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Republic of Cuba
República de Cuba
Flag of Cuba Coat of arms of Cuba
Flag Coat of arms
MottoPatria o Muerte (Spanish)
"Our Homeland or Death"a
AnthemLa Bayamesa  ("The Bayamo Song")
Location of Cuba
(and largest city)
23°8′N 82°23′W / 23.133°N 82.383°W / 23.133; -82.383
Official languages Spanish
Ethnic groups  65.05% European (Spanish, French, other), 10.08% African (Yoruba, Igbo, other), 23.84% Mulatto & Mestizo[1]
Demonym Cuban
Government Socialist Republic,
Single-party communist state
 -  President Raúl Castro
 -  Premier Raúl Castro
Independence from Spain 
 -  Declaredc October 10, 1868 
 -  Republic declared May 20, 1902
from United States 
 -  Cuban Revolution January 1, 1959 
 -  Total 110,861 km2 (105th)
42,803 sq mi 
 -  Water (%) negligible
 -  2008 estimate 11,423,952[2] (73rd)
 -  2002 census 11,177,743 
 -  Density 102/km2 (97th)
264/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2008 estimate
 -  Total $144.6 billion[3] 
 -  Per capita $12,700[3] (70th)
GDP (nominal) 2008 estimate
 -  Total $55.18 billion[3] 
 -  Per capita $4,830[2][3] 
HDI (2008) 0.855[4] (high) (48th)
Currency Cuban peso (CUP)
Convertible peso d (CUC)
Time zone (UTC-5)
 -  Summer (DST) (Starts March 11; ends November 4) (UTC-4)
Drives on the right
Internet TLD .cu
Calling code 53
a As shown on the obverse of the 1992 coin[5] (Note that the Spanish word "Patria" is feminine and is translated into English as either "Cradle" or "Place of Birth" or "Homeland".)
bThe Constitution of Cuba states that "Cuba is an independent and sovereign socialist state [Article 1] and that the name of the Cuban state is Republic of Cuba [Article 2]."[6] The usage "socialist republic" to describe the style of government of Cuba is nearly uniform, though forms of government have no universally agreed typology. For example, Atlapedia[7] describes it as "Unitary Socialist Republic"; Encyclopædia Britannica[8] omits the word "unitary", as do most sources.
c At the start of the Ten Years' War.
d From 1993 to 2004 the U.S. dollar was used in addition to the peso until the dollar was replaced by the convertible peso.

The Republic of Cuba (IPA: /ˈkjuːbə/, Spanish: CUBA.ogg Cuba or RCUB.ogg República de Cuba Spanish pronunciation: [reˈpuβlika ðe ˈkuβa]) is an island country in the Caribbean. It consists of the island of Cuba, the Isla de la Juventud, and several archipelagos.

Havana is the largest city in Cuba and the country's capital. Santiago de Cuba is the second largest city.[9] 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 States.



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),[10] or as "great place" (coabana).[11]


"Everyone dreamed of Cuba", wrote Cuban romanticist Miguel Barnet[12], as Cuba is located in the northern Caribbean at the confluence of the Caribbean Sea, the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. Cuba is south of the eastern United States and The Bahamas, west of the Turks and Caicos Islands and Haiti, east of Mexico and north of the Cayman Islands and Jamaica.

Cuba's main island, at 766 miles (1,233 km) long, is the world's 17th largest.

Cuba is an archipelago of islands located in the Caribbean Sea, with the geographic coordinates 21°3N, 80°00W. Cuba is the principal island, which is surrounded by four main groups of islands. These are the Colorados, the Sabana-Camagüey, the Jardines de la Reina and the Canarreos. The main island of Cuba constitutes most of the nation's land area or 105,006 km2 (40,543 sq mi) and is the seventeenth-largest island in the world by land area. The second largest island in Cuba is the Isla de la Juventud (Isle of Youth) in the southwest, with an area of 3,056 km2 (1,180 sq mi). Cuba has a total land area of 110,860 km2 (42,803 sq mi).

Landscape of Viñales Valley.

The main island consists mostly of flat to rolling plains. At the southeastern end is the Sierra Maestra, a range of steep mountains whose highest point is the Pico Real del Turquino at 1,975 metres (6,480 ft).


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 21 °C (70 °F) in January and 27 °C (81 °F) in July.

