Site hosted by Angelfire.com: Build your free website today!

State

Capital

Cuba

Havana

Currency unit

Cuban peso/US$

Connections

Angola

Caribbean

Nuclear War

Spanish Empire

War

 Politics

 Economics

 Green

 Rights

 Climate

History

Cuba was Spain's second colony in the New World after it was visited by Christopher Columbus (Hispaniola - Dominican Republic was the first). It is the first area where the original inhabitants, the Caribs and Taino, were eliminated - an early example of genocide - and the first land where Africans were brought as slaves. The culture is thus a mixture of the Spanish and African, mainly Yoruba, influences. The Yoruba language can still be heard in music and the African variety of religion (Santeria) found in many American countries. The island was ruled by Britain for 11 months in 1762.

Cuba was the last Spanish colony in the Americas and was held by Spain until a war with the United States in 1898. At that time there was a small Spanish descended ruling group with a large, mainly African population.

US Dependency
Following the war with Spain (which also saw the Philippines become a US colony) Cuba was occupied by United States forces with the intention of incorporating Cuba into the US (as the small territory, Puerto Rico, was at the same time). Nominal "Independence" in 1902 was interrupted by several US interventions. The United States inserted a clause in the Cuban constitution, the Platt Amendment, giving the US the right to intervene whenever the US government thought it necessary. The US also limited the rights of Afro-Cubans by denying them the vote. From 1933 to 1959 Cuba shared with many other Latin American countries the political form of a US-supported dictator, Fulgencia Batista, a mafia-type figure similar to the leader of Nicaragua, Somoza. Batista was one of the earliest to be overthrown by revolutionaries.

The US still has a naval base at Guantanamo Bay acquired before the revolution. In theory it is leased from Cuba and a rent is paid, but the present Cuban government refuses to accept the rent on the grounds that it did not agree to the lease. Prisoners from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have been housed (and allegedly tortured) there since January 2002.

Revolution
The revolutionaries, who began as guerrillas in the mountains, came to power in 1959. Their leader turned out to be Fidel Castro, a lawyer who on gaining power declared that he was a Communist. He then set up a Cuban version of a Communist state. After blockade by the United States he became dependent on the Soviet Union's aid of oil, technical advisers, weapons and trade.

In 1961 an attempted United States-supported invasion by anti Castro forces at the Bay of Pigs failed.

In 1962 Cuba was the location of a crisis which brought the world close to nuclear war. The Soviet Union brought in intermediate range nuclear missiles which would have threatened the United States. President Kennedy's action in blockading Cuba and threatening to stop Soviet ships caused a worldwide fear of nuclear war. The crisis was resolved when the Soviet leader, Nikita Khrushchov withdrew the missiles (possibly leading to his own overthrow in 1964) in return for a US agreement not to invade and a promise to withdraw US missiles from Turkey.

Cuba supplied troops to fight the South African backed rebels in Angola, and Mozambique. Cuba also supplies medical aid to many countries.

Since then Cuba has been isolated from the United States and was financially dependent on the Soviet Union and other Communist countries, though with some contacts with Latin America, Canada and Europe. Relations with Spain are good (Castro's ancestral home is in Galicia). About 1 million Cubans are estimated to live in exile in Miami.

Since 1990 with the collapse of Communism in eastern Europe and the reforms in the Soviet Union Cuba has experienced serious economic difficulties but has not yet agreed to multi-party elections. Soviet aid came to an end with the collapse of the Soviet state. US pressure continues and Cuba could be considered one of the last two sites of the Cold War. (The other is Korea).

Since the election of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela Cuba has benefited from cheap oil from that country. In return Castro has sent medical personnel to help Venezuela provide better health services to ordinary people. Thus to some extent the serious economic problems are easing.

Languages

Spanish

Yoruba

 History

 Economics

 Green

 Rights

 Climate

Politics

Cuba has a one-party Communist government led from 1959 until 2008 by Fidel Castro, the charismatic leader of the original revolution. So far (1993) there have been no signs of Perestroika, though the Soviet Union has cut off the supplies of such essentials as cheap oil causing greater economic hardship. Castro has bought large numbers of bicycles and built ox carts.

It is difficult to tell how genuinely popular Castro is. A difference from the regimes in eastern Europe is that the Cuban revolution was indigenous and directed against the corrupt quasi Mafia regime in power before. Unlike in eastern Europe the regime was not installed or maintained by Soviet troops. The hatred of the United States by ordinary people, based on their past experience of American invasion and support for the previous regime, may add to the support for the present regime.

Large investments in education and health services have brought standards to the mass of people which were not available before the revolution, and are not found in other Latin American countries. Thus those who remember the conditions of the pre-revolutionary period are conscious of an improvement. However, younger people may desire further change which a single party can't provide.

Cuba is said to have lower levels of infant mortality than any other Central American country (and parts of the US). It is unlikely that Cubans would wish to see the US system of health imposed on them, so that only the well-off could afford health care.

There are large numbers of Cuban exiles settled in Florida, especially in Miami and Key West. If the Cuban communist regime comes to an end some of them can be expected to wish to go home and take part in politics. Cubans on the island may fear that any change will bring back the original US-supported type of mafia regime. No doubt if the regime falls everyone will prove to have been against it, even those who now support it.

