Cuba

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CUBA

LOCATION, SIZE, AND EXTENT
TOPOGRAPHY
CLIMATE
FLORA AND FAUNA
ENVIRONMENT
POPULATION
MIGRATION
ETHNIC GROUPS
LANGUAGES
RELIGIONS
TRANSPORTATION
HISTORY
GOVERNMENT
POLITICAL PARTIES
LOCAL GOVERNMENT
JUDICIAL SYSTEM
ARMED FORCES
INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION
ECONOMY
INCOME
LABOR
AGRICULTURE
ANIMAL HUSBANDRY
FISHING
FORESTRY
MINING
ENERGY AND POWER
INDUSTRY
SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
DOMESTIC TRADE
FOREIGN TRADE
BALANCE OF PAYMENTS
BANKING AND SECURITIES
INSURANCE
PUBLIC FINANCE
TAXATION
CUSTOMS AND DUTIES
FOREIGN INVESTMENT
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT
HEALTH
HOUSING
EDUCATION
LIBRARIES AND MUSEUMS
MEDIA
ORGANIZATIONS
TOURISM, TRAVEL, AND RECREATION
FAMOUS CUBANS
DEPENDENCIES
BIBLIOGRAPHY

Republic of Cuba

República de Cuba

CAPITAL: Havana (La Habana)

FLAG: The flag consists of five alternating blue and white horizontal stripes penetrated from the hoist side by a red triangle containing a white five-pointed star.

ANTHEM: Himno de Bayamo (Hymn of Bayamo), beginning "Al combate corred bayameses" ("March to the battle, people of Bayamo").

MONETARY UNIT: The Cuban peso (c$) of 100 centavos is a paper currency with one exchange rate. There are coins of 1, 2, 3, 5, 20, 40, and 100 centavos and notes of 1, 3, 5, 10, 20, 50, and 100 pesos. c$1 = us$1.07527 (or us$1 = c$0.93) as of 2005.

WEIGHTS AND MEASURES: The metric system is the legal standard, but older Spanish units and the imperial system are still employed. The standard unit of land measure is the caballería (13.4 hectares/133.1 acres).

HOLIDAYS: Day of the Revolution, Liberation Day, 1 January; Labor Day, 1 May; Anniversary of the Revolution, 2527 July; Proclamation of Yara, 10 October. Celebration of religious holidays falling during the work-week was prohibited by a 1972 law.

TIME: 7 am = noon GMT.

LOCATION, SIZE, AND EXTENT

The Republic of Cuba consists of one large island and several small ones situated on the northern rim of the Caribbean Sea, about 160 km (100 mi) south of Florida. With an area of 110,860 sq km (42,803 sq mi), it extends 1,223 km (760 mi) ew and about 89 km (55 mi) ns. Cuba is the largest country in the Caribbean, accounting for more than one-half of West Indian land area. Comparatively, the area occupied by Cuba is slightly smaller than the state of Pennsylvania. It is separated from Florida by the Straits of Florida, from the Bahamas and Jamaica by various channels, from Haiti by the Windward Passage, and from Mexico by the Yucatán Channel and the Gulf of Mexico. Cuba's total coastline is 3,735 km (2,316 mi). The largest offshore island, the Isle of Youth (Isla de la Juventud), formerly known as the Isle of Pines (Isla de Pinos), lies southwest of the main island and has an area of 2,200 sq km (849 sq mi); the other islands have a combined area of 3,715 sq km (1,434 sq mi).

Cuba's capital city, Havana, is located on its north coast.

TOPOGRAPHY

Cuba's spectacular natural beauty has earned it the name Pearl of the Antilles. The coastline is marked by bays, reefs, keys, and islets. Along the southern coast are long stretches of lowlands and swamps, including the great Zapata Swamp (Ciénaga de Zapata). Slightly more than half the island consists of flat or rolling terrain, and the remainder is hilly or mountainous, with mountains covering about a quarter of its total area. In general, eastern Cuba is dominated by the Sierra Maestra, culminating in Pico Real del Turquino (2,005 m/6,578 ft); around Camagüey are rolling plains and low mountains; central Cuba contains the Trinidad (Escambray) Mountains in addition to flat or rolling land; and the west is dominated by the Sierra de los Órganos. The largest river, the Cauto, flows westward for 249 km (155 mi) north of the Sierra Maestra but is little used for commercial navigation purposes.

CLIMATE

Except in the mountains, the climate of Cuba is semitropical or temperate. The average minimum temperature is 21°c (70°f), the average maximum 27°c (81°f). The mean temperature at Havana is about 25°c (77°f). The trade winds and sea breezes make coastal areas more habitable than temperature alone would indicate. Cuba has a rainy season from May to October. The mountain areas have an average precipitation of more than 180 cm (70 in); most of the lowland area has from 90 to 140 cm (3555 in) annually; and the area around Guantánamo Bay has less than 65 cm (26 in). Droughts are common. Cuba's eastern coast is often hit by hurricanes from August to October, resulting in great economic loss.

FLORA AND FAUNA

Cuba has a flora of striking richness, with the total number of native flowering species estimated at nearly 6,000. The mountainous areas are covered by tropical forest, but Cuba is essentially a palm-studded grassland. The royal palm, reaching heights of 1523 m (5075 ft), is the national tree. Pines like those in the southeastern United States grow on the slopes of the Sierra de los Órganos and on the Isla de Juventud (Isle of Youth). The lower coastal areas, especially in the south, have mangrove swamps. There is a small area around Guantánamo Bay where desert plants grow.

Only small animals inhabit Cuba. These include tropical bats, rodents, birds, and many species of reptiles and insects. As of 2002, there were at least 31 species of mammals and 86 species of birds throughout the country.

ENVIRONMENT

The Cuban government has formed several agencies to protect the environment. Among them are the National Parks Service, the National Commission of Environmental Protection and Rational Use of Natural Resources (1977), the National Environmental Education Program, the Academy of Sciences of Cuba, and the National Commission for the Protection of the Environment and for Conservation of Natural Resources. In 2003, about 69% of the land was protected by the government. There are two natural UNESCO World Heritage Sites and six Ramsar wetland sites.

As of 2000, Cuba's most pressing environmental problems were deforestation and the preservation of its wildlife. The government has sponsored a successful reforestation program aimed at replacing forests that had gradually decreased to a total of 17% of the land area by the mid-1990s. In 2000, about 21% of the total land area was forested.

Another major environmental problem is the pollution of Havana Bay. In 1994, Cuba had the seventh-largest mangrove area in the world. Altogether, 51% of the country's renewable water sources are used for agricultural purposes. About 95% of Cuba's city dwellers and 77% of its rural people have pure drinking water. In 1996 Cuban industries emitted 31.1 million metric tons of industrial carbon dioxide.

According to a 2006 report issued by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), threatened species included 11 types of mammals, 18 species of birds, 7 types of reptiles, 47 species of amphibians, 23 species of fish, 3 species of invertebrates, and 163 species of plants. Endangered species in Cuba include the Cuban solenodon, four species of hutia (dwarf, Cabera's, large-eared, and little earth), two species of crocodile (American and Cuban), and the Cuban tree boa. The ivory-billed woodpecker, Cuban red macaw, Caribbean monk seal, and Torre's cave rat have become extinct.

POPULATION

The population of Cuba in 2005 was estimated by the United Nations (UN) at 11,275,000, which placed it at number 72 in population among the 193 nations of the world. In 2005, approximately 10% of the population was over 65 years of age, with another 21% of the population under 15 years of age. There were 100 males for every 100 females in the country. According to the UN, the annual population rate of change for 200510 was expected to be 0.4%, a rate the government viewed as satisfactory. To inhibit further growth, the government has put restrictions on migration to Havana. The projected population for the year 2025 was 11,824,000. The population density was 102 per sq km (263 per sq mi).

The UN estimated that 76% of the population lived in urban areas in 2005, and that urban areas were growing at an annual rate of 0.44%. The capital city, Havana (La Habana), had a population of 2,189,000 in that year, accounting for about 20% of the total population. Other important cities and their estimated populations are Santiago de Cuba (554,400), Camagüey (354,400), Holguín (319,300), Guantánamo (274,300), and Santa Clara (251,800).

MIGRATION

Before independence, there was a large migration from Spain; the 1899 census reported 129,000 Spanish-born persons living in Cuba. The 1953 census reported about 150,000 persons of foreign birth, of whom 74,000 were Spaniards. From 1959 through 1978, Cuba's net loss from migration, according to official estimates, was 582,742; US figures indicate that during the same period a total of 669,151 Cubans arrived in the United States.

During the 1960s, Cuban emigrants were predominantly of the upper and middle classes, but in the 1970s emigrants were urban blue-collar workers and other less-educated and less-wealthy Cubans. The flow of emigrants declined in the late 1970s, but beginning in April 1980, Cubans were allowed to depart from Mariel harbor; by the end of September, when the harbor was closed, some 125,000 Cubans in small boats (the "freedom flotilla") had landed in the United States. Of that number, 2,746 were classified as "excludable aliens" and were being held in prisons or mental institutions. According to an agreement of December 1984, Cuba agreed to accept the 2,746 back; repatriation began in February 1985, but in May, Cuba suspended the agreement. By the mid-1980s, well over 500,000 Cuban exiles were living in the Miami, Florida, area. In 1990 there were 751,000 Cuban-born persons in the United States. Large numbers have also settled in Puerto Rico, Spain, and Mexico.

Since 1979, the Cuban government has been providing education to a number of students from developing countries. Due to events making return to their homelands difficult, many have become refugees. Sporadically, Cuba receives groups of Haitians who generally return to their homeland voluntarily. Between 1991 and 1994, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) worked with the government to protect and assist more than 1,500 Haitians during a temporary stay in Cuba. In 1995, Cuba was harboring 1,500 refugees from the Western Sahara; in 1999, the government was still working with UNHCR to return them to their country of first asylum. In 2000 there was a total of 82,000 migrants living in Cuba. UNHCR assisted a total of 802 people in Cuba in 2004; 795 were refugees, 5 were asylum seekers, and 2 were returned refugees.

The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean estimated that remittances to Cuba in 2000 amounted to $750 million, 90% from Cubans living in the United States. By 2003, remittances to Cuba were $1.2 billion. In 2004, the United States revised its regulations restricting cash remittances to Cuba by restricting remittances to members of the remitter's immediate family. In addition, the amount of remittance that an authorized traveler may carry was reduced from $3000 to $300. The Cuban government takes 20% of US remittances.

In 2004, 11,821 Cubans sought asylum in the United States. The net migration rate for Cuba in 2005 was estimated as -1.58 migrants per 1,000 population. The government views the migration levels as satisfactory.

ETHNIC GROUPS

About 51% of the total Cuban population are described as mulattos. Whites (primarily of Spanish descent) make up about 37% of the total; blacks account for 11%; and Chinese for 1%. Virtually the entire population is native-born Cuban.

LANGUAGES

Spanish is the national language of Cuba.

RELIGIONS

The Roman Catholic Church has never been as influential in Cuba as in other Latin American countries. In the 1950s, approximately 85% of all Cubans were nominally Roman Catholic, but the Church itself conceded that only about 10% were active members. From the early 1980s into the 1990s, Roman Catholics represented about 40% of the population. A 2004 report indicated that only about 4045% of the population were nominally Catholic. Some sources indicate that a large number of the population adhere to varying degrees of syncretic Afro-Caribbean, such as Santería. The Baptists are believed to be the largest Protestant denomination. Other denominations include Jehovah's Witnesses, Methodists, Episcopalians, the Assembly of God, and Presbyterians. There is a very small Jewish population.

Fidel Castro originally established an atheist state in accordance with the beliefs of the Communist Party. As a result, his government has closed more than 400 Catholic schools, claiming that they taught dangerous beliefs, and the number of people who attend churches has diminished during Castro's reign since many churches are closely monitored by the state and church members face harassment. In 1992, the constitution was amended to label the state as secular rather than atheist. However, according to a 2004 report, Christian churches, particularly the Catholic Church, have still been viewed suspiciously by members of the Communist Party who have claimed that the organizations are undermining public policies and laws. Separate religious schools are forbidden, though churches can provide religious instruction to their members.

There are 22 denominations that are members of the Cuban Council of Churches. Membership in the Council means that the religion is officially recognized by the government and so is shown a higher degree of tolerance by the government. All registered denominations must report to the Ministry of Interior's Office of Religious Affairs. Nonregistered groups face various degrees of government harassment and repression.

TRANSPORTATION

In 2002, Cuba had about 60,858 km (37,817 mi) of roads, of which 29,820 km (18,530 mi) were paved, including 638 km (396 mi) of expressways. The first-class Central Highway extends for 1,223 km (760 mi) from Pinar del Río to Guantánamo, connecting all major cities. An extensive truck and bus network transports passengers and freight. In 2003, there were 184,980 registered motor vehicles, of which 210,300 were passenger vehicles.

Nationalized railways connect the east and west extremities of the island by 4,807 km (2,986 mi) of standard-gauge track, of which 140 km (87 mi) were electrified as of 2004. In addition, large sugar estates have 7,162 km (4,451 mi) of lines of various gauges.

Cuba first began to develop a merchant marine under the revolutionary government. The USSR had supplied oceangoing vessels and fishing boats and, in the mid-1960s, built a huge fishing port in Havana Bay to service Cuban and Soviet vessels. By 2005, the Cuban merchant fleet had 15 vessels of at least 1,000 GRT, totaling 54,818 GRT. Cuba's major portsHavana, Cienfuegos, Mariel, Santiago de Cuba, Nuevitas, and Matanzasare serviced mainly by ships of the former Soviet republics, with ships from Spain, the United Kingdom, and Eastern Europe making up the bulk of the remainder. Cuba also has 240 km (140 mi) of navigable inland waterways.

In 2004 there were an estimated 170 airports, 78 of which had paved runways as of 2005. The principal airport is José Martí at Havana. There are daily flights between Havana and the major Cuban cities, and weekly flights to Spain, Mexico, Moscow, Prague, and Jamaica. Cubana Airlines is the national air carrier. The number of air passengers increased from 140,000 in 1960 to 1,117,000 in 1997. However, by 2003 passenger traffic declined to around 611,000. Between 1975 and 1980, airports at Havana and Camagüey were renovated, and new airports were built at Bayamo, Manzanillo, and Las Tunas.

HISTORY

Cuba was originally inhabited by about 50,000 Ciboney and Taíno Amerindians who are related to the Arawak peoples; they were hunter-gatherer and agricultural societies. Christopher Columbus made the European discovery of Cuba in 1492 on his first voyage to the Americas. Many died from disease and maltreatment soon after. The African slave trade began about 1523 as the Amerindian population declined, and grew thereafter, especially with the development of coffee and sugar on the island. During the early colonial years, Cuba served primarily as an embarkation point for such explorers as Hernán Cortés and Hernando de Soto. As treasure began to flow out of Mexico, Havana became a last port of call and a target for French and English pirates. In 1762, the English captured Havana, holding Cuba for almost a year. It was ceded to Spain in exchange for Florida territory in the Treaty of Paris (1763). Spanish rule was harsh, and intermittent rebellions over the next century all ended in failure.

Cuba's first important independence movement came in 1868, when Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, a wealthy planter, freed his slaves and called for a revolution against Spain. For the next 10 years, guerrillas (mambises ), mainly in eastern Cuba, fought in vain against the Spanish colonial government and army. Although eventually subdued, Céspedes is nevertheless viewed as the father of Cuban independence. A second hero was added in the 1890s when poet and journalist José Martí founded the Cuban Revolutionary Party during exile in the United States. The call to arms (Grito de Baire) on 24 February 1895 initiated a new war. After landing with a group of recruits gathered from throughout the region, Martí was killed at Dos Ríos, in eastern Cuba. The Spanish had the insurrection under control within a year.

In the end, the Cubans had to rely on the United States to defeat the Spanish. Anti-Spanish sentiment, fueled by US newspapers, erupted after the battleship Maine mysteriously blew up in Havana harbor on 15 February 1898. The United States declared war on Spain on 25 April, and in a few months, the Spanish-American War was over. The Treaty of Paris (10 December 1898), established Cuban independence. During the interim period 18991902, the US army occupied Cuba. It instituted a program that brought about the eradication of yellow fever, but it was more fundamentally concerned with the establishment of US political and commercial dominance over the island.

On 21 February 1901, a constitution was adopted, and Cuba was nominally a free nation. But the United States insisted that Cuba include in its constitution the Platt Amendment, which gave the United States the right to intervene in Cuban affairs and maintain a naval base at Guantánamo.

For the next 30 years, Cuba lived through a succession of governments, constitutional and otherwise, all under the watchful eye of the United States. American companies owned or controlled about half of Cuba's cultivated land, its utilities and mines, and other natural resources. The US Marines intervened in 19069, in 1912, and again in 1920. The period culminated in the brutal dictatorship of Gerardo Machado y Morales (192533).

Cuba entered another unstable phase in 1933. A nationalist uprising chased Machado from office. After the United States attempted to install a regime, a "sergeants' revolt" headed by 32-year-old Fulgencio Batista y Zaldívar assumed power and named Ramón Grau San Martín provisional president. Grau, a physician and university professor noted for his nationalist zeal, was never recognized by the United States, and his regime lasted only four months. From 1934 until 1940, Batista ruled through a series of puppet presidents. During these years, Batista made two major contributions to Cuba. In 1934, President Franklin D. Roosevelt allowed Cuba to abrogate the Platt Amendment, although the United States did retain its naval base at Guantánamo Bay. Batista also allowed the drafting of a new constitution, passed in 1940, under which he became president. In 1944, Batista permitted Grau San Martín, now his political enemy, to take office. The eight years of rule by Grau and his ally, Carlos Prío Socarrás, were ineffective and corrupt, and in 1952, a reform party was expected to win the election.

That election was subverted, however, on 10 March 1952, when Batista seized power in a military coup. During the seven years of Batista's second administration, he used increasingly savage suppressive measures to keep himself in office. Under the Batista regime, the United States dominated the economy, social services suffered, poverty, and illiteracy were widespread, and the bureaucracy was flagrantly corrupt. It was at this point that Fidel Castro came on the scene.

Castro's insurrection began inauspiciously on 26 July 1953 with an abortive raid on the Moncada Army Barracks in Santiago de Cuba. Captured, jailed, and then exiled, Castro collected supporters in Mexico, and in 1956 landed in Cuba. Routed by Batista's troops, Castro escaped into the Sierra Maestra mountains with a mere dozen supporters. The force never grew to more than a few thousand, but clever use of guerrilla tactics evened the score with Batista's poorly trained army. Moreover, there was almost no popular support for Batista, and in 1958 the United States ended its military aid to the falling government. On 1 January 1959, the Batista regime collapsed, and Batista and many of his supporters fled the country. Castro's 26th of July Movement took control of the government, and began to rule by decree. The revolutionary government confiscated property that had been dishonestly acquired, instituted large-scale land reforms, and sought to solve Cuba's desperate financial and economic problems by means of a bold revolutionary program.

After June 1960, Cuban-US relations deteriorated at an accelerated pace. Largely in retaliation for the nationalization of about $2 billion in US-owned property in Cuba, the United States severed diplomatic relations with the Castro government. Tensions increased when the revolutionary regime nationalized US oil refinery companies after they refused to process Soviet crude oil. The United States response was to eliminate Cuba's sugar quota. In April 1961, a group of 1,500 Cuban exilesfinanced, trained, organized, and equipped by the CIAinvaded Cuba at the Bay of Pigs on the southern coast. The brigade was defeated within 72 hours, and the 1,200 surviving invaders were captured. They were eventually released after US officials and private sources arranged for a ransom of $50 million in food and medical supplies.

However, the United States did continue its attempt, through the OAS and other international forums, to isolate Cuba politically and economically from Latin America and the rest of the non-Communist world. All Latin American governments were pressured to break off diplomatic relations with Cuba. Castro responded with an attempt to destabilize certain Central and South American governments. Inspired by the Sierra Maestra campaign, guerrilla movements became active throughout the region, often with Cuban support. However, by 1967, when Ché Guevara (an Argentinean collaborator of Castro), was killed in Bolivia, these movements had collapsed. The United States was only slightly more successful in its campaign of isolation. The OAS suspended Cuba in 1962, but in July 1975 passed the "freedom of action" resolution allowing countries to deal with Cuba as they pleased. Meanwhile, Communist influence was growing in the Cuban government. Castro declared Cuba to be a Socialist country in late 1960, and the following year declared himself to be a Marxist-Leninist and a part of the Socialist world. All major means of production, distribution, communication, and services were nationalized. Soviet-style planning was introduced in 1962, and Cuba's trade and other relations turned from West to East. In October 1962, US planes photographed Soviet long-range-missile installations in Cuba. The United States blockaded Cuba until the USSR agreed to withdraw the missiles, in exchange for a US government pledge to launch no more offensive operations against the island.

During the Carter administration, there were moves to normalize relations with Cuba. In 1977, the United States and Cuba resumed diplomatic contacts (but not full relations) and concluded fishing and maritime rights agreements. However, the advent of the Reagan administration brought increased tensions between the two countries. Citing Cuban involvement in Angola, Ethiopia, Nicaragua, and Grenada, the United States took up a more intransigent stance toward Cuba.

Domestically, Castro's administration has had its successes and failures. A strong social welfare system, including free health care and subsidized housing, was implemented in the 1960s and 1970s. However, an attempt to produce 10 million metric tons of sugar by 1970 seriously crippled the island's economy. Other mismanaged projects have led to economic stagnation or chaos. Cubans live frugally under a highly controlled system of rationing.

Cuba was dealt a serious blow in the late 1980s with the collapse of the Soviet Union, which meant a cutoff of economic and military aid on which Cuba had come to rely heavily over the years. The USSR had been Cuba's most important trading partner and provided the major market for Cuban sugar. The few consumer goods the USSR had supplied in the past were no longer available.

Most Cubans that fled since Castro came to power settled in southern Florida, and many have had hope of returning to a Castro-free Cuba. There have been sporadic attempts to reunite families broken up by the emigration, but political circumstances often curtail these programs. For example, in February 1985 the repatriation of 2,746 "undesirables" from the United States began, but after Radio Martí (sponsored by Voice of America) began broadcasting in Spanish in May 1985, Cuba abrogated the agreement.

Just as the Cuban economy began to show signs of a rebound from the collapse of the Soviet Union, the United States tightened its embargo with the Cuban Democracy Act of 1992. This led to another wave of emigration in 1994, as thousands of Cubans left the island on rafts and other small vessels bound for Florida. To stem this tide of illegal immigration, the United States in 1995 reached an agreement with Cuba under which the United States would admit 20,000 Cuban immigrants per year. Cuba, in turn, was to take steps to prevent future "boat lifts."

US-Cuba relations deteriorated further, and Cuba's weakened economy was hampered anew in 1996 when the US Congress passed the Helms-Burton Act, another embargo-strengthening measure. The act met with harsh international criticism, and Canada and the World Trade Organization moved to fortify trade ties with the Castro government as a rebuff to the United States. Prior to the passage of Helms-Burton, Cuba had renewed its crackdown on the pro-democracy movement. In February 1996, Cuban air force planes shot down two civilian aircraft over international waters, killing the four persons aboard. The planes had left the United States carrying computer and medical supplies.

In late 1999 and early 2000, tensions between Cuba and the United States returned to the international spotlight with the highly publicized custody dispute surrounding Elian Gonzalez, a six-year-old Cuban boy who was the sole survivor of an attempted boat crossing to the United States in which his mother and 10 other Cuban refugees drowned. The dispute between the boy's father in Cuba and his expatriate relatives in Florida, who wanted him to stay in the United States, became a rallying point for both the Castro regime in Cuba and the anti-Castro Cuban community in southern Florida.

Despite its acquiescence starting in the 1990s to some economic reforms, dollar transactions and limited self-employment in agriculture, crafts and vending, the Castro regime retains its commitment to socialism. Its economy, still recovering from the collapse of the Soviet Union, has been buoyed by increased tourism, mining, and cigar and fish exports. But economic growth has not translated into an improved quality of life for most Cubans, and Castro has continued to blame poverty and harsh living conditions on the US embargo. After the United States declared war on terrorism, Castro accused Washington of planning to invade the island; he has increased his prosecution of political opponents. Critics observed that, during the time that world attention was focused on the US invasion of Iraq, Castro took the opportunity to increase pressure on opposition by executing political dissidents.

In January 2003 Cuba held its third direct election for the National Assembly. Participation was limited to a "yes" or "no" vote for a list of candidates approved by the Communist Party. A month later, the Assembly appointed Fidel Castro chairman of the Council of State for five more years. As of 2005, Castro had ruled Cuba for 46 years, the longest tenure in recent Latin American history.

