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The Republic of Cuba ( ; , ) is an island country in the Caribbeanmarker. It consists of the island of Cuba, the Isla de la Juventud, and several archipelagos. Havanamarker is the largest city in Cuba and the country's capital. Santiago de Cubamarker is the second largest city. Cuba is home to over 11 million people and is the most populous insular nation in the Caribbean. Its people, culture, and customs draw from diverse sources, including the aboriginal Taíno and Ciboney peoples; the period of Spanish colonialism; the introduction of African slaves; and its proximity to the United Statesmarker.

Etymology

The name "Cuba" comes from the Taíno language and though the exact meaning is unclear, it may be translated either as "where fertile land is abundant" (cubao), or as "great place" (coabana). Additionally, there is the claim that native inhabitants called the island "Cubagua" in the Columbus era starting in 1542.

History

Early history

Prior to the arrival of the Spanish, the island was inhabited by Native American peoples known as the Taíno and Ciboney whose ancestors migrated from the mainland of North, Central and South America several centuries earlier. The Taíno were farmers and the Ciboney were farmers and hunter-gatherers; some have suggested that copper trade was significant and mainland artifacts have been found.

On October 12, 1492, Christopher Columbus landed near what is now Baracoamarker, claimed the island for the new Kingdom of Spainmarker, and named Isla Juana after Juan, Prince of Asturias. In 1511 the first Spanish settlement was founded by Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar at Baracoa; other towns soon followed including the future capital, San Cristobal de la Habanamarker founded in 1515. The Spanish enslaved the approximately 100,000 indigenous people who resisted conversion to Christianity, setting them primarily to the task of searching for gold, and within a century European infectious diseases had virtually wiped out the indigenous people.

Cuba remained a Spanish possession for almost 400 years (1511–1898), with an economy based on plantations agriculture, mining and the export of sugar, coffee and tobacco to Europe and later to North America. The work was done primarily by African slaves brought to the island when the Britishmarker owned it in 1762. The small land-owning elite of Spanish settlers held social and economic power, supported by a population of Spaniards born on the island (Criollos), other Europeans, and African-descended slaves. In the 1820s, when the rest of Spain's empire in Latin America rebelled and formed independent states, Cuba remained loyal, although there was some agitation for independence, leading the Spanish Crown to give it the motto "La Siempre Fidelísima Isla" (The Always Most Faithful Island). This loyalty was due partly to Cuban settlers' dependence on Spain for trade, protection from pirates, protection against a slave rebellion and partly because they feared the rising power of the United States more than they disliked Spanish rule.

Independence from Spain was the motive for a rebellion in 1868 led by Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, resulting in a prolonged conflict known as the Ten Years' War. The U.S. declined to recognize the new Cuban government, though many European and Latin American nations had done so. In 1878 the Pact of Zanjón ended the conflict, with Spain promising greater autonomy to Cuba. In 1879–1880, Cuban patriot Calixto Garcia attempted to start another war, known as the Little War, but received little support. Slavery was abolished in 1886, although the African-descended minority remained socially and economically oppressed. During this period, rural poverty in Spain provoked by the Spanish Revolution of 1868 and its aftermath led to increased Spanish emigration to Cuba. During the 1890s pro-independence agitation was revived in part by resentment of the restrictions imposed on Cuban trade by Spain and hostility to Spain's increasingly oppressive and incompetent administration of Cuba. Few of Spain's promises for economic reform in the Pact of Zanjón were kept.

In 1892, an exiled dissident, José Martí, founded the Cuban Revolutionary Party in New York, with the aim of achieving Cuban independence. In January 1895, Martí travelled to Montecristimarker, Santo Domingo to join the efforts of Máximo Gómez. Martí wrote down his political views in the Manifesto of Montecristi. Fighting against the Spanish army began in Cuba on 24 February 1895, but Marti was unable to reach Cuba until 11 April 1895. Marti was killed on 19 May 1895, in the battle of Dos Rios. His death immortalized him and he has become Cuba's national hero. Around 200,000 Spanish troops outnumbered the much smaller rebel army which relied mostly on guerrilla and sabotage tactics. The Spaniards began a campaign of suppression. General Valeriano Weyler, military governor of Cuba, herded the rural population into what he called reconcentrados, described by international observers as "fortified towns". These are often considered the prototype for 20th century concentration camps. Between 200,000 and 400,000 Cuban civilians died from starvation and disease in the camps, numbers verified by the Red Cross and U.S. Senator (and former Secretary of War) Redfield Proctor. U.S. and European protests against Spanish conduct on the island followed.

The U.S. battleship Maine arrived in Havana on 25 January 1898 to offer protection to the 8,000 American residents on the island; but the Spanish saw this as intimidation. On the evening of 15 February 1898, the Maine blew up in the harbor, killing 252 crew that night; another 8 died of their wounds in hospital over the next few days. A Naval Board of Inquiry, headed by Captain William Sampson, was appointed to investigate the cause of the explosion on the Maine. Having examined the wreck and taken testimony from eyewitnesses and experts, the board reported on 21 March 1898, that the Maine had been destroyed by "a double magazine set off from the exterior of the ship, which could only have been produced by a mine". The facts remain disputed today, although an investigation by Admiral Hyman G. Rickover in 1976 established that the blast was most likely a large internal explosion, caused by spontaneous combustion in inadequately ventilated bituminous coal which ignited gunpowder in an adjacent magazine. The board was unable to fix the responsibility for the disaster, but a furious American populace, fueled by an active press—notably the newspapers of William Randolph Hearst—concluded that the Spanish were to blame and demanded action. The U.S. Congress passed a resolution calling for intervention and President William McKinley complied. Spain and the United States declared war on each other in late April.

