Cuban, adj., n.
/kyooh"beuh/; Sp. /kooh"vah/, n.
a republic in the Caribbean, S of Florida: largest island in the West Indies. 10,999,041; 44,218 sq. mi. (114,525 sq. km). Cap.: Havana.
/kooh"bah/, n.

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Introduction Cuba -
Background: Fidel CASTRO led a rebel army to victory in 1959; his iron rule has held the country together since. Cuba's Communist revolution, with Soviet support, was exported throughout Latin America and Africa during the 1960s, 70s, and 80s. The country is now slowly recovering from a severe economic recession in 1990, following the withdrawal of former Soviet subsidies, worth $4 billion to $6 billion annually. Havana portrays its difficulties as the result of the US embargo in place since 1961. Illicit migration to the US - using homemade rafts, alien smugglers, or falsified visas - is a continuing problem. Some 3,000 Cubans attempted the crossing of the Straits of Florida in 2001; the US Coast Guard interdicted only about 25% of these. Geography Cuba
Location: Caribbean, island between the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, 150 km south of Key West, Florida
Geographic coordinates: 21 30 N, 80 00 W
Map references: Central America and the Caribbean
Area: total: 110,860 sq km water: 0 sq km land: 110,860 sq km
Area - comparative: slightly smaller than Pennsylvania
Land boundaries: total: 29 km border countries: US Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay 29 km note: Guantanamo Naval Base is leased by the US and thus remains part of Cuba
Coastline: 3,735 km
Maritime claims: exclusive economic zone: 200 NM territorial sea: 12 NM
Climate: tropical; moderated by trade winds; dry season (November to April); rainy season (May to October)
Terrain: mostly flat to rolling plains, with rugged hills and mountains in the southeast
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Caribbean Sea 0 m highest point: Pico Turquino 2,005 m
Natural resources: cobalt, nickel, iron ore, copper, manganese, salt, timber, silica, petroleum, arable land
Land use: arable land: 33.04% other: 59.35% (1998 est.) permanent crops: 7.61%
Irrigated land: 870 sq km (1998 est.)
Natural hazards: the east coast is subject to hurricanes from August to October (in general, the country averages about one hurricane every other year); droughts are common Environment - current issues: air and water pollution; biodiversity loss; deforestation Environment - international party to: Antarctic Treaty,
agreements: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands signed, but not ratified: Antarctic- Environmental Protocol, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Marine Life Conservation
Geography - note: largest country in Caribbean and westernmost island of the Greater Antilles People Cuba -
Population: 11,224,321 (July 2002 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 20.6% (male 1,188,125; female 1,125,743) 15-64 years: 69.3% (male 3,902,162; female 3,880,531) 65 years and over: 10.1% (male 520,849; female 606,911) (2002 est.)
Population growth rate: 0.35% (2002 est.)
Birth rate: 12.08 births/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Death rate: 7.35 deaths/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Net migration rate: -1.21 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.06 male(s)/female under 15 years: 1.06 male(s)/female 15-64 years: 1.01 male(s)/female 65 years and over: 0.86 male(s)/ female total population: 1 male(s)/female (2002 est.)
Infant mortality rate: 7.27 deaths/1,000 live births (2002 est.) Life expectancy at birth: total population: 76.6 years female: 79.15 years (2002 est.) male: 74.2 years
Total fertility rate: 1.6 children born/woman (2002 est.) HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate: 0.03% (1999 est.) HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/ 2,800 (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deaths: 120 (1999 est.)
Nationality: noun: Cuban(s) adjective: Cuban
Ethnic groups: mulatto 51%, white 37%, black 11%, Chinese 1%
Religions: nominally 85% Roman Catholic prior to CASTRO assuming power; Protestants, Jehovah's Witnesses, Jews, and Santeria are also represented
Languages: Spanish
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write male: 96.2% female: 95.3% (1995 est.) total population: 95.7%
People - note: illicit migration is a continuing problem; Cubans attempt to depart the island and enter the US using homemade rafts, alien smugglers, direct flights, or falsified visas; some 3,000 Cubans took to the Straits of Florida in 2001; the US Coast Guard interdicted about 25% of these migrants; Cubans also use non- maritime routes to enter the US; some 2,400 Cubans arrived overland via the southwest border and direct flights to Miami in 2000 Government Cuba -
Country name: conventional long form: Republic of Cuba conventional short form: Cuba local short form: Cuba local long form: Republica de Cuba
Government type: Communist state
Capital: Havana Administrative divisions: 14 provinces (provincias, singular - provincia) and 1 special municipality* (municipio especial); Camaguey, Ciego de Avila, Cienfuegos, Ciudad de La Habana, Granma, Guantanamo, Holguin, Isla de la Juventud*, La Habana, Las Tunas, Matanzas, Pinar del Rio, Sancti Spiritus, Santiago de Cuba, Villa Clara
Independence: 20 May 1902 (from Spain 10 December 1898; administered by the US from 1898 to 1902)
National holiday: Independence Day, 10 December (1898); note - 10 December 1898 is the date of independence from Spain, 20 May 1902 is the date of independence from US administration
Constitution: 24 February 1976, amended July 1992
Legal system: based on Spanish and American law, with large elements of Communist legal theory; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
Suffrage: 16 years of age; universal
Executive branch: chief of state: President of the Council of State and President of the Council of Ministers Fidel CASTRO Ruz (prime minister from February 1959 until 24 February 1976 when office was abolished; president since 2 December 1976); First Vice President of the Council of State and First Vice President of the Council of Ministers Gen. Raul CASTRO Ruz (since 2 December 1976); note - the president is both the chief of state and head of government elections: president and vice president elected by the National Assembly; election last held 24 February 1998 (next to be held in 2003) election results: Fidel CASTRO Ruz elected president; percent of legislative vote - 100%; Raul CASTRO Ruz elected vice president; percent of legislative vote - 100% cabinet: Council of Ministers proposed by the president of the Council of State, appointed by the National Assembly; note - there is also a Council of State whose members are elected by the National Assembly head of government: President of the Council of State and President of the Council of Ministers Fidel CASTRO Ruz (prime minister from February 1959 until 24 February 1976 when office was abolished; president since 2 December 1976); First Vice President of the Council of State and First Vice President of the Council of Ministers Gen. Raul CASTRO Ruz (since 2 December 1976); note - the president is both the chief of state and head of government
Legislative branch: unicameral National Assembly of People's Power or Asemblea Nacional del Poder Popular (601 seats, elected directly from slates approved by special candidacy commissions; members serve five-year terms) elections: last held 11 January 1998 (next to be held in 2003) election results: percent of vote - PCC 94.39%; seats - PCC 601
Judicial branch: People's Supreme Court or Tribunal Supremo Popular (president, vice president, and other judges are elected by the National Assembly) Political parties and leaders: only party - Cuban Communist Party or PCC [Fidel CASTRO Ruz, first secretary] Political pressure groups and NA
leaders: International organization CCC, ECLAC, FAO, G-77, IAEA, ICAO,
participation: ICC, ICRM, IFAD, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMO, Interpol, IOC, IOM (observer), ISO, ITU, LAES, LAIA, NAM, OAS (excluded from formal participation since 1962), OPCW, PCA, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UPU, WCL, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO Diplomatic representation in the US: none; note - Cuba has an Interests Section in the Swiss Embassy, headed by Principal Officer Dagoberto RODRIGUEZ Barrera (since August 2001); address: Cuban Interests Section, Swiss Embassy, 2630 16th Street NW, Washington, DC 20009; telephone: [1] (202) 797-8518 Diplomatic representation from the none; note - the US has an Interests
US: Section in the Swiss Embassy, headed by Principal Officer Vicki HUDDLESTON; address: USINT, Swiss Embassy, Calzada between L and M Streets, Vedado Seccion, Havana; telephone: 33-3551 through 3559 (operator assistance required); FAX: 33-3700; protecting power in Cuba is Switzerland
Flag description: five equal horizontal bands of blue (top and bottom) alternating with white; a red equilateral triangle based on the hoist side bears a white, five-pointed star in the center; design influenced by the US flag Economy Cuba
Economy - overview: The government continues to balance the need for economic loosening against a concern for firm political control. It has undertaken limited reforms in recent years to stem excess liquidity, increase enterprise efficiency, and alleviate serious shortages of food, consumer goods, and services, but is unlikely to implement extensive changes. A major feature of the economy is the dichotomy between relatively efficient export enclaves and inefficient domestic sectors. The average Cuban's standard of living remains at a lower level than before the severe economic depression of the early 1990s, which was caused by the loss of Soviet aid and domestic inefficiencies. High oil prices, recessions in key export markets, and damage from Hurricane Michelle hampered growth in 2001. Cuba paid high prices for oil imports in the face of slumping prices in the key sugar and nickel industries and suffered a slowdown in tourist arrivals following September 11. The government subsequently depreciated the peso by approximately 30% and now aims for 3% growth in 2002.
GDP: purchasing power parity - $25.5 billion (2001 est.)
GDP - real growth rate: 3% (2001 est.)
GDP - per capita: purchasing power parity - $2,300 (2001 est.) GDP - composition by sector: agriculture: 7.6% industry: 34.5% services: 57.9% (2000 est.) Population below poverty line: NA% Household income or consumption by lowest 10%: NA%
percentage share: highest 10%: NA% Inflation rate (consumer prices): 0.5% (2001 est.)
Labor force: 4.3 million (2000 est.) note: state sector 78%, non-state sector 22% (1999) Labor force - by occupation: agriculture 24%, industry 25%, services 51% (1999)
Unemployment rate: 4.1% (2001 est.)
Budget: revenues: $14.9 billion expenditures: $15.6 billion, including capital expenditures of $NA (2000 est.)
Industries: sugar, petroleum, tobacco, chemicals, construction, services, nickel, steel, cement, agricultural machinery, biotechnology Industrial production growth rate: 2.4% (2001 est.) Electricity - production: 14.87 billion kWh (2000) Electricity - production by source: fossil fuel: 94.63% hydro: 0.4% other: 4.97% (2000) nuclear: 0% Electricity - consumption: 13.829 billion kWh (2000)
Electricity - exports: 0 kWh (2000)
Electricity - imports: 0 kWh (2000)
Agriculture - products: sugar, tobacco, citrus, coffee, rice, potatoes, beans; livestock
Exports: $1.7 billion (f.o.b., 2001 est.)
Exports - commodities: sugar, nickel, tobacco, fish, medical products, citrus, coffee
Exports - partners: Russia 18%, Canada 16%, Netherlands 12% (2000)
Imports: $4.9 billion (f.o.b., 2001 est.)
Imports - commodities: petroleum, food, machinery, chemicals, semifinished goods, transport equipment, consumer goods
Imports - partners: Spain 16%, Venezuela 13%, Italy 8% (2000)
Debt - external: $11 billion (convertible currency, 2000 est.); another $15 billion -$20 billion owed to Russia (2001) Economic aid - recipient: $68.2 million (1997 est.)
Currency: Cuban peso (CUP)
Currency code: CUP
Exchange rates: Cuban pesos per US dollar - 1.0000 (nonconvertible, official rate, for international transactions, pegged to the US dollar); convertible peso sold for domestic use at a rate of 1.00 US dollar per 27 pesos by the Government of Cuba (January 2002)
Fiscal year: calendar year Communications Cuba - Telephones - main lines in use: 473,031 (2000) Telephones - mobile cellular: 2,994 (1997)
Telephone system: general assessment: NA domestic: principal trunk system, end to end of country, is coaxial cable; fiber-optic distribution in Havana and on Isla de la Juventud; 2 microwave radio relay installations (one is old, US-built; the other newer, built during the period of Soviet support); both analog and digital mobile cellular service established international: satellite earth station - 1 Intersputnik (Atlantic Ocean region) Radio broadcast stations: AM 169, FM 55, shortwave 1 (1998)
Radios: 3.9 million (1997) Television broadcast stations: 58 (1997)
Televisions: 2.64 million (1997)
Internet country code: .cu Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 5 (2001)
Internet users: 60,000 (2001) Transportation Cuba -
Railways: total: 4,807 km standard gauge: 4,807 km 1.435- m gauge, in public use (147 km electrified) note: in addition to the 4,807 km of standard-gauge track in public use, 7,162 km of track is in private use by sugar plantations; about 90% of the private use track is standard gauge and the rest is narrow gauge (2000 est.)
Highways: total: 60,858 km paved: 29,820 km (including 638 km of expressway) unpaved: 31,038 km (1997)
Waterways: 240 km
Ports and harbors: Cienfuegos, Havana, Manzanillo, Mariel, Matanzas, Nuevitas, Santiago de Cuba
Merchant marine: total: 14 ships (1,000 GRT or over) totaling 44,187 GRT/63,416 DWT ships by type: bulk 3, cargo 6, liquefied gas 1, petroleum tanker 1, refrigerated cargo 3 (2002 est.)
Airports: 172 (2001) Airports - with paved runways: total: 78 over 3,047 m: 7 2,438 to 3,047 m: 8 1,524 to 2,437 m: 20 914 to 1,523 m: 7 under 914 m: 36 (2001) Airports - with unpaved runways: total: 94 914 to 1,523 m: 31 under 914 m: 63 (2001) Military Cuba -
Military branches: Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR) including Ground Forces, Revolutionary Navy (MGR), Air and Air Defense Force (DAAFAR), Territorial Militia Troops (MTT), and Youth Labor Army (EJT); note - the Border Guard Troops (TGF) are controlled by the Interior Ministry Military manpower - military age: 17 years of age (2002 est.) Military manpower - availability: males age 15-49: 3,102,312 females age 15-49: 3,036,549 (2002 est.) Military manpower - fit for military males age 15-49: 1,915,586
service: females age 15-49: 1,869,867 (2002 est.) Military manpower - reaching males: 86,632
military age annually: females: 79,562 (2002 est.) Military expenditures - dollar $NA
figure: Military expenditures - percent of roughly 4% (FY95 est.)
Military - note: Moscow, for decades the key military supporter and supplier of Cuba, cut off almost all military aid by 1993 Transnational Issues Cuba - Disputes - international: US Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay is leased to US and only mutual agreement or US abandonment of the area can terminate the lease
Illicit drugs: territorial waters and air space serve as transshipment zone for cocaine and heroin bound for the US and Europe; established the death penalty for certain drug-related crimes in 1999

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officially Republic of Cuba

Country, West Indies.

Located 90 mi (145 km) south of Florida, it comprises the island of Cuba and surrounding small islands. Area: 42,804 sq mi (110,861 sq km). Population (2002 est.): 11,267,000. Capital: Havana. The population is about one-third mulatto (black-Spanish) or black and about two-thirds white, mostly of Spanish descent. Language: Spanish (official). Religions: Roman Catholicism, Santería (both formerly discouraged). Currency: Cuban peso, U.S. dollar. The main island of Cuba is 746 mi (1,200 km) long and 25–125 mi (40–200 km) wide. About one-quarter is mountainous, with Pico Turquino at 6,476 ft (1,974 m) the highest peak; the remainder is extensive plains and basins. The climate is semitropical. Cuba was the first communist republic in the Western Hemisphere. It has a centrally planned economy that depends on the export of sugar and, to a much lesser extent, tobacco and nickel. Its cigars are considered the world's best. It is a republic with one legislative house; its head of state and government is the president. Several Indian groups, including the Ciboney and the Arawak, inhabited Cuba at the time of the first Spanish contact. Christopher Columbus claimed the island for Spain in 1492, and the Spanish conquest began in 1511, when the settlement of Baracoa was founded. The native Indians were eradicated over the succeeding centuries, and African slaves, from the 18th century until slavery was abolished in 1886, were imported to work the sugar plantations. Cuba revolted unsuccessfully against Spain in the Ten Years' War (1868–78); a second war of independence began in 1895. In 1898 the U.S. entered the war (see Spanish-American War); Spain relinquished its claim to Cuba, which was occupied by the U.S. for three years before gaining its independence in 1902. The U.S. invested heavily in the Cuban sugar industry in the first half of the 20th century, and this, combined with tourism and gambling, caused the economy to prosper. Inequalities in the distribution of wealth persisted, however, as did political corruption. In 1958–59 the communist revolutionary Fidel Castro overthrew its longtime dictator Fulgencio Batista and established a socialist state aligned with the Soviet Union, abolishing capitalism and nationalizing foreign-owned enterprises. Relations with the U.S. deteriorated, reaching a low point with the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion and the 1962 Cuban missile crisis. In 1980 about 125,000 Cubans, including many officially labeled "undesirables," were shipped to the U.S. in the so-called Mariel Boat Lift. When communism collapsed in the U.S.S.R., Cuba lost important financial backing, and its economy suffered greatly. The latter gradually improved in the 1990s with the encouragement of tourism, though diplomatic relations with the U.S. were not resumed.

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▪ 2009

109,886 sq km (42,427 sq mi)
(2008 est.): 11,236,000
Head of state and government:
President of the Council of State and President of the Council of Ministers Raúl Castro Ruz (acting until February 24 for Fidel Castro Ruz)

      Fidel Castro resigned as president of Cuba in February 2008 at the age of 81, thus ending his 49-year tenure as the country's unrivaled leader. His younger brother and longtime minister of defense, 76-year-old Raúl Castro, was elevated to the presidency, which thereby formalized the transfer of power that had initially occurred in July 2006 when a serious stomach illness forced Fidel to relinquish power on a provisional basis. While younger officials, such as economic czar Carlos Lage and Foreign Minister Felipe Pérez Roque, remained in prominent roles, expectations of generational change were dampened when Raúl appointed 77-year-old José Ramón Machado, a top communist apparatchik, as the new first vice president and named 72-year-old Julio Casas the new minister of defense. Though officially retired, Fidel remained active by writing provocative columns about international affairs in the Cuban newspaper Granma; although Fidel never appeared in public, he remained in the public eye through the release of a small number of carefully selected photographs and video clips.

      During his inauguration speech, Raúl hinted that the government would embrace a limited path of economic reform under the banner of the Communist Party, and in March 2008 the government approved a series of new economic measures. These included lifting a ban on the ability of ordinary Cubans to buy consumer electronic goods, such as DVD players and cell phones, and dropping a stricture that prevented Cubans from staying in the country's top tourist hotels. After introducing a plan in April that allowed thousands of Cubans to receive titles to their homes, the government eliminated salary caps and raised pensions for the country's more than two million retirees. The state also began to allow market forces to take root in the agricultural sector by permitting farmers to select crops and to play a larger role in making decisions about land use. In late August and early September, however, Cuba was struck in rapid succession by major hurricanes Gustav and Ike; more than 100,000 homes were damaged, and 30% of the country's crops were destroyed. The government estimated that storm damages would exceed $5 billion and forecast an extended period of food crisis and economic downturn. As a result, Cuba was unlikely to match the 7.5% growth rate achieved in 2007, and the pace of economic reform was crippled.

      Cuba reported that its top trading partner in 2007 was Venezuela ($2.7 billion), followed by China ($2.5 billion), Canada ($1.4 billion), and Spain ($1.2 billion). The U.S. (in the fifth spot) ranked among Cuba's largest trading partners, owing to a record $582 million in all-cash sales from American food producers to Cuba; the deal was made possible by a loophole in the U.S. embargo approved by Congress in 2000.