The warm temperatures of the Caribbean Sea and the fact that the island of Cuba sits across the access to the Gulf of Mexico combine to make Cuba prone to frequent hurricanes. These are most common in September and October.

Alejandro de Humboldt National Park in eastern Cuba

Natural resources

The most important Cuban mineral economic resource is nickel. Cuba has the second largest nickel reserves in the world after Russia.[13] Sherritt International, a Canadian energy company, operates a large nickel mining facility in Moa. Another leading mineral resource is cobalt, a byproduct of nickel mining operations. Cuba is the fifth largest producer of refined cobalt in the world.[13]

Recent oil exploration has revealed that the North Cuba Basin could produce approximately 4.6 billion barrels (730,000,000 m3) to 9.3 billion barrels (1.48×109 m3) of oil. In 2006, Cuba started to test-drill these locations for possible exploitation.[14][15][16]

Provinces and municipalities

Fourteen provinces and one special municipality (the Isla de la Juventud) compose Cuba. 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.

1 Isla de la Juventud (Isle of Youth)
2 Pinar del Río 9 Ciego de Ávila
3 La Habana (Havana) 10 Camagüey
4 Ciudad de la Habana (Havana City) 11 Las Tunas
5 Matanzas 12 Granma
6 Cienfuegos 13 Holguín
7 Villa Clara 14 Santiago de Cuba
8 Sancti Spíritus 15 Guantánamo

The provinces are further divided into 170 municipalities.


Sketch of an Arawak woman; the Arawaks, which included the Ciboneys and Taínos, inhabited Cuba before the Spaniards arrived.

Prior to the arrival of the Spanish, the island was inhabited by Native American peoples known as the Taíno and Ciboney whose ancestors had come from South and possibly North and Central America at least several and perhaps 60 to 80 centuries before.[17] The Taíno were farmers and the Ciboney were farmers and hunter-gatherers; some have suggested that copper trade was significant and mainland artifacts[18] have been found.

On October 12, 1492, Christopher Columbus landed near what is now Baracoa and claimed the island for Spain,[19] and naming it Isla Juana after Prince Juan of Asturias.[20] In 1511 the first Spanish settlement was founded by Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar at Baracoa; other towns including the future capital of the island San Cristobal de la Habana (founded in 1515) soon followed.

The Spanish enslaved the approximately 100,000 indigenous people that resisted conversion to Christianity, setting them primarily to the task of searching for gold, and within a century they had all but disappeared. Most scholars now believe that infectious disease was the overwhelming cause of the population decline of the indigenous people.[21][22]

Colonial Cuba

Cuba remained a Spanish possession for almost 400 years (1511-1898). Its economy was based on plantation agriculture, mining and the export of sugar, coffee and tobacco to Europe and later to North America. The small land-owning elite of Spanish-descended 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 other parts 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 Fidelisima 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.

Cuba's proximity to the U.S. has been a powerful influence on its history. Throughout the 19th century, Southern politicians in the U.S. plotted the island's annexation as a means of strengthening the pro-slavery forces in the U.S. In 1848 a pro-annexation rebellion was defeated and there were several attempts by annexation forces to invade the island from Florida. There were also regular proposals in the U.S. to buy Cuba from Spain.

Cuban independence from Spain was the motive for a rebellion in 1868 led by Carlos Manuel de Céspedes. This resulted in a prolonged conflict known as the Ten Years' War. The U.S. declined to recognize the legitimacy of the Cuban government in arms, even though many European and Latin American nations had done so.[23] 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.[24]

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 even greater Spanish emigration to Cuba. During the 1890s pro-independence agitation revived, fueled 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 Zanjon were kept.

In April 1895 a new war was declared, led by the writer and poet José Martí, who had organized the war over 10 years, and proclaimed Cuba an independent republic — Martí was killed at Dos Rios shortly after landing in Cuba with the eastern expeditionary force. His death immortalized him and he has become Cuba's national hero. The 200,000 Spanish troops outnumbered a 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.[25] Between 200,000 and 400,000 Cuban civilians died from starvation and disease during this period in the camps. These numbers were 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.[26]

The U.S. battleship Maine arrived uninvited in Havana on January 25, 1898 allegedly to offer protection to the 8,000 American residents in the island; the Spanish saw this as intimidation. On February 15 the Maine exploded in Havana harbor, killing 266 men (including 81 foreigners). A naval court of inquiry on March 22, 1898, after examination of the ship, was "unable to obtain evidence fixing the responsibility for the destruction of the Maine upon any person or persons"[27]. The facts remain disputed today. Swept on a wave of nationalist sentiment, the U.S. Congress passed a resolution calling for intervention[28] and President William McKinley was quick to comply.


