Cuba Background Fidel CASTRO led a rebel army to victory in 1959; his iron rule has held the country together since then. 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 recession 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, or falsified visas - is a continuing problem. Some 2,500 Cubans attempted the crossing of the Straits of Florida in 2002; the US Coast Guard apprehended about 60% of the individuals.
Cuba Economy The government continues to balance the need for economic loosening against a desire for firm political control. It has undertaken limited reforms in recent years to increase enterprise efficiency and alleviate serious shortages of food, consumer goods, and services but is unlikely to implement extensive changes. A major feature of the economy is the dichotomy between relatively efficient export enclaves and inefficient domestic sectors. The average Cuban's standard of living remains at a lower level than before the severe economic depression of the early 1990s, which was caused by the loss of Soviet aid and domestic inefficiencies. High oil import prices, recessions in key export markets, damage from Hurricanes Isidore and Lili, and the tourist slump after 11 September 2001 hampered growth in 2002.
Cuba Location Caribbean, island between the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, 150 km south of Key West, Florida
Cuba Flag five equal horizontal bands of blue (top and bottom) alternating with white; a red equilateral triangle based on the hoist side bears a white, five-pointed star in the center; design influenced by the US flag