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Republic of Cuba
República de Cuba
CAPITAL: Havana (La Habana)
FLAG: The flag consists of five alternating blue and white horizontal stripes penetrated from the hoist side by a red triangle containing a white five-pointed star.
ANTHEM: Himno de Bayamo (Hymn of Bayamo), beginning "Al combate corred bayameses" ("March to the battle, people of Bayamo").
MONETARY UNIT: The Cuban peso (c$) of 100 centavos is a paper currency with one exchange rate. There are coins of 1, 2, 3, 5, 20, 40, and 100 centavos and notes of 1, 3, 5, 10, 20, 50, and 100 pesos. c$1 = us$1.07527 (or us$1 = c$0.93) as of 2005.
WEIGHTS AND MEASURES: The metric system is the legal standard, but older Spanish units and the imperial system are still employed. The standard unit of land measure is the caballería (13.4 hectares/133.1 acres).
HOLIDAYS: Day of the Revolution, Liberation Day, 1 January; Labor Day, 1 May; Anniversary of the Revolution, 25–27 July; Proclamation of Yara, 10 October. Celebration of religious holidays falling during the work-week was prohibited by a 1972 law.
TIME: 7 am = noon GMT.
The Republic of Cuba consists of one large island and several small ones situated on the northern rim of the Caribbean Sea, about 160 km (100 mi) south of Florida. With an area of 110,860 sq km (42,803 sq mi), it extends 1,223 km (760 mi) e–w and about 89 km (55 mi) n–s. Cuba is the largest country in the Caribbean, accounting for more than one-half of West Indian land area. Comparatively, the area occupied by Cuba is slightly smaller than the state of Pennsylvania. It is separated from Florida by the Straits of Florida, from the Bahamas and Jamaica by various channels, from Haiti by the Windward Passage, and from Mexico by the Yucatán Channel and the Gulf of Mexico. Cuba's total coastline is 3,735 km (2,316 mi). The largest offshore island, the Isle of Youth (Isla de la Juventud), formerly known as the Isle of Pines (Isla de Pinos), lies southwest of the main island and has an area of 2,200 sq km (849 sq mi); the other islands have a combined area of 3,715 sq km (1,434 sq mi).
Cuba's capital city, Havana, is located on its north coast.
Cuba's spectacular natural beauty has earned it the name Pearl of the Antilles. The coastline is marked by bays, reefs, keys, and islets. Along the southern coast are long stretches of lowlands and swamps, including the great Zapata Swamp (Ciénaga de Zapata). Slightly more than half the island consists of flat or rolling terrain, and the remainder is hilly or mountainous, with mountains covering about a quarter of its total area. In general, eastern Cuba is dominated by the Sierra Maestra, culminating in Pico Real del Turquino (2,005 m/6,578 ft); around Camagüey are rolling plains and low mountains; central Cuba contains the Trinidad (Escambray) Mountains in addition to flat or rolling land; and the west is dominated by the Sierra de los Órganos. The largest river, the Cauto, flows westward for 249 km (155 mi) north of the Sierra Maestra but is little used for commercial navigation purposes.
Except in the mountains, the climate of Cuba is semitropical or temperate. The average minimum temperature is 21°c (70°f), the average maximum 27°c (81°f). The mean temperature at Havana is about 25°c (77°f). The trade winds and sea breezes make coastal areas more habitable than temperature alone would indicate. Cuba has a rainy season from May to October. The mountain areas have an average precipitation of more than 180 cm (70 in); most of the lowland area has from 90 to 140 cm (35–55 in) annually; and the area around Guantánamo Bay has less than 65 cm (26 in). Droughts are common. Cuba's eastern coast is often hit by hurricanes from August to October, resulting in great economic loss.
Cuba has a flora of striking richness, with the total number of native flowering species estimated at nearly 6,000. The mountainous areas are covered by tropical forest, but Cuba is essentially a palm-studded grassland. The royal palm, reaching heights of 15–23 m (50–75 ft), is the national tree. Pines like those in the southeastern United States grow on the slopes of the Sierra de los Órganos and on the Isla de Juventud (Isle of Youth). The lower coastal areas, especially in the south, have mangrove swamps. There is a small area around Guantánamo Bay where desert plants grow.
Only small animals inhabit Cuba. These include tropical bats, rodents, birds, and many species of reptiles and insects. As of 2002, there were at least 31 species of mammals and 86 species of birds throughout the country.
The Cuban government has formed several agencies to protect the environment. Among them are the National Parks Service, the National Commission of Environmental Protection and Rational Use of Natural Resources (1977), the National Environmental Education Program, the Academy of Sciences of Cuba, and the National Commission for the Protection of the Environment and for Conservation of Natural Resources. In 2003, about 69% of the land was protected by the government. There are two natural UNESCO World Heritage Sites and six Ramsar wetland sites.
As of 2000, Cuba's most pressing environmental problems were deforestation and the preservation of its wildlife. The government has sponsored a successful reforestation program aimed at replacing forests that had gradually decreased to a total of 17% of the land area by the mid-1990s. In 2000, about 21% of the total land area was forested.
Another major environmental problem is the pollution of Havana Bay. In 1994, Cuba had the seventh-largest mangrove area in the world. Altogether, 51% of the country's renewable water sources are used for agricultural purposes. About 95% of Cuba's city dwellers and 77% of its rural people have pure drinking water. In 1996 Cuban industries emitted 31.1 million metric tons of industrial carbon dioxide.
According to a 2006 report issued by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), threatened species included 11 types of mammals, 18 species of birds, 7 types of reptiles, 47 species of amphibians, 23 species of fish, 3 species of invertebrates, and 163 species of plants. Endangered species in Cuba include the Cuban solenodon, four species of hutia (dwarf, Cabera's, large-eared, and little earth), two species of crocodile (American and Cuban), and the Cuban tree boa. The ivory-billed woodpecker, Cuban red macaw, Caribbean monk seal, and Torre's cave rat have become extinct.
The population of Cuba in 2005 was estimated by the United Nations (UN) at 11,275,000, which placed it at number 72 in population among the 193 nations of the world. In 2005, approximately 10% of the population was over 65 years of age, with another 21% of the population under 15 years of age. There were 100 males for every 100 females in the country. According to the UN, the annual population rate of change for 2005–10 was expected to be 0.4%, a rate the government viewed as satisfactory. To inhibit further growth, the government has put restrictions on migration to Havana. The projected population for the year 2025 was 11,824,000. The population density was 102 per sq km (263 per sq mi).
The UN estimated that 76% of the population lived in urban areas in 2005, and that urban areas were growing at an annual rate of 0.44%. The capital city, Havana (La Habana), had a population of 2,189,000 in that year, accounting for about 20% of the total population. Other important cities and their estimated populations are Santiago de Cuba (554,400), Camagüey (354,400), Holguín (319,300), Guantánamo (274,300), and Santa Clara (251,800).
Before independence, there was a large migration from Spain; the 1899 census reported 129,000 Spanish-born persons living in Cuba. The 1953 census reported about 150,000 persons of foreign birth, of whom 74,000 were Spaniards. From 1959 through 1978, Cuba's net loss from migration, according to official estimates, was 582,742; US figures indicate that during the same period a total of 669,151 Cubans arrived in the United States.
During the 1960s, Cuban emigrants were predominantly of the upper and middle classes, but in the 1970s emigrants were urban blue-collar workers and other less-educated and less-wealthy Cubans. The flow of emigrants declined in the late 1970s, but beginning in April 1980, Cubans were allowed to depart from Mariel harbor; by the end of September, when the harbor was closed, some 125,000 Cubans in small boats (the "freedom flotilla") had landed in the United States. Of that number, 2,746 were classified as "excludable aliens" and were being held in prisons or mental institutions. According to an agreement of December 1984, Cuba agreed to accept the 2,746 back; repatriation began in February 1985, but in May, Cuba suspended the agreement. By the mid-1980s, well over 500,000 Cuban exiles were living in the Miami, Florida, area. In 1990 there were 751,000 Cuban-born persons in the United States. Large numbers have also settled in Puerto Rico, Spain, and Mexico.
Since 1979, the Cuban government has been providing education to a number of students from developing countries. Due to events making return to their homelands difficult, many have become refugees. Sporadically, Cuba receives groups of Haitians who generally return to their homeland voluntarily. Between 1991 and 1994, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) worked with the government to protect and assist more than 1,500 Haitians during a temporary stay in Cuba. In 1995, Cuba was harboring 1,500 refugees from the Western Sahara; in 1999, the government was still working with UNHCR to return them to their country of first asylum. In 2000 there was a total of 82,000 migrants living in Cuba. UNHCR assisted a total of 802 people in Cuba in 2004; 795 were refugees, 5 were asylum seekers, and 2 were returned refugees.
