Cuba,
including a property rights provision allowing U.S. nationals to sue in
U.S. federal court anyone who traffics in property confiscated in Cuba.
10/06/95 — President Clinton announced measures to ease some U.S. restrictions
on travel and other activities with Cuba, with the overall objective of
promoting democracy and the free flow of ideas. The new measures
included: authorizing U.S. news media to open news bureaus in Cuba;
licensing U.S. nongovernmental organizations to provide assistance to
Cuban nongovernmental organizations; and authorizing general licenses
for transactions relating to travel to Cuba for Cuban Americans to visit
close relatives once a year in humanitarian cases. At the same time, the
President stated that his Administration would tighten the enforcement
of the embargo to sustain pressure for reform.
10/18/95 — The State Department announced that it would grant Castro a visa to
attend the United Nations 50th anniversary celebration. The visa was
granted in accordance with rules governing the U.S. role as host of the
U.N. headquarters in New York.
10/19/95 — The Senate approved its version of H.R. 927, the Cuban Liberty and
Democratic Solidarity Act, by a vote of 74-24. After two unsuccessful
attempts to invoke cloture on the measure (on October 12 and October
18), Senator Helms agreed to delete Title III of the bill, the property
rights provision that would allow U.S. nationals to sue in U.S. federal
court those persons who traffic in property confiscated in Cuba. The
agreement to drop Title III led to a unanimous vote to invoke cloture,
and led to Senate approval of H.R. 927.
10/21/95 — Cuba authorized the establishment of currency exchange houses, which
began buying dollars at a rate of 25 pesos to one dollar.
10/21-25/95 President Castro arrived on a five-day visit to New York to participate
in the U.N.'s 50th anniversary activities. He addressed the United
Nations General Assembly on October 22, and, in a reference to the
U.S. embargo of Cuba, condemned "ruthless blockades that cause the
death of men, women and children, youths and elders, like noiseless
atom bombs." Among his other activities, Castro also was warmly
welcomed at the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem where he
addressed a crowd of supporters and met with journalists, media
executives, and business leaders.
10/23/95 — The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) noted
that Cuban government surveillance and harassment had increased
against three independent journalist groups (The Bureau of
Independent Press in Cuba; Habana Press; and Cuba Press) as the
groups have gained importance abroad.
11/02/95 — The U.N. General Assembly, for the fourth consecutive year, approved
a resolution on the need of the United States to lift its embargo on
Cuba. The resolution was approved by a vote of 117 to 3, with 38
abstentions. Israel and Uzbekistan joined with the United States in
opposing the resolution.
The Cuban government held a second conference on Cuba and
emigration with the participation of Cuban exiles, including Cuban
11/27/95 — A new umbrella dissident organization of about 100 groups known as
the Concilio Cubano (formed in October 1995) issued an official
declaration of four goals: 1) to work toward an absolutely peaceful
transition toward a democratic, law-abiding state that has no place for
violence, hatred or revenge; 2) unconditional amnesty for political
prisoners; 3) changes in the judicial system to guarantee respect for
human rights; and 4) the participation of all Cubans, without exclusion,
in the peaceful transition.
11/27-28/95 Cuban and U.S. officials met in New York for a fifth round of talks to
review the implementation of the bilateral migration accords.
01/01/96 — Cuba began implementation of an income tax on hard currency income,
with tax rates ranging from 10 to 50 percent.
01/14/96 — Four independent Cuban journalists were detained and questioned by
Cuban authorities after a Miami-based exile group flew over Havana
and dropped leaflets on January 13, 1996, calling on Cubans to
exercise their political rights and engage in peaceful civil resistance.
The detentions were denounced by the Inter-American Press
Association and a French press rights group known as Reporters
01/31/96 — The U.S. Department of Defense announced that the last of some
32,000 Cubans intercepted at sea and housed at Guantanamo had left
the U.S. Naval Base.
02/10/96 — The Cuban government released three political prisoners after
Representative Bill Richardson secured their release after a meeting
with President Castro a day earlier. The United States welcomed the
release of the prisoners and called on Cuba to release all political
02/15/96 — The Cuban government began a crackdown on members of the
Concilio Cubano, an umbrella dissident organization that had applied
for permission to hold a national meeting on February 24, 1996 (see
November 27, 1995 entry on the Concilio). The crackdown included
arrests (with two members sentenced to long prison terms),
harassment, and intimidation. The U.S. Department of State criticized
the crackdown on the Concilio Cubano on February 21 and noted in
a statement that "this wave of repression dramatically demonstrates the
Castro regime's unwillingness to engage in a process of political reform
and its determination to maintain absolute control over Cuban society."
02/24/96 — Cuban Mig-29 fighter jets shot down two U.S. private airplanes,
Cessna 337s, in the Florida Straits flown by members of the Cuban
American group, Brothers to the Rescue. Four crew members were
killed in the attack. U.S. officials asserted the incident occurred over
international waters. U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher
called the attack on civilian planes a blatant violation of international
law. President Clinton immediately condemned the Cuban action and
ordered F-16 fighter jets to the site of the shooting to protect Coast
Guard rescue teams searching for survivors.
02/25/96 — Cuban officials reported that the two U.S. planes were shot down
inside Cuban airspace, between 5 and 8 miles off the Cuban coast.
They asserted that the pilots flying the planes had been warned by air
controllers of the risk they were putting themselves in, and were
justifiably shot down.
02/26/96 — President Clinton condemned the downing of the two U.S. aircraft as
a "flagrant violation of international law." He announced that the
United States was pressing the Security Council to impose sanctions
against Cuba until it respected civilian aircraft and compensated the
families of the victims. In addition, the President announced the
following unilateral measures: he asked Congress to pass legislation
permitting immediate compensation for victims' families from blocked
Cuban accounts in this country; he pledged to work with Congress to
secure passage of the Helms-Burton bill (H.R. 927, the Cuban Liberty
and Democratic Solidarity Act); he promised to expand Radio Marti
broadcasting; he imposed additional travel restrictions on Cuban
diplomats in the United States and limited visits by Cuban officials; and
he suspended all charter flights to Cuba indefinitely. The President also
stated that he would not rule out any additional steps in the future if
In Cuba, Ricardo Alarcon, the President of Cuba's legislative body,
blamed the United States for the shooting incident, asserting that the
United States allowed Cuban exile groups to run rampant. Cuban state
television broadcast an interview with a former Brothers to the Rescue
pilot, Juan Pablo Roque, who maintained that the group planned to
smuggle arms into Cuba to assassinate Cuban leaders. Roque, who
mysteriously returned to Cuba before the downing of the Cessnas, was
a former Cuban air force Mig fighter pilot who defected from Cuba in
1992. Roque denied accusations that he was a Cuban agent who
infiltrated the Brothers to the Rescue and asserted that he returned to
Cuba because he was disillusioned with people who claim they love
Cuba, but then try to attack it. (On February 28, the Federal Bureau of
Investigation stated that Roque worked as an informant for over 2
years obtaining information about Cuban American groups that might
be violating U.S. law in their activities against Cuba.)
