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A Concise History of U.S. Relations with Cuba

Few countries have shared a history as colorful as the one between the US and Cuba. The marriage has experienced joy, scandal and debauchery – and today, normalization resembles as couple attempting to annul a divorce.

Nuclear Annihilation

Fearing a US retaliation after the 1959 revolution, Castro struck a deal with the Soviet Union to install medium range nuclear missiles on the island.  What followed was a show down between the Soviets and the Americans that culminated in the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. In the sweltering control room of a wounded submarine patrolling the Cuban coast, Soviet military officer, Vasili Alexandrovich Arkhipov, refused to push the nuclear missile launch button, despite protests from the submarine’s captain, who believed war had started and needed Vasili’s consent. The missile was never fired, but that day was the closest the world has ever come to nuclear armageddon.

Cuban Missile Crisis battleship

Early History

After Spain’s defeat by U.S. and Cuban forces during the War of 1898, Spain relinquished sovereignty over Cuba. Following the war, U.S. forces occupied Cuba until 1902, when the United States allowed a new Cuban government to take full control of the state’s affairs. As a condition of independence, the United States forced Cuba to grant a continuing U.S. right to intervene on the island in accordance with the Platt Amendment. The amendment was repealed in 1934 when the United States and Cuba signed a Treaty of Relations. The United States and Cuba cooperated under the rule of Fulgencio Batista through the 1950s. Following the revolution of 1959 and the rise of Fidel Castro to power, relations steadily deteriorated. As a result of Castro’s reforms and the Cuban government’s increased cooperation with the Soviet Union, the United States severed diplomatic relations with Cuba in January 1961.


U.S. Recognition of Cuban Independence, 1902.

Following the defeat of Spain in 1898, the United States remained in Cuba as an occupying power until the Republic of Cuba was formally installed on May 19, 1902. On May 20, 1902, the United States relinquished its occupation authority over Cuba, but claimed a continuing right to intervene in Cuba.

Diplomatic Relations

Establishment of Diplomatic Relations and the American Legation in Cuba, 1902.

Diplomatic relations and the U.S. Legation in Havana were established on May 27, 1902, when U.S. Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary Herbert Goldsmith Squiers presented his credentials to the Government of the Republic of Cuba.

Elevation of U.S. Legation to Embassy Status, 1923.

Following an act of Congress, the U.S. Legation in Havana, Cuba, was raised to Embassy status on February 10, 1923, when General Enoch H. Crowder was appointed Ambassador.

Diplomatic Relations Severed, 1961.

The United States severed diplomatic relations with Cuba on January 3, 1961, citing unwarranted action by the Government of Cuba that placed crippling limitations on the ability of the United States Mission to carry on its normal diplomatic and consular functions.

Establishment of U.S. Interests Section in Havana, 1977.

A U.S. Interests Section was established in Havana under the protection of the Swiss Government on September 1, 1977.

Resumption of Diplomatic Relations and Reestablishment of the American Embassy in Cuba, 2015.

The United States and Cuba resumed diplomatic relations on July 20, 2015, when both countries elevated their respective Interests Sections to Embassy status. President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro agreed to the date for these actions in an exchange of letters dated June 30, 2015.


US President Obama’s policy of engagement with Cuba faces a major obstacle in that Congress controls much of the regulations and restrictions pertaining to Cuba.  As a workaround, Obama has embarked on steady, slow drum beat of actions taken to leverage executive authority to dismantle various Congressional rules that together make up the US embargo against Cuba. The Cuba Journal refers to these actions as Cubamacare.

A Concise History of U.S. Relations with Cuba was last modified: March 1st, 2016 by Simons Chase