The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean estimated that remittances to Cuba in 2000 amounted to $750 million, 90% from Cubans living in the United States. By 2003, remittances to Cuba were $1.2 billion. In 2004, the United States revised its regulations restricting cash remittances to Cuba by restricting remittances to members of the remitter's immediate family. In addition, the amount of remittance that an authorized traveler may carry was reduced from $3000 to $300. The Cuban government takes 20% of US remittances.
In 2004, 11,821 Cubans sought asylum in the United States. The net migration rate for Cuba in 2005 was estimated as -1.58 migrants per 1,000 population. The government views the migration levels as satisfactory.
About 51% of the total Cuban population are described as mulattos. Whites (primarily of Spanish descent) make up about 37% of the total; blacks account for 11%; and Chinese for 1%. Virtually the entire population is native-born Cuban.
Spanish is the national language of Cuba.
The Roman Catholic Church has never been as influential in Cuba as in other Latin American countries. In the 1950s, approximately 85% of all Cubans were nominally Roman Catholic, but the Church itself conceded that only about 10% were active members. From the early 1980s into the 1990s, Roman Catholics represented about 40% of the population. A 2004 report indicated that only about 40–45% of the population were nominally Catholic. Some sources indicate that a large number of the population adhere to varying degrees of syncretic Afro-Caribbean, such as Santería. The Baptists are believed to be the largest Protestant denomination. Other denominations include Jehovah's Witnesses, Methodists, Episcopalians, the Assembly of God, and Presbyterians. There is a very small Jewish population.
Fidel Castro originally established an atheist state in accordance with the beliefs of the Communist Party. As a result, his government has closed more than 400 Catholic schools, claiming that they taught dangerous beliefs, and the number of people who attend churches has diminished during Castro's reign since many churches are closely monitored by the state and church members face harassment. In 1992, the constitution was amended to label the state as secular rather than atheist. However, according to a 2004 report, Christian churches, particularly the Catholic Church, have still been viewed suspiciously by members of the Communist Party who have claimed that the organizations are undermining public policies and laws. Separate religious schools are forbidden, though churches can provide religious instruction to their members.
There are 22 denominations that are members of the Cuban Council of Churches. Membership in the Council means that the religion is officially recognized by the government and so is shown a higher degree of tolerance by the government. All registered denominations must report to the Ministry of Interior's Office of Religious Affairs. Nonregistered groups face various degrees of government harassment and repression.
In 2002, Cuba had about 60,858 km (37,817 mi) of roads, of which 29,820 km (18,530 mi) were paved, including 638 km (396 mi) of expressways. The first-class Central Highway extends for 1,223 km (760 mi) from Pinar del Río to Guantánamo, connecting all major cities. An extensive truck and bus network transports passengers and freight. In 2003, there were 184,980 registered motor vehicles, of which 210,300 were passenger vehicles.
Nationalized railways connect the east and west extremities of the island by 4,807 km (2,986 mi) of standard-gauge track, of which 140 km (87 mi) were electrified as of 2004. In addition, large sugar estates have 7,162 km (4,451 mi) of lines of various gauges.
Cuba first began to develop a merchant marine under the revolutionary government. The USSR had supplied oceangoing vessels and fishing boats and, in the mid-1960s, built a huge fishing port in Havana Bay to service Cuban and Soviet vessels. By 2005, the Cuban merchant fleet had 15 vessels of at least 1,000 GRT, totaling 54,818 GRT. Cuba's major ports—Havana, Cienfuegos, Mariel, Santiago de Cuba, Nuevitas, and Matanzas—are serviced mainly by ships of the former Soviet republics, with ships from Spain, the United Kingdom, and Eastern Europe making up the bulk of the remainder. Cuba also has 240 km (140 mi) of navigable inland waterways.
In 2004 there were an estimated 170 airports, 78 of which had paved runways as of 2005. The principal airport is José Martí at Havana. There are daily flights between Havana and the major Cuban cities, and weekly flights to Spain, Mexico, Moscow, Prague, and Jamaica. Cubana Airlines is the national air carrier. The number of air passengers increased from 140,000 in 1960 to 1,117,000 in 1997. However, by 2003 passenger traffic declined to around 611,000. Between 1975 and 1980, airports at Havana and Camagüey were renovated, and new airports were built at Bayamo, Manzanillo, and Las Tunas.
Cuba was originally inhabited by about 50,000 Ciboney and Taíno Amerindians who are related to the Arawak peoples; they were hunter-gatherer and agricultural societies. Christopher Columbus made the European discovery of Cuba in 1492 on his first voyage to the Americas. Many died from disease and maltreatment soon after. The African slave trade began about 1523 as the Amerindian population declined, and grew thereafter, especially with the development of coffee and sugar on the island. During the early colonial years, Cuba served primarily as an embarkation point for such explorers as Hernán Cortés and Hernando de Soto. As treasure began to flow out of Mexico, Havana became a last port of call and a target for French and English pirates. In 1762, the English captured Havana, holding Cuba for almost a year. It was ceded to Spain in exchange for Florida territory in the Treaty of Paris (1763). Spanish rule was harsh, and intermittent rebellions over the next century all ended in failure.
Cuba's first important independence movement came in 1868, when Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, a wealthy planter, freed his slaves and called for a revolution against Spain. For the next 10 years, guerrillas (mambises ), mainly in eastern Cuba, fought in vain against the Spanish colonial government and army. Although eventually subdued, Céspedes is nevertheless viewed as the father of Cuban independence. A second hero was added in the 1890s when poet and journalist José Martí founded the Cuban Revolutionary Party during exile in the United States. The call to arms (Grito de Baire) on 24 February 1895 initiated a new war. After landing with a group of recruits gathered from throughout the region, Martí was killed at Dos Ríos, in eastern Cuba. The Spanish had the insurrection under control within a year.
In the end, the Cubans had to rely on the United States to defeat the Spanish. Anti-Spanish sentiment, fueled by US newspapers, erupted after the battleship Maine mysteriously blew up in Havana harbor on 15 February 1898. The United States declared war on Spain on 25 April, and in a few months, the Spanish-American War was over. The Treaty of Paris (10 December 1898), established Cuban independence. During the interim period 1899–1902, the US army occupied Cuba. It instituted a program that brought about the eradication of yellow fever, but it was more fundamentally concerned with the establishment of US political and commercial dominance over the island.
On 21 February 1901, a constitution was adopted, and Cuba was nominally a free nation. But the United States insisted that Cuba include in its constitution the Platt Amendment, which gave the United States the right to intervene in Cuban affairs and maintain a naval base at Guantánamo.
For the next 30 years, Cuba lived through a succession of governments, constitutional and otherwise, all under the watchful eye of the United States. American companies owned or controlled about half of Cuba's cultivated land, its utilities and mines, and other natural resources. The US Marines intervened in 1906–9, in 1912, and again in 1920. The period culminated in the brutal dictatorship of Gerardo Machado y Morales (1925–33).
Cuba entered another unstable phase in 1933. A nationalist uprising chased Machado from office. After the United States attempted to install a regime, a "sergeants' revolt" headed by 32-year-old Fulgencio Batista y Zaldívar assumed power and named Ramón Grau San Martín provisional president. Grau, a physician and university professor noted for his nationalist zeal, was never recognized by the United States, and his regime lasted only four months. From 1934 until 1940, Batista ruled through a series of puppet presidents. During these years, Batista made two major contributions to Cuba. In 1934, President Franklin D. Roosevelt allowed Cuba to abrogate the Platt Amendment, although the United States did retain its naval base at Guantánamo Bay. Batista also allowed the drafting of a new constitution, passed in 1940, under which he became president. In 1944, Batista permitted Grau San Martín, now his political enemy, to take office. The eight years of rule by Grau and his ally, Carlos Prío Socarrás, were ineffective and corrupt, and in 1952, a reform party was expected to win the election.
That election was subverted, however, on 10 March 1952, when Batista seized power in a military coup. During the seven years of Batista's second administration, he used increasingly savage suppressive measures to keep himself in office. Under the Batista regime, the United States dominated the economy, social services suffered, poverty, and illiteracy were widespread, and the bureaucracy was flagrantly corrupt. It was at this point that Fidel Castro came on the scene.
Castro's insurrection began inauspiciously on 26 July 1953 with an abortive raid on the Moncada Army Barracks in Santiago de Cuba. Captured, jailed, and then exiled, Castro collected supporters in Mexico, and in 1956 landed in Cuba. Routed by Batista's troops, Castro escaped into the Sierra Maestra mountains with a mere dozen supporters. The force never grew to more than a few thousand, but clever use of guerrilla tactics evened the score with Batista's poorly trained army. Moreover, there was almost no popular support for Batista, and in 1958 the United States ended its military aid to the falling government. On 1 January 1959, the Batista regime collapsed, and Batista and many of his supporters fled the country. Castro's 26th of July Movement took control of the government, and began to rule by decree. The revolutionary government confiscated property that had been dishonestly acquired, instituted large-scale land reforms, and sought to solve Cuba's desperate financial and economic problems by means of a bold revolutionary program.
