U.S. Department of State
Background Notes:  Cuba
Released by the Bureau of Inter-American Affairs 
April 1998 


Official Name:  Republic of Cuba

PROFILE

Geography

Area: 110,860 sq. km. (44,200 sq. mi.); about the size of Pennsylvania. 
Cities: 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).

People

Nationality:  Noun and adjective--Cuban(s). 
Population: 11 million; 70% urban, 30% rural. 
Avg. annual growth rate: 0.41%. 
Ethnic groups: Spanish-African mixture. 
Language: Spanish. 
Education: Years compulsory--6 .  Attendance--92% (ages 6-16).  
Literacy--95%. 
Health:  Infant mortality rate--7.2/1,000.  Life expectancy--78 yrs. for 
women, 73 yrs. for men. 
Work force (4.5 million):  Government and services--30%.  Industry--22%.  
Agriculture--20%.  Commerce--11%.  Construction--11%.  Transportation 
and communications--6%.

Government

Type: Communist state; current government assumed power January 1, 1959. 
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 
Court.
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 1998.
Administrative subdivisions: 14 provinces, including the city of Havana, 
and one special municipality (Isle of Youth).

Economy 

GDP (1997 est.): Purchasing power parity $16.9 billion.
Real annual growth rate (1997): 2.5%. 
Per capita income: $1,540.
Natural resources: Nickel, cobalt, iron ore, copper, manganese, salt, 
timber.
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--$1.9 billion (FOB, 1997 est.): Sugar and its by-
products, nickel, seafood, citrus, tobacco products, rum.  Major 
markets--Russia 25%, Canada 15%, Netherlands 11%.  Imports--$3.3 billion 
(CIF, 1997 est.): petroleum, food, machinery, chemicals. Major 
suppliers--Spain 14%, Russia 12%, Mexico 9%.
Official exchange rate: 1 Cuban peso=U.S.$1 (official rate). 23 Cuban 
pesos=U.S.$1 (internal exchange rate).

PEOPLE

Cuba is a multiracial society with a population of mainly Spanish and 
African origins. The largest organized religion is the Roman Catholic 
Church. Santeria, a blend of native African religions and Roman 
Catholicism, is the most widely practiced religion in Cuba. 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 (PCC).

HISTORY

Spanish settlers established sugar cane and tobacco as Cuba's primary 
products.  As the native Indian population died out, African slaves were 
imported to work the plantations. Slavery was abolished in 1886.

Cuba was the last major Spanish colony to gain independence, following a 
50-year struggle begun in 1850. The final push for independence began in 
1895, when Jose Marti, Cuba's national hero, announced the "Grito de 
Baire" ("Call to arms from Baire").  In 1898, after the USS Maine sunk 
in Havana Harbor on February 15 due to an explosion of undetermined 
origin, the United States entered the conflict. In December of that year 
Spain relinquished control of Cuba to the United States with the Treaty 
of Paris.  On May 20, 1902, the United States granted Cuba its 
independence, but retained the right to intervene to preserve Cuban 
independence and stability under the Platt Amendment. In 1934, the 
amendment was repealed and the United States and Cuba reaffirmed the 
1903 agreement which leased the Guantanamo Bay naval base to the United 
States.  The treaty remains in force and can only be terminated by 
mutual agreement or abandonment by the United States.

Until 1959, Cuba was often ruled by military figures, who either 
obtained or remained in power by force.  Fulgencio Batista, an army 
sergeant who established himself as Cuba's dominant leader for more than 
25 years, fled on January 1, 1959, as Castro's "26th of July Movement" 
gained control.  Castro had established the movement in Mexico, where he 
was exiled after the failed July 26, 1953, attack on the Moncada army 
barracks at Santiago de Cuba. Within months of taking power, Castro 
moved to consolidate his power by imprisoning or executing opponents.  
Hundreds of thousands of Cubans fled the island. 

Castro declared Cuba a socialist state on April 16, 1961.  For the next 
30 years, Castro pursued close relations with the Soviet Union until the 
advent of perestroika and the subsequent demise of the U.S.S.R.  During 
that time Cuba received substantial economic and military assistance 
from the U.S.S.R.--generally estimated at $5.6 billion annually--which 
kept its economy afloat and enabled it to maintain an enormous military 
establishment.  In 1962, Cuban-Soviet ties led to a direct confrontation 
between the United States and the Soviet Union 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. Soviet 
subsidies ended in 1991 with the end of the Soviet Union. Former Soviet 
military personnel in Cuba--numbering around 15,000 in 1990--were 
withdrawn by 1993. 

