April 2

This Day in History

Cold War

Apr 2, 1989:

Gorbachev begins visit to Cuba

In an effort to mend strained relations between the Soviet Union and Cuba, Russian leader Mikhail Gorbachev arrives in Havana to meet with Fidel Castro. Castro's suspicions regarding Gorbachev's economic and political reform measures in the Soviet Union, together with the fact that Russia's ailing economy could no longer support massive economic assistance to Cuba, kept the meetings from achieving any solid agreements.

The relationship between the Soviet Union and Cuba had been extremely close since the early-1960s, when Castro declared his government to be a Marxist-Leninist regime. In the years that followed, the Soviet Union provided Cuba with large amounts of military and economic assistance. Since Gorbachev's rise to leadership in the Soviet Union in 1985, however, relations with Cuba had deteriorated badly. Castro was extremely suspicious, and often openly critical, of Gorbachev's efforts to introduce more free market economics and political democracy into the Soviet Union. In a speech in December 1988, the Cuban leader warned that his nation might "be in for difficulties coming from the enemy camp and difficulties coming from the camp of our own friends." In addition, the weakening Soviet economy could no longer provide the levels of assistance to Cuba that it had in the past. Gorbachev's visit was an attempt to mend political fences between the two communist nations.

Castro greeted Gorbachev with a great deal of pomp and public affection. The meeting quickly cooled, though, when it became apparent that Gorbachev hoped to convince Castro to enact political and economic reforms and had also made the trip to explain that Soviet aid would be dwindling even further in the years to come. When Gorbachev left, the farewell was correct and cordial, but nothing more. Gorbachev had little time to consider Soviet-Cuban relations, however. The Soviet Union was soon thrown into upheaval by political and economic instability, and Gorbachev resigned in December 1991. Castro continues to hold power in Cuba.

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