In the period leading up to the 2004 US presidential elections, the United States limited cash transfers to Cuba and reduced the number of trips Cuban-Americans could make to visit family in Cuba. Since then, Castro rolled back many of the self-employment freedoms and forbid previously accepted US dollars, making the only accepted currency for foreigners the Cuban convertible peso. Further discouraging the use of US currency, there exchange rate for euros and Canadian dollars was more favorable. However, the island's dual economy continued. Criminal penalties for possession of foreign currency (repealed in 1993) were not reinstated. Cubans were able to continue to hold dollars in cash and in bank accounts.

GOVERNMENT

After he became premier on 16 February 1959, Fidel Castro was the effective source of governmental power. The juridical basis for this power rested on the Fundamental Law of the Revolution, which was promulgated on 8 February 1959 and was based on Cuba's 1940 constitution. To regularize government functions, a 10-member Executive Committee, with Castro as premier, was formed on 24 November 1972.

A new constitution, first published on 10 April 1975, then approved by the first congress of the Cuban Communist party in December, and ratified by a 97.7% vote in a special referendum in February 1976, established the National Assembly of People's Power as the supreme state organ. The deputies, originally elected by municipal assemblies and directly elected in national elections since 1993, serve five-year terms. The National Assembly elects the Council of State, whose president is both head of state and head of government. There are six vice presidents in the Council of State, and 23 other members.

In January 2003, the third direct election to the National Assembly took place; all 601 candidates approved by the Communist Party received more than the required 50% of the vote necessary for election to the Assembly. One month later, the Assembly reelected Castro as president of the state council. He remains the key figure in domestic and foreign policy making. The constitution recognizes the Communist party as the "highest leading force of the society and of the state," which effectively outlaws other political parties.

Suffrage is universal for citizens age 16 and over, excluding those who have applied for permanent emigration.

POLITICAL PARTIES

Fidel Castro came to power through a coalition group known as the 26th of July Movement. Along with it, in 1959, the Student Revolutionary Directorate (Directorio Revolucionario Estudiantil) and the Communist Party (Partido Socialista PopularPSP) were permitted to function.

Castro's relationship with the PSP was at first uneasy. The PSP condemned his early attempts at insurrection as "putschism," and did not support the 26th of July Movement until it had reached its final stages in 1958. After June 1959, Castro began to refer to antiCommunists as counterrevolutionaries, and used the PSP as an organizational base and as a link to the USSR. In December 1961, Castro declared his complete allegiance to Marxism-Leninism.

By 1962, the 26th of July Movement, the Student Revolutionary Directorate, and the PSP had merged into the Integrated Revolutionary Organization (Organización Revolucionaria Integrada), which, in turn, gave way to the United Party of the Socialist Revolution (Partido Unido de la Revolución Socialista) and, in 1965, to the Cuban Communist Party (Partido Comunista CubanoPCC).

On 17 December 1975, the PCC convened its first congress, which ratified a 13-member Politburo; Fidel Castro was reelected first secretary of the PCC. The second congress of the PCC took place in December 1980. The third congress, in February and November-December 1986, witnessed a massive personnel change when one-third of the 225-member Central Committee and 10 of 24 Politburo members were replaced, with Fidel Castro reelected first secretary. The Young Communist League and the José Martí Pioneer Organization for children up to 15 years of age are mass political organizations closely affiliated with the PCC. As of 2005, the PCC remained Cuba's only authorized political party.

However, political dissidence continued to occur in Cuba. Members of unauthorized groups such as the Dissident Liberal Party, the Cuban Orthodox Renovation Party, the Independent Option Movement and others have faced prosecution and harassment. The Ladies in White Movement is comprised of the mothers, wives, and daughters of political prisoners in Cuba. The Varela Project is a proposal from the populace to amend the Cuban constitution to include changes such as free speech, free enterprise, amnesty to political prisoners, and electoral reform.

LOCAL GOVERNMENT

The country is divided into 14 provinces and 169 municipalities. The Isla de la Juventud is a special municipality. The 1976 constitution provides for a system of municipal assemblies to be elected for 2-year terms by direct universal suffrage at age 16. Municipal assemblies choose delegates to provincial assemblies and deputies to the National Assembly. The most recent municipal elections were held in April 2005.

JUDICIAL SYSTEM

The 1976 constitution established the People's Supreme Court, consisting of a president, vice president, and other judges, as the highest judicial tribunal. All members of the court are elected by the National Assembly, as are the attorney general and deputy attorneys general. Through its Governing Council, the court proposes laws, issues regulations, and makes decisions that must be implemented by the people's courts, whose judges are elected by the municipal assemblies. There are also seven regional courts of appeal, as well as district courts with civil and criminal jurisdiction. Military tribunals assume jurisdiction for certain counter-revolutionary cases.

Although the constitution provides for an independent judiciary, the courts are subordinate to the National Assembly and the Council of State.

There are no jury trials. Most trials are public. The legal system is based on Spanish and American law influenced by communist legal theory.

ARMED FORCES

Total armed strength in 2005 came to 49,000 active duty personnel, with 39,000 reservists. The Army had an estimated 38,000 personnel, whose equipment included around 900 main battle tanks, an undisclosed number of light tanks, reconnaissance and armored infantry fighting vehicles, an estimated 700 armored personnel carriers and over 1,715 artillery pieces. The navy had an estimated 3,000 personnel including more than 550 Naval Infantry members. Major naval units included five patrol/coastal vessels and six mine warfare ships. The air force had around 8,000 personnel and 125 combat capable aircraft, of which only 25 are known to be operable. The service also has around 40 attack helicopters. Paramilitary forces included 20,000 State Security troops, 6,500 border guards, 50,000 Civil Defense Force members, the 70,000-member Youth Labor Army, and the million-member Territorial Militia. Cuba's key military ally and supporter for decades, Russia had cut off nearly all military assistance by 1993. In 2004, defense spending was estimated at $1.3 billion.

The US maintains a naval base at Guantánamo Bay in southeastern Cuba, under a 1934 leasing treaty. The US government considers the base to be of some strategic and training significance in the Caribbean and has refused to give it up, despite demands by the Castro regime that it do so. About 2,000 military personnel are stationed at Guantánamo.

INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION

Cuba is a member of the United Nations, having joined on 24 October 1945; it belongs to ECLAC and several specialized agencies, such as the FAO, IAEA, IFAD, ILO, UNESCO, UNIDO, and WHO. Cuba is a part of the ACP Group, G-77, the Latin American Economic System (LAES), the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), the Association of Caribbean States (ACS), and the Latin American Integration Association (LAIA). Cuba's charter membership in the OAS was suspended at the second Punta del Este meeting, in February 1962, through US initiative. The isolation of Cuba from the inter-American community was made almost complete when, at Caracas, on 26 July 1964, the OAS voted 154 for mandatory termination of all trade with the Castro government. Cuba has been very active in the Nonaligned Movement, and held its chairmanship between 1979 and 1983. The nation is also part of the Agency for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean (OPANAL) and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. In environmental cooperation, Cuba is part of the Antarctic treaty, the Basel Convention, the Convention on Biological Diversity, Ramsar, CITES, the London Convention, the Kyoto Protocol, the Montréal Protocol, MARPOL, and the UN Conventions on the Law of the Sea, Climate Change, and Desertification.

ECONOMY

Traditionally, one of the world's leading cane sugar producers, Cuba has been primarily an agricultural nation. Sugar was the leading earner of foreign exchange until 1992, when tourism revenues outstripped sugar revenues. Agriculture's contribution to GDP has decreased from 24% in 1965 to 10% in 1985, to 7% in 2000. Manufacturing increased from 23% of GDP in 1965 to 36% by 1985. In 2000, the contribution of the industrial sector fell to 34.5% as services, including tourism, became more dominant.

After 1959, the revolutionary government, following policies espoused by Ernesto "Che" Guevara, attempted to liberalize the sugar economy in order to achieve agricultural diversification and industrialization. When this policy proved disastrous to the sugar crop, Castro reversed the Guevara program in 1962 and announced a goal of 10-million-ton crop by 1970. Despite a severe drought in 196869, Cuba did achieve a record 7.6-million-ton output of refined sugar in 1970. Efforts to diversify foreign trade during the early 1970s were aided by record high prices for sugar. Between 1971 and 1975, the Cuban economy grew by about 10% annually, and moderate growth averaging about 4.4% per year continued through most of the 1980s. The special relationship with the Soviet Union, whereby it supplied Cuba with oil below market prices and bought its sugar at above market prices, insulated the Cuban economy from the vagaries of the two oil shocks of the 1970s and the Third World debt crisis of the early 1980s. However, commercial agreements with Argentina, Canada, Spain, France, the United Kingdom, Italy, and Germany indicated Cuba's keen desire to move away from nearly exclusive reliance on the Socialist countries for both imports and exports. Trade with the then-USSR and other CMEA members, nevertheless, made up the bulk of Cuba's foreign commerce, and Soviet aid remained essential to the economy.

From 1981 to 1985, Cuba's GDP growth averaged 7.3% due mainly to increased sugar production. In 1986 and 1987, however, GDP growth dropped to approximately 1.7% due mainly to the collapse of oil prices, a depressed world sugar market, prolonged drought in Cuba, and the fall in the value of the dollar. The situation worsened when the Soviet bloc collapsed in 1989, eliminating its assistance and subsidized markets. Cuban GDP fell 35% between 1989 and 1993. The Castro government restricted public expenditure and in 199394 introduced a series of market-oriented reforms. It legalized the dollar, allowed trading with market economies and developed new sources of foreign currency. The government placed special emphasis on the promotion of foreign investment and the development of sugar and tourism. About 150 occupations were opened up for self-employment. The economy began to expand again in 1994, and by 1996 GDP growth was at 7.8%. Tourism established new records in 1996, with arrivals increasing by 35% to 1,001,739, and gross revenues rising by 18% to $1.3 billion. The number of self-employed rose to over 200,000, but after income taxes were introduced, fell to an estimated 100,000 by 2001. By the end of 2000, nearly 400 joint ventures with foreign companies had been established representing a total investment of $4.24.5 billion.

In 1997, growth fell to 2.5% and then to 1.2% in 1998. Annual inflation was almost nonexistent in 1998, down from 19.0% in 1995. Growth increased to 6.2% in 1999 and 5.6% in 2000 as tourist arrivals rose to 1.7 million in 2000, and gross receipts to about $1.9 billion. In 2001, in the context of a global economic slowdown, the aftermath of the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States, and a devastating hurricane in November, tourist arrivals increased only marginally and gross receipts remained unchanged. Tourism was estimated to have declined in 2002.

In 2002, the government introduced a comprehensive restructuring of the sugar sector. Over half of Cuba's 156 mills were to be closed, leaving only the 71 most efficient. 100,000 of the 400,000 employed in the mills were to be retrained for other jobs. More rice and other crops were to be grown. Sugar production, at 8 million tons a year in 1989, had fallen to 3.2 million tons a year by 2003.

Between 7590% of adult Cubans are employed by the state in relatively low-payingjobs. However, education, medical care, housing, and other public services are free or highly subsidized, and there are no taxes on public jobs. Although there has been an increasing infusion of dollars and other hard currencies into the economy, the society still faces a painful transition out of its isolated socialism.

In 2004, the economy expanded by 4.2%, up from 2.9% in 2003; in 2005, the GDP growth rate was estimated at an impressive 8.0%, while the GDP per capita, at purchasing power parity, was $3,300. The standard of living in Cuba continues to hover at levels lower than before the downturn of the 1990s. The inflation rate was insignificant in 2003 and 2004, but by 2005 it was estimated to have risen to 4.2%. As a result, the government strengthened its control over inflowing currencies (which are mainly provided by tourism, remittances, and trade).

INCOME

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports that in 2005 Cuba's gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated at $37.1 billion. The CIA defines GDP as the value of all final goods and services produced within a nation in a given year and computed on the basis of purchasing power parity (PPP) rather than value as measured on the basis of the rate of exchange based on current dollars. The per capita GDP was estimated at $3,300. The annual growth rate of GDP was estimated at 5.2%. It was estimated that agriculture accounted for 5.5% of GDP, industry 26.1%, and services 68.4%.

LABOR

As of 2005, Cuba's workforce was estimated at 4.6 million, of which the nonstate sector accounted for 22% and the state sector 78%. In 2004, the Cuban workforce by occupation was distributed as follows: industry 14.4%; agriculture 21.2%; and services 64.4%. The unemployment rate in 2005 was estimated at 1.9%. However, underemployment is a chronic problem, and has been exacerbated by the idling of thousands of industrial workers whose jobs rely on foreign imports. Labor has been shifted to agriculture to compensate for fuel and machinery shortages affecting food and production.

All Cuban workers belong to a trade union, under the central control of the Confederation of Cuban Workers (CUTC), which is affiliated with the Communist-oriented World Federation of Trade Unions. Independent unions are explicitly prohibited. Those who attempt to engage in independent union activities face government persecution and harassment. Strikes and collective bargaining are not legally permitted.

The minimum wage varies, depending on the type of employment. As of 2005, the average monthly wage was $9. The minimum wage is supplemented by social security consisting of free medical care and education, and subsidized housing and food. However, a worker must still earn significantly more than minimum wage to support a family. The eight-hour workday, a weekly rest period, an annual paid vacation of one month, and workers' compensation are guaranteed by the constitution. The standard work week is 44 hours, with shorter workdays for hazardous occupations. Although the legal minimum working age is 17, the employment of minors 15 and 16 years of age is permitted as a way to offset labor shortages or to obtain training. Teenagers can only work 7 hours per day or 40 hours per week or only on holidays.

AGRICULTURE

The state owns about 3 million hectares (7.4 million acres) of arable land, and 750,000 hectares (1.8 million) of permanent crops. About 13.1% of the economically active population was engaged in the agricultural sector in 2003. An agrarian reform law of June 1959 made the government proprietor of all land in Cuba, created the National Institute of Agrarian Reform (INRA) as administrator, and set a general limit of 30 caballerías (400 hectares/990 acres) of farmland to be held by any one owner. A second agrarian reform, of October 1963, expropriated medium-size private holdings; there remained about 170,000 small private farms, with average holdings of over 16 hectares (40 acres). By 1985 there were 1,378 farm cooperatives. Almost a third of cultivated land is irrigated.

Sugarcane, Cuba's most vital crop and its largest export, is grown throughout the island, but mainly in the eastern half. The government regulates sugar production and prices. Sugar output reached 7.6 million tons in 1970, but that fell short of the 10 million tons projected. Subsequent targets were lowered, and the output was 7.9 million tons in 1979, 6.7 million in 1980 (when crop disease reduced production), 8 million in 1985, and 3.5 million in 1999. In 2004, exports of raw sugar amounted to 1.9 million tons, valued at $348.8 million. Cuba has pioneered the introduction of mechanical cane harvesters, and by 2002 there were 7,400 harvester-threshers (up from 5,717 in the early 1980s). Cuba and Russia signed several finance and investment accords in 1992 and 1993 whereby Russia will supply fuel, spare parts, fertilizer, and herbicide in exchange for Cuba's sugar harvest, with Russia annually importing a minimum of two million tons of Cuban sugar. The sugar industry also has diversified into exporting molasses, ethyl alcohol, rum and liquor, bagasse chipboard, torula yeast, dextran, and furfural. Tobacco, the second most important crop, is grown on small farms requiring intensive cultivation. In the late 1970s, the average annual production was about 35,000 tons, but crop disease in 1979 resulted in a drop in production to 8,200 tons in 1980; production was 34,494 tons in 2004. Other crops in 2004 included (in tons) oranges, 490,000; lemons and limes, 26,000; grapefruit, 225,000; rice, 610,000; plantains, 790,000; bananas, 310,000; potatoes, 300,000; sweet potatoes, 490,000; and coffee, 12,900. Other Cuban products with export potential include mangoes, pineapples, ginger, papayas, and seeds.

ANIMAL HUSBANDRY

In the state sector, milk production in 2004 amounted to 610,700 tons (up from 431,000 during 198991) and egg production reached 79,000 tons (120,000 tons during 198991). Livestock in 2004 included an estimated 4,050,000 head of cattle, 1.7 million hogs, 400,000 horses, 3.2 million sheep, 425,000 goats, and 18.4 million chickens. The populations of most livestock species have declined since 1990, as a result of input shortages from the worsening economy. Honey production in 2004 was an estimated 7,200 tons, the highest in the Caribbean.

FISHING

The territorial waters of Cuba support more than 500 varieties of edible fish. The catch in 2003 was 68,420 tons, compared with 244,673 tons in 1986. Tuna, lobster, and shellfish are the main species caught. The Cuban Fishing Fleet, a government enterprise, supervises the industry.

The former USSR aided in the construction of a fishing port in Havana. Seafood exports are an important source of foreign exchange; in 2003, fish and fish products exports amounted to $64.4 million.

FORESTRY

Much of the natural forest cover was removed in colonial times, and cutting between the end of World War I and the late 1950s reduced Cuba's woodland to about 14% of the total area and led to soil erosion. Between 1959 and 1985, about 1.8 billion seedlings were planted, including eucalyptus, pine, majagua, mahogany, cedar, and casuarina. State forests cover 2,348,000 hectares (5,802,000 acres), or about 21.4% of the total land area. Roundwood production in 2003 amounted to 2.6 million cu m (93 million cu ft), with 69% used for fuel.

MINING

Nickel was Cuba's leading mineral commodity, second to sugar in export earnings. The country produced 74,018 metric tons of mined nickel in 2003, up from 71,342 metric tons in 2002. Cuba's nickel reserves were the world's fourth-largest and the reserves base was the largest. Recent changes in investment and mining laws have increased foreign trade. Production has been boosted by a joint venture formed in 1994 between Sherritt International of Canada, and the Cuban government. Nickel deposits and plants were located in eastern Cuba at Nicaro, Moa, and Punta Gorda, all in Holguín Province. Production of cobalt (oxide, oxide sinter, sulfide, and ammonical liquor precipitate), a by-product of nickel operations, totaled 3,982 metric tons in 2004. In 2004, Cuba also produced ammonia, chromite, gold, gypsum, salt from seawater (180,000 metric tons), and silica sand. Production of copper has declined substantially from pre-Revolutionary times.

ENERGY AND POWER

Cuba is the second-largest producer of electric power in the Caribbean region, exceeded only by Puerto Rico. In 2002, Cuba's electrical generating capacity stood at 4.411 million kW, of which 4.354 million kW, was dedicated to conventional thermal sources and 0.057 million kW to hydropower. Output in 2002 stood at 14.771 billion kWh, with 13.920 kWh produced by fossil fuels, 0.105 billion kWh generated by hydropower, and 0.746 billion kWh generated by geothermal or other sources. Demand for electric power in 2002 totaled 13.737 billion kWh.

Cuba has the second-largest proven hydrocarbon reserves in the Caribbean area, surpassed only by those of Trinidad and Tobago. In 2005, according to the Oil and Gas Journal, Cuba's proven reserves of oil stood at 750 million barrels. Over the previous two decades the production of crude oil has risen noticeably, going from 16,000 barrels per day in 1984 to 67,000 barrels per day in 2004. The majority of the country's production is centered in the northern Matanzas province. However, the oil produced is a sour, heavy type of crude that requires special processing. There is interest in offshore production, and it has been reported by industry analysts that Cuba's offshore basins may hold at least 1.6 billion barrels of crude oil. Cuba has a refining capacity, consisting of four facilities operated by state-owned Cubapetroleo (Cupet) totaling 301,000 barrels per day, as of July 2005.

Cuba's consumption of oil in 2004 amounted to 211,000 barrels per day, far outpacing the country's production capabilities. While Cuba has had to import the difference, it has also taken measures to offset the cost of imported oil. In 2000, Cuba signed a five-year agreement to import crude oil and refined oil products from Venezuela, paying for the oil via a barter arrangement that has seen Cuban teachers and doctors sent to Venezuela to promote literacy and provide medical help to Venezuela's poor. In addition Cuba has offered offshore exploration rights in its territorial waters in the Gulf of Mexico to international oil companies. Among them are two Canadian companiesSherritt International; and Pebercanboth of which are producing oil in conjunction with Cupet, under joint venture agreements.

Cuba had proven natural gas reserves of 2,500 billion cu ft in 2005, according to the Oil and Gas Journal. Gross natural gas production in 2002 amounted to 19.42 billion cu ft, with 3.53 billion cu ft vented or flared and 15.89 billion cu ft marketed. Dry production and consumption for 2002 each stood at 12.36 billion cu ft.

Cuba has no known coal production so the country must import what it uses. In 2002, Cuba imported a total of 44,000 tons of coal and related products, which consisted of 29,000 tons of hard coal and 15,000 tons of coke. Coal product demand in that year amounted to 30,000 tons, with 14,000 tons stockpiled.

INDUSTRY

All Cuban industrial production was nationalized by March 1968. Industry accounts for approximately 35% of GDP.

Cuba had 156 sugar mills in 1985, and at that time, about 10% of exports from the then-USSR to Cuba consisted of machinery for the sugar industry. Other food processing plants produced cheese, butter, yogurt, ice cream, wheat flour, pasta, preserved fruits and vegetables, alcoholic beverages, and soft drinks. Light industry comprises textiles, shoes, soap, toothpaste, and corrugated cardboard boxes. Other industries are petroleum products (Cuba has four oil refineries with a total production capacity of 301,000 barrels per day), tobacco, chemicals, construction, cement, agricultural machinery, nickel, and steel production. In the mid-1990s, tourism surpassed sugar processing as the main source of foreign exchange, although the government in 2002 announced plans to implement a "comprehensive transformation" of the sugar industry, including the closing of almost half the existing sugar mills. Although 1.7 million tourists visited the country in 2000, bringing in $1.9 billion, the global economic slowdown in 2001 and the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States negatively impacted Cuba's tourism industry.

In 2005, industry accounted for 26.1% of the GDP and it employed 14.4% of the labor force. The industrial production growth rate in the same year was 3.5%, less than the overall GDP growth rate. Services were by far the largest economic engine, with a 68.4% share of the economy, and the largest employer, with 64.4% of the labor force engaged in this sector. Agriculture was the smallest economic sector (5.5% of the GDP), but a significant employer (21.2% of the work force). Financing from abroad has contributed to positive developments in the mining, oil, and construction sectors.

SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

In 2002, total expenditures for research and development (R&D) amounted to 189.6 million Cuban pesos, or 0.62% of GDP. Of that amount in 2002, 60% came from government sources, with 35% from business and 5% from foreign sources. For that same year, there were 2,510 technicians and 538 researchers per million people that were engaged in R&D. High technology exports in 2002 totaled $48 million, or 29% of manufactured exports.

The Academy of Sciences of Cuba, founded in 1962, is Cuba's principal scientific institution; it, as well as the Ministry of Agriculture, operates numerous research centers throughout Cuba. Institutions offering higher education in science and engineering include the University of Havana (founded in 1928), the University of Oriente at Santiago de Cuba (founded in 1947), the Central University of Las Villas in Villa Clara (founded in 1952), the University of Camagüey (founded in 1967), and the University Center of Pinar del Río (founded in 1972). In 198797, science and engineering students accounted for 16% of college and university enrollments.

DOMESTIC TRADE

Havana is Cuba's commercial center. Provincial capitals are marketing and distribution centers of lesser importance. Camaguey is a cattle and sugar center, Santa Clara lies in the tobacco belt, and Santiago is a major seaport and mining city. Holguín has been transformed into a major agricultural and industrial center.

By May 1960, the National Institute of Agrarian Reform was operating about 2,000 "people stores" (tiendas del pueblo), and by the end of 1962 all retail and wholesale businesses dealing in consumer essentials had been nationalized. In 1984 there were 27,301 retail establishments in Cuba. As of 2002, there were only about 200,000 independent farmers and only 100,000 private business owners. These private businesses are strictly controlled by the government.

Due to the US-organized trade boycott and the inability of production in the then-USSR and Cuba to meet Cuban demands, rationing was applied to many consumer goods in the 1960s and 1970s. By the mid-1980s, rationing had been reduced and accounted for about 25% of individual consumption. Allocation of major consumer items after 1971 was by the "just class" principle, with the best workers receiving priority. The availability of basic consumer items increased noticeably after 1980, when the smallholder's free market (mercado libre campesino) was introduced. Under this system, small-scale private producers and cooperatives could sell their surplus commodities directly to consumers once their quotas had been filled. However, the peasant markets were abolished in May 1986, allegedly because they led to widespread speculation and profiteering. It has been estimated that nearly 40% of the domestic economy operates in the "informal" sector, or black market.

Between $800 million and $1 billion per year is added to the domestic economy in the form of remittances from expatriates. Much of this comes from families residing in the United States, who are permitted to send a total of $1,200 per year. The Cuban government acquires these funds by allowing consumers to purchase products in state-run "dollar stores."

FOREIGN TRADE

Cuba has established or reestablished trade relations with many countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, Asia, and Europe. The sudden rupture of trade with the former Soviet Union and the Eastern bloc nations in 1989 after 30 years of interrelationship caused severe trauma to the Cuban economy. However, there remains a clear political will on the part of the former Soviet republics to maintain economic relations with Cuba with a certain degree of preference. Nevertheless, Cuba has diversified its trading partners in recent years.

