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August 2015

Cuba

Cuba

Central America and the Caribbean

Central America and the Caribbean

The United States embassy has been reestablished in Havana, Cuba. Diplomatic relations between the two countries were severed in January 1961. Secretary of State John Kerry attended the flag raising ceremony on August 14th, 2015.

Cuba is the largest of the Caribbean islands; it is slightly smaller than Pennsylvania. Its capital, Havana (population 2.1 million), is less than 250 miles from Miami, Florida. After Christopher Columbus claimed the island for Spain in 1492, the native Amerindian population of Cuba declined. Large numbers of African enslaved people were brought to Cuba, to work the coffee and sugar plantations, as the colony developed. Most of the Spanish galleons brought their Mexican and Peruvian treasures through Havana on their way to Seville, Spain.

Spanish rule eventually provoked an independence movement and occasional rebellions that were harshly suppressed. US intervention during the Spanish-American War in 1898 assisted the Cubans in overthrowing Spanish rule. Subsequently, the 1901 Platt Amendment to the Cuban constitution authorized the US to intervene in Cuba in the event of instability. The Treaty of Paris established Cuban independence from the US in 1902. Fidel Castro led a rebel army to victory in 1959; he stepped down as president in February 2008 in favor of his younger brother Raul Castro.

Cuba's climate is tropical. The dry season runs from November to April; the rainy season runs from May to October. The country's terrain is mostly flat to rolling plains; the southeastern portion of the island has rugged hills and mountains. The highest point of the island is Pico Turquino (2005 m). Cuba is subject to hurricanes from August to November; the average is one hurricane every other year. Cuba's natural resources include: cobalt, nickel, iron ore, chromium, copper, salt, timber, silica, and petroleum. The estimated population is a little over 11 million people.

The Republic of Cuba is a Communist state. It has 15 provinces and one special municipality. Its civil law system is based on the Spanish civil code. Universal suffrage is 16 years old. President and vice presidents are elected by the National Assembly for a five-year term. The last election was held on 24 February 2013; the next will be held in 2018.

CIA World Factbook; White House, 8/2015; 8/2015

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