55 years of near-misses, might-have-beens: U.S.-Cuban relations since 1959

When Fidel Castro and his revolutionaries toppled the regime of Fulgencio Batista, the future of the relations of the U.S. and Cuba hung in the balance. Within three years, the die was cast, and neither country would ever be the same.

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    John Fitzgerald Kennedy (1917 - 1963), American president announcing on television the strategic blockade of Cuba, and his warning to the Soviet Union about missile sanctions during the Cuban missile crisis, 22nd October 1962. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
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    Cuban revolutionary Fidel Castro during a Jan. 1, 1959, address in Cuba after Batista was forced to flee. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
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    It might have turned out so differently. In April 1959, a few months after taking power Cuban President Fidel Castro met with American vice-president Richard Nixon during a press reception in Washington. It was reported that the meeting was quite amicable. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
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    A group of Cuban revolutionary Fidel Castro's soldiers with artillery after routing the US-backed invasion at the Bay of Pigs, April 1961. (Photo by Graf/Getty Images)
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    10th April 1962: Mercenary Fermin Asla Plo, known in religious circles as Ismael Lugo at his trial in a revolutionary court in Havana. 1,179 mercenaries were on trial for their part in the invasion of Cuba at Playa Giron and were sentenced to 30 years in jail to be commuted on payment of indemnities. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
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    A ballistic missile base in Cuba, the evidence with which President Kennedy ordered a naval blockade of Cuba in the Cuban Missile Crisis, October 1962. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
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    From April 15 to October 31, 1980, thousands of Cubans were allowed to leave the island from Cuba's Mariel Harbor to the United States. Fidel Castro allowed them to leave after a downturn in the Cuban economy. Among those allowed to leave were prisoners and patients of mental hospitals. (AP)
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    The studios of Radio Martí in 1961. (Photo: Radio Martí)
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    Federal agents storm the home where a 6-year-old Elián González was staying in South Florida on April 22, 2000. The boy's mother died in an attempt to reach U.S. shores; his father wanted him returned to Cuba.  (Alan Diaz/AP)
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    Elián González looks out the window of a vehicle used by the U.S. Customs service at Dulles International Airport, June 28, 2000. The Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal from Elián's relatives in Miami who had tried to keep the 6-year-old in the United States after his mother drowned trying to escape Cuba. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Newsmakers/Getty)
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    President Bill Clinton signs the Helms-Burton Act in March 12, 1996. Standing on the left is Cuban-American New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez. The law tightened the Cuban embargo. (AP)
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    An FBI composite photo of the five Cuban agents arrested in South Florida in September 1998. Cuban Five, also known as the Miami Five. Gerardo Hernández, Antonio Guerrero, Ramón Labañino, Fernando González, and René González were Cuban intelligence officers convicted in Miami of conspiracy to commit espionage and murder.
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    WASHINGTON, DC -Employees at the Cuban Interests Section hang a banner calling for the release of the Cuban Five before a news conference at the interests section September 17, 2012 in Washington, DC. Hailed as national heroes in Cuba, the five Cuban intelligence officers were convicted in 2001 of conspiracy to commit espionage, conspiracy to commit murder, acting as as an agent of a foreign government and other illegal activities in the United States.
    2012 Getty Images
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    FILE - In this Nov. 27, 2012 file photo provided by James L. Berenthal, shows jailed American Alan Gross poses for a photo during a visit by Rabbi Elie Abadie and U.S. lawyer James L. Berenthal at Finlay military hospital as he served a prison sentence in Havana, Cuba. The Maryland man was released on Dec. 16, 2014, after 5 years in jail. (AP Photo/James L. Berenthal, File)
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    JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - DECEMBER 10: U.S. President Barack Obama (L) shakes hands with Cuban President Raul Castro during the official memorial service for former South African President Nelson Mandela at FNB Stadium December 10, 2013 in Johannesburg, South Africa. It was the first face-to-face contact between rulers of the two countries since the 1959 revolution. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
    2013 Getty Images
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