02/27/96 — The U.N. Security Council approved a statement strongly deploring
Cuba's actions in shooting down the U.S. civilian airplanes. The
statement noted that international law requires that states must refrain
from the use of weapons against civil aircraft in flight and must not
endanger the lives of persons on board and the safety of aircraft. It
also requested the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to
investigate the incident and reports its findings to the Security Council
as soon as possible. Cuba opposed the Security Council's action and
Cuban Foreign Minister Robert Robaina claimed that the Security
Council action was taken before he was able to arrive in New York to
speak to the Security Council.
The Clinton Administration provided transcripts of radio conversations
in which the Cuban Mig pilots joked while firing at the two Cessnas.
02/28/96 — A House-Senate conference committee approved H.R. 927, the Cuban
Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act, after reaching a compromise
with the Clinton Administration on a property rights provision in the
bill. The provision would provide a right of action for U.S. citizens to
file suit in U.S. federal courts against those involved in the "trafficking"
of expropriated property in Cuba. The conference accepted a change
that would allow the President to delay implementation of the provision
for six month periods on the grounds of national interest and expediting
a transition to democracy in Cuba. The Administration also conceded
ground on two provisions, one that would make mandatory a ban on
entry to the United States of aliens involved in the trafficking of
expropriated U.S. property abroad, and a second that would codify the
existing economic embargo of Cuba, including the Treasury
Department's Cuban Assets Control Regulations (under part 515 of
title 31, Code of Federal Regulations). No presidential waiver would
be provided for any codified embargo provision.
Cuban Foreign Minister Robert Robaina again stated that Cuba was
justified in shooting down the two U.S. civilian planes. Instead of
presenting its side to the U.N. Security Council, Robaina stated that
Cuba would confer with representatives of the 110-nation Non-Aligned
Movement about the possibility of calling a special meeting of the U.N.
General Assembly to hear Cuba's side of the dispute.
02/29/96 — The Clinton Administration announced that the President would issue
orders making clear that the unauthorized entry by U.S. aircraft and
vessels into Cuban territory is prohibited and that firm legal action will
face those who violate this prohibition. The President also approved
a strong warning to the Cuban government not to violate basic norms
of international conduct, and that the United States will not tolerate the
loss of American lives. The President took these actions in light of a
planned ceremony by Cuban Americans on March 2, 1996,
commemorating the four civilians killed near the site where the two
planes were shot down. The Cuban government stated that it would
take whatever measures necessary to prevent a violation of its territory,
but a Cuban spokesman noted that there should be no problems if the
participants remain in international waters.
In testimony before the House International Relations Committee,
State Department official Peter Tarnoff stated that the two Cessnas
were shot down when they were 5 and 16 nautical miles respectively
beyond Cuba's 12-mile territorial waters.
03/01/96 — President Clinton declared a national emergency and authorized and
directed the Secretary of Transportation to issue rules and regulations
to prevent unauthorized U.S. vessels from entering Cuban territorial
The conference report (House Report 104-368) to H.R. 927, the
Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act, was filed in the House.
03/02/96 — Escorted by the U.S. Coast Guard, a Cuban-American flotilla
attempted to sail to the place where the four civilian airmen were shot
down by Cuban fighters. Because of rough seas, a brief memorial
service was held 26 miles from where it had originally been scheduled.
In the evening, a memorial service was held for the downed pilots in
the Orange Bowl in Miami. An estimated 50,000 were in attendance.
03/05/6 — The Senate approved the conference report to H.R. 927, the Cuban
Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act (Helms-Burton), by a 74-22
The European Union condemned the Helms-Burton bill. "We condemn
in the strongest possible terms specific provisions of the bill which run
the risk of putting non-American companies investing in Cuba on the
wrong side of American justice," a European Commission spokesman
The governments of Canada and the 14-member Caribbean Community
(CARICOM) expressed their objection to the Senate approval of the
Helms-Burton bill in a joint statement which expressed their "strongest
objection to the extraterritorial provisions" that were "inconsistent
The House International Relations Committee’s Subcommittee on the
Western Hemisphere held a hearing on the enforcement of penalties
against violations of the U.S. embargo on Cuba.
03/06/96 — The House approved the conference report to H.R. 927, the Cuban
Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act, by a vote of 336-86.
The Mexican Foreign Ministry issued a statement condemning the
Helms-Burton bill. The Ministry promised to challenge several
provisions of the bill under the North American Free Trade Agreement
In speaking before the U.N. General Assembly, Cuban Foreign Minister
Roberto Robaina claimed that the February 24th incident was the direct
result of the failure of the United States to control the repeated
violations of Cuban airspace by Brothers to the Rescue, which he called
a "terrorist" organization. U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., Madeleine
Albright, replied that Cuba, in its diplomatic exchanges with the United
States, had never alleged that Brothers to the Rescue was a terrorist
organization or that it had planned terrorist violence. She stated that
Cuba violated international law by using weapons against civilian
aircraft, and that the United States could not allow the Cuban
government to "transfer blame" to the victims.
In Montreal, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)
unanimously adopted a resolution "strongly deploring" the February
24th incident and ordered an investigation to be completed within 60
days. Earlier in the day, Ricardo Alarcon, President of the Cuban
National Assembly and delegate to the ICAO meeting, stated that Cuba
could suspend the access of U.S. airlines to Cuban airspace in response
to what is seen as "repeated violations of Cuban territory and
03/08/96 — The 14-member Rio Group of Latin American nations condemned the
Helms-Burton bill. According to an Argentine Foreign Ministry
statement, the Rio Group expressed their most "energetic rejection
towards the approval of this legislation that violates the principles and
norms of international law."
03/12/96 — President Clinton signed H.R. 927, the Cuban Liberty and Democratic
Solidarity Act, into law (P.L. 104-114).
03/23/96 — The Cuban Communist Party's Central Committee approved a report
presented by Army head Raul Castro that signaled an ideological
crackdown on reformers in Cuba. The report warned against "socalled nongovernmental organizations" in Cuba that serve as "a Trojan
horse to foment division and subversion." The report singled out
Cuba's Center for the Study of the Americas for criticism.
04/22/96 — The European Union issued a statement in which they expressed "deep
concern" over the effects that the Helms-Burton legislation could have
on transatlantic trade. The EU stated that the law "...is contrary to
international law and to the interest of the EU concerning trade and
Amnesty International reported that Pentecostal minister Orson Vila
Santoyo was conditionally released from prison (see entry of May 25,
1995 for Santoyo's arrest).
