The Republic of Cuba' (Spanish: Cuba or República de Cuba), consists of the island of Cuba (the largest and second-most populous island of the Greater Antilles), Isla de la Juventud and several adjacent small islands. Cuba is located in the northern Caribbean at the confluence of the Caribbean Sea, the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. Cuba is south of the eastern United States and The Bahamas, west of the Turks and Caicos Islands and Haiti and east of Mexico. The Cayman Islands and Jamaica are to the south. The national flower is the "flor de mariposa" (Butterfly Flower) and the national bird is the Tocororo or Cuban Trogon.
Cuba is the most populous insular nation in the Caribbean. Its people, culture and customs draw from several 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. The name "Cuba" comes from the Taíno language the exact meaning of which is unclear, but may be translated either "where fertile land is abundant" (cubao) or "great place" (coabana). The island has a tropical climate that is moderated by the surrounding waters; however, the warm temperatures of the Caribbean Sea and the fact that the island of Cuba sits across the access to the Gulf of Mexico combine to make Cuba prone to frequent hurricanes. Cuba's main island, at 766 miles (1,233 km) long, is the world's 17th largest.
Before Cuba was conquered by the Spaniards, the three tribes living on the island were the Taínos, the Ciboneys, and the Guanajatabeyes. The Taínos were the largest of the three tribes. They farmed crops such as beans, corn, squash, and yams. The Taínos also slept in hammocks which the Spaniards would introduce to the rest of the world. Then, in 1492, Christopher Columbus arrived in Cuba on his first trip to the Americas. Three years later he claimed the islands for the Spanish crown.
After the discovery of Cuba in 1492, Cuba, discovered in 1492, becomes a Spanish colony in 1511. The Spanish brought thousands of slaves from Africa to Cuba to work for them. Most of the native Cubans died because of the new diseases brought by the Spanish and Africans. The Spanish also treated the native Cubans very cruelly and massacred many of them. Between 1762 and 1763 Cuba was temporarily occupied by the United Kingdom.
In 1868 the Cubans declared their independence from Spain. Cuba is for a time ruled by the Partido Revolucionaro Cubano (Cuban Revolutionary Party, PRC), but their independence is not recognized by Spain and the international community, and ends in 1878 with Spain regaining control over Cuba. A revolution in 1895 is followed by the Spanish-American War, in which Spain is defeated following the intervention by the United States on the side of Cuba.
Spain ceded the colonial authority in 1899 to the United States, and in 1902 the island became an independent state as the Republic of Cuba. The first president is Tomás Estrada Palma of the conservative Partido Moderato (Moderate Party) (1902-1906). His reelection in 1906 by the conservatives leads to a revolt of the Partido Liberal (PL) under José Miguel Gómez. This revolt triggers an U.S. intervention and his own successful election in 1909. As most Cuban president his administration was marred by corrupt practices. In 1913 he was succeeded by Mario Garcia Menocal of the Partido Conservador (Conservative Party, PC). Menocal is reelected in 1916. This result was challenged by the Liberals and Gómez lead an unsuccessful revolt against his regime.
Alfredo Zayas y Alfonso of the conservative Partido Popular Cubano/Liga Nacional (Cuban Popular Party/National League, PPC/LN) became president after the elections of 1920 with the support of the conservatives against his former co-partisan Gómez. The election was denounced as fraudulent and the United States intervene to prevent civil war. Zayas' government was criticized as weak, wasteful, and corrupt. In 1924 Gerardo Machado y Morales of the only in name liberal PL is elected. His government becomes increasingly dictatorial. Machado is overthrown in 1933 and Carlos Manuel de Céspedes y Quesada of the ABC Sociedad Revolucionaria (ABC Revolutionary Society) becomes provisional president. He is forced to resign after a coup by a student junta supporting Ramón Grau San Martín.
Grau became president in 1933, but he was removed from office by a coup d'état in 1934 led by Fulgencio Batista y Zaldívar. Batista maintained power as a military dictator, without becoming president himself. He brought to the presidency Carlos Mendieta y Montefur (1934-1935), José Agripino Barnet y Vinageras (1935-1936), Miguel Mariano Gómez y Arias (1936) and Federico Laredo Brú of the Unión Nacional (National Union, UN). In 1940 Batista, the ticket of the Coalicion Socialista Democratico (Socialist Democratic Coalition, CSD), won the election against the candidate of the PRC-Auténtico (Authentic PRC), Grau. Grau won the election of 1944 and became president. In 1948 the PRC-A candidate Carlos Prío Socarrás won the elections. Batista ousted Prío in 1952 in a second coup d'état and establishes a dictatorship. The presidential elections of 1954 are only democratic façade, and Batista's dictatorial rule fuels increasing popular discontent and the rise of many active urban and rural resistance groups.