      On a political level, U.S.-Cuban relations remained frozen through much of 2008, symbolized by the two countries' inability to agree on the terms of hurricane relief assistance following the onslaught of Gustav and Ike. U.S. authorities offered Cuba $5 million in emergency aid, but the Cuban government rebuffed the offer and instead called for the lifting of the U.S. embargo. U.S. presidential election victor Barack Obama called for increased dialogue between the U.S. and Cuban governments and favoured lifting restrictions on the travel of Cuban Americans to visit family members in Cuba. In November Russian Pres. Dmitry Medvedev paid a visit to Cuba, sightseeing with Raúl Castro and later meeting privately with Fidel. The following month President Castro, making his first official foreign trip since assuming office in 2006, traveled to Venezuela, where he met with Pres. Hugo Chávez.

      Popular disaffection with the Castro government came to the fore in January following the release of a videotape that showed computer science student Eliécer Ávila at a town hall forum sharply questioning government policies in an encounter with the National Assembly president, Ricardo Alarcón. Shortly thereafter, Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez surged to worldwide attention with her ironic and critical musings about the Cuban reality on her popular blog Generation Y. Internet access on the island remained tightly controlled, however. In August, Cuban punk rocker Gorki Aguila was arrested for the crime of “social dangerousness,” sparking an outcry among the country's youth. The number of political prisoners dipped slightly, from 234 to 219, during the year.

Daniel P. Erikson

▪ 2008

109,886 sq km (42,427 sq mi)
(2007 est.): 11,238,000
Head of state and government:
President of the Council of State and President of the Council of Ministers Raúl Castro Ruz (acting for Fidel Castro Ruz)

 In 2007 longtime Cuban leader Fidel Castro remained largely out of sight while his brother and provisional president Raúl Castro (Castro, Raul ) managed the island's affairs. Following a severe stomach illness, Fidel had stepped down from power in July 2006, and his absence continued to weigh heavily on Cuba's political system. In May 2007 Cuban National Assembly Pres. Ricardo Alarcón announced that Fidel's recovery was going very well, and Fidel appeared in a prerecorded television interview. Though he made no public appearances during Cuba's July 26 holiday or to mark his 81st birthday on August 13, Fidel made his voice heard by authoring a series of articles called “Reflections” that were critical of globalization and the U.S. Other top officials began to take on more prominent roles, including Vice Pres. Carlos Lage, Foreign Minister Felipe Pérez Roque, and the president of the central bank, Francisco Soberón. Cuban officials began their preparations for the National Assembly elections due in January 2008 and vowed that Fidel's name would be on the ballot. On September 21 Fidel appeared on television, regaling viewers with his insights into current affairs and squelching rumours that his health had deteriorated.

      Cuba's relations with Venezuelan Pres. Hugo Chávez continued to deepen. Chávez met with Fidel several times, and Vice President Lage traveled to Venezuela to discuss a regional trade pact and joint ventures in telecommunications. In February the two countries signed agreements for $1.5 billion in projects, including the development of 11 ethanol plants. In August the Venezuelan state oil company announced that it was partnering with Cuban enterprises to explore for offshore oil in Cuban waters. Havana enjoyed warmer ties with a wide range of countries. Honduras named its first full ambassador to Cuba in 45 years, and in April Spain's foreign minister, Miguel Angel Moratinos, became the highest-level Spanish official to have visited Cuba in nearly a decade. He met with Raúl and carried a letter to Fidel from King Juan Carlos. Top Chinese officials also met with Raúl to pledge continuing political and economic cooperation. Russia announced that it was considering restructuring Cuba's $166 million debt.

       U.S.-Cuban relations remained frozen. Raúl made several offers to engage in dialogue with the U.S., but he was rebuffed by U.S. authorities. In the U.S. Congress, a new Democratic majority introduced several proposals to repeal trade and travel sanctions, but most initiatives were never brought to a vote. U.S. officials said that they would be unable to fulfill the 20,000 annual visa requests for Cubans seeking entry to the U.S., which prompted strong criticism from Cuba. In July Raúl Castro called for dialogue with the U.S. in a speech in which he also said that the Cuban system needed to undertake structural changes. In September the U.S. Senate approved legislation that allocated $45.7 million for pro- democracy movements in Cuba.

      Cuba remained politically stable, but there were worrying signs of tension below the surface. Two army conscripts killed two soldiers in May during an attempt to hijack an aircraft and escape the country, but they were later captured and tried. In July two Cuban boxers attempted to defect during the Pan American Games in Brazil, but they were later detained and returned to Cuba. At home, five dissidents held without trial since July 2005 were sentenced in February to two years in prison. In April the well-known Roman Catholic magazine Vitral, which was often critical of the government, was closed when a conservative new bishop was appointed to the province. The leading domestic human rights group reported that the government had not improved the plight of dissidents but acknowledged that the number of political prisoners in Cuba had fallen below 250, a 20% drop from the previous year.

      Though the government forecast put Cuba's growth for 2007 at 10%, outside analysts put that figure closer to 6%. Several top officials alluded that the government was considering economic changes, but only minor adjustments were implemented.

      Vilma Espín (Espin Guillois, Vilma ), Raúl Castro's wife of more than 40 years, died in June after a long illness. Espín was one of the most powerful women in Cuba.

Daniel P. Erikson

▪ 2007

110,860 sq km (42,804 sq mi)
(2006 est.): 11,294,000
Head of state and government:
Presidents of the Council of State and Presidents of the Council of Ministers Fidel Castro Ruz and, from July 31 (acting), Raúl Castro Ruz

 On July 31, 2006, Cuban Pres. Fidel Castro passed power on a provisional basis to his brother and head of the armed forces, Raúl Castro. This decision was made when serious internal bleeding forced the Cuban leader to undergo emergency surgery, which was followed by a slow convalescence. The transfer of authority, which occurred shortly before Fidel Castro's 80th birthday on August 13, marked the first time that the elder Castro had relinquished control since the 1959 Cuban revolution. In addition to Raúl Castro, six Cuban ministers were named to manage the responsibilities for health, education, energy, and finance. The 75-year-old Raúl Castro subsequently kept a low profile, while other top officials took on more prominent roles, including Vice Pres. Carlos Lage, Foreign Minister Felipe Pérez Roque, and the president of the National Assembly, Ricardo Alarcón. Cuban authorities declared the condition of Fidel Castro's health to be a state secret but later released several videotapes showing him meeting with foreign dignitaries while dressed in pajamas in his hospital bed. Although most Cubans were initially stunned by the news, routine life continued without disruption.

      Castro's illness sparked spontaneous celebrations in Miami, where the Cuban exile community in the U.S. believed that Castro's long-awaited demise was close at hand. The U.S. government took a cautious approach and reaffirmed that the long-standing U.S. embargo would remain in place until Cuba undertook free and fair elections. U.S.-Cuban relations remained tense and were characterized by periodic skirmishes. In February the U.S. diplomatic mission in Cuba set up an electronic billboard to broadcast messages to the Cuban people, but the Cuban government responded by erecting 138 black flags in front of the building that commemorated “victims of imperialism.” In July the U.S. government released an updated report of the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba, chaired by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez. The commission set aside $80 million for the Cuba Fund for a Democratic Future to finance opposition groups within Cuba, but many dissidents complained that the program was counterproductive. In September the U.S. called for Cuba to hold a referendum to allow the Cuban people to vote on Raúl Castro's ascension, but the island's government rejected this proposal.

      Cuba continued to strengthen its alliance with Venezuelan Pres. Hugo Chávez. Annual trade between the two countries neared $3 billion, with Venezuela exporting nearly 100,000 bbl of oil a day on preferential financing terms. Cuba and Venezuela continued to deepen several joint programs, including the state-sponsored news channel Telesur, a regional oil pact known as PetroCaribe, and “Operation Miracle,” which provided eye surgeries for poor Latin Americans. In December 2005 the election of Evo Morales as president of Bolivia allowed Cuba to expand its international partnerships, including the economic and social pact known as the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas. Both Venezuela and Bolivia pledged to help defend Cuba against potential U.S. intervention.

      In September, Cuba hosted the 14th summit of the Non-Aligned Movement, a 118-member grouping of less-developed countries. Fifty-six heads of state attended, including the leaders of Pakistan, India, Iran, and Malaysia. The presidents of several major Latin American countries—including Mexico, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, and Peru—chose not to attend, however. Cuba continued to diversify its international partnerships. China emerged as Cuba's second largest trading partner, with nearly $1 billion in trade in 2005. Major Chinese investments were made in the island's nickel industry, as well as in tourism, transportation, and telecommunications. The Cuban government defended Iran's right to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. A number of European countries criticized Cuba for suppression of civil liberties, but European investment in Cuba remained strong.

      In January, Fidel Castro announced an “energy revolution” to end the problem of blackouts and later raised the monthly minimum wage to 225 Cuban pesos (about $10) a month. Foreign companies continued exploring Cuba's offshore energy reserves, which the U.S. Geological Survey estimated could hold 4.6 billion bbl of oil and 9.8 trillion cu ft of natural gas. Cuba parceled its offshore territory into 59 exploration blocks, 16 of which were claimed by companies from Canada, Spain, Norway, India, and China. Although the Cuban economy remained troubled, it appeared to be rebounding from the severe economic crisis of the 1990s. Fidel Castro claimed a growth rate of 12.5% in 2006, while outside analysts estimated a more modest 5% increase.

Daniel P. Erikson

▪ 2006

110,860 sq km (42,804 sq mi)
(2005 est.): 11,269,000
Head of state and government:
President of the Council of State and President of the Council of Ministers Fidel Castro Ruz

      In 2005 Cuban Pres. Fidel Castro marked his 79th birthday, having fully recovered from a serious fall that fractured his knee and arm in 2004. Cuba's warm relationship with the government of Venezuelan Pres. Hugo Chávez (Chavez, Hugo ) (see Biographies) continued to intensify, and Castro declared 2005 to be “the Year of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas.” In February Venezuela increased its discounted oil shipments to Cuba to 90,000 bbl a day. Castro responded by pledging to send 30,000 health professionals to Venezuela. The two countries promoted hemispheric proposals, including a new television station called Telesur and a regional oil pact known as PetroCaribe.

      In July Hurricane Dennis struck Cuba, killing 16 people and causing an estimated $1.4 billion in damage. After Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans in September, Castro offered to send doctors and medical supplies, but U.S. authorities rebuffed the offer.

      In January U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice identified Cuba as an “outpost of tyranny.” New restrictions decreased the number of U.S. citizens traveling to the island, and remittances from Cuban-Americans to their families in Cuba declined. In response to U.S. support for dissidents, Cuba erected a billboard showing Iraqi prisoners being abused by U.S. soldiers outside the U.S. interests section in Havana. The long-term detention of hundreds of prisoners at the U.S. Naval Base in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, remained controversial.

      In May Luis Posada Carriles, a longtime anti-Castro militant accused of having plotted from Venezuela the 1976 Cuban airline bombing that killed 73 people, resurfaced in Miami. Posada Carriles asked for asylum but was charged with illegal entry to the U.S. and was detained while Venezuela sought his extradition. In a separate case a U.S. federal court overruled the convictions of five Cuban citizens accused of spying on exile groups.

      By early 2005 U.S. agricultural sales under new legislation passed in 2000 had exceeded $1 billion, transforming Cuba into the 25th largest market for American food exports. The Cuban government estimated 5% GDP growth in 2004 and predicted even better economic performance in 2005. Cuba projected that 2.5 million tourists would visit in 2005, the highest number on record. The government recentralized control over state-owned enterprises, reduced the number of licenses available for small-scale entrepreneurs, and scaled back foreign-investment partnerships with European and Canadian companies. Cuba's three largest trading partners in 2004 were Venezuela, Spain, and China, which planned major investments in Cuba's nickel industry. Oil and gas companies from Spain, Norway, and India continued to explore for offshore energy deposits along the island's northern coast.

      During the summer, energy shortages and frequent blackouts plagued the island and fueled citizen complaints about government incompetence. Cuban authorities struggled to address the problem with energy-saving light bulbs but failed to address the underlying problem of dilapidated electrical infrastructure. A Cuban agency issued a critical assessment of the island's housing crisis, reporting a deficit of 500,000 houses and describing 43% of existing dwellings as in mediocre or poor condition. By September the U.S. Coast Guard had intercepted more than 2,000 Cuban migrants at sea, the highest number since 1994.

      Independent opposition groups remained active following the release of several more of the 75 dissidents arrested during the crackdown in the spring of 2003. In May 2005 more than 100 government opponents attended the Assembly for the Promotion of Civil Society, organized by opposition leader Marta Beatriz Roque. The gathering was boycotted by noted dissident Oswaldo Payá of the Christian Liberation Movement. Cuban authorities allowed the meeting to occur undisturbed with a number of foreign observers in attendance, but several visiting European parliamentarians were ejected from the country. Tensions with Mexico continued when that country supported a UN resolution condemning the human rights situation in Cuba, but the island retained cordial relations with most other Latin American countries. In March Uruguay restored diplomatic relations with Cuba that had been severed for several years, and Panama later followed suit.

Daniel P. Erikson

▪ 2005

110,860 sq km (42,804 sq mi)
(2004 est.): 11,300,000
Head of state and government:
President of the Council of State and President of the Council of Ministers Fidel Castro Ruz

      In 2004 Cuba weathered a series of powerful hurricanes that caused serious damage but little loss of life. On August 13 Pres. Fidel Castro Ruz marked his 78th birthday during Hurricane Charley, which claimed at least four lives but narrowly missed Havana. One month later Hurricane Ivan battered Pinar del Río province, forcing the evacuation of 1.9 million people, but Castro rejected a U.S. offer of $50,000 in hurricane relief aid as “hypocritical.” Cuba's capable emergency management system compared favourably with some other Caribbean countries.

      Oversight of the tourism industry shifted away from economic czar Carlos Lage and was moved under the control of Gen. Raúl Castro, the minister of defense and head of the armed forces. Military expenditures increased by an estimated 9%, and the government took steps to curtail self-employment and other independent economic activity. Minister of Tourism Ibrahim Ferradaz and Minister of Basic Industries Marcos Portal were dismissed. The government considered new measures to restrict access to the Internet. Havana released several dissidents who had been sentenced to long prison terms during a crackdown in 2003, including Marta Beatriz Roque, a well-known economist.

      Tensions between Cuba and the United States mounted in May when the administration of Pres. George W. Bush released the 423-page report of the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba, chaired by Secretary of State Colin Powell. The report led to Washington's further tightening travel restrictions to Cuba, eliminating many types of educational travel, limiting family visits to once every three years (instead of once annually), and restricting remittances to close relatives not affiliated with the Communist Party. The U.S. also directed $59 million toward activities intended to undermine the Cuban government, including increased funding for anti-Castro broadcasts by Radio and TV Martí, aid to dissidents on the island, and an international public diplomacy campaign to promote the U.S. view that Cuba is a dangerous rogue state.

      The Cuban government denounced the “brutal economic and political measures” and promptly shut down its U.S. dollar stores except for food and cleaning products—a move that prompted long lines to form as shelves were emptied in a spate of panic buying. The stores reopened, with higher prices, two weeks later. Fidel Castro led a massive demonstration against the U.S. interests section in Havana, with marchers waving placards comparing Bush to Adolf Hitler and showing images of U.S. soldiers humiliating Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. The U.S. House of Representatives passed two amendments to reverse limits on sending gift parcels to Cuba and repeal new restrictions on Cuban-American family travel, but the White House continued to oppose efforts to ease the U.S. embargo. American agricultural sales to Cuba continued, and the island purchased $277.3 million in food sales during the first seven months of 2004. Meanwhile, the U.S. brought sanctions against a Jamaican-owned hotel company, forcing its withdrawal from Cuban investments.

      Cuba's relations with Europe remained difficult, despite the election of a Socialist prime minister in Spain. Ties with Latin America were strained when Cuba narrowly lost a UN vote on its human rights conditions. In May Castro lashed out at Mexico's Pres. Vicente Fox, and the two countries briefly recalled their ambassadors before smoothing over relations. In August, Cuba broke off relations with Panama when that country pardoned four Cuban exiles convicted of having plotted to kill Castro at the Ibero-American Summit of 2000. Ties with Venezuela, Argentina, and other states in the Caribbean remained warm, however.

      The Cuban economy continued to struggle. The island expected 2.1 million tourists in 2004, but new U.S. restrictions made that figure less likely. Cuba's agricultural production was badly damaged by a severe drought in the eastern provinces. Foreign direct investment continued to dwindle, and the number of active joint ventures dropped by almost 15%. The Ministry of the Economy removed the U.S. dollar from circulation in Cuba, reversing an emergency measure that had been in effect since 1993. Offshore oil drilling by the Spanish company Repsol YPF discovered deposits but determined that the extraction was not economically viable. High nickel prices and an estimated $1.2 billion in annual remittances were among the few bright spots.

Daniel P. Erikson

▪ 2004

110,861 sq km (42,804 sq mi)
(2003 est.): 11,295,000
Head of state and government:
President of the Council of State and President of the Council of Ministers Fidel Castro Ruz

      In 2003 Cuba commemorated the 50th anniversary of the assault on the Moncada Barracks that launched the Cuban Revolution in 1953. In an uncontested election the National Assembly unanimously confirmed Pres. Fidel Castro as the country's leader for another five-year term. The Cuban government replaced several high-level officials, including the head of ideology and the ministers of transportation and finance, but failed to hold the overdue (sixth) Party Congress, the event at which major personnel and policy changes were to be charted. Cuba continued to campaign for the return of the “Miami 5,” five Cuban agents arrested for spying on exile groups in the United States, but the cause received little attention outside the island.

      In March and April the Cuban government orchestrated the largest crackdown on internal dissent in recent years, arresting dozens of independent journalists and pro-democracy activists. Timed to coincide with the U.S.-led war on Iraq, Cuba tried and convicted at least 75 peaceful activists on charges of having conspired with the U.S. to subvert the Cuban revolution. The trials revealed that Cuban security agents had penetrated the main dissident groups, and the severe sentences ranged up to 28 years in prison. The government also continued to harass two leading opposition figures who escaped arrest: Osvaldo Payá, leader of the Varela Project, a movement for democratic reform, and Elizardo Sánchez, head of the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation. During the same period, Cuba summarily tried and executed three hijackers who had attempted to escape the island by seizing control of a Havana Bay passenger ferry, and an informal moratorium on the death penalty that had been in place for several years was thus effectively ended.

      Cuba's wave of repression provoked widespread international consternation but few serious consequences. The Bush administration condemned the crackdown but took no steps to reduce Cuban-American remittance flows or restrict the sale of American agricultural products, which were projected to total $166 million in 2003, almost a 20% increase over 2002. The U.S. Congress protested the arrests in a vote of 414 to 0, but it later challenged new limits on educational travel and voted to lift the travel ban for the third consecutive year. Diplomatic tensions between the U.S. and Cuba reached new levels, however. Castro threatened to close the U.S. interests section in Havana because of its contacts with dissidents, while the U.S. ejected 14 Cuban diplomats for possible espionage and imposed new limits on travel and vehicle ownership. The Bush administration continued to oppose further loosening of the U.S. embargo of Cuba.

      Several Latin American countries sponsored a UN resolution criticizing Cuba's human rights record, but a similar effort stalled in the Organization of American States because of resistance from the Caribbean countries. Cuba remained closely allied with Venezuela and hosted a state visit by Brazilian Pres. Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. Castro received a standing ovation when attending the inauguration of Néstor Kirschner in Argentina and later caused a similar stir in Paraguay. Cuba's relations with other socialist countries remained warm following official visits by Castro to China and Vietnam. The worst diplomatic row broke out between Cuba and the European Union; Castro described Spanish Prime Minister José María Aznar as “fascist,” likened Italy's Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to the dictator Benito Mussolini, and denounced European aid as a “Trojan horse” for the United States. The EU responded by stepping up support for Cuban opposition groups, but for the most part European tourism, trade, and official aid programs continued unimpeded.