As an outcome of the Spanish-American War, Spain ceded Cuba, along with Puerto Rico, the Philippines, and Guam to the U.S. under the 1898 Treaty of Paris.[29]

Theodore Roosevelt, who had fought in the Spanish-American War and had some sympathies with the independence movement, succeeded McKinley as President of the United States in 1901 and abandoned the 20-year treaty proposal. Instead, the Republic of Cuba gained formal independence on May 20, 1902. Under the new Cuban 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, Cuba also agreed to lease to the U.S. the naval base at Guantánamo Bay.

In 1906, following disputed elections, an armed revolt led by Independence War Veterans defeated the meager government forces loyal to Estrada Palma and the U.S. intervened.[30] The country was placed under U.S. occupation and a U.S. governor, Charles Edward Magoon, took charge for three years. Magoon's governorship in Cuba was viewed in a negative light by many Cuban historians for years thereafter, believing that much political corruption was introduced during Magoon's years as governor.[31] In 1908 self-government was restored when José Miguel Gómez was elected President, but the U.S. continued its intervention of Cuban affairs.

In 1912 Partido Independiente de Color attempted to establish a separate black republic in Oriente Province.[32] Perhaps because the group lacked sufficient weaponry, the main tactic was to set businesses and private residences on fire.[33] The movement was a failure and General Monteagudo suppressed the rebels with considerable bloodshed. Historians differ on the interpretation of this circumstance.

World War I and after

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.

The Gran Teatro, Havana
on the Prado, facing Parque Central
to the right: Hotel Inglaterra

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 (see Infrastructure of Cuba. Carretera Central and El Capitolio).

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 War of Independence veterans, and later by covert terrorist organizations, principally the ABC.[34]

During a general strike in which the communist party took the side of Machado[35] 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 San Martín government. Notable events in this violent period include the separate sieges of Hotel Nacional and Atares Castle (see Blas Hernandez). 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 y Montefur.

In 1940, Cuba had free elections.[36][37] In 1940 Batista, endorsed by the Communist Party of Cuba[38], was elected President 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.

A so-called yank tank remains in use from pre-revolutionary days.

Ramón Grau won 1944 elections. Carlos Prío Socarrás won 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.[39]

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, DC, 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 he decided to move forward with the coup to rescue the morale of the armed forces and the Cuban people. 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 the Latin America's highest per capita consumption rates of meat, vegetables, cereals, automobiles, telephones and radios.[40] Gross domestic product per capita had been approximately equal to Italy and significantly higher than that of Japan.[41][42] Cuban's workers enjoyed some of the highest wages in the world. Cuba attracted more immigrants, primarily from Europe, as a percentage of population than the U.S.[42] The United Nations noted Cuba for its large middle class.[42] 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.[43] Between 1933 and 1958, Cuba extended economic regulations enormously, causing economic problems.[38][44] Unemployment became relatively large; graduates entering the workforce could not find jobs.[38] 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.[36][38]

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 Clara, Batista fled the country to exile in Portugal. 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 Dr Manuel Urrutia Lleó assumed power, but exiled to the United States after Fidel Castro attacked him.

The Cuban Revolution and the Cold War

Fidel Castro and members of the East German Politburo in 1972.

Fidel Castro became prime minister of Cuba in February 1959. 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 gambling industry. The government also evicted many US citizens[45][46] from the island. 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,[47] while in the Sierra Maestra. The regime nationalized of private property totaling about $25 billion U.S. dollars[48], out of which American property made up only over US $1.0 billions.[49][50]

By the end of 1960, all opposition newspaper had been closed down and all radio and television stations were in state control.[40] Moderates, teachers and professors were purged.[40] In any given year, there were about 20,000 dissents held and tortured under inhuman prison conditions.[40] Groups such as homosexuals were locked up in internment camps in the 1960s, where they were subject to medical-political "re-education".[51] One estimate is that 15,000-17,000 people were executed.[52] The Communist Party strengthened its one-party rule, with Castro as the supreme leader.[40] Fidel's brother Raul Castro became the army chief.[40] Loyalty to Castro became the primary criteria for all appointments.[53] In September 1960, the regime created a system known as Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR), which provided neighborhood spying.[40] In the 1961 New Year's Day parade, the Communist administration exhibited Soviet tanks and other weapons.[53] Eventually the tiny island nation built up the second largest armed forces in Latin America, second only to Brazil.[54] Cuba became a privileged client-state of the Soviet Union.[55]

