Cuba, officially the Republic of Cuba, consists of the island of Cuba (the largest of the Greater Antilles), the Isle of Youth and several adjacent small islands. Cuba is located in the northern Caribbean at the confluence of the Caribbean Sea, the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. Cuba is south of the eastern United States and the Bahamas, west of the Turks and Caicos Islands and Haiti and east of Mexico. The Cayman Islands and Jamaica are to the south.

Cuba is the most populous country in the Caribbean. Its people, culture and customs draw from several sources including the aboriginal Taíno and Ciboney peoples, the period of Spanish colonialism, the introduction of African slaves, and its proximity to the United States. The island has a tropical climate that is moderated by the surrounding waters; however, the warm temperatures of the Caribbean Sea and the fact that Cuba itself almost completely blocks access to the Gulf of Mexico, make Cuba prone to frequent hurricanes.

Cuba is perhaps the most well-known Caribbean nation due to its pivotal role in world politics in the twentieth century. A pawn during the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the United States, a nuclear world war nearly broke out during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, the nation is attempting to dig out from decades under a communist and socialist system and is re-establishing relationships with free and advanced nations.


Cuba is an archipelago of islands located in the Caribbean Sea. Cuba is the nation's principal island, which is surrounded by four main groups of islands. These are the Colorados, the Camagüey, the Jardines de la Reina and the Canarreos. The main island of Cuba constitutes most of the nation's land area (105,006 km² or 40,543 square miles) and is the 17th-largest island in the world by land area. The second largest island in Cuba is the Isla de la Juventud (Isle of Youth) in the southwest, with an area of 1180 square miles (3056 km²). Cuba has a total land area of 42,803 square miles (110,860 km²), slightly smaller than the U.S. state of Pennsylvania. It has 3,735 km of coastline and 29 km of land borders-all with the leased United States territory at Guantánamo Bay, where the U.S. Navy's Guantanamo Bay Naval Base is located.

The main island consists mostly of flat to rolling plains. At the southeastern end is the Sierra Maestra, a range of steep mountains whose highest point is the Pico Real del Turquino at 2,005 meters (6,578 ft).

Map of Cuba

The local climate is tropical, though moderated by trade winds. In general (with local variations), there is a drier season from November to April, and a rainier season from May to October. The average temperature is 21 °C in January and 27 °C in July. Cuba lies in the path of hurricanes, and these destructive storms are most common in September and October.

Havana is the largest city and capital; other major cities include Santiago de Cuba and Camagüey. Better known smaller towns include Baracoa which was the first Spanish settlement on Cuba, Trinidad, a UNESCO world heritage site, and Bayamo.

Natural resources include cobalt, nickel, iron ore, copper, manganese, salt, timber, silica, and petroleum. At one time the whole island was covered with forest. There are still many cedar, rosewood, mahogany, and other valuable trees. Large areas were cleared in order to grow sugar cane, resulting in the need to import timber.


Statue of Hatuey, a Taíno chieftain - Baracoa, Cuba

The recorded history of Cuba began on October 28, 1492, when Christopher Columbus sighted the island during his first voyage of discovery and claimed it for Spain. The island had been inhabited by Amerindian peoples known as the Guanahatabey and Ciboney in the western section, with the Taíno peoples in the remaining area. The Taino, a sophisticated agricultural society, were related to the Arawakan peoples of South America who had migrated to the Greater Antilles.

The coast of Cuba was fully mapped by Sebastián de Ocampo in 1511, the same year the first Spanish settlement was founded by Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar at Baracoa. Other towns, including Havana, soon followed.

Cuba soon became a point of departure for exploration on the North American mainland. Hernándo Cortés' expedition utilized 400 Spaniards and 3000 Indians, depleting the population. By 1550 the native population had been decimated mainly by European-introduced disease and maltreatment. Aspects of the region's aboriginal heritage has survived, however, in part due to the rise of a significant Mestizo population.10 By 1570, most residents were of mixed ancestry, a mixture of Spanish, African, and Indian heritages. Intermarriage was common due to the absence of women emigrants as well as the military nature of the conquest.

Sugar and slavery

Cuba soon began to depend on the sugarcane industry as its main source of economy. To fulfill the demand for sugar, slave-based plantations sprang up. By the 1840s, nearly one-third of the island's population was slaves. More than 600,000 slaves were imported from Africa in the nineteenth century. Many of these arrived after 1820, the year that Spain and Great Britain had agreed would be the end of slave trading in the Spanish colonies.