      The Cuban economy's recovery from the post-9/11 decline appeared slower than initially forecast, with only minor gains in tourism after a 5% drop in 2002. Cuba projected that 2003 would be a difficult year with GDP growth of no more than 1.5%, and official hard currency foreign debt reached a high of $12.2 billion. The sugar harvest of about two million tons was the worst since 1933. On the basis of Cuba's accumulating arrears and dim immediate prospects, international credit agencies lowered the island's rating to “speculative grade, very poor.” Perhaps in response to the deteriorating economic condition, the government fired four of six vice-ministers of the economy. The minister of economy, José Luis Rodríguez, retained his position but was removed from the Council of State, Cuba's highest governing body.

Daniel P. Erikson

▪ 2003

110,861 sq km (42,804 sq mi)
(2002 est.): 11,267,000
Head of state and government:
President of the Council of State and President of the Council of Ministers Fidel Castro Ruz

      In 2002 Cuba's constitution was amended to declare the socialist revolution irreversible, despite increasing evidence of new and serious challenges to the Cuban system. Leading Cuban dissident Osvaldo Payá collected an unprecedented 11,200 signatures as part of the Varela Project, which proposed a constitutional amendment to allow greater political and economic freedoms. This initiative was neutralized by a counterpetition organized by the government of Fidel Castro. More than eight million Cubans—about 99% of registered adults—signed a proposal calling for a constitutional change rendering the Cuban system “untouchable,” which was subsequently ratified by the National Assembly.

      A mix of official hostility, increased trade, and high-profile visits characterized U.S.-Cuban relations in 2002. In May the George W. Bush administration accused Cuba of having the capacity to develop an offensive bioweapons program; in September the State Department further implied that Cuba was intentionally trying to obstruct the American “war on terrorism.” Meanwhile, quiet cooperation continued in areas such as counternarcotics operations, migration, and security regarding several hundred alleged al-Qaeda operatives captured in Afghanistan and transferred to the U.S. naval base at Guantánamo Bay. In May former president Jimmy Carter became the highest-ranking former U.S. official to have visited Cuba since the 1959 revolution and the first U.S. president to visit since Calvin Coolidge in 1928. In addition to meeting with Castro, other top government officials, and human rights groups, Carter gave a speech broadcast live throughout the island that criticized both U.S. policy and human rights in Cuba. Bush responded by announcing the “Initiative for a New Cuba” designed to maintain the trade embargo until Cuba undertakes democratic reform. Meanwhile, American farmers continued to sell agricultural products to Cuba in all-cash trades made permissible under a law passed in October 2000. In September nearly 300 American companies gathered in Cuba for the largest U.S. Food and Agribusiness Exhibition ever to have occurred on the island. Cuba was expected to make $165 million in food purchases from the U.S. by the end of the year and to become the 45th biggest export market for American agricultural exports.

      Cuba's relations with several other Latin American countries exhibited increased tension. At a United Nations conference in Monterrey, Mex., Castro attacked the world financial system as a “gigantic casino” and then abruptly left, prompting widespread speculation that Mexican Pres. Vicente Fox had engineered his exit. When Mexico later joined countries including Argentina, Canada, Chile, Peru, and Uruguay in passing a UN resolution condemning the human rights situation in Cuba, Castro released tape recordings of private conversations with Fox, sinking Cuban-Mexican relations to their lowest point in decades. Similarly rebuked, Uruguay broke off diplomatic relations with Cuba. In April, Castro ally Pres. Hugo Chávez Frias of Venezuela was temporarily removed from power, which resulted in the suspension of Venezuelan oil shipments under preferential financial terms. Ties with Europe were also strained; Cuba's arbitrary handling of foreign investment prompted the European Union to submit a document to Cuba of investors' complaints. The Cuban government responded by promising to cut red tape.

      The Cuban economy continued to struggle in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, which decreased revenues from both tourism and remittances. The island's dual currency system remained intact, but peso stores became increasingly empty while dollar stores raised their prices. Euros were allowed to circulate alongside dollars in major resorts. In June the government announced the decision to close an estimated 71 of the island's 156 sugar mills. Official estimates of gross domestic product were lowered to 3% in 2001, and further decline seemed likely. Foreign direct investment dropped dramatically in 2001, to slightly less than $40 million—far below the estimated $488 million in 2000. This trend was expected to continue in 2002. According to the Cuban central bank, the island owed nearly $11 billion in foreign debt.

      International human rights groups continued to condemn the lack of freedom of expression and the treatment of political prisoners in Cuba. The UN Development Programme's Human Development Index ranked Cuba 55th out of 173 nations in terms of life expectancy, educational attainment, adjusted real income, and governance. Although the adult literacy rate was estimated at 96.7% and the average life expectancy in Cuba was 76 years, Cuba was given the lowest possible score for civil liberties and political rights. Cuba's increasing informal economy and expanded dissident activities, however, indicated that the island's government needed to contend with a growing domestic constituency for political and economic change.

Daniel P. Erikson

▪ 2002

110,861 sq km (42,804 sq mi)
(2001 est.): 11,190,000
Head of state and government:
President of the Council of State and President of the Council of Ministers Fidel Castro Ruz

      In 2001 intense speculation about who would become Cuba's next head of state dominated both the domestic and international fronts after 74-year-old Pres. Fidel Castro Ruz suffered a fainting spell in late June. Though Cuban authorities claimed the aging ruler was in good health, there were some signs of planning for a post-Castro transition. Among the candidates who could take major roles in a new government were First Vice Pres. Gen. Raúl Castro Ruz, who was also Fidel's brother and his most likely successor; the Council of State vice president, Carlos Lage Dávila; and the president of the National Assembly, Ricardo Alarcón de Quesada.

      Owing to its internal politics, Cuba remained isolated from important international events in 2001. It was the only country in the Americas not invited to the third Summit of the Americas in Quebec City. Castro claimed the U.S. would use the Summit to co-opt its neighbours into signing a trade deal at unfavourable terms. He used his time at home for high-profile celebrations marking the 40th anniversary of the defeat of the Bay of Pigs invasion. Despite tense relations with most of Latin America, Cuba consolidated its friendship with Venezuelan Pres. Hugo Chávez Frías. After signing an oil accord at favourable terms for Cuba in October 2000, the two countries participated in a series of cultural, scientific, and academic exchanges.

      The George W. Bush administration's nominations of anti-Castro exiles to high-level government posts led to increased friction between the two countries, despite the fact that Bush continued with former president Bill Clinton's practice of waiving the controversial Title III of the 1996 Helms-Burton Act. The act would have allowed Americans to seek damages against foreign companies that benefited from confiscated property in Cuba. In July the Bush administration also oversaw new regulations that would allow limited agricultural sales to Cuba for the first time in the nearly 40-year embargo. In November four American companies signed deals to supply food to replenish Cuba's food stocks in the wake of Hurricane Michelle, which had killed five people earlier that month. The deals were made on a one-time basis only.

      The Cuban economy grew for the seventh consecutive year despite high oil-import prices and a low sugar output. Real gross domestic product (GDP) growth for 2000 was 5.6%. Early estimates for GDP growth in 2001 varied from 3.5% to 5% for the year. A 13% decline in the 2000–01 sugar harvest due to economic inefficiencies as well as a severe drought, coupled with an increasing foreign-trade deficit, made it unlikely that the year's GDP would come close to the government's target of 5%. The government was also disappointed by the decision of Brazilian state oil company Petrobrás to pull out of oil exploration in Cuba after it discovered an offshore well that came up dry. Producing domestic oil was a major goal of the Cuban government, which now imported two-thirds of the island's energy needs.

      Tourism, the main engine of the economy for the past five years and one of the biggest earners of hard currency (along with remittances), had trouble earning double-digit growth in 2001. Though authorities expected a total of two million tourists, a strong dollar in the middle of the year made travel for Europeans more expensive. Finally, though the full effect had yet to be determined, the September 11 terrorist attacks in the U.S. were expected to affect tourism negatively in general, as people were more wary of airplane travel. Cuban authorities, recognizing that government regulation of the tourism industry had been inefficient, announced in 2001 that all new high-end hotels would be managed in partnership with foreign companies.

      International human rights organizations as well as press-freedom organizations continued to condemn Cuba's record on free speech and harassment of dissidents. In its report for 2000, Amnesty International noted that hundreds of people remained imprisoned for political offenses and that critics of the government were subject to “short term detention, house arrest, threats and harassment.” The government claimed that limited repression was justified to maintain national unity against the U.S. embargo.

Sandra A. Grossman

▪ 2001

110,861 sq km (42,804 sq mi)
(2000 est.): 11,148,000
Head of state and government:
President of the Council of State and President of the Council of Ministers Fidel Castro Ruz

      Politics in Cuba in the year 2000 was largely dominated by the plight of a six-year-old. In November 1999 Elián González was rescued off the coast of Florida and taken aboard a U.S. Coast Guard vessel after a failed ocean crossing from Cuba during which his mother and 10 others had drowned. A highly politicized custody battle followed between the boy's Miami, Fla., relatives and his father in Cuba. The case was not resolved until June 28, 2000, when the U.S. Supreme Court refused to issue an order that would keep him in the country. Accompanied by his father, who had been allowed to travel to the U.S., the boy flew home to Cuba that same day.

      The “Elián case” had an extraordinary impact in both Cuba and the U.S. The Cuban government viewed the boy's return as a major victory. Cuban officials, including Pres. Fidel Castro, used the opportunity to demand the end of the long-standing embargo and to denounce the “influence of the powerful Cuban-American community on U.S. policy toward Cuba.” The case also had a more subtle effect on the island. After months of televised debates during which the pros and cons of the American legal system were analyzed—sometimes in excruciating detail—Cubans had the chance to see for themselves how democracy worked.

      Activity in the U.S. Congress during the year promised to have a strong impact on American-Cuban relations. After months of debate, on October 6, Republican negotiators in Congress agreed on a plan to allow for the sale of medicine to Cuba for the first time in nearly four decades. Intense lobbying by agribusinesses and the easing of restrictions on American trade smoothed the way for legislative approval. Nevertheless, the bill drew intense criticism because of restrictions added by Cuban-American lawmakers. Anti-Castro groups were able to win new limitations on travel to Cuba as well as prohibitions on U.S. government credit and private financing for any transactions. The cash-strapped Cuban government vowed they would not buy any food from the U.S. under the restrictions. Despite this, the bill passed through Congress handily, however, and was signed into law on October 28.

      The Cuban economy grew for a sixth consecutive year despite high oil prices and weak export markets for sugar. Real gross domestic product (GDP) growth for 1999 was 6.2%. Early estimates for GDP growth in 2000 varied from 4.5% to 5.5%. The figure for the first half of the year was calculated at 7.7%. The growth was largely attributed to a 6% jump in tourism and a 7% increase in Cuba's sugar harvest.

      Though the government fell short of attracting its target of two million visitors for 2000, tourism continued to be the driving force behind the economy and one of the biggest earners of hard currency. The United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America estimated that Cuba garnered $2.6 billion in gross earnings from tourism for the year, up from $2.2 billion in 1999. In preparation for a continuing influx, Cuba was investing heavily in infrastructure, including building new hotels and roads. Foreign investment was expected to play a major role in this endeavour. New deals in 2000 included a $10.6 million agreement between Leisure Canada and Cuban partner Gran Caribe Hotels to begin construction on a resort and golf course. The year also saw the merger of two Cuban tourism giants, Cubanacan and CIMEX. The alliance was intended to bolster the already considerable presence of the two firms in the tourism industry.

      In its 2000 report Amnesty International stated that at least 13 people were executed in Cuba during 1999 and that at least nine people remained under sentence of death on the island. There were also reports of the persecution and imprisonment of journalists. Cuban officials arrested three Swedish journalists on August 29 and deported them on the 31st. They were accused of breaking the law by using tourist visas to come to Cuba and then engaging in journalistic work. The three reportedly met with Cuban independent journalists at a workshop on freedom of the press.

Ana Julia Jatar

▪ 2000

110,861 sq km (42,804 sq mi)
(1999 est.): 11,143,000
Head of state and government:
President of the Council of State and President of the Council of Ministers Fidel Castro Ruz

      The year 1999 was a good one for U.S.–Cuban relations. After announcing policy changes that permitted American citizens to travel to Cuba and to explore business opportunities on the island, U.S. Pres. Bill Clinton in January—and again in July—waived Title III of the Helms-Burton law, which allowed American citizens to sue foreign companies for conducting business on confiscated American property in Cuba. Clinton had repeatedly waived the provision since the Helms-Burton law was enacted in 1996. Also in July, Clinton gave the U.S. Chamber of Commerce approval to send its president, Tom Donohue, to Cuba. That same month two officials from Cuba's Ministry of Foreign Affairs were received by the U.S. Senate, which had invited them to discuss agricultural trade issues. In August Sen. Tom Daschle of South Dakota and Sen. Byron Dorgan of North Dakota visited Cuba and held an eight-hour meeting with Cuban Pres. Fidel Castro Ruz. In late October Illinois Gov. George H. Ryan led a humanitarian mission to Cuba, becoming the first sitting U.S. governor to visit the country in more than 40 years. Relations were strained in December, however, over custody of a Cuban boy rescued in November at sea by U.S. authorities.

      On August 5 the U.S. Senate voted 70 to 28 in favour of including an end to the ban on exports of food and medicine to Cuba—including sales to government entities—in fiscal year 2000's agricultural appropriations bill. Nevertheless, efforts made by the powerful U.S. farm lobby to lift the sanctions against Cuba were derailed in the House of Representatives with a 240–175 vote against lifting the sanctions.

      In a speech on July 26, Castro publicly exhorted the U.S. government to collaborate with Cuba in fighting drugs. Castro stated that several attempts by Cuba to form an anticrime pact with the U.S. had failed because of opposition by Cuban exile leaders in Miami, Fla. In June, however, Cuba filed a $181 billion lawsuit against the U.S., claiming that its embargo had caused massive economic damages and thousands of deaths in Cuba.

      The Cuban government toughened its legislation against domestic political dissidence during the year by approving the Law for the Protection of the National Independence and the Economy of Cuba. The law provided for jail terms of up to 20 years for Cubans convicted of “collaborating” with the U.S. or other foreign enemies. The law did not stop local political dissidents from expressing their discontent with the lack of political freedom in the country. Twenty-five members of Cuban opposition groups began a 40-day hunger strike in June to demand freedom of expression and the release of what they said were dozens of political prisoners on the island.

      On the issue of human rights in Cuba, the UN Commission on Human Rights in April narrowly passed a resolution expressing concern about “continued repression” in the country. More pressure on the human rights issue came during the Ibero-American summit, which took place in Havana in November. Several Latin American countries, including Costa Rica, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Chile, and Argentina, decided not to participate in the summit in protest against human rights violations in Cuba.

      The Cuban economy grew for its sixth consecutive year, expanding 6% in the first semester of 1999. The economy was expected to have an average growth of 4% for the year. The sugar harvest was up 23.4% from 1998; nevertheless, owing to depressed international sugar prices, revenues were expected to be the same or less.

      Tourism continued to be the main engine of the Cuban economy, with 1.7 million tourists expected to visit Cuba in 1999 and revenues estimated at $2.2 billion, up 21% from 1998. Also during 1999, the Cuban government struck a landmark deal with a Panamanian company to allow the company to build a small diesel electric power plant on the Isla de la Juventud. According to the terms of the deal, for the first time in decades foreign investors would own 100% of a significant project in Cuba.

Ana Julia Jatar

▪ 1999

      Area: 110,861 sq km (42,804 sq mi)

      Population (1998 est.): 11,116,000

      Capital: Havana

      Head of state and government: President of the Council of State and President of the Council of Ministers Fidel Castro Ruz

      In January 1998 Pope John Paul II visited Cuba for the first time. He celebrated open-air masses in Santa Clara, Camagüey, Santiago de Cuba, and in the Plaza de la Revolución in Havana; the latter was attended by some 300,000 people, including Pres. Fidel Castro Ruz. The pope preached in favour of freedom and social justice. He criticized the U.S. for its stance toward Cuba, describing the U.S. blockade as "unjust and ethically unacceptable," and also spoke out against abortion, contraception, and divorce, all available in Cuba. Following the pope's visit some 300 Cuban prisoners were pardoned and released from jail as a result of negotiations with the Vatican.

      The pope also held discussions with the U.S. administration, following which Pres. Bill Clinton announced an end to the ban on humanitarian flights and cash remittances from the U.S. to Cuba. Cubans in the U.S. were allowed to send up to $300 per quarter to relatives in Cuba. The first direct flight from Miami, Fla., to Havana since March 1996 was made in July.

      The New York Times in July published a long interview with Luis Posada Carriles, a Cuban-born, CIA-trained terrorist who had been convicted of bombing a Cuban airliner off Barbados in 1976 and had served nine years in a Venezuelan prison. In the interview he admitted to more recent attacks against Cuban property, claiming to have organized the 1997 bombings in Havana hotels and to have had his activities financed by the late Jorge Mas Canosa and other leaders of the Cuban-American National Foundation (CANF). The Interior Ministry announced that three Guatemalans and two Salvadoreans were to be put on trial for their part in the bombings. Described as mercenaries, they admitted to working under the direction of Carriles and Arnaldo Monzón Plasencia, also of CANF. A CANF director, José Antonio Llama, and six other men were indicted in August by a U.S. federal grand jury in San Juan, P.R., on charges of plotting to kill President Castro. The charges related to a four-year period, but they specifically mentioned a plot discovered in 1997 when Castro visited Margarita Island, Venezuela, for a summit meeting.

      Although political repression was reported to have eased after the pope's visit, four Cuban political dissidents, held in prison since July 1997, were charged in September with acts against state security, specifically sedition. They were expected to be put on trial by the end of the year and faced jail sentences of five or six years.

      Elections were held on January 11 for the National Assembly and 14 provincial assemblies. Only 1.7% of the 7.9 million electorate abstained, and of those who went to the polls 95% cast valid votes. President Castro and his brother, Raúl, the armed forces minister, received 99% of the vote. The large turnout and the result were interpreted as overwhelming support for the Castro regime despite the hardships of the past few years.

      Five eastern provinces—Holguín, Las Tunas, Santiago de Cuba, Granma, and Guantánamo—suffered severe drought in 1998, which resulted in a loss of food production, particularly in grains, beans, fruits, and vegetables, as well as in the forthcoming sugar and coffee harvests. The situation became so serious that emergency relief was granted, and on September 1 the UN World Food Programme announced an emergency food-aid appeal for food imports and distribution to those in need. Late in September eastern Cuba was hit by Hurricane Georges, which brought winds of more than 175 km/h (110 mph) and ripped through the forests of the region. Banana, cocoa, and coffee crops were wiped out in some areas, sugarcane fields were flattened and flooded, and six people were killed. Some 720,000 people were evacuated from the path of the storm. There was flood damage to some 40,000 homes, and many roads, bridges, railways, and power and communications lines were knocked out.

      Economic growth was reported to have been 4% in the first half of the year despite a poor sugar harvest. The increase was led by tourism, fishing, and tobacco, with exports of cigars growing strongly. Foreign investment continued to rise, with Canadian investment forecast to increase from $200 million to $1 billion by the end of 2000.


