The Republic of Cuba is an island country in the Caribbean. It consists of the island of Cuba, the Isla de la Juventud, and several archipelagos. Havana is the largest city in Cuba and the country's capital. Santiago de Cuba is the second largest city.Cuba is home to over 11 million people and is the most populous insular nation in the Caribbean. Its people, culture, and customs draw from diverse sources, including the aboriginal Taíno and Ciboney peoples; the period of Spanish colonialism; the introduction of African slaves; and its proximity to the United States.
Cuba is an archipelago of islands located in the northern Caribbean Sea at the confluence with the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. The United States lies to the north-west, the Bahamas to the north, Haiti to the east, Jamaica and the Cayman Islands to the south, and Mexico to the west. Cuba is the principal island, surrounded by four smaller groups of islands: the Colorados Archipelago on the northwestern coast, the Sabana-Camagüey Archipelago on the north-central Atlantic coast, the Jardines de la Reina on the south-central coast and the Canarreos Archipelago on the southwestern coast. The main island is 766 km (476 mi) long, constituting most of the nation's land area (105,006 km2 (40,543 sq mi)) and is the sixteenth-largest island in the world by land area. The main island consists mostly of flat to rolling plains apart from the Sierra Maestra mountains in the southeast, whose highest point is Pico Turquino (1,975 m (6,480 ft)). The second largest island is Isla de la Juventud (Isle of Youth) in the Canarreos archipelago, with an area of 3,056 km2 (1,180 sq mi). Cuba has a total land area of 110,860 km2 (42,803 sq mi).
The local climate is tropical, though moderated by northeasterly trade winds that blow year-round. In general , there is a drier season from November to April, and a rainier season from May to October. The average temperature is 21 °C (70 °F) in January and 27 °C (81 °F) in July. The warm temperatures of the Caribbean Sea and the fact that Cuba sits across the entrance to the Gulf of Mexico combine to make the country prone to frequent hurricanes. These are most common in September and October.
The most important mineral resource is nickel, of which Cuba has the world's second largest reserves after Russia. A Canadian energy company operates a large nickel mining facility in Moa. Cuba is also the world's fifth largest producer of refined cobalt, a byproduct of nickel mining operations. Recent oil exploration has revealed that the North Cuba Basin could produce approximately 4.6 billion barrels (730,000,000 m3) to 9.3 billion barrels (1.48×109 m3) of oil. In 2006, Cuba started to test-drill these locations for possible exploitation.
Prior to the arrival of the Spanish, the island was inhabited by Native American peoples known as the Taíno and Ciboney whose ancestors migrated from the mainland of North, Central and South America several centuries earlier. The Taíno were farmers and the Ciboney were farmers and hunter-gatherers; some have suggested that copper trade was significant and mainland artifacts have been found.
On October 12, 1492, Christopher Columbus landed near what is now Baracoa, claimed the island for the new Kingdom of Spain, and named Isla Juana after Juan, Prince of Asturias. In 1511 the first Spanish settlement was founded by Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar at Baracoa; other towns soon followed including the future capital, San Cristobal de la Habana founded in 1515. The Spanish enslaved the approximately 100,000 indigenous people who resisted conversion to Christianity, setting them primarily to the task of searching for gold, and within a century European infectious diseases had virtually wiped out the indigenous people.
Cuba remained a Spanish possession for almost 400 years (1511–1898), with an economy based on plantations agriculture, mining and the export of sugar, coffee and tobacco to Europe and later to North America. The work was done primarily by African slaves brought to the island when the British owned it in 1762. The small land-owning elite of Spanish settlers held social and economic power, supported by a population of Spaniards born on the island , other Europeans, and African-descended slaves. In the 1820s, when the rest of Spain's empire in Latin America rebelled and formed independent states, Cuba remained loyal, although there was some agitation for independence, leading the Spanish Crown to give it the motto "La Siempre Fidelísima Isla" . This loyalty was due partly to Cuban settlers' dependence on Spain for trade, protection from pirates, protection against a slave rebellion and partly because they feared the rising power of the United States more than they disliked Spanish rule.
