Facts about Cuba

World Facts Index > Cuba > Havana, Varadero

CubaThe native Amerindian population of Cuba began to decline after the European discovery of the island by Christopher COLUMBUS in 1492 and following its development as a Spanish colony during the next several centuries. Large numbers of African slaves were imported to work the coffee and sugar plantations, and Havana became the launching point for the annual treasure fleets bound for Spain from Mexico and Peru. Spanish rule, marked initially by neglect, became increasingly repressive, provoking an independence movement and occasional rebellions that were harshly suppressed. It was US intervention during the Spanish-American War in 1898 that finally overthrew Spanish rule. The subsequent Treaty of Paris established Cuban independence, which was granted in 1902 after a three-year transition period. Fidel CASTRO led a rebel army to victory in 1959; his iron rule held the subsequent regime together for nearly five decades. He stepped down as president in February 2008 in favor of his younger brother Raul CASTRO. Cuba's Communist revolution, with Soviet support, was exported throughout Latin America and Africa during the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. The country is now slowly recovering from a severe economic downturn in 1990, following the withdrawal of former Soviet subsidies, worth $4 billion to $6 billion annually. Cuba portrays its difficulties as the result of the US embargo in place since 1961. Illicit migration to the US - using homemade rafts, alien smugglers, air flights, or via the southwest border - is a continuing problem. The US Coast Guard intercepted 2,864 individuals attempting to cross the Straits of Florida in fiscal year 2006.

Geography of Cuba

Caribbean, island between the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, 150 km south of Key West, Florida
21 30 N, 80 00 W
total: 110,860 sq km
water: 0 sq km
land: 110,860 sq km
Area comparative:
slightly smaller than Pennsylvania
Land boundaries:
total: 29 km
border countries: US Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay 29 km
note: Guantanamo Naval Base is leased by the US and thus remains part of Cuba
3,735 km
Maritime claims:
exclusive economic zone: 200 NM
territorial sea: 12 NM
tropical; moderated by trade winds; dry season (November to April); rainy season (May to October)
mostly flat to rolling plains, with rugged hills and mountains in the southeast
Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Caribbean Sea 0 m
highest point: Pico Turquino 2,005 m
Natural resources:
cobalt, nickel, iron ore, copper, manganese, salt, timber, silica, petroleum, arable land
Natural hazards:
the east coast is subject to hurricanes from August to October (in general, the country averages about one hurricane every other year); droughts are common
Environment - current issues:
air and water pollution; biodiversity loss; deforestation
Geography - note:
largest country in Caribbean and westernmost island of the Greater Antilles

Population of Cuba

11,423,952 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years: 19.1% (male 1,117,677/female 1,058,512)
15-64 years: 70.3% (male 4,001,161/female 3,999,303)
65 years and over: 10.6% (male 554,148/female 652,019)
Median age:
35.9 years
Growth rate:
Infant mortality:
6.22 deaths/1,000 live births
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 77.41 years
male: 75.11 years
female: 79.85 years
Total fertility rate:
1.66 children born/woman
noun: Cuban(s)
adjective: Cuban
Ethnic groups:
mulatto 51%, white 37%, black 11%, Chinese 1%
nominally 85% Roman Catholic prior to CASTRO assuming power; Protestants, Jehovah's Witnesses, Jews, and Santeria are also represented
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 97%
male: 97.2%
female: 96.9% 
People - note:
illicit migration is a continuing problem; Cubans attempt to depart the island and enter the US using homemade rafts, alien smugglers, direct flights, or falsified visas; Cubans also use non-maritime routes to enter the US including direct flights to Miami and over-land via the southwest border