Russia still maintains a signal intelligence-gathering facility at 
Lourdes and has provided funding to preserve the still uncompleted 
thermonuclear plant at Juragua.

GOVERNMENT

Cuba is a totalitarian state controlled by President Fidel Castro, who 
is Chief of State, Head of Government, First Secretary of the Communist 
Party (PCC), and commander in chief of the armed forces.  Castro 
exercises control over all aspects of Cuban life through the Communist 
Party and its affiliated mass organizations, the government bureaucracy, 
and the state security apparatus.  The Ministry of Interior is the 
principal organ of state security and control.  In addition to the 
routine law enforcement functions of regulating migration, controlling 
the Border Guard and the regular police forces, the Ministry's 
Department of State Security investigates and actively suppresses 
organized opposition and dissent. 

From January 1959 until December 1976, Castro ruled by decree.  The 1976 
constitution, extensively revised in 1992, enshrines the PCC as "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 149 members in the Central Committee.

Executive and administrative power is vested in the Council of State and 
the subordinate Council of Ministers, over which Fidel Castro presides, 
supported by six vice presidents. Legislative authority rests with the 
National Assembly of People's Power, which meets annually for about five 
days, and is state-controlled.  When not in session, the Assembly is 
represented by the Council of State.  Fidel Castro is president of the 
Council of State, and his brother, Raul Castro, is first vice president, 
which places him first in the line of succession. Raul Castro is also 
the Minister of the Revolutionary Armed Forces. 

The Communist Party is constitutionally recognized as Cuba's only legal 
political party. The party's Politburo and Central Committee together 
include most of the country's military and civilian leaders.  The party 
monopolizes all government positions, including judicial offices.  
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 are sometimes 
allowed to serve in the National Assembly.

In 1992, the National Assembly amended the 1976 constitution, 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 of candidates approved by "mass organizations" controlled by 
the Communist Party.

Although the constitution grants limited rights of assembly and 
association, these rights are subject to the requirement that they may 
not be "exercised against ... the existence and objectives of the 
socialist State."  The government denies citizens the freedom of 
association.  The Penal Code specifically outlaws "illegal or 
unrecognized groups." Cubans do not have the right to change their 
government, to freedom of expression, or freedom to travel to and from 
Cuba without restriction.  The government and party control all 
electronic and print media. Since 1992, the Cuban Government has eased 
the harsher aspects of its repression of religious freedom.  In 
preparation for the visit of Pope John Paul II in January 1998, the 
government further relaxed its restrictions on religion, especially 
toward the Roman Catholic Church.

Although the constitution theoretically provides for independent courts, 
it explicitly subordinates them to the National Assembly and to the 
Council of State.  The People's Supreme Court is the highest judicial 
body.  Due process is routinely denied to Cuban citizens, especially in 
cases involving political offenses.  The constitution states that all 
legally recognized civil liberties can be denied to anyone who opposes 
the "decision of the Cuban people to build socialism."

The Cuban Government's human rights record is abysmal.  It 
systematically violates fundamental civil and political rights of its 
citizens. The government uses incessant harassment in the form of 
detention, threat of long-term imprisonment, exile, physical injury, and 
search and seizure of private property to intimidate pro-democracy and 
human rights activists.  There are hundreds of political prisoners.  
Since 1994, when it invited the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to 
visit, the Cuban Government has refused permission for international 
human rights monitors, including the UN Special Rapporteur for Human 
Rights, to visit Cuba.

National Security

Under Castro, Cuba became a highly militarized society.  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. In 1994, 
Cuba's armed forces were estimated to have 235,000 active duty 
personnel.

Cuban military power has been sharply reduced by the loss of Soviet 
subsidies.  Lack of fuel has resulted in reduced training and military 
exercises.  Lack of spare parts and new material has resulted in the 
mothballing of planes, tanks, and other military equipment. Today, the 
Revolutionary Armed Forces number about 60,000 regular troops.  The 
country's two paramilitary organizations, the Territorial Militia Troops 
and the Youth Labor Army, have a reduced training capability.  Cuba also 
adopted a "war of the people" strategy that highlights the defensive 
nature of its capabilities.  The government has, however, maintained a 
large state security apparatus, under the Ministry of Interior, to 
repress dissent within Cuba.

