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April 2000

Cuba, 1994

Cuba, 1994

Cuba, the largest of the Greater Antilles, is located between the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, south of Florida. Spanish settlers established sugar cane and tobacco as Cuba's primary products. Cuba was the last major Spanish colony to gain independence, following a 50-year struggle that began in1850. The final push for independence took place in 1895, when José Martí, Cuba's national hero, announced the "Grito de Baire" ("Call to arms from Baire"). On February 15,1898 after the USS Maine sunk in Havana Harbor, the United States entered the conflict, starting the Spanish-American War.

Fidel Castro, Chief of State, brought Cuba onto the world stage by inviting Soviet support in the 1960s. Cuba was declared a socialist state on April 16, 1961. For the next thirty years after the declaration, 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. Cuba is slowly recovering from severe economic recession following the withdrawal of former-Soviet subsidies.

CIA World Factbook; U.S. Dept. of State Background Notes, 04/1998