Almost half of Cuba's commodity export market (53%) is taken up by sugar and honey, representing 5.7% of the world's export sales in these commodities. Nickel is the second most lucrative exported commodity (23%), followed by fish (6.8%). Other exports include tobacco (5.6%) and medicinal and pharmaceutical products (2.8%). Primary imports include petroleum, food, machinery, and chemicals.

In 2005, exports reached $2.4 billion (FOBFree on Board), while imports grew to $6.9 billion (FOB). In 2004, the bulk of exports went to the Netherlands (22.7%), Canada (20.6%), China (7.7%), Russia (7.5%), Spain (6.4%), and Venezuela (4.4%). Imports mainly came from Spain (14.7%), Venezuela (13.5%), the

Country Exports Imports Balance
World 1,660.6 4,838.7 -3,178.1
Russia 402.6 81.0 321.6
Netherlands 333.9 69.3 264.6
Canada 227.8 369.6 -141.8
Spain 188.6 707.9 -519.3
China 70.8 551.3 -480.5
France-Monaco 62.8 269.9 -207.1
Dominican Republic 30.7 16.5 14.2
Switzerland-Liechtenstein 30.3 30.3
Japan 28.8 81.9 -53.1
Mexico 26.0 298.0 -272.0
() data not available or not significant.

United States (11%), China (8.9%), Canada (6.4%), Italy (6.2%), and Mexico (4.9%).

BALANCE OF PAYMENTS

Since the United States stopped trading with Cuba in 1963, Cuba's dollar reserves have dropped to virtually nothing, and most trade is conducted through barter agreements. In 1997, Cuba's debt to the former Soviet Union was estimated at $20 billion. With the demise of the USSR, Cuba has focused on trading with market-oriented countries in order to increase foreign currency reserves, notably by promoting sugar exports and foreign investment in industry. Remittances from Cuban workers in the United States (totaling approximately $800 million annually), tourism dollars, and foreign aid help to cover the trade deficit.

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reported that in 2001 the purchasing power parity of Cuba's exports was $1.8 billion while imports totaled $4.8 billion resulting in a trade deficit of $3 billion.

Exports of goods reached $2.2 billion in 2004, up from $1.7 billion in 2003. Imports increased from $4.6 billion in 2003, to $5.3 billion in 2004. The resource balance was consequently negative in both years, deteriorating from -$2.9 billion in 2003, to -$3.1 billion in 2004. The current account balance followed a similar path, worsening from -$130 million in 2003, to -$177 million in 2004. Foreign exchange reserves (including gold) reached $2.5 billion in 2005, covering less than five months of imports.

BANKING AND SECURITIES

All banks in Cuba were nationalized in 1960. The National Bank of Cuba, established in 1948, was restructured in 1967. Commercial banks include Banco Financiero International (1984). Savings banks include Banco Popular dul Ahorro. A number of foreign banks offer limited services in Cuba. The Grupo Nuevo Banco was set up in 1996.

There are no securities exchanges.

Hard-currency reserves have been depleted by import growth in excess of export growth. In the domestic economy, the attempt to reduce enterprise subsidies caused an increase in demand for working capital that the state was unable to meet. A combination of price and direct rationing systems is operating.

INSURANCE

All insurance enterprises were nationalized by January 1964. Although insurance never accounted for more than 1% of national income, new opportunities began to emerge throughout the insurance sector as a result of the changes in economic structure. Seven insurance companies and two reinsurers had offices in Cuba in 1997. They concentrated on freight insurance, but there was interest in development and diversification.

Cuba's domestic state insurance company, Esen, appeared to be preparing to compete with foreign companies in the domestic market in 1997. It launched a major marketing drive with an expanded sales force of 3,500 to persuade Cubans to take out new personal insurance policies. Apparently, they were having some success, despite the lack of a private insurance tradition. The volume of premiums was 30% higher in 1995 than in 1990. New products include not only travel and medical insurance, but also pensions and life insurance policies. In 1997, a new insurance law was passed to permit the establishment of private insurers to compete with the state-owned companies. Although limited foreign penetration into the Cuban market will help to develop the sector, the authorities will continue to foster the development of Cuban insurers before the sector is fully opened. Private insurance schemes will not replace state social security provision.

Third-party automobile liability for foreign residents (including diplomats) and for vehicles carrying either freight or people are compulsory.

PUBLIC FINANCE

Under the Economic Management System, developed during the 1970s and approved by the PCC Congress in 1975, state committees for statistics and finances have been established, and formal state budgets, abandoned in 1967, have been reintroduced. State revenues come from the nationalized enterprises, income tax, social security contributions, and foreign aid.

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) estimated that in 2005 Cuba's central government took in revenues of approximately $22.1 billion and had expenditures of $23.6 billion. Revenues minus expenditures totaled approximately -$1.5 billio. Total external debt was $13.1 billion.

TAXATION

A 1962 tax code instituted a sharply progressive income tax as well as a surface transport tax, property transfer tax, documents tax, consumer goods tax, and a tax on capital invested abroad.

CUSTOMS AND DUTIES

Cuba's average weighted tariff in 1997 (the most recent year the World Bank could gather statistics) was 8.1%. However, Cuba also maintains significant nontariff barriers to trade. Required government inspection of imports and corrupt customs officials are among the worst factors.

FOREIGN INVESTMENT

In February 1960, Fidel Castro announced that foreign investment in Cuba would be accepted only if delivered to the government to be used as it saw fit. The enterprises in which this capital would be invested were to be "national enterprises," so that Cuba would not be dependent on foreigners. Any new foreign investments were to be controlled by the Central Planning Board. From mid-1960s, US holdings in Cuba were systematically seized, partly for political reasons and partly because US corporations refused to accept Cuba's terms of nationalism. Some of the investments of other foreign nationals were left operating under stringent governmental regulation.

Between 1960 and the early 1970s, foreign investment activities were restricted to limited technical and economic assistance from East European countries and the then-USSR, with which Cuba concluded over 40 cooperation agreements between 1963 and 1983. Limited investments from the noncommunist world were sought with some success in the mid-1970s. In 1982, in a further effort to attract investors from Western Europe, Canada, and Japan, Cuba passed its first foreign investment law, permitting foreign companies to form joint ventures with the Cuban government, but to own no more than 49% of the stock. In 1985, however, direct investment in Cuba by OECD countries totaled only $200,000.

Since 1990, the Cuban government has seen the necessity to open its recessed economy to foreign investment, either via joint ventures or other forms of association. In 1992, Cuba further intensified its efforts to attract foreign investment in several key areas of its economy, including sugar, tourism, textiles, tobacco, pharmaceuticals, nickel, and shipping. In 1995, full repatriation of profits and 100% foreign ownership was allowed in Cuba.

As of 1998, there were 322 joint ventures in force, with partners from over fifty different countries. In addition, many foreign contracts were being sought for oil drilling. The annual inflow of foreign direct investment (FDI) into the more liberalized Cuba reached a peak of $15.2 million in 1998. FDI inflow dropped, to $9 million in 2000 and further, to $4.6 million in 2001. Principal sources of foreign investment include Canada, Spain, France, Italy, the Netherlands, and Latin America.

In April 2002, after President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela was returned to power, oil shipments to Cuba on concessional terms were cut off. In April 2003, there appeared to be a decisive shift away from further opening of the economy as the Castro regime rounded up dissidents and executed by firing squad three men who attempted to hijack a passenger ferry to take them to Florida, accusing the US Mission Chief of trying to organize political opposition to the regime.

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

Until 1959, the Cuban government followed a policy of free enterprise; government ownership was largely limited to local utilities. When the Castro government came to power in 1959, it proceeded to create a centrally planned economy. By means of nationalization and expropriation, all producer industries, mines, refineries, communications, and export-import concerns were brought under government control by 1968.

Planning in the 1960s vacillated on the question of whether Cuba should concentrate on the production of sugar, on industrialization, or on a balance between the two. After 1963, sugar predominated. But the effort that went into the 1970 harvest diverted enormous resources from other sectors of the economy. At the same time, there was growing absenteeism and low productivity in the labor force, attributed to the policy of eliminating material incentives. Under the Economic Management System, pay was again tied to production though the introduction of a system akin to piecework.

The 197580 development plan, approved by at the PCC Congress in December 1975, set specific production goals for Cuban industry and projected an overall economic growth rate of 6% annually; it was announced in 1980 that the actual growth rate was 4%. The 198185 plan introduced new incentive schemes and gave more freedom to market forces; it also eased restrictive hiring regulation. One of the major aims of the plan was to increase industry's share of gross social product to 50%, but industry accounted for only 45.3% in 1985. The 198690 plan envisioned a 5% annual growth and aimed particularly at an increase in exports. In December 1986, 28 austerity measures were approved by the National Assembly, including increases in transport and electricity prices and rationing of kerosene.

Under several finance and investment accords signed by Cuba and Russia in 1992 and 1993, Russia agreed to supply fuel, tires, and spare parts for mechanical harvesters and other vehicles, in addition to fertilizers and herbicides, all for Cuba's sugar harvest. In addition, Russia agreed to import a minimum of 2 million tons of Cuban sugar. Russia also agreed to extend a $350 million credit to Cuba to complete and further develop a number of oil, energy, and nickel mining projects that had previously been backed by the Soviet Union.

Since 1998, Cuba has sat as an observer at International Monetary Fund (IMF)/World Bank meetings. Cuba's economic planners predicted a 1.5% growth rate for 2003, as tourism declined following the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, sugar prices were low, hurricanes damaged the island, and external financing was lacking. The Central Bank reported a $12.2 billion hard-currency foreign debt by late 2002. Unemployment stands at approximately 12%, but close to 30% of workers have been displaced or underemployed. Castro in 2003 replaced at least five officials in economy-related government positions in an effort to combat a faltering economy. Cubans increasingly turn to the black market for food, clothing, and household goods. Cuba continued to apply timid market reforms while actively seeking foreign investment. Economic growth in the late 1990s came from an expansion of manufacturing, tourism, mining, and services. Other positive factors included the improved tourist industry and a sharp recovery of the cigar industry. Indeed, during the 1990s, tourism replaced sugar exports as Cuba's primary source of foreign exchange. The creation of a new Central Bank completed financial sector reforms begun in 1995. These reflected the increased role of the private sector in financial transactions. In 2000, the Cuban economy continued its growth through the generous investment of foreign countries, but the US trade embargo held fast in the face of opposition from key US political leaders.

The main impediment to growth in 1990s Cuba was the restricted access to external financing. As a response, in 2005 the government strengthened its control over capital flowsespecially from tourism, oil, mining, and construction. New trade agreements and investment commitments from China and Venezuela will likely give a boost to the Cuban economy in the years to come. Positive developments in the tourism, nickel, and oil sectors will also contribute to the overall growth trend. However, if President Hugo Chavez were to lose power in Venezuela or if the Chinese economy were to face a downturn, Cuba wwould suffer the repercussions.

SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT

A single system of social security covering almost all workers and protecting them against the risks of old age, disability, and survivorship was enacted in 1963. Contributions to pension programs are made by employers (10% of earnings for self-employed persons), with the government making up the deficit. These contributions also fund maternity, sickness, and work-injury programs. Pensions are set at a rate of 50% of average earnings. The national health care system covers all citizens. The Maternity Law provides up to one year of maternity leave.

The Family Code proscribes all sex discrimination. Women receive equal access to education and are found in most professions. Legislation provides for the equal rights of illegitimate and legitimate children, and specifies the obligations of parents. Crime is not reported in the media, and there are no reliable data regarding the prevalence of violence against women and domestic abuse. Prostitution is legal for those over 17 years of age, but the government has been curtailing activity to combat the perception that sex tourism is endorsed.

Human rights activists have been targeted for arbitrary arrest and detention. Prison conditions are harsh: medical care is inadequate and abusive treatment is not uncommon. The government does not allow international organizations to operate in the country.

HEALTH

Sanitation is generally good and health conditions greatly improved after the 1959 revolution. However, with the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Cuba no longer receives the same level of foreign support and has fallen behind in many of its social services. In spite of this, in 1993 100% of the population was reported to have access to health care. In 2000, 95% of the population had access to safe drinking water and 95% had adequate sanitation.

Infant mortality declined from more than 60 per 1,000 live births before 1959 to 6.33 in 2005. About 8% of babies born in 1999 were considered low birth weight. Approximately 79% of married women (ages 15 to 49) used contraception. The government claims to have eradicated malaria, diphtheria, poliomyelitis, tuberculosis, and tetanus. Children up to one year of age were immunized as follows: tuberculosis, 99%; diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus, 99%; polio, 97%; and measles, 99%.

Life expectancy was an average of 77.23 years in 2005. Major causes of death were circulatory system diseases, cancer, injuries, and infectious diseases. There were 15 reported cases of tuberculosis per 100,000 in 2001. The HIV/AIDS prevalence was 0.10 per 100 adults in 2003. As of 2004, there were approximately 3,300 people living with HIV/AIDS in the country. There were an estimated 200 deaths from AIDS in 2003.

As of 2004, there were an estimated 591 physicians, 744 nurses, and 87 dentists per 100,000 people. Medical services are now more widely distributed in rural as well as urban areas. All doctors are obliged to work for the rural medical service in needy areas for two years after graduation. All health services are provided free of charge. Health care expenditure was estimated at 6.1% of GDP.

HOUSING

Within the past few years decades, Cuban housing has begun to catch up to population demand. Nearly 1.3 million housing units were built between 1959 and 1993. In the 1980s, over half of all housing units were detached houses. The remainder were apartments, palm huts called hohios, and cuarterias, housing units in buildings composed of a number of detached rooms where occupants share some or all facilities. More than half of all dwellings were concrete and brick, about one-third were solid wood, and a smaller number were constructed with palm planks. Water was piped indoors to roughly half of all homes and outside to one-fifth; about half had private bath facilities.

Housing conditions have generally improved over the past few years. By 1998, about 87% of urban dwellings were graded as good or fair, as were 68% of rural dwellings. From 19982001, some 800,212 housing conservation and rehabilitation projects were completed; about 51% were initiated by the government and 49% by residents.

Though most dwellings are built by the state, there are a few cooperative and individual concerns represented in the market. Habitat-Cuba, a nongovernment organization, has been working with local architects and low-income families to provide quality, low-cost housing. Part of this program involves using indigenous and more easily renewable materials for construction, such as clay and bamboo.

EDUCATION

Education has been a high priority of the Castro government. In 1959 there were at least one million illiterates and many more were only semiliterate. An extensive literacy campaign was inaugurated in 1961, when 100,000 teachers went out into the countryside.

Education is free and compulsory for six years (611 years of age) of primary school. Basic secondary studies last for three years, after which students may then choose to pursue a three-year course of university prep studies or a three-year technical school course. The addition of agricultural and technical programs to the secondary-school curriculum was an innovation of the Castro government; the work-study principle is now integral to Cuban secondary education. Students in urban secondary schools must spend at least seven weeks annually in rural labor. The first junior high schools, based on the work-study concept, were introduced in 1968. Catholic parochial schools were nationalized in 1961.

In 2001, nearly all children between the ages of three and five were enrolled in some type of preschool program. Primary school enrollment in 2003 was estimated at about 95.7% of age-eligible students. The same year, secondary school enrollment was about 86% of age-eligible students. It is estimated that about 94% of all students complete their primary education. The student-to-teacher ratio for primary school was at about 11:1 in 2003; the ratio for secondary school was about 12:1.

Cuba has five universities: the University of Havana (founded 1728), Oriente University at Santiago de Cuba (1947), the University of Las Villas at Santa Clara (1952), University of Camagüey (1974), and the University of Pinar Del-Rio. Workers' improvement courses (superación obrera ), to raise adults to the sixth-grade level, and technical training schools (mínimo técnico ), to develop unskilled workers' potentials and retrain other workers for new jobs, were instituted after 1961. Special worker-farmer schools prepare workers and peasants for enrollment at the universities and for skilled positions in industrial and agricultural enterprises. In 2003, about 34% of the tertiary age population were enrolled in some type of higher education program. The adult literacy rate for 2004 was estimated at about 99.8%.

As of 2003, public expenditure on education was estimated at 9% of GDP, or 18.7% of total government expenditures.

LIBRARIES AND MUSEUMS

The José Martí National Library in Havana, founded in 1901, had a collection of two million volumes in 2002. Besides acting as the National Library, it provides lending, reference, and children's services to the public. Other sizable collections in Havana are found at the Havana University Library (203,000 volumes), the Library of the Institute of Literature and Linguistics (1 million), the José Antonio Echevarría Library of the House of the Americas (150,000), and the University of the East in Santiago (535,000 volumes).

Although libraries of private institutions disappeared in the 1960s and many collections were transferred to the National Library, the number of special and research libraries increased, especially with the creation of many departments of the Academy of Sciences. A national library network was established by the Department of Libraries of the National Cultural Council.

The National Museum of Fine Arts in Havana contains classical and modern art from around the world as well as Cuban art from the colonial period to the present day. The Colonial Municipal Museum and the Felipe Poey Natural History Museum in Havana, the Bacardi Municipal Museum in Santiago, the Oscar Rojas Museum in Cárdenas, and the Ignacio Agramonte Museum in Camagüey are also noteworthy. There is a Naval Museum at Cienfuegos and a Museum of Archaeology in Sancti Spiritus.

MEDIA

All telephone service is free; about 95% of the telephones are automatic. In 2003, there were an estimated 51 mainline telephones for every 1,000 people. The same year, there were approximately two mobile phones in use for every 1,000 people.

As of 1999 there were 150 AM and 5 FM radio broadcasting stations and 58 television stations operating throughout the country. All stations are owned and operated by the government. In 2003, there were an estimated 185 radios and 251 television sets for every 1,000 people. The same year, there were 31.8 personal computers for every 1,000 people and 11 of every 1,000 people had access to the Internet. There was one secure Internet server in the country in 2004.

Like the radio and television stations, the press is entirely controlled and owned by the government. Cuba's major newspapers are all published in Havana and include Granma, established in 1965 (with an estimated 2002 circulation of 400,000) as the official organ of the Communist party. The party also publishes weekly editions in Spanish, English, and French. The weekly Juventud Rebelde is the publication of the Union of Young Communists, and had a 2002 circulation of 250,000.

Magazines published in Havana include Bohemia (weekly, 20,000, general articles and news) and Mujeres (monthly, 250,000, women's-interest news). Prensa Latina, the Cuban wire service, covers international affairs and distributes its coverage throughout Latin America.

The constitution states that print and electronic media are state property and cannot be made private. Media operate under strict guidelines and reflect government views. The government is said to intimidate journalists through the penal system and the threatening of jobs.

ORGANIZATIONS

Most of the leading mass organizations in Cuba were founded shortly after the revolution. The Committees for the Defense of the Revolution were founded on 28 September 1960 to combat counterrevolutionary activities. The Federation of Cuban Women was established 23 August 1960. The National Association of Small Farmers, the leading peasants' organization, was established 17 May 1961; in 1989 it had 167,461 members, both private farmers and members of cooperatives. The Confederation of Cuban Workers, the principal trade union federation, antedates the revolution. Founded in 1939, it had a total membership of 3,060,838 workers in 1990.

The Union of Young Communists of Cuba (UJC), founded in 1962, has reported over 500,000 members. The Federation of Cuban University Students (FEU), founded in 1922, consists of students from all major universities, colleges, and secondary schools. There are a number of sports organizations in the country and an active organization of the Special Olympics.

There are national chapters of the Red Cross Society and Caritas.

TOURISM, TRAVEL, AND RECREATION

Before 1959, tourism, especially from the United States, was a major source of revenue. Foreign tourism declined in the 1960s, and Cuba's ornate and expensive hotels were used mainly by visiting delegations of workers and students. Renewed emphasis on international tourism characterized the 197680 development plan, under which 25 new hotels were opened. The Cuban government actively promotes tourism as a means of offsetting the financial decline brought on by the collapse of the Soviet bloc.

Among Cuba's attractions are fine beaches; magnificent coral reefs, especially around the Isle of Youth; and historic sites in Old Havana (where some buildings date from the 17th century), Trinidad, and Santiago de Cuba. Passports and visas are required for nationals of countries that do not have visa-free agreements with Cuba. In June 1992, Cuba was admitted to the Caribbean Tourism Organization.

There were 1,905,682 foreign visitors who arrived in Cuba in 2003. Hotel rooms numbered 43,696 with 84,200 beds and a 62% occupancy rate. Tourism receipts reached $1.8 billion.

In 2004, the US Department of State estimated the cost of staying in Havana at $167 per day, and in Guantánamo Bay, $78 per day.

FAMOUS CUBANS

José Martí (185395), poet, journalist, and patriot, was the moving spirit behind the revolution that liberated Cuba from Spain. Antonio Maceo (184896), the mulatto general known as the "Titan of Bronze," became famous both as a guerrilla fighter and as an uncompromising advocate of independence. Carlos J. Finlay (18331915) gained lasting recognition for his theory regarding the transmission of yellow fever.

Cuban literature is most famous for its poetry and essays. The influential Afro-Cuban tradition has been explored by Cuban scholars, most notably by Fernando Ortiz (18811916), jurist and ethnographer. Another leading writer was José Antonio Saco (17971879), author of a six-volume history of slavery. Ernesto Lecuona (18961963) was a composer of popular music, and Juan José Sicre (18981974) is Cuba's outstanding sculptor.

The major heroes of the revolution against Batista are Fidel Castro Ruz (b.1926); his brother, Gen. Raúl Castro Ruz (b.1931); Argentine-born Ernesto "Che" Guevara (192867), who was killed while engaged in revolutionary activities in Bolivia; and Camilo Cienfuegos (d.1959). Cubans notable in literature include poet Nicolás Guillén (190289) and playwright and novelist Alejo Carpentier y Valmont (190480). Cuban-American writer Cristina Garcia (b.1958), made her debut as a novelist with Dreaming in Cuban (1992); she was a Guggenheim Fellow. Alicia Alonso (b.1921), a noted ballerina, founded the National Ballet of Cuba.

DEPENDENCIES

Cuba has no territories or colonies.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Calvert, Peter. A Political and Economic Dictionary of Latin America. Philadelphia: Routledge/Taylor and Francis, 2004.

Cardoso, Eliana A. Cuba After Communism. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1992.

Cuba After the Cold War. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1993.

Cuba and the Caribbean: Regional Issues and Trends in the PostCold War Era. Wilmington, Del.: Scholarly Resources, 1997.

Cuba and the Future. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1994.

Gomez, Mayra. Human Rights in Cuba, El Salvador, and Nicaragua: A Sociological Perspective on Human Rights Abuse. New York: Routledge, 2003.

Health in the Americas, 2002 edition. Washington, D.C.: Pan American Health Organization, Pan American Sanitary Bureau, Regional Office of the World Health Organization, 2002.

Hudson, Rex A. (ed.). Cuba: A Country Study. Washington, D.C.: Federal Research Division, Library of Congress, 2002.

Luis, William. Culture and Customs of Cuba. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2001.

Simons, Geoffrey Leslie. Cuba: From Conquistador to Castro. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire, England: Macmillan Press, 1996.

Suchlicki, Jaime. Historical Dictionary of Cuba. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press, 2001.

Toward a New Cuba?: Legacies of a Revolution. Boulder, Colo.: L. Rienner Publishers, 1997.

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Cuba

PROFILE
PEOPLE AND RELIGION
HISTORY
GOVERNMENT
NATIONAL SECURITY
ECONOMY
FOREIGN RELATIONS
U.S.-CUBAN RELATIONS
TRAVEL

Compiled from the November 2007 Background Note and supplemented with additional information from the State Department and the editors of this volume. See the introduction to this set for explanatory notes.

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

Population: 11 million; 70% urban, 30% rural.

Ethnic groups: 51% mulatto, 37% white, 11% black, 1% Chinese (according to Cuban census data).

Languages: Spanish. Literacy—97% (according to Cuban government sources).

Work force: (4.6 million) Government and services—30%; industry—22%; agriculture—24%; commerce—11%; construction—11%; transportation and communications—6%.

Government

Type: Totalitarian Communist state; current government assumed power by force January 1, 1959.

Independence: May 20, 1902.

Political parties: Cuban Communist Party (PCC); only one party allowed.

Political subdivisions: 14 provinces, including the city of Havana, and one special municipality (Isle of Youth).

Economy

GDP: (2006 est., based on purchasing power parity) $46.22 billion.

Real annual growth rate: 3.0% (2001); 1.1% (2002); 1.3% (2003); 3.0% (2004 est.); 5.0% (2005 est.); 9.5% (2006 est.). (Note: For 2006, the Government of Cuba reported 12.5%.)

GDP per capita income: (2006 est., based on purchasing power parity) $4,100.

Average monthly salary: $16.

Natural resources: Nickel, cobalt, iron ore, copper, manganese, salt, timber, oil, natural gas.