By 1961, hundreds of thousands had fled to the United States. In 1961, John F. Kennedy became President of the United States. He supported CIA-assisted exile efforts to conduct Bay of Pigs invasion and restore multiparty democracy in Cuba, with professor and the first post-revolution Prime Minister José Miró Cardona serving as provisional head of state.[36] However, Kennedy denied American troops and other direct involvement, and the plan failed. This was followed the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. The Kennedy administration demanded the immediate withdrawal of missiles placed in Cuba by the USSR, which was a response to U.S. nuclear missiles placed in Turkey and the Middle East. The Soviets backed down, and made a agreement with Kennedy in which all missiles were to be withdrawn from Cuba and the U.S. would secretly remove its missiles from Turkey and elsewhere in the Middle East within a few months. Kennedy also agreed not to invade Cuba in the future. In the aftermath of the Cuban Missile Crisis, Cuban exiles captured at the Bay of Pigs were "ransomed" for a shipment of supplies from the U.S.[36] By 1963 Castro moved Cuba towards a full-fledged Communist system modeled on the Soviet Union.[56] 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, with Blas Roca as 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 the government. Raúl Castro's position was strengthened by the departure of Che Guevara to launch unsuccessful attempts at insurrectionary movements in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and then Bolivia, where he was killed in 1967.

During the 1970s, Castro dispatched tens of thousands troops to assist Marxist-Leninist MPLA in Angola and Marxist-Leninist dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam in Ethiopia.[57] Amnesty International estimates that a total of half a million people were killed during the Red Terror of 1977 and 1978.[58][59] Human Rights Watch describes the Red Terror as "one of the most systematic uses of mass murder by a state ever witnessed in Africa."[60]

By 1970s the standard of living was "extremely spartan" and discontent was rife.[61] Fidel Castro admitted the failures of economic policies in a 1970 speech.[61] Castro started economic reforms by mid-1970s. The regime dispatched troops to fight Soviet-supported wars in Africa. Cuba had been expelled from the Organization of American States in 1962 and supported the embargo, but in 1975 the OAS lifted all sanctions against Cuba and both Mexico and Canada broke ranks with the U.S. by developing closer relations with Cuba.[citation needed]

From 1959 through 1993, some 1.2 million Cubans (about 10% of the current population) left the island for the United States[62], often by sea in small boats and fragile rafts. On Sunday, April 6, 1980 ten thousand Cubans stormed the Peruvian embassy in Havana seeking political asylum. On Monday, April 7 the Cuban government granted permission for the emigration of Cubans seeking refuge in the Peruvian embassy.[63] On April 16 500 Cuban citizens left the Peruvian Embassy for Costa Rica. On April 21 many of those Cubans started arriving in Miami via private boats and were halted by the US State Department on April 23. The boat lift continued, however, since Castro allowed anyone who desired to leave the country to do so through the port of Mariel and this emigration became known as the Mariel boatlift. In all, over 125,000 Cubans emigrated to the United States before the flow of vessels ended on June 15.[64]

Post-Cold War

Castro's rule was severely tested by the aftermath of the Soviet collapse (a time 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.[65][66] The regime did not accept American donations of food, medicines and cash until 1993.[65]

The People's Republic of China emerged as a new source of aid and support. Cuba also found new allies in President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela and President Evo Morales of Bolivia, both major oil and gas exporters.

In 2003, the regime crushed dissidents in events known as the "Black Spring", throwing dozens in prisons.[67][68]

On July 31, 2006 Fidel Castro delegated his major duties to his brother, First Vice President, Raúl Castro. This transfer of duties was described as temporary while Fidel Castro recovered from surgery undergone after suffering from an "acute intestinal crisis with sustained bleeding". Castro was too ill to attend the nationwide commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Granma boat landing on December 2, 2006, which fueled speculation that Castro had stomach cancer,[69] though Spanish doctor Dr. García Sabrido stated that his illness was a digestive problem and not terminal, after an examination of the subject on Christmas Day.[70][71]

In January 2008, footage of Castro meeting Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez was broadcast, in which Castro "appeared frail but stronger than three months ago". In February, 2008 Castro announced that he was resigning as President of Cuba.[72] On February 24, 2008 Raúl Castro was elected as the new President.[73] In his acceptance speech, Raúl Castro promised that some of the restrictions that limit Cubans' daily lives would be removed.[74] In March 2009, Raúl Castro purged some of Fidel's officials.