Modern history

After the Spanish-American War, Spain and the United States signed the Treaty of Paris , by which Puerto Rico, the Philippinesmarker, and Guammarker were ceded to the U.S. for the sum of $20 million. Under the same treaty Spain relinquished all claim of sovereignty over the title to Cuba. Theodore Roosevelt, who had fought in the Spanish-American War and had some sympathies with the independence movement, succeeded McKinley as U.S. President in 1901 and abandoned the 20-year treaty proposal. Instead, Cuba gained formal independence from the United States on May 20, 1902 as the Republic of Cuba. Under the new constitution, however, the U.S. retained the right to intervene in Cuban affairs and to supervise its finances and foreign relations. Under the Platt Amendment, the U.S. leased the Guantánamo Bay naval base from Cuba.

In 1906, following disputed elections, the first president, Tomás Estrada Palma, faced an armed revolt by independence war veterans who defeated the meager government forces. The U.S. intervened by occupying Cuba and named Charles Edward Magoon as Governor for three years. For many years afterwards, Cuban historians attributed Magoon's governorship as having introduced political and social corruption. In 1908 self-government was restored when José Miguel Gómez was elected President, but the U.S. continued intervening in Cuban affairs. In 1912 the Partido Independiente de Color attempted to establish a separate black republic in Oriente Province, but were suppressed by General Monteagudo with considerable bloodshed.

During World War I, Cuba shipped considerable quantities of sugar to Britain, avoiding U-boat attack, by the subterfuge of shipping sugar to Sweden. The Menocal government declared war on Germany very soon after the U.S. did.

Despite frequent outbreaks of disorder, constitutional government was maintained until 1930, when Gerardo Machado y Morales suspended the constitution. During Machado's tenure, a nationalistic economic program was pursued with several major national development projects undertaken, including Carretera Centralmarker and El Capitoliomarker. Machado's hold on power was weakened following a decline in demand for exported agricultural produce due to the Great Depression, and to attacks first by independence war veterans, and later by covert terrorist organizations, principally the ABC.

During a general strike in which the Communist Party took the side of Machado the senior elements of the Cuban army forced Machado into exile and installed Carlos Manuel de Céspedes y Quesada, son of Cuba's founding father (Carlos Manuel de Céspedes), as President. During September 4–5, 1933 a second coup overthrew Céspedes, leading to the formation of the first Ramón Grau government. Notable events in this violent period include the separate sieges of Hotel Nacional de Cubamarker and Atares Castle. This government lasted 100 days but engineered radical socialistic changes in Cuban society and a rejection of the Platt amendment. In 1934 Fulgencio Batista and the army replaced Grau with Carlos Mendieta.

Batista was finally elected as President democratically in the elections of 1940, and his administration carried out major social reforms. Several members of the Communist Party held office under his administration. Batista's administration formally took Cuba to the Allies of World War II camp in the World War II, declaring war on Japan on December 9, 1941, then on Germany and Italy on December 11, 1941. Cuba was not greatly involved in combat during World War II.

Ramón Grau won the 1944 elections. Carlos Prío Socarrás won the 1948 elections. The influx of investment fueled a boom which did much to raise living standards across the board and create a prosperous middle class in most urban areas, although the gap between rich and poor became wider and more obvious.

The 1952 election was a three-way race. Roberto Agramonte of the Ortodoxos party led in all the polls, followed by Dr Aurelio Hevia of the Auténtico party, and running a distant third was Batista, seeking a return to office. Both Agramonte and Hevia had decided to name Col. Ramón Barquín to head the Cuban armed forces after the elections. Barquín, then a diplomat in Washington, DCmarker, was a top officer who commanded the respect of the professional army and had promised to eliminate corruption in the ranks. Batista feared that Barquín would oust him and his followers, and when it became apparent that Batista had little chance of winning, he staged a coup on March 10, 1952 and held power with the backing of a nationalist section of the army as a "provisional president" for the next two years. Justo Carrillo told Barquín in Washington in March 1952 that the inner circles knew that Batista had aimed the coup at him; they immediately began to conspire to oust Batista and restore democracy and civilian government in what was later dubbed La Conspiracion de los Puros de 1956 (Agrupacion Montecristi). In 1954 Batista agreed to elections. The Partido Auténtico put forward ex-President Grau as their candidate, but he withdrew amid allegations that Batista was rigging the elections in advance.

In April 1956 Batista had given the orders for Barquín to become General and chief of the army. But Barquin decided to move forward with his coup and secure total power. On April 4, 1956 a coup by hundreds of career officers led by Col. Barquín was frustrated by Rios Morejon. The coup broke the backbone of the Cuban armed forces. The officers were sentenced to the maximum terms allowed by Cuban Martial Law. Barquín was sentenced to solitary confinement for eight years. La Conspiración de los Puros resulted in the imprisonment of the commanders of the armed forces and the closing of the military academies.