Agriculture: Products—sugar, citrus and tropical fruits, tobacco, coffee, rice, beans, meat, vegetables.

Industry: Types—sugar and food processing, oil refining, cement, electric power, light consumer and industrial products, pharmaceutical and biotech products.

Trade: Exports (2006)—$2.905 billion f.o.b.: nickel/cobalt, pharmaceutical and biotech products, sugar and its byproducts, tobacco, seafood, citrus, tropical fruits, coffee. Major export markets (2006)—Netherlands $774 million (28%); Canada $546 million (20%); Venezuela $296 million (11%); China $246 million (9%); Spain $149 million (5%); Russia $137 million (5%); Singapore $79 million (3%); France $51 million (2%); Bolivia $40 million (1%);Mexico $39 million (1%); others $402 million (15%). Imports (2006)—$9.503 billion f.o.b.: petroleum, food, machinery, chemicals. Major import suppliers (2006)—Venezuela $2.209 billion (24%); China $1.569 billion (17%); Spain $846 million (9%); Germany $616 million (7%);United States $484 (5%); Brazil $429 million (5%); Italy $409 million (4%); Canada $340 million (4%); Mexico $234 million (3%); Algeria $228 million (2%); France $197 million (2%); Vietnam $190 million (2%); Japan 175 million (2%); Russia $152 million (2%); Argentina $115 million (1%); others $1.227 billion (13%).

Exchange rate: Convertible pesos per U.S.$1 = 0.93. Cuba has two currencies in circulation: the Cuban peso (CUP), and the convertible peso (CUC). In April 2005, the official exchange rate changed from $1 per CUC to $1.08 per CUC (0.93 CUC per $1), both for individuals and enterprises. Individuals can buy 24 Cuban pesos (CUP) for each CUC sold, or sell 25 Cuban pesos for each CUC bought; enterprises, however, must exchange CUP and CUC at a 1:1 ratio. It is also important to note that the Cuban regime taxes and receives approximately 10% of each conversion of U.S. dollars into CUCs.

PEOPLE AND RELIGION

Cuba is a multiracial society with a population of mainly Spanish and African origins. The largest organized religion is the Roman Catholic Church, but evangelical protestant denominations continue to grow rapidly. Afro-Cuban religions, a blend of native African religions and Roman Catholicism, are widely practiced in Cuba. Officially, Cuba has been an atheist state for most of the Castro era. In 1962, the government of Fidel Castro seized and shut down more than 400 Catholic schools, charging that they spread dangerous beliefs among the people. In 1991, however, the Communist Party lifted its prohibition against religious believers seeking membership, and a year later the constitution was amended to characterize the state as secular instead of atheist.

While the Cuban constitution recognizes the right of citizens to freedom of religion, the government de facto restricts that freedom. Twenty-two denominations, including Presbyterians, Episcopalians, and Methodists, are members of the Cuban Council of Churches (CCC). Most CCC members are officially recognized by the State, though several, including the Evangelical Lutheran Church, are not registered and are recognized only through their membership in the CCC. Another 31 officially recognized denominations, including Jehovah's Witnesses and the small Jewish community, do not belong to the CCC. The government does not favor any one particular religion or church; however, the government appears to be most tolerant of those churches that maintain close relations to the State through the CCC. Unregistered religious groups experience various degrees of official interference, harassment, and repression. The Ministry of Interior engages in active efforts to control and monitor the country's religious institutions, including through surveillance, infiltration and harassment of religious professionals and practitioners. The most independent religious organizations—including the Catholic Church, the largest independent institution in Cuba today—continue to operate under significant restrictions and pressure imposed on them by the Cuban regime. The Cuban Government continues to refuse to allow the church to have independent printing press capabilities; full access to the media; to train enough priests for its needs or allow adequate numbers of foreign priests to work in the country; or to establish socially useful institutions, including schools and universities, hospitals and clinics, and nursing homes. All registered denominations must report to the Ministry of Interior's Office of Religious Affairs.

The visit of Pope John Paul II in January 1998 was seen as an important, positive event for bringing a message of hope and the need for respect of human rights. Unfortunately, these improvements did not continue once the Pope left the island. While some visas were issued for additional priests to enter Cuba around the time of the visit, the regime has again sharply restricted issuance of visas. Moreover, despite explicit regime guarantees and repeated follow-up requests, the regime has refused to permit the Catholic Church to establish Internet connections or an intranet among dioceses on the Island. In a pastoral letter entitled “There is No Country Without Virtue” (“No Hay Patria Sin Virtud”), the Cuban Conference of Catholic Bishops in February 2003 openly criticized the government's strict control over the activities of the Catholic Church, especially state restrictions on religious education and Church access to mass media, as well as the increasingly amoral and irreligious character of Cuban society under Communist rule. Other Cuban religious groups—including evangelical Christians, whose numbers continue to grow rapidly— also have benefited from the relative relaxation of official restrictions on religious organizations and activities. Although particularly hard hit by emigration, Cuba's small Jewish community continues to hold services in Havana and has members in Santiago, Camaguey, and other parts of the island.

HISTORY

Spanish settlers established the raising of cattle, sugarcane, and tobacco as Cuba's primary economic pursuits. As the native Indian population died out, African slaves were imported to work the ranches and plantations. Slavery was abolished in 1886.

Cuba was the last major Spanish colony to gain independence, following a lengthy struggle begun in 1868. Jose Marti, Cuba's national hero, helped initiate the final push for independence in 1895. In 1898, the United States entered the conflict after the USS Maine sank in Havana Harbor on February 15 due to an explosion of undetermined origin. 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 in accordance with the Platt Amendment. In 1934, the Platt Amendment was repealed. The United States and Cuba concluded a Treaty of Relations in 1934 which, among other things, continued the 1903 agreements that leased the Guantanamo Bay naval base to the United States.

Independent Cuba was often ruled by authoritarian political and military figures who either obtained or remained in power by force. Fulgen-cio Batista, an army sergeant, organized a non-commissioned officer revolt in September 1933 and wielded significant power behind the scenes until he was elected president in 1940. Batista was voted out of office

in 1944 and did not run in 1948. Both those elections were won by civilian political figures with the support of party organizations. Running for president again in 1952, Batista seized power in a bloodless coup 3 months before the election was to take place, suspended the balloting, and began ruling by decree. Many political figures and movements that wanted a return to the government according to the Constitution of 1940 disputed Batista's undemocratic rule.

On July 26, 1953, Fidel Castro, who had been involved in increasingly violent political activity before Batista's coup, led a failed attack on the Moncada army barracks in Santiago de Cuba in which more than 100 died. After defending himself in a trial open to national and international media, he was convicted and jailed, and subsequently was freed in an act of clemency, before going into exile in Mexico. There he organized the “26th of July Movement” with the goal of overthrowing Batista, and the group sailed to Cuba on board the yacht Granma, landing in the eastern part of the island in December 1956.

Batista's dictatorial rule fueled increasing popular discontent and the rise of many active urban and rural resistance groups, a fertile political environment for Castro's 26th of July Movement. Faced with a corrupt and ineffective military—itself dispirited by a U.S. Government embargo on weapons sales to Cuba—and public indignation and revulsion at his brutality toward opponents, Batista fled on January 1, 1959. Although he had promised a return to constitutional rule and democratic elections along with social reforms, Castro used his control of the military to consolidate his power by repressing all dissent from his decisions, marginalizing other resistance figures, and imprisoning or executing thousands of opponents. An estimated 3,200 people were executed by the Castro regime between 1959–62 alone. As the revolution became more radical, 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 and worked in concert with the geopolitical goals of Soviet communism, funding and fomenting violent subversive and insurrectional activities, as well as military adventurism, until the demise of the U.S.S.R. in 1991. Relations between the United States and Cuba deteriorated rapidly as the Cuban regime expropriated U.S. properties and moved toward adoption of a one-party communist system. In response, the United States imposed an embargo on Cuba in October 1960, and, in response to Castro's provocations, broke diplomatic relations on January 3, 1961. Tensions between the two governments peaked during the October 1962 missile crisis.

GOVERNMENT

Cuba is a totalitarian state controlled by Fidel Castro, who is chief of state, head of government, First Secretary of the PCC, and commander in chief of the armed forces. The Castro regime seeks to control most aspects of Cuban life through the Communist Party and its affiliated mass organizations, the government bureaucracy, and the state security apparatus. In March 2003, Castro announced his intention to remain in power for life. On July 31, 2006 the Castro regime announced a “temporary” transfer of power from Fidel Castro to his brother Raul, who until that time served as head of the Cuban armed forces and second-in-command of the government and the Communist Party. It was the first time in the 47 years of Fidel Castro's rule that power had been transferred. The transfer took place due to intestinal surgery of an undetermined nature. The Ministry of Interior is the principal organ of state security and control.

According to the Soviet-style Cuban constitution of 1976, the National Assembly of People's Power, and its Council of State when the body is not in session, has supreme authority in the Cuban system. Since the National Assembly meets only twice a year for a few days each time, the 31-member Council of State wields power. The Council of Ministers, through its 9-member executive committee, handles the administration of the economy, which is state-controlled except for a tiny and shriveling open-market sector. Fidel Castro is President of the Council of State and Council of Ministers and his brother Raul serves as First Vice President of both bodies as well as Minister of Defense.

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, particularly 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.” Citizens can be and are jailed for terms of 3 years or more for simply criticizing the communist system or Fidel Castro.

The Communist Party is constitutionally recognized as Cuba's only legal political party. 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 a tiny number of non-party members have on extremely rare occasions been permitted by the controlling Communist authorities to serve in the National Assembly. The Communist Party or one of its front organizations approves candidates for any elected office. Citizens do not have the right to change their government. In March 2003, the government carried out one of the most brutal crack-downs on peaceful opposition in the history of Cuba when it arrested 75 human rights activists, independent journalists and opposition figures on various charges, including aiding a foreign power and violating national security laws. Authorities subjected the detainees to summary trials and sentenced them to prison terms ranging from 6 to 28 years. Amnesty International identified all 75 as “prisoners of conscience.” The European Union (EU) condemned their arrests and in June 2003, it announced its decision to implement the following actions: limit bilateral high-level governmental visits, reduce the profile of member states' participation in cultural events, reduce economic assistance and invite Cuban dissidents to national-day celebrations.

Although the constitution allows legislative proposals backed by at least 10,000 citizens to be submitted directly to the National Assembly, in 2002 the government rejected a petition known as the Varela Project, supporters of which submitted 11,000 signatures calling for a national referendum on political and economic reforms. Many of the 75 activists arrested in March 2003 participated in the Varela Project. In October 2003, Project Varela organizers submitted a second petition to the National Assembly with an additional 14,000 signatures. Since April 2004, some prisoners of conscience have been released, 10 of whom were in the group of 75; all suffered from moderate to severe medical conditions and many of them continue to be harassed by state security even after their release from prison. At least 16 other activists were either arrested or sentenced to prison since 2004 for opposing the Cuban Government.

Principal Government Officials

Last Updated: 2/26/2008

Pres. of the Council of State: Raul CASTRO Ruz, Gen.

First Vice Pres. of the Council of State: Jose Ramon MACHADO Ventura, Gen.

Vice Pres. of the Council of State: Juan ALMEIDA Bosque

Vice Pres. of the Council of State: Julio CASAS Reguiero, Gen.

Vice Pres. of the Council of State: Abelardo COLOME Ibarra, Corps Gen.

Vice Pres. of the Council of State: Carlos LAGE Davila

Vice Pres. of the Council of State: Esteban LAZO Hernandez

Min. Sec. of the Council of State: Jose M. MIYAR Barruecos

Pres. of the Council of Ministers:Raul CASTRO Ruz, Gen.

First Vice Pres. of the Council of Ministers: Jose Ramon MACHADO Ventura, Gen.

Vice Pres. of the Council of Ministers: Osmani CIENFUEGOS Gorriaran

Vice Pres. of the Council of Ministers: Jose Ramon FERNANDEZ Alvarez

Vice Pres. of the Council of Ministers: Pedro MIRET Prieto

Vice Pres. of the Council of Ministers: Otto RIVERO Torres

Vice Pres. of the Council of Ministers: Jose Luis RODRIGUEZ Garcia

Sec. of the Executive Committee of the Council of Ministers: Carlos LAGE Davila

Min. of Agriculture:

Min. of Auditing & Control: Gladys Maria BEJERANO Portela

Min. of Basic Industries: Yadira GARCIA Vera

Min. of Construction: Fidel FIGUEROA de la Paz

Min. of Culture: Abel PRIETO Jimenez

Min. of Domestic Trade: Marino MURILLO Jorge

Min. of Economy & Planning: Jose Luis RODRIGUEZ Garcia

Min. of Education: Luis I. GOMEZ Gutierrez

Min. of Finance & Prices: Georgina BARREIRO Fajardo

Min. of the Fishing Industry: Alfredo LOPEZ Valdes

Min. of the Food Industry: Alejandro ROCA Iglesias

Min. of Foreign Investment & Economic Cooperation: Marta LOMAS Morales

Min. of Foreign Relations: Felipe PEREZ ROQUE

Min. of Foreign Trade: Raul DE LA NUEZ Ramirez

Min. of Higher Education: Juan VELA Valdes

Min. of Information Science & Communication: Ramiro VALDES Menendez

Min. of Interior: Abelardo COLOME Ibarra, Corps Gen.

Min. of Justice: Maria Esther REUS Gonzalez

Min. of Labor & Social Security: Alfredo MORALES Cartaya

Min. of Light Industry: Jose HERNANDEZ Bernardez

Min. of Public Health: Jose Ramon BALAGUER Cabrera

Min. of the Revolutionary Armed Forces: Julio CASAS Reguiero, Gen.

Min. of Science, Technology, & Environment:

Min. of the Steelworking Industry: Fernando ACOSTA Santana

Min. of the Sugar Industry: Ulises ROSALES del Toro, Div. Gen.

Min. of Tourism: Manuel MARRERO Cruz

Min. of Transportation: Jorge Luis SIERRA Cruz

Min. Without Portfolio: Ricardo CABRISAS Ruiz

Attorney Gen.: Juan ESCALONA Reguera

Pres., Central Bank of Cuba: Francisco SOBERON Valdes

Permanent Representative to the UN, New York: Rodrigo MALMIERCA Diaz

NATIONAL SECURITY

Under the Castros, Cuba is 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.

With the loss of Soviet-era subsidies in the early 1990s, Cuba's armed forces have shrunk considerably, both in terms of numbers and assets. Combined active duty troop strength for all three services is estimated at 50,000 to 55,000 personnel (compared to some 235,000 on active duty 10 years ago) and much of Cuba's weaponry appears to be in storage. Cuba's air force, once considered among the best equipped in Latin America, no longer merits that distinction, though it still possesses advanced aircraft and weapons systems; the navy has become primarily a coastal defense force with no blue water capability. The Cuban army is still one of the region's more formidable, but it also is much reduced and no longer has the considerable resources necessary to project power abroad.

The military plays a growing role in the economy and manages a number of hotels in the tourist sector. 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 continues to maintain a large state security apparatus under the Ministry of Interior to repress dissent within Cuba, and in the last decade has formed special forces units to confront indications of popular unrest.

ECONOMY

The Cuban Government continues to adhere to socialist principles in organizing its state-controlled economy. Most of the means of production are owned and run by the government and, according to Cuban Government statistics, about 75% of the labor force is employed by the state. The actual figure is closer to 93%, with some 150,000 small farmers and another 150,000 “cuentapropistas,” or holders of licenses for self-employment, representing a mere 2.1% of the nearly 4.7 million-person workforce.

The Cuban economy is still recovering from a decline in gross domestic product of at least 35% between 1989 and 1993 as the loss of Soviet subsidies laid bare the economy's fundamental weaknesses. To alleviate the economic crisis, in 1993 and 1994 the government introduced a few market-oriented reforms, including opening to tourism, allowing foreign investment, legalizing the dollar, and authorizing self-employment for some 150 occupations. These measures resulted in modest economic growth; the official statistics, however, are deficient and as a result provide an incomplete measure of Cuba's real economic situation. Living conditions at the end of the decade remained well below the 1989 level. Lower sugar and nickel prices, increases in petroleum costs, a post-September 11, 2001 decline in tourism, devastating hurricanes in November 2001 and August 2004, and a major drought in the eastern half of the island caused severe economic disruptions. Growth rates continued to stagnate in 2002 and 2003, while 2004 and 2005 showed some renewed growth. Moreover, the gap in the standard of living has widened between those with access to dollars and those without. Jobs that can earn dollar salaries or tips from foreign businesses and tourists have become highly desirable. It is not uncommon to see doctors, engineers, scientists, and other professionals working in restaurants or as taxi drivers.

The Castro regime has pulled back on earlier market reforms and is seeking tighter state control over the economy. The Cuban Government is aggressively pursuing a policy of recentralization, making it increasingly difficult for foreigners to conduct business on the island. Likewise, Cuban citizens are adversely affected by reversion to a peso economy.

Prolonged austerity and the state-controlled economy's inefficiency in providing adequate goods and services have created conditions for a flourishing informal economy in Cuba. As the variety and amount of goods available in state-run peso stores has declined, Cubans have turned increasingly to the black market to obtain needed food, clothing, and household items. Pilferage of items from the work place to sell on the black market or illegally offering services on the sidelines of official employment is common, and Cuban companies regularly figure 15% in losses into their production plans to cover this. Recognizing that Cubans must engage in such activity to make ends meet and that attempts to shut the informal economy down would be futile, the government concentrates its control efforts on ideological appeals against theft and shutting down large organized operations. A report by an independent economist and opposition leader speculates that more than 40% of the Cuban economy operates in the informal sector. Since 2005, the government has carried out a large anti-corruption campaign as it continues efforts to recentralize much of the economy under the regime's control.

Sugar, which has been the mainstay of the island's economy for most of its history, has fallen upon troubled times. In 1989, production was more than 8 million tons, but by the mid-1990s, it had fallen to around 3.5 million tons. Inefficient planting and cultivation methods, poor management, shortages of spare parts, and poor transportation infrastructure combined to deter the recovery of the sector. In June 2002, the government announced its intention to implement a “comprehensive transformation” of this declining sector. Almost half the existing sugar mills were closed, and more than 100,000 workers were laid off. The government has promised that these workers will be “retrained” in other fields, though it is unlikely they will find new jobs in Cuba's stagnant economy. Moreover, despite such efforts, the sugar harvest continued to decline, falling to 2.1 million tons in 2003, the smallest since 1933. The harvest was not much better in 2004, with 2.3 million tons, and even worse in 2005, with 1.3 million tons.

In the mid-1990s, tourism surpassed sugar as the primary source of foreign exchange. Tourism figures prominently in the Cuban Government's plans for development, and a top official cast it as at the “heart of the economy.” Havana devotes significant resources to building new tourist facilities and renovating historic structures for use in the tourism sector. Roughly 1.7 million tourists visited Cuba in 2001, generating about $1.85 billion in gross revenues; in 2003, the number rose to 1.9 million tourists, predominantly from Canada and the European Union, generating revenue of $2.1 billion. The number of tourists to Cuba in 2004 crossed the 2 million mark (2.05 million), including the so-called "medical tourists” from other Latin American countries seeking free medical treatment at Cuban facilities. In 2005 the number of tourists increased to 2.32 million.

Nickel is now the biggest earner among Cuba's goods exports. The nickel industry has been operating close to full capacity and therefore currently stagnant, but it is benefiting from unprecedented increases in world market prices. Revenues have more than doubled from $450 million in 2001 to $1 billion in 2005. The government is making attempts to increase extraction capacity.

Remittances also play a large role in Cuba's economy. Cuba does not publish accurate economic statistics, but academic sources estimate that remittances total from $600 million to $1 billion per year, with most coming from families in the United States. U.S. regulation changes announced in June 2004 allow remittances to be sent only to the remitter's immediate family; they cannot be remitted to certain Cuban Government officials and members of the Cuban Communist party; and the total amount of family remittances that an authorized traveler may carry to Cuba is now $300, reduced from $3,000. The Cuban Government captures these dollar remittances by allowing Cuban citizens to shop in state-run “dollar stores,” which sell food, household, and clothing items at a high mark-up averaging over 240% of face value.

Beginning in November 2004, Castro mandated that U.S. dollars be exchanged for “convertible pesos”—a local currency that can be used in special shops on the island but has no value internationally—for a 10% charge. The 10% conversion fee disproportionately affects Cubans who receive remittances from relatives in the U.S.

To help keep the economy afloat, Cuba has actively courted foreign investment, which often takes the form of joint ventures with the Cuban Government holding half of the equity, management contracts for tourism facilities, or financing for the sugar harvest. A new legal frame-work laid out in 1995 allowed for majority foreign ownership in joint ventures with the Cuban Government. In practice, majority ownership by the foreign partner is nonexistent. Of the 540 joint ventures formed since the Cuban Government issued the first legislation on foreign investment in 1982, 397 remained at the end of 2002, and 287 at the close of 2005. Due in large part to Castro's recentralization efforts, it is estimated that one joint venture and two small cooperative production ventures have closed each week since 2000. Responding to this decline in the number of joint ventures, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Investment explained that foreign investment is not a pillar of development in and of itself. Moreover, the hostile investment climate, characterized by inefficient and over-priced labor imposed by the communist government, dense regulations, and an impenetrable bureaucracy, continue to deter foreign investment. Foreign direct investment flows decreased from $448 million in 2000 to $39 million in 2001 and were at zero in 2002. In July 2002, the European Union, through its embassies in Havana, transmitted to the Cuban Government a document that outlined the problems encountered in operating joint ventures in Cuba. Titled “The Legal and Administrative Framework for Foreign Trade and Investment by European Companies in Cuba,” the paper noted the difficulty in obtaining such basic necessities as work and residence permits for foreign employees—even exit visas and drivers licenses. It complained that the Government of Cuba gave EU joint venture partners little or no say in hiring Cuban staff, often forced the joint venture to contract employees who were not professionally suitable, and yet reserved to itself the right to fire any worker at any time without cause. It noted administrative difficulties in securing financing and warned that “the difficulties of state firms in meeting their payment obligations are seriously threatening some firms and increasing the risk premium which all operators have to pay for their operations with Cuba.” The Cuban Government offered no response.

Investors are also constrained by the U.S.-Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity (Libertad) Act that provides sanctions for those who “traffic” in property expropriated from U.S. citizens. More than a dozen companies have pulled out of Cuba or altered their plans to invest there due to the threat of action under the Libertad Act.

In an attempt to provide jobs for workers laid off due to the economic crisis and bring some forms of black market activity into more controllable channels, the Cuban Government in 1993 legalized self-employment for some 150 occupations. This small private sector is tightly controlled and regulated. Set monthly fees must be paid regardless of income earned, and frequent inspections yield stiff fines when any of the many self-employ-ment regulations are violated. Rather than expanding private sector opportunities, in recent years, the government has been attempting to squeeze more of these private sector entrepreneurs out of business and back to the public sector. Many have opted to enter the informal economy or black market, and others have closed. These measures have reduced private sector employment from a peak of 209,000 to less than 100,000 now. Moreover, a large number of those people who nominally are self-employed in reality are well-connected fronts for military officials. No recent figures have been made available, but the Government of Cuba reported at the end of 2001 that tax receipts from the self-employed fell 8.1% due to the decrease in the number of these taxpayers. Since October 1, 2004, the Cuban Government no longer issues new licenses for 40 of the approximately 150 categories of self-employment, including for the most popular ones, such as private restaurants.

In June 2005, 2,000 more licenses were revoked from self-employed workers as a means to reassert government control over the economy and to stem growing inequalities associated with self-employment. The licenses for self-employed workers were typically for service-oriented work, allowing the Cuban people to eke out a small living in an otherwise impoverished state. Moreover, workers in Cuba's tourist sector—at resorts where native Cubans are prohibited unless they are on the job—have been prohibited by a Ministry of Tourism regulation from accepting gifts, tips, or even food from foreigners, in a further attempt at increasing the tourist apartheid that exists on the island.

A 2004 UN Economic Commission on Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) report recommends that Cuba “redesign the parameters of competition in the public, private and cooperative sectors [and] redefine the role of the state in the economy.” It recommends more flexibility in self-employment regulations, property diversification, economic decentralization, and a role for the market. The Cuban Government, however, is today reversing the economic liberalization of the 90s and re-centralizing its economy. Evidence of this is found in the decline in the number of firms participating in the perfecciona-miento empresarial, or entrepreneurial improvement (EI), program, which is based on capitalist management techniques. EI was instituted in the 1980s as a military-led pilot project, and in 1998, the Cuban Government extended it from military to civilian “parastatals,” reportedly to foster capitalist competitiveness. At first, the government highlighted participating companies' achievements in cutting costs and boosting profitability and quality and suggested that the increased autonomy of state managers under EI was producing an efficient form of socialism with a strong link between pay and performance. However, many in the Communist Party, even Castro himself, resisted EI. Many of the original participants have since left the program and participating firms have seen little growth in revenue. The EI program has fallen far short of expectations and the Cuban Government no longer heralds its successes or its future prospects. In 2003 the Cuban Government also tightened foreign exchange controls, requiring that state companies hold money in convertible pesos and obtain special authorization from the central bank before making hard currency transactions. Practically speaking, this restricted companies from using the dollar for internal trade. Following this, in 2004 the government announced that all state entities must stop charging in U.S. dollars and charge only in pesos for any products and services not considered a part of a company's “fundamental social objective.” It also recently implemented new requirements to channel imports through monopolistic Soviet-style wholesale distribution companies.