By 1830 the Cuban sugar industry had become the most mechanized in the world. Small farmers were expelled from their land while the forests were depleted. By 1850, 80 percent of the island's exports were sugar. Wealthy plantation owners gained prominence in the political and social fields. Contract workers, Mexican-Indian and Chinese, joined the labor force, taking on tasks as degrading and dangerous as the slaves faced. At the same time, the British navy attacked slave ships, and the Americans abolished slavery. The African slave trade ended in 1865, though it took another 21 years before slavery was abolished in Cuba.

During this time the island was plagued by recurring waves of disease: cholera, malaria, and influenza.

Colonial Cuba

Castillo de los Tres Reyes del Morro (Morro Castle (fortress), built in 1589 to guard the eastern entrance to Havana Bay).

Cuba was a Spanish possession for 388 years, ruled by a governor in Havana, with an economy based on plantation agriculture and the export of sugar, coffee and tobacco to Europe and later to North America. The Spanish population was boosted by settlers leaving Haiti when that territory was ceded to France in 1697.

An English fleet under command of Lord Albermarle took control of the island in the Battle of Havana in 1762, part of the Seven Years' War, but rule was restored to Spain the following year. In the 1820s, when the other parts of Spain's empire in Latin America rebelled and formed independent states, Cuba remained loyal, although there was some agitation for independence. This was partly because the prosperity of the Cuban settlers depended on their export trade to Europe, partly through fears of a slave rebellion (as had happened in Haiti) if the Spanish withdrew and partly because the Cubans feared the rising power of the United States.

An additional factor was the continuous migration of Spaniards to Cuba from all social strata, a demographic trend that had ceased in other Spanish possessions decades before and which contributed to the slow development of a Cuban national identity.

Cuba's proximity to the U.S. has been a powerful influence on its history. Throughout the nineteenth century, Southern politicians in the U.S. plotted the island's annexation. During the summer of 1848, President James Polk quietly authorized his ambassador to Spain, Romulus Mitchell Saunders, to negotiate the purchase of Cuba, offering up to $100 million, an astonishing sum of money at the time for one territory. Spain, however, refused to consider ceding one of its last possessions in the Americas.

Agitation for Cuban independence from Spain revived in the latter half of the nineteenth century, leading to a rebellion in 1868 led by Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, now known as the "father of the revolution," a wealthy planter from Oriente province who freed his slaves, proclaimed a war and was named President of the Cuban Republic-in-arms. This resulted in a prolonged conflict known as the Ten Years' War between pro-independence forces and the Spanish Army, allied with local supporters.11 At the Convention of Zanjon in 1878, Spain promised to reform the island's political and economic system. This brought an end to the conflict.

Pro-independence agitation temporarily died down, but the nationalist leader Antonio Maceo and several others refused to accept the Spanish conditions. In 1879 Calixto Garcia began another uprising, (known as "la guerra chiquita" - the little war) but received little support. Spanish forces put down the uprising the following year.12

Partly in response to U.S. pressure, slavery was abolished in 1886, although the African-descended minority remained socially and economically oppressed, despite formal civic equality granted in 1893. During this period, the rural poverty in Spain provoked by the Spanish Revolution of 1868 and its aftermath led to an even greater Spanish emigration to Cuba.

During the 1890s, pro-independence agitation revived, fueled by resentment of the restrictions imposed on Cuban trade by Spain and hostility to Spain's increasingly oppressive and incompetent administration of Cuba. Few of the promises for economic reform made by the Spanish government in the Pact of Zanjon were kept. Annual trade between Cuba and the United States had reached about $100 million, but in 1894 Spain canceled a Cuban-U.S. trade pact. Taxes were increased and more trade restrictions were imposed.

War broke out in February 1895. The writer and poet José Martí who had organized the war over a ten-year period while in exile in the U.S. and proclaimed Cuba an independent republic, together with revolutionary leader Máximo Gómez landed with an invasion force. Martí was killed at Dos Rios shortly after landing in Cuba. His death immortalized him, making him Cuba's undisputed national hero.