04/23/96 — The U.N. Commission on Human Rights approved a resolution (by a
vote of 20 to 5, with 28 abstentions) calling on Cuba to bring its
observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms into conformity
with international law, and to end all violations of human rights. The
resolution, which deplored the detention and harassment of members
of Concilio Cubano, again called on Cuba to permit the Special
Rapporteur to visit Cuba.
05/05/96 — The EU requested formal talks with the United States over the HelmsBurton law, on the grounds that the law could possibly violate world
05/28/96 — The Rio Group of Latin American and Caribbean countries formed a
special commission to analyze the Helms-Burton Act.
In implementing Title IV of the Cuban Liberty and Democratic
Solidarity Act (P.L. 104-114), the State Department began sending out
advisory letters to foreign companies thought to be trafficking in U.S.
properties confiscated in Cuba. Three companies received letters:
Sherritt International, a Canadian mining company; Grupos Domos, a
Mexican telecommunications company; and STET, an Italian
telecommunications company. The letters advised the companies that
they may fall under the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act's
provision that denies U.S. visas to those aliens involved in the
trafficking of U.S. properties confiscated in Cuba. (Ultimately, visa
sanctions were imposed on several executives from Sherritt and
Grupos Domos, but the sanctions on Grupos Domos’ executives were
withdrawn in 1997 when the company disinvested from U.S.-claimed
property in Cuba. Action against STET was averted by a July 1997
agreement in which the company agreed to pay the U.S.-based ITT
Corporation $25 million for the use of ITT-claimed property in Cuba
for ten years.)
06/04/96 — The OAS adopted a resolution denouncing the Helms-Burton
legislation on Cuba, and ordered the Inter-American Juridical
Committee to examine the legislation and to reach a conclusion as to
whether it is valid under international law. The resolution criticized the
law for "extra-territorial effects that damage other countries'
sovereignty...and affect freedom of trade and investment."
06/06/96 — Cuba's Foreign Investment Minister announced that the government
planned to create free trade zones and industrial parks on the island in
order to encourage foreign investment.
06/14/96 — The State Department issued guidelines to enforce Title IV of the
Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act dealing with the denial
of visas to aliens trafficking in U.S. property confiscated by the Cuban
government. The guidelines stipulated that the admission sanction
would not apply to persons solely having business dealings with those
excludable under the title's provisions.
06/27/96 — The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) released its
report on the investigation into the February 1996 downing of the two
civilian planes which concluded that the two Cessnas had been flying
in international waters. The ICAO's Council also adopted a resolution
condemning "the use of weapons against civil aircraft as being
incompatible with the elementary considerations of humanity and the
rules of international law."
The House International Relations Committee’s Subcommittees on
International Operations and Human Rights and on the Western
Hemisphere held a hearing on the human rights situation in Cuba.
07/07/96 — Cuban military officer, Lt. Colonel Jose Fernandez Pupo hijacked a
commercial flight originating in Santiago de Cuba, and forced the plane
to land at the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where he
requested political asylum. President of the Cuban National Assembly,
Ricardo Alarcon, called for the hijacker to be returned to Cuba, citing
U.N. international hijacking agreements and the May 1995 U.S.-Cuba
07/11/96 — The House International Relations Committee’s Subcommittee on the
Western Hemisphere held a hearing on the implementation of the
07/16/96 — Acting under provisions of the Cuban Liberty and Democratic
Solidarity Act (P.L. 104-114), President Clinton announced that he
would allow Title III of the law to go into force on August 1, 1996, but
at the same time he announced that he was suspending for a six-month
period (until February 1, 1997) the right of individuals to file suit
against those persons trafficking in U.S. property confiscated in Cuba.
07/26/96 — In a follow-up to the ICAO's June 27 report on Cuba's downing of two
civilian aircraft, the U.N. Security Council adopted a resolution (with
13 votes and two abstentions) condemning Cuba's action and
reaffirming the principle that shooting down civilian planes violates
07/30/96 — The Senate Foreign Relations Committee's Subcommittee on Western
Hemisphere and Peace Corps Affairs held a hearing on the
implementation of the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act
and its consistency with international law.
08/16/96 — President Clinton announced that he had appointed Stuart Eizenstat,
Department of Commerce Undersecretary for International Trade, as
a special envoy to engage U.S. allies over the next six months on
concrete measures to advance democracy in Cuba. The action was
taken in order to comply with the provision of the Cuban Liberty and
Democratic Solidarity Act, which allows the President to suspend the
right of individuals to file lawsuits (under Title III of the law) if the
suspension will expedite a transition to democracy in Cuba.
A plane hijacked by three Cuban men outside of Havana crashed into
the Gulf of Mexico, 30 miles off the southwest Florida coast. The
three Cubans requested political asylum while the pilot requested to
return to Cuba.
08/19/96 — The State Department announced in a written statement that in the
previous week Cuba had revoked the visa of U.S. diplomat Robin
Meyer, who was the human rights officer for the U.S. Interests Section
in Havana. Meyer had close contacts with Cuban dissidents and human
rights activists, and Cuba accused her of giving advice and support to
the Cuban dissidents, including the distribution of anti-government
literature. In response to Cuba's action, the Clinton Administration
expelled a Cuban diplomat in Washington, Jose Luis Ponce.
08/27/96 — U.S. fugitive Robert Vesco was sentenced in Cuba to 13 years in
prison for economic crimes involving a scheme to market a drug
alleged to be effective against cancer and AIDS. His Cuban wife was
sentenced to nine years in prison.
08/28/96 — The Inter-American Juridical Committee of the OAS concluded that
the Helms-Burton legislation on Cuba was not in conformity with
09/02/96 — The State Department submitted a report to Congress on the
"Settlement of Outstanding United States Claims to Confiscated
Property in Cuba," required by section 207 of the Cuban Liberty and
Democratic Solidarity Act (P.L. 104-114). The report estimated that
in addition to the 5,911 claims against the Cuban government certified
by the Foreign Claims Settlement Commission (and valued currently at
approximately $6 billion), there could be an additional 75,000 to
200,000 claims by Cuban Americans generated under the Cuban
Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act, with value estimates of tens of
billions of dollars.
09/18/96 — The House International Relations Committee’s Subcommittee on the
Western Hemisphere held a hearing on the February 1996 shootdown
of two U.S. civilian planes by Cuba.
09/30/96 — The FY1997 Omnibus Appropriations Act, P.L. 104-208, was signed
into law. It included a provision that would repeal the 1966 Cuban
Adjustment Act upon determination by the President that a
democratically elected government was in power in Cuba (see 1966
10/01/96 — Mexico's Congress approved legislation to block the effect of the
Helms-Burton legislation on Mexican companies.
10/16/96 — The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights issued its final
report on Cuba's July 13, 1994 sinking of the "13th of March" tugboat.