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 
the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR)--Raul Castro 
Minister of Foreign Relations--Roberto Robaina
Ambassador to the United Nations--Bruno Rodriguez

ECONOMY

Under the slogan "Socialism or Death," the Cuban Government continues to 
proclaim Cuba a socialist or communist nation with an economy organized 
under Marxist-Leninist precepts.  Most means of production are owned and 
run by the government.  About 75% of the labor force is employed 
directly by the state.

Responsibility for running the economy and for economic policy rests 
with the Council of State, although the government has devolved some 
authority to ministries and enterprises in recent years.

Minimal public services are provided by the state, either free of charge 
or for nominal fees.  Access to education generally is adequate, but 
urban housing and medical facilities have deteriorated, as has 
transportation. 

In 1997, the Cuban Government created the Cuban Central Bank to play a 
role in monetary policy similar to that of a central bank in a market 
economy.  The National Bank of Cuba continued as a commercial bank, and 
the Cuban Government is creating additional commercial banks.  Some 
foreign banks have begun limited operations in Cuba. 

The major sectors of the Cuban economy are tourism, nickel mining, and 
agriculture, especially sugar and tobacco.  Sugar, long the mainstay of 
the Cuban economy, was surpassed by tourism in the late 1990s as the 
main source of foreign exchange.  Remittances from abroad, estimated at 
$500 - 800 million annually, are a major source of income in Cuba, and 
help sustain many families.  An estimated 40% of the population have 
access to dollars.  The Cuban Government stopped producing its annual 
statistical survey on the Cuban economy in 1990. 

The Cuban Government defaulted on most of its international debt in 
1986, and remains outside of international financial institutions such 
as the World Bank.  To finance imports, the government relies heavily on 
short-term loans.  Because of its poor credit rating, an $11 billion 
hard currency debt, and the risks associated with Cuban investment, 
interest rates have reportedly been as high as 22%.

The Cuban economy suffered a 35% decline in gross domestic product 
between 1989 and 1993 because of the loss of Soviet subsidies.  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.  Most goods are now rationed, and many 
previously imported from the Soviet Union simply have disappeared.

Economic growth resumed in the mid-1990s after the Cuban Government 
launched a concerted program to attract foreign tourism and investment.  
The Cuban Government estimated growth in 1997 at 2.5%. Estimated per 
capita income in 1997 was $1,540.  Living conditions in 1998 are well 
below the 1990 level. 

To deal with the severe shortages brought on by the end of Soviet 
subsidies and the failure of socialist economic policies, the Cuban 
Government in the mid-1990s permitted Cubans to offer certain services 
privately under strict government regulation and scrutiny. It appears 
that employment in this sector peaked in 1996 at around 206,000 and fell 
in 1997 to about 170,000.  In 1997, the Cuban Government introduced 
heavy taxes on this sector which forced many out of business.  In 1994, 
the government introduced agricultural markets at which state and 
private farmers could sell at market prices what they have produced 
above the quota required by the state.  This has helped to alleviate 
grave food shortages and nutritional problems.

A popular example of this kind of venture has been small restaurants in 
private homes, known as "paladares."  These seek to serve international 
visitors, but are subject to rules limiting employment of anyone outside 
of the owner's immediate family and forbidding sales of lobster or 
shrimp.  Such rules are frequently violated, but restaurants and other 
entities are often closed for minor infractions. 

While continuing to limit private investment by Cuban citizens, the 
Cuban Government is actively courting international investment.  It has 
attracted investment from Canada, Italy, the United Kingdom, Mexico, 
Spain, France, and other countries.  Foreign entities cannot own 100% of 
the equity of an investment, and must include a Cuban Government entity 
as a majority partner in the venture.  Estimates of the amount of 
international investment paid in vary widely, but it is thought to be 
between $1.1 billion to $1.4 billion since 1990. 