Independence from Spain was the motive for a rebellion in 1868 led by Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, resulting in a prolonged conflict known as the Ten Years' War. The U.S. declined to recognize the new Cuban government, though many European and Latin American nations had done so. In 1878 the Pact of Zanjón ended the conflict, with Spain promising greater autonomy to Cuba. In 1879–1880, Cuban patriot Calixto Garcia attempted to start another war, known as the Little War, but received little support. Slavery was abolished in 1886, although the African-descended minority remained socially and economically oppressed. During this period, rural poverty in Spain provoked by the Spanish Revolution of 1868 and its aftermath led to increased Spanish emigration to Cuba. During the 1890s pro-independence agitation was revived in part by resentment of the restrictions imposed on Cuban trade by Spain and hostility to Spain's increasingly oppressive and incompetent administration of Cuba. Few of Spain's promises for economic reform in the Pact of Zanjón were kept.
In 1892, an exiled dissident, José Martí, founded the Cuban Revolutionary Party in New York, with the aim of achieving Cuban independence. In January 1895, Martí travelled to Montecristi, Santo Domingo to join the efforts of Máximo Gómez. Martí wrote down his political views in the Manifesto of Montecristi. Fighting against the Spanish army began in Cuba on 24 February 1895, but Marti was unable to reach Cuba until 11 April 1895. Marti was killed on 19 May 1895, in the battle of Dos Rios. His death immortalized him and he has become Cuba's national hero. Around 200,000 Spanish troops outnumbered the much smaller rebel army which relied mostly on guerrilla and sabotage tactics. The Spaniards began a campaign of suppression. General Valeriano Weyler, military governor of Cuba, herded the rural population into what he called reconcentrados, described by international observers as "fortified towns". These are often considered the prototype for 20th century concentration camps. Between 200,000 and 400,000 Cuban civilians died from starvation and disease in the camps, numbers verified by the Red Cross and U.S. Senator Redfield Proctor. U.S. and European protests against Spanish conduct on the island followed.
The U.S. battleship Maine arrived in Havana on 25 January 1898 to offer protection to the 8,000 American residents on the island; but the Spanish saw this as intimidation. On the evening of 15 February 1898, the Maine blew up in the harbor, killing 252 crew that night; another 8 died of their wounds in hospital over the next few days. A Naval Board of Inquiry, headed by Captain William Sampson, was appointed to investigate the cause of the explosion on the Maine. Having examined the wreck and taken testimony from eyewitnesses and experts, the board reported on 21 March 1898, that the Maine had been destroyed by "a double magazine set off from the exterior of the ship, which could only have been produced by a mine". The facts remain disputed today, although an investigation by Admiral Hyman G. Rickover in 1976 established that the blast was most likely a large internal explosion, caused by spontaneous combustion in inadequately ventilated bituminous coal which ignited gunpowder in an adjacent magazine. The board was unable to fix the responsibility for the disaster, but a furious American populace, fueled by an active press—notably the newspapers of William Randolph Hearst—concluded that the Spanish were to blame amd demanded action. The U.S. Congress passed a resolution calling for intervention and President William McKinley complied. Spain and the United States declared war on each other in late April.
After the Spanish-American War, Spain and the United States signed the Treaty of Paris (1898), by which Puerto Rico, the Philippines, and Guam were ceded to the U.S. for the sum of $20 million. Under the same treaty Spain relinquished all claim of sovereignty over the title to Cuba. Theodore Roosevelt, who had fought in the Spanish-American War and had some sympathies with the independence movement, succeeded McKinley as U.S. President in 1901 and abandoned the 20-year treaty proposal. Instead, Cuba gained formal independence from the United States on May 20, 1902 as the Republic of Cuba. Under the new constitution, however, the U.S. retained the right to intervene in Cuban affairs and to supervise its finances and foreign relations. Under the Platt Amendment, the U.S. leased the Guantánamo Bay naval base from Cuba.
