Cuba - Country history and economic development

1492. Christopher Columbus claims Cuba as a Spanish possession.

1538-60. Cuba is constantly under attack by French and English smugglers and pirates. The Spanish authorities create the flota system; a group of armed ships that made each voyage to and from Spain in order to protect their imports and exports.

1717. Spain establishes a tobacco monopoly called a Factoría, which incites rebellions of tobacco farmers against the Crown.

1740. Spain establishes the Real Compañía de Comer-cio in order to control and monopolize Cuban trade and commerce.

1762-63. The English occupy Havana for 10 months and change the laws in order to allow Cuba to enter the international market instead of being controlled by the Spanish Crown's monopoly.

1776. As a result of the American Revolution, trade increases between the United States and Cuba.

1778. A free-trade decree by the Spanish Crown gives Cuba open access to trade with Spain and Spanish colonies.

1789. A Spanish royal decree authorizes a free trade in slaves.

1791. Due to a slave revolt in the French colony of St. Domingue, many coffee and sugar planters move to Cuba and greatly expand Cuba's production in these areas.

1817. Spain and England agree to end the legal slave trade in Spanish colonies by 1820.

1837. A railroad is built in Cuba, which reduces the cost of transporting sugar.

1868-78. The Ten Years' War, with the goal of freeing Cuba from Spain, breaks out in the eastern part of Cuba. The revolt fails when the rebels are unable to seize power in the western portion of the island.

1895-97. The Cuban War for Independence succeeds when Spain grants the island autonomy in October of 1897.

1898. After the U.S. intervention in the Spanish-American War, the Treaty of Paris is signed, which transfers sovereignty over Cuba to the United States. The United States occupies Cuba militarily until 1902, at which point Cuba is granted autonomy and becomes the Republic of Cuba. This begins a period of heavy commerce between Cuba and the United States.

1920. The price of sugar jumps to 22.5 cents per pound, and then collapses to 3.7 cents. The Cuban economy enters a period of depression and chaos.

1953-59. Fidel Castro leads a revolution that ousts the Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista, who flees Cuba for Miami with considerable wealth. Upon his departure, Castro installs a socialist government.

1960. Cuba and the Soviet Union re-establish relations. Cuba begins to nationalize U.S. properties. In retaliation, the United States cuts the amount of sugar it will buy from Cuba. In October, the United States imposes a trade embargo on Cuba that remains in force as of 2001.

1961. The United States and Cuba terminate diplomatic relations. The United States is embarrassed over its failure to offer effective support to Cuban exiles attempting to overthrow Castro in the Bay of Pigs invasion.

1962. Tensions rise as the United States confronts the Soviet Union over its installation of missile sites in Cuba.

1990-91. With the fall of the Soviet Union, which had accounted for 85 percent of its trade, Cuba enters the "Special Period in a Time of Peace," a period of economic restructuring marked by food and fuel shortages and energy blackouts.

1992. The U.S. Congress passes the so-called Torricelli Bill, which encourages people-to-people exchange between Cuba and the United States. The United States hopes to encourage dissent by putting the Cuban populace into contact with democratic ideas.

1993. Cuba legalizes the U.S. dollar as a medium of exchange, and permits Cubans to engage in some forms of self-employment.

1994. Cuba adopts a new system of taxation and opens all sectors of its economy to foreign investment except public health, education, and national security.

1995. The Cuban National Assembly allows foreign investors to wholly own businesses in Cuba.

1996. The U.S. Congress passes the Helms-Burton law, strengthening its embargo by allowing prosecution of foreign businesses for doing business with Cuban businesses that were previously owned by the United States.

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