The report concluded that Cuba violated the American Declaration on
the Rights and Duties of Man, and that Cuba was legally obligated to
indemnify the survivors and the relatives of the 41 individuals who
10/17-18/96 Hurricane Lili struck Cuba, destroying thousands of homes and
damaging agricultural crops. Subsequently, disaster assistance poured
in from other countries, including the United States, with Catholic
Relief Services flying two planeload of supplies to Cuba. These were
the first direct U.S.-Cuba flights since President Clinton suspended
direct flights in the aftermath of Cuba's shootdown of two U.S. planes
in February 1996.
10/28/96 — The EU approved legislation to retaliate against the Helms-Burton
legislation on Cuba and against another U.S. law sanctioning U.S.
companies for investing in Iran and Libya.
11/07/96 — Cuba announced that it had approved the establishment of a Cable
News Network (CNN) bureau in Havana, which would be the first
U.S. news bureau there in over 30 years. The Clinton Administration
stated that it would study the request to see if it conforms to U.S.
regulations regarding contact with Cuba.
The Canadian Senate approved legislation blocking judgments from the
Helms-Burton legislation on Cuba from being recognized in Canada.
The legislation also permits Canadians to recover in Canadian courts
any amounts awarded under the Helms-Burton legislation.
11/11/96 — At the sixth annual Ibero-American summit, the leaders of Latin
America, Spain, and Portugal issued a statement criticizing the HelmsBurton legislation on Cuba which they said "ignores the fundamental
principle of respect for the sovereignty of states." In the same
statement, the leaders asserted that "Freedom of expression,
association and assembly, full access to information, and free, periodic
and transparent elections are essential elements of democracy." Fidel
Castro signed the statement, although there had been much speculation
that he would not.
11/12/96 — The U.N. General Assembly for the fifth consecutive year approved a
resolution criticizing the U.S. embargo of Cuba. The resolution was
approved by the largest margin so far, 138 to 3, with 28 abstentions.
11/19/96 — Fidel Castro met with Pope John Paul II in Rome. The Pope accepted
an invitation to visit Cuba at a later date.
11/20/96 — European Union members agreed to create a dispute settlement panel
in the World Trade Organization to examine the third country
provisions of the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act.
12/02/96 — The European Union adopted a resolution setting forth a common
policy on Cuba. The resolution stated that the objective of EU
relations with Cuba "is to encourage a process of transition to pluralist
democracy and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, as
well as sustainable recovery and improvement in the living standards of
the Cuban people." It also stipulated that full EU economic
cooperation with Cuba "will depend upon improvements in human
rights and political freedom."
12/04-06/96 In Havana, the United States and Cuba held a sixth round of migration
talks to review the implementation of the bilateral migration accords.
John Hamilton, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American
Affairs, led the U.S. delegation, while Cuban National Assembly
President Ricardo Alarcon headed the Cuban delegation.
12/06/96 — In the aftermath of the U.S.-Cuban migration talks, some confusion
occurred when press reports indicated that the United States would
return to Cuba those Cubans who manage to arrive illegally in the
United States. In response, a State Department spokesmen issued the
following statement on Dec. 6, 1996: "Any Cuban who is determined
to be a refugee or found to have a valid claim to asylum in the United
States will not be returned to Cuba. The United States Government is
not contemplating repatriation of individuals who are already
established within our borders."
12/12/96 — The U.S. Attorney's Office in Miami announced that the Cuban
government handed over to U.S. authorities more than six tons of
cocaine seized from a Colombian freighter that drifted into Cuban
waters in October.
12/14/96 — In an EU summit meeting in Dublin, the EU maintained that it would
lend its support to progress towards democracy in Cuba, including the
possible negotiation of an economic cooperation agreement. The EU
noted, however, that any cooperation agreement would contain a
suspension clause in the event of a serious broach in human rights in
12/24/96 — In implementing Title IV of the Cuban Liberty and Democratic
Solidarity Act (P.L. 104-114), the State Department sent out advisory
letters to an Israeli agricultural company, B.M. Group, and a
Panamanian company, Motors Internationale, warning that the
companies were thought to be dealing in U.S. properties confiscated
in Cuba. Under that title, executives or major shareholders of foreign
companies trafficking in U.S. property confiscated in Cuba may be
denied admission to the United States. (Visa sanctions were ultimately
imposed on executives from B.M. Group, but not from Motors
Cuba's National Assembly of People's Power approved a law on the
"Reaffirmation of Cuban Dignity and Sovereignty" which, among other
provisions, declared the Helms-Burton bill "illegal, inapplicable and
without value or legal merit"; excluded any U.S. person or corporation
that attempts to utilize the provisions of the Helms-Burton legislation
from any possible future negotiations with Cuba on compensation for
nationalized properties; and declared unlawful "any form of
collaboration, direct or indirect, which favors the application" of the
Helms-Burton legislation. The law also offered Cuban government
support to foreign companies that want to hide their investments in
Cuba to avoid potential U.S. sanctions.
01/03/97 — President Clinton ordered a second six-month suspension of Title III
of the Helms-Burton legislation, which would have allowed lawsuits
against those persons trafficking in U.S. property confiscated in Cuba
(see July 16, 1996 entry).
01/27/97 — Pursuant to Title II of the Helms-Burton legislation, President Clinton
issued a report on what assistance the United States and the
international community would provide to Cuba once it begins the
transition to democracy.
01/29/97 — The European Union announced it would move ahead with its
complaint against the United States in the World Trade Organization
over the Helms-Burton legislation.
02/12/97 — The Clinton Administration announced that CNN and nine other U.S.
news organizations could operate in Cuba. The Cuban government
subsequently approved CNN and in March 1997 it became the first
U.S. news organization to open an office in Cuba since 1969.
02/20/97 — The WTO appointed a dispute settlement panel for the European
Union’s challenge to the Helms-Burton legislation.
04/11/97 — The United States and the European Union reached an understanding
over their dispute regarding the Helms-Burton legislation. The Clinton
Administration agreed to consult with Congress about an agreement
that would allow the President to waive Title IV of the legislation
regarding visa restrictions and to continue to suspend Title III lawsuits
as long as the EU continued stepped up efforts to promote democracy
in Cuba. The EU agreed to suspend its WTO dispute settlement case
and to work with the United States to develop an agreement on
disciplines for strengthening investment protection related to property
confiscated by Cuba and other governments.
04/12/97 — A bomb exploded at the Melia Cohiba Hotel in Havana. An
unexploded bomb was discovered a few days later in a planter at the
04/16/97 — The U.N. Commission on Human Rights, by a vote of 19 to 10 with 24
abstentions, approved a resolution that regretted profoundly Cuba’s
violations of basic human rights and fundamental freedoms and urged
Cuba to ensure freedom of expression and assembly and the freedom
to demonstrate peacefully.