The eastern region of the island was quickly conquered and the conflict spread westward. In September 1895 the Republic of Cuba was declared. In 1896 Spain placed 200,000 troops on the island who ushered rural residents into urban camps. Ultimately tens of thousands died of starvation and disease. Estates and whole towns were burned (by both sides). The rebels concentrated on destroying the sugarcane crop.

In 1897 Spain moved to a more conciliatory policy, promising home rule with an elected legislature. The following year they ended their relocation program. By this time however, most of the population had begun to sympathize with the rebels and the war for independence continued. Commercial activity had essentially ceased and news of Spanish atrocities on the island reached the U.S. Anti-Spanish resentment began to heat up.

Shortly afterward, on February 15, 1898, the U.S. battleship Maine was mysteriously blown up in Havana harbor, killing 266 men. Forces in the U.S. favoring intervention in Cuba seized on this incident to accuse Spain of blowing up the ship, although there was no evidence of who had done the deed.

The U.S. Congress passed a resolution calling for intervention and President William McKinley was quick to comply. The result was the Spanish-American War, in which U.S. forces landed in Cuba in June 1898 and quickly overcame the exhausted Spanish resistance. In August a peace treaty was signed under which Spain agreed to withdraw from Cuba. Some advocates in the U.S. supported Cuban independence, while others argued for outright annexation. As a compromise, the McKinley administration placed Cuba under a 20-year U.S. treaty. The Cuban independence movement bitterly opposed this arrangement, but unlike the Philippines, where events had followed a similar course, there was no outbreak of armed resistance.

Independence 1902

Theodore Roosevelt, who had fought in the Spanish-American War and had some sympathies with the independence movement, succeeded McKinley as President of the United States in 1901 and abandoned the 20-year treaty proposal. Instead, the Republic of Cuba gained formal independence on May 20, 1902, with the independence leader Tomás Estrada Palma becoming the country's first president. Under the new Cuban constitution, however, the U.S. retained the right to intervene in Cuban affairs and to supervise its finances and foreign relations. Under the Platt Amendment, Cuba also agreed to lease to the U.S. the naval base at Guantánamo Bay. Cuba today does not celebrate May 20 as their date of independence, but instead October 10, as the first declaration of independence. The day Fidel Castro and his army entered Havana, January 1, 1959, is celebrated as "the triumph of the revolution."

Independent Cuba soon ran into difficulties as a result of factional disputes and corruption among the small educated elite and the failure of the government to deal with the deep social problems left behind by the Spanish. In 1906, following disputed elections to choose Estrada Palma's successor, an armed revolt broke out and the U.S. exercised its right of intervention. The country was placed under U.S. occupation and a U.S. governor, Charles Edward Magoon, took charge for three years. Magoon's governorship in Cuba was viewed in a negative light by many Cuban historians for years thereafter, believing that much political corruption was introduced during Magoon's years there.13

Great Theater of Havana, Garcia Lorca

In 1908 self-government was restored when José Miguel Gómez was elected President. The Gomez administration, which lasted until 1913, set a pattern of graft, corruption, maladministration, fiscal irresponsibility, and social insensitivity-especially toward Afro-Cubans. Led by Evaristo Estenoz and Pedro Ivonet the African-Cuban community was organized to secure better jobs and more political patronage.

Corruption continued with the subsequent administrations of Mario García Menocal (1913-1921), Alfredo Zayas (1921-1925), Gerardo Machado y Morales (1925-1933), Fulgencio Batista (through puppets 1934-1939 and himself 1940-1944 and 1952-1959), Ramón Grau San Martín (1944-1948), and Carlos Prío Socarrás (1948-1952).

Machado's administration was fraught with troop intimidation and assassination. He was overthrown by leftist groups, with U.S. help, in the Revolution of 1933, which brought Batista to power. Batista's administration proved to be no different from Machado's. During his rule, however, Cubans gained greater control over their own economy and major national development projects were undertaken. His hold on power was weakened by the Great Depression, which drove down the price of Cuba's agricultural exports and caused widespread poverty.

In August 1933, elements of the Cuban army staged a coup which deposed Machado and installed Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, son of Cuba's founding father, as President. In September, however, a second coup led by Sergeant Fulgencio Batista overthrew Céspedes leading to the formation of the first Ramón Grau San Martín government. This government lasted just 100 days, but engineered radical liberal changes in Cuban society and a rejection of the Platt amendment.

