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The native Amerindian population of Cuba began to decline after the European discovery of the island by Christopher COLUMBUS in 1492 and following its development as a Spanish colony during the next several centuries. Large numbers of African slaves were imported to work the coffee and sugar plantations, and Havana became the launching point for the annual treasure fleets bound for Spain from Mexico and Peru. Spanish rule eventually provoked an independence movement and occasional rebellions that were harshly suppressed. US intervention during the Spanish-American War in 1898 assisted the Cubans in overthrowing Spanish rule. The Treaty of Paris established Cuban independence from Spain in 1898 and, following three-and-a-half years of subsequent US military rule, Cuba became an independent republic in 1902 after which the island experienced a string of governments mostly dominated by the military and corrupt politicians. Fidel CASTRO led a rebel army to victory in 1959; his authoritarian rule held the subsequent regime together for nearly five decades. He stepped down as president in February 2008 in favor of his younger brother Raul CASTRO. Cuba's communist revolution, with Soviet support, was exported throughout Latin America and Africa during the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s.


Caribbean, island between the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, 150 km south of Key West, Florida

Natural Resources

cobalt, nickel, iron ore, chromium, copper, salt, timber, silica, petroleum, arable land

Population - distribution

large population clusters found throughout the country, the more significant ones being in the larger towns and cities, particularly the capital of Havana

Spanish (official)
HAVANA (capital) 2.137 million (2015)
Conventional long form
Republic of Cuba
Conventional short form
Local long form
Republica de Cuba
Local short form
communist state
Geographic coordinates
23 07 N, 82 21 W
Time difference
UTC-5 (same time as Washington, DC, during Standard Time)
Daylight saving time
+1hr, begins second Sunday in March; ends first Sunday in November; note - Cuba has been known to alter the schedule of DST on short notice in an attempt to conserve electricity for lighting
has not submitted an ICJ jurisdiction declaration; non-party state to the ICCt
The government continues to balance the need for loosening its socialist economic system against a desire for firm political control. In April 2011, the government held the first Cuban Communist Party Congress in almost 13 years, during which leaders approved a plan for wide-ranging economic changes. Since then, the government has slowly and incrementally implemented limited economic reforms, including allowing Cubans to buy electronic appliances and cell phones, stay in hotels, and buy and sell used cars. The government has cut state sector jobs as part of the reform process, and it has opened up some retail services to "self-employment," leading to the rise of so-called "cuentapropistas" or entrepreneurs. Approximately 476,000 Cuban workers are currently registered as self-employed.
Total tax rate (% of commercial profits)
Real Interest Rate
Manufacturing, value added (% of GDP)
Current Account Balance
Labor Force, Total
Employment in Agriculture
Employment in Industry
Employment in Services
Unemployment Rate
Imports of goods and services
US$ 12,591,200,000
Exports of goods and services
US$ 14,941,000,000
Total Merchandise Trade
FDI, net inflows
US$ 110,000,000
Commercial Service Exports
sugar, tobacco, citrus, coffee, rice, potatoes, beans; livestock
petroleum, nickel, cobalt, pharmaceuticals, tobacco, construction, steel, cement, agricultural machinery, sugar
petroleum, nickel, medical products, sugar, tobacco, fish, citrus, coffee
Canada 17.7%, Venezuela 13.8%, China 13%, Netherlands 6.4%, Spain 5.4%, Belize 4.7% (2015)
petroleum, food, machinery and equipment, chemicals
China 21.3%, Venezuela 17.7%, Spain 12.1%, Brazil 5.8%, Canada 4.4%, Italy 4.2%, Mexico 4% (2015)
Country Risk Rating
The highest-risk political and economic situation and the most difficult business environment. Corporate default is likely.
Business Climate Rating
The business environment is very difficult. Corporate financial information is rarely available and when available usually unreliable. The legal system makes debt collection very unpredictable. The institutional framework has very serious weaknesses. Intercompany transactions can thus be very difficult to manage in the highly risky environments rated D.
  • Restoration of U.S.-Cuban relations
  • High-quality medical sector
  • Tourism and mining (nickel, cobalt) sectors and agricultural potential (sugar, tobacco)
  • Skilled and low-cost workforce
  • Relatively satisfactory social indicators
  • Low crime rate and good control of corruption
  • Vulnerability to external factors (climate, raw material prices, Venezuelan aid)
  • Low levels of investment and infrastructure weaknesses
  • Rationed economy, price controls, black market
  • Low productivity of public and agriculture sectors

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