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Cuba

Background

Cuba

The native Amerindian population of Cuba began to decline after the European discovery of the island by Christopher COLUMBUS in 1492 and following its development as a Spanish colony during the next several centuries. Large numbers of African slaves were imported to work the coffee and sugar plantations, and Havana became the launching point for the annual treasure fleets bound for Spain from Mexico and Peru. Spanish rule eventually provoked an independence movement and occasional rebellions that were harshly suppressed. US intervention during the Spanish-American War in 1898 assisted the Cubans in overthrowing Spanish rule. The Treaty of Paris established Cuban independence from the US in 1902 after which the island experienced a string of governments mostly dominated by the military and corrupt politicians. Fidel CASTRO led a rebel army to victory in 1959; his iron rule held the subsequent regime together for nearly five decades. He stepped down as president in February 2008 in favor of his younger brother Raul CASTRO. Cuba's Communist revolution, with Soviet support, was exported throughout Latin America and Africa during the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. The country faced a severe economic downturn in 1990 following the withdrawal of former Soviet subsidies worth $4 billion to $6 billion annually. Cuba at times portrays the US embargo, in place since 1961, as the source if its difficulties. Illicit migration to the US - using homemade rafts, alien smugglers, air flights, or via the southwest border - is a continuing problem. The US Coast Guard intercepted 982 individuals attempting to cross the Straits of Florida in fiscal year 2009.

About

For other places with the same name, see Cuba (disambiguation).

Cuba is the largest Caribbean island, between the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean. It lies 145 km (90 miles) south of Key West, Florida, between the Cayman Islands and the Bahamas, to the west of Haiti, and northwest of Jamaica.

Read more about Cuba in our Cuba travel guide »

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Cuba

Cuba

Full name
Republic of Cuba
Capital
Havana
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

Area comparative

slightly smaller than Pennsylvania

Border countries

US Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay 29 km

Coastline

3,735 km

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

Lowest point

Caribbean Sea 0 m

Highest point

Pico Turquino 2,005 m

Natural resources

cobalt, nickel, iron ore, chromium, copper, salt, timber, silica, petroleum, arable land

Population

11,477,459 (July 2010 est.)

Ethnic groups

white 65.1%, mulatto and mestizo 24.8%, black 10.1% (2002 census)

Religions

nominally 85% Roman Catholic prior to CASTRO assuming power; Protestants, Jehovah's Witnesses, Jews, and Santeria are also represented

Languages

Spanish (official)

Government type

Communist state

Independence

20 May 1902 (from Spain 10 December 1898; administered by the US from 1898 to 1902); not acknowledged by the Cuban Government as a day of independence

National holiday

Triumph of the Revolution, 1 January (1959)

Chief of state

President of the Council of State and President of the Council of Ministers Gen. Raul CASTRO Ruz (president since 24 February 2008); First Vice President of the Council of State and First Vice President of the Council of Ministers Jose Ramon MACHADO Ventura (since 24 February 2008); note - the president is both the chief of state and head of government

Head of government

President of the Council of State and President of the Council of Ministers Gen. Raul CASTRO Ruz (president since 24 February 2008); First Vice President of the Council of State and First Vice President of the Council of Ministers Jose Ramon MACHADO Ventura (since 24 February 2008)

Internet country code

.cu

Internet users

1.606 million

Airports

136 (2010)

Ports and terminals

Antilla, Cienfuegos, Guantanamo, Havana, Matanzas, Mariel, Nuevitas Bay, Santiago de Cuba, Tanamo

Other countries in the region