In 1934, Batista and the army, who were the real center of power in Cuba, replaced Grau with Carlos Mendieta y Montefur. In 1940, Batista decided to run for President himself. The leader of the constitutional liberals Ramón Grau San Martín refused to support him, forcing him to turn instead to the Communist Party of Cuba, which had grown in size and influence during the 1930s.

With the support of the communist-controlled labor unions, Batista was elected President and his administration carried out major social reforms and introduced a new progressive constitution. Several members of the Communist Party held office under his administration. Batista's administration formally took Cuba into World War II as a U.S. ally, declaring war on Japan on December 9, 1941, then on Germany and Italy on December 11, 1941; Cuba, however, did not significantly participate militarily in World War II hostilities. At the end of his term in 1944, in accordance with the constitution, Batista stepped down and Ramón Grau was elected to succeed him. Grau initiated increased government spending on health, education and housing. Grau's liberals were bitter enemies of the Communists and Batista opposed most of Grau's program.

In 1948, Grau was succeeded by Carlos Prío Socarrás, who had been Grau's minister of labor and was particularly disliked by the Communists. Prío was a less principled liberal than Grau and, under his administration, corruption increased notably. This was partly a result of the postwar revival of U.S. wealth and the consequent influx of gambling money into Havana, which became a safe haven for mafia operations.14 Nevertheless Prío carried out major reforms such as founding a National Bank and stabilizing the Cuban currency. The influx of North American money fueled an economic boom which did much to raise living standards and create a prosperous middle class in most urban areas, although the gap between rich and poor became wider and more obvious.

Bullet-ridden truck used in the attack on the Presidential Palace in Havana by the Directorio Revolucionario and the Organizacion Autentica in 1957. (Museo de la Revolution)Presidential Palace in Havana, now the Museum of the Revolution

By the late 1950s, Cuba had developed one of the leading economies in Latin America. It had among the highest annual per capita incomes in the region, $353. However, the majority of rural workers earned only about one-fourth this amount and lived in poverty. The thriving economy benefited only a small portion of the population. Much of the country suffered a lack of public services, as well as unemployment and underemployment. A number of foreign investors controlled the economy, owning a great percentage of the arable land, essential services and still-profitable sugar production.

Throughout this decade, Batista exercised absolute control over the political system. When it became apparent that Batista had little chance of winning the 1952 election, he staged a coup (March 10, 1952) and held power with the backing of a nationalist section of the army as a “provisional president” for the next two years. In 1954, under pressure from the U.S., he agreed to elections. The Partido Auténtico put forward ex-President Grau as their candidate, but he withdrew amid allegations that Batista was rigging the elections in advance. Batista could then claim to be an elected President. His regime was marked by severe corruption and poverty.

Fidel Castro

The internal decay of Batista's government and resultant suffering of the population and their frustrations gave power to the opposition that brought about to his downfall, led by Fidel Castro.

Castro had been a legislative candidate for elections in 1952 that were aborted by Batista. As the nation grew increasingly discontent, Castro formed an underground organization of supporters, including his brother, Raúl, and Mario Chanes de Armas. Together they actively plotted to overthrow Batista, collecting guns and ammunition and finalizing their plans for an armed attack on Moncada Barracks, Batista's largest garrison outside Santiago de Cuba. On July 26, 1953, they attacked. The attack proved disastrous and more than 60 of the 135 militants involved were killed.

Castro and other surviving members of his group managed to escape to an area of the rugged Sierra Maestra mountains east of Santiago where they were eventually discovered and captured. Castro was tried in the fall of 1953 and sentenced to up to 15 years in prison. After having served less than two years, he was released in May 1955 due to a general amnesty from Batista who was under political pressure. He and a group of friends went to Mexico to prepare for the overthrow of the Cuban government.

In Mexico, Castro met Argentine-born Ernesto "Che" Guevara, a proponent of guerrilla warfare. Guevara joined the group of rebels and became an important force in shaping Castro's evolving political beliefs. Guevara's observations of the misery of the poor in Latin America had already convinced him that the only solution lay in violent revolution.

On November 26, 1956, Castro and his band of 81 rebels, mostly Cuban exiles, set out from Tuxpan, Mexico aboard the yacht Granma for Cuba. Landing at Playa Las Coloradas near the eastern city of Manzanillo on December 2, they were routed and nearly annihilated by security forces. A dozen survivors, including Castro, his brother Raul and Guevara retreated to the Sierra Maestra and began a guerrilla campaign.

