Official Name:  Republic of Cuba


Area:  110,860 sq. km. (44,200 sq. mi.); about the size of Pennsylvania.  
Capital:  Havana (pop. 2 million).  Other major cities--Santiago de 
Cuba, Camaguey, Santa Clara, Holguin, Guantanamo, Matanzas, Cienfuegos, 
Pinar del Rio.  
Terrain:  Flat or gently rolling plains, hills, mountains up to 2,000 
meters (6,000 ft.) in the southeast.  
Climate:  Tropical, moderated by trade winds; dry season (November-
April); rainy season (May-October).

Nationality:  Noun--Cuban(s); adjective--Cuban.  
Population:  10.8 million; 70% urban, 30% rural.  
Avg. annual growth rate:  1%.  
Ethnic groups:  Spanish-African mixture.  
Language:  Spanish.  
Education:  Compulsory--6 years.  
Attendance--92% (ages 6-16).  
Health:  Infant mortality rate--12/1,000. Life expectancy--77 yrs. for 
women, 74 yrs. for men.  
Work force:  3.6 million.  Government and services--30%.  Industry--22%.  
Agriculture--20%.  Commerce--11%.  Construction--11%.  Transportation 
and communications--6%.

Type:  Communist state; current government assumed power January 1, 
Independence:  May 20, 1902.  
Constitution:  February 24, 1976.
Branches:  Executive--president, council of ministers.  Legislative--
National Assembly of People's Government.  Judicial--People's Supreme 
Political party:  Cuban Communist Party (PCC).  
Suffrage:  All citizens age 16 and older, except those who have applied 
for permanent emigration.  National Assembly elections were held in 
Administrative subdivisions:  14 provinces, including the city of 
Havana, and one special municipality (Isle of Youth).

Gross social product (this economic measure, in which Cuba publishes its 
statistics, is not convertible to GNP/GDP):  $16 billion (1993).  
Real annual growth rate:  -10% (1993).  
Per capita income (est.):  $1,500.
Natural resources:  Nickel, cobalt, iron ore, copper, manganese, salt, 
Agriculture:  Products--sugar, citrus and tropical fruits, tobacco, 
coffee, rice, beans, meat, and vegetables.
Industry:  Types--sugar and food processing, oil refining, cement, 
electric power, light consumer and industrial products.  
Trade:  Exports--$1.5 billion:  Sugar and its by-products, nickel, 
seafood, citrus, tobacco products, rum.  Major markets--Russia 27%, 
Canada 9%, Ukraine 5%, China 5%, Spain 5%.  Imports--$1.8 billion:  
capital goods, industrial raw materials, food, petroleum, consumer 
Major suppliers--Spain 11%, China 10%, France 7%, Venezuela 7%, Mexico 
7%, Canada 6%.
Official exchange rate:  1 Cuban peso=U.S.$1 for trade.  n


Cuba is a multi-racial society with a population of mainly Spanish and 
African origins.  The largest organized religion is the Roman Catholic 
Church.  Officially, Cuba has been an atheist state for most of the 
Castro era.  However, a constitutional amendment adopted on July 12, 
1992, changed the nature of the Cuban state from atheist to secular, 
enabling religious believers to belong to the Cuban Communist Party 

Before the arrival of Columbus in 1492, Cuba was inhabited by three 
groups--Siboneys, Guanahabibes, and Tainos--the last of which introduced 
agriculture, including maize and tobacco, to the island.  As Spain 
developed its colonial empire in the Western Hemisphere, Havana became 
an important commercial port.  Settlers eventually moved inland and 
established sugar cane and tobacco plantations.  As the native Indian 
population died out, African slaves were imported to work the 
plantations.  A 1774 census in Cuba recorded 96,000 whites, 31,000 free 
blacks, and 44,000 slaves.  Slavery was abolished in 1886.