Cuban officials said early in 1998, there were a total of 332 joint 
ventures.  Many of these are loans or contracts for management, supplies 
or services, normally not considered equity investment in Western 
economies.  Nevertheless, Cuban officials said in early 1998, that they 
intend to be more selective in the investment they permit in Cuba. 
Investors are constrained by the U.S. Cuban Liberty and Democratic 
Solidarity Act (also known as the Libertad or Helms-Burton Act) which 
provides for sanctions for those who "traffic" in property expropriated 
from U.S. citizens.  As of March 1998, 15 executives of three foreign 
companies have been excluded from entry into the U.S.  Over a dozen 
companies had pulled out of Cuba or altered their plans to invest there 
due to the threat of action under the Libertad Act.

Tourism, a top Cuban official said, is the "heart of the economy."  The 
Cuban Government is stressing its beaches and has actively encouraged 
sex tourism to attract Europeans, Canadians, and Latin Americans.  Cuban 
officials expect 1.4 million tourists in 1998, an increase of 20% over 
1997.  The Cuban Government forecasts 1998 gross revenue from tourism as 
$1.8 billion. 

In 1993, the Cuban Government made it legal for its people to possess 
and use the U.S. dollar.  Since then, the dollar has become the major 
currency in use.  Many businesses, including many run by the Cuban 
Government, and individuals do not accept Cuban pesos.

Those with access to dollars can purchase imported goods at government-
run dollar stores that are not accessible to average Cubans with pesos 
who must shop in understocked peso stores.  Thus, those jobs that can 
earn dollar tips from foreign tourists and business travelers have 
become highly desirable.  It is not uncommon to meet skilled doctors, 
teachers, engineers, and scientists working in restaurants or as taxi 
drivers. 

Sugar remains an important part of the Cuban economy, with large amounts 
of land, labor, and other resources dedicated to its production.  Sugar 
production in 1989 was over 8 million tons, but fell to about 3.5 
million tons in the 1994-1995 sugar harvest, one of the worst on record.  
With increased fertilizers and management attention, the 1995-1996 
harvest improved, according to official Cuban estimates, to about 4.4 
million tons.  Cuba was unable to sustain this level of output, however, 
and the 1996-1997 harvest declined. The threat of U.S. actions against 
those who finance the sugar harvest--where there are extensive numbers 
of confiscated properties--had a major impact on the 1996-97 harvest. 
Prospects for future harvests are considered poor unless the Cuban 
Government undertakes substantial reform of the sugar industry, 
something it has not been willing to do.

Cuba is not a party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).  It 
signed the Treaty of Tlatelolco, a Latin American regional non-
proliferation regime, but has not ratified the treaty and brought it 
into force.  Cuba has entered into an agreement with the IAEA to apply 
safeguards to individual nuclear facilities, including the partially 
completed Juragua nuclear power plant.  The reactors that would be 
installed are of the VVER-400 type, an advanced model of the Soviet 
pressurized water reactor.  There are serious concerns about the safety 
of the plant.  However, since the plant does not appear to be 
economically viable, no international investors have been willing to 
provide funds for completion of the facility.

Cuban failure to launch serious economic reforms has led to the 
development of a large black market and growing corruption.

FOREIGN RELATIONS

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

Cuba aims to find new sources of trade, aid, and foreign investment, and 
to promote opposition to U.S. policy, especially the trade embargo and 
the 1996 Libertad Act. Cuba has relations with over 160 countries and 
has civilian assistance workers--principally medical--in more than 20 
nations.

Cuba has largely abandoned the support for guerrilla movements that 
typified its involvement in regional politics in Latin America and 
Africa.  In 1959, Cuba aided armed expeditions against Panama, the 
Dominican Republic, and Haiti.  During the 1960s and 1970s , Guatemala, 
Colombia, Venezuela, Peru, and Bolivia faced Cuban-backed guerrilla 
insurgencies.  Although these movements failed to take control of 
governments, they inflicted heavy loss of life and economic damage in 
each of the countries.  Cuba's support for Latin guerrilla movements, 
its Marxist-Leninist 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) suspended Cuba.  Cuba now has 
diplomatic or commercial relations with most countries in Latin American 
and the Caribbean.

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) in its effort to take power 
after Portugal granted Angola its independence.  Cuban forces played a 
key role in Ethiopia's war against Somalia, 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.