After June 1960, Cuban-US relations deteriorated at an accelerated pace. Largely in retaliation for the nationalization of about $2 billion in US-owned property in Cuba, the United States severed diplomatic relations with the Castro government. Tensions increased when the revolutionary regime nationalized US oil refinery companies after they refused to process Soviet crude oil. The United States response was to eliminate Cuba's sugar quota. In April 1961, a group of 1,500 Cuban exiles—financed, trained, organized, and equipped by the CIA—invaded Cuba at the Bay of Pigs on the southern coast. The brigade was defeated within 72 hours, and the 1,200 surviving invaders were captured. They were eventually released after US officials and private sources arranged for a ransom of $50 million in food and medical supplies.
However, the United States did continue its attempt, through the OAS and other international forums, to isolate Cuba politically and economically from Latin America and the rest of the non-Communist world. All Latin American governments were pressured to break off diplomatic relations with Cuba. Castro responded with an attempt to destabilize certain Central and South American governments. Inspired by the Sierra Maestra campaign, guerrilla movements became active throughout the region, often with Cuban support. However, by 1967, when Ché Guevara (an Argentinean collaborator of Castro), was killed in Bolivia, these movements had collapsed. The United States was only slightly more successful in its campaign of isolation. The OAS suspended Cuba in 1962, but in July 1975 passed the "freedom of action" resolution allowing countries to deal with Cuba as they pleased. Meanwhile, Communist influence was growing in the Cuban government. Castro declared Cuba to be a Socialist country in late 1960, and the following year declared himself to be a Marxist-Leninist and a part of the Socialist world. All major means of production, distribution, communication, and services were nationalized. Soviet-style planning was introduced in 1962, and Cuba's trade and other relations turned from West to East. In October 1962, US planes photographed Soviet long-range-missile installations in Cuba. The United States blockaded Cuba until the USSR agreed to withdraw the missiles, in exchange for a US government pledge to launch no more offensive operations against the island.
During the Carter administration, there were moves to normalize relations with Cuba. In 1977, the United States and Cuba resumed diplomatic contacts (but not full relations) and concluded fishing and maritime rights agreements. However, the advent of the Reagan administration brought increased tensions between the two countries. Citing Cuban involvement in Angola, Ethiopia, Nicaragua, and Grenada, the United States took up a more intransigent stance toward Cuba.
Domestically, Castro's administration has had its successes and failures. A strong social welfare system, including free health care and subsidized housing, was implemented in the 1960s and 1970s. However, an attempt to produce 10 million metric tons of sugar by 1970 seriously crippled the island's economy. Other mismanaged projects have led to economic stagnation or chaos. Cubans live frugally under a highly controlled system of rationing.
Cuba was dealt a serious blow in the late 1980s with the collapse of the Soviet Union, which meant a cutoff of economic and military aid on which Cuba had come to rely heavily over the years. The USSR had been Cuba's most important trading partner and provided the major market for Cuban sugar. The few consumer goods the USSR had supplied in the past were no longer available.
Most Cubans that fled since Castro came to power settled in southern Florida, and many have had hope of returning to a Castro-free Cuba. There have been sporadic attempts to reunite families broken up by the emigration, but political circumstances often curtail these programs. For example, in February 1985 the repatriation of 2,746 "undesirables" from the United States began, but after Radio Martí (sponsored by Voice of America) began broadcasting in Spanish in May 1985, Cuba abrogated the agreement.
Just as the Cuban economy began to show signs of a rebound from the collapse of the Soviet Union, the United States tightened its embargo with the Cuban Democracy Act of 1992. This led to another wave of emigration in 1994, as thousands of Cubans left the island on rafts and other small vessels bound for Florida. To stem this tide of illegal immigration, the United States in 1995 reached an agreement with Cuba under which the United States would admit 20,000 Cuban immigrants per year. Cuba, in turn, was to take steps to prevent future "boat lifts."
US-Cuba relations deteriorated further, and Cuba's weakened economy was hampered anew in 1996 when the US Congress passed the Helms-Burton Act, another embargo-strengthening measure. The act met with harsh international criticism, and Canada and the World Trade Organization moved to fortify trade ties with the Castro government as a rebuff to the United States. Prior to the passage of Helms-Burton, Cuba had renewed its crackdown on the pro-democracy movement. In February 1996, Cuban air force planes shot down two civilian aircraft over international waters, killing the four persons aboard. The planes had left the United States carrying computer and medical supplies.
In late 1999 and early 2000, tensions between Cuba and the United States returned to the international spotlight with the highly publicized custody dispute surrounding Elian Gonzalez, a six-year-old Cuban boy who was the sole survivor of an attempted boat crossing to the United States in which his mother and 10 other Cuban refugees drowned. The dispute between the boy's father in Cuba and his expatriate relatives in Florida, who wanted him to stay in the United States, became a rallying point for both the Castro regime in Cuba and the anti-Castro Cuban community in southern Florida.
Despite its acquiescence starting in the 1990s to some economic reforms, dollar transactions and limited self-employment in agriculture, crafts and vending, the Castro regime retains its commitment to socialism. Its economy, still recovering from the collapse of the Soviet Union, has been buoyed by increased tourism, mining, and cigar and fish exports. But economic growth has not translated into an improved quality of life for most Cubans, and Castro has continued to blame poverty and harsh living conditions on the US embargo. After the United States declared war on terrorism, Castro accused Washington of planning to invade the island; he has increased his prosecution of political opponents. Critics observed that, during the time that world attention was focused on the US invasion of Iraq, Castro took the opportunity to increase pressure on opposition by executing political dissidents.
In January 2003 Cuba held its third direct election for the National Assembly. Participation was limited to a "yes" or "no" vote for a list of candidates approved by the Communist Party. A month later, the Assembly appointed Fidel Castro chairman of the Council of State for five more years. As of 2005, Castro had ruled Cuba for 46 years, the longest tenure in recent Latin American history.
In the period leading up to the 2004 US presidential elections, the United States limited cash transfers to Cuba and reduced the number of trips Cuban-Americans could make to visit family in Cuba. Since then, Castro rolled back many of the self-employment freedoms and forbid previously accepted US dollars, making the only accepted currency for foreigners the Cuban convertible peso. Further discouraging the use of US currency, there exchange rate for euros and Canadian dollars was more favorable. However, the island's dual economy continued. Criminal penalties for possession of foreign currency (repealed in 1993) were not reinstated. Cubans were able to continue to hold dollars in cash and in bank accounts.
After he became premier on 16 February 1959, Fidel Castro was the effective source of governmental power. The juridical basis for this power rested on the Fundamental Law of the Revolution, which was promulgated on 8 February 1959 and was based on Cuba's 1940 constitution. To regularize government functions, a 10-member Executive Committee, with Castro as premier, was formed on 24 November 1972.
A new constitution, first published on 10 April 1975, then approved by the first congress of the Cuban Communist party in December, and ratified by a 97.7% vote in a special referendum in February 1976, established the National Assembly of People's Power as the supreme state organ. The deputies, originally elected by municipal assemblies and directly elected in national elections since 1993, serve five-year terms. The National Assembly elects the Council of State, whose president is both head of state and head of government. There are six vice presidents in the Council of State, and 23 other members.
In January 2003, the third direct election to the National Assembly took place; all 601 candidates approved by the Communist Party received more than the required 50% of the vote necessary for election to the Assembly. One month later, the Assembly reelected Castro as president of the state council. He remains the key figure in domestic and foreign policy making. The constitution recognizes the Communist party as the "highest leading force of the society and of the state," which effectively outlaws other political parties.
Suffrage is universal for citizens age 16 and over, excluding those who have applied for permanent emigration.
Fidel Castro came to power through a coalition group known as the 26th of July Movement. Along with it, in 1959, the Student Revolutionary Directorate (Directorio Revolucionario Estudiantil) and the Communist Party (Partido Socialista Popular—PSP) were permitted to function.
Castro's relationship with the PSP was at first uneasy. The PSP condemned his early attempts at insurrection as "putschism," and did not support the 26th of July Movement until it had reached its final stages in 1958. After June 1959, Castro began to refer to antiCommunists as counterrevolutionaries, and used the PSP as an organizational base and as a link to the USSR. In December 1961, Castro declared his complete allegiance to Marxism-Leninism.
By 1962, the 26th of July Movement, the Student Revolutionary Directorate, and the PSP had merged into the Integrated Revolutionary Organization (Organización Revolucionaria Integrada), which, in turn, gave way to the United Party of the Socialist Revolution (Partido Unido de la Revolución Socialista) and, in 1965, to the Cuban Communist Party (Partido Comunista Cubano—PCC).