Government and politics

Revolution Square: José Martí Monument designed by Enrique Luis Varela, sculpture by Juan José Sicre and finished in 1958.[75]

Domestic policies

Following enactment of the Socialist Constitution of 1976, the Republic of Cuba was defined as a socialist republic. This constitution was replaced by the Socialist Constitution of 1992, the present constitution, which claimed to be guided by the ideas of José Martí, and the political ideas of Marx, Engels and Lenin.[76] The constitution also ascribes to the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC) the role of "leading force of society and of the state".[76] 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).[77] Members of both councils are elected by the National Assembly of People's Power.[78] 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.[78]

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 from convictions in 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.[78] 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 found guilty 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 oppositional groups is minimal and illegal.

Military of Cuba

In response to external threats and with the assistance of the Soviet Union, Cuba built up a large armed force, second only to Brazil among Latin American nations.[54] 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. [79] The government now spends roughly 1.7% of GDP on military expenditures.[citation needed]

Foreign relations

From its inception the Cuban Revolution defined itself as internationalist. Cuba joined 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.[80] In Africa, Cuba supported 17 leftist governments. In some countries it suffered setbacks, such as in eastern Zaire (Simba Rebellion), but in others Cuba had significant successes. Major engangements took place in Algeria, Zaire, Yemen,[81] Ethiopia, Guinea-Bissau and Mozambique.

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, which failed to recruit any Bolivians. Lesser known actions include the 1959 missions into the Dominican Republic[82] and Panama[citation needed]. The government of the socialist Sandinista National Liberation Front in Nicaragua was openly supported by Cuba and can be considered its greatest success in Latin America.

The membership of Cuba in the United Nations Human Rights Council has received criticism.[83] Cuba is a founding member of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas. It is a member of the Non-Aligned Movement.[citation needed] Cuba rents doctors to countries such as Venezuela and Zimbabwe. Over 30,000 Cuban doctors are currently working abroad.[84] The humanitarian aid provided by Cuba in the Middle-East, Africa, Latin America and Oceania has received worldwide praise, from figures such as former South African president Nelson Mandela[85] , London Mayor Ken Livingstone[86], World Bank President James Wolfensohn[87], St Lucia's Prime Minister Kenny Anthony[88], and former Swedish prime minister Olof Palme.[89]

The European Union has accused Cuba of "continuing flagrant violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms".[90]The United States continues an embargo against the country.

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").[91] 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".[92]

Reporters Without Borders has called Cuba "the second biggest prison in the world for journalists" after the People's Republic of China.[93] This group also accused Cuba of operating an extensive system of censorship similar to that of North Korea, and ranked it on the bottom of the their Press Freedom Index in 2008.[94] Furthermore, Reporters Without Borders alleges that the authorities have called Internet "the great disease of 21st century" and that Internet is strictly limited.[95] As a result of computer ownership bans, computer ownership rates are among the world's lowest.[96] Right to use Internet is granted only to selected people and these selected people are monitored.[95][96] Connecting to the Internet illegally can lead to a five-year prison sentence.


(Official 1899-2002 Cuba Census)[97][98][99]
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 Cuba's 2002 Census, the Cuban population was 11,177,743,[100] 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).[101]

The population of Cuba has very complex origins and intermarriage between diverse groups is general. Immigration and emigration have had noticeable effects on the demographic profile of Cuba during the 20th century. Between 1900 and 1930 close to a million Spaniards arrived from Spain.

There is disagreement about racial statistics. Census numbers provided by Fidel Castro, a white man who has ruled the nation for a half century, state that 65.05% of the population was white in 2002. This conflicts with independent surveys. Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies at the University of Miami says that 62% is black.[102] 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".[103]

The ancestry of White Cubans comes primarily from the ethnically diverse Spanish nations. During the 18th, 19th and early part of the 20th century large waves of Canarian, Catalan, Andalusian, Galician and other Spanish people emigrated to Cuba.