Cuba was the last major Spanish colony to gain independence.  In a 
movement which began in 1850, Cuban planters financed and led several 
expeditions against Spanish garrisons.  In 1868, the 10-years' war for 
independence began under the leadership of Carlos Manuel de Cespedes, 
whom the Cubans consider to be the father of their country.  Jose Marti, 
Cuba's greatest national hero, initiated plans for a general uprising 24 
years later.  In 1895, Marti announced the Grito de Baire ("Call to arms 
from Baire"), heralding the beginning of Cuba's final struggle for 
independence.  Shortly after, he died in battle.

The United States entered the conflict on the side of the 
revolutionaries when the U.S.S. Maine, anchored in Havana Harbor to 
provide protection for U.S. citizens, was sunk by an explosion of 
unknown origin on February 15, 1898.  On December 10, 1898, Spain signed 
the Treaty of Paris, ending the Spanish-American War and relinquishing 
control of Cuba to the United States.  The United States administered 
the island for three years.  Independence was proclaimed on May 20, 
1902, although the United States retained the right to intervene to 
preserve Cuban independence and stability under the Platt Amendment, 
which established conditions mandated by Congress for the withdrawal of 
U.S. troops from Cuba.

In 1934, the amendment was repealed in keeping with the Roosevelt 
Administration's "Good Neighbor" policy.  Later the same year, the 
United States and Cuba reaffirmed by treaty the 1903 agreement which 
leased the Guantanamo Bay naval base to the United States.  This 
agreement remains in force today and can only be terminated by mutual 
agreement or abandonment by the United States.

Cubans elected Gen. Gerardo Machado as President in 1924, but he 
forcibly extended his rule until a popular uprising deposed him in 1933.  
Fulgencio Batista, a sergeant in the army, led the revolt and 
established himself as Cuba's dominant leader for more than 25 years.  
He ruled through a series of presidents and was himself elected in 1940 
for four years.  In March 1952, shortly before regularly scheduled 
elections, Batista seized the presidency in a bloodless coup.

On July 26, 1953, an armed opposition group led by Fidel Castro attacked 
the Moncada army barracks at Santiago de Cuba.  The attack was 
unsuccessful, and many, including Castro, were captured and imprisoned.  
Castro, released by Batista under a May 1955 amnesty, went into exile in 
Mexico, where he formed a revolutionary group, the "26th of July 

On December 2, 1956, Castro and  81 of his followers landed in eastern 
Cuba aboard the yacht Granma.  All but 12 were soon captured, killed, or 
dispersed.  From this nucleus, Castro's forces eventually grew to 
several thousand.  While other groups also actively opposed Batista, 
Castro's "26th of July" forces became predominant when Batista fled on 
January 1, 1959.  Castro's assumption of power was acclaimed in Cuba and 
abroad because he seemed to embody the hopes of most Cubans for a return 
to democratic government and an end to graft and corruption.

Within months, however, Castro moved to consolidate his power and to set 
up an authoritarian government.  Many leaders of the opposition to 
Batista were executed or sentenced to lengthy prison terms for opposing 
Castro's policies.  Moderates were forced out of the government, and 
hundreds of thousands of Cubans fled the island.

During an April 1959 visit to Washington, DC, Castro addressed concerns 
about a reported leftist tilt to his regime by saying, "We are against 
all kinds of dictators, whether of a man, or a country, or a class, or 
an oligarchy, or by the military.  That is why we are against 

On December 2, 1961, Castro publicly declared himself a Marxist-
Leninist.  Representative democracy was abolished, effective freedom of 
expression ended, and all opposition political activity was soon 

Cuban-Soviet Relations

Ties between Cuba and the Soviet Union were close from 1960 until 
perestroika and the subsequent demise of the U.S.S.R.  Cuba received 
critical economic and military assistance, which kept its economy afloat 
and enabled it to maintain a disproportionately large military 
establishment.  However, as the former U.S.S.R.'s economy experienced 
increasing problems, its reliability as a trade and aid partner for Cuba 

Cuban-Soviet ties led to a direct confrontation between the United 
States and the Soviet Union in 1962 over the installation of nuclear-
equipped missiles in Cuba, resolved only when the U.S.S.R. agreed to 
withdraw the missiles and other offensive weapons.  In late 1970, the 
possibility that the Soviet Union would establish submarine bases in 
Cuba became an issue.  However, they were never established.  In 1971, 
President Nixon affirmed the existence of an understanding between the 
United States and the U.S.S.R. that the Soviet Union would not install 
any offensive weapons systems in Cuba nor operate such systems from 
there, including sea-based systems.