In 1959, Fidel Castro led a revolution against Fulgencio Batista. Castro took power of Cuba with fellow revolutionaries Raúl Castro, Che Guevara and others who fought against Batista. He founded the Organizaciones Revolucionarias Integradas (Integrated Revolutionary Organizations, ORI) as the sole allowed party. the ORI is renamed as Partido Comunista Cubano (Cuban Communist Party, PCC) in 1965. Castro made many changes to Cuba, including the nationalization of private property and businesses, totaling about $25 billion U.S. dollars and, particularly, U.S.-owned companies (to an excess of 1960 value of US $1.0 billions). This aroused immediate hostility within the Eisenhower administration. Anti-Castro Cubans began to leave their country in great numbers and formed a burgeoning expatriate community in Miami that was opposed to the Castro government.
In 1961, John F. Kennedy became President of the United States. He supported the failed Bay of Pigs invasion, which led to closer ties between Cuba and the Soviet Union. One immediate strategic result of the Cuban-Soviet alliance was the decision to place Soviet medium-range and intermediate-range ballistic missiles in Cuba. This precipitated the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. The Kennedy administration, confronted with a next-door nuclear threat from the Soviet Union, denounced the missiles at the United Nations and demanded their immediate withdrawal. The idea to place missiles in Cuba was brought up either by Castro or Khrushchev, but agreed by the USSR for the reason that the U.S. had their nuclear missiles placed in Turkey and the Middle East. With minutes to go until the Soviet ships carrying a further shipment of missiles reached a United States Navy blockade (which was referred to as a "quarantine," as blockades are acts of war), the Soviets backed down, and made a agreement with Kennedy in which all missiles were to be withdrawn from Cuba and the U.S. would secretly remove its missiles from Turkey and elsewhere in the Middle East within a few months. Kennedy also agreed not to invade Cuba in the future.
Cuba became a communist-led one-party state aligned with the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union bought most of Cuba’s sugar for expensive prices. Cuba spent this money on expanding health care, education and its armed forces. While Cuba’s schools and hospitals became osome of the best in the third world, the armed fought in Africa to support black Africans against the white South African army. Cuba also supported groups in South America fighting against right-wing dictators suppored by the West, and the United States in particular.
However, the Cuban government began to control most of life in Cuba under the communist system. Disagreeing with the Cuban government and Fidel Castro in public was not allowed. Some Cubans did not like this and tried to leave Cuba. Most Cubans who left went to America. Some Cubans who did not like the government and stayed were put in jail. Many groups from around the world protested against Cuba's violation of human rights, and demanded that Fidel Castro gave up power.
Post Cold War Cuba
The fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 dealt Cuba a giant economic blow. It led to another unregulated exodus of asylum seekers to the United States in 1994, but was eventually slowed to a trickle of a few thousand a year by the U.S.-Cuban accords. It again increased in 2004-06 although at a far slower rate than before.
Castro's popularity, which is difficult to assess, was severely tested by the aftermath of the Soviet collapse (a time known in Cuba as the Special Period). The loss of the nearly five billion US Dollars, which the Soviet government provided the Cuban government in aid in the form of a guaranteed export market for Cuban sugar and cheap oil, had a significant impact on the country's economy.
As in all Communist countries, the collapse of the Soviet Union caused a crisis in confidence for those who believed that the Soviet Union was successfully “building socialism” and providing a model that other countries should follow. However, this event, even combined with a tightening of the embargo by the US government, was insufficient to undermine the Communist society of Cuba. There were numerous popular uprisings in the early 1990s, the most notable of which was the "Maleconazo" of 1994. By the later 1990s the situation in the country had stabilized.
By then Cuba had more or less normal economic relations with most Latin American countries and had improved relations with the European Union, which began providing aid and loans to the island. Communist China also emerged as a new source of aid and support, even though Cuba had sided with the Soviets during the Sino-Soviet split of the 1960s. Cuba also found new allies in President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela and President Evo Morales of Bolivia, both major oil and gas exporters.
Normalisation of relations with the United States
In 2001, John S. McCain became President of the United States. Unlike his predecessors, McCain supported the normalizing of relations with Cuba, even if Fidel Castro remained in power, provided that the Cuban government did certain things to democratize Cuba. McCain compared the situation to normalizing relations with Vietnam.