Cuba's precarious economic position is complicated by the high price it must pay for foreign financing. The Cuban Government defaulted on most of its international debt in 1986 and does not have access to credit from international financial institutions like the World Bank, which means Havana must rely heavily on short-term loans to finance imports, chiefly food and fuel. 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%. In 2002, citing chronic delinquencies and mounting short-term debts, Moody's lowered Cuba's credit rating to Caal—”speculative grade, very poor.” Dunn and Bradstreet rate Cuba as one of the riskiest economies in the world.

Human Rights

Cuba's totalitarian regime controls all aspects of life through the Communist Party (CP) and its affiliated mass organizations, the government bureaucracy and the Department of State Security. The latter is tasked with monitoring, infiltrating, and controlling the country's beleaguered human rights community. The government continues to commit serious abuses, and denies citizens the right to change their government.

The government incarcerates people for their peaceful political beliefs or activities. The total number of political prisoners and detainees is unknown, because the government does not disclose such information and keeps its prisons off-limits to human rights organizations. As of July 1, 2006, at least 230 Cubans were being held behind bars for political crimes, according to the independent Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation.

The government places severe limitations on freedom of speech and press. Reporters Without Borders calls Cuba the world's second biggest jailer of journalists. The constitution provides for freedom of speech and press insofar as they “conform to the aims of a socialist society” The government considers the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and foreign mainstream magazines and newspapers to be enemy propaganda. Access to the Internet is strictly controlled and given only to those deemed ideologically trustworthy.

Freedom of assembly is not a right in today's Cuba. The law punishes any unauthorized assembly of more than three persons. The government also restricts freedom of movement and prevents some citizens from emigrating because of their political views. Cubans need explicit “exit permission” from their government to leave their country, and many people are effectively held hostage by the Cuban government, despite the fact that they have received travel documents issued by other countries.

The government does not tolerate dissent. It targets dissenters by directing militants from the CP, the Communist Youth League, Committees for the Defense of the Revolution, the Federation of Cuban Women, the Association of Veterans of the Cuban Revolution, and other groups to stage a public protest against the dissenter, usually in front of his/her house. These protests, called “acts of repudiation,” involve the shouting of insults and the occasional use of violence. The events generate intense fear and are aimed at ostracizing and intimidating those who question the government's policies.

Prison conditions are harsh and life-threatening. Although physical torture is rare, cruel treatment of prisoners—particularly political prisoners and detainees—is common. Prison authorities frequently beat, neglect, isolate and deny medical treatment to inmates. Authorities often deny family visits, adequate nutrition, exposure to sunshine, and pay for work. Overcrowding is rife. Inmates friendly with prison guards often receive preferential treatment. This leads to abuse, whereby connected inmates assault others with impunity. Desperation inside the country's estimated 200 prisons and work camps is at high levels and suicides and acts of self-mutilation occur. Thousands of Cubans are currently imprisoned for “dangerousness,” in the absence of any crime. Worker rights are largely denied. The law does not allow Cuban workers to form and join unions of their choice. The government-appro do not act as trade unions, promote worker rights or protect the right to strike; rather, they are geared toward ensuring that production goals are met. Some workers lose their jobs because of their political beliefs. Salaries are not high enough to meet food and clothing costs; consequently, many Cubans are forced into small-scale embezzlement or pilfering from their employers.

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 physicians and nurses—in more than 20 nations.

Since the end of Soviet backing, Cuba appears to have largely abandoned monetary support for guerrilla movements that typified its involvement in regional politics in Latin America and Africa, though it maintains relations with several guerrilla and terrorist groups and provides refuge for some of their members in Cuba. Cuba's support for Latin guerrilla movements, its Marxist-Leninist government, and its alignment with the U.S.S.R. led to its isolation in the hemisphere. Cuba is a member of the Organization of American States (OAS), although its present government has been excluded from participation since 1962 for incompatibility with the principles of the inter-American system. Cuba hosted the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) summit in September 2006 and will hold the NAM presidency until 2009. In the context of the NAM and its ordinary diplomacy, Cuba has developed friendly relations with Iran, North Korea and other rogue states.

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Cuba expanded its military presence abroad, spending millions of dollars in exporting revolutions; 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.

EU-Cuban diplomatic relations have suffered as a result of the March 2003 crackdown on dissidents. In June 2004, EU members imposed restrictive measures on Cuba including inviting dissidents to national day celebrations and suspending high-level meetings between EU members and the Cuban Government. In January 2005, though, the restrictions were suspended in an effort to reengage the regime as a means of advancing the EU's policy of encouraging reform while preparing for the transition.

Spain is among the most important foreign investors in Cuba. The ruling Zapatero government continues Spain's longstanding policy of encouraging further investment and trade with Cuba. Cuba imports more goods from Spain (almost 13% of total imports) than from any other country. Spanish economic involvement with Cuba is exclusively centered on joint venture enterprises that provide financial benefit to the Cuban Government through state-owned firms. Spain's desire to provide support to its business community often impedes its willingness to pressure the Cuban Government on political reform and human rights issues.

Cuba's bilateral relationship with Venezuela has helped keep the Cuban economy afloat. The “Integral Cooperation Accord” signed by Fidel Castro and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in October 2000 laid the groundwork for a quasi-barter exchange of Venezuelan oil for Cuban goods and services that has since become a lifeline for Cuba. For Cuba, the benefits of the cooperation accord are subsidized petroleum and increased hard currency flows. The original agreement allowed for the sale, at market prices, of up to 53,000 barrels per day of crude oil and derivatives (diesel, gasoline, jet fuel, etc.) by PDVSA, Venezuela's state-owned petroleum company, to its Cuban counterpart, CUPET. The number of barrels of oil Venezuela began selling to Cuba has risen to over 90,000 barrels daily. Under the accord, PDVSA extended preferential payment terms to CUPET, including 90-day short-term financing instead of the 30 days offered to its other customers and, in lieu of a standard letter of credit backed by an international bank, PDVSA accepted IOUs from Cuba's Banco Nacional, the central banking entity responsible for servicing Havana's foreign debt. In August 2001, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez amended the 2000 accord to allow Venezuela to compensate the Cuban Government in hard currency for any and all Cuban products and services originally intended as in-kind payment for Venezuelan oil. As a result, Cuban exports of goods and services to Venezuela climbed from $34 million in 2001 to more than $150 million in 2003. Venezuelan ministries are contracting with Cuba for everything from generic pharmaceuticals to pre-fabricated housing and dismantled sugar mill equipment. On April 28, 2005, Chavez and Castro signed 49 economic agreements in Havana, covering areas as diverse as oil, nickel, agriculture, furniture, shoes, textiles, toys, lingerie, tires, construction materials, electricity, transportation, health, and education. Venezuela is also committed to sending more than $400 million in various products duty free to Cuba and plans to open an office of state-owned commercial Venezuelan Industrial Bank (BIV) in Havana to finance imports and exports between the two countries, while Cuba will open an official Banco Exterior de Cuba in Caracas. Increased economic engagement along with the rapid growth in Cuban sales to Caracas has established Venezuela as one of the island's largest export markets.

A series of recent economic agreements between Cuba and China have strengthened trade between the two countries. Sino-Cuban trade totaled more than $525 million in 2004, according to China Customs statistics. This represents an increase of more than 47% over 2003. Most of China's aid involves in-kind supply of goods or technical assistance. During President Hu-Jintao's visit to Cuba in November 2004, China signed investment-related memorandums of understanding (MOUs) estimated at more than $500 million, according to press reports. If these MOUs are fully realized, they would represent a sharp increase in known Chinese investments in Cuba. In addition to these MOUs, a number of commercial accords were signed at the first-ever Cuba-China Investment and Trade Forum. China also plans to invest approximately $500 million in a nickel operation in Moa in the eastern province of Holguin. According to the MOU, Cuba will own 51% of the enterprise and Chinese-owned Min-metals the remaining 49%. Chinese and Venezuelan economic support, including investment and direct aid, have given Cuba the space to eliminate many of the tentative open market reforms Cuba put in place during the depth of its mid-1990s economic crisis.

The Russian prime minister visited Cuba in October 2006, signaling a new effort to expand trade and investment, albeit financed by Russian credit. Russia set aside, for the moment, more than USD 20 billion in Soviet-era debt, restructured post-1991 debt, and extended a new credit line to Cuba. The new credit line is for USD 355 million repayable over 10 years at an interest rate of five percent. The new credit is conditioned in that it must be used to purchase Russian cars, trucks, planes, as well as to finance Cuban energy and transport infrastructure projects, including air navigation systems. Russia further agreed to restructure USD 166 million in debt accumulated since 1993. Both nations also signed an agreement on military equipment and technical services.

U.S.-CUBAN RELATIONS

On May 20, 2002, President Bush announced the Initiative for a New Cuba that called on the Cuban Government to undertake political and economic reforms and conduct free and fair elections for the National Assembly. The Initiative challenged the Cuban Government to open its economy, allow independent trade unions, and end discriminatory practices against Cuban workers. President Bush made clear that his response to such concrete reforms would be to work with the U.S. Congress to ease the restrictions on trade and travel between the United States and Cuba. The Cuban Government did not enact any such reforms. Instead, elections for the National Assembly were held in January 2003, with 609 government-approved candidates running for 609 seats. That was followed by the March crackdown on members of civil society.

In October 2003, President Bush then created the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba to help the Cuban people achieve the goal of a rapid, peaceful transition to democracy that is strongly supportive of fundamental political and economic freedoms. Its mandate is to identify additional measures to help bring an end to the dictatorship and to lay out a plan for effective and decisive U.S. assistance to a post-dictatorship Cuba, should such be requested by a free Cuba. The commission report outlines how the United States would be prepared to help a free Cuba improve infrastructure and the environment; consolidate the transition and help build democracy; meet the basic needs of the Cuban people in health, education, housing, and social services; and create the core institutions of a free economy. These recommendations are not a prescription for Cuba's future, but an indication of the kind of assistance the United States and the international community should be prepared to offer a free Cuba.

The commission also sought a more proactive, integrated, and disciplined approach to undermine the survival strategies of the Castro regime and contribute to conditions that will help the Cuban people hasten the dictatorship's end. The recommendations focus on actions available to the United States Government, allowing it to establish a strong foundation on which to build supportive international efforts. This comprehensive framework is composed of six interrelated tasks considered central to hastening change: empowering Cuban civil society; breaking the Cuban Government's information blockade on the Cuban people; denying resources to the regime; illuminating the reality of Castro's Cuba to the rest of the world; encouraging international diplomatic efforts to support Cuban civil society and challenge the Castro regime; and finally, undermining the regime's “succession strategy.” The Commission released its latest report in July 2006 (www.cafc.gov) as well as the "Compact with the Cuban People.” The Compact with the Cuban People is a message of hope from the United States to the people of Cuba and a clear statement of principles to reassure Cubans that the U.S. stands with them in their desire for freedom. The Second Report of the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba (CAFC II) sets forth specific assistance and programs the United States can offer to advance freedom and democracy in Cuba. The recommendations include $80 million over the next two fiscal years, to support these activities. Over the past decade, the regime has built an apparatus designed to exploit humanitarian aspects of U.S. policy, specifically to siphon off hundreds of millions of dollars for itself. To deny resources to the regime, U.S. law enforcement authorities have been directed to conduct “sting” operations against “mule” networks and others who illegally carry money and to offer rewards to those who report on illegal remittances that lead to enforcement actions; family visits to Cuba have been limited to one trip every 3 years under a specific license (individuals are eligible to apply for a specific license 3 years after their last visit to Cuba); and the current authorized per diem amount (the authorized amount allowed for food and lodging expenses for travel in Cuba) has been reduced from $164 per day to $50 per day (i.e., approximately eight times what a Cuban national would expect to earn during a 14-day visit) for all family visits to Cuba, based on the presumption that travelers will stay with family in Cuba.

U.S. policy also pursues a multilateral effort to press for democratic change by urging its friends and allies to actively promote a democratic transition and respect for human rights. The United States opposes consideration of Cuba's return to the OAS or inclusion in the Summit of the Americas process until there is a democratic Cuban Government. The United States has repeatedly made clear, however, that it is prepared to respond reciprocally if the Cuban Government initiates fundamental, systematic, democratic change and respect for human rights.

All U.S. travel to Cuba must be licensed by the Department of Treasury's Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC), and must fall into one of ten categories. Further information on the licensing process can be obtained from OFAC or at their website. All exports to Cuba must also be licensed by the Commerce Department's Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS). Further information on exports to Cuba can be found at the BIS website.

Principal U.S. Embassy Officials

Last Updated: 2/19/2008

HAVANA (USINT) Calzada between L & M Streets, 011-537-833-3551/9, Fax 011-537-833-2095, Workweek: Monday-Friday, 8:00 am-4:30 pm.

DCM OMS:Vacant
CM:Michael Parmly
CM OMS:Debra Grau
DHS/CIS:Ron Rosenberg
FM:Stephen Fulcher
MGT:William Rada
POL ECO:Chico Negron
CG:Sean Murphy
DCM:Buddy Williams

PAO:
Greg Adams
GSO:Michael Cragun
RSO:Lon Fairchild
AFSA:Tim Peltier
CLO:Jana Fairchild
EEO:Ramon A. Negron
FMO:Peggy Guttierrez
ICASS:Chair Rod Rojas
IMO:Art Mendez
IPO:Phillip Bunch
POL:James Benson
State ICASS: Robert Ward

TRAVEL

Consular Information Sheet

December 19, 2007

Country Description: Cuba is a totalitarian police state, which relies on repressive methods to maintain control. These methods, including intense physical and electronic surveillance of Cubans, are also extended to foreign travelers. Americans visiting Cuba should be aware that any encounter with a Cuban could be subject to surreptitious scrutiny by the Castro regime's secret police, the General Directorate for State Security (DGSE). Also, any interactions with average Cubans, regardless how well intentioned the American is, can subject that Cuban to harassment and/or detention, and other forms of repressive actions, by state security elements. The regime is strongly anti-American yet desperate for U.S. dollars to prop itself up. The United States does not have full diplomatic relations with Cuba, but provides consular and other services through the U.S. Interests Section in Havana. The U.S. Interests Section operates under the legal protection of the Swiss government but is not co-located with the Swiss Embassy.

Entry And Exit Requirements And Travel Transaction Limitations: The Cuban Assets Control Regulations are enforced by the U.S. Treasury Department and affect all U.S. citizens and permanent residents wherever they are located, all people and organizations physically in the United States, and all branches and subsidiaries of U.S. organizations throughout the world. The Regulations require that persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction be licensed to engage in any travel-related transactions pursuant to travel to, from, and within Cuba. Transactions related to tourist travel are not licensable. This restriction includes tourist travel to Cuba from or through a third country such as Mexico or Canada. U.S. law enforcement authorities have increased enforcement of these regulations at U.S. airports and pre-clearance facilities in third countries. Travelers who fail to comply with Department of Treasury regulations could face civil penalties and criminal prosecution upon return to the United States.

General licenses are granted to the following categories of travelers, and they are permitted to spend money for Cuban travel and to engage in other transactions directly incident to the purpose of their travel, without the need to obtain a specific license from the U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC):

  • Journalists and supporting broad-casting or technical personnel (regularly employed in that capacity by a news reporting organization and traveling for journalistic activities).
  • Official government travelers on official business.
  • Members of international organizations of which the United States is also a member (traveling on official business).
  • Full-time professionals whose travel transactions are directly related to research in their professional areas, provided that their research: 1) is of a noncommercial, academic nature; 2) comprises a full work schedule in Cuba; and 3) has a substantial likelihood of public dissemination.
  • Full-time professionals whose travel transactions are directly related to attendance at professional meetings or conferences in Cuba organized by an international professional organization, institution, or association that regularly sponsors such meetings or conferences in other countries. An organization, institution, or association headquartered in the United States may not sponsor such a meeting or conference unless it has been specifically licensed to sponsor it. The purpose of the meeting or conference cannot be the promotion of tourism in Cuba or other commercial activities involving Cuba, or to foster production of any bio-technological products.

Travelers who do not qualify for a general license may be eligible for a specific OFAC license if their travel falls under one of the following categories.

Specific Licenses to Visit Immediate Family Members in Cuba: OFAC will issue specific licenses authorizing travel-related transactions incident to one visit lasting no more than 14 days to immediate family members who are nationals of Cuba per three-year period. For those who emigrated to the United States from Cuba, and have not since that time visited a family member in Cuba, the three-year period will be counted from the date they left Cuba. For all others, the three-year period will be counted from the date they last left Cuba pursuant to the preexisting family visit general license, or from the date their family visit specific license was issued. Travelers wishing to visit an immediate family member in Cuba who is authorized to be in Cuba, but is not a national of Cuba, may be granted a specific license in exigent circumstances provided that the U.S. Interests Section in Havana concurs in the issuance of such a license.

Specific Licenses for Educational Institutions: Specific licenses may be issued by OFAC to authorize travel transactions related to certain educational activities by students or employees at U.S. undergraduate or graduate institutions. Such licenses must be renewed after a period of one year. Once an academic institution has applied for and received such a specific license, the following categories of travelers affiliated with that academic institution are authorized to engage in travel-related transactions incident to the following activities without seeking further authorization from OFAC:

  • Undergraduate or graduate students participating in a structured educational program lasting at least 10 weeks as part of a course offered at a U.S. undergraduate or graduate institution. Students planning to engage in such transactions must carry a letter from the licensed institution stating: 1) the institution's license number; 2) that the student is enrolled in an undergraduate or graduate degree program at the institution; and 3) that the travel is part of an educational program of that institution.
  • Persons doing noncommercial Cuba-related academic research in Cuba for the purpose of qualifying academically as a professional (e.g., research toward a graduate degree). Students planning to engage in such transactions must carry a letter from the licensed institution stating: 1) the institution's license number; 2) that the student is enrolled in a graduate degree program at the institution; and 3) that the Cuba research will be accepted for credit toward that graduate degree.
  • Undergraduate or graduate students participating in a formal course of study lasting at least 10 weeks at a Cuban academic institution, provided that the Cuban study will be accepted for credit toward a degree at the licensed U.S. institution. A student planning to engage in such transactions must carry a letter from the licensed U.S. institution stating: 1) the institution's license number; 2) that the individual is a student currently enrolled in an undergraduate or graduate degree program, or a full-time permanent employee at the institution; and 3) that the Cuba-related travel is part of a structured educational program of that institution that will last at least 10 weeks.
  • Persons regularly employed in a teaching capacity at a licensed U.S. undergraduate or graduate institution who plan to teach part or all of an academic program at a Cuban academic institution for at least 10 weeks. An individual planning to engage in such transactions must carry a letter from the licensed institution stating: 1) the institution's license number; and 2) that the individual is regularly employed by the licensed institution in a teaching capacity.
  • Cuban scholars teaching or engaging in other scholarly activities at a licensed college or university in the United States. Licensed institutions may sponsor such Cuban scholars, including payment of a stipend or salary. The Cuban scholar may remit all such stipends or salary payments back to Cuba.
  • Full-time employees of a licensed institution organizing or preparing for the educational activities described above. An individual engaging in such transactions must carry a letter from the licensed institution stating: 1) the institution's license number; and 2) that the individual is regularly employed by the institution.

Specific Licenses for Religious Organizations: Specific licenses may be issued by OFAC to religious organizations to authorize individuals affiliated with the organization to engage in travel transactions under the auspices of the religious organization. Applications by religious organizations for such licenses should include examples of the religious activities to be undertaken in Cuba. All individuals traveling pursuant to a religious organization's license must carry with them a letter from the licensed organization citing the number of the license and confirming that they are affiliated with the organization and that they are travelin to Cuba to engage in religious activities under the auspices of the organization.

Other Specific Licenses: Specific licenses may be issued by OFAC, on a case-by-case basis, authorizing travel transactions by the following categories of persons in connection with the following activities.

Humanitarian Projects and Support for the Cuban People—1) Persons traveling in connection with activities that are intended to provide support for the Cuban people, such as activities of recognized human rights organizations; and 2) Persons whose travel transactions are directly related to certain humanitarian projects in or related to Cuba that are designed to directly benefit the Cuban people. Licenses authorizing transactions for multiple trips over an extended period of time are available.

Free-Lance Journalism—Persons with a suitable record of publication who are traveling to Cuba to do research for a free-lance article. Licenses authorizing transactions for multiple trips over an extended period of time are available for applicants demonstrating a significant record of free-lance journalism.

Professional Research and Professional Meetings—Persons traveling to Cuba to do professional research or to attend a professional meeting that does not meet the requirements of the relevant general license (described above). Licenses authorizing transactions for multiple trips over an extended period of time are available.

Religious Activities—Persons traveling to Cuba to engage in religious activities that are not authorized pursuant to a religious organization's specific license. Licenses authorizing transactions for multiple trips over an extended period of time are available.

Public Performances, Athletic or Other Competitions, and Exhibitions—Persons traveling to participate in a public performance, athletic or other competition (that does not meet the requirements of the general license described above), or exhibition. The event must be open for attendance, and in relevant situations participation, by the Cuban public, and all profits from the event after costs must be donated to an independent nongovernmental organization in Cuba or a U.S.-based charity with the objective, to the extent possible, of benefiting the Cuban people.

Amateur or semi-professional athletes or teams traveling to participate in Cuba in an athletic competition held under the auspices of the relevant international sports federation. The athletes must have been selected for the competition by the relevant U.S. sports federation, and the competition must be one that is open for attendance, and in relevant situations participation, by the Cuban people.

Activities of Private Foundations or Research or Educational Institutions—Persons traveling to Cuba on behalf of private foundations or research or educational institutes that have an established interest in international relations to collect information related to Cuba for noncommercial purposes. Licenses authorizing transactions for multiple trips over an extended period of time are available.

Exportation, Importation, or Transmission of Information or Informational Materials—Persons traveling to engage in activities directly related to the exportation, importation, or transmission of information or informational materials.

Licensed Exportation—Persons traveling to Cuba to engage in activities directly related to marketing, sales negotiation, accompanied delivery, or servicing of exports of health care products or other exports that may be considered for authorization under existing Department of Commerce regulations and guidelines with respect to Cuba or engaged in by U.S.-owned or controlled foreign firm

Applying for a Specific License: Persons wishing to travel to Cuba under a specific license should send a letter specifying the details of the proposed travel, including any accompanying documentation, to the Licensing Division, Office of Foreign Assets Control, U.S. Department of the Treasury, 1500 Pennsylvania Ave, NW, Washington, DC 20220. Academic institutions wishing to obtain one of the two-year specific licenses described above should send a letter to the same address requesting such a license and establishing that the institution is accredited by an appropriate national or regional accrediting association. Religious organizations wishing to obtain one of the specific licenses described above should send a letter to the same address requesting such a license and setting forth examples of religious activities to be undertaken in Cuba.

The United States maintains a broad embargo against trading with Cuba, and most commercial imports from Cuba are prohibited by law. The sale of certain items, including medicine and medical supplies, and agricultural commodities have been approved for export by specific legislation. The Department of the Treasury may issue licenses on a case-by-case basis authorizing Cuba travel-related transactions directly incident to marketing, sales negotiation, accompanied delivery, and servicing of exports and re-exports that appear consistent with the licensing policy of the Department of Commerce. The sectors in which U.S. citizens may sell and service products to Cuba include agricultural commodities, medicine, and medical devices. The Treasury Department will also consider requests for specific licenses for humanitarian travel not covered by the general license, educational exchanges (of at least 10 weeks in duration), and religious activities by individuals or groups affiliated with a religious organization. Unless otherwise exempted or authorized, any person subject to U.S. jurisdiction who engages in any travel-related transaction in Cuba violates the regulations. Failure to comply with Department of Treasury regulation may result in civil penalties and criminal prosecution upon return to the United States.

Additional information may be obtained by contacting:

Licensing Division
Office of Foreign Assets Control
U.S. Department of the Treasury
1500 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Treasury Annex
Washington, DC 20220
Telephone (202) 622-2480; Fax (202) 622-1657
Internet users can log onto the web site at http://www.treas.gov/offices/enforcement/ofac.

Should a traveler receive a license, a valid passport is required for entry into Cuba. The Cuban government requires that the traveler obtain a visa prior to arrival. Attempts to enter or exit Cuba illegally, or to aid the irregular exit of Cuban nationals or other persons, are contrary to Cuban law and are punishable by stiff jail terms. Entering Cuban territory, territorial waters or airspace (within 12 miles of the Cuban coast) without prior authorization from the Cuban government may result in arrest or other enforcement action by Cuban authorities.

