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 CUBA :KEY FACTS

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Nombre de messages : 8069
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Date d'inscription : 28/05/2005

12122006
MessageCUBA :KEY FACTS

CUBA :KEY FACTS

Cuba is the largest island in the Caribbean, 144km (90 miles) from the shores of the United States.

It was home to the Taino and Ciboney peoples before they were wiped out following the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1492 and the ensuing Spanish Conquest.

The island became an important asset for Spain, which brought in African slaves to work the coffee and sugar plantations.

A series of strongmen held power in the years that followed independence in 1902, including two-time coup leader Fulgencio Batista.

Batista fled Cuba after an insurgency by nationalist rebels, including Fidel Castro, took Havana on 1 January 1959. Castro went on to become president in a single-party state.

Relations with the US have been openly antagonistic, with crises ranging from the failed Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961 and the 1962 Cuban missile crisis to the 2000 custody battle over five-year-old refugee Elian Gonzalez.
After the revolution, Fidel Castro aligned Cuba with the Soviet Union and declared the island a Socialist republic.

Mr Castro consolidated power, changing the constitution and becoming president in 1976. About 70% of Cubans have known no other leader.

His control is felt in nearly all aspects of Cuban life through the Communist Party and its affiliated organisations, government bureaucracy and the state security apparatus.

Raul Castro has remained a close confident and is his brother's immediate successor - temporarily taking the reins for the first time in 2006.

The authorities crack down on political dissent and illegal migration to the US is a continuing problem.

Fidel Castro's Soviet alliance brought trade with the Communist bloc and annual subsidies of up to $6bn.

It also brought a commercial, economic and financial embargo by the US.

The embargo and the Soviet collapse in 1989, led to recession and the start of what Mr Castro termed a 'Special Period' of austerity.

Cuba says the embargo - repeatedly condemned by the UN - has cost it billions of dollars and led to shortages of food, medicines and goods.

The island relies heavily on tourism and nickel exports but is attracting non-US investment which has helped boost economic growth.


Imports and exports


Despite its economic difficulties, Cuba has stuck to its revolutionary ideals of education, welfare and healthcare.

Literacy and infant mortality rates are more in line with the US than Latin America.

Major expansion in higher education means more than half of 18 to 24-year-olds study at university level.

Cubans have lived with state rationing since 1961 in a bid to ensure everyone has access to essential goods.

This often fails to meet monthly needs and many turn to a 'black market' economy.


Politics aside, Cuba holds widespread appeal as a result of its traditional offerings of rum, cigars and music.

Tobacco is a major export, although Cuba says the embargo has hit rum sales.

European and African influences are visible in the racial mix of 51% mulatto, 37% white and 11% black.

The rumba and son music that gave rise to the salsa music popular across Latin America and beyond emerged from Afro-Cuban dances.

Renewed interest in the pre-revolution era singers of the Buena Vista Social Club have opened up Cuba and Cuban music to new generations.

National pride is stirred by Cuba's sporting prowess, particularly in boxing and baseball which have produced Olympic champions.



http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/shared/spl/hi/guides/456900/456978/html/nn1page1.stm

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