04/21/97 — The EU notified the WTO that it was suspending its request for a
dispute settlement panel over the extraterritorial reach of the HelmsBurton legislation.
04/30/97 — A report issued by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights,
an agency of the Organization of American States, denounced the
Cuban government for its systematic trampling of civil rights and
political freedom, the killing of civilians, the subhuman conditions of its
prisons, and for maintaining a legal system that perpetuates the
violation of human rights.
— The Cuban government enacted legislation to reform the banking
system and establish a new Central Bank to operate as an autonomous
07/10/97 — Cuba said it will complete construction of the Juragua nuclear power
plant. Construction began in 1982, but was halted in 1992 due to the
collapse of the Soviet Union and the termination of its support for
Cuba. The Department of State reiterated U.S. concerns about the
quality of the plant’s construction and about Cuba’s ability to operate
07/12/97 — Bombs exploded at the Nacional and Capri hotels in Havana. The
blasts prompted the Cuban government to take new security measures,
including the cancellation of a U.S. tour by Cuba’s national baseball
07/16/97 — President Clinton announced the third consecutive six-month
suspension of Title III of the Helms-Burton Legislation (see July 16,
Cuba’s state security arrested and imprisoned the four leaders of the
“Dissident Working Group” — Vladimiro Roca, Felix Bonne, Rene
Gomez Manzano, and Marta Beatriz Roque — after they wrote “The
Homeland Belongs to Us All,” a political and economic critique of the
Fifth Communist Party Congress’ draft platform.
08/04/97 — A second bomb exploded in the lobby of the Melia Cohiba Hotel in
08/22/97 — A bomb explosion occurred at the Sol Palmeras hotel in Varadero.
09/04/97 — Four bombs exploded in three of Havana’s seaside hotels and in a
famed restaurant in Old Havana. An Italian businessman was killed in
one of the explosions. Cuban officials arrested a Salvadoran, Raul
Ernesto Cruz Leon, who admitted responsibility for the bombing
campaign in Havana.
The Cuban Communist Party (PCC) held its 5th Congress (the last one
was held in 1991) in which the party reaffirmed its commitment to a
single party state and reelected Fidel and Raul Castro as the party’s
first and second secretaries. At the close of the Congress, Fidel
endorsed brother Raul as his successor.
11/05/97 — The U.N. General Assembly, for the sixth consecutive year, approved
a resolution criticizing the U.S. embargo on Cuba. The resolution was
approved by a vote of 143 to 3 (U.S., Israel, and Uzbekistan), with 17
11/13/97 — The families of three of the four men killed in the shooting down of the
Brothers to the Rescue planes brought suit in Miami federal court
under a new U.S. law that allows survivors of U.S. victims of terrorism
to sue nations the United States classifies as terrorist states.
11/18/97 — President Clinton signed the FY1998 defense authorization bill into
law, P.L. 105-85. Section 1228 calls for the Secretary of Defense to
carry out, by March 31, 1998, a comprehensive review and assessment
of Cuban military capabilities and the threats to U.S. national security
posed by Cuba, and an assessment of the contingency plans developed
by the Secretary to counter any threat posed by Cuba to the United
11/19/97 — President Clinton signed the FY1998 District of Columbia
appropriations bill into law, P.L. 105-100. Title II, section 202 enables
Nicaraguans and Cubans physically present in the United States to
adjust to permanent resident status. The measure will affect around
5,000 Cubans in the United States not eligible under the Cuban
12/17/97 — A federal judge ordered Cuba to pay $187.6 million in punitive and
compensatory damages to the families of three Americans killed when
Cuban military jets shot down two civilian planes in international air
space in February 1996.
01/11/98 — Cuba held elections for the 601-seat National Assembly of People’s
Power, the national legislature. As in the February 1993 elections,
voters were not offered a choice of candidates and the candidates were
selected by committees composed of members of governmentcontrolled mass organizations. As a result of the elections, the
Communist Party, the only party allowed to field candidates, controlled
about 94% of the Assembly.
01/16/98 — President Clinton, for a fourth time, suspended for a six-month period
the right to file lawsuits under Title III of the Helms-Burton legislation,
which would have allowed U.S. citizens to sue those persons
trafficking in confiscated U.S. property in Cuba (see July 16, 1996
01/21-25/98 Pope John Paul II visited Cuba and conducted a series of open-air
masses across the country that were televised. Numerous Catholic
groups from the United States traveled to Cuba, as did thousands of
journalists from around the world. In addition to encouraging Cubans
to come back to the Church, the Pope also criticized the U.S. embargo
as “unjust and ethically unacceptable,” and criticized the Cuban
government for denying freedom to the Cuban people.
02/12/98 — The Vatican announced that Cuba had freed dozens of detainees in
response to the Pope’s request to release “prisoners of conscience”
during his January visit, when Vatican officials gave the Cuban
government a list of more than 200 prisoners.
03/04/98 — The House International Relations Committee’s Subcommittee on the
Western Hemisphere held a hearing on the visit of Pope John Paul to
Cuba and an assessment of its impact of religious freedom in Cuba.
03/12/98 — The House International Relations Committee’s Subcommittee on
International Economic Policy and Trade held a hearing on the
implementation of the Helms-Burton legislation two years after its
03/20/98 — Following Pope John Paul’s trip to Cuba, President Clinton announced
four changes in U.S. policy: (1) the resumption of licensing for direct
humanitarian charter flights to Cuba (which had been curtailed after the
February 1996 shoot-down of two U.S. civilian planes); (2) the
resumption of cash remittances up to $300 per quarter for the support
of close relatives in Cuba (which had been curtailed in August 1994 in
response to the migration crisis with Cuba); (3) the development of
licensing procedures to streamline and expedite licenses for the
commercial sale of medicines and medical supplies and equipment to
Cuba; and (4) a decision to work on a bipartisan basis with Congress
on the transfer of food to the Cuban people.
— The State Department’s annual report to Congress, Patterns of Global
Terrorism, again listed Cuba as a supporter of “international
terrorism.” The report stated: “Although there is no evidence to
indicate that Cuba sponsored any international terrorist activity in
1997, it continues to provide sanctuary to terrorists from several
different terrorist organizations.”
04/21/98 — The U.N. Commission on Human Rights rejected a resolution (by a
vote of 16 to 19, with 18 abstentions) that would have condemned
Cuba’s human rights record and would have extended the work of the
Special Rapporteur to investigate the human rights situation in Cuba
for another year.
04/21/98 — The European Union agreed to let its World Trade Organization
challenge to the Helms-Burton legislation expire.