In 1906, following disputed elections, the first president, Tomás Estrada Palma, faced an armed revolt by independence war veterans who defeated the meager government forces. The U.S. intervened by occupying Cuba and named Charles Edward Magoon as Governor for three years. For many years afterwards, Cuban historians attributed Magoon's governorship as having introduced political and social corruption. In 1908 self-government was restored when José Miguel Gómez was elected President, but the U.S. continued intervening in Cuban affairs. In 1912 the Partido Independiente de Color attempted to establish a separate black republic in Oriente Province, but were suppressed by General Monteagudo with considerable bloodshed.
During World War I, Cuba shipped considerable quantities of sugar to Britain, avoiding U-boat attack, by the subterfuge of shipping sugar to Sweden. The Menocal government declared war on Germany very soon after the U.S. did.
Despite frequent outbreaks of disorder, constitutional government was maintained until 1930, when Gerardo Machado y Morales suspended the constitution. During Machado's tenure, a nationalistic economic program was pursued with several major national development projects undertaken, including Carretera Central and El Capitolio. Machado's hold on power was weakened following a decline in demand for exported agricultural produce due to the Great Depression, and to attacks first by independence war veterans, and later by covert terrorist organizations, principally the ABC.
During a general strike in which the Communist Party took the side of Machado the senior elements of the Cuban army forced Machado into exile and installed Carlos Manuel de Céspedes y Quesada, son of Cuba's founding father , as President. During September 4–5, 1933 a second coup overthrew Céspedes, leading to the formation of the first Ramón Grau government. Notable events in this violent period include the separate sieges of Hotel Nacional de Cuba and Atares Castle. This government lasted 100 days but engineered radical socialistic changes in Cuban society and a rejection of the Platt amendment. In 1934 Fulgencio Batista and the army replaced Grau with Carlos Mendieta.
Batista was finally elected as President democratically in the elections of 1940,[ and his administration carried out major social reforms. Several members of the Communist Party held office under his administration. Batista's administration formally took Cuba to the Allies of World War II camp in the World War II, declaring war on Japan on December 9, 1941, then on Germany and Italy on December 11, 1941. Cuba was not greatly involved in combat during World War II.
Ramón Grau won the 1944 elections. Carlos Prío Socarrás won the 1948 elections. The influx of investment fueled a boom which did much to raise living standards across the board and create a prosperous middle class in most urban areas, although the gap between rich and poor became wider and more obvious.
The 1952 election was a three-way race. Roberto Agramonte of the Ortodoxos party led in all the polls, followed by Dr Aurelio Hevia of the Auténtico party, and running a distant third was Batista, seeking a return to office. Both Agramonte and Hevia had decided to name Col. Ramón Barquín to head the Cuban armed forces after the elections. Barquín, then a diplomat in Washington, DC, was a top officer who commanded the respect of the professional army and had promised to eliminate corruption in the ranks. Batista feared that Barquín would oust him and his followers, and when it became apparent that Batista had little chance of winning, he staged a coup on March 10, 1952 and held power with the backing of a nationalist section of the army as a "provisional president" for the next two years. Justo Carrillo told Barquín in Washington in March 1952 that the inner circles knew that Batista had aimed the coup at him; they immediately began to conspire to oust Batista and restore democracy and civilian government in what was later dubbed La Conspiracion de los Puros de 1956 . In 1954 Batista agreed to elections. The Partido Auténtico put forward ex-President Grau as their candidate, but he withdrew amid allegations that Batista was rigging the elections in advance.
In April 1956 Batista had given the orders for Barquín to become General and chief of the army. But Barquin decided to move forward with his coup and secure total power. On April 4, 1956 a coup by hundreds of career officers led by Col. Barquín was frustrated by Rios Morejon. The coup broke the backbone of the Cuban armed forces. The officers were sentenced to the maximum terms allowed by Cuban Martial Law. Barquín was sentenced to solitary confinement for eight years. La Conspiración de los Puros resulted in the imprisonment of the commanders of the armed forces and the closing of the military academies.