U.S.-CUBAN RELATIONS

The United States recognized the new Cuban Government on January 7, 
1959.  However, bilateral relations deteriorated rapidly as the regime 
expropriated U.S. properties and moved toward adoption of a one-party 
Communist system.  In response, the United States began imposing 
economic sanctions in 1960, culminating with a comprehensive economic 
embargo in 1962.  The United States broke diplomatic relations on 
January 3, 1961.  Tensions between the two governments peaked during the 
abortive "Bay of Pigs" invasion by anti-Castro Cubans supported by the 
United States on April 7, 1961, and the October 1962 missile crisis.

In 1975, U.S.-Cuban normalization talks ended when Cuba launched a 
large-scale intervention in Angola.  However, the U.S. and Cuba 
established interests sections in their respective 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.

The deployment of Cuban troops to Ethiopia and the discovery of Soviet 
troops in Cuba in 1979 led President Carter to establish the Caribbean 
Joint Task Force Headquarters in Florida and warned that Cuban troops 
would not be allowed to move against neighboring countries.

In April 1980, 10,000 Cubans stormed the Peruvian embassy in Havana 
seeking political asylum.  Eventually, the Cuban Government allowed 
125,000 Cubans to illegally take to boats to go to the United States 
from the port of Mariel, or the "Mariel boatlift."  Quiet efforts to 
explore the prospects for improving relations were initiated by the 
United States in 1981-82, but ceased as Cuba continued to intervene in 
the Latin region.  In 1983, the United States and regional allies 
liberated Grenada, forcing the withdrawal of Cuban forces stationed 
there. 

In 1984, the United States and Cuba negotiated an agreement to resume 
normal immigration, interrupted in the wake of the 1980 Mariel boatlift, 
and to return to Cuba persons who had arrived during the boatlift who 
were "excludable" under U.S. law.  Cuba suspended this agreement in May 
1985 following the U.S. initiation of Radio Marti broadcasts to Cuba, 
but it was reinstated in November 1987.  In March 1990, TV Marti 
transmissions began 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.

The principal U.S. concerns regarding Cuba are its undemocratic system 
and lack of respect for human rights, and the potential danger of future 
mass exoduses.  The principal objective of U.S. policy toward Cuba is to 
promote a peaceful transition to democracy and respect for human rights.  
U.S. policy seeks to do this by maintaining pressure on the Cuban 
Government; supporting the Cuban people; forging a multilateral effort 
to press for democratic change; and keeping migration in safe, legal, 
and orderly channels. President Bush set free and fair elections under 
international supervision, respect for human rights, and an end to 
efforts to subvert its neighbors as the conditions for improving 
relations with Cuba.  In October 1992, the Cuban Democracy Act (CDA) was 
enacted, codifying portions of the embargo and providing for measures in 
support of the Cuban people and for improved telecommunications with 
Cuba and sale of medicines. Other 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 provides for humanitarian donations by U.S. 
non-governmental organizations to Cuba. Since its enactment, more than 
$2 billion worth of humanitarian assistance for Cuba has been licensed, 
including $275 million in medical items.  Since 1992, 50 licenses have 
been issued for sale of medicines or travel to Cuba by representatives 
of pharmaceutical companies.  The U.S. Federal Communications Commission 
(FCC) approved five U.S. carriers to provide direct telecommunications 
service between the U.S. and Cuba.

In 1994, regular immigration talks were initiated between the United 
States and Cuba, prompted by another mass exodus of Cubans that summer.  
The two governments agreed in September 1994 to direct Cuban migration 
into safe, legal, and orderly channels.  The U.S. committed itself to 
admit a minimum of 20,000 Cuban immigrants each year, and Cuba pledged 
to discourage irregular and unsafe departures.  Under a May 1995 
agreement, the United States began returning Cubans interdicted at sea 
or entering the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, and Cuba agreed to 
reintegrate the returnees into Cuban society, with no action to be taken 
against the returned migrants as a consequence of their attempt to 
immigrate illegally.  The U.S. Interests Section verifies Cuban 
compliance with that provision through regular visits to the homes of 
returnees throughout Cuba.  Interdicted Cubans who can demonstrate a 
well-founded fear of persecution in Cuba are resettled in third 
countries, rather than returned to Cuba. 