05/06/98 — The U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency issued a required congressional
report (pursuant to P.L. 105-85, section 1228) on Cuba’s military
threat to the United States. The report concluded that “Cuba does not
pose a significant military threat to the U.S. or to other countries in the
region” and “has little motivation to engage in military activity beyond
defense of its territory and political system.” The report also
concluded, however, that “Cuba has a limited capability to engage in
some military and intelligence activities which would be detrimental to
U.S. interests and which could pose a danger to U.S. citizens under
05/07/98 — The House Ways and Means Committee’s Subcommittee on Trade
held a hearing on U.S. economic and trade policy toward Cuba.
05/18/98 — The European Union and the United States reached a second
understanding which set forth EU disciplines regarding investment in
expropriated properties worldwide, in exchange for the Clinton
Administration’s success at obtaining a waiver from Congress for the
Title IV visa restrictions of the Helms-Burton legislation. Further
investment in expropriated property would be barred. For past illegal
expropriations, government support or assistance for transactions
related to those expropriated properties would be denied. A Registry
of Claims would also be established to warn investors and government
agencies providing investment support that a property has a record of
claims. These investment disciplines would be applied at the same time
that President Clinton’s Title IV new waiver authority was exercised.
07/02/98 — The Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control issued
licenses to nine air charter companies to provide direct passenger
flights from Miami International Airport to Havana’s Jose Marti
Airport. The flights had been suspended since February 26, 1996,
following Cuba’s shootdown of two U.S. civilian aircraft.
07/15/98 — During Senate consideration of the FY1999 agriculture appropriations
bill, H.R. 4101, the Senate approved a Dodd amendment, as modified
by amendments by Senators Roberts and Torricelli, that would have
prohibited the President from restricting any exports (including
financing) of food, other agricultural products (including fertilizer),
medicines or medical equipment as part of any policy of existing or
future unilateral economic sanctions imposed against a foreign
government. The Roberts modification restricted the Dodd amendment
by providing a waiver to the President if he determines that retaining
or imposing such sanctions would further United States national
security interests. The Torricelli modification further restricted the
Dodd amendment so that it does not apply to any country that
"repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism." Since
Cuba remains on the State Department's terrorism list, the Torricelli
modification resulted in the Dodd amendment not applying to Cuba.
Ultimately, the Dodd provision was deleted in conference with the
House (H.Rept. 105-763 to H.R. 4101) and no further legislative
action was taken.
07/16/98 — For the fifth time, President Clinton suspended for six months the right
to file lawsuits under Title III of the Helms-Burton legislation that
would have allowed U.S. citizens to sue persons trafficking in U.S.
property confiscated in Cuba (see July 16, 1996 entry).
08/25/98 — A U.S. federal grand jury in Puerto Rico indicted seven Cuban
Americans for plotting to kill Fidel Castro. The indictment stemmed
from the October 27, 1997, seizure of a Miami yacht off the coast of
Puerto Rico, with four Cuban exiles carrying two sniper rifles. One of
the men reportedly stated that the four were plotting to kill Castro
while he was visiting the Venezuelan island of Margarita in November
09/14/98 — Charges were filed in U.S. District Court in Miami against eight men
and two women on spying for the Cuban government. An FBI affidavit
filed stated that the eight acted “as clandestine agents of the
Government of Cuba” with the objective of gathering and delivering
defense information to aid Cuba.
The House agreed to H.Con.Res. 254 (by a vote of 371-0), calling on
Cuba to extradite Joanne Chesimard from Cuba to the United States.
Chesimard, a U.S. fugitive from justice, was convicted in New Jersey
in 1977 for the 1973 killing of a state trooper. She had been sentenced
to life in prison, but escaped from prison in 1979.
09/15/98 — The House, by voice vote, agreed to H.Res. 362, commending the visit
of Pope John Paul II to Cuba.
— Senator John Warner, along with 14 other senators from both parties,
wrote to President Clinton calling for the formation of a “National
Bipartisan Commission on Cuba,” to conduct an analysis of current
U.S. policy that would help shape and strengthen the future U.S.Cuban relationship. Another nine senators signed on to the letter in
10/14/98 — For the seventh consecutive year, the U.N. General Assembly approved
a resolution, 157-2, criticizing the U.S. embargo on Cuba (the United
States and Israel opposed the measure, and there were 12 abstentions).
10/21/98 — President Clinton signed the FY1999 omnibus appropriations measure
into law, P.L. 105-277. The measure contained several provisions on
Cuba, including the following: 1) stipulated that foreign states are not
immune from judgments for violations of international law, although a
presidential waiver for national security is provided (see discussion
below); 2) required reports to Congress on methods employed by the
Cuban government to enforce the U.S.-Cuba migration agreement of
September 1994 to restrict the emigration of Cubans to the United
States and on the treatment by Cuba of persons returned pursuant to
the U.S.-Cuba migration agreement of May 1995; 3) required the
Clinton Administration to report to Congress on the enforcement of
Title IV (visa restrictions) under the Helms-Burton Legislation; 4)
withheld U.S. assistance for programs or projects of the International
Atomic Energy Agency in Cuba; 5) required the President to withhold
foreign assistance to any country that provides nuclear fuel and related
assistance and credits to Cuba; and 6) prevented the United States from
accepting payment for trademark licenses that were used in connection
with a business or assets in Cuba that were confiscated unless the
original owner of the trademark has consented.
President Clinton waived a provision in the FY1999 omnibus
appropriations measure, P.L. 105-277, that stipulates that foreign
states are not immune from judgments for violations of international
law. The law would have allowed the families of three Americans
killed when Cuban military jets shot down two planes in February 1996
to collect the judgement against Cuba from Cuban assets in the United
States. The President maintained that the provision would have
impeded the ability of the President to conduct foreign policy and
would have impeded the effectiveness of U.S. economic sanctions
imposed on foreign countries.
The Senate agreed to H.Con.Res. 254 by unanimous consent. The
resolution calls on Cuba to extradite Joanne Chesimard from Cuba to
the United States. (See September 14, 1998 entry for House action
and background on the case.)
12/04/98 — The United States and Cuba held talks in Havana reviewing the 1994
and 1995 migration accords.
12/23/98 — Three diplomats stationed at the Cuban Mission to the United Nations
in New York, were expelled, after ten agents were accused in
September of spying for the Castro government. The State
Department stated that the action was undertaken against Cuba’s
diplomatic personnel for “activities incompatible with their status as
members of a UN mission.”
01/04/99 — State Department officials stated that the Clinton Administration had
decided not to set up the “National Bipartisan Commission on Cuba,”
as proposed by a number of Senators in October 1998.
01/05/99 — President Clinton announced five measures to support the Cuban
people that were intended to augment the March 1998 U.S. policy
changes implemented in the aftermath of Pope John Paul’s visit. The
five measures were (1) broadening cash remittances to Cuba, so that
all U.S. residents (not just those with close relatives in Cuba) will be
allowed to send $300 per quarter to any Cuban family, and licensing
larger remittances by U.S. citizens and non-governmental organizations
to entities independent of the Cuban government; (2) expanding direct
passenger charter flights to Cuba from additional U.S. cities other than
the current flights from Miami, and to cities other than Havana; (3)
reestablishing direct mail service to Cuba, which was suspended in
1962; (4) authorizing the sale of food to independent entities in Cuba
such as religious groups and private farmers and farmer cooperatives
producing food for sale in private markets; and (5) expanding peopleto-people contact through two-way exchanges among academics,
athletes, scientists and others.