Cuba's special relationship with the Soviet Union ended with the 
dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991.  In April 1989, then-U.S.S.R. 
President Gorbachev spoke out against the "export of revolution."   With 
the end of the Cold War, Russia reduced military forces worldwide.  
Former Soviet military personnel in Cuba, numbering around 15,000 in 
1990, were withdrawn by 1993.  Russia still maintains a signal 
intelligence-gathering facility, the largest of the former U.S.S.R., at 
Lourdes.  It is staffed by 2,100 technicians and monitors U.S. civilian 
and military communications.


Cuba is a totalitarian state dominated by Fidel Castro, who is president 
of the council of state and the council of ministers, First Secretary of 
the Communist Party (PCC), and commander-in-chief of the armed forces.  
Castro exercises control over nearly all aspects of Cuban life through a 
network of directorates ultimately responsible to him through the Cuban 
Communist Party.

From January 1959 until December 1976, Castro ruled by decree.  The 1976 
constitution, extensively revised in July 1992, provides for a system of 
government in which the PCC is "the highest leading force of the society 
and state."  In addition to Fidel Castro and his brother Raul Castro, 
the center of  party power is the 24-member politburo.  There are 205 
members in the central committee.

Executive and administrative power is vested in the council of 
ministers; its president since 1959, Fidel Castro, is head of 
government.  There are 10 other vice presidents on the council of 
ministers.  Legislative authority rests with the National Assembly of 
People's Government, which meets for about five days per year.  When the 
assembly is not in session, it is represented by the council of state, 
of which Fidel Castro is the president with Raul Castro as first vice 

The PCC is Cuba's only legal political party.  It monopolizes all 
government positions, including judicial offices.  All pre-1959 
political parties and political organizations have been abolished.  
Though not a formal requirement, party membership is a de facto 
prerequisite for high-level official positions and professional 
advancement in most areas, although non-party members have been elected 
to the National Assembly.  Cuba's trade unions, women's federation, and 
youth and other mass organizations are controlled by the government and 
party.  These organizations attempt to extend Cuban Government and PCC 
control over each citizen's daily activities at home, work, and school.

The Cuban Communist Party is composed of the pre-revolution communist 
party which, along with two other political groups supporting the 
revolution, was absorbed into a new political entity formed by Castro in 
July 1961.  Further refinements resulted in the emergence in late 1965 
of the PCC.  The party's politburo and central committee together 
include most of the country's military and civilian leaders.

In July 1992, the National Assembly convened for three days to amend the 
1976 constitution.  Changes included abolishing references to the former 
Soviet bloc; outlawing discrimination for religious beliefs; permitting 
foreign investment; giving Fidel Castro new emergency powers; and 
allowing direct elections to the National Assembly, although candidates 
will still be approved by quasi-governmental bodies, and campaigns will 
not be allowed.

Cubans do not possess equal protection under the law, the right to 
choose freely government representatives, freedom of expression, freedom 
of peaceful assembly and association, or freedom to travel to and from 
Cuba without restriction.  The government and party control all 
electronic and print media.

Cuba has no independent judiciary.  Although the constitution specifies 
that the courts shall be "a system of state organs independent of all 
others," it explicitly subordinates the judiciary to the National 
Assembly and, thus, to the council of state.  The People's Supreme Court 
is the highest judicial body.  Due process safeguards can be 
circumvented constitutionally, and defense attorneys face severe 
disadvantages under the Cuban judicial system.

The ministry of interior ensures political and social conformity as well 
as internal security:  It operates border and police forces, 
orchestrates public demonstrations, investigates evidence of non-
conformity, regulates migration, and maintains pervasive vigilance 
through a network of informers and 80,000 block committees (Committees 
for the Defense of the Revolution--CDR).