▪ 1998

      Area: 110,861 sq km (42,804 sq mi)

      Population (1997 est.): 11,190,000

      Capital: Havana

      Head of state and government: President of the Council of State and President of the Council of Ministers Fidel Castro Ruz

      The year 1997 began on a positive note, with the economy showing significant gains, real gross domestic product growing 7.8% in 1996 despite the damage caused by Hurricane Lili in October 1996. Nickel production increased more than 30%, and the number of tourist arrivals passed the one million mark for the first time, an increase of 35% over 1995. The shortage of foreign exchange remained critical, however, and the 1996 trade deficit of $1,729,000,000 made the country increasingly vulnerable to pressure from the U.S. trade embargo. The 1997 sugar harvest was insufficiently financed because of the reticence of lenders to provide funds for any sugar produced from cane fields that had formerly been U.S.-owned, and output was expected to be less than the 4,450,000 metric tons harvested in 1996.

      Despite worldwide condemnation of the Helms-Burton legislation enacted in 1996, which extended sanctions to non-U.S. companies that did business in Cuba and allowed U.S. citizens to sue foreign companies for conducting business in confiscated American property in Cuba, a complaint brought by the European Union against the U.S. at the World Trade Organization was suspended. U.S. Pres. Bill Clinton was expected to ask the U.S. Congress to amend Title IV of the legislation (concerning the denial of U.S. entry visas to employees and shareholders of "trafficking" companies), and he was expected to continue to waive Title III (authorizing court cases against those "trafficking" in expropriated assets). Supporters of the law, however, introduced their own amendments to the U.S. Congress that would have the effect of tightening the legislation. The Cuban government mounted a diplomatic campaign against the new legislation, with senior officials visiting every country in Latin America as well as promoting relations with the island's Caribbean neighbours. The heads of state of Jamaica, Barbados, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines paid official visits to Cuba, and ambassadors of Caribbean nations in the U.S. issued a rejection of U.S. legislative proposals that would impose sanctions on their countries for doing business with Cuba.

      In May Cuba accused the U.S. of using a crop-spraying aircraft to cause an infestation of thrips in the province of Matanzas. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization provided assistance in controlling the plague. Cuba requested a hearing under the UN convention on biological warfare to consider the case, and a consultative meeting in Geneva in late August ended inconclusively.

      The tourist industry was rocked by several bombings, first in April at the Meliá Cohiba hotel and later in July at the Capri and Nacional hotels, all in Havana. Another bomb went off in the Meliá Cohiba in August. The bombings were the first since the 1960s, and the government blamed Cuban refugee extremists in Miami, Fla. Also in July the U.S. Coast Guard prevented a refugee flotilla from entering Cuban waters, and the national baseball team of Cuba pulled out of a series in the U.S. because of threats from Miami exiles. The first bombing fatality occurred at the beginning of September, when an Italian was killed by an explosion in one of three hotels on Havana's seafront that were bombed on the same day along with a popular tourist restaurant. About a week later the Interior Ministry announced that it was holding a former paratrooper from El Salvador, Raúl Ernesto Cruz León, who had confessed to working as a mercenary and planting six bombs. Although he did not reveal for whom he was working, Cuba accused the Miami-based Cuban American National Foundation (CANF) of being behind the bombings, an allegation it denied. Influential CANF Chairman Jorge Mas Canosa died in Miami in November. (See OBITUARIES (Mas Canosa, Jorge ).)

      On July 12 there was a ceremonial homecoming for the remains of revolutionary leader Ernesto ("Che") Guevara and six Cuban guerrillas who were killed in Bolivia on Oct. 9, 1967. Their bodies were exhumed from a secret grave and returned to Cuba to lay in state. More than 12,500 delegates attended the 14th World Festival of Youth and Students, held in Havana at the end of July, although only 5,000 had been expected. Despite warnings by U.S. authorities that their attendance contravened the Trading with the Enemy Act, 849 Americans attended, and the U.S. delegation was the largest of any country.

      In October the Cuban Communist Party held its first Congress since 1991. No new policy initiatives or changes in leadership were announced. For the first time since the revolution, Christmas was declared an official holiday in Cuba.

      This article updates Cuba.

▪ 1997

      The socialist republic of Cuba comprises the island of Cuba and more than 1,600 smaller islands and cays in the Caribbean Sea. Area: 110,861 sq km (42,804 sq mi). Pop. (1996 est.): 11,117,000. Cap.: Havana. Monetary unit: Cuban peso, with an official rate of 1 CUP to U.S. $1 (1.58 CUP = £ 1 sterling); a truer value of the peso was the authorized exchange house rate, where about 21 CUP = U.S. $1 (about 33 CUP = £ 1 sterling). President of the Councils of State and Ministers in 1996, Fidel Castro Ruz.

      Any softening of relations between Cuba and the United States in 1995 was reversed in 1996 following an incident in February in which two aircraft piloted by Cuban exiles living in Miami, Fla., were shot down in the Caribbean Sea off the northern coast of Cuba, killing four men, after they had declared their intention of flying over Cuba. Cuba had previously issued warnings of its intention to prevent unauthorized flights into its airspace, but they had been ignored by the group of exiles known as Brothers to the Rescue. The U.S., which maintained that the planes had been shot down over international waters, reacted strongly to the incident. U.S. Pres. Bill Clinton reversed his previous opposition to key sections of the Helms-Burton bill (also known as the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act), which was designed to further isolate Cuba, strengthen the trade embargo against it, and extend U.S. legislation to foreign companies investing in both the U.S. and Cuba.

      Despite vigorous opposition from the main trading partners of the U.S., including the European Union, Canada, and Mexico, the Helms-Burton Act was signed in the U.S. on March 12. The new law extended sanctions to non-U.S. companies that did business in Cuba and allowed U.S. citizens (including naturalized Cuban exiles) to sue foreign companies for trafficking in confiscated American property in Cuba, although President Clinton suspended authorization for lawsuits for six months. A Canadian, a Mexican, and an Italian firm each received letters warning that entry into the U.S. by their executives would be denied because of their activities in Cuba in nickel mining and telecommunications using previously U.S.-owned property. The new legislation did not deter foreign companies from entering into joint ventures with Cuban state companies, and during the year many new agreements were signed.

      The Cuban economic recovery continued in the first half of 1996 with a growth of 9.6% in gross domestic product (GDP) compared with the same period in 1995. Productivity was reported to have risen by 8% and the average wage by 2.5%, while prices remained stable. The budget deficit for the year was forecast to fall to 3% of GDP. Though nickel production rose by 31%, cement by 23%, tobacco by 27%, and vegetables by 25% during the first six months of 1996, the economy continued to suffer from a shortage of hard currency, which made meeting international obligations difficult.

      Economic reform and modernization progressed slowly but steadily. Banks were permitted to offer wider services. A new bank, Banco Metropolitano, began offering low-interest checking and deposit accounts as part of the aim to offer the same range of banking services as in other countries. An investment bank and an agro-industrial and commercial bank were also planned, while the Banco Popular de Ahorro, a savings bank, expanded its services to include personal and business loans. Decree-Law No. 165, published in June, governed the operation of free-trade zones in Cuba. The first zones were to include three in Havana and one in Cienfuegos on the southern coast. Those holding licenses to operate in the zones were granted exemption from customs duties and taxes on profits and were allowed free repatriation of profits and access to the domestic market, depending on the local value added.

      The tourism industry continued to show rapid growth, with Canadian companies joining the leading Spanish investors in building hotels throughout the country. Canada also agreed to finance construction by Canadian companies of a third terminal at Havana's international airport.

      Hurricane Lili swept through 8 of the island's 14 provinces in October, causing destruction to housing and agriculture. The storm damaged some 78,000 homes, 5,640 of which were destroyed.


      This article updates Cuba.

▪ 1996

      The socialist republic of Cuba comprises the island of Cuba and more than 1,600 smaller islands and cays in the Caribbean Sea. Area: 110,861 sq km (42,804 sq mi). Pop. (1995 est.): 11,068,000. Cap.: Havana. Monetary unit: Cuban peso, with an official rate of 1 CUP to U.S. $1 (1.58 CUP = £ 1 sterling); a truer value of the peso was on the black market, where about 20-25 CUP = U.S. $1 (about 32-40 CUP = £ 1 sterling). President of the Councils of State and Ministers in 1995, Fidel Castro Ruz.

      In 1995 the Cuban government concentrated on implementing economic reforms to increase private-sector investment in the economy and generate greater foreign exchange inflows. The move followed the severe pruning of the budget deficit, which fell from 33% of gross domestic product (GDP) in 1993 to 8% in 1994. The 1995 deficit was likely to be less than the target of 1 billion pesos (about 5% of GDP) as a result of further cuts in government subsidies, price rises, and a reduction in the public-sector workforce. For the first time since 1989, there was in 1994 a slight increase in GDP, of 0.7%, which accelerated to an annualized 2% in the first half of 1995. The tourist trade and foreign investment brought inflows of foreign currency, and the greater supply of dollars caused the exchange rate to improve from a low of 150 pesos to the dollar in 1994 to about 25 pesos in September 1995. A convertible peso was introduced at par with the U.S. dollar, with the aim of eventually withdrawing dollars from circulation and replacing them with the convertible peso. About 44% of the population had access to foreign exchange, compared with 21% in 1994. In October the legal exchange of pesos for dollars at the rate of 30 to 1 quietly began.

      In September the National Assembly passed a new investment law allowing 100% foreign ownership of enterprises in Cuba. Investment was to be allowed in real estate and in free-trade and export-manufacturing zones but not in education, health, and defense. Investment proposals would continue to be considered on a discretionary basis, but Cuban exiles were assured that they would not be discriminated against if they wished to invest in their homeland.

      Negotiations also were proceeding on reform of the banking system in order to cope with the increasing numbers of Cubans using foreign exchange but having to operate with cash. The lack of international credit arrangements also affected large businesses and the export sector. It was proposed that the National Bank of Cuba become a central bank and that its commercial and other banking activities be spun off. A broader domestic financial services sector would be created, including trade finance specialists and an investment bank. In September Cuban banks for the first time advertised dollar accounts paying market rates to allow Cubans to accumulate capital in hard currency.

      Despite the gradual opening of the Cuban economy and the increasing frustration of many U.S. companies wanting to do business with Cuba, the U.S. House of Representatives voted in September to tighten the U.S. embargo. A controversial bill, introduced in February by Sen. Jesse Helms, sought to penalize those doing business with Cuba through third countries. It generated widespread international opposition; the European Union said that its application to third countries would be in breach of World Trade Organization rules and 1994 General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) agreements. Canada and Caribbean countries also opposed the bill. Nevertheless, the House voted in its favour by 294 to 130.

      The action of the House contrasted with the softer attitude of the U.S. administration toward Cuba. In May a joint U.S.-Cuban declaration was issued in which Cuba agreed on the admission to the U.S. of most of the 21,000 Cubans still held at the U.S. base at Guantánamo since the 1994 mass emigration. The U.S. agreed that future migrants intercepted at sea would be repatriated, a move that sparked demonstrations among Cuban exiles in Miami, Fla. Cuba ratified the international convention against torture and other degrading treatment, bringing to 16 the number of human rights agreements it had signed. Several political prisoners were released as a result of official requests from abroad, and Pres. Fidel Castro held a cordial meeting in Havana with a Cuban exile who headed Cambio Cubano, which advocated a peaceful transition to democracy in Cuba.

      Though there was improvement in the tourism, nickel, and seafood exchange earning sectors, Cuba's main export, sugar, remained in crisis. The 1994-95 harvest was at its lowest level in 50 years, at about 3.3 million metric tons. The 1995-96 crop was expected to increase slightly for the first time in three years as a result of purchases of fertilizers and weed killers, but most of the export earnings were allocated to cover debt payments. (SARAH CAMERON)

      This updates the article Cuba.

▪ 1995

      The socialist republic of Cuba comprises the island of Cuba and more than 1,600 smaller islands and cays in the Caribbean Sea. Area: 110,861 sq km (42,804 sq mi). Pop. (1994 est.): 10,994,000. Cap.: Havana. Monetary unit: Cuban peso, with (Oct. 7, 1994) an official rate of 1 peso to U.S. $1 (1.59 pesos = £ 1 sterling). President of the Councils of State and Ministers in 1994, Fidel Castro Ruz.

      Emigration was a dominant issue in Cuba in 1994, as the dire state of the nation's economy persuaded many Cubans to seek their fortunes in the U.S. According to the 1984 immigration agreement, the U.S. could grant up to 20,000 immigrant visas per year; however, only 1,600 were issued in 1993, causing considerable resentment and frustration. Tempted by the Cuban Adjustment Law of 1966, which entitled Cubans to legal residence in the U.S. a year after arrival there, thousands of Cubans risked their lives in crossing the Straits of Florida on homemade craft. In 1993, 3,656 people reached Florida on rafts and other small vessels, compared with 2,557 in 1992 and 467 in 1990. It was thought that about half of all those who attempted the crossing perished at sea. In 1994 many more thousands attempted to leave, and crisis proportions were reached in August. Early in the month rioting broke out in Havana after the police prevented a ferry loaded with would-be emigrants from leaving the harbour.

      Pres. Fidel Castro (see BIOGRAPHIES (Castro, Fidel )) declared on August 7 that if the U.S. did not take "quick and efficient measures to halt the promotion of illegal departures," the Cuban coast guard would be instructed not to prevent people from leaving. This unleashed a flotilla of small craft, which U.S. Pres. Bill Clinton sought to stem by announcing on August 19 that Cubans arriving in Florida would no longer be given automatic refugee status. By the next week, however, the U.S. Coast Guard was rescuing between 2,000 and 3,000 people each day in the Straits of Florida, depending on the weather.

      Clinton banned remittances from the U.S. to Cuba, cut the number of charter flights from the U.S. to Cuba, and increased U.S. propaganda radio broadcasts. Cuban refugees were no longer allowed to stay in the U.S. but were returned to the U.S. naval base on Cuba at Guantánamo Bay, where a camp for 40,000 was made ready. In September, after a week of meetings, the U.S. and Cuba reached agreement to halt the flow of refugees. The U.S. agreed to admit at least 20,000 Cubans in 1994, in line with the existing quota, and could grant an additional 6,000 visas to Cubans already on the waiting list. In return, Cuba promised to restore patrols to prevent people from leaving the island by boat.

      On March 17 the U.S. House of Representatives heard a bill for free trade with Cuba that was designed to end the 33-year-old embargo. The sponsor, Rep. Charles Rangel, argued that it made no sense to deal with China and Vietnam but not trade with Cuba. Various Cuban-American groups and U.S. business interests stepped up their efforts to ease travel restrictions and improve telephone service between Cuba and the U.S.

      Neighbouring countries also called for the U.S. to relax its stance. At the 24th General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS) in Brazil, the foreign ministers of most OAS members called for the end of the U.S. embargo and the readmission of Cuba to the OAS. The presidents of the Rio Group of 11 Latin-American and Caribbean countries called in September for a peaceful transition to democracy in Cuba and the lifting of the U.S. embargo but did not directly link the two.

      Investors from countries other than the U.S. showed interest in Cuba during the year. Tourism was buoyant, and Cuba was admitted to the Caribbean Hotel Association in January. French investors agreed to build a new hotel and renovate three others, while the German hotel subsidiary of the charter airline LTU took over the management of its fourth hotel on the island. In Cuba's first large-scale privatization since 1959, a Mexican investment group, Domos Internacional, announced plans to invest $1.4 billion in renovating Cuba's telephone system with a 49% purchase of the state telecommunications enterprise, ETEC.

      The government introduced some reforms to modernize the administration and curb the rising budget deficit, estimated at 4.8 billion pesos, or one-third of total expenditure. Several committees and commissions were abolished, and six new economic ministries replaced them. The reorganization was aimed at superseding the cumbersome command economy with a more accountable and dynamic system of economic management. Steep price increases on a wide range of goods and services were announced, aimed at cutting the fiscal deficit and reducing money in circulation.


      This updates the article Cuba.

▪ 1994

      The socialist republic of Cuba comprises the island of Cuba and several thousand smaller islands and cays in the Caribbean Sea. Area: 110,861 sq km (42,804 sq mi). Pop. (1993 est.): 10,892,000. Cap.: Havana. Monetary unit: Cuban peso, with (Oct. 4, 1993) an official rate of 0.75 peso to U.S. $1 (1.14 pesos = £ 1 sterling). President of the Councils of State and Ministers in 1993, Fidel Castro Ruz.

      The majority of Cubans continued to face economic hardships in 1993. Severe weather, moreover, added to their misery. January rains ruined the sugar harvest, and a hurricane in March and flooding in June forced the evacuation of 60,000 people. The sugar export crop, which accounted for 65% of all foreign exchange earnings in 1992, was down by 40% in 1993, the lowest level in 30 years. Other export crops (e.g., citrus and tobacco) and domestic staples (e.g., bananas and cassava) were ruined. Many farms, factories, and warehouses also incurred damage.

      The government actively recruited outside trading and investment partners to prevent overreliance on any one source of financial aid. Foreign groups promised to invest some $500 million over a period of several years to support such things as tourism, mining, light industry, agribusiness, and electronics. Nevertheless, falling local demand led to a further decline in imports, forecast at $1.7 billion in 1993, compared with $2.2 billion in 1992 and $8 billion in 1989. Continued fuel shortages caused frequent power blackouts and transport problems. Petty theft, prostitution, and black marketeers became more common, while the gulf separating those who had dollars from those who did not continued to widen.

      A mysterious neural disease that caused muscular disorders and, in about 10% of the cases, blindness affected some 50,000 people. The European Commission helped fight the disease by donating $6 million. The government distributed $40 million worth of multivitamins to the entire population to improve general health and to increase resistance to the disease even though officials denied that the illness was due to malnutrition.

      The dire state of the economy and a chronic shortage of foreign exchange forced the government to embrace a new policy in 1993. In July it announced that Cuban citizens would be allowed to possess U.S. dollars and other convertible currencies and to spend them in special shops. The U.S. administration stated that the current $300-per-quarter limit on remittances would not be relaxed, although it was generally accepted that this would be difficult to police. On July 26, in his Moncada anniversary speech, Castro also stated that more Cubans living abroad would be allowed to visit their relatives in Cuba. These moves increased the risk of social unrest because they favoured dissidents with exiled relatives in Florida over the party faithful, who worked for the state and had no access to dollars.

      The mood of reform intensified in August when four key economic ministers were replaced. Alfredo Jordán Morales was appointed minister for agriculture, Nelson Torres Pérez minister for sugar, Gen. Silvano Colas Sánchez minister of communications, and José Luis Rodríguez García minister of finance.

      A small step toward establishing a mixed economy was taken in September when Castro signed a decree authorizing limited private enterprise in some 100 trades, crafts, and services. Entrepreneurs would be allowed to benefit directly from their work and negotiate prices with their clients, but they would not be allowed to employ other people. It was expected that small family businesses similar to those found in Vietnam and China would soon appear. Taxi drivers, carpenters, mechanics, decorators, cooks, and computer programmers would be able to run their own businesses, but graduates, especially doctors and company managers, would be barred from private enterprise.

      There was no relaxation of the U.S. trade and financial embargo on Cuba, but relations improved and were considerably less confrontational. There were frequent suggestions in the press and in business circles that the embargo be lifted. After Pres. Bill Clinton took office, the anti-Castro Cuban-American National Foundation was less influential in government circles. The House of Representatives voted to cease funding for TV Martí, the U.S. government's anti-Castro television station. The U.S. State Department's new guidelines for telecommunications companies allowed telephone links to Cuba. This small breach in the economic embargo would allow Cuba to receive half of future telephone revenues, although its estimated $80 million share of earlier telecommunications revenues remained frozen in an escrow account in New York. After U.S. and Cuban coast guard officials met to discuss the rise in illegal immigrants reaching the U.S., immigration personnel from both sides agreed that 20,000 Cubans would be allowed to enter the U.S. each year, the level agreed to in 1984 but suspended in 1985. Contacts on military matters had become so amicable that the U.S. kept Cuba informed of its naval exercises in the area. In September the two countries cooperated in an antidrug operation. Acting on information passed on by a U.S. counternarcotics patrol, the Cuban coast guard seized a boat in Cuban waters. U.S. drug agents flew to Cuba to take custody of the two Americans suspected of smuggling cocaine. It was the first time Cuba had returned a boat and its crew to the U.S. for prosecution on narcotics charges.

