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Cuba and the United States: A Brief History

December 21, 2014
Plain English Version


In 1959, Fidel Castro led his troops to oust Fulgencio Batista, the right-wing dictator. Batista made his friends rich. He let business people run the country. He jailed people who opposed him. Castro became a left-wing dictator. He made his friends rich. He took over the economy. He jailed more people than the right-wing dictator did.

Fidel Castro said he was a Communist. He allied Cuba with Russia. He said the United States was the great enemy of the people.

The U.S. stopped doing business with Cuba. The U.S. hoped the people would rise up against the dictator. Castro was supported by Russia. He used public opinion against the U.S. He killed or imprisoned the people who opposed him.

His regime stayed in power through ten U.S. presidents: Eisenhower, Kennedy, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, Bush II and Obama.

More than a million people left Cuba for the United States. They moved mostly to the Miami, Florida area. They became avowed enemies of Castro.

In 1962, Russia placed missiles in Cuba. The missiles could reach the United States. They could have atomic warheads. A great crisis took place. President Kennedy faced off with President Khrushchev of Russia. The U.S. military wanted to attack Cuba.

The U.S. stopped all Russian ships heading to Cuba. Kennedy sensed Khrushchev wanted a way to end the crisis. Kennedy agreed to remove some U.S. missiles from Turkey. The crisis ended. The U.S. said, “We went eyeball, to eyeball and the other fellow blinked.”

In the early 1990s, The Soviet Union fell apart. Cuba became poorer. Venezuela was led by the left-wing regime of Hugo Chávez. He sold oil to Cuba.

Still, there was no movement between Cuba and the U.S.A. In America, any candidate for president who wanted to start relations with Cuba would lose Florida.

Now, things are changing. The price of oil and gas is going down. This means less revenue for Russia and Venezuela. There is less support for Cuba from them. After nearly 60 years, the country is as poor as ever. Cuba’s leaders thought it was a good time to make up with the United States.

A prisoner exchange was used to start the diplomatic ball rolling. The president and Raúl Castro spoke on the phone. They both agreed relations between the countries should begin.

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