In practice, the top leadership determines the degree to which civil 
liberties are exercised.  In March 1994, member states of the UN Human 
Rights Commission (UNHRC) voted 24-9 (with 20 abstentions) to approve a 
resolution condemning Cuba's systematic violation of human rights and 
its failure to cooperate with the Secretary General's special 
rapporteur.  Cuba refused to cooperate with several UNHRC resolutions 
creating special envoys to investigate Cuba's human rights situation.  
Human rights activists continue to be the subject of arbitrary arrest, 
court procedures that violate even Cuban constitutional guarantees, and 
lengthy prison sentences based on the flimsiest of evidence.

National Security

Under Castro, Cuba has become one of the most highly militarized 
societies in the world.  In Latin America, only Brazil, with a 
population more than 13 times that of Cuba, has a larger military.  In 
1958, in the middle of an insurrection, Cuba's armed forces numbered 
46,000.  Today, the Revolutionary Armed Forces contain about 270,000 
active duty and ready reserves--235,000 army, 17,000 air force/air 
defense, and 13,500 navy, plus some military units under the ministry of 
interior.  More than 1 million Cubans belong to the country's two 
paramilitary organizations, the territorial militia troops and the youth 
labor army.

Cuba's military establishment is considered to be one of the most modern 
in the region.  From 1975 until the late 1980s, massive Soviet military 
assistance enabled Cuba to upgrade its military capabilities and project 
power abroad.  The tonnage of Soviet military deliveries to Cuba 
throughout most of the 1980s exceeded deliveries in any year since the 
military build-up during the 1962 missile crisis.  In 1990, Cuba's air 
force, with about 150 Soviet-supplied fighters, including advanced MiG-
23 Floggers and MiG-29 Fulcrums, was probably the best equipped in Latin 
America.  The Cuban army has more than 1,000 Soviet-supplied T-62 and T-
54/55 main battle tanks.

Cuban military power has been sharply reduced by the loss of the special 
relationship between the former Soviet Union and Cuba.  Lack of fuel has 
resulted in reduced training and military exercises.  Lack of spare 
parts and new materiel has resulted in the mothballing of planes, tanks, 
and other military equipment.  Due to the end of the Cold War, Cuban 
forces are no longer used as a surrogate for Soviet geopolitical 

Principal Government Officials
President, Council of State and Council of Ministers; First Secretary of 
the Communist Party; and Commander in Chief--Fidel Castro
First Vice President, Council of State and Council of Ministers; Second 
Secretary of the Communist Party; General of the Army and Minister of 
Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR)--Raul Castro
Minister of Foreign Relations--Roberto Robaina
Ambassador to the United Nations--Fernando Remirez de Estenoz Barciela


Since the late 18th century, the Cuban economy has been dominated by 
sugar production and has prospered or suffered due to fluctuations in 
sugar prices.  The Castro regime has been unable to break that pattern, 
and sugar accounts for more than half of export earnings.  Cuba's famous 
tobacco provides a second source of export earnings, but it is also 
subject to market forces.  Cuba has never diversified from its basic 
single-crop economy despite some development of natural resources such 
as nickel, iron ore, copper, and timber.

For more than 30 years, the defects in Cuba's economy and the effects of 
the economic embargo imposed by the United States in 1962 were at least 
partially offset by heavy subsidies from the former Soviet Union and 
favorable trade relationships with the countries of the former Soviet 
bloc.  But those supports ended with the collapse of the Soviet bloc in 
the late 1980s and with the demise of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Combined with Cuba's failure to undertake needed reforms, this produced 
an unprecedented economic crisis.  Its economy is estimated to have 
declined by 40% from 1989 through 1993.

The economic prospects are not good, largely because of the Castro 
regime's decision to maintain the state's highly centralized control 
over economic decisionmaking, the lack of inputs for industry, and the 
"Special Period in Peacetime."  This was created in 1990 to strictly 
ration food, fuel, and electricity.  It gives priority to domestic food 
production, development of tourism, and biotechnology production.

Responsibility for running the economy and for economic policy rests 
with the council of state.  Basic public services are provided by the 
state, either free of charge or for minimal fees.  Access to education 
generally is adequate, but urban housing and medical care have 
deteriorated, as have communications and transportation.  The central 
planning board, working closely with the Banco Nacional de Cuba, directs 
nearly all economic activity and sets prices and targets for production, 
imports, and exports.  