From their encampment in the Sierra Maestra mountains, the 26th of July Movement waged a guerrilla war against the Batista government. In the cities and major towns also, resistance groups were organizing until underground groups were everywhere. The strongest was in Santiago formed by Frank País.

Through 1957 and 1958, opposition to Batista grew, especially among the upper and middle classes and the students, among the hierarchy of the Catholic Church and in many rural areas. In response to Batista's plea to purchase better arms from the U.S. in order to root out the insurgents in the mountains, the United States government imposed an arms embargo on the Cuban government on March 14, 1958. By late 1958, the rebels had succeeded in breaking out of the Sierra Maestra and launched a general insurrection, joined by hundreds of students and others fleeing Batista's crackdown on dissent in the cities.

In 1957 a U.S. journalist writing for the New York Times made his way through military lines and met with the Castro in the Sierra Maestra. He reported that the romantic revolutionary was no Communist; in fact, the local Communists opposed him. The New York Times front page stories by Herbert Matthews presented Castro as a romantic and appealing revolutionary, bearded and dressed in rumpled fatigues. Castro's image was changed from that of a hothead into the youthful face of Cuba's future. Through television, Castro's rudimentary command of the English language and charismatic presence enabled him to appeal directly to a U.S. audience.

Batista's government was isolated in 1958 when the U.S. imposed an arms embargo. At the same time several Cuban military commanders sympathized with the rebellion or joined it. When the rebels captured Santa Clara, east of Havana, Batista decided the struggle was futile and fled the country to exile in Portugal and later Spain. Castro's rebel forces entered the capital on January 1, 1959.

Post revolution

Fidel Castro became Prime Minister of Cuba in February 1959, and held effective power in the country until formally handing it over to his brother, Raul Castro, in 2008.

During 1959, Castro's government carried out measures such as the confiscation of private real estate, the nationalization of public utilities, and began a campaign to institute tighter controls on the private sector such as the closing down of the gambling industry. Castro also evicted many Americans, including mobsters, from the island. These measures were undertaken by his government in the name of the program that he had outlined in the"Manifiesto de Montecristi"while in the Sierra Maestra. He failed to enact the most important elements of his reform program, however, which was to call elections under the Electoral Code of 1943 within the first 18 months of his time in power and to restore all of the provisions of the Constitution of 1940 that had been suspended under Batista.

Castro flew to Washington, DC in April 1959, but was not received by President Eisenhower, who decided to attend a golf tournament rather than meet with him.15 Castro returned to Cuba after a series of meetings with African-American leaders in New York's Harlem district, and after a lecture on "Cuba and the United States" delivered at the headquarters of the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.16

Summary executions of suspected Batista collaborators, coupled with the seizure of Cuban-owned businesses and the rapid demise of the independent press, nominally attributed to the powerful pro-revolution printing unions, raised questions about the nature of the new government. Attitudes towards the Cuban revolution both in Cuba and in the United States were changing rapidly. The nationalization of U.S.-owned companies (to an estimated 1959 value of US$1 billion) aroused immediate hostility within the Eisenhower administration.

Cubans began to leave their country in great numbers and formed a burgeoning expatriate community in Miami. Many were angry at Castro's revolutionary government due to its seizure of private property in Cuba and the increasing number of "paredones," the summary executions of those who opposed his government. Cuban-Americans soon formed a powerful political lobbying group in the United States. The U.S. government became increasingly hostile towards Cuba throughout 1959. This, in turn, may have influenced Castro's movement away from the liberal elements of his revolutionary movement and increased the power of hardline Marxist figures in the government, notably Che Guevara, although this theory is open to debate.

In October 1959, Castro openly declared himself to be friendly towards Communism, though he did not yet claim to be a Communist himself, while the liberal and other anti-Communist elements of the government were purged. Within six months of coming to power, he had sent agents to initiate revolutions in several Latin American countries, and established diplomatic and economic ties with leading socialist powers. Many Cuban citizens who had initially supported the revolution fled the country to join the growing exile community in Miami.