Other European people that have contributed include:[104] French[105], Portuguese, Italians, Russians, British and Greeks.

The ancestry of Afro-Cubans comes primarily from the following: African and Kongo. Small minorities include Asians (2%): Chinese, Vietnamese, Pakistani; and small populations from the Middle East, including a significant population of Jews. In addition, 22,000 Russians live in Cuba.[104] Cuba also shelters a population of non-Cubans of unknown size. There is a population of several thousand North African teen and pre-teen refugees.[106]

Cuba's birth rate (9.88 births per thousand population in 2006)[107] is one of the lowest in the Western Hemisphere. 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.[108] This drop in fertility is among the largest in the Western Hemisphere.[109] 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).[110]


University of Havana, founded in 1728

Cuba has a long history in education. The University of Havana 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 Spain.[111][112] 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.[113] Cuba has also provided state subsidized education to a limited number of foreign nationals at the Latin American School of Medicine.[114][115] Internet access is limited.[116] A Reporters Without Borders report finds that "The sale of computer equipment is strictly regulated, Internet access is controlled, and e-mail is closely monitored. Looking something up on the Internet can prove dangerous."[117]

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.[118] University options will depend on how well the person is integrated to Marxist ideology[118] as well as a permission from the "Committee for the Defense of the Revolution".[119] 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.[118]


Historically, Cuba has ranked high in numbers of medical personnel and has made significant contributions to world health since the 19th century.[120]

Post-Revolution Cuba experienced an overall worsening in terms of disease and infant mortality rates in the 1960s. Recovery occurred by the 1980s.[36] The Communist government asserted that universal healthcare was to become a priority of state planning and progress was made in rural areas.[121] Like the rest of the Cuban economy, Cuban medical care suffered from severe material shortages following the end of Soviet subsidies in 1991.

Challenges include low pay of doctors (only 15 dollars a month[122]), poor facilities, poor provision of equipment, and frequent absence of essential drugs.[123]

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.


Catedral de San Cristóbal de la Habana (Cathedral of Saint Christopher of Havana)

Cuba is an officially atheist state; however, it has has many faiths representing the widely varying culture. Catholicism was brought to the island by the Spanish, and is the most dominant faith. [124] It has 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 Ochún.

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.[125] 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.


(Official Immigration to the U.S)[97][98]
Year of
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

Emigration from Cuba (sometimes referred to as 'the Cuban exodus') in the last half century has led more than two million Cubans of all social classes to the United States,[126] and to Spain, Mexico, Canada, Sweden, and other countries.

Seeking to normalize migration between the two countries, particularly after the chaos that accompanied the Mariel boatlift, Cuba and the United States in 1994 agreed, in what is commonly called the 1994 Clinton-Castro accords,[127] to limit emigration to the United States. The United States grants a specific number of visas to those wishing to emigrate; 20,000 have been granted since 1994. Cubans picked up at sea trying to emigrate without a visa are returned to Cuba while those that make it to U.S. soil are allowed to seek asylum.[128]


Cuban culture is much influenced by the fact that it is a melting pot of cultures, primarily those of Spain and Africa. It has produced more than its fair share of literature, including the output of non-Cubans Stephen Crane, Graham Greene and Ernest Hemingway

Sport is Cuba's national passion. Due to historical associations with the United States, many Cubans participate in sports which share popularity in North America, rather than sports traditionally promoted in other Latin American nations. Baseball is by far the most popular; other sports and pastimes in Cuba include basketball, volleyball, cricket, and athletics. Cuba is the dominant force in amateur boxing, consistently achieving high gold medal tallies in major international competitions. The government of Cuba however, will not be sending competitors to the "World Boxing Championships, based in the U.S. city of Chicago from October 21 to November 3; this to avoid the "theft" of athletes. The Cuban government official newspaper alleges: "As our people are all too well aware, the theft of anyone who stands out in Cuban society, whether s/he is an athlete, educationalist, doctor, artist, or any kind of scientist, has been the practice of various U.S. governments within that country's constant policy of aggression against our people. That felony was instigated at the very triumph of the Revolution in 1959 with the exit of thousands of doctors and engineers."[129]

A local musical house Casa de la Trova at Santiago de Cuba.