The state owns and operates most of Cuba's farms and all industrial 
enterprises.  State farms occupy about 70% of farmland; peasant 
cooperatives for about 20%; and private farms about 10%.  Cuba's 
manufacturing sector emphasizes import substitution and provision of 
basic industrial materials.  In recent years, many Cuban firms have 
closed or reduced production because of shortages of foreign exchange 
and limited access to spare parts and imported components.

Castro's efforts to diversify the economy and reduce Cuba's dependence 
on sugar exports in the country's international trade have been 
unsuccessful.  Sugar continues to account for about 55% of export 
earnings, although sugar production and exports have declined over the 
past five years.  Cuba also specializes in the production of sugar by-
products.  Tobacco and tobacco products traditionally have been Cuba's 
second-largest agricultural export.  Other important crops include 
coffee and citrus.

Light industry, electronics, pharmaceuticals, and biotechnology are 
promoted.  Cuba's light industrial sector, which grew in the 1970s and 
1980s, has declined because of a lack of spare parts and components.  
Hard hit are the electrical power, food processing, cigar, chemical, 
petroleum, textile, and metallurgy industries.  Cuba has invested large 
sums in developing an advanced biotechnology industry.  While it has had 
some success, its earnings have not reached levels hoped for by the 

Cuba has three large oil refineries--two expropriated from U.S. firms 
and a recently completed refinery at Cienfuegos, built with Soviet 
technology and capital.  The two older refineries are operating well 
below capacity, while the one at Cienfuegos has never opened.  A Mexican 
company entered into a joint partnership with the Cuban Government to 
refurbish and operate the refinery at Cienfuegos.  

Traditionally, Cuba's mining sector has accounted for a significant part 
of export earnings.  The country's nickel reserves are the fourth-
largest in the world.  The ore is processed on the island in two 
formerly U.S.-owned plants at Nicaro and Moa Bay.  Plants are also 
located at Punta Gorda and Las Camariocas.

Much of Cuba's transportation network was developed in pre-revolutionary 
Cuba to serve the sugar industry.  The road network exceeds 30,000 
kilometers (19,000 mi.), of which about half is paved.  The island has a 
14,640 kilometer (5,600 mi.) railway system.  Buses are found throughout 
urban areas but are notoriously crowded and in disrepair.  Public 
transport has been crippled by the lack of fuel.  A significant portion 
of rural public transport is provided by horse and buggy, while bicycles 
largely have replaced private vehicles in urban areas.  Havana is the 
most important of the country's 11 major ports.  The national airline, 
Cubana de Aviacion, serves major cities in Cuba and  a shrinking number 
of foreign cities in Europe and Latin America.  Aero-Caribbean, a 
charter company formed in 1982, provides unscheduled passenger and cargo 
service to the Caribbean Basin and Europe.

During the 1980s, more than 80% of Cuba's external trade was with the 
former Soviet bloc, of which the Soviet share normally was more than 
70%.  The Soviet Union alone imported 80% of all Cuban sugar and 40% of 
all Cuban citrus.  Currently, Cuban trade with Russia is only a fraction 
of its trade with the former Soviet Union, which had subsidized Cuban 
oil imports.  Oil imports have dropped from 13 million tons (from the 
former Soviet Union) in 1989 to about 3 million tons in 1993 from 
Russia.  Cuba imported about 5 million tons from all sources in 1993.  
An oil-for-sugar barter agreement with Russia was completed in June 
1992.  Russia has ended all trade subsidies to Cuba.

In November 1992, Cuba and Russia announced that agreements for trade, 
scientific, and maritime relations had been signed.  Among the 
cooperative programs discussed was how to continue financing and 
construction of the Juragua, Cuba, nuclear power plant, begun in 1983 
with the former Soviet Union.  Completion of the power plant is a Cuban 
priority, but construction lagged during the 1980s and fell further 
behind schedule due to the dissolution of the Soviet Union.  In 1992, 
Cuba suspended work because it could not afford the cost of Russian 
technical assistance.  However, the November 1992 agreement between the 
two states would result in completion of the plant if a financier can be 
found for the nuclear safety and control equipment.