On 17 December 1975, the PCC convened its first congress, which ratified a 13-member Politburo; Fidel Castro was reelected first secretary of the PCC. The second congress of the PCC took place in December 1980. The third congress, in February and November-December 1986, witnessed a massive personnel change when one-third of the 225-member Central Committee and 10 of 24 Politburo members were replaced, with Fidel Castro reelected first secretary. The Young Communist League and the José Martí Pioneer Organization for children up to 15 years of age are mass political organizations closely affiliated with the PCC. As of 2005, the PCC remained Cuba's only authorized political party.
However, political dissidence continued to occur in Cuba. Members of unauthorized groups such as the Dissident Liberal Party, the Cuban Orthodox Renovation Party, the Independent Option Movement and others have faced prosecution and harassment. The Ladies in White Movement is comprised of the mothers, wives, and daughters of political prisoners in Cuba. The Varela Project is a proposal from the populace to amend the Cuban constitution to include changes such as free speech, free enterprise, amnesty to political prisoners, and electoral reform.
The country is divided into 14 provinces and 169 municipalities. The Isla de la Juventud is a special municipality. The 1976 constitution provides for a system of municipal assemblies to be elected for 2-year terms by direct universal suffrage at age 16. Municipal assemblies choose delegates to provincial assemblies and deputies to the National Assembly. The most recent municipal elections were held in April 2005.
The 1976 constitution established the People's Supreme Court, consisting of a president, vice president, and other judges, as the highest judicial tribunal. All members of the court are elected by the National Assembly, as are the attorney general and deputy attorneys general. Through its Governing Council, the court proposes laws, issues regulations, and makes decisions that must be implemented by the people's courts, whose judges are elected by the municipal assemblies. There are also seven regional courts of appeal, as well as district courts with civil and criminal jurisdiction. Military tribunals assume jurisdiction for certain counter-revolutionary cases.
Although the constitution provides for an independent judiciary, the courts are subordinate to the National Assembly and the Council of State.
There are no jury trials. Most trials are public. The legal system is based on Spanish and American law influenced by communist legal theory.
Total armed strength in 2005 came to 49,000 active duty personnel, with 39,000 reservists. The Army had an estimated 38,000 personnel, whose equipment included around 900 main battle tanks, an undisclosed number of light tanks, reconnaissance and armored infantry fighting vehicles, an estimated 700 armored personnel carriers and over 1,715 artillery pieces. The navy had an estimated 3,000 personnel including more than 550 Naval Infantry members. Major naval units included five patrol/coastal vessels and six mine warfare ships. The air force had around 8,000 personnel and 125 combat capable aircraft, of which only 25 are known to be operable. The service also has around 40 attack helicopters. Paramilitary forces included 20,000 State Security troops, 6,500 border guards, 50,000 Civil Defense Force members, the 70,000-member Youth Labor Army, and the million-member Territorial Militia. Cuba's key military ally and supporter for decades, Russia had cut off nearly all military assistance by 1993. In 2004, defense spending was estimated at $1.3 billion.
The US maintains a naval base at Guantánamo Bay in southeastern Cuba, under a 1934 leasing treaty. The US government considers the base to be of some strategic and training significance in the Caribbean and has refused to give it up, despite demands by the Castro regime that it do so. About 2,000 military personnel are stationed at Guantánamo.
Cuba is a member of the United Nations, having joined on 24 October 1945; it belongs to ECLAC and several specialized agencies, such as the FAO, IAEA, IFAD, ILO, UNESCO, UNIDO, and WHO. Cuba is a part of the ACP Group, G-77, the Latin American Economic System (LAES), the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), the Association of Caribbean States (ACS), and the Latin American Integration Association (LAIA). Cuba's charter membership in the OAS was suspended at the second Punta del Este meeting, in February 1962, through US initiative. The isolation of Cuba from the inter-American community was made almost complete when, at Caracas, on 26 July 1964, the OAS voted 15–4 for mandatory termination of all trade with the Castro government. Cuba has been very active in the Nonaligned Movement, and held its chairmanship between 1979 and 1983. The nation is also part of the Agency for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean (OPANAL) and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. In environmental cooperation, Cuba is part of the Antarctic treaty, the Basel Convention, the Convention on Biological Diversity, Ramsar, CITES, the London Convention, the Kyoto Protocol, the Montréal Protocol, MARPOL, and the UN Conventions on the Law of the Sea, Climate Change, and Desertification.
Traditionally, one of the world's leading cane sugar producers, Cuba has been primarily an agricultural nation. Sugar was the leading earner of foreign exchange until 1992, when tourism revenues outstripped sugar revenues. Agriculture's contribution to GDP has decreased from 24% in 1965 to 10% in 1985, to 7% in 2000. Manufacturing increased from 23% of GDP in 1965 to 36% by 1985. In 2000, the contribution of the industrial sector fell to 34.5% as services, including tourism, became more dominant.
After 1959, the revolutionary government, following policies espoused by Ernesto "Che" Guevara, attempted to liberalize the sugar economy in order to achieve agricultural diversification and industrialization. When this policy proved disastrous to the sugar crop, Castro reversed the Guevara program in 1962 and announced a goal of 10-million-ton crop by 1970. Despite a severe drought in 1968–69, Cuba did achieve a record 7.6-million-ton output of refined sugar in 1970. Efforts to diversify foreign trade during the early 1970s were aided by record high prices for sugar. Between 1971 and 1975, the Cuban economy grew by about 10% annually, and moderate growth averaging about 4.4% per year continued through most of the 1980s. The special relationship with the Soviet Union, whereby it supplied Cuba with oil below market prices and bought its sugar at above market prices, insulated the Cuban economy from the vagaries of the two oil shocks of the 1970s and the Third World debt crisis of the early 1980s. However, commercial agreements with Argentina, Canada, Spain, France, the United Kingdom, Italy, and Germany indicated Cuba's keen desire to move away from nearly exclusive reliance on the Socialist countries for both imports and exports. Trade with the then-USSR and other CMEA members, nevertheless, made up the bulk of Cuba's foreign commerce, and Soviet aid remained essential to the economy.
From 1981 to 1985, Cuba's GDP growth averaged 7.3% due mainly to increased sugar production. In 1986 and 1987, however, GDP growth dropped to approximately 1.7% due mainly to the collapse of oil prices, a depressed world sugar market, prolonged drought in Cuba, and the fall in the value of the dollar. The situation worsened when the Soviet bloc collapsed in 1989, eliminating its assistance and subsidized markets. Cuban GDP fell 35% between 1989 and 1993. The Castro government restricted public expenditure and in 1993–94 introduced a series of market-oriented reforms. It legalized the dollar, allowed trading with market economies and developed new sources of foreign currency. The government placed special emphasis on the promotion of foreign investment and the development of sugar and tourism. About 150 occupations were opened up for self-employment. The economy began to expand again in 1994, and by 1996 GDP growth was at 7.8%. Tourism established new records in 1996, with arrivals increasing by 35% to 1,001,739, and gross revenues rising by 18% to $1.3 billion. The number of self-employed rose to over 200,000, but after income taxes were introduced, fell to an estimated 100,000 by 2001. By the end of 2000, nearly 400 joint ventures with foreign companies had been established representing a total investment of $4.2–4.5 billion.
In 1997, growth fell to 2.5% and then to 1.2% in 1998. Annual inflation was almost nonexistent in 1998, down from 19.0% in 1995. Growth increased to 6.2% in 1999 and 5.6% in 2000 as tourist arrivals rose to 1.7 million in 2000, and gross receipts to about $1.9 billion. In 2001, in the context of a global economic slowdown, the aftermath of the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States, and a devastating hurricane in November, tourist arrivals increased only marginally and gross receipts remained unchanged. Tourism was estimated to have declined in 2002.
In 2002, the government introduced a comprehensive restructuring of the sugar sector. Over half of Cuba's 156 mills were to be closed, leaving only the 71 most efficient. 100,000 of the 400,000 employed in the mills were to be retrained for other jobs. More rice and other crops were to be grown. Sugar production, at 8 million tons a year in 1989, had fallen to 3.2 million tons a year by 2003.
Between 75–90% of adult Cubans are employed by the state in relatively low-payingjobs. However, education, medical care, housing, and other public services are free or highly subsidized, and there are no taxes on public jobs. Although there has been an increasing infusion of dollars and other hard currencies into the economy, the society still faces a painful transition out of its isolated socialism.
In 2004, the economy expanded by 4.2%, up from 2.9% in 2003; in 2005, the GDP growth rate was estimated at an impressive 8.0%, while the GDP per capita, at purchasing power parity, was $3,300. The standard of living in Cuba continues to hover at levels lower than before the downturn of the 1990s. The inflation rate was insignificant in 2003 and 2004, but by 2005 it was estimated to have risen to 4.2%. As a result, the government strengthened its control over inflowing currencies (which are mainly provided by tourism, remittances, and trade).