Soviet style elections (one candidate, choice only of spoiling paper) were held on 25 February 1993 for a National Assembly. This might be a move towards democracy as hitherto the Assembly was "elected" by local government councils.

In October 2006 Fidel Castro fell ill and missed his 80th birthday celebrations. He handed over power to his brother Raoul "temporarily" but may be dying. In December 2007 he seemed to be saying that he may retire. 19 February 2008 he announced he would not be a candidate for president of the state council - head of state, elected by the new parliament. The US president (G W Bush) greeted this news as the "end of communism" and urged a "return to democracy" - though there has never been a recognisably democratic period in Cuba.

Many Cubans will fear that what he wants is for Cuba to return to American control, as existed before the Revolution.

There were elections for the national Assembly in January 2008 - though of a rather limited nature with candidates vetted.

What is likely to happen after Castro ceases to be president? Estimates of the future seem to depend on the party of the pundit. Americans expect economic and political collapse and a take over by US interests. Cubans and their allies expect some change but not radically. Time will tell.

Castro's slightly younger brother Raoul took over the presidency. So far his policy has slightly eased conditions by allowing more freedom to produce food on unused land and to buy and sell property (November 2011).

 History

 Politics

 Green

 Rights

 Climate

Economics

Before the revolution Cuba was dependent on the production of sugar for foreign exchange. This remained true until recently when the Sugar industry was mostly closed down. Previously the sugar was sold to the United States as part of the US sugar agreement. After, it was sold to the Soviet Union and other COMECON states for Soviet goods and subsidized oil. Sugar is a low value product, especially as Cuba does not have access to the United States market.

The other main pre-revolutionary economic activity was the kind of tourism that is now directed to Bangkok and Manila. The gambling and prostitution are believed to have been controlled by the organized criminal societies of the United States (see the film Godfather I).

When the Soviet Union ended it ceased to provide subsidized oil with a resulting shortage of fuel. Castro is reported to have ordered large numbers of bicycles and oxen were trained to replace tractors. There is also a large solar power program.

Dilemma
Cuba represents the problem that the achievement of social welfare for the majority of the people - education, health and pensions - has not been accompanied by the improvement of the productive economy which would pay for it. This may be partly due to imitating the Soviet economic system, and partly to the US trade embargo. Can Latin American countries achieve both social welfare and economic progress? Can it be done without dictatorship or without challenging the dominance of the United States? Chile has been praised (in the United States) for its economic progress under the dictatorship of Pinochet but at the cost of increasing the gap between the rich and the poor. The American model is increasingly unpopular in Latin America - as seen by the election of leaders like Evo Morales in Bolivia and Hugo Chavez in Venezuela.

Large plantation companies and military regimes tend to suppress social welfare by driving down wages; communism suppresses economic innovation; both suppress democracy. But where there is democracy in Latin America it is often corrupt. This is a dilemma also seen in Nicaragua where United States hostility was more effective than in Cuba. It reflects the general problem of how the so-called Third World can develop harmoniously without either dictatorship or US control. Nicaraguan experience suggests that even if the Cuban regime falls there will be no US aid. If this is true the post-Communist situation in Cuba would be similar to eastern Europe where foreign business has bought up most of the domestic companies.

Some market economy has been introduced (1993) which may be the beginning of a change. Legalization of dollar holding created a privileged group - those with access to dollars - though the legalization of dollars was cancelled in 2004. Some exiles in Miami have been sending dollars to their relatives.

Assistance from Venezuela is now replacing that from the former Soviet Union. This is vulnerable to a possible change of regime there if Hugo Chavez dies from the cancer he is being treated for in Cuba in 2011.

Most of the sugar industry has been closed down, as the government has realised it made hardly any profit. Possibly it might have a future as an energy industry, with ethanol as the salable product, as practiced in Brazil.

Cheap oil from Venezuela is easing some of the problems. Small scale private business is permitted - restaurants and smallholdings.

Tourism, mainly from Europe and Canada, is a major source of foreign currency.

The news of Castro's retirement (19 February 2008) seems to have aroused the hope of various money men in the US that they will "soon" be able to buy up much of Cuba. They have probably under-estimated the dislike of Cubans for the American behavior before the Revolution. But Cubans should not underestimate the irrational hatred of Cuba by right wing Americans.

There are reports that offshore oil has been discovered in Cuban water.

In August 2010 Raul Castro has announced the privatisation of many state-owned businesses. Is this the beginning of a policy of following China? Or even of the end of the Russian model?

 History

 Politics

 Economics

 Rights

 Climate

Green/Ecology

Shortage of oil and fertilisers has led to a policy of encouraging organic farming and solar energy.

The coasts might be suitable sites for Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion plants to produce non-carbon emitting energy, fresh water and mitigation of Hurricanes.

Cuba might become a carbon free energy exporter from OTEC, solar and sugar.

 History

 Politics

 Economics

 Green

 Climate

Human Rights

There are political prisoners, censorship of the media and political police.

Many of the political dissidents were expelled from the country to the United States.

There has been no freedom of travel until recently.

The chief achievement in human rights is said to be the ending of racism so that black Cubans have acquired rights they did not have before.

Climate effects

Danger of increased strength and frequency of destructive hurricanes.

Last revised 24/11/11


Caribbean


Americas


World Info


Home

Return to the top


Since 17/07/11

eXTReMe Tracker