Cuba is not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), 
and, although Cuba has announced its intent to sign the Treaty of 
Tlatelolco--a Latin American regional non-proliferation regime--it is 
not yet a signatory.  Cuba is subject to International Atomic Energy 
Agency (IAEA) safeguards normally applied to non-NPT parties.  Cuba has 
entered into an agreement with the IAEA to apply safeguards to 
individual facilities, including the Juragua power plant.  The reactors 
that would be installed are of the VVER-400 type, an advanced model of 
the Soviet pressurized water reactor.  They are not the same as those 
installed at Chernobyl.  In addition, the Cuban reactors are housed in a 
reinforced concrete containment dome.

With the loss of trade and aid from the former Soviet bloc, Cuba has 
attempted to attract foreign investment and Western buyers for its sugar 
and nickel, as well as for its biotech products.  Except in tourism, 
Cuba has had limited success in attracting investors because of the 
deterioration of the economy, its unpaid debt to Western countries, and 
the lack of clear titles to expropriated property.  In 1993, tourism 
generated $530 million, principally from European and Canadian tourists.  
Tourism has increased more than  20% annually for the last several 
years.  Since July 1986, Cuba has not serviced its roughly $7-billion 
debt owed to Western, mainly governmental, creditors.  Consequently, 
Cuba has not received rescheduling either from the Paris Club (an 
association of international governmental lenders) or from private 
institutions.  Cuba is not servicing its debts to Russia--perhaps as 
high as $20 billion--or to former Soviet bloc countries.

"Rectification" Policy

In April 1986, Castro called for "rectification of errors and negative 
tendencies" and mandated the observance of strict Marxist orthodoxy in 
running the economy.   "Rectification" emphasizes centralized direction 
over market forces and moral and ideological, as opposed to material, 
incentives to spur productivity.  It calls upon Cubans to make greater 
sacrifices to further the collective good.

In 1986, as a part of the "rectification" effort, the government closed 
farmers' markets through which some people had been able to sell produce 
grown on their own garden plots at uncontrolled prices since 1980.  It 
also sought to eliminate many bonuses and overtime pay for workers.  The 
Castro Government encourages voluntary labor, in the form of "micro-
brigades" and "contingents," especially in the construction sector, and 
has tried to reduce corruption and black marketeering.

"Special Period"

In October 1990, Castro announced that Cuba had entered a "special 
period in time of peace" and that the economy would function as if in 
time of war until the crisis had passed.  Cubans are feeling the effects 
of the end of Havana's special relationship with Moscow.  Most goods are 
now rationed, and many previously imported from the Soviet Union simply 
have disappeared.  Total Cuban imports in 1993 were less than 25% of the 
1989 total.  Economic production may have decreased by more than 40% 
from 1989 to 1993.

Underemployment, a chronic problem, has worsened with the idling of 
thousands of industrial workers whose jobs depended on inputs from 
abroad.  Labor has been shifted to agriculture to compensate for fuel 
and machinery shortages affecting food and production.  Education and 
medical care generally are accessible, although both have been affected 
by nationwide austerity.  Many pharmaceutical products are in short 
supply or unavailable.  Urban housing, as well as transportation and 
communications services, remain seriously inadequate.  Havana's bus 
system, for example, has reduced service by more than 40% since 1989.

In response to deteriorating economic conditions, the Cuban Government 
enacted several limited economic reforms in 1993, including the 
legalization of foreign currency holdings and the opening to self-
employment in selected service occupations.  However, the Cuban 
Government subsequently placed significant restrictions on self-
employment.  In 1994, a number of other measures were introduced, 
including the return of free farmers' markets and the establishment of 
taxes on some earnings.


Cuba's once-ambitious foreign policy has been scaled back and redirected 
as a result of economic hardship and the end of the East-West conflict.