Cuba had Latin America's highest per capita consumption rates of meat, vegetables, cereals, automobiles, telephones and radios. In 1958, Cuba was a relatively well-advanced country, certainly by Latin American standards, and in some cases by world standards. Cuban workers enjoyed some of the highest wages in the world. Cuba attracted more immigrants, primarily from Europe, as a percentage of population than the US. The United Nations noted Cuba for its large middle class. On the other hand, Cuba was affected by perhaps the largest labor union privileges in Latin America, including bans on dismissals and mechanization. They were obtained in large measure "at the cost of the unemployed and the peasants", leading to disparities. Between 1933 and 1958, Cuba extended economic regulations enormously, causing economic problems. Unemployment became relatively large; graduates entering the workforce could not find jobs. The middle class, which compared Cuba to the United States, became increasingly dissatisfied with the unemployment, while labor unions supported Batista until the very end.

The United States government imposed an arms embargo on the Cuban government on March 14, 1958. On December 2, 1956 a party of 82 people, led by Fidel Castro, had landed with the intention of establishing an armed resistance movement in the Sierra Maestra. By late 1958 they had broken out of the Sierra Maestra and launched a general insurrection, joined by various people. When the group captured Santa Claramarker, Batista fled the country to exile in Portugalmarker. Barquín negotiated the symbolic change of command between Camilo Cienfuegos, Che Guevara, Raul Castro and his brother Fidel Castro, after the Supreme Court decided that the Revolution was the source of law and its representative should assume command. Castro's forces entered the capital on January 8, 1959. Shortly afterwards, a liberal lawyer, Dr Manuel Urrutia Lleó became president; he was backed by Castro's 26th of July Movement, because they believed his appointment would be welcomed by the United States. Disagreements within the government culminated in Urrutia's resignation in July 1959; he was replaced by Osvaldo Dorticós, who served as president until 1976. Castro became prime minister in February 1959, succeeding José Miró in that post.

In its first year, the new revolutionary government expropriated private property with little or no compensation, nationalised public utilities, tightened controls on the private sector and closed down the mafia-controlled gambling industry. The CIA conspired with the Chicago mafia in 1960 and 1961 to assassinate Fidel Castro, according to documents declassified in 2007.

Some of these measures were undertaken by Fidel Castro's government in the name of the program outlined in the Manifesto of the Sierra Maestra, while in the Sierra Maestra. The government nationalized private property totaling about $25 billion US dollars, out of which American property made up only over US $1.0 billions.

By the end of 1960, all opposition newspapers had been closed down, and all radio and television stations were in state control. Moderates, teachers and professors were purged. In any year, about 20,000 dissenters were held and tortured under inhuman prison conditions. Groups such as homosexuals were locked up in internment camps in the 1960s, where they were subject to medical-political "re-education". One estimate is that 15,000 to 17,000 people were executed. The Communist Party strengthened its one-party rule, with Castro as supreme leader. Fidel's brother, Raul Castro, became the army chief. Loyalty to Castro became the primary criteria for all appointments. In September 1960, the regime created a system known as Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR), which provided neighborhood spying. In the 1961 New Year's Day parade, the administration exhibited Soviet tanks and other weapons. Eventually, the tiny island nation built up the second largest armed forces in Latin America, second only to Brazilmarker. Cuba became a privileged client-state of the Soviet Union.

By 1961, hundreds of thousands of Cubans had left for the United States. The 1961 Bay of Pigs Invasion (La Batalla de Girón) was an unsuccessful attempt to overthrow the Cuban government by a U.S.-trained force of Cuban exiles with U.S. military support. The plan was launched in April 1961, less than three months after John F. Kennedy became the U.S. President. The Cuban armed forces, trained and equipped by Eastern Bloc nations, defeated the exiles in three days. The bad Cuban-American relations were exacerbated the following year by the Cuban Missile Crisis, when the Kennedy administration demanded the immediate withdrawal of Soviet missiles placed in Cuba, which was a response to U.S. nuclear missiles in Turkeymarker and the Middle East. The Soviets and Americans soon agreed on the removal of Soviet missiles from Cuba and American missiles secretly from Turkey and the Middle East within a few months. Kennedy also agreed not to invade Cuba in the future. Cuban exiles captured during the Bay of Pigs Invasion were exchanged for a shipment of supplies from America. By 1963, Cuba was moving towards a full-fledged Communist system modeled on the USSR. The U.S. imposed a complete diplomatic and commercial embargo on Cuba and began Operation Mongoose.

In 1965, Castro merged his revolutionary organizations with the Communist Party, of which he became First Secretary, and Blas Roca became Second Secretary. Roca was succeeded by Raúl Castro, who, as Defense Minister and Fidel's closest confidant, became and has remained the second most powerful figure in Cuba. Raúl's position was strengthened by the departure of Che Guevara to launch unsuccessful insurrections in the Democratic Republic of Congomarker, and then Boliviamarker, where he was killed in 1967.

During the 1970s, Castro dispatched tens of thousands troops in support of Soviet-supported wars in Africa, particularly the MPLA in Angolamarker and Mengistu Haile Mariam in Ethiopiamarker. The standard of living in 1970s was "extremely spartan" and discontent was rife. Fidel Castro admitted the failures of economic policies in a 1970 speech. By the mid-1970s, Castro started economic reforms.