      In a much-publicized incident in December, Alina Fernández Revuelta, daughter of Castro, escaped to Spain and then was granted asylum in the U.S. Castro allowed his granddaughter to join her mother several days later. (SARAH CAMERON)

      This updates the article Cuba.

* * *

Cuba, flag of   country of the West Indies, the largest single island of the archipelago, and one of the more influential states of the Caribbean region.

      The domain of Taino-speaking American Indians who had displaced even earlier inhabitants, Cuba was claimed by Christopher Columbus in 1492. It became the Spanish empire's most important source of raw sugar in the 18th century and later earned the sobriquet “Pearl of the Antilles.” Though Spain had to fight several difficult and costly campaigns against independence movements, it retained rule of Cuba until 1898, when it was defeated by the United States and Cuban forces in the Spanish-American War. Cuba soon gained formal independence, though it remained overshadowed by the nearby United States.

 On New Year's Day, 1959, revolutionary forces led by Fidel Castro overthrew the government of dictator Fulgencio Batista. Two years later Castro proclaimed the Marxist-Leninist nature of the revolution. Cuba became economically isolated from its northern neighbour as it developed close links to the Soviet Union. However, the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s isolated Cuba still further, bringing on what Cubans euphemistically call the período económico especial (“special economic period”), a time of widespread shortages and financial uncertainty. By the early 21st century, Cuba had loosened some of its more restrictive economic and social policies, but the United States continued its decades-long economic embargo against the Castro regime, assuring that economic hardships would persist.

      Life in contemporary Cuba is thus challenging, given the limited access to food, transportation, electrical power, and other necessities. Even so, many Cubans show a fierce pride in their revolutionary society, the only one of its kind in Latin America. The protagonist of anthropologist Miguel Barnet's novel Canción de Rachel (1969; Rachel's Song, 1991) describes it thus:

This island is something special. The strangest, most tragic things have happened here. And it will always be that way. The earth, like human kind, has its destiny. And Cuba's is a mysterious destiny.

      Cuba is a largely urban nation, although it has only one major city: Havana (La Habana), the capital and commercial hub of the country, on the northwestern coast. Handsome if rather run-down, Havana has a scenic waterfront and is surrounded by fine beaches, an attraction for increasing numbers of visitors from abroad. Cuba's other cities—including Santiago, Camagüey, Holguín, and, especially, Trinidad—offer a rich legacy of colonial Spanish architecture to complement contemporary buildings.

 Cuba is situated just south of the Tropic of Cancer at the intersection of the Atlantic Ocean (north and east), the Gulf of Mexico (Mexico, Gulf of) (west), and the Caribbean Sea (south). Haiti, the nearest neighbouring country, is 48 miles (77 km) to the east, across the Windward Passage; Jamaica is 87 miles (140 km) to the south; The Bahamas (Bahamas, The) archipelago extends to within 50 miles (80 km) of the northern coast; and the United States is about 90 miles (150 km) to the north across the Straits of Florida (Florida, Straits of).

      The country comprises an archipelago of about 1,600 islands, islets, and cays with a combined area three-fourths as large as the U.S. state of Florida. The islands form an important segment of the Antilles (West Indies) island chain, which continues east and then south in a great arc enclosing the Caribbean Sea. The island of Cuba itself is by far the largest in the chain and constitutes one of the four islands of the Greater Antilles. In general, the island runs from northwest to southeast and is long and narrow—777 miles (1,250 km) long and 119 miles (191 km) across at its widest and 19 miles (31 km) at its narrowest point.

Relief (Cuba)
      Groups of mountains and hills cover about one-fourth of the island of Cuba. The most rugged range is the Sierra Maestra (Maestra, Sierra), which stretches approximately 150 miles (240 km) along the southeastern coast and reaches the island's highest elevations—6,476 feet (1,974 metres) at Turquino Peak and 5,676 feet (1,730 metres) at Bayamesa Peak. Near the centre of the island are the Santa Clara Highlands, the Sierra de Escambray (Guamuhaya), and the Sierra de Trinidad. The Cordillera de Guaniguanico (Guaniguanico, Cordillera de) in the far west stretches from southwest to northeast for 110 miles (180 km) and comprises the Sierra de los Órganos and the Sierra del Rosario, the latter attaining 2,270 feet (692 metres) at Guajaibón Peak. Much of central-western Cuba is punctuated by spectacularly shaped, vegetation-clad hillocks called mogotes. Serpentine highlands distinguish northern and central La Habana and Matanzas provinces, as well as the central parts of Camagüey and Las Tunas.

      The plains covering about two-thirds of the main island have been used extensively for sugarcane and tobacco cultivation and livestock raising. The coastal basins of Santiago de Cuba and Guantánamo and the extensive Cauto River valley lie in the southeast. The Cauto lowland adjoins a series of coastal plains that continue across the island from east to west, including the Southern Plain, Júcaro-Morón Plain, Zapata Peninsula (Zapata Swamp), Southern Karst and Colón Plain, and Southern Alluvial Plain. Cuba's most extensive swamps cover the Zapata Peninsula and surround the Bay of Pigs (Bahía de Cochinos). The Las Villas Plain of the North, Las Villas Plain of the Northeast, and Northern Plain stretch across much of the opposite coast.

      Cuba's approximately 3,570 miles (5,745 km) of irregular, picturesque coastline are characterized by many bays, sandy beaches, mangrove swamps, coral reefs, and rugged cliffs. There are also some spectacular caverns in the interior, notably the 16-mile- (26-km-) long Cave of Santo Tomás in the Sierra Quemado of western Cuba. The main island is surrounded by a submerged platform covering an additional 30,000 square miles (78,000 square km).

      Among the extensive cays and archipelagoes ringing the main island are Los Colorados, to the northwest; Sabana and Camagüey, both off the north-central coast; the Jardines de la Reina (“Queen's Gardens”), near the south-central coast; and Canarreos, near the southwest coast. Juventud Island (Juventud, Isla de la) (Isla de la Juventud; “Isle of Youth”), formerly called Pinos Island (Isla de los Pinos; “Isle of Pines”), is the second largest of the Cuban islands, covering 850 square miles (2,200 square km). It is technically a part of the Canarreos Archipelago. Hills, dotted with groves of pine and palm, characterize much of the island's northwest and southeast. Sand and clay plains cover parts of the north, a gravel bed takes up most of the southern part of the island, and bogs dominate the coasts and sparsely inhabited interior.

      Cuban rivers are generally short, with meagre flow; of the nearly 600 rivers and streams, two-fifths discharge to the north, the remainder to the south. The Zapata Peninsula is the most extensive of Cuba's many coastal wetlands.

      The main island's heaviest precipitation and largest rivers are in the southeast, where the Cauto (Cauto River), at 230 miles (370 km) the country's longest river, lies between the Sierra Maestra and the smaller Sierra del Cristal. The Cauto and its tributaries, notably the Salado, drain the Sierra Maestra and lesser uplands in the provinces of Holguín and Las Tunas. Other rivers in this region include the Guantánamo, Sagua de Tánamo, Toa, and Mayarí. To the west the most important southward-flowing rivers are the Sevilla, Najasa, San Pedro, Jatibonico del Sur, Zaza, Agabama, Arimao, Hondo, and Cuyaguateje. Northward-flowing rivers include the Saramaguacán, Caonao, Sagua la Grande, and La Palma.

      Cuban lakes are small and more properly classified as freshwater or saltwater lagoons. The latter include Leche (“Milk”) Lagoon, which has a surface area of 26 square miles (67 square km). It is technically a sound because several natural channels connect it to the Atlantic Ocean. Sea movements generate disturbances in the calcium carbonate deposits at the bottom of the lake to produce the milky appearance of its waters.

      The complicated Cuban topography and geology have produced at least 13 distinct groups of soils, the majority of which are fertile and cultivated throughout the year. Highly fertile red limestone soil extends from west of Havana to near Cienfuegos on the southern coast and lies in extensive patches in western Camagüey province, providing the basis for Cuba's main agricultural output. Another area of fertile soil is north of Cienfuegos between the Sierra de Sancti Spíritus and the Caribbean coast. Camagüey province and the Guantánamo basin have some arable land, although of lower fertility. Areas of sandy soil in Pinar del Río, Villa Clara, and portions of Ciego de Ávila and Camagüey provinces cannot hold moisture and are marginally fertile, as are the soils of the mangrove-dotted coastal swamps and cays.

      Cuba lies in the tropics. Because it is located on the southwestern periphery of the North Atlantic high atmospheric pressure zone, its climate is influenced by the northeast trade winds in winter and by east-northeast winds in summer. The warm currents that form the Gulf Stream have a moderating influence along the coasts.

      The annual mean temperature is 79 °F (26 °C), with little variation between January, the coolest month, at 73 °F (23 °C) and August, the warmest month, at 82 °F (28 °C). The November–April dry season abruptly changes to the May–October rainy season. Annual precipitation averages 54 inches (1,380 mm). From June to November the country is often exposed to hurricanes, whose strong winds and heavy rains can cause widespread damage and suffering.

Plant and animal life
      Cuba's lush tropical plant life includes thousands of flowering plant species, half of which may be endemic to the archipelago. Much of the original vegetation has been replaced by sugarcane, coffee, and rice plantations, made possible by the wide-scale and indiscriminate destruction of forests. However, the government has replanted many areas since the 1960s, and forests (forest) now cover about one-fourth of the surface area. The most extensive forests in Cuba are in the Sagua-Baracoa highlands, which adjoin the easternmost portion of the Cauto River valley. Among the native trees is the ceiba (kapok) tree, which plays a role in many local legends. The extremely rare cork palms (Microcycas calocoma) of the western regions are “living fossils”—representatives of a genus of cycads (cycad) thought to have existed for more than 100 million years. The abundant royal palm (palm), reaching heights of 50 to 75 feet (15 to 23 metres), is the national tree and a characteristic element of the rural landscape. Mangrove swamps cover the lower coasts and shoals of the archipelago. Cuba's national flower is the mariposa (“butterfly”; Hedychium coronarium Koenig), whose long, green stems can grow higher than 5 feet (1.5 metres) and produce fragrant, white, butterfly-like petals.

      Animal life is abundant and varied in Cuba, which is the habitat of numerous small mammals and reptiles, more than 7,000 insect species, and 4,000 species of land, river, and sea mollusks. Sponges are found off the southwestern coast, and crustaceans abound. Tarantulas, scorpions, and other arachnids are similarly profuse. There are more than 500 fish species and numerous types of sharks. Freshwater fishes are less abundant. About 300 bird species are found on the island, some two-thirds of which are migratory; notable indigenous birds include flamingos, royal thrushes, and nightingales. The endemic forest-dwelling tocororo (Trogon temnurus, or Priotelus temnurus), which is similar in appearance to the Guatemalan quetzal, was designated the national bird of Cuba because its bright plumes of red, white, and blue correspond to the colours of the Cuban flag; the tocororo is reputed to survive only in the wild. Reptiles are distributed equally among sea, river, and land species. Marine species include tortoises and hawkbill turtles; mud turtles inhabit the rivers; and the marshes contain two types of rare crocodiles. Land reptiles include the iguana and the majá de Santa María (Epicrates angulifer), the largest of Cuba's snakes, none of which is venomous. Amphibians are similarly varied, with 60 types of frogs and toads, including plantain frogs (Hyla septentrionalis) and bullfrogs. Solenodons (Atopogale cubana), which are nearly extinct ratlike insectivores, are found only in the remotest eastern regions. Other mammals include hutias (edible rodents) and manatees, or sea cows, which inhabit river mouths. Several types of bats prey on mosquitoes and insects harmful to agriculture, and in their roosting caves the bats leave droppings (guano) that are valued as fertilizer.

      Cuba has numerous protected areas, including national parks at Turquino Peak, Cristal Peak, Romano Caye, part of Juventud Island, and the Viñales valley. Desembarco del Granma National Park features a series of verdant limestone terraces that range from 1,180 feet (360 metres) above sea level to 590 feet (180 metres) below. Both Desembarco del Granma and Viñales were designated UNESCO World Heritage sites in 1999.

People (Cuba)

Ethnic groups
      The Guanahatabey and Ciboney peoples were among the original hunter-gatherer societies to inhabit Cuba by about 4000 BC, the former living in the extreme west of the island and the latter mainly on the cays to the south, with limited numbers in other places. The Taino (Arawakan Indians) arrived later, probably about AD 500, and spread throughout Cuba, the rest of the Greater Antilles, and the Bahamas. They developed rudimentary agriculture and pottery and established villages that were unevenly distributed but mainly concentrated in the western part of the island. By the time of the Spanish conquest, the Taino constituted nine-tenths of Cuba's inhabitants. Estimates of the total indigenous population at the beginning of the 16th century vary widely and range as high as 600,000; however, the most likely total was about 75,000. By the 1550s only some 3,000 scattered individuals remained, their communities having been wiped out by European diseases, severe treatment and unhealthy working conditions (particularly in the Spanish gold mines), starvation resulting from low agricultural productivity, and suicides. Their only surviving descendants today may be a few families based in the Sierra del Purial of easternmost Cuba.

      Diverse ethnic groups have been settling in Cuba since the time of European contact—including Spaniards and Africans and smaller groups of Chinese, Jews, and Yucatecan Indians (from the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico)—who have created a heterogeneous society by superimposing their cultural and social characteristics on those of earlier settlers.

      More than half of Cubans are mulattoes (of mixed European and African lineage), and nearly two-fifths are descendants of white Europeans, mainly from Spain. Whites have been the dominant ethnic group for centuries, monopolizing the direction of the economy as well as access to education and other government services. Although mulattoes have become increasingly prominent since the mid-20th century, some mulattoes and blacks (of African heritage) still face racial discrimination.

      Blacks make up about one-ninth of the population. In the early 16th century, Spaniards began to import African (Africa) slaves as a substitute for the drastically reduced supply of Indian labourers. As many as 800,000 Africans eventually arrived to work on sugar plantations, the vast majority during the late 18th and 19th centuries. They were shipped mainly from Senegal and the Guinea Coast but originated in such diverse groups as the Yoruba and Bantu peoples. During the period 1906–31 tens of thousands of black Antillean labourers, nine-tenths of whom were Haitian or Jamaican, arrived as contract labourers (contract labour). However, many returned home or were expelled by 1931. Blacks and mulattoes have had a considerable influence on Cuban culture, especially in music and dance.

      Cubans of Asian descent now account for only a tiny fraction of the population and are largely concentrated in Havana's small Chinatown district. When Great Britain disrupted the transatlantic slave trade (slavery) in the 19th century, Hispano-Cuban landholders imported indentured Chinese labourers (coolie), nearly all of them Cantonese. Some 125,000 arrived during the period 1847–74, but, because of harsh living conditions, many left for the United States or other Latin American countries or returned to China after their contracts expired; by 1899 only 14,000 remained in Cuba. In the 1920s an additional 30,000 Cantonese and small groups of Japanese also arrived. The immigrants, who were overwhelmingly male, readily intermarried with white, black, and mulatto populations. Significant Chinese immigration continued until 1945; however, many middle- and upper-class Asians left the country after the revolution of 1959, as did other relatively affluent people.

      Spanish is the principal language of Cuba. Although there are no local dialects, the island's diverse ethnic groups have influenced speech patterns. Africans, in particular, have greatly enriched the vocabulary and contributed the soft, somewhat nasal accent and rhythmic intonation that distinguish contemporary Cuban speech. Some words are of native Indian origin, and a few of these—such as hamaca (“hammock”)—have passed into other languages. Many practitioners of the Santería religion also speak Lucumí, a “secret” Yoruboid language of the Niger-Congo family.

      An unspecified number of Cubans are nonreligious. The total number of adherents to Santería—Cuba's main religious movement—is also unknown but may include between half and two-thirds of the population. The Santería religion includes many traditions of West African (mainly Yoruba) origin, notably praying to orishas (divine emissaries), many of which have been formally identified with Roman Catholic saints. The Cuban government is not known to have placed extraordinary restrictions on Santería, perhaps because of the religion's apolitical focus and its organization in small groups rather than large congregations.

 About two-fifths of Cubans are Roman Catholics (Roman Catholicism), at least nominally; although only a limited number actively practice the religion, there has been a resurgence of interest in Catholicism since the late 1990s. Protestants represent a small but rapidly growing fraction of the population. Only a handful of Jews and Muslims remain.

      Prior to the revolution, Roman Catholicism was the dominant religion; however, it was permeated by Santería and held little influence in rural areas. In the early 1960s the revolutionary government and religious organizations openly confronted one another: the state was accused of being antireligious, partly because it had nationalized all parochial schools, whereas churches—with their mass followings—were feared as repositories of counterrevolution. During that period about 70 percent of Roman Catholic priests, 90 percent of the nuns, some Protestant clergy, and all rabbis left the country or were deported. The government removed Christmas from its list of national holidays in 1969. The constitution of 1976 guaranteed limited religious freedoms, although it proclaimed scientific materialism as the basis of the state and of the educational system.

      Religious groups and the government entered a period of rapprochement in the mid-1980s. The constitution was amended in 1992 to remove references to scientific materialism, to ban many forms of religious discrimination, and to allow Catholics to join the Cuban Communist Party. Subsequently an increasing number of Cubans have participated in major Catholic rites, such as baptism and communion; however, the government has denied charters and construction permits to select churches, barred practitioners from military service, and closely monitored religious events. Christmas was restored as a national holiday in 1997, in anticipation of a highly publicized visit by Pope John Paul II the following year.

Settlement patterns
 Native American villages and farms were scattered throughout the island before Europeans arrived in 1492. The first Spanish settlements, founded primarily to export gold and to organize expeditions to the mainland, were the ports of Baracoa, Havana, Puerto Príncipe, Santiago de Cuba, and Sancti Spíritus. The ports grew slowly, however, because the island's few profitable mines were quickly exhausted. Within a few years the indigenous population was decimated by European diseases and maltreatment. The number of Europeans (notably Spaniards) and African slaves slowly increased as sugar plantations grew in number and size. Although small, independently owned farms dotted the landscape throughout much of the colonial period, many were incorporated in slave-based plantations. By the mid-18th century, roughly one-fourth of the island's 150,000 people were African slaves; a century later, slaves made up one-third of a population of about 1,300,000. By the late 19th century, when slavery was abolished, Cuba's numerous plantations relied on seasonal labourers and large mechanized ingenios (sugar mills). The city of Havana, which had become Cuba's major port in the 16th century, grew further as Cuba's agricultural exports increased. The island's population surpassed 5,800,000 in the 1950s and approached twice that number in the early 21st century, by which time three-fourths of the people lived in towns and cities. One in five Cubans lived in Havana—more than in Cuba's next 11 cities combined, including Santiago de Cuba (Cuba's second largest city), Camagüey, Holguín, Guantánamo, Santa Clara, and Bayamo.