Cuba aims to find new sources of trade, aid, and foreign investment, and 
to promote opposition to U.S. policy toward Cuba, especially the trade 
embargo and the 1992 Cuban Democracy Act.  Cuba has relations with 
nearly 140 countries and has civilian assistance workers--principally 
medical--in more than 20 nations.

Cuba has largely abandoned its support for revolutionary movements.  
When it first came to power, the Castro Government supported the spread 
of revolution by aiming to reproduce throughout Latin America its rural-
based guerrilla warfare experience.  In 1959, Cuba aided armed 
expeditions against Panama, the Dominican Republic, and Haiti.  During 
the 1960s, Guatemala, Colombia, Venezuela, Peru, and Bolivia all faced 
serious Cuban-backed attempts to develop guerrilla insurgencies.  These 
movements failed to attract popular support.  The most conspicuous 
failure occurred in 1967.  Castro had sent Che Guevara--a charismatic 
revolutionary hero from Argentina and symbol of Cuban efforts to spread 
the revolution throughout Latin America--to lead an insurgency in 
Bolivia.  Guevara's efforts were opposed by both the peasantry and the 
Bolivian Communist Party.  Guevara was killed, and the insurgency 

Cuba's support for Latin revolutionaries, along with the openly Marxist-
Leninist character of its government and its alignment with the 
U.S.S.R., contributed to its isolation in the hemisphere.  In January 
1962, the Organization of American States (OAS) excluded Cuba from 
active participation.  Two years later, OAS foreign ministers resolved 
that member nations should have no diplomatic and consular relations 
with Cuba and should suspend all trade and sea transportation.

In the late 1960s, Cuba de-emphasized its policy of supporting 
revolutions abroad and began to pursue normal government-to-government 
relations with other Latin American nations.  Covert assistance to some 
guerrilla groups continued, however, well into the 1980s.  By the mid-
1970s, Cuba had re-established diplomatic relations with a number of 
countries in the region.  In 1975, the OAS lifted comprehensive 
sanctions and deferred to individual member states the option of 
diplomatic and trade relations with Cuba.

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Cuba expanded its military presence 
abroad--deployments reached 50,000 troops in Angola, 24,000 in Ethiopia, 
1,500 in Nicaragua, and hundreds more elsewhere.  In Angola, Cuban 
troops, supported logistically by the U.S.S.R., backed the Popular 
Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), one of the movements 
competing for power after Portugal granted Angola its independence.

Cuban forces played a key role in Ethiopia's war in the Ogaden region 
against Somalia, 1977-78, and remained there in substantial numbers as a 
garrison force for a decade.  Cubans served in a non-combat advisory 
role in Mozambique and the Congo.  Cuba also used the Congo as a 
logistical support center for Cuba's Angola mission.

In the late 1980s, Cuba began to pull back militarily.  Cuba 
unilaterally removed its forces from Ethiopia; met the timetable of the 
1988 Angola-Namibia accords by completing the withdrawal of its forces 
from Angola before July 1991; and ended military assistance to Nicaragua 
following the Sandinistas' 1990 electoral defeat.  In January 1992, 
following the peace agreement in El Salvador, Castro stated that Cuban 
support for insurgents was a thing of the past.


After Castro came to power, bilateral relations deteriorated sharply, 
primarily because of the new regime's imposition of a repressive 
dictatorship, its uncompensated nationalization of American property 
valued at about $1.8 billion in 1962, and its support for violent 
subversive groups.  The United States broke diplomatic relations on 
January 3, 1961, after the Cuban Government demanded that the U.S. 
embassy in Havana be reduced to a skeleton staff.  In 1962, the United 
States imposed a comprehensive economic embargo against Cuba.  Tensions 
between the two governments peaked during the abortive "Bay of Pigs" 
invasion by anti-Castro Cubans supported by the United States in April 
1961 and the October 1962 missile crisis.

Following Cuba's de-emphasis of the export of revolution in the 1970s, 
the United States did not oppose the OAS decision to make discretionary 
the application of sanctions against Cuba and began to discuss 
normalization of relations with Cuba.  Talks began but were halted when 
Cuba launched a large-scale intervention in Angola.  Subsequent efforts 
undertaken to improve relations led to the establishment of interests 
sections in the two capitals on September 1, 1977.  Currently, the U.S. 
interests section in Havana and the Cuban interests section in 
Washington, DC, are under the protection of the Swiss embassy.