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, marímba 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, the Cuban capitol, was the heart of the rap scene in Cuba when it began in the 1990s. During that time, reggaetón was also growing in popularity. The formation of Cubanitos in 2002 by ex-members of pioneering “underground” rap group Primera Base was a pivotal moment in the emergence of reggaetón in the capital and a watershed in Cuban rap. In the wake of this successful bid for a higher commercial profile, most rappers have followed one of two paths: dancing with the enemy and embracing reggaetón, or resisting the new genre vociferously. The resisters deride reggaetón for being trite and mindless, for promoting pointless diversion and dancing over social commitment and reflection with its lack of meaningful lyrics. Rap, on the other hand, was seen as a way to lyrically express their opinions about things such as racism, sexism, peace, the environment, sexuality, poverty and social inequalities. Despite this controversy, reggaetón has become the dominant form of popular music among Cuban youth. The relationship between Cuban rap and reggaetón continues to be debated today.[130][131]

In addition, Cuban reggaeton has in the mind of conventional musicians of Cuba, "sold out" on their established culture. Prior to reggaeton, Cuba had a long established professionalism in music towards the early and mid 90's. The release and popular acceptance of reggaeton has created many openings for those with little or no experience in music. Music in Cuba is not the same as it was before, and much of the new artists that are exposing their creations now utilize electronics, synthetic sounds and technology to create music that was otherwise unheard of. This, created much dissent among the professionalized music industry within Cuba.[130]

Dance in Cuba has taken a major boost over the 1990s. "Perreo", an exotic and slightly different form grinding, has become one of the most accepted forms of dancing in clubs and music videos.[132]

Authentic Cuban dish of ropa vieja (shredded flank steak in a tomato sauce base), black beans, yellow rice, plantains and fried yuca with beer.

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. 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 postrevolutionary 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.[133] 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.

Haitian Creole is the second most spoken language in Cuba, where over 300,000 Haitian immigrants speak it. It is recognized as a language in Cuba and a considerable number of Cubans speak it fluently. Surprisingly enough, most of these speakers have never been to Haiti and do not possess Haitian ancestry, but merely learned it in the communities they lived in. In addition, there is a Haitian Creole radio station operating in Havana.


A Cuban cigar factory.

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.[134] 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.[135] Cubans can not change jobs without government permission.[136] 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.[137]

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 Union, Cuba depended on Moscow 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 too see democratization that took place in the 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 U.S. 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 U.S. dollar", and eliminated the US currency from circulation in its stores and businesses.[citation needed]

Tourism was initially restricted to enclave resorts where tourists would be segregated from Cuban society, referred to as "enclave tourism" and "tourism apartheid".[138] Contacts between foreign visitors and ordinary Cubans were de facto illegal until 1997.[139][140] 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.[141] 1.9 million tourists visited Cuba in 2003, predominantly from Canada and the European Union, generating revenue of $2.1 billion.[142] The rapid growth of tourism during the Special Period had widespread social and economic repercussions in Cuba. This has led to speculation of the emergence of a two-tier economy[143]. Medical tourism sector caters to thousands of European, Latin American, Canadian and American consumers every year.

The inefficient communist agricultural production system was ridiculed by Raúl Castro in 2008.[144] Cuba now imports up to 80% of its food.[144] Before 1959, Cuba boasted as many cattle as people. Today meat is so scarce that prison sentences for killing a cow illegally are longer than for killing a human.[145][146]

For some time, Cuba has been experiencing a housing shortage because of the state's failure to keep pace with increasing demand.[147] 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 of up to 80,000 barrels (13,000 m3) 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.[148] Its major export partners are the Netherlands 21.8%, Canada 21.6%, China 18.7%, Spain 5.9%. Major import partners are Venezuela 27%, China 15.8%, Spain 9.7%, Germany 6.5%, Canada 5.6%, Italy 4.4% and the US 4.4% (2006).[149] Cuba's major exports are sugar, nickel, tobacco, fish, medical products, citrus, and coffee;[150] imports include food, fuel, clothing, and machinery. Cuba presently holds debt in an amount estimated to be $13 billion,[151] approximately 38% of GDP.[152] According to the Heritage Foundation, Cuba is dependent on credit accounts that rotate from country to country.[153] 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.[154] 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[155] which constitutes about 25% of total Cuban exports.[156] Recently, large reserves of oil have been found in the North Cuba Basin.[157]

See also


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