Cuba and US reopen embassies: Key events in the history of the Cold War foes [Photo report]

The United States and Cuba have re-established embassies in each other's capitals, formally restoring diplomatic ties severed more than five decades ago.

Differences remain, however, and efforts toward full normalisation between the US and the Communist-ruled island are expected to proceed slowly. In this gallery, IBTimesUK looks back at key events in the relationship between the former Cold War foes.

A Cuban man wearing a T-shirt with the US flag looks at publications about Fidel Castro, Che Guevara and Malcolm X on a street in HavanaYamil Lage/AFP

Fidel Castro's rebels swept to power in January 1959 after dictator Fulgencio Batista fled the island. The United States recognised the new government, but relations began to sour during the summary trials and executions of Batista loyalists.


In 1960, Cuba nationalised US-owned oil refineries. Nearly all other US businesses were expropriated soon afterwards.

January 1959: Fidel Castro gives an address after former dictator Batista is forced to flee CubaKeystone/Getty Images

The US declared an embargo on most exports to Cuba in October 1960 and broke off diplomatic relations in January 1961. Three months later, Castro declared Cuba a socialist state – just a day before the doomed US-sponsored Bay of Pigs invasion that was intended to topple Castro.

1961: Members of Castro's militia look at the bodies of some of those who participated in the ill-fated Bay of Pigs invasion of CubaGraf/Three Lions/Getty Images
April 1961: Cuban President Fidel Castro enters a public trial for captured members of the failed Bay of Pigs invasion. Some 1,500 Cuban exiles, organised and armed by the CIA, came ashore in an unsuccessful attempt to overthrow Castro. The invaders never got beyond the mosquito-infested swamps surrounding the Bay of PigsReuters

In October 1962, a US blockade forced the removal of Soviet nuclear missiles from Cuba after a standoff brought the world to the brink of nuclear war. US President John F Kennedy agreed privately not to invade Cuba.

October 1962: A reconnaissance photograph showing a Soviet ballistic missile base in Cuba. On seeing this evidence, US President John F Kennedy ordered a naval blockade of CubaKeystone/Getty Images
24 October 1962: US President Kennedy speaks during a televised speech to the nation about the strategic blockade of Cuba, warning the Soviet Union that it would retaliateGetty Images
1962: A P-2 Neptune US patrol plane flies over a Soviet freighter during the Cuban missile crisisGetty Images

US President Jimmy Carter tried to normalise relations with Cuba shortly after taking office in 1977, re-establishing diplomatic missions and negotiating the release of thousands of prisoners.

But conflicts regarding Cuba's military mission in Africa, tension caused by a flood of Cuban refugees in 1980 and the election of Ronald Reagan ended the rapprochement.

22 August 1994: US coast guards scramble to rescue a group of Cuban refugees after their raft capsized during the Balseros Crisis, when thousands of people tried to reach the United States on makeshift raftsDoug Collier/AFP

Cuba's hostile relations with migrants repeatedly led to confrontation. In 1996, Cuban jets shot down two planes operated by the Brothers to the Rescue group dedicated to saving migrants found at sea, killing four pilots.

2 March 1996: People throw flowers in the ocean after Cuban jets shot down two planes operated by the Brothers to the Rescue group dedicated to saving migrants found at sea, killing four pilotsRhona Wise/AFP

In 1999, US-based relatives fought to keep Elián González, rescued off the Florida coast at the age of five by the US Coast Guard after the boat he was in with his mother and stepfather capsized. His mother and 10 others drowned at sea trying the flee the island. US officials finally wrenched him away and sent him back to his father in Cuba in 2000.

6 December 1999: Cuban President Fidel Castro meets with Juan Miguel González Quintana, father of Elián González. Castro demanded that the US return Elián to his father, who said the boy was kidnappedAdalberto Roque/AFP
22 April 2000: US federal agents take Elián González from Donato Dalrymple, one of the two sport fishermen who rescued him at seaAlan Diaz/Reuters
28 June 2000: Elián González (R), his cousin, nanny and stepmother wave from a mobile lounge at Dulles International Airport in Washington, DC as he is returned to CubaMark Wilson/Getty Images
30 June 2010: Cuban President Raul Castro talks with Elián González in a church in Havana during the celebration of the 10th anniversary of Elián's return from the USAdalberto Roque/AFP

The US arrested five Cuban spies in 1998. Cuba mounted an international campaign to free them, saying they were defending the island against US-based terror attempts. In December 2009, Cuba arrested USAID contractor Alan Gross, accusing him of subversion.

On 17 December 2014, Barack Obama and Raul Castro announced they were going to restore diplomatic ties and exchange prisoners, including Gross and the remaining three members of the 'Cuban Five' spy ring.

30 September 2014: Members of the Cuban Revolutionary Army hold national flags during a march in honour of five Cuban intelligence officers who were arrested in 1998, and convicted in Miami in 2001, of conspiracy to commit espionage, murder and other crimes in the USAlexandre Meneghini/Reuters
20 December 2014: Gerardo Hernández, one of the so-called 'Cuban Five', reacts with his wife Adriana Pérez during a concert in Havana. The US helped Hernández, who was convicted of spying and imprisoned in California, to artificially inseminate his wife in Cuba. Hernández was serving a double life sentence until his release as part of a prisoner swap, which was completed on the same day that the US and Cuba announced they would restore diplomatic ties after more than 50 yearsEnrique de la Osa/Reuters
20 January 2015: Alan Gross, recently released from prison in Cuba, reacts as he is mentioned by US President Barack Obama during his State of the Union addressJoshua Roberts/Reuters
11 April 2015: Cuba's President Raul Castro pretends not to hear questions from journalists as he and US President Barack Obama pose for photos at a bilateral meeting during the Summit of the Americas, Panama. Neither president took questions from the press, but shook hands in a symbolically charged gestureJonathan Ernst/Reuters

Agreement between the two nations to resume normal ties came into force on 20 July 2015, and the diplomatic missions of each country were upgraded from interests sections to embassies.

1 July 2015: A cyclist rides past the Cuban Interests Section in Washington, DC as the US and Cuba were set to announce the restoration of diplomatic relationsGary Cameron/Reuters
19 July 2015: A Cuban flag flies in front of the US Interests Section in Havana the day before it was formally reopened as an embassyAlexandre Meneghini/Reuters
20 July 2015: Cuban Embassy employees watch as the country's flag is raised in front of the building in Washington, DC for the first time in 54 yearsChip Somodevilla/Getty Images
20 July 2015: Cubans line up at the US embassy in Havana to get visas to travel to the USAdalberto Roque/AFP

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