The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports that in 2005 Cuba's gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated at $37.1 billion. The CIA defines GDP as the value of all final goods and services produced within a nation in a given year and computed on the basis of purchasing power parity (PPP) rather than value as measured on the basis of the rate of exchange based on current dollars. The per capita GDP was estimated at $3,300. The annual growth rate of GDP was estimated at 5.2%. It was estimated that agriculture accounted for 5.5% of GDP, industry 26.1%, and services 68.4%.
As of 2005, Cuba's workforce was estimated at 4.6 million, of which the nonstate sector accounted for 22% and the state sector 78%. In 2004, the Cuban workforce by occupation was distributed as follows: industry 14.4%; agriculture 21.2%; and services 64.4%. The unemployment rate in 2005 was estimated at 1.9%. However, underemployment is a chronic problem, and has been exacerbated by the idling of thousands of industrial workers whose jobs rely on foreign imports. Labor has been shifted to agriculture to compensate for fuel and machinery shortages affecting food and production.
All Cuban workers belong to a trade union, under the central control of the Confederation of Cuban Workers (CUTC), which is affiliated with the Communist-oriented World Federation of Trade Unions. Independent unions are explicitly prohibited. Those who attempt to engage in independent union activities face government persecution and harassment. Strikes and collective bargaining are not legally permitted.
The minimum wage varies, depending on the type of employment. As of 2005, the average monthly wage was $9. The minimum wage is supplemented by social security consisting of free medical care and education, and subsidized housing and food. However, a worker must still earn significantly more than minimum wage to support a family. The eight-hour workday, a weekly rest period, an annual paid vacation of one month, and workers' compensation are guaranteed by the constitution. The standard work week is 44 hours, with shorter workdays for hazardous occupations. Although the legal minimum working age is 17, the employment of minors 15 and 16 years of age is permitted as a way to offset labor shortages or to obtain training. Teenagers can only work 7 hours per day or 40 hours per week or only on holidays.
The state owns about 3 million hectares (7.4 million acres) of arable land, and 750,000 hectares (1.8 million) of permanent crops. About 13.1% of the economically active population was engaged in the agricultural sector in 2003. An agrarian reform law of June 1959 made the government proprietor of all land in Cuba, created the National Institute of Agrarian Reform (INRA) as administrator, and set a general limit of 30 caballerías (400 hectares/990 acres) of farmland to be held by any one owner. A second agrarian reform, of October 1963, expropriated medium-size private holdings; there remained about 170,000 small private farms, with average holdings of over 16 hectares (40 acres). By 1985 there were 1,378 farm cooperatives. Almost a third of cultivated land is irrigated.
Sugarcane, Cuba's most vital crop and its largest export, is grown throughout the island, but mainly in the eastern half. The government regulates sugar production and prices. Sugar output reached 7.6 million tons in 1970, but that fell short of the 10 million tons projected. Subsequent targets were lowered, and the output was 7.9 million tons in 1979, 6.7 million in 1980 (when crop disease reduced production), 8 million in 1985, and 3.5 million in 1999. In 2004, exports of raw sugar amounted to 1.9 million tons, valued at $348.8 million. Cuba has pioneered the introduction of mechanical cane harvesters, and by 2002 there were 7,400 harvester-threshers (up from 5,717 in the early 1980s). Cuba and Russia signed several finance and investment accords in 1992 and 1993 whereby Russia will supply fuel, spare parts, fertilizer, and herbicide in exchange for Cuba's sugar harvest, with Russia annually importing a minimum of two million tons of Cuban sugar. The sugar industry also has diversified into exporting molasses, ethyl alcohol, rum and liquor, bagasse chipboard, torula yeast, dextran, and furfural. Tobacco, the second most important crop, is grown on small farms requiring intensive cultivation. In the late 1970s, the average annual production was about 35,000 tons, but crop disease in 1979 resulted in a drop in production to 8,200 tons in 1980; production was 34,494 tons in 2004. Other crops in 2004 included (in tons) oranges, 490,000; lemons and limes, 26,000; grapefruit, 225,000; rice, 610,000; plantains, 790,000; bananas, 310,000; potatoes, 300,000; sweet potatoes, 490,000; and coffee, 12,900. Other Cuban products with export potential include mangoes, pineapples, ginger, papayas, and seeds.
In the state sector, milk production in 2004 amounted to 610,700 tons (up from 431,000 during 1989–91) and egg production reached 79,000 tons (120,000 tons during 1989–91). Livestock in 2004 included an estimated 4,050,000 head of cattle, 1.7 million hogs, 400,000 horses, 3.2 million sheep, 425,000 goats, and 18.4 million chickens. The populations of most livestock species have declined since 1990, as a result of input shortages from the worsening economy. Honey production in 2004 was an estimated 7,200 tons, the highest in the Caribbean.
The territorial waters of Cuba support more than 500 varieties of edible fish. The catch in 2003 was 68,420 tons, compared with 244,673 tons in 1986. Tuna, lobster, and shellfish are the main species caught. The Cuban Fishing Fleet, a government enterprise, supervises the industry.
The former USSR aided in the construction of a fishing port in Havana. Seafood exports are an important source of foreign exchange; in 2003, fish and fish products exports amounted to $64.4 million.
Much of the natural forest cover was removed in colonial times, and cutting between the end of World War I and the late 1950s reduced Cuba's woodland to about 14% of the total area and led to soil erosion. Between 1959 and 1985, about 1.8 billion seedlings were planted, including eucalyptus, pine, majagua, mahogany, cedar, and casuarina. State forests cover 2,348,000 hectares (5,802,000 acres), or about 21.4% of the total land area. Roundwood production in 2003 amounted to 2.6 million cu m (93 million cu ft), with 69% used for fuel.
Nickel was Cuba's leading mineral commodity, second to sugar in export earnings. The country produced 74,018 metric tons of mined nickel in 2003, up from 71,342 metric tons in 2002. Cuba's nickel reserves were the world's fourth-largest and the reserves base was the largest. Recent changes in investment and mining laws have increased foreign trade. Production has been boosted by a joint venture formed in 1994 between Sherritt International of Canada, and the Cuban government. Nickel deposits and plants were located in eastern Cuba at Nicaro, Moa, and Punta Gorda, all in Holguín Province. Production of cobalt (oxide, oxide sinter, sulfide, and ammonical liquor precipitate), a by-product of nickel operations, totaled 3,982 metric tons in 2004. In 2004, Cuba also produced ammonia, chromite, gold, gypsum, salt from seawater (180,000 metric tons), and silica sand. Production of copper has declined substantially from pre-Revolutionary times.
Cuba is the second-largest producer of electric power in the Caribbean region, exceeded only by Puerto Rico. In 2002, Cuba's electrical generating capacity stood at 4.411 million kW, of which 4.354 million kW, was dedicated to conventional thermal sources and 0.057 million kW to hydropower. Output in 2002 stood at 14.771 billion kWh, with 13.920 kWh produced by fossil fuels, 0.105 billion kWh generated by hydropower, and 0.746 billion kWh generated by geothermal or other sources. Demand for electric power in 2002 totaled 13.737 billion kWh.
Cuba has the second-largest proven hydrocarbon reserves in the Caribbean area, surpassed only by those of Trinidad and Tobago. In 2005, according to the Oil and Gas Journal, Cuba's proven reserves of oil stood at 750 million barrels. Over the previous two decades the production of crude oil has risen noticeably, going from 16,000 barrels per day in 1984 to 67,000 barrels per day in 2004. The majority of the country's production is centered in the northern Matanzas province. However, the oil produced is a sour, heavy type of crude that requires special processing. There is interest in offshore production, and it has been reported by industry analysts that Cuba's offshore basins may hold at least 1.6 billion barrels of crude oil. Cuba has a refining capacity, consisting of four facilities operated by state-owned Cubapetroleo (Cupet) totaling 301,000 barrels per day, as of July 2005.
Cuba's consumption of oil in 2004 amounted to 211,000 barrels per day, far outpacing the country's production capabilities. While Cuba has had to import the difference, it has also taken measures to offset the cost of imported oil. In 2000, Cuba signed a five-year agreement to import crude oil and refined oil products from Venezuela, paying for the oil via a barter arrangement that has seen Cuban teachers and doctors sent to Venezuela to promote literacy and provide medical help to Venezuela's poor. In addition Cuba has offered offshore exploration rights in its territorial waters in the Gulf of Mexico to international oil companies. Among them are two Canadian companies—Sherritt International; and Pebercan—both of which are producing oil in conjunction with Cupet, under joint venture agreements.
Cuba had proven natural gas reserves of 2,500 billion cu ft in 2005, according to the Oil and Gas Journal. Gross natural gas production in 2002 amounted to 19.42 billion cu ft, with 3.53 billion cu ft vented or flared and 15.89 billion cu ft marketed. Dry production and consumption for 2002 each stood at 12.36 billion cu ft.