While the United States engaged in efforts to promote democratic change, 
the development of an independent civil society, and support for the 
Cuban people, in February 1996 the Cuban Government moved aggressively 
against 140 groups of pro-democracy and human rights activists who were 
seeking to hold a meeting under the auspices of their umbrella 
organization "Concilio Cubano."  The Cuban Government never responded to 
Concilio's request to legally hold a meeting, and in mid-February began 
an island-wide crackdown against dissidents--arresting, interrogating, 
and harassing them.  On February 24, 1996, the day the meeting was to be 
held, the Cuban Government ordered the shootdown of two unarmed civilian 
aircraft in international airspace.  Three U.S. citizens and one legal 
permanent resident, all members of the Miami-based exile organization 
Brothers to the Rescue, were killed when their planes were shot down by 
Cuban MiGs.

On February 26, 1996, President Clinton ordered five punitive measures 
in response to the shootdown.  He suspended direct charter flights to 
Cuba; sought to obtain international condemnation of Cuba's actions; 
committed to reach agreement with Congress on the pending Helms-Burton 
legislation; announced that some form of justice was due to the families 
of the victims and ordered that funds be transferred from the Cuban 
Government's blocked accounts in the United States to the families; and 
set restrictions on the movement of Cuban diplomats in the U.S. 

On March 12, 1996, President Clinton signed into law the Cuban Liberty 
and Democratic Solidarity Act (also known as the Libertad or Helms-
Burton Act). The Libertad Act has four main parts:

-- Title I codifies and tightens enforcement of the U.S. embargo;
-- Title II states U.S. policy toward a transition or democratic 
government in Cuba;
-- Title III creates a cause of action and authorizes U.S. nationals 
with claims to confiscated property in Cuba to file suit in U.S. courts 
against persons "trafficking" in such property; and
-- Title IV requires the Executive Branch to deny visas to, and exclude 
from the United States, foreign nationals determined to have confiscated 
or "trafficked" in confiscated property, claimed by a U.S. national.

In accordance with the provisions of the Act, the President suspended 
the Title III lawsuit provisions because he determined suspension to be 
necessary and in the national interest and that it will expedite a 
transition to democracy in Cuba. 

On March 20, 1998, President Clinton announced measures intended to 
respond to the historic visit of Pope John Paul II to Cuba in January 
and to support the Cuban people. The measures include: resuming direct 
humanitarian charter cargo and passenger flights to Cuba; reinstituting 
legal remittances by Cuban Americans and Cuban families living in the 
United States to their close relatives in Cuba at the level of $300 per 
quarter (such remittances were suspended in August 1994 in response to 
the migration crisis); simplifying and expediting the issuance of 
licenses for the sale of medicines and medical supplies to Cuba.  The 
President also said he would work with Congress to develop bipartisan 
legislation on the transfer of food and expansion of humanitarian 
assistance to the Cuban people.

Support for the Cuban people has been a key element of U.S. policy 
beginning with the CDA and strengthened by President Clinton's 
initiatives in October 1995 to encourage groups in the U.S. to develop 
contacts on the island.  The 1995 initiatives included licensing U.S. 
non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to assist Cuban NGOs; allowing 
sales and donations of communications equipment to Cuban NGOs; 
establishing news bureaus; increasing academic, cultural, and 
educational exchanges; and allowing under a general Treasury license 
once-a-year visits to relatives in Cuba in cases of humanitarian 
emergencies.

The measures announced March 20 enhance this policy of support for the 
Cuban people. They support the religious opening, expand humanitarian 
assistance, and assist development of independent civil society.  The 
measures are in response to the Cuban people, not to anything the Cuban 
Government has done.  Hundreds of political prisoners remain in Cuban 
jails, including the four leaders of the Dissident Working Group.  The 
U.S. Government has repeatedly made clear, however, that it will 
consider responding reciprocally if the Cuban Government initiates 
fundamental democratic change.

Interests Sections

Havana: U.S. Interests Section 
Calzada between L and M, Vedado 
(tel. (53) (7) 33-3551 through 33-3559).