01/12/99 — A bipartisan task force sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations
released a report calling for more contact between the United States
and Cuba. The group included critics and supporters of the U.S.
embargo. Other recommendations included expanding direct flights to
and from Cuba and the restoration of direct mail service.
01/15/99 — For the sixth time, President Clinton suspended for a six-month period
the right to file lawsuits under Title III of the Helms-Burton legislation
that would have allowed U.S. citizens to sue persons trafficking in U.S.
property confiscated in Cuba (see July 16, 1996 entry).
02/16/99 — Cuba’s National Assembly approved a new measure, the “Law for the
Protection of Cuba’s National Independence and Economy,” that
would punish people with prison terms up to 20 years for collaborating
with U.S. policy toward Cuba. Under the new measure, collaboration
would include supplying or seeking information from the media.
02/25/99 — In response to U.S. telephone companies withholding payments to
Cuba (because the payments were being sought in a judgement by the
families of the three Americans killed when Cuba shot down two U.S.
planes in February 1996), the Cuban government cut most direct U.S.
03/03/99 — The Clinton Administration announced that it would intervene officially
as a party in the U.S. telephone companies lawsuit and would support
restoring telephone payments to Cuba as soon as possible.
03/10/99 — The Senate Committee on Foreign Relations held a hearing on the
crackdown on human rights in Cuba.
03/11/99 — In Havana, the four-day trial of Salvadoran Raul Ernesto Cruz Leon
wrapped up. Cruz Leon had been arrested in September 1997 on
charges of setting off six bombs that targeted the island’s tourist
facilities. Cruz Leon pleaded guilty, maintaining that his motivation was
financial, not political, and that he was paid $4,500 for each bombing
by Cuban exiles in El Salvador. Prosecutors sought the death penalty.
03/15/99 — A Cuban court convicted the four leaders of the “Dissident Working
Group” — Vladimiro Roca, Feliz Bone, Rene Gomez Manzano, and
Marta Beatriz Roque — on charges of “sedition” under the Cuban
penal code after a one-day trial on March 1st. The sentences ranged
from three and one-half to five years imprisonment. Activists,
journalists, and diplomats from the United States and Europe were
prevented from observing the trial. (See July 16, 1997 entry for their
Cuba put on trial a second Salvadoran, Otto Rene Rodriguez Llerena,
who confessed to a bombing campaign and was charged with setting
off a small bomb in Havana's Melia Cohiba hotel in August 1997, and
bringing explosives into the country a year later. Prosecutors sought
the death penalty.
03/18/99 — A federal judge awarded $6.2 million of the telecommunications
payments due to Cuba from U.S. companies to the families of three of
the victims of the Brothers to the Rescue pilots shot down by Cuba in
February 1996. The ruling was appealed by the telephone companies.
03/23/99 — The House approved H.Res. 99 (by voice vote), which expresses the
sense of the House regarding human rights in Cuba. The legislation:
condemns Cuba’s repressive crackdown against the internal opposition
and independent press; calls for the Clinton Administration to secure
support for a U.N. Commission on Human Rights resolution
condemning Cuba for its human rights abuses and for the reinstatement
of a Special Rapporteur on Cuba; and calls for the Administration to
nominate a special envoy to advocate internationally for the
establishment of the rule of law for the Cuban people.
03/24/99 — The House International Relations Committee’s Subcommittee on the
Western Hemisphere held a hearing on the current status and future
direction of U.S.-Cuban relations.
03/25/99 — The Senate approved S.Res. 57 by a vote of 98-0, expressing the sense
of the Senate that the United States should make all efforts to pass a
U.N. Commission on Human Rights resolution criticizing Cuba for its
human rights abuses and securing the appointment of a Special
Rapporteur for Cuba.
03/28/99 — The first of two baseball games between the Baltimore Orioles and
Cuba’s national baseball team was held in Havana. Baltimore won by
a score of 3-2.
04/01/99 — Two Salvadorans accused of planting bombs in Havana’s tourist
facilities in 1997 were sentenced to death by Cuban tribunals (see
March 11 and March 15, 1999 entries).
04/23/99 — The U.N. Commission on Human Rights approved a resolution
criticizing Cuba for its human rights record by a vote of 21-20, with 12
abstentions. It did not, however, appoint a Special Rapporteur.
A U.S. District Court judge ruled that Havana Club Holdings
International, a 50-50 joint venture between France’s Pernod Ricard
and a Cuban state company, could not prevent Bacardi-Martini USA
from selling a premium aged rum made in the Bahamas under its own
Havana Club label. An attorney for Pernod Ricard said the company
is urging the European Union to file a complaint with the World Trade
05/03/99 — The Baltimore Orioles and Cuba’s national baseball team played an
exhibition game in Baltimore as part of the Clinton Administration’s
policy of increased people-to-people contact. Cuba’s team won by a
score of 12-6. There were several anti-Castro on-field protests by fans.
05/13/99 — The U.S. Treasury and Commerce Departments issued regulations
regarding the commercial sale of food and agricultural commodities to
independent entities in Cuba, such as religious groups, private farmers,
and private restaurants. Some in the U.S. business sector expressed
skepticism that the policy change would amount to much. The Treasury
Department’s new regulations also loosened restrictions on certain
categories of travel to Cuba.
05/28/99 — Cuban Foreign Minister Roberto Robaina, was unexpectedly replaced
by Fidel Castro’s personal aide, Felipe Perez Roque.
05/31/99 — Cuba filed suit against the United States in Havana for $181.1 billion
in compensation for victims of anti-Castro attacks since 1959. The act
is in response to a suit filed against Havana for killing four Brothers to
the Rescue pilots in early 1996. The claim charges that the United
States has caused thousands of deaths and injuries to Cuban citizens
and massive economic damage as a result of the U.S. embargo against
06/02/99 — The United States and Cuba held talks in New York on the
implementation of the 1994 and 1995 migration accords. This was the
11th set of talks reviewing the migration accords.
06/07/99 — Approximately 25 Cuban dissidents began a 40-day hunger strike in
Havana in an effort to call attention to the human rights situation in
Cuba and to also call for the release of political prisoners.
06/16/99 — A Miami federal court judge ruled that the families of the Brothers to
the Rescue pilots killed in the February 1996 shootdown by Cuban
military jets might seek to identify Cuban assets held in the United
States in an effort to collect on a $187 million judgment issued in
06/21/99 — U.S. State Department and U.S. Coast Guard officials met with their
Cuban counterparts to discuss ways of improving coordination and
communication in fighting drug-trafficking.