Demographic trends
      The size of the Cuban population has been relatively stable since the late 20th century. Immigration historically contributed to the island's population growth, but after 1960 the number of people leaving the country outnumbered new arrivals. Many migrated to Miami, Florida, or elsewhere because of political or economic pressures in Cuba. In 1980 alone about 125,000 escaped to the United States in small craft during the “Mariel boatlift,” and in the 1990s roughly 200,000 Cubans became legal U.S. immigrants. Large numbers have also migrated illegally to the United States, Canada, The Bahamas, Jamaica, Spain, and Mexico.

      The birth rate rose steadily from 1958 to 1963, attributable to higher standards of living and expectations among low-income groups, greater sexual freedom of females, and larger numbers of women marrying at younger ages. However, mortality rates rose because, after physicians left the country en masse, medicines became scarce and contagion from diseases increased. From the mid-1960s the high birth rate declined as more women entered the labour force, the market for new houses and other goods diminished, sex education was required in schools, and military service was made compulsory for males 16 years and older. By 1978 the birth rate had dropped to less than half of its 1960s peak of 35 births per 1,000 people, and by the late 1990s it was markedly lower than the regional average. The mortality rate also dropped from the 1970s, as more physicians completed their training, the supply of medicines increased, and vaccinations controlled the spread of diseases. However, the mortality rate subsequently increased slightly as the population aged. The rates of birth and natural increase were about half the world average at the beginning of the 21st century.

      Cuba has a centrally planned economy with limited opportunities for self-employed workers and foreign investment. The Cuban government has had rigidly controlled wages and prices and enforced quota systems since the 1960s, but in 2008, after power changed hands from longtime leader Fidel Castro to his brother Raúl (Castro, Raúl), some of those restrictions were lifted. The main economic institutions are the Central Planning Board, headed by the economics minister; the ministries and national organizations that control the economic sectors and basic activities; the various state and mixed enterprises; and the provincial delegations that direct the work of the factories and related services.

      Cuba received substantial economic aid from the Soviet Union prior to the latter's breakup in 1991, an event that had disastrous effects on the island's economy. During the 1980s the Cuban government refused to alter its economic plan, even as the Soviet Union experimented with market mechanisms. Economic growth remained sluggish, and salaries were limited. However, the government kept unemployment low, albeit largely by overstaffing state enterprises. Sugar accounted for more than three-fourths of export earnings—and the largest source of the government's currency reserves—until the 1990s, when tourism began to grow in importance. By 1997 sugar accounted for less than half of the value of exports. Remittances from relatives living abroad have become a major economic asset since 1993, when the government allowed U.S. dollars to circulate as legal tender. By the late 1990s, remittances accounted for much of the national income. In the early 21st century, the U.S. government drastically reduced the amount of money that authorized travelers could carry into Cuba. It also allowed remittances to be sent only to immediate family members.

Agriculture, forestry, and fishing
      Arable land covers nearly one-third of Cuba. The soil is highly fertile, allowing up to two crops per year, but the highly variable nature of annual precipitation has historically plagued agriculture. Subterranean waters are important for irrigation. A small but increasing share of crops is produced on private land or by cooperatives that are not owned by the state. Under Raúl Castro's rule, some private farmers have been permitted to cultivate unused government land to increase food production.

      The Cuban economy has depended heavily on the sugarcane crop since the 18th century. Vast areas have been leveled, irrigated, and planted in sugarcane, and yields per acre have increased with the application of fertilizers. Sugar output, except in years of drought or sugarcane blight, increased after the introduction of mechanized harvesters in the early 1970s but plunged after the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991. Many of the island's sugar mills closed, and sugar production continued to decline in the early 2000s.

      Apart from sugarcane, the chief crops are rice (the main source of calories in the traditional diet), citrus fruits (which are also an important export), potatoes, plantains and bananas, cassava (manioc), tomatoes, and corn (maize). Fruit trees include such citrus varieties as lemon, orange, and grapefruit; some species of the genus Annona, including the guanábana ( soursop) and anón ( sweetsop); and avocados and papayas. tobacco, traditionally the country's second most important export crop, is grown mainly in the Pinar del Río area in the west and also in the centre of the main island. Coffee grows mainly in the east, where Guantánamo city is known as the “coffee capital” of Cuba. Other products include cacao and beans. Cuba imports large amounts of rice and other foodstuffs, oilseeds, and cotton.

       cattle, pigs, and chickens are the main livestock. The number of cattle increased in the 1960s, as veterinary services advanced and irrigation systems improved, but decreased over subsequent decades. Brahman (zebu) cattle, the dominant breed, thrive in the tropical climate but yield low amounts of milk. Holstein cattle are more productive but prone to illness in the Cuban environment. Cuban farmers raise approximately half as many pigs as cattle.

      The supply of Cuban timber is limited. Pine trees are found throughout the country, and durable mahogany is of potential economic importance, while ebony (Diospyros) and granadilla (cocus, or West Indian ebony; Brya ebenus) provide beautiful and valuable wood.

      Fishing (commercial fishing) resources are significant on the coast and at sea. Among the types of fish caught locally are tuna, hake, and needlefish. The overall volume of fish, crustaceans, and other seafood landed increased sevenfold during the period 1959–79, largely because the government, with the help of Soviet financing, invested heavily in fishing vessels and processing plants. Landings subsequently decreased from the late 1980s to the late 1990s, after the breakup of the Soviet Union caused reduced funding. By the early 21st century, Cuba had diversified its fishing activities to include aquaculture (sea bream, sea bass, tilapia, and carp). It also increased the number of processing plants, especially for shrimp and lobster, with foreign investment from Canada and European Union countries.

Resources and power
      Because the supply of river water is limited, wells in La Habana province and elsewhere draw heavily on groundwater supplies. The main hydroelectric power plants are located in southeastern Cuba.

      Domestic petroleum and natural gas deposits supply a growing portion of the country's needs, but the majority is met by imports from Mexico and Venezuela. In fact, since the 1990s Cuba has received free oil from Venezuela in exchange for sending thousands of its doctors to treat Venezuela's poor. In the mid-2000s Venezuela funded the renovation of a dilapidated oil refinery in the Cienfuegos area of Cuba. The refinery has the capacity to refine hundreds of thousands of barrels of the oil imported from Venezuela. Peat, concentrated in the Zapata Peninsula, is still the most extensive fuel reserve. Nickel, chromite, and copper mines are important to Cuba, and beds of laterite (an iron ore) in the Holguín region have considerable potential. Nickel (nickel processing) ore, which also yields cobalt, is processed in several large plants, and Cuba is a world leader in nickel production. There are also major reserves of magnetite and manganese and lesser amounts of lead, zinc, gold, silver, and tungsten. Abundant reserves of limestone, rock salt, gypsum, kaolin (china clay), and marble are found on Juventud Island.

      Industrial production accounts for slightly more than one-tenth of the gross domestic product (GDP). Tobacco, processed foods (including sugar), and beverages are the most valuable products. Chemical products, transport equipment, and machinery are also important.

      The banking system has been operated by the state since 1966 through the National Bank of Cuba, which sets interest rates, regulates foreign exchange, and issues currency (the Cuban peso and the convertible peso). There are no stock exchanges. Foreign investment was prohibited until 1982, when a joint-venture law was enacted. The government has had increasing success at attracting private capital and foreign-owned commercial banks since the 1990s, especially with European and Canadian investors; however, U.S. investment has been withheld because it violates the Helms-Burton law enacted by the U.S. Congress in 1996.

      Sugar is the main export, followed by nickel and other minerals, fish products, tobacco (notably cigars), and citrus fruits. Among the most important imports are mineral fuels and lubricants, foods, machinery and transport equipment, and chemicals. Cuba's main trading partners include Venezuela, Spain, Russia, China, Canada, and the United States.

      In the 1950s more than two-thirds of Cuban foreign trade was with the United States. By 1961 Cuban-U.S. trade was down to 4 percent, and it soon ceased entirely under U.S. government embargo policies. Trade shifted to the Soviet Union and other socialist countries, and in 1972 Cuba became a full member of the Eastern-bloc Comecon (Council for Mutual Economic Assistance; disbanded in 1991). By the end of the 1980s almost three-fourths of Cuba's trade was with the Soviet Union, on extremely beneficial terms for Cuba. Cuba's overall trade declined sharply after the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991. The United States again became a top trading partner beginning in 2002 when it began to sell food to Cuba under an amendment to the embargo legislation.

      Tourism, government services, education, health care, entertainment, and other services account for about two-fifths of the employment in Cuba. In the 1990s Cuba made great efforts to modernize and expand its tourist business, and several new hotels and resorts were built, notably by Spanish and Canadian investors. Tourists are drawn to Cuba's white sand beaches and vibrant nightclubs, as well as to the many historic buildings in central Havana, Santiago de Cuba, and Trinidad that have been designated UNESCO World Heritage sites (World Heritage site). The country's extensive coral reefs, forested highlands, and lush mangrove swamps are additional attractions. However, the increased dependence on foreign tourism has been accompanied by growing concern over illegal activities (notably prostitution and drug trafficking) and socioeconomic inequalities, wherein tourist areas are provided with many comforts and conveniences that are unavailable to the general public—a situation sometimes described as a “tourism apartheid.”

Labour and taxation
      The rate of unemployment in Cuba is lower than in many Latin American countries. However, numerous jobs were lost in the 1990s as the economy was hit by the breakup of the Soviet Union. Underemployment is a persistent concern among industrial workers. The State Committee for Work and Social Security sets all wages for the government, which is the dominant employer. Moreover, many jobs must be arranged through state agencies. The standard workweek is 44 hours.

      The constitution places the needs of the “economy and society” over the demands of individual workers. However, the document also guarantees an eight-hour workday and one month of paid vacation per year. Strikes are illegal, and independent labour unions are discouraged; no known strike has ever been staged under communist rule. The only legally recognized labour organization is the Confederation of Cuban Workers, which is designed to support the government, raise the political consciousness of workers, and improve managerial performance and labour discipline.

      Few Cuban workers pay income taxes, although self-employed workers are heavily taxed. Many Cubans make in-kind contributions to the government by participating in mass organizations, volunteering for agricultural work, or meeting production quotas through overtime. Most teenagers are expected to spend several weeks each summer doing agricultural work. The social security program is financed by an enterprise tax.

Transportation and telecommunications
      The most important highway is the Central Highway, built in the 1920s; it runs almost the entire length of the main island. Other major routes link Havana with the Playa Varadero and Baracoa with other eastern cities. A national busing company and several provincial companies handle most passenger traffic. Cuban professionals are less likely to own automobiles than are their counterparts in other Latin American countries, and many of the cars and trucks on the roads date from the 1950s and '60s. However, the number and variety of automobiles have been expanding, primarily to serve the tourist industry. Road safety is a major concern, partly because of the mixture of automobiles, pedestrians (including numerous hitchhikers), bicycles, and horse-drawn wagons on both urban and rural roads.

      A railway constructed between Havana and Bejucal in 1837 was the first in the Americas after those of the United States. The railway system deteriorated in the first years after the 1959 revolution, but much of it has been restored and has continued to serve the sugar industry. Cuba's merchant fleet can handle only a small percentage of the country's shipping, and foreign fleets carry out the bulk of trade. The major ports are Havana (which primarily handles fuels, grains, and other commodities), Cienfuegos (sugar exports), Santiago de Cuba, Matanzas, and Nuevitas; in addition, the United States maintains a naval base at Guantánamo Bay.

      The Cuban Aviation Enterprise (Empresa Cubana de Aviación), or Cubana, is the state-run airline. International airports operate at Havana, Santiago de Cuba, Camagüey, and Varadero, and domestic airports serve Guantánamo, Holguín, Las Tunas, La Colonia (in Pinar del Río), Nueva Gerona, and several other locations.

      The number of cellular phones in use has increased dramatically since the early 1990s. Use of the Internet has also increased. The government regulates and controls access to the country's Internet service providers.

Government and society

Constitutional framework
 Cuba is a unitary socialist republic. The government is totalitarian, exercising direct control or influence over most facets of Cuban life. President Fidel Castro is the chief of state, head of the government, the first secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba, and commander in chief of the armed forces. The country is governed under the constitution of 1976, which superseded revolutionary legislation that was enacted after the constitution of 1940 had been suspended. The 1976 constitution was slightly amended in 1992.

      Under the constitution, legislative authority rests with the National Assembly of People's Power, whose more than 600 members serve five-year terms. The number of seats in the assembly has grown steadily, corresponding to the population of the provinces and municipalities. The National Assembly in its brief, twice-yearly sessions appoints a 31-member Council of State, which is headed by President Castro. The Council of State remains in session throughout the year and issues laws in the form of decrees. The president also appoints and presides over a Council of Ministers (cabinet), which carries on the daily administration of the country.

Local government
      Cuba is divided into 14 provincias, one municipio especial (“special municipality”; Juventud Island), and, within the 14 provinces, about 170 municipios (“municipalities”). Delegates to municipal assemblies are elected to terms of two and one-half years by universal suffrage. They, in turn, select representatives to the provincial assemblies, who also serve for two and one-half years. The national government and the Communist Party heavily influence municipal and provincial affairs. Local governments lack independent funding and have little capacity to implement proposals autonomously. In most cases their areas of responsibility overlap those of the national ministries.

      The justice system is subordinate to the legislative and executive branches of government. It is headed by the People's Supreme Court, which includes a president, vice president, and other judges elected to terms of two and one-half years by the National Assembly. Its jurisdiction includes theft, violent crime, and offenses involving state security, the military, and the workplace (including labour practices). The provincial courts deal with cases that warrant sentences of up to six years' imprisonment. Below the provincial courts are municipal courts, which are usually the courts of first appeal. The National Assembly may recall judges at any time.

      Most trials are public, except for many military tribunals and cases involving political dissent. There are no trials by jury. The police often detain political dissenters, and those who are deemed “counterrevolutionary” or antisocialist may be denied due process. Prison conditions in Cuba are as harsh as in most other countries in the region, and many prisoners suffer from malnutrition and disease. There are separate prisons for women and youths, but political prisoners are often grouped with violent offenders. Cuba has carried out the death penalty for some offenses, including drug trafficking.

      The dividing lines between state security, national (military) defense, and criminal matters have long been blurred in Cuba. The Ministry of the Interior oversees state security, including the Border Guard, regular police forces, and agencies concerned with political dissent. The Cuban police force is nationally organized into principal, municipal, and barrio (neighbourhood) divisions. In addition, there are special security forces assigned to diplomats and tourist areas. Several professional firms also provide security for hotels and other businesses. Human rights activists and other dissenters are often arrested arbitrarily. Groups of party loyalists, who are organized into so-called Rapid Response Brigades, occasionally intimidate, beat, or publicly humiliate dissenters.

      Cuba has one of the better-trained and better-equipped military forces in the West Indies, though many of its troops are assigned to the Youth Labour Army, which assists with the sugarcane harvest and other agricultural work during much of the year. Two years of military service are obligatory for men between the ages of 16 and 50 but voluntary for women. Among Cuba's paramilitary organizations are the local militias (Milicias de Tropas Territoriales), consisting of about one million people.

      After Cuba repelled the Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961, it developed strong ties with the Soviet Union, which provided technical and financial support and most of Cuba's military equipment, including ships, dozens of fighter jets, helicopters, and hundreds of tanks. The Soviets also constructed missile bases in Cuba, which precipitated the Cuban missile crisis of 1962; a few thousand Soviet and, later, Russian troops remained in Cuba until the late 1990s. For its part, Cuba sent large numbers of troops abroad to support Marxist revolutionary groups and governments. During the 1980s it fielded as many as 50,000 troops in Angola and 15,000 in Ethiopia. The Cuban government also sent smaller numbers of troops, advisers, and technicians to such African countries as Mozambique, Algeria, and Libya and to the small Caribbean country of Grenada, where they briefly resisted a U.S. invasion in 1983. The Russian government closed its espionage base at Lourdes, Cuba, in 2001.

      Shipments of cocaine and heroin from South America to the United States and Europe are sometimes intercepted by the Border Guard, which often coordinates antinarcotics operations with the U.S. Coast Guard. Cuba is not a major narcotics (drug abuse) destination, and the island has had fewer drug-related problems than The Bahamas. The U.S. Navy has maintained its base at Guantánamo Bay since the early 20th century despite protests from the Castro government. The United States considers the base a strategic asset to its forces in the Caribbean; the base has also served as a holding and processing area for Haitian, Dominican, and Cuban refugees and more recently has been used by the United States to house prisoners from Afghanistan.

Political process
      Suffrage is universal for Cubans age 16 years and older, excluding citizens who have applied for emigration. Voting in elections in Cuba is legally mandatory, as it is throughout Latin America, and voter participation is invariably high. The government usually admits to a small proportion of spoiled ballots. Women's suffrage (woman suffrage) was instituted in 1934, and women have taken on major roles in the political process since the revolution. A sizable minority of women are members of the National Assembly, and some occupy policymaking positions in the government, although men dominate the highest government and party offices.

      In the early 1960s the government dissolved political parties and transformed three revolutionary organizations (the 26th of July Movement, Popular Socialist Party, and 13th of March Revolutionary Directorate) into a single national party, which was officially designated the Communist Party of Cuba in 1965.

      The government also created several mass organizations, notably the ubiquitous Committees for the Defense of the Revolution, which maintain vigilance against ideological “enemies” and intimidate dissenters and are organized in every city, factory, and workplace and in many rural counties. Other organizations include the Federation of Cuban Women and the National Association of Small Farmers, which is composed of independent farmers, outside the system of collectivized state farms, who own a fraction of the total cultivated land. An important task of the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution is to choose municipal delegates who, in turn, select provisional delegates and members of the National Assembly.

      In 1992 modifications in the electoral law permitted direct elections of members of the National Assembly. About half of the elected members now also serve on municipal councils, while the remainder serve at large and are therefore not beholden to a designated constituency. There is no party slate and candidates need not belong to the official Cuban Communist Party. Delegates receive no compensation for their political service. There is considerable competition for elected office, despite the low opinion that many Cubans hold for delegates and government in general.

Health and welfare
      Cuba has one of the more successful health care programs in the developing world. Health care is state-operated through the Ministry of Public Health and is available free, or at nominal cost, to the entire population. The availability of hospital beds and physicians has greatly increased since the 1960s, when most physicians left the country, and infant mortality and mortality rates overall have declined. Social security (old age, disability, and survivor pensions, and other monetary benefits) covers the vast majority of the labour force.

      The government controls (and rations) the distribution and pricing of foodstuffs, medicines, and other goods, although there are some independently operated markets (especially farmers' markets) and state-operated stores where merchandise can be obtained using hard currency. Homes for the aged (nursing homes) are under the direction of the Ministry of Public Health, but the círculos infantiles, institutions for the day care of children under seven years of age, are run by the Federation of Cuban Women. The institutions are intended to free women to work. Physical education and sports, under a national body, are an integral part of Cuban education.

      The government closely oversees home ownership and real estate transactions. Few people can easily change their places of residence because the government's system of enforced home “exchanges,” or trading, prevents housing sales. The Urban Reform Law of 1960 prohibited landlords from renting urban real estate, and families soon began buying homes by paying the current rental sum for between 5 and 20 years. Many families have acquired titles to houses and apartments in this fashion, and the rest pay a small percentage of their salary as rent to the state. Many rural families have achieved free use of formerly rented lands, and traditional rural bohíos (“huts”) are being slowly replaced by more modern housing units. However, a decline in home building during the 1960s and '70s, combined with the destruction of old housing through neglect, induced a severe housing shortage. The government later experimented with housing brigades, but the shortage has continued.