Cuba was expelled from the Organization of American Statesmarker (OAS) in 1962 in support of the U.S. embargo, but in 1975 the OAS lifted all sanctions against Cuba and both Mexico and Canada broke ranks with the US by developing closer relations with Cuba. On 3 June 2009 the OAS adopted a contentious resolution to end the 47-year exclusion of Cuba, but the U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton walked out in protest as the resolution was being drafted. Cuban leaders have repeatedly announced they are not interested in rejoining the OAS.

As of 2002, some 1.2 million persons of Cuban background (about 10% of the current population of Cuba) reside in the U.S., Many of them left the island for the U.S., often by sea in small boats and fragile rafts. On 6 April 1980, 10,000 Cubans stormed the Peruvianmarker embassy in Havana seeking political asylum. The following day, the Cuban government granted permission for the emigration of Cubans seeking refuge in the Peruvian embassy. On 16 April, 500 Cubans left the Peruvian Embassy for Costa Ricamarker. On 21 April, many of those Cubans started arriving in Miamimarker via private boats and were halted by the U.S. State Department, but the emigration continued, because Castro allowed anyone who desired to leave the country to do so through the port of Mariel. Over 125,000 Cubans emigrated to the U.S. before the flow of vessels ended on 15 June.

Castro's rule was severely tested in the aftermath of the Soviet collapse (known in Cuba as the Special Period). The food shortages were similar to North Korea; priority was given to the elite classes and the military, while ordinary people had little to eat. The regime did not accept American donations of food, medicines and cash until 1993. On 5 August 1994, state security dispersed protesters in a spontaneous popular uprising in Havana.

Cuba has found a new source of aid and support in the People's Republic of Chinamarker, and new allies in Hugo Chávez, President of Venezuela and Evo Morales, President of Bolivia, both major oil and gas exporters. In 2003, the regime arrested and imprisoned a large number of civil activists, a period known as the "Black Spring".

On July 31, 2006 Fidel Castro temporarily delegated his major duties to his brother, First Vice President, Raúl Castro, while Fidel recovered from surgery for an "acute intestinal crisis with sustained bleeding". On 2 December 2006, Fidel was too ill to attend the 50th anniversary commemoration of the Granmamarker boat landing, fuelling speculation that he had stomach cancer, although there was evidence his illness was a digestive problem and not terminal.

In January 2008, footage was released of Fidel meeting Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez, in which Castro "appeared frail but stronger than three months ago". In February 2008 Fidel announced his resignation as President of Cuba, and on 24 February Raúl was elected as the new President. In his acceptance speech, Raúl promised that some of the restrictions that limit Cubans' daily lives would be removed. In March 2009, Raúl Castro purged some of Fidel's officials.

Government and politics

The Constitution of 1976, which defined Cuba as a socialist republic, was replaced by the Constitution of 1992, which is guided by the ideas of José Martí, Marx, Engels and Lenin. The constitution describes the Communist Party of Cuba as the "leading force of society and of the state". The first secretary of the Communist Party, is concurrently President of the Council of State (President of Cuba) and President of the Council of Ministers (sometimes referred to as Prime Minister of Cuba). Members of both councils are elected by the National Assembly of People's Power. The President of Cuba, who is also elected by the Assembly, serves for five years and there is no limit to the number of terms of office.

The Supreme Court of Cuba serves as the nation's highest judicial branch of government. It is also the court of last resort for all appeals against the decisions of provincial courts.

Cuba's national legislature, the National Assembly of People's Power (Asamblea Nacional de Poder Popular), is the supreme organ of power; 609 members serve five-year terms. The assembly meets twice a year, between sessions legislative power is held by the 31 member Council of Ministers. Candidates for the Assembly are approved by public referendum. All Cuban citizens over 16 who have not been convicted of a criminal offense can vote. Article 131 of the Constitution states that voting shall be "through free, equal and secret vote". Article 136 states: "In order for deputies or delegates to be considered elected they must get more than half the number of valid votes cast in the electoral districts". Votes are cast by secret ballot and counted in public view. Nominees are chosen at local gatherings from multiple candidates before gaining approval from election committees. In the subsequent election, there is one candidate for each seat, who must gain a majority to be elected.

No political party is permitted to nominate candidates or campaign on the island, though the Communist Party of Cuba has held five party congress meetings since 1975. In 1997 the party claimed 780,000 members, and representatives generally constitute at least half of the Councils of state and the National Assembly. The remaining positions are filled by candidates nominally without party affiliation. Other political parties campaign and raise finances internationally, while activity within Cuba by opposition groups is minimal and illegal.

The country is subdivided into fourteen provinces and one special municipality (Isla de la Juventud). These were formerly part of six larger historical provinces: Pinar del Río, Habana, Matanzas, Las Villas, Camagüey and Oriente. The present subdivisions closely resemble those of Spanish military provinces during the Cuban Wars of Independence, when the most troublesome areas were subdivided. The provinces are divided into municipalities.
  1. Isle of Youthmarker
  2. Pinar del Río
  3. Havana Provincemarker
  4. Havana Citymarker
  5. Matanzas
  6. Cienfuegos
  7. Villa Clara
  8. Sancti Spíritus
  1. Ciego de Ávila
  2. Camagüey
  3. Las Tunas
  4. Granma
  5. Holguín
  6. Santiago de Cuba
  7. Guantánamo


Military of Cuba

Castro's Cuba had a high degree of militarization and devoted a large share of its national resources to support its military establishment and activities. Castro built up the second largest armed forces in Latin America; only Brazil's were larger. From 1975 until the late 1980s, Soviet military assistance enabled Cuba to upgrade its military capabilities. Since the loss of Soviet subsidies Cuba has scaled down the numbers of military personnel, from 235,000 in 1994 to about 60,000 in 2003. Cuba is secretive about its military spending.