06/29/99 — The U.S. Coast Guard surrounded a small wooden rowboat and used
a fire hose and pepper spray in an attempt to prevent six Cuban men
from entering the United States illegally. The incident angered the
Cuban-American community, sparking public protests. Coast Guard
officials later announced the six men would be allowed to stay in the
United States and apply for asylum. President Clinton later
characterized the incident as “outrageous” and stated that the treatment
was not authorized.
06/30/99 — During Senate floor consideration of S.1234, the FY2000 foreign aid
appropriations bill, the Senate tabled (by a vote of 55-43) a Dodd
amendment to terminate prohibitions and restrictions on travel to Cuba.
07/02/99 — The European Union said it is seeking World Trade Organization
action against a U.S. court ruling stating that a joint venture between
Pernod Ricard and a Cuban company, called Havana Club Holdings,
could not prevent Bacardi Martini USA from selling rum made in the
Bahamas under the Havana Club name (see April 23 entry).
07/09/99 — A boat being interdicted by the U.S. Coast Guard off the Florida coast
capsized, resulting in the drowning of a Cuban woman.
07/13-15/99 The President of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Thomas Donohue,
traveled to Cuba to support the development of the country’s small
07/16/99 — For the seventh time, President Clinton suspended, for a six-month
period, Title III of the 1996 Helms-Burton legislation that would have
allowed lawsuits against those persons trafficking in U.S. property
confiscated in Cuba (see July 16, 1996 entry).
A group of Cuban dissidents in Havana ended their 40-day hunger
strike with an appeal to foreign leaders to press Castro to accept
07/23/99 — The U.S.-based Human Rights Watch issued a highly critical report on
Cuba’s human rights situation, “Cuba’s Repressive Machinery: Human
Rights Forty Years After the Revolution.”
07/26/99 — Castro called on the United States to join Cuba in the fight against
08/04/99 — During Senate floor consideration of the FY2000 agriculture
appropriations measure, S. 1233/H.R. 1906, the Senate approved a
modified Ashcroft amendment that would terminate existing unilateral
sanctions on agricultural or medical exports and require congressional
approval before the imposition of any new agricultural or medical
sanction. The provision would have allowed agricultural and medical
exports to state sponsors of international terrorism, including Cuba,
pursuant to one-year licenses issued by the U.S. government. The
House version of the bill had no such provision, and ultimately the
Ashcroft provision was not included in the conference report to the bill
(H.Rept. 106-354) filed September 30, 1999. Several Senators
expressed strong disapproval with the manner in which the issue was
decided; the House and Senate Majority leadership had brokered an
agreement that dropped the Ashcroft provision. (An attempted to table
the Ashcroft provision — before it was modified to restrict exports to
sponsors of international terrorism — was defeated by a vote of 28 to
70 on August 3, 1999.)
08/11/99 — A federal appeals court overturned a lower court decision and ruled
that families of three Americans killed in February 1996 when Cuba
shot down their planes could not collect $6.2 million in telephone
payments due to Cuba from U.S. companies. (See March 18, 1999
09/17/99 — A Cuban court convicted two U.S. residents to jail terms of life and 30
years for the smuggling of migrants.
10/23-27/99 Illinois Governor George Ryan visited Cuba. Ryan, who met a wide
range of Cubans, including dissidents and Fidel Castro, criticized the
U.S. embargo during his visit. He also raised the issue of human rights
and requested the release of the four imprisoned leaders of the
“Dissident Working Group.” (See entries for July 16, 1997 and March
The House International Relations Committee held a hearing on the
alleged torture of American prisoners of war in North Vietnam by
Cuban interrogators in the late 1960s.
The United Nations, for the eighth consecutive year, approved a
resolution calling for the end of the U.S. embargo on Cuba. The
measure was approved by a vote of 155 to 2 (the United States and
Israel), with 8 abstentions.
President Clinton declined to add Cuba to the annual list of major illicit
drug producing or drug transit countries, stating that there was no
evidence showing that drug trafficking through Cuba carries significant
quantities of cocaine or heroin to the United States.
11/15-16/99 Cuba hosted the ninth Ibero-American summit, a meeting of the leaders
of Spain, Portugal, and Latin American nations. Before the summit,
there was a crackdown on opposition groups, and more than 30
dissidents were jailed. Nevertheless, several foreign visitors, including
Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar and Portuguese President
Jorge Sampaio, held meetings with leading dissidents. In the summit’s
Havana Declaration, the leaders reiterated their opposition to unilateral
and extraterritorial applications of U.S. law, and specifically urged the
United States “to put an end to the application of the Helms-Burton
The House Committee on Government Reform, Subcommittee on
Criminal Justice, Drug Policy, and Human Resources, held a hearing
on “Cuba’s Link to Drug Trafficking.” The hearing focused on the
Administration’s decision not to add Cuba to the annual list of major
drug transit countries.
After a boat with 14 Cuban refugees sank off the coast of Florida, two
adult survivors washed ashore at Key Biscayne, while fishermen found
another survivor, five-year old Elian Gonzalez, clinging to an inner tube
off the coast of Fort Lauderdale. The boy’s mother drowned in the
The Immigration and Naturalization Service released five-year old
Elian Gonzalez into the custody of his paternal great-aunt and greatuncle in Miami after his discharge from the hospital.
The Cuban government delivered a diplomatic note to the U.S.
Interests’ Section in Havana seeking the return of Elian Gonzalez.
The father of Elian Gonzalez appealed on Cuban TV for the return of
the boy to Cuba.
The Cuban government warned that relations with the United States
could be harmed further if Elian Gonzalez was not allowed to return to
his father in Cuba.
On Cuban broadcast media, Fidel Castro demanded the return of Elian
Gonzalez to Cuba within 72 hours or vowed there would be mass
Cuban demonstrations. He also threatened a boycott of upcoming
U.S.-Cuba migration talks.
Thousands of Cubans began protesting at the U.S. Interests’ Section
in Havana for the return of Elian Gonzalez to Cuba.
President Clinton warned that politics should not enter into the decision
regarding the custody of Elian Gonzalez. He emphasized that the
important question was what would be best for the child. Relatives of
the boy in Florida said that they would request political asylum for him
to prevent his return to Cuba.
A U.S. Federal District court in Puerto Rico acquitted five Cuban
Americans of plotting to assassinate Fidel Castro in October 1997. (See
August 25, 1998 entry for their indictment.) Charges against another
defendant were dismissed on December 1, 1999, while a seventh
defendant did not stand trial because of illness.
The Immigration and Naturalization Service sent a letter to the father
of Elian Gonzalez outlining the steps that he needed to take to make
the case for the return of the child.
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