Cuba has no known coal production so the country must import what it uses. In 2002, Cuba imported a total of 44,000 tons of coal and related products, which consisted of 29,000 tons of hard coal and 15,000 tons of coke. Coal product demand in that year amounted to 30,000 tons, with 14,000 tons stockpiled.
All Cuban industrial production was nationalized by March 1968. Industry accounts for approximately 35% of GDP.
Cuba had 156 sugar mills in 1985, and at that time, about 10% of exports from the then-USSR to Cuba consisted of machinery for the sugar industry. Other food processing plants produced cheese, butter, yogurt, ice cream, wheat flour, pasta, preserved fruits and vegetables, alcoholic beverages, and soft drinks. Light industry comprises textiles, shoes, soap, toothpaste, and corrugated cardboard boxes. Other industries are petroleum products (Cuba has four oil refineries with a total production capacity of 301,000 barrels per day), tobacco, chemicals, construction, cement, agricultural machinery, nickel, and steel production. In the mid-1990s, tourism surpassed sugar processing as the main source of foreign exchange, although the government in 2002 announced plans to implement a "comprehensive transformation" of the sugar industry, including the closing of almost half the existing sugar mills. Although 1.7 million tourists visited the country in 2000, bringing in $1.9 billion, the global economic slowdown in 2001 and the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States negatively impacted Cuba's tourism industry.
In 2005, industry accounted for 26.1% of the GDP and it employed 14.4% of the labor force. The industrial production growth rate in the same year was 3.5%, less than the overall GDP growth rate. Services were by far the largest economic engine, with a 68.4% share of the economy, and the largest employer, with 64.4% of the labor force engaged in this sector. Agriculture was the smallest economic sector (5.5% of the GDP), but a significant employer (21.2% of the work force). Financing from abroad has contributed to positive developments in the mining, oil, and construction sectors.
In 2002, total expenditures for research and development (R&D) amounted to 189.6 million Cuban pesos, or 0.62% of GDP. Of that amount in 2002, 60% came from government sources, with 35% from business and 5% from foreign sources. For that same year, there were 2,510 technicians and 538 researchers per million people that were engaged in R&D. High technology exports in 2002 totaled $48 million, or 29% of manufactured exports.
The Academy of Sciences of Cuba, founded in 1962, is Cuba's principal scientific institution; it, as well as the Ministry of Agriculture, operates numerous research centers throughout Cuba. Institutions offering higher education in science and engineering include the University of Havana (founded in 1928), the University of Oriente at Santiago de Cuba (founded in 1947), the Central University of Las Villas in Villa Clara (founded in 1952), the University of Camagüey (founded in 1967), and the University Center of Pinar del Río (founded in 1972). In 1987–97, science and engineering students accounted for 16% of college and university enrollments.
Havana is Cuba's commercial center. Provincial capitals are marketing and distribution centers of lesser importance. Camaguey is a cattle and sugar center, Santa Clara lies in the tobacco belt, and Santiago is a major seaport and mining city. Holguín has been transformed into a major agricultural and industrial center.
By May 1960, the National Institute of Agrarian Reform was operating about 2,000 "people stores" (tiendas del pueblo), and by the end of 1962 all retail and wholesale businesses dealing in consumer essentials had been nationalized. In 1984 there were 27,301 retail establishments in Cuba. As of 2002, there were only about 200,000 independent farmers and only 100,000 private business owners. These private businesses are strictly controlled by the government.
Due to the US-organized trade boycott and the inability of production in the then-USSR and Cuba to meet Cuban demands, rationing was applied to many consumer goods in the 1960s and 1970s. By the mid-1980s, rationing had been reduced and accounted for about 25% of individual consumption. Allocation of major consumer items after 1971 was by the "just class" principle, with the best workers receiving priority. The availability of basic consumer items increased noticeably after 1980, when the smallholder's free market (mercado libre campesino) was introduced. Under this system, small-scale private producers and cooperatives could sell their surplus commodities directly to consumers once their quotas had been filled. However, the peasant markets were abolished in May 1986, allegedly because they led to widespread speculation and profiteering. It has been estimated that nearly 40% of the domestic economy operates in the "informal" sector, or black market.
Between $800 million and $1 billion per year is added to the domestic economy in the form of remittances from expatriates. Much of this comes from families residing in the United States, who are permitted to send a total of $1,200 per year. The Cuban government acquires these funds by allowing consumers to purchase products in state-run "dollar stores."
Cuba has established or reestablished trade relations with many countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, Asia, and Europe. The sudden rupture of trade with the former Soviet Union and the Eastern bloc nations in 1989 after 30 years of interrelationship caused severe trauma to the Cuban economy. However, there remains a clear political will on the part of the former Soviet republics to maintain economic relations with Cuba with a certain degree of preference. Nevertheless, Cuba has diversified its trading partners in recent years.
Almost half of Cuba's commodity export market (53%) is taken up by sugar and honey, representing 5.7% of the world's export sales in these commodities. Nickel is the second most lucrative exported commodity (23%), followed by fish (6.8%). Other exports include tobacco (5.6%) and medicinal and pharmaceutical products (2.8%). Primary imports include petroleum, food, machinery, and chemicals.
In 2005, exports reached $2.4 billion (FOB—Free on Board), while imports grew to $6.9 billion (FOB). In 2004, the bulk of exports went to the Netherlands (22.7%), Canada (20.6%), China (7.7%), Russia (7.5%), Spain (6.4%), and Venezuela (4.4%). Imports mainly came from Spain (14.7%), Venezuela (13.5%), the
|(…) data not available or not significant.|
United States (11%), China (8.9%), Canada (6.4%), Italy (6.2%), and Mexico (4.9%).
Since the United States stopped trading with Cuba in 1963, Cuba's dollar reserves have dropped to virtually nothing, and most trade is conducted through barter agreements. In 1997, Cuba's debt to the former Soviet Union was estimated at $20 billion. With the demise of the USSR, Cuba has focused on trading with market-oriented countries in order to increase foreign currency reserves, notably by promoting sugar exports and foreign investment in industry. Remittances from Cuban workers in the United States (totaling approximately $800 million annually), tourism dollars, and foreign aid help to cover the trade deficit.
The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reported that in 2001 the purchasing power parity of Cuba's exports was $1.8 billion while imports totaled $4.8 billion resulting in a trade deficit of $3 billion.
Exports of goods reached $2.2 billion in 2004, up from $1.7 billion in 2003. Imports increased from $4.6 billion in 2003, to $5.3 billion in 2004. The resource balance was consequently negative in both years, deteriorating from -$2.9 billion in 2003, to -$3.1 billion in 2004. The current account balance followed a similar path, worsening from -$130 million in 2003, to -$177 million in 2004. Foreign exchange reserves (including gold) reached $2.5 billion in 2005, covering less than five months of imports.
All banks in Cuba were nationalized in 1960. The National Bank of Cuba, established in 1948, was restructured in 1967. Commercial banks include Banco Financiero International (1984). Savings banks include Banco Popular dul Ahorro. A number of foreign banks offer limited services in Cuba. The Grupo Nuevo Banco was set up in 1996.
There are no securities exchanges.
Hard-currency reserves have been depleted by import growth in excess of export growth. In the domestic economy, the attempt to reduce enterprise subsidies caused an increase in demand for working capital that the state was unable to meet. A combination of price and direct rationing systems is operating.
All insurance enterprises were nationalized by January 1964. Although insurance never accounted for more than 1% of national income, new opportunities began to emerge throughout the insurance sector as a result of the changes in economic structure. Seven insurance companies and two reinsurers had offices in Cuba in 1997. They concentrated on freight insurance, but there was interest in development and diversification.
Cuba's domestic state insurance company, Esen, appeared to be preparing to compete with foreign companies in the domestic market in 1997. It launched a major marketing drive with an expanded sales force of 3,500 to persuade Cubans to take out new personal insurance policies. Apparently, they were having some success, despite the lack of a private insurance tradition. The volume of premiums was 30% higher in 1995 than in 1990. New products include not only travel and medical insurance, but also pensions and life insurance policies. In 1997, a new insurance law was passed to permit the establishment of private insurers to compete with the state-owned companies. Although limited foreign penetration into the Cuban market will help to develop the sector, the authorities will continue to foster the development of Cuban insurers before the sector is fully opened. Private insurance schemes will not replace state social security provision.
Third-party automobile liability for foreign residents (including diplomats) and for vehicles carrying either freight or people are compulsory.
Under the Economic Management System, developed during the 1970s and approved by the PCC Congress in 1975, state committees for statistics and finances have been established, and formal state budgets, abandoned in 1967, have been reintroduced. State revenues come from the nationalized enterprises, income tax, social security contributions, and foreign aid.