The military has long been the most powerful, influential, and competent official institution in Cuba, and high-ranking generals are believed to play crucial roles in all conceivable succession scenarios.

Foreign relations

From its inception the Cuban Revolution defined itself as internationalist, joining Comecon in 1972. Cuba was a major contributor to on Soviet-supported wars in Africa, Central America and Asia. In Africa, the largest war was in Angola, where Cuba sent tens of thousands of troops. Cuba was a friend of the Ethiopian leader Mengistu Haile Mariam. In Africa, Cuba supported seventeen leftist governments. In some countries it suffered setbacks, such as in eastern Zaire, but in others Cuba had significant success. Major engagements took place in Algeriamarker, Zaire, Yemenmarker, Ethiopia, Guinea-Bissaumarker and Mozambiquemarker.

The Cuban government's military involvement in Latin America has been extensive. One of the earliest interventions was the Marxist militia led by Che Guevara in Bolivia in 1967, though a modicum of funds and troops were sent. Lesser known actions include the 1959 missions to the Dominican Republicmarker and Panamamarker. The socialist government in Nicaraguamarker was openly supported by Cuba and can be considered its greatest success in Latin America. Cuba is a founding member of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas. More than 30,000 Cuban doctors currently work abroad, in countries such as Venezuela and Zimbabwe. The membership of Cuba in the United Nations Human Rights Council has received criticism.

The European Union in 2003 accused the Castro regime of "continuing flagrant violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms". In 2008 the EU and Cuba agreed to resume full relations and cooperation activities. The United States continues an embargo against the island of Cuba "so long as it continues to refuse to move toward democratization and greater respect for human rights". United States President Barack Obama stated on April 17, 2009 in Trinidad and Tobagomarker that "the United States seeks a new beginning with Cuba", and reversed the Bush Administration's prohibition on travel and remittances by Cuban-Americans from the United States to Cuba.

Human rights

The Cuban government has been accused of numerous human rights abuses including torture, arbitrary imprisonment, unfair trials, and extrajudicial executions (a.k.a. "El Paredón"). The Human Rights Watch alleges that the government "represses nearly all forms of political dissent" and that "Cubans are systematically denied basic rights to free expression, association, assembly, privacy, movement, and due process of law".

Cuba was the second biggest prison in the world for journalists in 2008, second only to the People's Republic of China, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), an international NGO. As a result of computer ownership bans, computer ownership rates are among the world's lowest. Right to use Internet is granted only to selected people and these selected people are monitored. Connecting to the Internet illegally can lead to a five-year prison sentence.

Cuban dissidents face arrests and imprisonment. In the 1990s Human Rights reported that Cuba's extensive prison system, one of the largest in Latin America, consists of some forty maximum security prisons, thirty minimum security prisons, and over 200 work camps. According to Human Rights Watch, political prisoners, along with the rest of Cuba's prison population, are confined to jails with substandard and unhealthy conditions. Other dissident thinkers such as Yoani Sánchez are under tight surveillance.

Citizens cannot leave or return to Cuba without first obtaining official permission, which is often denied.

Geography

Cuba is an archipelago of islands located in the northern Caribbean Seamarker at the confluence with the Gulf of Mexicomarker and the Atlantic Oceanmarker. The United States lies to the north-west, the Bahamasmarker to the north, Haitimarker to the east, Jamaicamarker and the Cayman Islandsmarker to the south, and Mexicomarker to the west. Cuba is the principal island, surrounded by four smaller groups of islands: the Colorados Archipelagomarker on the northwestern coast, the Sabana-Camagüey Archipelagomarker on the north-central Atlantic coast, the Jardines de la Reinamarker on the south-central coast and the Canarreos Archipelagomarker on the southwestern coast. The main island is long, constituting most of the nation's land area ( ) and is the sixteenth-largest island in the world by land area. The main island consists mostly of flat to rolling plains apart from the Sierra Maestramarker mountains in the southeast, whose highest point is Pico Turquinomarker ( ). The second largest island is Isla de la Juventudmarker (Isle of Youth) in the Canarreos archipelago, with an area of . Cuba has a total land area of .

The local climate is tropical, though moderated by northeasterly trade winds that blow year-round. In general (with local variations), there is a drier season from November to April, and a rainier season from May to October. The average temperature is in January and in July. The warm temperatures of the Caribbean Sea and the fact that Cuba sits across the entrance to the Gulf of Mexico combine to make the country prone to frequent hurricanes. These are most common in September and October.

The most important mineral resource is nickel, of which Cuba has the world's second largest reserves after Russia. A Canadian energy company operates a large nickel mining facility in Moamarker. Cuba is also the world's fifth largest producer of refined cobalt, a byproduct of nickel mining operations. Recent oil exploration has revealed that the North Cuba Basin could produce approximately to of oil. In 2006, Cuba started to test-drill these locations for possible exploitation.