Country name:
conventional long form: Republic of Cuba
local long form: Republica de Cuba
Government type:
Communist state
Administrative divisions:
14 provinces (provincias, singular - provincia) and 1 special municipality* (municipio especial); Camaguey, Ciego de Avila, Cienfuegos, Ciudad de La Habana, Granma, Guantanamo, Holguin, Isla de la Juventud*, La Habana, Las Tunas, Matanzas, Pinar del Rio, Sancti Spiritus, Santiago de Cuba, Villa Clara
20 May 1902 (from Spain 10 December 1898; administered by the US from 1898 to 1902)
National holiday:
Independence Day, 10 December (1898); note - 10 December 1898 is the date of independence from Spain, 20 May 1902 is the date of independence from US administration; Rebellion Day, 26 July (1953)
24 February 1976, amended July 1992 and June 2002
Legal system:
based on Spanish and American law, with large elements of Communist legal theory; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
16 years of age; universal
Executive branch:
chief of state: President of the Council of State and President of the Council of Ministers Gen. Raul CASTRO Ruz (president since 24 February 2008); First Vice President of the Council of State and First Vice President of the Council of Ministers Gen. Jose Ramon MACHADO Ventura (since 24 February 2008); note - the president is both the chief of state and head of government
head of government: President of the Council of State and President of the Council of Ministers Gen. Raul CASTRO Ruz (president since 24 February 2008); First Vice President of the Council of State and First Vice President of the Council of Ministers Gen. Jose Ramon MACHADO Ventura (since 24 February 2008)
cabinet: Council of Ministers proposed by the president of the Council of State and appointed by the National Assembly or the 31-member Council of State, elected by the Assembly to act on its behalf when it is not in session
elections: president and vice presidents elected by the National Assembly for a term of five years; election last held 24 February 2008 (next to be held in 2013)
Legislative branch:
unicameral National Assembly of People's Power or Asemblea Nacional del Poder Popular (609 seats, elected directly from slates approved by special candidacy commissions; members serve five-year terms)
Judicial branch:
People's Supreme Court or Tribunal Supremo Popular (president, vice president, and other judges are elected by the National Assembly)


The government continues to balance the need for economic loosening against a desire for firm political control. It has rolled back limited reforms undertaken in the 1990s to increase enterprise efficiency and alleviate serious shortages of food, consumer goods, and services. The average Cuban's standard of living remains at a lower level than before the downturn of the 1990s, which was caused by the loss of Soviet aid and domestic inefficiencies. Since late 2000, Venezuela has been providing oil on preferential terms, and it currently supplies about 100,000 barrels per day of petroleum products. Cuba has been paying for the oil, in part, with the services of Cuban personnel in Venezuela, including some 20,000 medical professionals. In 2007, high metals prices continued to boost Cuban earnings from nickel and cobalt production. Havana continued to invest in the country's energy sector to mitigate electrical blackouts that had plagued the country since 2004.

$125.5 billion (2007 est.)
GDP growth rate:
GDP per capita:
GDP composition by sector:
agriculture: 5.5%
industry: 26.1%
services: 68.4%
Inflation rate:
Labor force:
4.6 million
note: state sector 78%, non-state sector 22%
Labor force - by occupation:
agriculture: 21.2%
industry: 14.4%
services: 64.4%
revenues: $22.11 billion
expenditures: $23.65 billion
Electricity production by source:
fossil fuel: 93.9%
hydro: 0.6%
other: 5.4%
nuclear: 0%
sugar, petroleum, tobacco, construction, nickel, steel, cement, agricultural machinery, pharmaceuticals
sugar, tobacco, citrus, coffee, rice, potatoes, beans; livestock
sugar, nickel, tobacco, fish, medical products, citrus, coffee
Export partners:
Netherlands 24.5%, Canada 20%, China 9.3%, Spain 6.4%, Venezuela 4.9%
petroleum, food, machinery and equipment, chemicals
Import partners:
China 13.4%, Venezuela 13%, Spain 12.6%, US 7.7%, Canada 7.4%, Germany 5.9%, Italy 5.1%, Mexico 4.5%
Cuban peso (CUP)

SOURCES: The CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State, Area Handbook of the US Library of Congress

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