The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) estimated that in 2005 Cuba's central government took in revenues of approximately $22.1 billion and had expenditures of $23.6 billion. Revenues minus expenditures totaled approximately -$1.5 billio. Total external debt was $13.1 billion.
A 1962 tax code instituted a sharply progressive income tax as well as a surface transport tax, property transfer tax, documents tax, consumer goods tax, and a tax on capital invested abroad.
Cuba's average weighted tariff in 1997 (the most recent year the World Bank could gather statistics) was 8.1%. However, Cuba also maintains significant nontariff barriers to trade. Required government inspection of imports and corrupt customs officials are among the worst factors.
In February 1960, Fidel Castro announced that foreign investment in Cuba would be accepted only if delivered to the government to be used as it saw fit. The enterprises in which this capital would be invested were to be "national enterprises," so that Cuba would not be dependent on foreigners. Any new foreign investments were to be controlled by the Central Planning Board. From mid-1960s, US holdings in Cuba were systematically seized, partly for political reasons and partly because US corporations refused to accept Cuba's terms of nationalism. Some of the investments of other foreign nationals were left operating under stringent governmental regulation.
Between 1960 and the early 1970s, foreign investment activities were restricted to limited technical and economic assistance from East European countries and the then-USSR, with which Cuba concluded over 40 cooperation agreements between 1963 and 1983. Limited investments from the noncommunist world were sought with some success in the mid-1970s. In 1982, in a further effort to attract investors from Western Europe, Canada, and Japan, Cuba passed its first foreign investment law, permitting foreign companies to form joint ventures with the Cuban government, but to own no more than 49% of the stock. In 1985, however, direct investment in Cuba by OECD countries totaled only $200,000.
Since 1990, the Cuban government has seen the necessity to open its recessed economy to foreign investment, either via joint ventures or other forms of association. In 1992, Cuba further intensified its efforts to attract foreign investment in several key areas of its economy, including sugar, tourism, textiles, tobacco, pharmaceuticals, nickel, and shipping. In 1995, full repatriation of profits and 100% foreign ownership was allowed in Cuba.
As of 1998, there were 322 joint ventures in force, with partners from over fifty different countries. In addition, many foreign contracts were being sought for oil drilling. The annual inflow of foreign direct investment (FDI) into the more liberalized Cuba reached a peak of $15.2 million in 1998. FDI inflow dropped, to $9 million in 2000 and further, to $4.6 million in 2001. Principal sources of foreign investment include Canada, Spain, France, Italy, the Netherlands, and Latin America.
In April 2002, after President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela was returned to power, oil shipments to Cuba on concessional terms were cut off. In April 2003, there appeared to be a decisive shift away from further opening of the economy as the Castro regime rounded up dissidents and executed by firing squad three men who attempted to hijack a passenger ferry to take them to Florida, accusing the US Mission Chief of trying to organize political opposition to the regime.
Until 1959, the Cuban government followed a policy of free enterprise; government ownership was largely limited to local utilities. When the Castro government came to power in 1959, it proceeded to create a centrally planned economy. By means of nationalization and expropriation, all producer industries, mines, refineries, communications, and export-import concerns were brought under government control by 1968.
Planning in the 1960s vacillated on the question of whether Cuba should concentrate on the production of sugar, on industrialization, or on a balance between the two. After 1963, sugar predominated. But the effort that went into the 1970 harvest diverted enormous resources from other sectors of the economy. At the same time, there was growing absenteeism and low productivity in the labor force, attributed to the policy of eliminating material incentives. Under the Economic Management System, pay was again tied to production though the introduction of a system akin to piecework.
The 1975–80 development plan, approved by at the PCC Congress in December 1975, set specific production goals for Cuban industry and projected an overall economic growth rate of 6% annually; it was announced in 1980 that the actual growth rate was 4%. The 1981–85 plan introduced new incentive schemes and gave more freedom to market forces; it also eased restrictive hiring regulation. One of the major aims of the plan was to increase industry's share of gross social product to 50%, but industry accounted for only 45.3% in 1985. The 1986–90 plan envisioned a 5% annual growth and aimed particularly at an increase in exports. In December 1986, 28 austerity measures were approved by the National Assembly, including increases in transport and electricity prices and rationing of kerosene.
Under several finance and investment accords signed by Cuba and Russia in 1992 and 1993, Russia agreed to supply fuel, tires, and spare parts for mechanical harvesters and other vehicles, in addition to fertilizers and herbicides, all for Cuba's sugar harvest. In addition, Russia agreed to import a minimum of 2 million tons of Cuban sugar. Russia also agreed to extend a $350 million credit to Cuba to complete and further develop a number of oil, energy, and nickel mining projects that had previously been backed by the Soviet Union.
Since 1998, Cuba has sat as an observer at International Monetary Fund (IMF)/World Bank meetings. Cuba's economic planners predicted a 1.5% growth rate for 2003, as tourism declined following the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, sugar prices were low, hurricanes damaged the island, and external financing was lacking. The Central Bank reported a $12.2 billion hard-currency foreign debt by late 2002. Unemployment stands at approximately 12%, but close to 30% of workers have been displaced or underemployed. Castro in 2003 replaced at least five officials in economy-related government positions in an effort to combat a faltering economy. Cubans increasingly turn to the black market for food, clothing, and household goods. Cuba continued to apply timid market reforms while actively seeking foreign investment. Economic growth in the late 1990s came from an expansion of manufacturing, tourism, mining, and services. Other positive factors included the improved tourist industry and a sharp recovery of the cigar industry. Indeed, during the 1990s, tourism replaced sugar exports as Cuba's primary source of foreign exchange. The creation of a new Central Bank completed financial sector reforms begun in 1995. These reflected the increased role of the private sector in financial transactions. In 2000, the Cuban economy continued its growth through the generous investment of foreign countries, but the US trade embargo held fast in the face of opposition from key US political leaders.
The main impediment to growth in 1990s Cuba was the restricted access to external financing. As a response, in 2005 the government strengthened its control over capital flows—especially from tourism, oil, mining, and construction. New trade agreements and investment commitments from China and Venezuela will likely give a boost to the Cuban economy in the years to come. Positive developments in the tourism, nickel, and oil sectors will also contribute to the overall growth trend. However, if President Hugo Chavez were to lose power in Venezuela or if the Chinese economy were to face a downturn, Cuba wwould suffer the repercussions.
A single system of social security covering almost all workers and protecting them against the risks of old age, disability, and survivorship was enacted in 1963. Contributions to pension programs are made by employers (10% of earnings for self-employed persons), with the government making up the deficit. These contributions also fund maternity, sickness, and work-injury programs. Pensions are set at a rate of 50% of average earnings. The national health care system covers all citizens. The Maternity Law provides up to one year of maternity leave.
The Family Code proscribes all sex discrimination. Women receive equal access to education and are found in most professions. Legislation provides for the equal rights of illegitimate and legitimate children, and specifies the obligations of parents. Crime is not reported in the media, and there are no reliable data regarding the prevalence of violence against women and domestic abuse. Prostitution is legal for those over 17 years of age, but the government has been curtailing activity to combat the perception that sex tourism is endorsed.
Human rights activists have been targeted for arbitrary arrest and detention. Prison conditions are harsh: medical care is inadequate and abusive treatment is not uncommon. The government does not allow international organizations to operate in the country.
Sanitation is generally good and health conditions greatly improved after the 1959 revolution. However, with the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Cuba no longer receives the same level of foreign support and has fallen behind in many of its social services. In spite of this, in 1993 100% of the population was reported to have access to health care. In 2000, 95% of the population had access to safe drinking water and 95% had adequate sanitation.
Infant mortality declined from more than 60 per 1,000 live births before 1959 to 6.33 in 2005. About 8% of babies born in 1999 were considered low birth weight. Approximately 79% of married women (ages 15 to 49) used contraception. The government claims to have eradicated malaria, diphtheria, poliomyelitis, tuberculosis, and tetanus. Children up to one year of age were immunized as follows: tuberculosis, 99%; diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus, 99%; polio, 97%; and measles, 99%.
Life expectancy was an average of 77.23 years in 2005. Major causes of death were circulatory system diseases, cancer, injuries, and infectious diseases. There were 15 reported cases of tuberculosis per 100,000 in 2001. The HIV/AIDS prevalence was 0.10 per 100 adults in 2003. As of 2004, there were approximately 3,300 people living with HIV/AIDS in the country. There were an estimated 200 deaths from AIDS in 2003.
As of 2004, there were an estimated 591 physicians, 744 nurses, and 87 dentists per 100,000 people. Medical services are now more widely distributed in rural as well as urban areas. All doctors are obliged to work for the rural medical service in needy areas for two years after graduation. All health services are provided free of charge. Health care expenditure was estimated at 6.1% of GDP.