      Education is nominally free at all levels, with supplementary scholarships to cover living expenses and medical assistance. Primary education is compulsory for children between 6 and 11 years of age. Courses involving technology, agriculture, and teacher training are emphasized. Only a small minority of Cubans are illiterate. In 1961 the government nationalized all private schools and introduced a state-directed education system. It includes a combination of programs in preschool, 12 or 13 grades, higher education, teacher training, adult education (notably literacy campaigns and continued study by working people), technical education (which is parallel to secondary education), language instruction, and specialized education. Women are guaranteed equal educational opportunities and account for more than half of university graduates. Education expenditures receive high priority, and the number of students enrolled has increased sharply from prerevolutionary days. Nevertheless, the economic upheaval after 1991 strained the state's long-standing efforts to ensure access to quality educational services.

Cultural life
      Cuban culture has undergone a major transformation since the revolution, and the government has come to play a leading role in it. Since the creation of the Ministry of Culture in 1976, this role has expanded to include a network of professional and amateur cultural organizations throughout the country. Cultural institutions before 1959 were generally limited to Havana (and, to a lesser extent, the provincial capitals) and were almost entirely privately endowed. Before 1959 Cuba had some 100 libraries and a half-dozen museums; today it has approximately 2,000 libraries and 250 museums located throughout the country. The Ministry of Culture directs a program of education in music, visual arts, ballet, dramatic arts, and modern dance, culminating in the university-level Higher Institute of Art. More than 200 neighbourhood cultural centres (casas de cultura) offer workshops in all branches of the arts.

Daily life and social customs
      In general, Cuba is a country short of everything, though its people exhibit extraordinary resilience and inventiveness in the face of hardship. So skilled are they, for example, at keeping automobiles from the 1950s in good running and cosmetic condition that Cuba has become a destination of choice for vintage-car collectors from the United States and Europe. Still, the constant food shortages, electricity blackouts, and telephone breakdowns affect people in different ways. Most problems and opportunities are relative and constantly changing, except for the staples of life in Cuba—the inescapable control of the government, the Saturday-night movies on one of the two local television channels, the Monday-night telenovelas (soap operas) imported from Brazil, Mexico, Venezuela, or Colombia, and the unavoidable preoccupations of work, home, and family. Socialist ideologies notwithstanding, lifestyles are not equal for everyone, and how one perceives Cuba varies considerably depending on one's individual situation.

      Groups with access to hard currency—mainly U.S. dollars—enjoy a level of comfort not markedly different from that of middle-class residents elsewhere in Latin America and the Caribbean. From two-fifths to half of Cubans have access to dollars. This is a varied group indeed, comprising recipients of foreign remittances from their families, workers in service industries who receive gratuities, tourist enterprises catering to foreigners, members of the armed services, workers in some industries who are paid partly in dollars, and even those working in the sex trade. There is also a group, locally called mayimbes (bosses), who appear to enjoy a good life without the benefit of obvious employment. These people form the faithful local clientele at the upscale paladares, the family-style restaurants officially licensed since 1994; they also frequent elegant state-run restaurants and the international dining rooms, expensive boutiques, and disco clubs of some first-class hotels, as well as the Caracol and Cubalse “dollar stores” scattered throughout Havana and other resort towns. Dollars also enable ordinary Cubans to ameliorate, however slightly, the monotonous routine of their lives. They can supplement the inadequate supplies of their ration books—not only in quality but also in quantity and variety—from purchases in the mercados agropecuarios (general food markets) and creative private sources (including the black market).

      The typical cuisine makes wide use of pork, fowl, and rice—cooked with a scarcity of spices—and tropical fruits. Popular dishes include moros y cristianos (black beans and rice), ajicao (a stew of meat and vegetables), and lechón asado (roast pig), consumed with dark coffee and locally produced lager.

 For family and personal entertainment, the cinema remains extremely popular, and Havana hosts one of the largest film festivals in Latin America each year. In Havana and Santiago drama groups have regular performances. A small number of clubs, like the Casa de Amistad (“Friendship House”) in Havana, cater to tourists and Cubans of modest means by supplying good food and a lively ambiance. Music and dance remain an important part of Cuban life. A variety of classical and popular musical groups offer weekend performances, and many kinds of music are heard on the streets, especially along the Malecón, Havana's seaside promenade that remains a magnet for youths, especially in the evenings and on weekends. Music is also an integral part of the Afro-Cuban religion Santería, which has contributed much to the culture of the island.

Franklin W. Knight

The arts
      A recognizably Cuban literature first began to emerge after the end of the 18th century. In the early 19th century several writers gained prominence espousing intellectualism and the concept of freedom. These ideas gained perhaps their greatest intensity in the writings of José Martí (Martí, José Julián), a Cuban of modest Spanish background who led the Modernist movement in Cuban literature. He inspired an entire school of writing devoted to winning freedom from Spain. Writers whose works reflected social protest in the pre-Castro period include Nicolás Guillén (Guillén, Nicolás), a leader in founding the Afro-Cuban school of literature, and Jose Z. Tallet, both activist poets. In the 20th century short stories became the predominant prose form, but exceptional novels were also produced, such as Alejo Carpentier's ¡Ecué-Yamba-Ó! (1933; “Lord, May You Be Praised!”), which is a tribute to Afro-Cuban life and culture, and El siglo de las luces (1962; Explosion in a Cathedral, 1963), which portrays the violence and chaos wrought on the Caribbean during the French Revolution. The works of the poet, novelist, and essayist José Lezama Lima (Lezama Lima, José) have also been influential. In addition, the works of the American writer Ernest Hemingway (Hemingway, Ernest) are deeply admired on the island, which was his home for many years and the setting for The Old Man and the Sea (1952) and Islands in the Stream (1970). Cuban writers such as Reinaldo Arenas, Guillermo Cabera Infante, Leonardo Padura Fuentes, and Ronaldo Menedez have earned international attention in the postrevolutionary era; however, many such writers have been exiled after falling afoul of government censors (censorship). By the early 21st century, Cuban writers had published large numbers of major novels and literary magazines.

      Cuba has galleries, art museums, and community cultural centres that regularly display the works of Cuban painters. The most important (all in Havana) are the National Museum of Fine Arts, the Haydée Santamaría Gallery of the House of the Americas, the Gallery of Havana, and the Fortress Castle. There Cuba's foremost contemporary artists—Wifredo Lam, René Portocarrero, Mariano Rodríguez, Servando Cabrera Moreno, Raúl Martínez—share space with younger artists. The Ministry of Culture provides most of the materials needed by artists and also guarantees jobs to graduates of the Higher Institute of Art. Painters in Cuba tend to work in many genres: they design fabrics (called by the trade name Telarte), sets for movies and theatre, and posters for films, books, cultural events, and community campaigns. Posters are one of Cuba's best-known cultural exports. The Ministry of Culture promotes numerous art exchanges and sends exhibits of Cuban art throughout the world. The government works to promote art from the countries of the developing world, primarily through the Havana Biennial, which started in 1984.

Music and dance
      Cuban music has Spanish and African roots, a blend that has contributed to a unique sound in both traditional and popular music. The Cuban rumba, son, guaracha, habanera, bolero, danzón, conga, and cha-cha, as well as salsa and the Nueva Trova (“New Song”) movement, have influenced much of the hemisphere. The Cuban folk anthem "Guantanamera," which derives from a nostalgic poem by José Martí, is frequently heard throughout Latin America, as are the popular love songs "Habanera Tú" and "Siboney." Composer-singers Pablo Milanés and Silvio Rodríguez, among the founders of the Nueva Trova movement, are acclaimed throughout Latin America for their lyric social criticism. Festivals of Cuban music and song are held throughout the year, encompassing works of every genre from every period, including the internationally popular Afro-Cuban jazz. The worldwide success of the Buena Vista Social Club album (1997) and concert series, as well as the subsequent film documentary (1999), introduced listeners throughout the world to those genres and revived the careers of such once-popular artists as Ibrahim Ferrer, Rubén González, and Omara Portuondo. Classical music is of relatively minor importance in Cuba, but there is a National Symphony Orchestra that also has a chamber orchestra and instrumental ensembles.

 One of Cuba's foremost artistic figures is Alicia Alonso (Alonso, Alicia)—a dancer of international acclaim, the prima ballerina and founder (1948) of the company that would become the National Ballet of Cuba, and the head of its school. The Ballet of Camagüey, under the direction of Fernando Alonso, was established in 1971, and a second Havana company was founded in the mid-1980s. Besides classical ballet, there is the Modern Dance Company in Havana, the Tumba Francesa (a black folk group) in Santiago de Cuba, and dozens of smaller troupes.

      Cuban theatre has been state-supported since 1959, mostly under the direction of the Ministry of Culture. There are several national dramatic groups, such as the Studio Theatre, whose directing councils create their own repertoire. Provincial theatre groups are also well established. Cuban theatre reached a new maturity in the 1980s, producing plays focusing on contemporary social problems as well as developing efforts to integrate music and dance. However, like most aspects of Cuban life, theatre suffered during the “special period” of the 1990s. National and international theatre festivals feature Cuban companies and troupes from the rest of the Americas. The National Theatre has an excellent library, and House of the Americas (Casa de las Américas), an international cultural institution, sponsors regular encuentros (meetings) with theatre professionals. Increasingly, Cuban theatre troupes travel abroad as part of an active exchange program.

      Cuban filmmaking since 1959 has been supported by the Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Art and Industry, which has produced feature and documentary films. The institute also has an extensive film library, and its movie house, the Charles Chaplin Theatre, regularly shows the best of both world and Cuban cinema. The institute provides a variety of support services throughout the hemisphere and sponsors the prestigious annual International Festival of New Latin American Cinema. The Foundation for New Latin American Cinema was established in Havana under the direction of the Colombian writer and Nobel Prize winner Gabriel García Márquez (García Márquez, Gabriel). Long popular in Latin America, Cuban films have enjoyed wider international audiences since the 1990s, especially after the critical and commercial success of Tomás Gutiérrez Alea and Juan Carlos Tabío's film Fresa y chocolate (1994; Strawberry and Chocolate), which won the 1994 Berlin International Film Festival's Special Jury Prize and was nominated for an Academy Award as best foreign language film. Tabío's Lista de espera (2000; Waiting List) and Fernando Pérez's La vida es silbar (1999; Life is to Whistle) were also well received.

Cultural institutions
 Havana is Cuba's cultural hub and the home of most of its museums, libraries, professional associations, and performing troupes. The Cuban Academy of Sciences (1962) and the Cuban Academy of Language (1926) are among the leading learned societies. The José Martí National Library (1901) and the National Archive of Cuba (1840) have significant holdings. Among the major institutions supporting the performing arts are the National Theatre, the National Ballet of Cuba, the House of the Americas, and the Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Art and Industry. The National Union of Cuban Writers and Artists has a large membership that promotes literature and the arts. In 1959 the Institute of Ethnology and Folklore was created within the Academy of Sciences of Cuba, with the aim of collecting and classifying the Cuban cultural heritage. It formed the National Folklore Group, which performs Afro-Cuban dances throughout Cuba and abroad and gives international folklore laboratories each year. The activities of the folklore group are complemented by the Institute of Literature and Linguistics of the Academy of Sciences. The revolutionary government has made a special effort to promote study of the African roots of Cuban culture. The Guanabacoa and Regla museums are the main repositories of Afro-Cuban artifacts.

Sandra H. Levinson Franklin W. Knight

Sports and recreation
      Sports in Cuba are generally under the direction of the National Institute of Sports, Physical Education, and Recreation. They are almost a national obsession, and sports figures are treated as national heroes.

       baseball is the national sport and is widely played throughout the country, with leagues organized at national and provincial scales. Fidel Castro himself has been passionately attracted to the sport since his youth. Baseball was introduced to Cuba in the 19th century, and until 1959 the island provided the major league clubs of the United States with a constant supply of quality players, a tradition revived with the defection, over the years, of many of the country's top baseball stars, such as Danys Baez and the brothers Orlando and Livan Hernandez. Cuban baseball teams have consistently captured gold medals in the Pan American Games and the Summer Olympic Games.

 In various other international competitions, Cubans have also competed strongly with—and often outperformed—teams from every American country. At the 2000 Summer Olympic Games, for example, Cuban athletes won 29 medals. Eliecer Urrutía set a world mark in the triple jump in 1997, and Javier Sotomayor posted world records in the high jump in 1988 and 1993. Female athletes have also been outstanding in Cuba, with world-class teams in track and field as well as in volleyball. The heavyweight boxer Teófilo Stevenson is representative of another field in which Cubans have consistently excelled. Sport fishing, especially for blue marlin, has a long tradition, Ernest Hemingway being one of the enthusiastic participants. More recently, successful international competitions in sailing, yachting, and powerboat racing have taken place in Cuba. The government provides opportunities for most Cubans to participate in sports and recreational programs.

      Cuba celebrates Carnival in late July, most flamboyantly in Santiago de Cuba. During that period Cuba also celebrates what is perhaps its most significant holiday, commemorating Castro's attack on Fort Moncada on July 26, 1953.

Media and publishing
      The mass media in Cuba are government organs. Freedom of speech is severely curtailed, and several independent journalists have been imprisoned for allegedly insulting the president.

      The three main newspapers are Granma, the Communist Party daily; Juventud Rebelde, the paper of the Communist Youth; and Trabajadores, published by the Cuban Federation of Workers. These are supplemented by provincial newspapers, such as the Tribuna de la Habana and Sierra Maestra in Santiago de Cuba, that focus on local issues. Among the most widely read magazines are the weekly Bohemia, which covers all aspects of the news and is the oldest periodical in Cuba; the monthly Opina, aimed at a younger audience, with information on available consumer goods; and Mujeres, published by the Federation of Cuban Women. A number of specialized cultural magazines and newspapers also have wide readerships.

      Two television stations broadcast nationally, and there are several national radio networks and one international; all of these are administered by the Cuban Institute of Radio and Television. Programming generally includes news, sports, educational programs, and serials.

      The following discussion focuses on Cuba since European contact. For additional treatment in a regional context, see Latin America, history of.

      Cuba has been heavily influenced by imperial Spain (from 1492 to 1898), the Soviet Union (from the 1960s to 1991), and the United States (from the 19th century to the present).

Early period
      In the late 15th century the indigenous Ciboney and Guanahatabey peoples occupied western Cuba, and the more numerous Taino inhabited the rest of the island. Estimates of the total population range as high as 600,000; however, the actual total was probably about 75,000. The Taino were a peaceful people and were highly proficient agriculturalists, related to the Arawakan peoples of South America who migrated to the Greater Antilles. Their houses, called bohíos, formed villages ranging from single families to communities of 3,000 persons. They made pottery, polished stone implements, and idols of religious spirits called zemis. The Taino diet included potatoes, manioc, fruits, and fish. The name Cuba is pre-Hispanic in origin and its exact derivation unknown.

Spanish rule
Conquest and colonial (colonialism, Western) life
      Christopher Columbus (Columbus, Christopher) sighted the northern coast of Cuba on October 27, 1492, and made landfall there the following day. The Spanish conquistador Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar (Velázquez de Cuéllar, Diego) began permanent settlement in 1511, founding Baracoa on the northeastern coast with 300 Spaniards and their African slaves.

      Within five years Spanish authorities had divided the island into seven municipal divisions, including Havana (La Habana), Puerto Príncipe (Camagüey), Santiago de Cuba, and Sancti Spíritus. Each municipality had its own cabildo, or town council, governing its legal, administrative, and commercial affairs. From 1515, elected representatives of each cabildo formed a body that defended local interests before the royal council, especially on such matters as slave trading and the semifeudal encomienda system, which granted conquistadors control over the Indians in specified areas and the right to exact tribute from them. A bishopric, subordinate to Santo Domingo, was founded at Baracoa in 1518 but later moved to Santiago de Cuba.

      The island's limited gold deposits discouraged early settlement. However, the colony became a staging ground for the exploration of the North American mainland. Such expeditions as that of Hernán Cortés (Cortés, Hernán, marqués del Valle de Oaxaca), which attracted 400 Spaniards and 3,000 Indians, depleted the colonial population. The remaining Spanish colonists continued to exploit Indians through the encomienda, but by 1550 the system was no longer feasible because the Indian population had been decimated by European diseases, ongoing social dislocation, maltreatment, and emigration.

      By 1570 most residents of the Spanish towns in Cuba comprised a mixture of Spanish, African, and Indian heritages, largely because of the paucity of Spanish females among the immigrants and the military nature of the conquest. Colonial society reflected the stratification of the metropolis, although no sharp divisions had yet developed between Spanish-born and American-born citizens, as would later become commonplace. Until the end of the 16th century, African slaves seemed to enjoy a higher social standing than the indigenous people, probably owing to their cultural affinity to the conquerors.

      Throughout the 17th century, colonial life was made more difficult by the ravages of hurricanes, epidemics, pirates, and attacks by rival European countries trying to establish bases in the Caribbean. By 1700, however, peace had returned, and the population reached about 50,000. Havana's status grew commercially and strategically because of the flota (“fleet”) system of regularly scheduled maritime trade between Spain and its American colonies. In addition, ranching, smuggling, and tobacco farming occupied the colonists. The colony's administrative costs depended, however, on irregular subsidies from New Spain until 1808.

sugarcane and the growth of slavery
      During the 18th century Cuba depended increasingly on the sugarcane crop and on the expansive, slave-based plantations that produced it. In 1740 the Havana Company was formed to stimulate agricultural development by increasing slave imports and regulating agricultural exports. The company was unsuccessful, selling fewer slaves in 21 years than the British sold during a 10-month occupation of Havana in 1762. The reforms of Charles III of Spain during the latter part of the century further stimulated the Cuban sugar industry.

      Between 1763 and 1860 the island's population increased from less than 150,000 to more than 1,300,000. The number of slaves also increased dramatically, from 39,000 in the 1770s to some 400,000 in the 1840s—roughly one-third of the island's population. In the 19th century Cuba imported more than 600,000 African slaves, most of whom arrived after 1820, the date that Spain and Great Britain had agreed would mark the end of slave trading in the Spanish colonies. Cuban plantation owners were among those who insisted on continuing the slave trade, despite the controversies raised between the Spanish and British governments.

      During the period 1838–80 the Cuban sugar industry became the most mechanized in the world, utilizing steam-powered mills (ingenios) and narrow-gauge railroads. Expanding sugar mills dominated the landscape from Havana to Puerto Príncipe, expelling small farmers and destroying the island's extensive hardwood forests. By 1850 the sugar industry accounted for four-fifths of all exports, and in 1860 Cuba produced nearly one-third of the world's sugar. The phenomenal growth of the sugar industry propelled a new class of wealthy plantation owners to political prominence. Mexican Indians and Chinese contract workers augmented the labour force, although the conditions under which they toiled were nearly as degrading and dangerous as slavery. Meanwhile, African slaves became more costly as the British navy attacked slave traders on the high seas and the United States abolished its own system of slavery. In 1865 the African slave trade ended, although slavery was not abolished in Cuba until 1886.

      Rural life in Cuba was patently patriarchal, especially on the plantations. Lifestyles were more varied in urban areas, which were characterized by substantial free nonwhite populations and considerable occupational and economic diversification. Families tended to be large, augmented by extended kin and fictive kin relations. Women of the upper classes did not work, but many attained high levels of general education. Nevertheless, life was difficult, even in the largest of Cuban cities. Most visitors to Havana found it unclean and a dangerous place to walk about. In addition, the island was plagued by recurring waves of disease: cholera, malaria, and influenza, especially during the summer months. On the other hand, the social and cultural life of the city continued to develop to serve its residents' needs.

