Long Term Causes
1868 (10th October)
Ten Years’ War
Cuba had been under control of Spain since it was discovered by the Spanish in 1492. Rich in sugar plantations, the land was exploited by the Spanish. Cuban nationals now demanded greater autonomy, an end to slavery, and social and economic reforms. The Spanish responded by increasing taxation and banning any move to reform. War began when Cuban nationals, led by Carlos Manuel de Cespedes, proclaimed independence from Spain.
1878 (28th May)
Ten Years’ War – Pact of Zanjon
The Cuban nationals had been unable to defeat the Spanish and this agreement brought the war to an end. While it did not grant Cuba independence, the Pact of Zanjon gave the country a similar status to Puerto Rico and representation in the Spanish Parliament. However, it did not end slavery
1879 (26th August)
Revolutionary leader, Calixto Garcia, had refused to sign the Pact of Zanjon. He had travelled to the United States with other revolutionaries and formed the Cuban Revolutionary Committee. He returned to Cuba and led a new revolution against the Spanish.
The revolutionaries lacked supplies and support from local people who did not want another war. They had held out for just over a year but were defeated by the Spanish.
1886 (7th October)
Slavery was abolished in Cuba.
Spain cancelled a trade agreement between Cuba and the United States. This had a severe impact on Cubans who were already suffering financially following the abolition of slavery.
1895 (24th February)
Cuban War of Independence
Jose Marti, who had left Cuba for the United States in 1879, had planned an invasion and take over of Cuba. His ideas were supported by revolutionaries, Maximo Gomez and Calixto Garcia. Marti was killed on 19th May but the others continued the fight and quickly gained control of the island. The Spanish responded by herding rural Cubans into camps and towns where around 400,000 Cubans died. This increased Cuban national support for the war.
United States journalists, William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer, had followed the Cuban move for independence. They published stories of the Cubans bid for independence that gained the support of the American people.
Spanish Cubans rioted against the Independent Cuban government in the capital, Havana. The American government was concerned for the safety of American citizens living in Havana and sent the battleship, USS Maine to Cuba.
1898 (15th February)
The USS Maine exploded and sank. The explosion killed 260 of the crew. The sinking caused outrage in the United States.
1898 (28th March)
An enquiry determined that the USS Maine had exploded after hitting a submerged mine.
1898 (20th April)
William McKinley declared war on Spain. American ships quickly formed a blockade around Cuba and defeated the Spanish fleet.
1898 (13th August)
The Spanish surrendered to the United States.
1898 (10th December)
Treaty of Paris
Under the terms of this treaty Spain granted freedom to Cuba and ceded Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippines to the United States. Despite the freedom of Cuba the United States insisted on maintaining an interest in Cuban affairs.
1902 (20th May)
US governor, Leonard Wood, handed over government of Cuba to President Tomas Estrada Palma. Palma had been born in Cuba but was an American citizen. Under the terms of the hand over, America retained the right to military intervention in Cuba if necessary and leased Guantanamo Bay as a military base.
Under the rule of Tomas Palma, large numbers of American businessmen had arrived in Cuba and bought up land and properties from native Cubans.
Short Term Causes
1940 (14th July)
Elections were held in Cuba and Fulgencio Batista was elected President.
1944 (1st June)
Having served a term as President, Batista was not able to run in this election. Ramon San Martin was elected President. Under his rule, which coincided with the end of World War Two, the economy boomed. However, the level of corruption in government and crime rates increased at the same time.
1948 (1st June)
Carlos Prio Socarras was elected President of Cuba. Levels of corruption continued to increase and the Mafia was present in Havana.
Former President, Fulgencio Batista mounted a coup and declared himself President. Forthcoming elections were cancelled and tensions rose between opponents of what was seen as a takeover and dictatorship.
1953 (26th July)
Rebel opponents of the Batista government, led by Fidel Castro and his brother Raul, attacked the Moncada military barracks in Cuba but were defeated. Castro and his brother were imprisoned.
1954 (1st November)
Elections were held and Fulgencio Batista was elected President. His main opponent Ramon San Martin, had withdrawn the day before the election. The United States backed Batista’s Presidency.
Fidel and Raul Castro were released from prison and went into exile in Mexico where they formed the July 26 Movement.
Nico Lopez, a Cuban exile, introduced Raul and Fidel Castro to a young doctor, Che Guevara
. Guevara liked their ideas and decided to join the July 26 Movement.
1956 (25th November)
Eighty-two men including Fidel and Raul Castro and Che Guevara, left Mexico in the yacht Granma bound for Cuba.
1956 (December 2nd)
The rebels reached Cuba but were attacked by Batista’s forces soon after landing. Many men were killed but the Castro brothers and Guevara survived and fled to the Cuban hills.
Che Guevara set up a radio station, ‘Rebel Radio’ which broadcast news and information to the Cuban people.
The forces of Batista adopted a policy of intimidation and execution of anyone suspected of being a rebel.