Within the past few years decades, Cuban housing has begun to catch up to population demand. Nearly 1.3 million housing units were built between 1959 and 1993. In the 1980s, over half of all housing units were detached houses. The remainder were apartments, palm huts called hohios, and cuarterias, housing units in buildings composed of a number of detached rooms where occupants share some or all facilities. More than half of all dwellings were concrete and brick, about one-third were solid wood, and a smaller number were constructed with palm planks. Water was piped indoors to roughly half of all homes and outside to one-fifth; about half had private bath facilities.
Housing conditions have generally improved over the past few years. By 1998, about 87% of urban dwellings were graded as good or fair, as were 68% of rural dwellings. From 1998–2001, some 800,212 housing conservation and rehabilitation projects were completed; about 51% were initiated by the government and 49% by residents.
Though most dwellings are built by the state, there are a few cooperative and individual concerns represented in the market. Habitat-Cuba, a nongovernment organization, has been working with local architects and low-income families to provide quality, low-cost housing. Part of this program involves using indigenous and more easily renewable materials for construction, such as clay and bamboo.
Education has been a high priority of the Castro government. In 1959 there were at least one million illiterates and many more were only semiliterate. An extensive literacy campaign was inaugurated in 1961, when 100,000 teachers went out into the countryside.
Education is free and compulsory for six years (6–11 years of age) of primary school. Basic secondary studies last for three years, after which students may then choose to pursue a three-year course of university prep studies or a three-year technical school course. The addition of agricultural and technical programs to the secondary-school curriculum was an innovation of the Castro government; the work-study principle is now integral to Cuban secondary education. Students in urban secondary schools must spend at least seven weeks annually in rural labor. The first junior high schools, based on the work-study concept, were introduced in 1968. Catholic parochial schools were nationalized in 1961.
In 2001, nearly all children between the ages of three and five were enrolled in some type of preschool program. Primary school enrollment in 2003 was estimated at about 95.7% of age-eligible students. The same year, secondary school enrollment was about 86% of age-eligible students. It is estimated that about 94% of all students complete their primary education. The student-to-teacher ratio for primary school was at about 11:1 in 2003; the ratio for secondary school was about 12:1.
Cuba has five universities: the University of Havana (founded 1728), Oriente University at Santiago de Cuba (1947), the University of Las Villas at Santa Clara (1952), University of Camagüey (1974), and the University of Pinar Del-Rio. Workers' improvement courses (superación obrera ), to raise adults to the sixth-grade level, and technical training schools (mínimo técnico ), to develop unskilled workers' potentials and retrain other workers for new jobs, were instituted after 1961. Special worker-farmer schools prepare workers and peasants for enrollment at the universities and for skilled positions in industrial and agricultural enterprises. In 2003, about 34% of the tertiary age population were enrolled in some type of higher education program. The adult literacy rate for 2004 was estimated at about 99.8%.
As of 2003, public expenditure on education was estimated at 9% of GDP, or 18.7% of total government expenditures.
The José Martí National Library in Havana, founded in 1901, had a collection of two million volumes in 2002. Besides acting as the National Library, it provides lending, reference, and children's services to the public. Other sizable collections in Havana are found at the Havana University Library (203,000 volumes), the Library of the Institute of Literature and Linguistics (1 million), the José Antonio Echevarría Library of the House of the Americas (150,000), and the University of the East in Santiago (535,000 volumes).
Although libraries of private institutions disappeared in the 1960s and many collections were transferred to the National Library, the number of special and research libraries increased, especially with the creation of many departments of the Academy of Sciences. A national library network was established by the Department of Libraries of the National Cultural Council.
The National Museum of Fine Arts in Havana contains classical and modern art from around the world as well as Cuban art from the colonial period to the present day. The Colonial Municipal Museum and the Felipe Poey Natural History Museum in Havana, the Bacardi Municipal Museum in Santiago, the Oscar Rojas Museum in Cárdenas, and the Ignacio Agramonte Museum in Camagüey are also noteworthy. There is a Naval Museum at Cienfuegos and a Museum of Archaeology in Sancti Spiritus.
All telephone service is free; about 95% of the telephones are automatic. In 2003, there were an estimated 51 mainline telephones for every 1,000 people. The same year, there were approximately two mobile phones in use for every 1,000 people.
As of 1999 there were 150 AM and 5 FM radio broadcasting stations and 58 television stations operating throughout the country. All stations are owned and operated by the government. In 2003, there were an estimated 185 radios and 251 television sets for every 1,000 people. The same year, there were 31.8 personal computers for every 1,000 people and 11 of every 1,000 people had access to the Internet. There was one secure Internet server in the country in 2004.
Like the radio and television stations, the press is entirely controlled and owned by the government. Cuba's major newspapers are all published in Havana and include Granma, established in 1965 (with an estimated 2002 circulation of 400,000) as the official organ of the Communist party. The party also publishes weekly editions in Spanish, English, and French. The weekly Juventud Rebelde is the publication of the Union of Young Communists, and had a 2002 circulation of 250,000.
Magazines published in Havana include Bohemia (weekly, 20,000, general articles and news) and Mujeres (monthly, 250,000, women's-interest news). Prensa Latina, the Cuban wire service, covers international affairs and distributes its coverage throughout Latin America.
The constitution states that print and electronic media are state property and cannot be made private. Media operate under strict guidelines and reflect government views. The government is said to intimidate journalists through the penal system and the threatening of jobs.
Most of the leading mass organizations in Cuba were founded shortly after the revolution. The Committees for the Defense of the Revolution were founded on 28 September 1960 to combat counterrevolutionary activities. The Federation of Cuban Women was established 23 August 1960. The National Association of Small Farmers, the leading peasants' organization, was established 17 May 1961; in 1989 it had 167,461 members, both private farmers and members of cooperatives. The Confederation of Cuban Workers, the principal trade union federation, antedates the revolution. Founded in 1939, it had a total membership of 3,060,838 workers in 1990.
The Union of Young Communists of Cuba (UJC), founded in 1962, has reported over 500,000 members. The Federation of Cuban University Students (FEU), founded in 1922, consists of students from all major universities, colleges, and secondary schools. There are a number of sports organizations in the country and an active organization of the Special Olympics.
There are national chapters of the Red Cross Society and Caritas.
Before 1959, tourism, especially from the United States, was a major source of revenue. Foreign tourism declined in the 1960s, and Cuba's ornate and expensive hotels were used mainly by visiting delegations of workers and students. Renewed emphasis on international tourism characterized the 1976–80 development plan, under which 25 new hotels were opened. The Cuban government actively promotes tourism as a means of offsetting the financial decline brought on by the collapse of the Soviet bloc.
Among Cuba's attractions are fine beaches; magnificent coral reefs, especially around the Isle of Youth; and historic sites in Old Havana (where some buildings date from the 17th century), Trinidad, and Santiago de Cuba. Passports and visas are required for nationals of countries that do not have visa-free agreements with Cuba. In June 1992, Cuba was admitted to the Caribbean Tourism Organization.
There were 1,905,682 foreign visitors who arrived in Cuba in 2003. Hotel rooms numbered 43,696 with 84,200 beds and a 62% occupancy rate. Tourism receipts reached $1.8 billion.
In 2004, the US Department of State estimated the cost of staying in Havana at $167 per day, and in Guantánamo Bay, $78 per day.
José Martí (1853–95), poet, journalist, and patriot, was the moving spirit behind the revolution that liberated Cuba from Spain. Antonio Maceo (1848–96), the mulatto general known as the "Titan of Bronze," became famous both as a guerrilla fighter and as an uncompromising advocate of independence. Carlos J. Finlay (1833–1915) gained lasting recognition for his theory regarding the transmission of yellow fever.
Cuban literature is most famous for its poetry and essays. The influential Afro-Cuban tradition has been explored by Cuban scholars, most notably by Fernando Ortiz (1881–1916), jurist and ethnographer. Another leading writer was José Antonio Saco (1797–1879), author of a six-volume history of slavery. Ernesto Lecuona (1896–1963) was a composer of popular music, and Juan José Sicre (1898–1974) is Cuba's outstanding sculptor.
The major heroes of the revolution against Batista are Fidel Castro Ruz (b.1926); his brother, Gen. Raúl Castro Ruz (b.1931); Argentine-born Ernesto "Che" Guevara (1928–67), who was killed while engaged in revolutionary activities in Bolivia; and Camilo Cienfuegos (d.1959). Cubans notable in literature include poet Nicolás Guillén (1902–89) and playwright and novelist Alejo Carpentier y Valmont (1904–80). Cuban-American writer Cristina Garcia (b.1958), made her debut as a novelist with Dreaming in Cuban (1992); she was a Guggenheim Fellow. Alicia Alonso (b.1921), a noted ballerina, founded the National Ballet of Cuba.
Cuba has no territories or colonies.
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