Demographics

Official 1899-2002 Cuba Census
Race % 1899 1907 1919 1931 1943 1953 1981 2002
White 66.9 69.7 72.2 72.1 74.3 72.8 66.0 65.05
Black 14.9 13.4 11.2 11.0 9.7 12.4 12.0 10.08
Mulatto 17.2 16.3 16.0 16.2 15.6 14.5 21.9 24.86
Asian 1.0 0.6 0.6 0.7 0.4 0.3 0.1 1.0
According to the census of 2002, the population was 11,177,743, including 5,597,233 men and 5,580,510 women. The racial make-up was 7,271,926 whites, 1,126,894 blacks and 2,778,923 mulattoes (or mestizos). The population of Cuba has very complex origins and intermarriage between diverse groups is general. There is disagreement about racial statistics. The Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies at the University of Miami says that 62% is black, whereas statistics from the Cuban census state that 65.05% of the population was white in 2002. The Minority Rights Group International says that "An objective assessment of the situation of Afro-Cubans remains problematic due to scant records and a paucity of systematic studies both pre- and post-revolution. Estimates of the percentage of people of African descent in the Cuban population vary enormously, ranging from 33.9 per cent to 62 per cent".


Immigration and emigration have played a prominent part in the demographic profile of Cuba during the 20th century. During the 18th, 19th and early part of the 20th century large waves of Canarian, Catalan, Andalusian, Galician and other Spanish people immigrated to Cuba. Between 1900 and 1930 close to a million Spaniards arrived from Spain. Other foreign immigrants include: French, Portuguese, Italian, Russian, Dutch, Greek, British, Irish, and other ethnic groups, including a small number of descendants of U.S. citizens who arrived in Cuba in the late 19th/early 20th century.

Cuba has a sizable number of Asian people who comprise one percent of the population. They are primarily of Chinese descent (see Chinese Cubans), but followed by Japanese, Filipino, Koreans and Vietnamese people are descendants of farm laborers brought into the island by Spanish and American contractors during the 19th and early 20th century. The ancestry of Afro-Cubans comes primarily from the Kongo people. , as well as several thousand North African refugees, most notably the Sahrawi Arabs of Western Saharamarker under Moroccanmarker occupation since 1976.

Cuba's birth rate (9.88 births per thousand population in 2006) is one of the lowest in the Western Hemispheremarker. Its overall population has increased continuously from around 7 million in 1961 to over 11 million now, but the rate of increase has stopped in the last few decades, and started falling in 2006, with a fertility rate of 1.43 children per woman. This drop in fertility is among the largest in the Western Hemisphere. Cuba has unrestricted access to legal abortion and an abortion rate of 58.6 per 1000 pregnancies in 1996 compared to a Caribbean average of 35, a Latin American average of 27, and a European average of 48. Contraceptive use is estimated at 79% (in the upper third of countries in the Western Hemisphere).

Official Immigration to the U.S
Year of
Immigration
White Black Other Asian Number
1959–64 93.3 1.2 5.3 0.2 144,732
1965–74 87.7 2.0 9.1 0.2 247,726
1975–79 82.6 4.0 13.3 0.1 29,508
1980 80.9 5.3 13.7 0.1 94,095
1981–89 85.7 3.1 10.9 0.3 77,835
1990–93 84.7 3.2 11.9 0.2 60,244
1994–2000 85.8 3.7 10.4 0.7 174,437
Total 87.2 2.9 10.7 0.2 828,577


Cuba is officially an atheist state; however, it has many faiths representing the widely varying culture. Catholicism was brought to the island by the Spanish and remains the dominant faith, with eleven dioceses, 56 orders of nuns and 24 orders of priests. In January 1998 Pope John Paul II paid a historic visit to the island, invited by the Cuban government and Catholic Church. The religious landscape of Cuba is also strongly marked by syncretisms of various kinds. Catholicism is often practised in tandem with Santería, a mixture of Catholicism and other, mainly African, faiths that include a number of cult religions. La Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre (the Virgin of Cobre) is the Catholic patroness of Cuban, and a symbol of the Cuban culture. In Santería, She has been syncretized with the goddess Oshun.

Three hundred thousand Cubans belong to the island's 54 Protestant denominations. Pentecostalism has grown rapidly in recent years, and the Assemblies of God alone claims a membership of over 100,000 people. Cuba has small communities of Jews, Muslims and members of the Bahá'í Faith. Most Jewish Cubans are descendants of Polish and Russian Ashkenazi Jews who fled pogroms at the beginning of the 20th century. There is, however, a sizeable number of Sephardic Jews in Cuba, who trace their origin to Turkey. Most of these Sephardic Jews live in the provinces, although they maintain a synagogue in Havana.

In the last half-century, several hundred thousand Cubans of all social classes have emigrated to the United States, Spain, Mexico, Canada, Sweden, and other countries. On 9 September 1994, the U.S. and Cuban governments agreed that the United States would grant at least 20,000 visas annually in exchange for Cuba’s pledge to prevent further unlawful departures by rafters.