Cuba had Latin America's highest per capita consumption rates of meat, vegetables, cereals, automobiles, telephones and radios. In 1958, Cuba was a relatively well-advanced country, certainly by Latin American standards, and in some cases by world standards.Cuban's workers enjoyed some of the highest wages in the world. Cuba attracted more immigrants, primarily from Europe, as a percentage of population than the US. The United Nations noted Cuba for its large middle class. On the other hand, Cuba was affected by perhaps the largest labor union privileges in Latin America, including bans on dismissals and mechanization. They were obtained in large measure "at the cost of the unemployed and the peasants", leading to disparities. Between 1933 and 1958, Cuba extended economic regulations enormously, causing economic problems. Unemployment became relatively large; graduates entering the workforce could not find jobs. The middle class, which compared Cuba to the United States, became increasingly dissatisfied with the unemployment, while labor unions supported Batista until the very end.
The United States government imposed an arms embargo on the Cuban government on March 14, 1958. On December 2, 1956 a party of 82 people, led by Fidel Castro, had landed with the intention of establishing an armed resistance movement in the Sierra Maestra. By late 1958 they had broken out of the Sierra Maestra and launched a general insurrection, joined by various people. When the group captured Santa Clara, Batista fled the country to exile in Portugal. Barquín negotiated the symbolic change of command between Camilo Cienfuegos, Che Guevara, Raul Castro and his brother Fidel Castro, after the Supreme Court decided that the Revolution was the source of law and its representative should assume command. Castro's forces entered the capital on January 8, 1959. Shortly afterwards, a liberal lawyer, Dr Manuel Urrutia Lleó became president; he was backed by Castro's 26th of July Movement, because they believed his appointment would be welcomed by the United States. Disagreements within the government culminated in Urrutia's resignation in July 1959; he was replaced by Osvaldo Dorticós, who served as president until 1976. Castro became prime minister in February 1959, succeeding José Miró in that post.
Fidel Castro became prime minister of Cuba in February 1959. In its first year, the new revolutionary government expropriated private property with little or no compensation, nationalised public utilities, tightened controls on the private sector and closed down the mafia-controlled gambling industry. The CIA conspired with the Chicago mafia in 1960 and 1961 to assassinate Fidel Castro, according to documents declassified in 2007.
Some of these measures were undertaken by Fidel Castro's government in the name of the program outlined in the Manifesto of the Sierra Maestra, while in the Sierra Maestra. The government nationalized private property totaling about $25 billion US dollars, out of which American property made up only over US $1.0 billions.
By the end of 1960, all opposition newspapers had been closed down, and all radio and television stations were in state control. Moderates, teachers and professors were purged. In any year, about 20,000 dissenters were held and tortured under inhuman prison conditions.Groups such as homosexuals were locked up in internment camps in the 1960s, where they were subject to medical-political "re-education". One estimate is that 15,000 to 17,000 people were executed. The Communist Party strengthened its one-party rule, with Castro as supreme leader. Fidel's brother, Raul Castro, became the army chief. Loyalty to Castro became the primary criteria for all appointments. In September 1960, the regime created a system known as Committees for the Defense of the Revolution , which provided neighborhood spying. In the 1961 New Year's Day parade, the administration exhibited Soviet tanks and other weapons.Eventually, the tiny island nation built up the second largest armed forces in Latin America, second only to Brazil. Cuba became a privileged client-state of the Soviet Union.