In March 1960, the first aid agreements were signed with the Soviet Union. In the context of the Cold War, the U.S. saw the establishment of a Soviet base of influence in the Americas as a threat; and under the new Democratic administration of John F. Kennedy, plans were approved to remove Castro from power (known as "Operation Mongoose" or, "The Cuban Project"). In late 1960, a trade embargo was imposed, which strengthened Castro's ties with the Soviet Union, who stepped in to buy tons of Cuban sugar.

At the same time, the Kennedy administration authorized plans for an invasion of Cuba by Florida-based Cuban exiles, taking advantage of anti-Castro uprisings which were repressed. The failed invasion in April 1961 came to be known as the Bay of Pigs Invasion.

Cuban Missile Crisis

In October 1962 a major confrontation occurred between the United States and Cuba which marked the closest point which the world had come to engaging in a nuclear war.

The U.S. learned in July 1962 that the Soviet Union had begun missile shipments to Cuba. These were medium- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles that had the capability of reaching the eastern United States within a few minutes following launch from Cuba. By the end of the following month, U.S. spy planes detected the presence of new military construction on the island. By mid-October a ballistic missile on a launching site was identified.

The U.S. responded by placing a naval blockade on Cuba in order to prevent the receipt of further Soviet missile shipments. President Kennedy warned that U.S. forces would seize all weapons and materials the Soviets attempted to deliver. For the next several days Soviet ships which had already been en route to Cuba altered course away from the blockade zone.

Messages between the leaders of the two superpowers were exchanged. On October 28, Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev informed Kennedy that work on the missile sites would cease and missiles already in Cuba would be returned to the Soviet Union. Kennedy, in turn, committed that the U.S. would not invade Cuba, a fear founded on the failed Bay of Pigs Invasion. It was also learned that Kennedy quietly promised the withdrawal of nuclear-armed missiles from Turkey which the U.S. had deployed in previous years.

The crisis was over by late November. Castro was infuriated by the Soviets' withdrawal in the face of the U.S. ultimatum but Cuba alone did not have the power to act against either superpower.

Nine months after the assassination of John F. Kennedy, Nikita Khrushchev fell from power in October 1964. It is believed by political experts that this was due in large part to the humiliation suffered by the USSR during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Marxist-Leninist Cuba

A so-called 'Yank tank', one of the many remaining U.S. cars in Cuba, imported prior to the United States embargo against Cuba.

During 1963, relations deteriorated again as Castro moved Cuba towards a fully-fledged Communist system modeled on the Soviet Union. The U.S. imposed a complete diplomatic and commercial embargo on Cuba. At this time U.S. influence in Latin America was strong enough to make the embargo very effective; Cuba was forced to direct virtually all its trade to the Soviet Union and its allies. The nation was plagued by shortages of foods, fuel, and other necessities.

In 1965, Castro merged his revolutionary organizations with the Communist Party, of which he became First Secretary, with Blas Roca as Second Secretary; later to be succeeded by Raúl Castro, who as Defense Minister and Fidel's closest confidant became the second most powerful figure in the government. Raúl Castro's position was strengthened by the departure of Che Guevara to launch unsuccessful attempts at insurrectionist movements in Congo, and then Bolivia, where he was killed in 1967. Osvaldo Dorticós Torrado, President of Cuba from 1959 to 1976, was a figurehead of little importance. Castro introduced a new constitution in 1976 under which he became President himself, while remaining chairman of the Council of Ministers.

During the 1970s, Castro moved onto the world stage as a leading spokesperson for Third World "anti-imperialist" governments. On a more concrete level, he provided invaluable military assistance to pro-Soviet forces in Angola, Ethiopia, Yemen and other African and Middle Eastern trouble spots. Cuban forces were decisive in helping the MPLA forces win the Angolan Civil War in 1975. Although the bills for these expeditionary forces were paid by the Soviets, they placed a considerable strain on Cuba's economy and manpower resources. Cuba was also hampered by its continuing dependency on sugar exports. The Soviets were forced to provide further economic assistance by buying the entire Cuban sugar crop, even though they grew enough sugar beet to meet their own needs. In exchange, the Soviets supplied Cuba with all its fuel, since it could not import oil from any other source.

Cuba's economic dependence on the Soviet Union was deepened by Castro's determination to build his vision of a socialist society in Cuba. This entailed the provision of free health care and education for the entire population. Through the 1970s and 1980s, the Soviets were prepared to subsidize all this in exchange for the strategic asset of an ally under the nose of the United States and the undoubted propaganda value o