Education

University of Havana, founded in 1728
Cuba has a long history in education. The University of Havanamarker was founded in 1728 and there are a number of other well-established colleges and universities. In 1957, just before the Castro regime came to power, the literacy was fourth in the region at almost 80% according to the United Nations, higher than in Spainmarker. Castro created an entirely state-operated system and banned non-Communist institutions. School attendance is compulsory from ages six to the end of basic secondary education (normally at 15), and all students, regardless of age or gender, wear school uniforms with the color denoting grade level. Primary education lasts for six years, secondary education is divided into basic and pre-university education. Higher education is provided by universities, higher institutes, higher pedagogical institutes, and higher polytechnic institutes. The Cuban Ministry of Higher Education also operates a scheme of distance education which provides regular afternoon and evening courses in rural areas for agricultural workers. Education has a strong political and ideological emphasis, and students progressing to higher education are expected to have a commitment to the goals of the Cuban government. Cuba has also provided state subsidized education to a limited number of foreign nationals at the Latin American School of Medicine. Internet access is limited. The sale of computer equipment is strictly regulated, Internet access is controlled, and e-mail is closely monitored.

Strong ideological content is present. Educational and cultural policy is based on Marxist ideology. A file is kept on children's "revolutionary integration" and it accompanies the child for life. University options will depend on how well the person is integrated to Marxist ideology as well as a permission from the "Committee for the Defense of the Revolution". The Code for Children, Youth and Family states that a parent who teaches ideas contrary to communism can be sentenced to three years in prison.

Health

Historically, Cuba has ranked high in numbers of medical personnel and has made significant contributions to world health since the 19th century. Today, Cuba has universal free health care and although shortages of medical supplies persist, there is no shortage of medical personnel. Primary care is available throughout the island and infant and maternal mortality rates compare favorably with those in developed nations.

Post-Revolution Cuba initially experienced an overall worsening in terms of disease and infant mortality rates in the 1960s when half its 6,000 doctors left the country. Recovery occurred by the 1980s. The Communist government asserted that universal healthcare was to become a priority of state planning and progress was made in rural areas. Like the rest of the Cuban economy, Cuban medical care suffered from severe material shortages following the end of Sovietmarker subsidies in 1991 followed by a tightening of the U.S. embargo in 1992.

Challenges include low pay of doctors (only 15 dollars a month), poor facilities, poor provision of equipment, and frequent absence of essential drugs. Nevertheless, Cuba has the highest doctor-to-population ratio in the world and has sent thousands of doctors to more than 40 countries around the world.

According to the UN, the life expectancy in Cuba is 78.3 years (76.2 for males and 80.4 for females). This ranks Cuba 37th in the world and 3rd in the Americas, behind only Canada and Chile, and just ahead of the United States. Infant mortality in Cuba declined from 32 (infant deaths per 1,000 live births) in 1957, to 10 in 1990–95 . Infant mortality in 2000–2005 was 6.1 per 1,000 live births (compared to 6.8 in the USA).

Culture

A local musical house, Casa de la Trova in Santiago de Cuba
A traditional meal of ropa vieja (shredded flank steak in a tomato sauce base), black beans, yellow rice, plantains and fried yuca with beer
Cuban culture is much influenced by its melting pot of cultures, primarily those of Spain and Africa. Sport is Cuba's national passion. Due to historical associations with the United States, many Cubans participate in sports which are popular in North America, rather than sports traditionally promoted in other Spanish-speaking nations. Baseball is by far the most popular; other sports and pastimes include basketball, volleyball, cricket, and athletics. Cuba is a dominant force in amateur boxing, consistently achieving high medal tallies in major international competitions.

Cuban music is very rich and is the most commonly known expression of culture. The "central form" of this music is Son, which has been the basis of many other musical styles like salsa, rumba and mambo and an upbeat derivation of the rumba, the cha-cha-cha. Rumba music originated in early Afro-Cuban culture. The Tres was also invented in Cuba, but other traditional Cuban instruments are of African and/or Taíno origin such as the maracas, güiro, marimba and various wooden drums including the mayohuacan. Popular Cuban music of all styles has been enjoyed and praised widely across the world. Cuban classical music, which includes music with strong African and European influences, and features symphonic works as well as music for soloists, has also received international acclaim thanks to composers like Ernesto Lecuona. Havana was the heart of the rap scene in Cuba when it began in the 1990s. During that time, reggaetón was also growing in popularity. Dance in Cuba has taken a major boost over the 1990s. "Perreo", an exotic and slightly different form of grinding, has become one of the most accepted forms of dancing in clubs and music videos.

Cuba has produced more than its fair share of literature, including the output of non-Cubans Stephen Crane, Graham Greene and Ernest Hemingway. Cuban literature began to find its voice in the early 19th century. Dominant themes of independence and freedom were exemplified by José Martí, who led the Modernist movement in Cuban literature. Writers such as Nicolás Guillén and Jose Z. Tallet focused on literature as social protest. The poetry and novels of José Lezama Lima have also been influential. While romanticist Miguel Barnet, who once wrote "Everyone dreamed of Cuba", reflects a more melancholy Cuba. "Writers such as Reinaldo Arenas, Guillermo Cabrera Infante, and more recently Daína Chaviano, Pedro Juan Gutiérrez, Zoé Valdés, Guillermo Rosales and Leonardo Padura have earned international recognition in the post-revolutionary era, though many of these writers have felt compelled to continue their work in exile due to ideological control of media by the Cuban authorities.