New differences in the late 1970s and early 1980s--Cuba's failure to 
withdraw troops from Angola, intervention in Ethiopia, increasing 
subversion in the Caribbean Basin and Central America, the delivery of 
sophisticated Soviet weaponry, and the Cuban Government's deliberate 
efforts to violate U.S. sovereignty and immigration laws through a mass 
exodus of Cubans in 1980 known as the "Mariel boatlift"--eroded the 
possibility of improvement in bilateral relations.

Quiet efforts to explore the prospects for improving relations were 
initiated by the United States in 1981-82; however, the Cuban Government 
refused to alter its conduct with regard to U.S. concerns about Cuba's 
support for violent political change and its close political and 
military cooperation with the Soviet Union.  The liberation of Grenada 
by the United States and regional allies in 1983 and the expulsion of 
Cuban forces based there was a setback for Cuba's plans to expand its 
regional sphere of influence.

In 1984, the United States and Cuba negotiated an agreement to normalize 
immigration and return to Cuba the "excludables" (criminals or insane 
persons who, under U.S. law, are not allowed to reside in the United 
States) who had arrived during the 1980 Mariel boatlift.  Cuba suspended 
this agreement in May 1985 following the U.S. initiation of the Radio 
Marti by the Voice of America (VOA), which broadcasts news to Cuba.  The 
1984 agreement, reinstated in November 1987, allowed normal migration to 
occur between the two countries.  In March 1990, VOA began transmitting 
TV Marti to Cuba.  Since its inception, Cuba has jammed TV Marti and 
blocked Radio Marti on the AM band.  Radio Marti on short wave has a 
large audience.

With the peace settlement in El Salvador and establishment of democracy 
in Nicaragua, U.S. concerns focused on Cuban resistance to democratic 
reforms and its denial of human rights--two major obstacles to improved 
bilateral relations.  In May 1991, President Bush said that if Cuba held 
free and fair elections under international supervision, respected human 
rights, and stopped subverting its neighbors, U.S.-Cuban relations could 
improve significantly.  In October 1992, the Cuban Democracy Act set 
forth U.S. policy toward a free and democratic Cuba.  President Clinton 
has repeatedly expressed his support for the Cuban Democracy Act.

Its principal provisions ban most U.S. subsidiary trade with Cuba and 
exclude any vessel which stops in Cuba from entering U.S. ports for 180 
days.  It also provides for humanitarian donations to non-governmental 
organizations in Cuba; since its passage, more than $50 million worth of 
humanitarian goods have been licensed for export to Cuba.  Improved 
telecommunications are also called for.  In October, the U.S. Federal 
Communications Commission (FCC) approved applications of five U.S. 
carriers to provide direct telecommunications service between the U.S. 
and Cuba.  A sixth company with previously issued FCC licenses also 
concluded an operating agreement with the Cuban Government and plans to 
resume service.  

Despite existing tensions, the United States continues to discuss areas 
of mutual concern, such as immigration, with the Government of Cuba.  
The two governments concluded a migration agreement on September 9 that 
reflected their mutual interest in normalizing migration procedures and 
included measures to ensure that migration between the two countries is 
safe, legal, and orderly.

Interests Sections
Havana:  U.S. Interests Section, Calzada between L and M, Vedado (tel.  
33-3551 through 33-3559).

Principal Officer--Joseph G. Sullivan
Deputy Principal Officer--Vincent Mayer
Consul--Sandra Salmon
Public Affairs Adviser--Gene Bigler

Washington, DC:  Cuban Interests Section, 2630 16th Street, NW, 
Washington, DC  20009  (tel.  202-797-8518).

Principal Officer--Alfonso Fraga Perez
Deputy Principal Officer--Miguel Nunez.  


Return to Western Hemisphere Background Notes Archive
Return to Background Notes Archive Homepage
Return to Electronic Research Collection Homepage