1958 (29th July)
Battle of Las Mercedes
This was a ten-day battle planned by Batista to wipe out the rebels. He sent his Cuban army into the hills with orders to encircle the rebels. However, the Cuban army found fighting the rebels difficult since they knew the layout of the hills and used guerrilla tactics. The Cuban army accepted a cease fire and sent negotiators to Castro. While negotiations continued the rebel army retreated back into the hills.
1958 (late December)
The rebels had successfully taken much of Las Villas province. Guevara then led a sortie into the capital of the province, Santa Clara. Despite being outnumbered, he successfully overthrew and occupied the city. On hearing the news Batista fled to the Dominican Republic.
1959 (8th January)
The rebels entered the Cuban capital, Havana and began setting up a new government. The United States officially recognised Castro’s government.
1959 (4th February)
Castro’s government announced a land reform initiative which involved nationalisation of industry and redistribution of land. This move had serious consequences for the United States since the majority of industries scheduled for nationalisation were owned by Americans.
1959 (16th February)
Fidel Castro declared himself Prime Minister of Cuba and dismissed the need for further elections.
Counter-revolutionary groups, backed by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) sought to remove Castro and restore a US backed government.
In response to the formation of counter-revolutionary groups, Castro shut down the free press and brought the media under state control. Anyone found to be involved in counter-revolutionary activities was harshly punished.
1960 (4th March)
La Coubre Explosion
French ship, La Coubre, was unloading munitions in Havana, Cuba when it exploded. Castro blamed the explosion firmly on the United States.
1960 (17th March)
President Eisenhower approved a plan to train Cuban exiles prior to their invading Cuba. It was believed that the Cuban people and military would rise up against Castro and he would be overthrown. A new government, friendly to the United States would then be established..
Castro established diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union. The United States responded by banning the import of Cuban sugar, a trade deal which accounted for a large portion of Cuba’s economy. However, rather than causing Cuba to break relations with the Soviets, a trade deal was forged where the Soviet Union bought the sugar instead.
CIA agent, Frank Bender, known as Mr Bender, began organising anti-Castro groups into an army and effective political opposition to Castro.
1960 (22nd June)
The Frente Revolucionario Democratico (FRD), was formed from a number of anti-Castro groups.
Eisenhower approved a $13 million budget for the Cuban offensive.
1960 (late October)
Moves to infiltrate anti-Castro groups in Cuba and supply them with weapons and ammunition, had failed. It was now proposed that a sea landing would be a preferable strategy.
A large number of Cuban exiles had been trained by the CIA in Guatemala. However, news of the training programme had been leaked and Castro was aware that a US backed invasion was imminent.
The United States broke off diplomatic relations with Cuba.
1961 (4th January)
New plans suggested a landing at a secret location in Cuba to be supported by air fire.
1961 (25th January)
CIA agent, Mr Bender, called a meeting of the leaders of the FRD.
1961 (28th January)
President Kennedy authorised the invasion of Cuba but wanted all US involvement to be hidden. He ordered the landing be moved to the Bay of Pigs, which was further away from populated areas and would make it easier for the US to deny involvement.
1961 (4th March)
Representatives from a number of exiled revolutionary groups met in Washington to discuss the planned invasion.
1961 (15th April)
A number of B-26 bombers had been painted to look like Cuban planes. Cuban exile pilots flew to Cuba to bomb the airfields. However, they failed to destroy the Cuban airforce. Cuba immediately accused the United States of mounting air attacks on Cuba.
1961 (15th April)
In Cuba, anyone suspected of possibly supporting any invasion force was incarcerated.
1961 (16th April)
Late at night a mock landing was staged at Bahia Honda. Ships loaded with powerful sound systems broadcast the sound of an invasion. The idea was to draw Castro’s forces away from the Bay of Pigs.
1961 (17th April)
In the early hours of the morning, the Cuban exile army landed in the Bay of Pigs. However, the invasion was not the surprise landing planned. Local militia were in the area and they quickly alerted Castro. Heavy anti-aircraft fire meant that pilots had to abandon their proposed air fire support for the troops on the ground. Nevertheless the landings went ahead and fighting broke out.
1961 (18th April)
Ships were due to return to the Bay of Pigs with additional ammunition and supplies, however the captains of two ships abandoned the operation for fear of air strikes.
1961 (18th April)
Despite being urged to intervene by his military advisers, President Kennedy refused to take America into another war. He had also received a telegram from Soviet leader
Nikita Khrushcev warning that the Soviet Union would not allow Americans to land in Cuba.
1961 (19th April)
Supplies of arms and ammunition were flown in to the Cuban invaders. However, supply ships still refused to approach the beach.
1961 (19th April)
Two US ships managed to evacuate some retreating soldiers from the beach before they were driven away by heavy fire.
1961 (20th April)
The Cuban exiles remaining in the Bay of Pigs area had no choice but to surrender. They were taken prisoner and many were executed.
Following the failure of the Bay of Pigs Invasion, John F Kennedy approved this campaign of spying on Cuba with a view to finding ways to support Cuba in the overthrow of Communism. However, US mistrust of Cuba pushed Castro closer to the Soviet Union and contributed to the Cuban Missile Crisis