Immigration violators are subject to prison terms ranging from four years for illegal entry or exit to as many as 30 years for aggravated cases of alien smuggling. For current information on Cuban entry and customs requirements, travelers should contact:

Cuban Interests Section (an office of the Cuban government)
2630 16th Street NW
Washington, DC 20009
Telephone (202) 797-8518
Fax (202) 797-8521

Consular Section
(part of Cuban Interests Section)
2639 16th Street NW
Washington, DC 20009
Telephone (202) 797-8609/8610/8615
Fax (202) 986-7283

In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments have initiated procedures at entry/exit points. These often include requiring documentary evidence of relationship and permission for the child's travel from the parent(s) or legal guardian not present. Having such documentation on hand, even if not required, may facilitate entry/departure.

The Cuban Air Force shot down two U.S.-registered civilian aircraft in international airspace in 1996. As a result of this action, the President of the United States and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued an “Emergency Cease and Desist Order and Statement of Policy,” which allows for vigorous enforcement action against U.S.-registered aircraft that violate Cuban airspace. Additional information is available through the FAA's web site at http://www.intl.faa.gov.

In addition to the appropriate general or specific license, aircraft and vessels seeking to travel to Cuba must obtain a temporary sojourn license from the Department of Commerce. Temporary sojourn licenses are not available for pleasure boaters. Additional information is available at http://www.bis.doc.gov. Pursuant to an Executive Order issued after the 1996 shoot-down incident, boaters departing south Florida ports with the intention of entering Cuban territorial waters also must obtain permission in advance from the U.S. Coast Guard. The U.S. Coast Guard provides automated information at 1-800-582-5943.

Safety and Security: In May 2007, three Cuban military recruits were arrested after a firefight with Cuban police on the tarmac of Terminal 2 of Jose Marti International Airport. The heavily armed conscripts were attempting to hijack one of the planes at the terminal, which handles special charter flights between Havana and Miami. While this was the first attempted hijacking in several years, in November 2002 and in the first few months of 2003, there were numerous attempts to hijack aircraft and oceangoing vessels, several of which involved the use of weapons. Cuban authorities failed in their efforts to prevent two of these attempts. U.S. citizens, although not necessarily targets, may be caught up in any violence during an attempted hijacking. Accordingly, U.S. citizens should exercise caution when traveling within Cuba.

The United States Government has publicly and repeatedly announced that any person who hijacks (or attempts to hijack) an aircraft or vessel (common carrier or other) will face the maximum penalties pursuant to U.S. law, regardless of that person's nationality. In Cuba, hijackers will be sentenced to lengthy prison terms at a minimum, and may be subject to the death penalty; on April 11, 2003, the Government of Cuba executed three suspected hijackers, nine days after taking them into custody.

The waters around Cuba can be dangerous to navigation and some U.S. boaters have foundered in Cuban waters. U.S. boaters who have encountered problems requiring repairs in Cuba have found repair services to be expensive, protracted, and frequently not up to U.S. standards. Note that it is not permitted by law for U.S. persons to use such repair services in non-emergency situations. Any U.S. person who makes use of Cuban repair facilities should be prepared to provide documentary evidence demonstrating the emergency nature of that activity. The government of Cuba often holds boats as collateral to assure payment for salvage and repair services. Transferring funds from the U.S. to pay for boat repairs in Cuba is complicated by restrictions codified in U.S. law relating to commercial transactions with the Government of Cuba. A Treasury license is required for such payments.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department's web site, where the current Worldwide Caution Travel Alert, Travel Warnings and other Travel Alerts can be found. Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S., or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444.

Crime: Crime statistics are significantly under-reported by the Cuban government. Although crime against American and other foreign travelers in Cuba has generally been limited to pick pocketing, purse snatching, or the taking of unattended items, the U.S. Interests Section has received increased reports of violent assaults against individuals in connection with robberies. In cases of violent crime, Americans should not resist if confronted, as perpetrators are usually armed with a knife or machete and often work with partners.

Pick pocketings and purse snatchings usually occur in crowded areas such as markets, beaches, and other gathering points, including Old Town Havana and the Prado neighborhood. Travelers should use caution in all such areas and are advised not to leave belongings unattended, nor to carry purses and bags loosely over one's shoulder. Visitors should avoid wearing flashy jewelry or displaying large amounts of cash. When possible, visitors should carry a copy of their passport with them and leave the original at a secure location. U.S. visitors should also beware of Cuban jineteros, or street “jockeys,” who specialize in swindling tourists. While most jineteros speak English and go out of their way to appear friendly, e.g. by offering to serve as tour guides or to facilitate the purchase of cheap cigars, many are in fact professional criminals who will not hesitate to use violence in their efforts to acquire tourists' money and other valuables.

Thefts of property from air travelers' baggage have become increasingly common. All travelers should ensure that valuables remain under their personal control at all times, and are never put into checked baggage.

Information for Victims of Crime: The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the U.S. Interests Section. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the American Citizen Services office of the U.S. Interests Section for assistance. The staff in this office can, for example, assist you in finding appropriate medical care, facilitate contact with family members or friends in the U.S., and explain how funds could be transferred from the U.S. to Cuba.

Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

Medical Facilities and Health Information: Medical care does not meet U.S. standards. While medical professionals are generally competent, many health facilities face shortages of medical supplies and bed space. Many medications are unavailable so travelers to Cuba should bring with them any prescribed medicine in its original container and in amounts commensurate with personal use.

Travelers may also consider bringing additional amounts of prescribed medicines and over-the-counter remedies in the event that a return to the U.S. is delayed for unforeseen reasons. A copy of the prescription and a letter from the prescribing physician explaining the need for prescription drugs facilitates their entry into the country.

Travelers to the Havana area should be aware that U.S. and other foreign visitors are generally limited to using only the “tourist” Cira Garcia Hospital located in the Miramar neighborhood of Havana. Treatment at Cira Garcia and any other medical consultation would require that U.S. travelers pay in cash.

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC's web site at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization's (WHO) web site at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith/en.

Medical Insurance: No medical facility in Cuba will accept U.S.-issued insurance cards and medical services must be paid for in cash. The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.

Traffic Safety and Road Conditions: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below regarding traffic safety in Cuba is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Driving is on the right-hand side of the road; speed limits are sometimes posted and generally respected. Passengers in automobiles are generally required to wear seatbelts and a recent law requires all motorcyclists to wear helmets.

Reports suggest that accidents involving motor vehicles are now the leading cause of accidental death in Cuba. Many accidents involve motorists striking pedestrians or bicyclists. Drivers found responsible for accidents resulting in serious injury or death are subject to prison terms of up to 10 years, and Cuban authorities may prohibit drivers of rental cars who are involved in accidents from leaving the country until all claims associated with an accident are settled. Additionally, the U.S. Interests Section notes that mere witnesses to vehicular accidents may not be permitted to leave Cuba until an investigation into the accident has been completed. Taxis are available in busy commercial and tourist areas; radio-dispatched taxis are generally clean and reliable. Travelers should be aware that licensed taxis available near hotel areas are often driven by DGSE agents or the drivers report to the DGSE, as part of the regime's efforts to follow the activities of foreign visitors. Travelers should not accept rides in unlicensed taxis as they may be used by thieves to rob passengers. Buses designated for tourist travel, both between and within cities, generally meet international standards for both cleanliness and safety. Public buses used by Cubans, known as “guaguas” or “camellos,” are crowded, unreliable and havens for pickpockets. These public buses will usually not offer rides to foreign visitors.

Although popular with tourists, the three-wheeled, yellow-hooded “Co-Co” taxis are highly unsafe and should be avoided. “Co-Co” taxis are modified motorcycles that reach speeds of up to 40 mph, but have no seat belts or other safety features.

Although the main arteries of Havana are generally well-maintained, secondary streets often are not. Many roads and city streets are unlit, making night driving dangerous, especially as some cars and most bicycles lack running lights or reflectors. Street signage tends to be insufficient and confusing. Many Cuban cars are old, in poor condition and lack turn signals and other standard safety equipment. Drivers should exercise extreme care.

The principal Cuban east-west highway is in good condition but lacks lights and extends only two-thirds of the way from Havana to the eastern tip of the island. The extension of that highway on to the east is in poor condition in many areas, with washed out sections and deep potholes. Night driving should be strictly avoided outside urban areas. Secondary rural roads are narrow, and some are in such bad condition as to be impassable by cars. Due to the rarity of cars on rural roads, pedestrians, bicycles, horse-drawn carts, and farm equipment operators wander onto the roads without any regard to possible automobile traffic. Unfenced livestock constitute another serious road hazard.

Rental car agencies provide roadside assistance to their clients as a condition of the rental contract. Cuban authorities may prohibit drivers of rental cars who are involved in accidents from leaving the country, even if they are injured and require medical evacuation, until all claims associated with an accident are settled. Travelers should not permit unauthorized persons to drive the rental vehicle. Automobile renters are provided telephone numbers to call in Havana or in other places where they might be motoring; agencies generally respond as needed with tow trucks and/or mechanics. A similar service is available to foreigners resident in Cuba who insure cars with the National Insurance Company.

Aviation Safety Oversight: As there is no direct scheduled commercial air service between the United States and Cuba, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Cuba's Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA's web site at http://www.faa.gov.

The U.S. Interests Section has instructed its employees and official visitors to avoid domestic or international travel on Cuban air carriers, including the Cuban flag carrier Cubana de Aviación, whenever possible due to serious concerns regarding Cuba's ability to meet international safety and security oversight standards and its long history of hijackings, including the incidents noted above. Americans considering travel on any Cuban airline may wish to defer their travel or pursue an alternative means of transportation.

Special Circumstances: Photographing military or police installations or personnel, or harbor, rail, and airport facilities is forbidden.

Dual Nationality: The Government of Cuba does not recognize the U.S. nationality of U.S. citizens who are Cuban-born or are the children of Cuban parents. These individuals will be treated solely as Cuban citizens and may be subject to a range of restrictions and obligations, including military service. The Cuban government may require U.S. citizens, whom the Government of Cuba considers to be Cuban, to enter and depart Cuba using a Cuban passport. Using a Cuban passport for this purpose does not jeopardize one's U.S. citizenship; however, such persons must use their U.S. passports to enter and depart the United States. In some instances, dual nationals may be required to obtain exit permission from the Cuban government in order to return to the United States. There have been cases of Cuban-American dual nationals being forced by the Cuban government to surrender their U.S. passports. Despite these restrictions, Cuban-American dual nationals who fall ill may only be treated at hospitals for foreigners (except in emergencies).

Cuban-American dual nationals should be especially wary of any attempt by Cuban authorities to compel them to sign “repatriation” documents. The Government of Cuba views a declaration of repatriation as a legal statement on the part of the dual national that she/he intends to resettle permanently in Cuba. In several instances, the Government of Cuba has seized the U.S. passport of dual nationals signing declarations of repatriation and has denied these individuals permission to return to the United States.

Consular Access: U.S. citizens are encouraged to carry a copy of their U.S. passport with them at all times, so that, if questioned by local officials, proof of identity and U.S. citizenship is readily available. The original should be kept in a secure location, preferably in a safe or locked suitcase.

Cuba does not recognize the right or obligation of the U.S. Government to protect Cuban-born American citizens, whom the Cuban government views as Cuban citizens only. Cuban authorities consistently refuse to notify the U.S. Interests Section of the arrest of Cuban-American dual nationals and deny U.S. consular officers access to them. They also withhold information concerning their welfare and treatment.

Currency: Since November 2004, the U.S. dollar has not been accepted for commercial transactions. U.S. issued debit and credit cards are also not accepted in Cuba. The Cuban government requires the use of convertible Cuban pesos (“chavitos”) for all transactions. The current exchange rate for convertible Cuban pesos (CUC) is 1 CUC: 1.20 USD.

Cuba-Related Travel Transactions: Only persons whose travel falls into the categories mentioned above may be authorized to spend money related to travel to, from, or within Cuba. Persons traveling to Cuba to visit immediate family members (a “member of the immediate family” is defined as a spouse, child, grandchild, parent, grandparent, or sibling of the remitter or that remitter's spouse, as well as any spouse, widow or widower of any of the foregoing) pursuant to a specific-license may spend no more than $50 per day on non-transportation-related expenses in Cuba, and up to an additional $50 per trip to pay for transportation-related expenses in Cuba. Persons licensed to engage in other travel-related transactions in Cuba may spend up to the State Department Travel Per Diem Allowance for Havana, Cuba, for purchases directly related to travel in Cuba, such as hotel accommodations, meals, local transportation, and goods personally used by the traveler in Cuba. Most licensed travelers may also spend additional money for transactions directly related to the activities for which they received their license. For example, journalists traveling in Cuba under the journalism general license (described above) may spend money over and above the current per diem for extensive local transportation, the hiring of cable layers, and other costs that are directly related to covering a story in Cuba. Purchases of services unrelated to travel or a licensed activity, such as non-emergency medical services, are prohibited. The purchase of publications and other information materials is not restricted.

Sending or Carrying Money to Cuba: U.S. persons aged 18 or older may send to members of the remitter's immediate family in Cuba or to a Cuban national in a third country “family” cash remittances of up to $300 per household in any consecutive three-month period, provided that no member of the household is a prohibited official of the Government of Cuba or a prohibited member of the Cuban Communist Party. (The term “prohibited official of the Government of Cuba” means: Ministers and Vice-Ministers, members of the Council of State, and the Council of Ministers; members and employees of the National Assembly of People's Power; members of any provincial assembly; local sector chiefs of the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution; Director Generals and sub-Director Generals and higher of all Cuban ministries and state agencies; employees of the Ministry of the Interior (MININT); employees of the Ministry of Defense (MINFAR); secretaries and first secretaries of the Confederation of Labor of Cuba (CTC) and its component unions; chief editors, editors, and deputy editors of Cuban state-run media organizations and programs, including newspapers, television, and radio; and members and employees of the Supreme Court (Tribuno Supremo Nacional).

The term “prohibited members of the Cuban Communist Party” means: members of the Politburo, the Central Committee, Department Heads of the Central Committee; employees of the Central Committee; and secretaries and first secretaries of the provincial Party central committees.) No more than a combined total of $300 of family remittances may be sent by a remitter to any one household in any consecutive three-month period, regardless of the number of members of the remitter's immediate family residing in that household. A licensed traveler may carry up to $300 of his own family remittances to Cuba.

U.S. persons also may send up to $1,000 per payee on a one-time basis as an “emigration-related” remittance to a Cuban national to enable the payee to emigrate from Cuba to the United States. Specifically, up to $500 may be remitted to a Cuban national prior to the payee's receipt of a valid U.S. visa or other U.S. immigration document, and up to $500 may be remitted to the Cuban national after the payee receives a valid U.S. visa or other U.S. immigration document. A licensed traveler may only carry immigration remittances to Cuba if the visa has already been issued.

Remittances must be transferred through an OFAC-licensed depository institution or remittance forwarder. These OFAC-licensed entities originating transfers on behalf of non-aggregating customers must obtain an affidavit from the remitter certifying that each family remittance does not exceed $300 in any consecutive three-month period and that each emigration-related remittance meets the requirement of the Regulations. Remitters can expect to have their identity, date of birth, address, and telephone number verified.

U.S. citizens and permanent resident aliens are prohibited from using credit cards in Cuba. U.S. credit card companies do not accept vouchers from Cuba, and Cuban shops, hotels and other places of business do not accept U.S. credit cards. Neither personal checks nor travelers' checks drawn on U.S. banks are accepted in Cuba.

Exportation of Accompanied Baggage: Authorized travelers to Cuba are limited to 44 pounds of accompanied baggage per traveler unless a specific license from OFAC or the Department of Commerce's Bureau of Industry and Security authorizes a higher amount.

What Can Be Brought Back: If U.S. travelers return from Cuba with Cuban origin goods, such goods, with the exception of informational materials, may be seized at Customs' discretion. Cuban cigars and rum are routinely confiscated at U.S. ports of entry. The fact that Cuban cigars and rum are purchased in a “duty free” shop at the Havana Airport does not exempt them from seizure by US customs. There are no limits on the import or export of informational materials. Such materials, for example books, films, tapes and CDs, are statutorily exempt from regulation under the embargo and may be transported freely. However, blank tapes and CDs are not considered informational materials and may be seized.

Fair Business Practices: Anyone authorized by the U.S. Department of the Treasury to provide Cuban travel services or services in connection with sending money to Cuba is prohibited from participating in the discriminatory practices of the Cuban government against individuals or particular classes of travelers.

The assessment of consular fees by the Cuban government, which are applicable worldwide, is not considered to be a discriminatory practice. However, requiring the purchase of services not desired by the traveler is not permitted. Persons wishing to provide information to the U.S. Treasury Department regarding arbitrary fees, payments for unauthorized purposes, or other possible violations furnished to the U.S. Treasury Department will be handled confidentially.

Criminal Penalties: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offences. Persons violating Cuba's laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Cuba are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Those accused of drug-related and other crimes face long legal proceedings and delayed due process. In one recent drug arrest, two American citizens were sentenced to terms of 25 and 30 years. In another recent criminal case, the accused was detained for more than 18 months without a trial.

Criminal penalties are also harsh for foreigners or dual nationals suspected of assisting Cuban migrants who attempt to leave Cuba illegally. Average jail sentences for individuals charged with migrant smuggling range from 10 to 20 years. In a recent case, a U.S. citizen was arrested for attempting to facilitate the illegal departure of his Cuban family members via raft. He was charged with migrant smuggling and faces a jail sentence of up to 15 years.

Cuba's Law of Protection of National Independence and the Cuban Economy contains a series of measures aimed at discouraging contact between foreign nationals and Cuban citizens. These measures are aimed particularly at the press and media representatives, but may be used against any foreign national coming into contact with a Cuban. The law provides for jail terms of up to 30 years in aggravated cases. U.S. citizens traveling in Cuba are subject to this law, and they may unwittingly cause the arrest and imprisonment of any Cuban with whom they come into contact.

For more information, please contact the U.S. Interests Section's American Citizens Services Unit at:

U.S. Interests Section
American Citizen Services Unit Calzada, entre L y M Vedado, Havana, Cuba
Phone: 53-7-833-3551 (through 3559)
Fax: 53-7-833-1653

Engaging in sexual conduct with children (persons under the age of 18) or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in both the United States and Cuba.

Children's Issues: Cuba does not allow adoption of children by U.S. citizens. Additionally, children who maintain both Cuban and U.S. citizenship are considered to be Cuban citizens by the Government of Cuba because dual nationality is not recognized. Consequently, it is often difficult for U.S. consular officers to ascertain the welfare and whereabouts of U.S. citizen children living with their Cuban parents or relatives. In the event of a custody dispute, the American parent may need to pursue a legal hearing in Cuba with the assistance of a Cuban attorney. The U.S. Interests Section can provide a list of attorneys practicing in the Havana area to interested parties.

For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, see the Office of Children's Issues website at http://travel.state.gov/family.

Registration: The U.S. Interests Section (USINT) represents American citizens and the U.S. Government in Cuba, and operates under the legal protection of the Swiss government. The Interests Section staff provides the full range of American citizen consular services. U.S. citizens who travel to Cuba are encouraged to contact and register with USINT's American Citizen Services section.

U.S. citizens who register at the U.S. Interests Section in Havana may obtain updated information on travel and security within the country. There is no access to the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay from within Cuba.

The U.S. Embassy in Kingston, Jamaica handles consular issues for Guantanamo Bay. For further information on Guantanamo Bay, please contact the U.S. Embassy in Kingston at telephone (876) 929-5374.

The U.S. Interests Section is located in Havana at Calzada between L and M Streets, Vedado; telephone (537) 833-3551 through 833-3559. Hours are Monday through Thursday, 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. For emergency assistance after hours and on weekends, individuals should call (537) 833-3026 or (535) 280-5791 and request to speak with the duty officer.

USINT staff members provide briefings on U.S.-Cuba policy to American individuals and groups visiting Cuba. These briefings or meetings can be arranged through USINT's Public Diplomacy office.

International Parental Child Abduction

February 2008

The information in this section has been edited from a report of the State Department Bureau of Consular Affairs, Office of Overseas Citizens Services. For more information, please read the International Parental Child Abduction section of this book and review current reports online at http://travel.state.gov/family.

Disclaimer: The information in this flyer relating to the legal requirements of specific foreign countries is provided for general information only. Questions involving interpretation of specific foreign laws should be addressed to foreign legal counsel.

General Information: Cuba is not a party to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, nor are there any international or bilateral treaties in force between Cuba and the United States dealing with international parental child abduction.

American citizens who travel to Cuba place themselves under the jurisdiction of local courts. American citizens planning a trip to Cuba with dual national children should bear this in mind.

Custody Disputes: In Cuba, if parents are legally married they share the custody of their children. If they are not married and the parents cannot reach an agreement, custody is granted by the courts in the best interests of the child. Foreign court orders are not automatically recognized.

Enforcement of Foreign Judgments: Custody orders and judgments of foreign courts are not enforceable in Cuba.

Visitation Rights: In cases where one parent has been granted custody of a child, the other parent is usually granted visitation rights.

If a custodial parent fails to allow visitation, the non-custodial parent may appeal to the court.

Dual Nationality: Dual nationality is not recognized under Cuban law.

Travel Restrictions: Cuban citizen children (including dual nationals) are required to have exit visas to depart Cuba.

Criminal Remedies: For information on possible criminal remedies, please contact your local law enforcement authorities or the nearest office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Information is also available on the Internet at the web site of the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) at http://www.ojjdp.ncjrs.org.

Persons who wish to pursue a child custody claim in a Cuban court should retain an attorney in Cuba. The U.S. Interests Section at the Embassy of Switzerland in Cuba maintains a list of attorneys willing to represent American clients. A copy of this list may be obtained by requesting one from the U.S. Interests Section of the Embassy at:

Embassy of Switzerland
U.S. Interests Section
Calzada between L & M Streets
Vedado
Havana
Cuba
Telephone: 011-53-7-33-3551/59
Fax: 011-53-7-33-3700
Web site: www.usembassy.state.gov

Questions involving Cuban law should be addressed to a Cuban attorney or to the Cuban Interests Section of the Embassy of Switzerland in the United States at:

Embassy of Switzerland
Cuban Interests Section
2630 16th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20009
Telephone: (202) 797-8518

For further information on international parental child abduction, contact the Office of Children's Issues, U.S. Department of State at 1-888-407-4747 or visit its web site on the Internet at http://travel.state.gov.

International Adoption

November 2006

The U.S. Interest Section in Havana has been advised that Cuban law does not allow for intercountry adoption. Adoptions of Cuban children are reserved for adoptive parents who are Cuban citizens. Dual nationality is also not recognized under Cuban law. The U.S. Interest Section in Havana has issued no immigrant visas to Cuban orphans for a at least the past five fiscal years.

views updated

Cuba

Compiled from the October 2006 Background Note and supplemented with additional information from the State Department and the editors of this volume. See the introduction to this set for explanatory notes.

Official Name:
Republic of Cuba

PROFILE

HISTORY

GOVERNMENT

NATIONAL SECURITY

ECONOMY

FOREIGN RELATIONS

U.S.-CUBAN RELATIONS

TRAVEL

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

Population: 11 million; 70% urban, 30% rural.

Ethnic groups: 51% mulatto, 37% white, 11% black, 1% Chinese (according to Cuban census data).

Language: Spanish. Literacy—97%. (according to Cuban government sources)

Work force: (4.6 million) Government and services—30%; industry—22%; agriculture—24%; commerce—11%; construction—11%; transportation and communications—6%.

Government

Type: Totalitarian Communist state; current government assumed power by force January 1, 1959.

Independence: May 20, 1902. Political party: Cuban Communist Party (PCC); only one party allowed.

Political subdivisions: 14 provinces, including the city of Havana, and one special municipality (Isle of Youth).

Economy

(Statistics drawn from the CIA World Fact Book)

GDP: (2005 est.) Purchasing power parity—$37.24 billion.

Real annual growth rate: 3.0% (2001); 1.1% (2002); 1.3% (2003); 3.0% (2004 est.); 5.0% (2005 est.).

GDP per capita: income (based on purchasing power parity) $3,300 (2005 est.).

Natural resources: Nickel, cobalt, iron ore, copper, manganese, salt, timber, oil, natural gas.

Agriculture: Products—sugar, citrus and tropical fruits, tobacco, coffee, rice, beans, meat, vegetables.

Industry: Types—sugar and food processing, oil refining, cement, electric power, light consumer and industrial products, pharmaceutical and biotech products.