By 1961, hundreds of thousands of Cubans had left for the United States. The 1961 Bay of Pigs Invasion was an unsuccessful attempt to overthrow the Cuban government by a U.S.-trained force of Cuban exiles with U.S. military support. The plan was launched in April 1961, less than three months after John F. Kennedy became the U.S. President. The Cuban armed forces, trained and equipped by Eastern Bloc nations, defeated the exiles in three days. The bad Cuban-American relations were exacerbated the following year by the Cuban Missile Crisis, when the Kennedy administration demanded the immediate withdrawal of Soviet missiles placed in Cuba, which was a response to U.S. nuclear missiles in Turkey and the Middle East. The Soviets and Americans soon agreed on the removal of Soviet missiles from Cuba and American missiles secretly from Turkey and the Middle East within a few months. Kennedy also agreed not to invade Cuba in the future. Cuban exiles captured during the Bay of Pigs Invasion were exchanged for a shipment of supplies from America. By 1963, Cuba was moving towards a full-fledged Communist system modeled on the USSR. The U.S. imposed a complete diplomatic and commercial embargo on Cuba and began Operation Mongoose.
In 1965, Castro merged his revolutionary organizations with the Communist Party, of which he became First Secretary, and Blas Roca became Second Secretary. Roca was succeeded by Raúl Castro, who, as Defense Minister and Fidel's closest confidant, became and has remained the second most powerful figure in Cuba. Raúl's position was strengthened by the departure of Che Guevara to launch unsuccessful insurrectionss in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and then Bolivia, where he was killed in 1967.
During the 1970s, Castro dispatched tens of thousands troops in support of Soviet-supported wars in Africa, particularly the MPLA in Angola and Mengistu Haile Mariam in Ethiopia. The standard of living in 1970s was "extremely spartan" and discontent was rife. Fidel Castro admitted the failures of economic policies in a 1970 speech. By the mid-1970s, Castro started economic reforms.
Cuba was expelled from the Organization of American States in 1962 in support of the U.S. embargo, but in 1975 the OAS lifted all sanctions against Cuba and both Mexico and Canada broke ranks with the US by developing closer relations with Cuba. On 3 June 2009 the OAS adopted a contentious resolution to end the 47-year exclusion of Cuba, but the U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton walked out in protest as the resolution was being drafted. Cuban leaders have repeatedly announced they are not interested in rejoining the OAS.
As of 2002, some 1.2 million persons of Cuban background (about 10% of the current population of Cuba) reside in the U.S., Many of them left the island for the U.S., often by sea in small boats and fragile rafts. On 6 April 1980, 10,000 Cubans stormed the Peruvian embassy in Havana seeking political asylum. The following day, the Cuban government granted permission for the emigration of Cubans seeking refuge in the Peruvian embassy. On 16 April, 500 Cubans left the Peruvian Embassy for Costa Rica. On 21 April, many of those Cubans started arriving in Miami via private boats and were halted by the U.S. State Department, but the emigration continued, because Castro allowed anyone who desired to leave the country to do so through the port of Mariel. Over 125,000 Cubans emigrated to the U.S. before the flow of vessels ended on 15 June.
Castro's rule was severely tested in the aftermath of the Soviet collapse . The food shortages were similar to North Korea; priority was given to the elite classes and the military, while ordinary people had little to eat. The regime did not accept American donations of food, medicines and cash until 1993. On 5 August 1994, state security dispersed protesters in a spontaneous popular uprising in Havana.
Cuba has found a new source of aid and support in the People's Republic of China, and new allies in Hugo Chávez, President of Venezuela and Evo Morales, President of Bolivia, both major oil and gas exporters. In 2003, the regime arrested and imprisoned a large number of civil activists, a period known as the "Black Spring".
On July 31, 2006 Fidel Castro temporarily delegated his major duties to his brother, First Vice President, Raúl Castro, while Fidel recovered from surgery for an "acute intestinal crisis with sustained bleeding". On 2 December 2006, Fidel was too ill to attend the 50th anniversary commemoration of the Granma boat landing, fuelling speculation that he had stomach cancer, although there was evidence his illness was a digestive problem and not terminal.
In January 2008, footage was released of Fidel meeting Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez, in which Castro "appeared frail but stronger than three months ago". In February 2008 Fidel announced his resignation as President of Cuba, and on 24 February Raúl was elected as the new President. In his acceptance speech, Raúl promised that some of the restrictions that limit Cubans' daily lives would be removed. In March 2009, Raúl Castro purged some of Fidel's officials.