Cuban cuisine is a fusion of Spanish and Caribbean cuisines. Cuban recipes share spices and techniques with Spanish cooking, with some Caribbean influence in spice and flavor. Now food rationing, which has been the norm in Cuba for the last four decades, restricts the common availability of these dishes. Traditional Cuban meal would not be served in courses; rather all food items would be served at the same time. The typical meal could consist of plantains, black beans and rice, ropa vieja (shredded beef), Cuban bread, pork with onions, and tropical fruits. Black beans and rice, referred to as Platillo Moros y Cristianos (or moros for short), and plantains are staples of the Cuban diet. Many of the meat dishes are cooked slowly with light sauces. Garlic, cumin, oregano and bay leaves are the dominant spices.

Economy

The Cuban state adheres to socialist principles in organizing its largely state-controlled planned economy. Most of the means of production are owned and run by the government and most of the labor force is employed by the state. Recent years have seen a trend towards more private sector employment. By the year 2006, public sector employment was 78% and private sector 22%, compared to 91.8% to 8.2% in 1981. Capital investment is restricted and requires approval by the government. The Cuban government sets most prices and rations goods. Moreover, any firm wishing to hire a Cuban must pay the Cuban government, which in turn will pay the company's employee in Cuban pesos according to Human Rights Watch. Cubans can not change jobs without government permission. The average wage at the end of 2005 was 334 regular pesos per month ($16.70 per month) and the average pension was $9 per month.

Cuba relied heavily on trade with the Soviet Union. From the late 1980s, Soviet subsidies for Cuba started to dry up. Before the collapse of the Soviet Unionmarker, Cuba depended on Moscowmarker for sheltered markets for its exports and substantial aid. The removal of these subsidies sent the Cuban economy into a rapid depression known in Cuba as the Special Period. In 1992 the United States tightened the trade embargo, hoping to see democratization of the sort that took place in Eastern Europe.

Like some other Communist and post-Communist states following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Cuba took limited free market-oriented measures to alleviate severe shortages of food, consumer goods, and services. These steps included allowing some self-employment in certain retail and light manufacturing sectors, the legalization of the use of the US dollar in business, and the encouragement of tourism. Cuba has developed a unique urban farm system (the organopónicos) to compensate for the end of food imports from the Soviet Union. In recent years, Cuba has rolled back some of the market oriented measures undertaken in the 1990s. In 2004 Cuban officials publicly backed the Euro as a "global counter-balance to the US dollar", and eliminated the US currency from circulation in its stores and businesses.

Tourism was initially restricted to enclave resorts where tourists would be segregated from Cuban society, referred to as "enclave tourism" and "tourism apartheid". Contacts between foreign visitors and ordinary Cubans were de facto illegal until 1997. In 1996 tourism surpassed the sugar industry as the largest source of hard currency for Cuba. Cuba has tripled its market share of Caribbean tourism in the last decade; as a result of significant investment in tourism infrastructure, this growth rate is predicted to continue. 1.9 million tourists visited Cuba in 2003, predominantly from Canada and the European Union, generating revenue of $2.1 billion. The rapid growth of tourism during the Special Period had widespread social and economic repercussions in Cuba, and led to speculation of the emergence of a two-tier economy. Medical tourism sector caters to thousands of European, Latin American, Canadian and American consumers every year.

The communist agricultural production system was ridiculed by Raúl Castro in 2008. Cuba now imports up to 80% of its food. Before 1959, Cuba boasted as many cattle as people.

For some time, Cuba has been experiencing a housing shortage because of the state's failure to keep pace with increasing demand. Moreover, the government instituted food rationing policies in 1962, which were exacerbated following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the tightening of the US embargo. Studies have shown that, as late as 2001, the average Cuban's standard of living was lower than before the downturn of the post-Soviet period. Paramount issues have been state salaries failing to meet personal needs under the state rationing system chronically plagued with shortages. As the variety and quantity of available rationed goods declined.

Under Venezuela's Mission Barrio Adentro, Hugo Chávez has supplied Cuba up to of oil per day in exchange for 30,000 doctors and teachers.

In 2005 Cuba had exports of $2.4 billion, ranking 114 of 226 world countries, and imports of $6.9 billion, ranking 87 of 226 countries. Its major export partners are Chinamarker 27.5%, Canada 26.9%, Netherlandsmarker 11.1%, Spain 4.7% (2007). Cuba's major exports are sugar, nickel, tobacco, fish, medical products, citrus, and coffee; imports include food, fuel, clothing, and machinery. Cuba presently holds debt in an amount estimated to be $13 billion, approximately 38% of GDP. According to the Heritage Foundation, Cuba is dependent on credit accounts that rotate from country to country. Cuba's prior 35% supply of the world's export market for sugar has declined to 10% due to a variety of factors, including a global sugar commodity price drop making Cuba less competitive on world markets. At one time, Cuba was the world's most important sugar producer and exporter. As a result of diversification, underinvestment and natural disasters, however, Cuba's sugar production has seen a drastic decline. In 2002 more than half of Cuba's sugar mills were shut down. Cuba holds 6.4% of the global market for nickel which constitutes about 25% of total Cuban exports. Recently, large reserves of oil have been found in the North Cuba Basin.

See also



References

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