Trade: Exports—$1.999 billion f.o.b.: (2005) nickel/cobalt, pharmaceutical and biotech products, sugar and its byproducts, tobacco, seafood, citrus, tropical fruits, coffee. Major markets (2005)—Netherlands 599.7 million (30%); Canada 437.9 (22%); Venezuela 241 million (12%); Spain 161.2 million (8%); China 99.6 million (5%); Russia 57.6 million (3%); France 49.3 million (2%); Others 352.5 million (18%). Imports—$7.528 billion f.o.b.: (2005) petroleum, food, machinery, chemicals. Major suppliers (2005)—Venezuela 1.859 billion (25%); China 885.4 million (12%); Spain 653.3 (9%); United States 470.3 (9%); Canada 327.9 million (4%); Brazil 312.4 million (4%); Germany 309.3 million (4%); Italy 292 million (4%); Mexico (4%); Vietnam 251.8 (3%); Others (25%).

Exchange rate: Convertible pesos per U.S.$1 = 0.93. Cuba has two currencies in circulation: the Cuban peso (CUP), and the convertible peso (CUC). In April 2005, the official exchange rate changed from $1 per CUC to $1.08 per CUC (0.93 CUC per $1), both for individuals and enterprises. Individuals can buy 24 Cuban pesos (CUP) for each CUC sold, or sell 25 Cuban pesos for each CUC bought; enterprises, however, must exchange CUP and CUC at a 1:1 ratio. It is also important to note that the Cuban regime taxes and receives approximately 10% of each conversion of U.S. dollars into CUCs.

People and Religion

Cuba is a multiracial society with a population of mainly Spanish and African origins. The largest organized religion is the Roman Catholic Church, but evangelical protestant denominations continue to grow rapidly. Afro-Cuban religions, a blend of native African religions and Roman Catholicism, are widely practiced in Cuba. Officially, Cuba has been an atheist state for most of the Castro era. In 1962, the government of Fidel Castro seized and shut down more than 400 Catholic schools, charging that they spread dangerous beliefs among the people. In 1991, however, the Communist Party lifted its prohibition against religious believers seeking membership, and a year later the constitution was amended to characterize the state as secular instead of atheist.

While the Cuban constitution recognizes the right of citizens to freedom of religion, the government de facto restricts that freedom. Twenty-two denominations, including Presbyterians, Episcopalians, and Methodists, are members of the Cuban Council of Churches (CCC). Most CCC members are officially recognized by the State, though several, including the Evangelical Lutheran Church, are not registered and are recognized only through their membership in the CCC. Another 31 officially recognized denominations, including Jehovah’s Witnesses and the small Jewish community, do not belong to the CCC. The government does not favor any one particular religion or church; however, the government appears to be most tolerant of those churches that maintain close relations to the State through the CCC. Unregistered religious groups experience various degrees of official interference, harassment, and repression.

The Ministry of Interior engages in active efforts to control and monitor the country’s religious institutions, including through surveillance, infiltration and harassment of religious professionals and practitioners. The most independent religious organizations—including the Catholic Church, the largest independent institution in Cuba today—continue to operate under significant restrictions and pressure imposed on them by the Cuban regime. The Cuban Government continues to refuse to allow the church to have independent printing press capabilities; full access to the media; to train enough priests for its needs or allow adequate numbers of foreign priests to work in the country; or to establish socially useful institutions, including schools and universities, hospitals and clinics, and nursing homes. All registered denominations must report to the Ministry of Interior’s Office of Religious Affairs.

The visit of Pope John Paul II in January 1998 was seen as an important, positive event for bringing a message of hope and the need for respect of human rights. Unfortunately, these improvements did not continue once the Pope left the island. While some visas were issued for additional priests to enter Cuba around the time of the visit, the regime has again sharply restricted issuance of visas. Moreover, despite explicit regime guarantees and repeated follow-up requests, the regime has refused to permit the Catholic Church to establish Internet connections or an intranet among dioceses on the Island.

In a pastoral letter entitled “There is No Country Without Virtue” (“No Hay Patria Sin Virtud”), the Cuban Conference of Catholic Bishops in February 2003 openly criticized the government’s strict control over the activities of the Catholic Church, especially state restrictions on religious education and Church access to mass media, as well as the increasingly amoral and irreligious character of Cuban society under Communist rule.

Other Cuban religious groups—including evangelical Christians, whose numbers continue to grow rapidly—also have benefited from the relative relaxation of official restrictions on religious organizations and activities. Although particularly hard hit by emigration, Cuba’s small Jewish community continues to hold services in Havana and has members in Santiago, Camaguey, and other parts of the island.

HISTORY

Spanish settlers established the raising of cattle, sugarcane, and tobacco as Cuba’s primary economic pursuits. As the native Indian population died out, African slaves were imported to work the ranches and plantations. Slavery was abolished in 1886.

Cuba was the last major Spanish colony to gain independence, following a lengthy struggle begun in 1868. Jose Marti, Cuba’s national hero, helped initiate the final push for independence in 1895. In 1898, the United States entered the conflict after the USS Maine sank in Havana Harbor on February 15 due to an explosion of undetermined origin. 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 in accordance with the Platt Amendment. In 1934, the Platt Amendment was repealed. The United States and Cuba concluded a Treaty of Relations in 1934 which, among other things, continued the 1903 agreements that leased the Guantanamo Bay naval base to the United States.

Independent Cuba was often ruled by authoritarian political and military figures who either obtained or remained in power by force. Fulgencio Batista, an army sergeant, organized a non-commissioned officer revolt in September 1933 and wielded significant power behind the scenes until he was elected president in 1940. Batista was voted out of office in 1944 and did not run in 1948. Both those elections were won by civilian political figures with the support of party organizations. Running for president again in 1952, Batista seized power in a bloodless coup 3 months before the election was to take place, suspended the balloting, and began ruling by decree. Many political figures and movements that wanted a return to the government according to the Constitution of 1940 disputed Batista’s undemocratic rule.

On July 26, 1953, Fidel Castro, who had been involved in increasingly violent political activity before Batista’s coup, led a failed attack on the Moncada army barracks in Santiago de Cuba in which more than 100 died. After defending himself in a trial open to national and international media, he was convicted and jailed, and subsequently was freed in an act of clemency, before going into exile in Mexico. There he organized the “26th of July Movement” with the goal of overthrowing Batista, and the group sailed to Cuba on board the yacht Granma, landing in the eastern part of the island in December 1956.

Batista’s dictatorial rule fueled increasing popular discontent and the rise of many active urban and rural resistance groups, a fertile political environment for Castro’s 26th of July Movement. Faced with a corrupt and ineffective military—itself dispirited by a U.S. Government embargo on weapons sales to Cuba—and public indignation and revulsion at his brutality toward opponents, Batista fled on January 1, 1959. Although he had promised a return to constitutional rule and democratic elections along with social reforms, Castro used his control of the military to consolidate his power by repressing all dissent from his decisions, marginalizing other resistance figures, and imprisoning or executing thousands of opponents. An estimated 3,200 people were executed by the Castro regime between 1959-62 alone. As the revolution became more radical, 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 and worked in concert with the geopolitical goals of Soviet communism, funding and fomenting violent subversive and insurrectional activities, as well as military adventurism, until the demise of the U.S.S.R. in 1991. Relations between the United States and Cuba deteriorated rapidly as the Cuban regime expropriated U.S. properties and moved toward adoption of a one-party communist system. In response, the United States imposed an embargo on Cuba in October 1960, and, in response to Castro’s provocations, broke diplomatic relations on January 3, 1961. Tensions between the two governments peaked during the October 1962 missile crisis.

GOVERNMENT

Cuba is a totalitarian state controlled by Fidel Castro, who is chief of state, head of government, First Secretary of the PCC, and commander in chief of the armed forces. Castro seeks to control most aspects of Cuban life through the Communist Party and its affiliated mass organizations, the government bureaucracy, and the state security apparatus. In March 2003, Castro announced his intention to remain in power for life. The Ministry of Interior is the principal organ of state security and control.

According to the Soviet-style Cuban constitution of 1976, the National Assembly of People’s Power, and its Council of State when the body is not in session, has supreme authority in the Cuban system. Since the National Assembly meets only twice a year for a few days each time, the 31-member Council of State wields power. The Council of Ministers, through its 9-member executive committee, handles the administration of the economy, which is state-controlled except for a tiny and shriveling open-market sector. Fidel Castro is President of the Council of State and Council of Ministers and his brother Raul serves as First Vice President of both bodies as well as Minister of Defense.

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, particularly 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.” Citizens can be and are jailed for terms of 3 years or more for simply criticizing the communist system or Fidel Castro.

The Communist Party is constitutionally recognized as Cuba’s only legal political party. 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 a tiny number of non-party members have on extremely rare occasions been permitted by the controlling Communist authorities to serve in the National Assembly. The Communist Party or one of its front organizations approves candidates for any elected office. Citizens do not have the right to change their government. In March 2003, the government carried out one of the most brutal crackdowns on peaceful opposition in the history of Cuba when it arrested 75 human rights activists, independent journalists and opposition figures on various charges, including aiding a foreign power and violating national security laws. Authorities subjected the detainees to summary trials and sentenced them to prison terms ranging from 6 to 28 years. Amnesty International identified all 75 as “prisoners of conscience.” The European Union (EU) condemned their arrests and in June 2003, it announced its decision to implement the following actions: limit bilateral high-level governmental visits, reduce the profile of member states’ participation in cultural events, reduce economic assistance and invite Cuban dissidents to national-day celebrations. See also the Department’s Country Report on Human Rights Practices for Cuba.

Although the constitution allows legislative proposals backed by at least 10,000 citizens to be submitted directly to the National Assembly, in 2002 the government rejected a petition known as the Varela Project, supporters of which submitted 11,000 signatures calling for a national referendum on political and economic reforms. Many of the 75 activists arrested in March 2003 participated in the Varela Project. In October 2003, Project Varela organizers submitted a second petition to the National Assembly with an additional 14,000 signatures.

Since April 2004, some prisoners of conscience have been released, seven of whom were in the group of 75; all suffered from moderate to severe medical conditions and many of them continue to be harassed by state security even after their release from prison. Moreover, in response to a planned protest by activists at the French Embassy in Havana in late July 2005, Cuban security forces detained 33 opposition members, three of whom had been released on medical grounds. At least 16 other activists were either arrested or sentenced to prison since 2004 for opposing the Cuban Government. There has also been a resurgence of harassment of various activist groups, most notably the “Damas en Blanca,” a group of wives of political prisoners.

On July 31, 2006 the Castro regime announced a “temporary” transfer of power from Fidel Castro to his brother Raul, who until that time served as head of the Cuban armed forces and second-in-command of the government and the Communist Party. It was the first time in the 47 years of Fidel Castro’s rule that power had been transferred. The transfer took place due to intestinal surgery of an undetermined nature.

Principal Government Officials

Last Updated: 1/24/2007

Pres. of the Council of State: Fidel CASTRO Ruz

First Vice Pres. of the Council of State: Raul CASTRO Ruz, Gen.

Vice Pres. of the Council of State: Juan ALMEIDA Bosque

Vice Pres. of the Council of State: Abelardo COLOME Ibarra, Corps Gen.

Vice Pres. of the Council of State: Carlos LAGE Davila

Vice Pres. of the Council of State: Esteban LAZO Hernandez

Vice Pres. of the Council of State: Jose Ramon MACHADO Ventura

Min. Sec. of the Council of State: Jose M. MIYAR Barruecos

Pres. of the Council of Ministers: Fidel CASTRO Ruz

First Vice Pres. of the Council of Ministers: Raul CASTRO Ruz, Gen.

Vice Pres. of the Council of Ministers: Osmani CIENFUEGOS Gorriaran

Vice Pres. of the Council of Ministers: Jose Ramon FERNANDEZ Alvarez

Vice Pres. of the Council of Ministers: Pedro MIRET Prieto

Vice Pres. of the Council of Ministers: Otto RIVERO Torres

Vice Pres. of the Council of Ministers: Jose Luis RODRIGUEZ Garcia

Sec. of the Executive Committee of the Council of Ministers: Carlos LAGE Davila

Min. of Agriculture:

Min. of Auditing & Control: Gladys Maria BEJERANO Portela

Min. of Basic Industries: Yadira GARCIA Vera

Min. of Construction: Fidel FIGUEROA de la Paz

Min. of Culture: Abel PRIETO Jimenez

Min. of Domestic Trade: Marino MURRILO Jorge

Min. of Economy & Planning: Jose Luis RODRIGUEZ Garcia

Min. of Education: Luis I. GOMEZ Gutierrez

Min. of Finance & Prices: Georgina BARREIRO Fajardo

Min. of the Fishing Industry: Alfredo LOPEZ Valdes

Min. of the Food Industry: Alejandro ROCA Iglesias

Min. of Foreign Investment & Economic Cooperation: Marta LOMAS Morales

Min. of Foreign Relations: Felipe PEREZ ROQUE

Min. of Foreign Trade: Raul DE LA NUEZ Ramirez

Min. of Higher Education: Juan VELA Valdes

Min. of Information Science & Communication: Ramiro VALDES Menendez

Min. of Interior: Abelardo COLOME Ibarra, Corps Gen.

Min. of Justice: Roberto DIAZ Sotolongo

Min. of Labor & Social Security: Alfredo MORALES Cartaya

Min. of Light Industry: Jose HERNANDEZ Bernardez

Min. of Public Health: Jose Ramon BALAGUER Cabrera

Min. of the Revolutionary Armed Forces: Raul CASTRO Ruz, Gen.

Min. of Science, Technology, & Environment:

Min. of the Steelworking Industry: Fernando ACOSTA Santana

Min. of the Sugar Industry: Ulises ROSALES del Toro, Div. Gen.

Min. of Tourism: Manuel MARRERO Cruz

Min. of Transportation: Jorge Luis SIERRA Cruz

Min. Without Portfolio: Ricardo CABRISAS Ruiz

Attorney Gen.: Juan ESCALONA Reguera

Pres., Central Bank of Cuba: Francisco SOBERON Valdes

Permanent Representative to the UN, New York: Rodrigo MALMIERCA Diaz

NATIONAL SECURITY

Under Castro, Cuba is 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.

With the loss of Soviet-era subsidies in the early 1990s, Cuba’s armed forces have shrunk considerably, both in terms of numbers and assets. Combined active duty troop strength for all three services is estimated at 50,000 to 55,000 personnel (compared to some 235,000 on active duty 10 years ago) and much of Cuba’s weaponry appears to be in storage. Cuba’s air force, once considered among the best equipped in Latin America, no longer merits that distinction, though it still possesses advanced aircraft and weapons systems; the navy has become primarily a coastal defense force with no blue water capability. The Cuban army is still one of the region’s more formidable, but it also is much reduced and no longer has the considerable resources necessary to project power abroad.

The military plays a growing role in the economy and manages a number of hotels in the tourist sector. 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 continues to maintain a large state security apparatus under the Ministry of Interior to repress dissent within Cuba, and in the last decade has formed special forces units to confront indications of popular unrest.

ECONOMY

The Cuban Government continues to adhere to socialist principles in organizing its state-controlled economy. Most of the means of production are owned and run by the government and, according to Cuban Government statistics, about 75% of the labor force is employed by the state. The actual figure is closer to 93%, with some 150,000 small farmers and another 150,000 “cuentapropistas,” or holders of licenses for self-employment, representing a mere 2.1% of the nearly 4.7 million-person workforce.

The Cuban economy is still recovering from a decline in gross domestic product of at least 35% between 1989 and 1993 as the loss of Soviet subsidies laid bare the economy’s fundamental weaknesses. To alleviate the economic crisis, in 1993 and 1994 the government introduced a few market-oriented reforms, including opening to tourism, allowing foreign investment, legalizing the dollar, and authorizing self-employment for some 150 occupations. These measures resulted in modest economic growth; the official statistics, however, are deficient and as a result provide an incomplete measure of Cuba’s real economic situation. Living conditions at the end of the decade remained well below the 1989 level. Lower sugar and nickel prices, increases in petroleum costs, a post-September 11, 2001 decline in tourism, devastating hurricanes in November 2001 and August 2004, and a major drought in the eastern half of the island caused severe economic disruptions. Growth rates continued to stagnate in 2002 and 2003, while 2004 and 2005 showed some renewed growth. Moreover, the gap in the standard of living has widened between those with access to dollars and those without. Jobs that can earn dollar salaries or tips from foreign businesses and tourists have become highly desirable. It is not uncommon to see doctors, engineers, scientists, and other professionals working in restaurants or as taxi drivers.

Castro’s regime has pulled back on earlier market reforms and is seeking tighter state control over the economy. The Cuban Government is aggressively pursuing a policy of recentralization, making it increasingly difficult for foreigners to conduct business on the island. Likewise, Cuban citizens are adversely affected by reversion to a peso economy.

Prolonged austerity and the state-controlled economy’s inefficiency in providing adequate goods and services have created conditions for a flourishing informal economy in Cuba. As the variety and amount of goods available in state-run peso stores has declined, Cubans have turned increasingly to the black market to obtain needed food, clothing, and household items. Pilferage of items from the work place to sell on the black market or illegally offering services on the sidelines of official employment is common, and Cuban companies regularly figure 15% in losses into their production plans to cover this. Recognizing that Cubans must engage in such activity to make ends meet and that attempts to shut the informal economy down would be futile, the government concentrates its control efforts on ideological appeals against theft and shutting down large organized operations. A report by an independent economist and opposition leader speculates that more than 40% of the Cuban economy operates in the informal sector. Since 2005, the government has carried out a large anti-corruption campaign as it continues efforts to recentralize much of the economy under the regime’s control.

Sugar, which has been the mainstay of the island’s economy for most of its history, has fallen upon troubled times. In 1989, production was more than 8 million tons, but by the mid-1990s, it had fallen to around 3.5 million tons. Inefficient planting and cultivation methods, poor management, shortages of spare parts, and poor transportation infrastructure combined to deter the recovery of the sector. In June 2002, the government announced its intention to implement a “comprehensive transformation” of this declining sector. Almost half the existing sugar mills were closed, and more than 100,000 workers were laid off. The government has promised that these workers will be “retrained” in other fields, though it is unlikely they will find new jobs in Cuba’s stagnant economy. Moreover, despite such efforts, the sugar harvest continued to decline, falling to 2.1 million tons in 2003, the smallest since 1933. The harvest was not much better in 2004, with 2.3 million tons, and even worse in 2005, with 1.3 million tons.

In the mid-1990s, tourism surpassed sugar as the primary source of foreign exchange. Tourism figures prominently in the Cuban Government’s plans for development, and a top official cast it as at the “heart of the economy.” Havana devotes significant resources to building new tourist facilities and renovating historic structures for use in the tourism sector. Roughly 1.7 million tourists visited Cuba in 2001, generating about $1.85 billion in gross revenues; in 2003, the number rose to 1.9 million tourists, predominantly from Canada and the European Union, generating revenue of $2.1 billion. The number of tourists to Cuba in 2004 crossed the 2 million mark (2.05 million), including the so-called “medical tourists” from other Latin American countries seeking free medical treatment at Cuban facilities. In 2005 the number of tourists increased to 2.32 million.

Nickel is now the biggest earner among Cuba’s goods exports. The nickel industry has been operating close to full capacity and therefore currently stagnant, but it is benefiting from unprecedented increases in world market prices. Revenues have more than doubled from $450 million in 2001 to $1 billion in 2005. The government is making attempts to increase extraction capacity.

Remittances also play a large role in Cuba’s economy. Cuba does not publish accurate economic statistics, but academic sources estimate that remittances total from $600 million to $1 billion per year, with most coming from families in the United States. U.S. regulation changes announced in June 2004 allow remittances to be sent only to the remitter’s immediate family; they cannot be remitted to certain Cuban Government officials and members of the Cuban Communist party; and the total amount of family remittances that an authorized traveler may carry to Cuba is now $300, reduced from $3,000. (See also the Commission on Assistance to a Free Cuba report at www.cafc.gov, cited below.) The Cuban Government captures these dollar remittances by allowing Cuban citizens to shop in state-run “dollar stores,” which sell food, household, and clothing items at a high mark-up averaging over 240% of face value.

Beginning in November 2004, Castro mandated that U.S. dollars be exchanged for “convertible pesos”—a local currency that can be used in special shops on the island but has no value internationally—for a 10% charge. The 10% conversion fee disproportionately affects Cubans who receive remittances from relatives in the U.S.

To help keep the economy afloat, Cuba has actively courted foreign investment, which often takes the form of joint ventures with the Cuban Government holding half of the equity, management contracts for tourism facilities, or financing for the sugar harvest. A new legal framework laid out in 1995 allowed for majority foreign ownership in joint ventures with the Cuban Government. In practice, majority ownership by the foreign partner is nonexistent. Of the 540 joint ventures formed since the Cuban Government issued the first legislation on foreign investment in 1982, 397 remained at the end of 2002, and 287 at the close of 2005. Due in large part to Castro’s recentralization efforts, it is estimated that one joint venture and two small cooperative production ventures have closed each week since 2000. Responding to this decline in the number of joint ventures, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Investment explained that foreign investment is not a pillar of development in and of itself. Moreover, the hostile investment climate, characterized by inefficient and overpriced labor imposed by the communist government, dense regulations, and an impenetrable bureaucracy, continue to deter foreign investment. Foreign direct investment flows decreased from $448 million in 2000 to $39 million in 2001 and were at zero in 2002. In July 2002, the European Union, through its embassies in Havana, transmitted to the Cuban Government a document that outlined the problems encountered in operating joint ventures in Cuba. Titled “The Legal and Administrative Framework for Foreign Trade and Investment by European Companies in Cuba,” the paper noted the difficulty in obtaining such basic necessities as work and residence permits for foreign employees—even exit visas and drivers licenses. It complained that the Government of Cuba gave EU joint venture partners little or no say in hiring Cuban staff, often forced the joint venture to contract employees who were not professionally suitable, and yet reserved to itself the right to fire any worker at any time without cause. It noted administrative difficulties in securing financing and warned that “the difficulties of state firms in meeting their payment obligations are seriously threatening some firms and increasing the risk premium which all operators have to pay for their operations with Cuba.” The Cuban Government offered no response.

Investors are also constrained by the U.S.-Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity (Libertad) Act that provides sanctions for those who “traffic” in property expropriated from U.S. citizens. More than a dozen companies have pulled out of Cuba or altered their plans to invest there due to the threat of action under the Libertad Act.

In an attempt to provide jobs for workers laid off due to the economic crisis and bring some forms of black market activity into more controllable channels, the Cuban Government in 1993 legalized self-employment for some 150 occupations. This small private sector is tightly controlled and regulated. Set monthly fees must be paid regardless of income earned, and frequent inspections yield stiff fines when any of the many self-employment regulations are violated. Rather than expanding private sector opportunities, in recent years, the government has been attempting to squeeze more of these private sector entrepreneurs out of business and back to the public sector. Many have opted to enter the informal economy or black market, and others have closed. These measures have reduced private sector employment from a peak of 209,000 to less than 100,000 now. Moreover, a large number of those people who nominally are self-employed in reality are well-connected fronts for military officials. No recent figures have been made available, but the Government of Cuba reported at the end of 2001 that tax receipts from the self-employed fell 8.1% due to the decrease in the number of these taxpayers. Since October 1, 2004, the Cuban Government no longer issues new licenses for 40 of the approximately 150 categories of self-employment, including for the most popular ones, such as private restaurants.

In June 2005, 2,000 more licenses were revoked from self-employed workers as a means to reassert government control over the economy and to stem growing inequalities associated with self-employment. The licenses for self-employed workers were typically for service-oriented work, allowing the Cuban people to eke out a small living in an otherwise impoverished state. Moreover, workers in Cuba’s tourist sector—at resorts where native Cubans are prohibited unless they are on the job—have been prohibited by a Ministry of Tourism regulation from accepting gifts, tips, or even food from foreigners, in a further attempt at increasing the tourist apartheid that exists on the island.

A 2004 UN Economic Commission on Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) report recommends that Cuba “redesign the parameters of competition in the public, private and cooperative sectors [and] redefine the role of the state in the economy.” It recommends more flexibility in self-employment regulations, property diversification, economic decentralization, and a role for the market. The Cuban Government, however, is today reversing the economic liberalization of the 90s and re-centralizing its economy. Evidence of this is found in the decline in the number of firms participating in the perfeccionamiento empresarial, or entrepreneurial improvement (EI), program, which is based on capitalist management techniques. EI was instituted in the 1980s as a military-led pilot project, and in 1998, the Cuban Government extended it from military to civilian “parastatals,” reportedly to foster capitalist competitiveness. At first, the government highlighted participating companies’ achievements in cutting costs and boosting profitability and quality and suggested that the increased autonomy of state managers under EI was producing an efficient form of socialism with a strong link between pay and performance. However, many in the Communist Party, even Castro himself, resisted EI. Many of the original participants have since left the program and participating firms have seen little growth in revenue. The EI program has fallen far short of expectations and the Cuban Government no longer heralds its successes nor its future prospects. In 2003 the Cuban Government also tightened foreign exchange controls, requiring that state companies hold money in convertible pesos and obtain special authorization from the central bank before making hard currency transactions. Practically speaking, this restricted companies from using the dollar for internal trade. Following this, in 2004 the government announced that all state entities must stop charging in U.S. dollars and charge only in pesos for any products and services not considered a part of a company’s “fundamental social objective.” It also recently implemented new requirements to channel imports through monopolistic Soviet-style wholesale distribution companies.