Filibustering and the struggle for independence (Cuban Independence Movement)
      The demands of sugar—labourers, capital, machines, technical skills, and markets—strained ethnic relations, aggravated political and economic differences between metropolis and colony, and laid the foundation for the break with Spain in 1898. Spanish colonial administration was corrupt, inefficient, and inflexible. People in the United States, especially in the southern slave states, showed a lively and growing interest in the island and supported a series of filibustering expeditions led by Narciso López (1849–51) and others. (The red, white, and blue battle flag that López flew was designated the Cuban national flag in 1902.) After the 1860s the United States tried many times to purchase the island.

      Spain precipitated the first war of Cuban independence—the Ten Years' War (1868–78)—by increasing taxes and refusing to grant Cubans political autonomy. The eastern planter Carlos Manuel de Céspedes (Céspedes, Carlos Manuel de), now known as the “father of the revolution,” freed his slaves in October 1868 and issued the Grito de Yara (“Cry of Yara”) decree, in which he declared Cuban independence. Céspedes had the support of some landowners and of numerous farmers and labourers who wanted to increase their share of political power and abolish slavery. However, many Cubans, including the wealthy sugar producers of the western region and the vast majority of slaves, did not join the revolt. Many questioned Céspedes's plans for manumission, notably the rate at which slaves were to be freed, or disagreed with his call for U.S. annexation of Cuba. Spain promised to reform the island's political and economic system at the Convention of Zanjón (1878), which ended the war. However, the nationalist leader Antonio Maceo and several others refused to accept the Spanish conditions. In August 1879 Calixto García started a second uprising, called La Guerra Chiquita (“The Little War”), which Spanish forces put down the following year.

      The political and economic crisis grew more severe. The Spanish government failed to carry out most of the promised reforms, although it allowed Cubans to send representatives to the Cortes (parliament) and abolished slavery in 1886. Annual trade between Cuba and the United States had reached about $100 million, but in 1894 Spain canceled a Cuban-U.S. trade pact. In addition, the central government imposed more taxes and trade restrictions. Cubans increasingly resisted colonial authority, and the poet, ideological spokesman, and propagandist José Martí (Martí, José Julián) coordinated and mobilized political organizations in exile. War broke out again on February 24, 1895, and Martí and the revolutionary leader Máximo Gómez landed with an invasion force in April.

      Gómez and Maceo led a force that quickly conquered the eastern region and began to spread westward. The Republic of Cuba was declared in September 1895. The following year Spain placed General Valeriano Weyler y Nicolau (Weyler y Nicolau, Valeriano, Marqués De Tenerife) at the head of more than 200,000 troops, who brutally “reconcentrated” rural residents into camps in the towns and cities, where tens of thousands died of starvation and disease. Both sides killed civilians and burned estates and towns, with the rebels concentrating on destroying Cuba's sugarcane crop.

      The Spanish government recalled Weyler in 1897 and offered autonomy to Cuba, and the following year it ended the “reconcentration” program. However, the vast majority of Cubans had come to sympathize with the rebels, who held most of the countryside. Meanwhile, commercial activity ground to a standstill, and news of Spanish atrocities spread to the United States, where yellow journalism (notably in newspapers owned by William Randolph Hearst) stirred up anti-Spanish sentiment. Following a mysterious explosion aboard the USS Maine (Maine, destruction of the) that sank it in Havana's harbour in February 1898, the United States and Spain fought the brief, one-sided Spanish-American War, during which U.S. forces captured Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines by mid-August.

Occupation by the United States
      Although Cuban independence was granted by the Treaty of Paris (Paris, Treaty of) (December 10, 1898), U.S. forces continued to occupy the country, and General John R. Brooke, who was designated the military governor on January 1, 1899, tried to exclude Cubans from government. He disbanded the Cuban army and conducted a census before being replaced by General Leonard Wood (Wood, Leonard), who had previously governed the city of Santiago. Wood increased the role of Cubans in government and supervised elections that gave Cuba its first elected president, Tomás Estrada Palma (Estrada Palma, Tomás).

 U.S. forces modernized Havana, deepened its harbour, and built a number of schools, roads, and bridges. But they were primarily interested in importing U.S. economic, cultural, and educational systems to the island. In addition, the U.S.-supervised electoral system was effectively racist and eliminated Afro-Cubans from politics. The Platt Amendment (1901) gave the United States the right to oversee Cuba's international commitments, economy, and internal affairs and to establish a naval station at Guantánamo Bay on the island's southeastern coast. Most of its provisions were repealed in 1934, but the naval base remained.

The Republic of Cuba
      A republican administration that began on May 20, 1902, under Estrada Palma was subject to heavy U.S. influence. Estrada Palma tried to retain power in the 1905 and 1906 elections, which were contested by the Liberals, leading to rebellion and a second U.S. occupation in September 1906. U.S. secretary of war William Howard Taft (Taft, William Howard) failed to resolve the dispute, and Estrada Palma resigned. The U.S. government then made Charles Magoon provisional governor. An advisory commission revised electoral procedures, and in January 1909 Magoon handed over the government to the Liberal president, José Miguel Gómez. Meanwhile, Cuba's economy grew steadily, and sugar prices rose continually until the 1920s.

      The Gómez administration (1909–13) set a pattern of graft, corruption, maladministration, fiscal irresponsibility, and social insensitivity—especially toward Afro-Cubans—that characterized Cuban politics until 1959. Afro-Cubans, led by Evaristo Estenoz and Pedro Ivonet, organized to secure better jobs and more political patronage. In 1912 government troops put down large demonstrations in Oriente province.

      The pattern of corruption continued under the subsequent administrations of Mario García Menocal (1913–21), Alfredo Zayas (1921–25), Gerardo Machado y Morales (Machado y Morales, Gerardo) (1925–33), Fulgencio Batista (Batista, Fulgencio) (through puppets 1934–39 and himself 1940–44 and 1952–59), Ramón Grau San Martín (1944–48), and Carlos Prío Socarrás (Prío Socarrás, Carlos) (1948–52). Machado was one of the more notorious presidents, holding power through manipulation, troops, and assassins. The U.S. government helped leftist groups overthrow him in the so-called Revolution of 1933, which brought Batista to power. Batista, however, was cut from the same mold as Machado.

      Cuba's income from sugar, which still accounted for four-fifths of export earnings, was augmented by a vigorous tourist trade based on Havana's hotels, casinos, and brothels, especially during the years of Prohibition (1919–33) in the United States. By the end of the 1950s, Cuba had developed one of the leading economies in Latin America, with an annual income of $353 per capita in 1958—among the highest in the region. Yet economic disparities grew, and most rural workers earned only about one-fourth the average per year. Although the thriving economy enriched a few Cubans, the majority experienced poverty (especially in the countryside), an appalling lack of public services, and unemployment and underemployment. U.S. and other foreign investors controlled the economy, owning about 75 percent of the arable land, 90 percent of the essential services, and 40 percent of the sugar production. And for much of the 1950s, Batista exercised absolute control over the political system.

The Castro (Castro, Fidel) regime
 Batista's fall resulted as much from internal decay as from the challenges of Fidel Castro (Castro, Fidel)'s 26th of July Movement (commemorating Castro's failed attack on the Moncada military base in Santiago on July 26, 1953) or from the Federation of University Students and other groups opposed to Batista's rule. Castro had been a legislative candidate for elections in 1952 that were aborted by Batista. His defense of his part in the Moncada attack, edited and published as “History Will Absolve Me,” was a political manifesto. Released from prison in 1955, Castro and some friends went to Mexico to prepare for the overthrow of the Cuban government. In December 1956 the small yacht Granma landed Castro and a band of rebels in southeastern Cuba, where they were routed and almost annihilated by security forces. A dozen survivors, including Castro, his brother Raúl (Castro, Raúl), and the Argentine revolutionary Che Guevara (Guevara, Che), retreated to the Sierra Maestra and began a guerrilla campaign. Over the next two years they attracted hundreds of Cuban volunteers, won several battles over Batista's increasingly demoralized armed forces, and advanced westward across the island. Meanwhile, communist groups and radical members of the Federation of University Students, a noncommunist organization, staged strikes and attacks in urban areas. In 1958 the United States isolated Batista's government with an arms embargo, and several Cuban military commanders sympathized with the rebellion or joined it. Batista fled the country on the morning of January 1, 1959, and on his heels about 800 of Castro's supporters marched into Havana, having defeated an army of some 30,000.

      The 26th of July Movement had vague political plans, relatively insignificant support, and totally untested governing skills. They quickly forged a following among poor peasants, urban workers, youths, and idealists. The Communist Party of Cuba, dating to 1925, assumed the dominant political role, and the state modeled itself on the Soviet-bloc countries of eastern Europe, becoming the first socialist country in the Americas.

      The regime progressively dissolved the capitalist system in Cuba by establishing a centrally planned economy, collectivizing agricultural production (except for a small percentage of farmland), forming close economic ties with the Soviet Union (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics), and developing a range of social services, particularly in rural areas. It also eliminated the remnants of Batista's army and created new institutions to replace the former labour unions, political parties, and associations of professional workers and farmers. The regime nationalized (nationalization) hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. property and private businesses, which provoked retaliatory measures by the U.S. government, including a trade embargo, an unsuccessful invasion by Cuban exiles at the Bay of Pigs (Bay of Pigs invasion) in south-central Cuba (April 1961), and unexecuted plots to assassinate Castro. However, the U.S. stance only solidified Castro's popular support and further pushed him toward the Soviet Union. In December he declared himself a communist.

National evolution and Soviet (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) influence
 Cuba's erratic drift toward socialism and its growing dependence on the Soviet Union divided both the leadership and the country at large. Hundreds of thousands of Cubans, especially skilled workers and wealthy investors, emigrated to the United States (principally to Miami, Florida), Spain, and other countries. Soviet economic and military support was crucial in the early years of Castro's regime, and Soviet maneuvers often aroused strong antagonism from the United States. The Cuban missile crisis (October 1962) was an especially serious incident. After the Soviet Union installed nuclear missile bases in Cuba, the world stood at the brink of war as the U.S. government set up a naval blockade of the island and demanded that the missiles be removed.

      Cuba became plagued by shortages of foods, fuel, and other necessities. A second agrarian reform in the mid-1960s ended attempts to diversify the economy, which remained dependent on sugarcane. At the same time, Cuba renewed its efforts to export revolution by organizing a meeting of Latin American communists in Havana (1964) and stoking a civil war in the Dominican Republic in April 1965 that prompted the U.S. military to intervene there. Guevara engaged in covert activities in Congo (Kinshasa) and was killed in 1967 while attempting to start a revolution in Bolivia. Most Latin American and Caribbean states alienated Cuba for its attempts to foment unrest.

      The government during the late 1960s renewed its attack on private property by nationalizing hundreds of small businesses. Military officers moved into the highest ranks of government, industry, and the Cuban Communist Party. The regime attempted to boost production and foster nationalism by offering moral incentives (nonmonetary awards such as medals and titles) and mobilizing labour organizations. When that approach failed to bring about desired results, the government returned to Soviet-type central planning and an orthodox system of socialist incentives. In 1976 a new constitution and a new electoral code reorganized the political system. Castro became president of the Council of Ministers and of the Council of State, thereby effectively combining the roles of president and prime minister.

      Material conditions improved slightly during the 1970s. Bottlenecks and shortages were substantially eliminated, and diplomatic isolation gave way to a significant leadership role among developing countries and nonaligned nations (i.e., those not associated with either the Eastern or Western bloc). Cubans, who had been redefining themselves as an “Afro-Latin American people” since the late 1960s, offered technical, commercial, and military assistance to several states in Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean region. However, Cuba lost considerable influence among the nonaligned nations when it supported the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. In addition, that year the United States objected to the presence of Soviet combat troops on the island. Cuban military assistance in the 1980s influenced civil wars in Angola and Ethiopia, and civilian personnel made contributions in Asia and Latin America. The United States invaded the island of Grenada in 1983, killing more than two dozen Cubans and expelling the remainder of the Cuban aid force from the island. Cuba gradually withdrew its troops from Angola in 1989–91.

      Although there has been some improvement in relations between Cuba and the United States since the revolution, the U.S. trade embargo imposed in the early 1960s remains essentially in force. U.S. activities such as the invasion of Grenada, investigations concerning the condition of political prisoners in Cuba, and propaganda radio broadcasts beamed toward Cuba since 1985 perpetuated bilateral antagonism. Emigration from Cuba to the United States has been a major issue since 1980, when some 125,000 Cubans crossed the Florida Straits to the United States during what became known as the “Mariel boatlift” (so named because many of the boats departed from Mariel, a small port west of Havana). In 1987 the two countries signed an agreement allowing 20,000 Cubans to emigrate annually to the United States. Tens of thousands have also migrated illegally to the United States and elsewhere.

      Soviet aid to Cuba in loans, petroleum, war matériel, and technical advice was crucial and amounted to a significant portion of Cuba's annual budget. The Soviet Union also bought the major portion of the Cuban sugar crop, generally at a price above that of the free world market. Cuban-Soviet relations deteriorated as Soviet political, economic, and social policies were liberalized in the late 1980s. The Cuban government, however, refused to modify its approach to social and economic policy.

Cuba since 1991
      Soviet troops began to withdraw from Cuba in September 1991 over the latter's objections that the withdrawal would compromise the island's security. When the Soviet Union dissolved later that year, the already troubled Cuban economy suffered further from the loss of vital military and economic support that had, in effect, constituted subsidies. Amid severe internal shortages, and with unrest and dissatisfaction growing, Castro declared a “special period in peacetime” of food rationing, energy conservation, and reduced public services. Unemployment increased, and shortages of food, medical supplies, raw materials, and fuel were exacerbated by the ongoing U.S. trade embargo.

      In 1993 the government legalized small businesses such as paladares (family restaurants), private employment, and the use of U.S. dollars (notably remittances from abroad) in Cuba. The following year independent farms and farmers' markets were encouraged. The government also attracted foreign capitalists, including Canadian and Spanish hoteliers. Christmas was restored as a national holiday in 1997, in anticipation of what turned out to be a highly successful visit by Pope John Paul II the following year. The economy improved markedly, led by the tourist sector, but many Cubans began to question the future of socialism.

      In 1996, after Cuba shot down two small aircraft piloted by a Florida-based anti-Castro group, the U.S. Congress passed the Helms-Burton law, which threatened sanctions against foreign-owned companies investing in Cuba. In 1999 prominent dissidents in Cuba were jailed and repressive laws enacted, prompting further international criticism. In the early 21st century, Cuba benefited from a petroleum-trade agreement with Venezuela and eased some of its more restrictive economic and social policies.

Franklin W. Knight
      Although Castro maintained a firm grip on power, speculation grew outside Cuba on the state of his health, especially given his advancing age. Increasing attention was focused on his brother and designated successor, Raúl Castro Ruz (Castro, Raúl), who was also the head of the armed forces, and Ricardo Alarcón de Quesada, the influential president of the National Assembly. Indeed, on July 31, 2006, while recovering from surgery, Fidel Castro passed power on a provisional basis to Raúl. In February 2008 Fidel Castro officially announced that he would not accept another term as the president and commander in chief of Cuba, a position that he had held for 49 years; Cuba's National Assembly chose Raúl as Cuba's new leader.

      Soon after the transfer of power to Raúl Castro, Cuba abolished its equal pay system, removing wage restraints that had been in place since the early 1960s. Other reforms were implemented as well, with Cubans being allowed to purchase cellular phones and personal computers and to stay at hotels formerly reserved for foreigners. The European Union, which had imposed sanctions against Cuba in 2003 for its repression of dissidents, lifted sanctions in June, a move that was criticized by the United States.


Additional Reading

James D. Rudolph (ed.), Cuba: A Country Study, 3rd ed. (1987), is a general introduction. Among the more comprehensive travel guides are David Stanley, Cuba, 2nd ed. (1999), of the Lonely Planet series; Danny Aeberhard, Cuba (1999), published by Insight Guides; and Andrew Coe, Cuba (1999), 3rd ed., by Odyssey Publications.Geographic surveys include Antonio Núñez Jiménez, Geografía de Cuba, 4th ed., 4 vol. (1972–73); and Instituto Cubano de Geodesia y Cartografía, Atlas de Cuba: XX aniversario del triunfo de la revolución cubana (1978).The Cuban economy is discussed in Leví Marrero, Cuba: economía y sociedad (1972–   ), a multivolume economic history; Jorge F. Pérez-López, Measuring Cuban Economic Performance (1987); and the papers and proceedings of the Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy.Cuban politics and society are analyzed in Sergio G. Roca (ed.), Socialist Cuba: Past Interpretations and Future Challenges (1988); and Susan Eckstein, Back From the Future: Cuba Under Castro (1994). Human rights and justice in Cuba are critiqued in Human Rights Watch World Report (annual); and U.S. Department of State, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices (annual).Cultural life is surveyed in Catherine Moses, Real Life in Castro's Cuba (2000); María López Vigil, Cuba: Neither Heaven nor Hell (1999); Alejo Carpentier, Music in Cuba (2001; originally published in Spanish, 3rd ed., 1988); Michael Chanan, The Cuban Image: Cinema and Cultural Politics in Cuba (1985); and Roberto González Echevarría, The Pride of Havana: A History of Cuban Baseball (1999).

Standard historical references for Cuba include Jaime Suchlicki, Historical Dictionary of Cuba, 2nd ed. (2001); Instituto de Historia de Cuba, Historia de Cuba, 2 vol. (1994–  ); and Hugh Thomas, Cuba: The Pursuit of Freedom (1971, reissued 1976).Historic views of racism and ethnic relations are offered in Vera M. Kutzinski, Sugar's Secrets: Race and the Erotics of Cuban Nationalism (1993); and Aline Helg, Our Rightful Share: The Afro-Cuban Struggle for Equality, 1886–1912 (1995).Sugarcane and slavery are discussed in Manuel Moreno Fraginals, The Sugarmill: The Socioeconomic Complex of Sugar in Cuba, 1760–1860 (1976; originally published in Spanish, 1964); Franklin W. Knight, Slave Society in Cuba During the Nineteenth Century (1970); Rebecca J. Scott, Slave Emancipation in Cuba: The Transition to Free Labor, 1860–1899 (1985, reissued 2000); and Alan Dye, Cuban Sugar in the Age of Mass Production: Technology and the Economics of the Sugar Central, 1899–1929 (1998).Excellent treatments embracing modern historiography include John L. Offner, An Unwanted War: The Diplomacy of the United States and Spain over Cuba, 1895–1898 (1992); Louis A. Pérez, Jr., Cuba Between Empires, 1878–1902 (1983, reissued 1998), Cuba Under the Platt Amendment, 1902–1934 (1986, reissued 1991), and Cuba: Between Reform and Revolution, 2nd ed. (1995); and Oscar Zanetti and Alejandro García, Sugar & Railroads: A Cuban History, 1837–1959 (1998; originally published in Spanish, 1987). Cuba-U.S. relations are the subject of Wayne S. Smith, The Closest of Enemies: A Personal and Diplomatic Account of U.S.-Cuban Relations Since 1957 (1987); and Louis A. Pérez, Jr., On Becoming Cuban: Identity, Nationality, and Culture (2001).Events since 1959 are examined in Carmelo Mesa-Lago (ed.), Revolutionary Change in Cuba (1971); Jorge I. Domínguez, Cuba: Order and Revolution (1978); Carmelo Mesa-Lago, Cuba in the 1970s: Pragmatism and Institutionalization, rev. ed. (1978); Tad Szulc, Fidel: A Critical Portrait (1986, reissued 2000); Max Azicri, Cuba: Politics, Economics, and Society (1988); and Marifeli Pérez-Stable, The Cuban Revolution: Origins, Course, and Legacy, 2nd ed. (1999).Franklin W. Knight

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