Following negotiations between the McCain administration and Castro between 2001 and 2002, an agreement was reached in October 2002, which stated that the U.S. would at first soften up their embargo on Cuba if the Cuban government allowed to hold free elections, release political prisoners, legalize political parties and labor unions, allow freedom of speech and loosen up travel restrictions for Cubans.
In early 2003 Castro allowed ordinary citizens to buy DVD-players, PC's, cellular phones, scooters and other energy-consuming products. He also signed two United Nations human rights agreements and freed many prisoners. In April 2003 he allowed a partial freedom of speech and loosened up travel restrictions for Cubans, and on May 10, Castro decriminalized parties from campaigning or engaging in any public political activities on Cuba.
As a result, President McCain announced that certain elements of the embargo would be lifted on June 14, 2003, which meant that some U.S. corporations would be allowed to do business with Cuba for the first time in over 40 years. On August 11, 2003 President McCain announced the formal normalization of diplomatic relations with Cuba, after a 40-year hiatus of severed ties. Subsequent to President McCain's normalization announcement, in August 2003, both nations upgraded their Liaison Offices opened during May 2003 to embassy status. As diplomatic ties between the nations grew, the United States opened a consulate general in Santiago de Cuba, and Cuba opened a consulate in San Francisco.
U.S. relations with Cuba have become deeper and more diverse in the years since political normalization. The two countries have broadened their political exchanges through regular dialogues on human rights and regional security. The annual Bilateral Human Rights Dialogue resumed in 2006 after a two-year hiatus. They signed a Bilateral Trade Agreement in July 2000, which went into force in December 2007. While politically still close to Venezuela, Bolivia and Russia, the relations has continued to grow, albeit slowly, since then.
McCain's normalization process has been praised by countries in South and Central America, Europe and Asia, as well as most Americans (in Congress mainly by Democrats and moderate Republicans), while being criticized by some conservative Republicans.
Politics of Cuba
The Government of Cuba takes place in a framework of a Socialist representative semi-presidential representative republic as established in the Cuban Constitution of 2005. Cuba is a semi-presidential republic, wherein the President is the head of state and the Prime Minister is the head of government. The Russian Federation is fundamentally structured as a representative democracy.
The Cuban government is composed of three branches:
- Legislative: Cuba's national legislature, the National Assembly of People's Power (Asamblea Nacional de Poder Popular), is the supreme organ of power and has 609 members who serve five-year terms. It adopts national law, declares war, approves treaties, has the power of the purse, and has power of impeachment, by which it can remove the President. The assembly meets twice a year, between sessions legislative power is held by the 31 member Council of Ministers. Candidates for the Assembly are approved by public referendum.
- Executive: The President of the Council of State (President of Cuba), which is elected by the National Assembly of People's Power. He is the commander-in-chief of the military, can veto legislative bills before they become law, and appoints the Cabinet and other officers, who administer and enforce federal laws and policies.
- Judiciary: The Supreme Court of Cuba, whose judges are appointed by the National Council on the recommendation of the president, interpret laws and can overturn laws they deem unconstitutional. It is also the court of last resort for all appeals from convictions in provincial courts.
All Cuban citizens over 16 who have not been found guilty of a criminal offense can vote. Article 131 of the Constitution states that voting shall be "through free, equal and secret vote". Article 136 states: "In order for deputies or delegates to be considered elected they must get more than half the number of valid votes cast in the electoral districts". Votes are cast by secret ballot and counted in public view. Individual vote totals, which are invariably high, are not verified by non-partisan, independent, or non-state organs and observers. Nominees are chosen at local gatherings from multiple candidates before gaining approval from election committees. In the subsequent election, there is one candidate for each seat, who must gain a majority to be elected.
The president is elected by popular vote for five year terms, and there is no limit to the number of terms of office. Elections were last held on February 12, 2008. Ministries of the government are composed of the premier and his deputies, ministers, and selected other individuals; all are appointed by the president on the recommendation of the Prime Minister (whereas the appointment of the latter requires the consent of the National Assembly). National Assembly of People's Power (Asamblea Nacional de Poder Popular) is the supreme organ of power and has 609 members who serve five-year terms.
Leading political parties in Cuba include the Communist Party, Christian Democratic Party (Partido Demócrata Cristiano de Cuba), Democratic Social-Revolutionary Party (Partido Social-Revolucionario Democrático de Cuba) and the Democratic Solidarity Party (Partido Solidaridad Democrática).