Principal Officer--Michael Kozak
Deputy Principal Officer--John Boardman
Consul--Ronald Kramer
Public Affairs Adviser--Douglas Barnes

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

Principal Officer--Fernando de Remirez
Deputy Principal Officer--Felix Wilson 

TRAVEL AND BUSINESS INFORMATION 

The U.S. Department of State's Consular Information Program provides 
Travel Warnings and Consular Information Sheets. Travel Warnings are 
issued when the State Department recommends that Americans avoid travel 
to a certain country. Consular Information Sheets exist for all 
countries and include information on immigration practices, currency 
regulations, health conditions, areas of instability, crime and 
security, political disturbances, and the addresses of the U.S. posts in 
the country.

Public Announcements are issued as a means to disseminate information 
quickly about terrorist threats and other relatively short-term 
conditions overseas which pose significant risks to the security of 
American travelers. Free copies of this information are available by 
calling the Bureau of Consular Affairs at 202-647-5225 or via the fax-
on-demand system: 202-647-3000. Travel Warnings and Consular Information 
Sheets also are available on the Consular Affairs Internet home page:  
and the Consular Affairs Bulletin Board (CABB). To access CABB, dial the 
modem number: (301-946-4400 (it will accommodate up to 33,600 bps), set 
terminal communications program to N-8-1 (no parity, 8 bits, 1 stop 
bit); and terminal emulation to VT100. The login is travel and the 
password is info (Note: Lower case is required). The CABB also carries 
international security information from the Overseas Security Advisory 
Council and Department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security. Consular Affairs 
Trips for Travelers publication series, which contain information on 
obtaining passports and planning a safe trip abroad, can be purchased 
from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, 
P.O. Box 371954, Pittsburgh, PA 15250-7954; telephone: 202-512-1800; fax 
202-512-2250.

Emergency information concerning Americans traveling abroad may be 
obtained from the Office of Overseas Citizens Services at (202) 647-
5225. For after-hours emergencies, Sundays and holidays, call 202-647-
4000. 

Passport Services information can be obtained by calling the 24-hour, 7-
day a week automated system ($.35 per minute) or live operators 8 a.m. 
to 8 p.m. (EST) Monday-Friday ($1.05 per minute). The number is 1-900-
225-5674 (TDD: 1-900-225-7778). Major credit card users (for a flat rate 
of $4.95) may call 1-888-362-8668 (TDD: 1-888-498-3648).

Travelers can check the latest health information with the U.S. Centers 
for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia. A hotline at 
(404) 332-4559 gives the most recent health advisories, immunization 
recommendations or requirements, and advice on food and drinking water 
safety for regions and countries. A booklet entitled Health Information 
for International Travel (HHS publication number CDC-95-8280) is 
available from the U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC 
20402, tel. (202) 512-1800.

Information on travel conditions, visa requirements, currency and 
customs regulations, legal holidays, and other items of interest to 
travelers also may be obtained before your departure from a country's 
embassy and/or consulates in the U.S. (for this country, see "Principal 
Government Officials" listing in this publication). 

U.S. citizens who are long-term visitors or traveling in dangerous areas 
are encouraged to register at the U.S. embassy upon arrival in a country 
(see "Principal U.S. Embassy Officials" listing in this publication). 
Registering with the embassy may help you to replace lost identity 
documents or help family members contact you in case of an emergency.

Further Electronic Information: 

Department of State Foreign Affairs Network. Available on the Internet, 
DOSFAN provides timely, global access to official U.S. foreign policy 
information. Updated daily, DOSFAN includes Background Notes; Dispatch, 
the official magazine of U.S. foreign policy; daily press briefings; 
Country Commercial Guides; directories of key officers of foreign 
service posts; etc. DOSFAN's World Wide Web site is at 
htp://www.state.gov.

U.S. Foreign Affairs on CD-ROM (USFAC). Published on an annual basis by 
the U.S. Department of State, USFAC archives information on the 
Department of State Foreign Affairs Network, and includes an array of 
official foreign policy information from 1990 to the present. Contact 
the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, P.O. 
Box 371954, Pittsburgh, PA 15250-7954. To order, call (202) 512-1800 or 
fax (202) 512-2250. 

National Trade Data Bank (NTDB). Operated by the U.S. Department of 
Commerce, the NTDB contains a wealth of trade-related information, 
including Country Commercial Guides. It is available on the Internet 
(www.stat-usa.gov) and on CD-ROM. Call the NTDB Help-Line at (202) 482-
1986 for more information.

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