Cuba’s precarious economic position is complicated by the high price it must pay for foreign financing. The Cuban Government defaulted on most of its international debt in 1986 and does not have access to credit from international financial institutions like the World Bank, which means Havana must rely heavily on short-term loans to finance imports, chiefly food and fuel. 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%. In 2002, citing chronic delinquencies and mounting short-term debts, Moody’s lowered Cuba’s credit rating to Caa1 —“speculative grade, very poor.” Dunn and Bradstreet rate Cuba as one of the riskiest economies in the world.

Human Rights

Cuba’s totalitarian regime controls all aspects of life through the Communist Party (CP) and its affiliated mass organizations, the government bureaucracy and the Department of State Security. The latter is tasked with monitoring, infiltrating and tormenting the country’s beleaguered human rights community. The government continues to commit serious abuses, and denies citizens the right to change their government.

The government incarcerates people for their peaceful political beliefs or activities. The total number of political prisoners and detainees is unknown, because the government does not disclose such information and keeps its prisons off-limits to human rights organizations. As of July 1, 2006, at least 316 Cubans were being held behind bars for political crimes, according to the independent Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation.

The government places severe limitations on freedom of speech and press. Reporters Without Borders calls Cuba the world’s second biggest jailer of journalists. The constitution provides for freedom of speech and press insofar as they “conform to the aims of a socialist society.” The government considers the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and foreign mainstream magazines and newspapers to be enemy propaganda. Access to the Internet is strictly controlled and given only to those deemed ideologically trustworthy.

Freedom of assembly is not a right in today’s Cuba. The law punishes any unauthorized assembly of more than three persons. The government also restricts freedom of movement and prevents some citizens from emigrating because of their political views. Cubans need explicit “exit permission” from their government to leave their country, and many people are effectively held hostage by the Cuban government, despite the fact that they have received travel documents issued by other countries.

The government does not tolerate dissent. It targets dissenters by directing militants from the CP, the Communist Youth League, Committees for the Defense of the Revolution, the Federation of Cuban Women, the Association of Veterans of the Cuban Revolution, and other groups to stage a public protest against the dissenter, usually in front of his/her house. These protests, called “acts of repudiation,” involve the shouting of insults and the occasional use of violence. The events generate intense fear and are aimed at ostracizing and intimidating those who question the government’s policies.

Prison conditions are harsh and life-threatening. Although physical torture is rare, cruel treatment of prisoners–particularly political prisoners and detainees–is common. Prison authorities frequently beat, neglect, isolate and deny medical treatment to inmates. Authorities often deny family visits, adequate nutrition, exposure to sunshine, and pay for work. Overcrowding is rife. Inmates friendly with prison guards often receive preferential treatment. This leads to abuse, whereby connected inmates assault others with impunity. Desperation inside the country’s estimated 200 prisons and work camps is at high levels and suicides and acts of self-mutilation occur. Thousands of Cubans are currently imprisoned for “dangerousness,” in the absence of any crime.

Worker rights are largely denied. The law does not allow Cuban workers to form and join unions of their choice. The government-approved unions do not act as trade unions, promote worker rights or protect the right to strike; rather, they are geared toward ensuring that production goals are met. Some workers lose their jobs because of their political beliefs. Salaries are not high enough to meet food and clothing costs; consequently, many Cubans are forced into small-scale embezzlement or pilfering from their employers.

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 physicians and nurses—in more than 20 nations.

Since the end of Soviet backing, Cuba appears to have largely abandoned monetary support for guerrilla movements that typified its involvement in regional politics in Latin America and Africa, though it maintains relations with several guerrilla and terrorist groups and provides refuge for some of their members in Cuba. Cuba’s support for Latin guerrilla movements, its Marxist-Leninist government, and its alignment with the U.S.S.R. led to its isolation in the hemisphere. Cuba is a member of the Organization of American States (OAS), although its present government has been excluded from participation since 1962 for incompatibility with the principles of the inter-American system. Cuba hosted the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) summit in September, 2006 and will hold the NAM presidency until 2009. In the context of the NAM and its ordinary diplomacy, Cuba has developed friendly relations with Iran, North Korea and other rogue states.

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Cuba expanded its military presence abroad, spending millions of dollars in exporting revolutions; 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.

EU-Cuban diplomatic relations have suffered as a result of the March 2003 crackdown on dissidents. In June 2004, EU members imposed restrictive measures on Cuba including inviting dissidents to national day celebrations and suspending high-level meetings between EU members and the Cuban Government. In January 2005, though, the restrictions were suspended in an effort to reengage the regime as a means of advancing the EU’s policy of encouraging reform while preparing for the transition. Spain is among the most important foreign investors in Cuba. The ruling Zapatero government continues Spain’s longstanding policy of encouraging further investment and trade with Cuba. Cuba imports more goods from Spain (almost 13% of total imports) than from any other country. Spanish economic involvement with Cuba is exclusively centered on joint venture enterprises that provide financial benefit to the Cuban Government through state-owned firms. Spain’s desire to provide support to its business community often impedes its willingness to pressure the Cuban Government on political reform and human rights issues.

Cuba’s bilateral relationship with Venezuela has helped keep the Cuban economy afloat. The “Integral Cooperation Accord” signed by Fidel Castro and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in October 2000 laid the groundwork for a quasi-barter exchange of Venezuelan oil for Cuban goods and services that has since become a lifeline for Cuba. For Cuba, the benefits of the cooperation accord are subsidized petroleum and increased hard currency flows. The original agreement allowed for the sale, at market prices, of up to 53,000 barrels per day of crude oil and derivatives (diesel, gasoline, jet fuel, etc.) by PDVSA, Venezuela’s state-owned petroleum company, to its Cuban counterpart, CUPET. The number of barrels of oil Venezuela began selling to Cuba has risen to over 90,000 barrels daily. Under the accord, PDVSA extended preferential payment terms to CUPET, including 90-day short-term financing instead of the 30 days offered to its other customers and, in lieu of a standard letter of credit backed by an international bank, PDVSA accepted IOUs from Cuba’s Banco Nacional, the central banking entity responsible for servicing Havana’s foreign debt. In August 2001, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez amended the 2000 accord to allow Venezuela to compensate the Cuban Government in hard currency for any and all Cuban products and services originally intended as in-kind payment for Venezuelan oil. As a result, Cuban exports of goods and services to Venezuela climbed from $34 million in 2001 to more than $150 million in 2003. Venezuelan ministries are contracting with Cuba for everything from generic pharmaceuticals to pre-fabricated housing and dismantled sugar mill equipment. On April 28, 2005, Chavez and Castro signed 49 economic agreements in Havana, covering areas as diverse as oil, nickel, agriculture, furniture, shoes, textiles, toys, lingerie, tires, construction materials, electricity, transportation, health, and education. Venezuela is also committed to sending more than $400 million in various products duty free to Cuba and plans to open an office of state-owned commercial Venezuelan Industrial Bank (BIV) in Havana to finance imports and exports between the two countries, while Cuba will open an official Banco Exterior de Cuba in Caracas. Increased economic engagement along with the rapid growth in Cuban sales to Caracas has established Venezuela as one of the island’s largest export markets.

A series of recent economic agreements between Cuba and China have strengthened trade between the two countries. Sino-Cuban trade totaled more than $525 million in 2004, according to China Customs statistics. This represents an increase of more than 47% over 2003. Most of China’s aid involves in-kind supply of goods or technical assistance. During President Hu-Jintao’s visit to Cuba in November 2004, China signed investment-related memorandums of understanding (MOUs) estimated at more than $500 million, according to press reports. If these MOUs are fully realized, they would represent a sharp increase in known Chinese investments in Cuba. In addition to these MOUs, a number of commercial accords were signed at the first-ever Cuba-China Investment and Trade Forum. China also plans to invest approximately $500 million in a nickel operation in Moa in the eastern province of Holguin. According to the MOU, Cuba will own 51% of the enterprise and Chinese-owned Min-metals the remaining 49%. Chinese and Venezuelan economic support, including investment and direct aid, have given Cuba the space to eliminate many of the tentative open market reforms Cuba put in place during the depth of its mid-1990s economic crisis.

The Russian prime minister visited Cuba in October, 2006, signaling a new effort to expand trade and investment, albeit financed by Russian credit. Russia set aside, for the moment, more than USD 20 billion in Soviet-era debt, restructured post-1991 debt, and extended a new credit line to Cuba. The new credit line is for USD 355 million repayable over 10 years at an interest rate of five percent. The new credit is conditioned in that it must be used to purchase Russian cars, trucks, planes, as well as to finance Cuban energy and transport infrastructure projects, including air navigation systems. Russia further agreed to restructure USD 166 million in debt accumulated since 1993. Both nations also signed an agreement on military equipment and technical services.

U.S.-CUBAN RELATIONS

On May 20, 2002, President Bush announced the Initiative for a New Cuba that called on the Cuban Government to undertake political and economic reforms and conduct free and fair elections for the National Assembly. The Initiative challenged the Cuban Government to open its economy, allow independent trade unions, and end discriminatory practices against Cuban workers. President Bush made clear that his response to such concrete reforms would be to work with the U.S. Congress to ease the restrictions on trade and travel between the United States and Cuba. The Cuban Government did not enact any such reforms. Instead, elections for the National Assembly were held in January 2003, with 609 government-approved candidates running for 609 seats. That was followed by the March crackdown on members of civil society.

In October 2003, President Bush then created the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba to help the Cuban people achieve the goal of a rapid, peaceful transition to democracy that is strongly supportive of fundamental political and economic freedoms. Its mandate is to identify additional measures to help bring an end to the dictatorship and to lay out a plan for effective and decisive U.S. assistance to a post-dictatorship Cuba, should such be requested by a free Cuba. The commission report outlines how the United States would be prepared to help a free Cuba improve infrastructure and the environment; consolidate the transition and help build democracy; meet the basic needs of the Cuban people in health, education, housing, and social services; and create the core institutions of a free economy. These recommendations are not a prescription for Cuba’s future, but an indication of the kind of assistance the United States and the international community should be prepared to offer a free Cuba.

The commission also sought a more proactive, integrated, and disciplined approach to undermine the survival strategies of the Castro regime and contribute to conditions that will help the Cuban people hasten the dictatorship’s end. The recommendations focus on actions available to the United States Government, allowing it to establish a strong foundation on which to build supportive international efforts.

This comprehensive framework is composed of six interrelated tasks considered central to hastening change: empowering Cuban civil society; breaking the Cuban Government’s information blockade on the Cuban people; denying resources to the regime; illuminating the reality of Castro’s Cuba to the rest of the world; encouraging international diplomatic efforts to support Cuban civil society and challenge the Castro regime; and finally, undermining the regime’s “succession strategy.”

The Commission released its latest report in July 2006 (www.cafc.gov) as well as the “Compact with the Cuban People.” The Compact with the Cuban People is a message of hope from the United States to the people of Cuba and a clear statement of principles to reassure Cubans that the U.S. stands with them in their desire for freedom.

The Second Report of the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba (CAFC II) sets forth specific assistance and programs the United States can offer to advance freedom and democracy in Cuba. The recommendations include $80 million over the next two fiscal years, to support these activities. Over the past decade, the regime has built an apparatus designed to exploit humanitarian aspects of U.S. policy, specifically to siphon off hundreds of millions of dollars for itself. To deny resources to the regime, U.S. law enforcement authorities have been directed to conduct “sting” operations against “mule” networks and others who illegally carry money and to offer rewards to those who report on illegal remittances that lead to enforcement actions; family visits to Cuba have been limited to one trip every 3 years under a specific license (individuals are eligible to apply for a specific license 3 years after their last visit to Cuba); and the current authorized per diem amount (the authorized amount allowed for food and lodging expenses for travel in Cuba) has been reduced from $164 per day to $50 per day (i.e., approximately eight times what a Cuban national would expect to earn during a 14-day visit) for all family visits to Cuba, based on the presumption that travelers will stay with family in Cuba.

U.S. policy also pursues a multilateral effort to press for democratic change by urging its friends and allies to actively promote a democratic transition and respect for human rights. The United States opposes consideration of Cuba’s return to the OAS or inclusion in the Summit of the Americas process until there is a democratic Cuban Government. The United States has repeatedly made clear, however, that it is prepared to respond reciprocally if the Cuban Government initiates fundamental, systematic, democratic change and respect for human rights.

All U.S. travel to Cuba must be licensed by the Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC), and must fall into one of ten categories. Further information on the licensing process can be obtained from OFAC or at their website. All exports to Cuba must also be licensed by the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS).

Principal U.S. Interests Section Officials

HAVANA (USINT) Address: Calzada between L & M Streets; Phone: 011-537-833-3551/9; Fax: 011-537-833-2095; Workweek: Monday– Friday, 8: 0 am–5:00 pm.

CM:Michael Parmly
CM OMS:Debra Grau
DCM:Buddy Williams
DCM OMS:Lynette Newcomb
CG:Carl Cockburn
POL:Robert Blau
POL/ECO:Chico Negron
MGT:William Rada
AFSA:Tim Peltier
CLO:Jessica Sandoval
EEO:William Hammaker
FMO:Peggy Guttierrez
GSO:Michael Cragun
ICASS Chair:Rod Rojas
IMO:Art Mendez
INS:Ron Rosenberg
IPO:Bernabe Gomez
PAO:Demitra Pappas
RSO:Lon Fairchild
State ICASS:Carl Cockburn

Last Updated: 12/12/2006

TRAVEL

Consular Information Sheet : January 8, 2007

Country Description: Cuba is a totalitarian police state, which relies on repressive methods to maintain control. These methods, including intense physical and electronic surveillance of Cubans, are also extended to foreign travelers. Americans visiting Cuba should be aware that any encounter with a Cuban could be subject to surreptitious scrutiny by the Castro regime’s secret police, the General Directorate for State Security (DGSE). Also, any interactions with average Cubans, regardless how well intentioned the American is, can subject that Cuban to harassment and/or detention, and other forms of repressive actions, by state security elements. The regime is strongly anti-American yet desperate for U.S. dollars to prop itself up. The United States does not have full diplomatic relations with Cuba, but provides consular and other services through the U.S. Interests Section in Havana. The U.S. Interests Section operates under the legal protection of the Swiss government but is not co-located with the Swiss Embassy.

Entry/Exit Requirements/Travel Transaction Limitations: The Cuban Assets Control Regulations are enforced by the U.S. Treasury Department and affect all U.S. citizens and permanent residents wherever they are located, all people and organizations physically in the United States, and all branches and subsidiaries of U.S. organizations throughout the world. The Regulations require that persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction be licensed to engage in any travel-related transactions related to travel to, from, and within Cuba. Transactions related to tourist travel are not licensable. This restriction includes tourist travel to Cuba from or through a third country such as Mexico or Canada. U.S. law enforcement authorities have increased enforcement of these regulations at U.S. airports and pre-clearance facilities in third countries. Travelers who fail to comply with Department of Treasury regulations will face civil penalties and criminal prosecution upon return to the United States.

Licenses are granted to the following categories of travelers and they are permitted to spend money for Cuban travel and to engage in other transactions directly incident to the purpose of their travel under a general license, without the need to obtain special permission from the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC):

  • Journalists and supporting broadcasting or technical personnel (regularly employed in that capacity by a news reporting organization and traveling for journalistic activities)
  • Official government travelers on official business.
  • Members of international organizations of which the United States is also a member (traveling on official business).
  • Full-time professionals whose travel transactions are directly related to research in their professional areas, provided that their research: 1) is of a noncommercial, academic nature; 2) comprises a full work schedule in Cuba; and 3) has a substantial likelihood of public dissemination.
  • Full-time professionals whose travel transactions are directly related to attendance at professional meetings or conferences in Cuba organized by an international professional organization, institution, or association that regularly sponsors such meetings or conferences in other countries. An organization, institution, or association headquartered in the United States may not sponsor such a meeting or conference unless it has been specifically licensed to sponsor it. The purpose of the meeting or conference cannot be the promotion of tourism in Cuba or other commercial activities involving Cuba, or to foster production of any bio-technological products.
  • Travelers who have received specific licenses from OFAC prior to going.

Specific Licenses to Visit Immediate Family Members in Cuba: OFAC will issue specific licenses authorizing travel-related transactions incident to one visit lasting no more than 14 days to immediate family members who are nationals of Cuba per three-year period. For those who emigrated to the United States from Cuba, and have not since that time visited a family member in Cuba, the three-year period will be counted from the date they left Cuba. For all others, the three year period will be counted from the date they last left Cuba pursuant to the preexisting family visit general license, or from the date their family visit specific license was issued. Travelers wishing to visit an immediate family member in Cuba who is authorized to be in Cuba, but is not a national of Cuba, may be granted a specific license in exigent circumstances provided that the U.S. Interests Section in Havana concurs in the issuance of such a license.

Specific Licenses for Educational Institutions: Specific licenses may be issued by OFAC to authorize travel transactions related to certain educational activities by students or employees at U.S. undergraduate or graduate institutions. Such licenses must be renewed after a period of one year. Once an academic institution has applied for and received such a specific license, the following categories of travelers affiliated with that academic institution are authorized to engage in travel-related transactions incident to the following activities without seeking further authorization from OFAC:

Undergraduate or graduate students participating in a structured educational program lasting at least 10 weeks as part of a course offered at a U.S. undergraduate or graduate institution. Students planning to engage in such transactions must carry a letter from the licensed institution stating: 1) the institution’s license number; 2) that the student is enrolled in an undergraduate or graduate degree program at the institution; and 3) that the travel is part of an educational program of that institution.

Persons doing noncommercial Cuba-related academic research in Cuba for the purpose of qualifying academically as a professional (e.g., research toward a graduate degree). Students planning to engage in such transactions must carry a letter from the licensed institution stating: 1) the institution’s license number; 2) that the student is enrolled in a graduate degree program at the institution; and 3) that the Cuba research will be accepted for credit toward that graduate degree.

Undergraduate or graduate students participating in a formal course of study lasting at least 10 weeks at a Cuban academic institution, provided that the Cuban study will be accepted for credit toward a degree at the licensed U.S. institution. A student planning to engage in such transactions must carry a letter from the licensed U.S. institution stating: 1) that the individual is a student currently enrolled in an undergraduate or graduate degree program, or a fulltime permanent employee at the institution; 2) that the Cuba-related travel is part of a structured educational program of that institution that will last at least 10 weeks; and 3) citing the institution’s license number. Persons regularly employed in a teaching capacity at a licensed U.S. undergraduate or graduate institution who plan to teach part or all of an academic program at a Cuban academic institution for at least 10 weeks. An individual planning to engage in such transactions must carry a letter from the licensed institution stating: 1) the institution’s license number; and 2) that the individual is regularly employed by the licensed institution in a teaching capacity.

Cuban scholars teaching or engaging in other scholarly activities at a licensed college or university in the United States. Licensed institutions may sponsor such Cuban scholars, including payment of a stipend or salary. The Cuban scholar may remit all such stipends or salary payments back to Cuba. Full-time employees of a licensed institution organizing or preparing for the educational activities described above. An individual engaging in such transactions must carry a letter from the licensed institution stating: 1) the institution’s license number; and 2) that the individual is regularly employed there.

Specific Licenses for Religious Organizations: Specific licenses may be issued by OFAC to religious organizations to authorize individuals affiliated with the organization to engage in travel transactions under the auspices of the religious organization. Applications by religious organizations for such licenses should include examples of the religious activities to be undertaken in Cuba. All individuals traveling pursuant to a religious organization’s license must carry with them a letter from the licensed organization citing the number of the license and confirming that they are affiliated with the organization and that they are traveling to Cuba to engage in religious activities under the auspices of the organization.

Other Specific Licenses: Specific licenses may be issued by OFAC, on a case-by-case basis, authorizing travel transactions by the following categories of persons in connection with the following activities:

Humanitarian Projects and Support for the Cuban People: 1) Persons traveling in connection with activities that are intended to provide support for the Cuban people, such as activities of recognized human rights organizations. 2) Persons whose travel transactions are directly related to certain humanitarian projects in or related to Cuba that are designed to directly benefit the Cuban people. Licenses authorizing transactions for multiple trips over an extended period of time are available.

Free-Lance Journalism – Persons with a suitable record of publication who are traveling to Cuba to do research for a free-lance article. Licenses authorizing transactions for multiple trips over an extended period of time are available for applicants demonstrating a significant record of free-lance journalism.

Professional Research and Professional Meetings: Persons traveling to Cuba to do professional research or to attend a professional meeting that does not meet the requirements of the relevant general license (described above). Licenses authorizing transactions for multiple trips over an extended period of time are available.

Religious Activities: Persons traveling to Cuba to engage in religious activities that are not authorized pursuant to a religious organization’s specific license. Licenses authorizing transactions for multiple trips over an extended period of time are available.

Public Performances, Athletic or Other Competitions, and Exhibitions: Persons traveling to participate in a public performance, athletic or other competition (that does not meet the requirements of the general license described above), or exhibition. The event must be open for attendance, and in relevant situations participation, by the Cuban public, and all profits from the event after costs must be donated to an independent nongovernmental organization in Cuba or a U.S.-based charity with the objective, to the extent possible, of promoting people-to-people contacts or otherwise benefiting the Cuban people. Amateur or semi-professional athletes or teams traveling to participate in Cuba in an athletic competition held under the auspices of the relevant international sports federation. The athletes must have been selected for the competition by the relevant U.S. sports federation, and the competition must be one that is open for attendance, and in relevant situations participation, by the Cuban people.

Activities of Private Foundations or Research or Educational Institutions: Persons traveling to Cuba on behalf of private foundations or research or educational institutes that have an established interest in international relations to collect information related to Cuba for noncommercial purposes. Licenses authorizing transactions for multiple trips over an extended period of time are available.

Exportation, Importation, or Transmission of Information or Informational Materials: Persons traveling to engage in activities directly related to the exportation, importation, or transmission of information or informational materials.

Licensed Exportation: Persons traveling to Cuba to engage in activities directly related to marketing, sales negotiation, accompanied delivery, or servicing of exports of health care products or other exports that may be considered for authorization under existing Department of Commerce regulations and guidelines with respect to Cuba or engaged in by U.S.-owned or – controlled foreign firms.

Applying for a Specific License: Persons wishing to travel to Cuba under a specific license should send a letter specifying the details of the proposed travel, including any accompanying documentation, to the Licensing Division, Office of Foreign Assets Control, U.S. Department of the Treasury, 1500 Pennsylvania Ave, NW, Washington, DC 20220. Academic institutions wishing to obtain one of the two-year specific licenses described above should send a letter to the same address requesting such a license and establishing that the institution is accredited by an appropriate national or regional accrediting association. Religious organizations wishing to obtain one of the specific licenses described above should send a letter to the same address requesting such a license and setting forth examples of religious activities to be undertaken in Cuba.

The United States maintains a broad embargo against trading with Cuba, and most commercial imports from Cuba are prohibited by law. The sale of certain items, including medicine and medical supplies, and agricultural commodities have been approved for export by specific legislation. The Department of the Treasury may issue licenses on a case-by-case basis authorizing Cuba travel-related transactions directly incident to marketing, sales negotiation, accompanied delivery, and servicing of exports and re-exports that appear consistent with the licensing policy of the Department of Commerce. The sectors in which U.S. citizens may sell and service products to Cuba include agricultural commodities, telecommunications activities, medicine, and medical devices. The Treasury Department will also consider requests for specific licenses for humanitarian travel not covered by the general license, educational exchanges (of at least 10 weeks in duration), and religious activities by individuals or groups affiliated with a religious organization.

Unless otherwise exempted or authorized, any person subject to U.S. jurisdiction who engages in any travel-related transaction in Cuba violates the regulations. Failure to comply with Department of Treasury regulations may result in civil penalties and criminal prosecution upon return to the United States.

Additional information may be obtained by contacting:
Licensing Division
Office of Foreign Assets Control
U.S. Department of the Treasury
1500 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Treasury Annex
Washington, DC 20220
Telephone (202) 622-2480
Fax (202) 622-1657
Internet users can log onto the web site at http://www.treas.gov/offices/enforcement/ofac/.

Should a traveler receive a license, a valid passport is required for entry into Cuba. The Cuban government requires that the traveler obtain a visa prior to arrival. Attempts to enter or exit Cuba illegally, or to aid the irregular exit of Cuban nationals or other persons, are contrary to Cuban law and are punishable by jail terms. Entering Cuban territory, territorial waters or airspace (within 12 miles of the Cuban coast) without prior authorization from the Cuban government may result in arrest or other enforcement action by Cuban authorities. Immigration violators are subject to prison terms ranging from four years for illegal entry or exit to as many as 30 years for aggravated cases of alien smuggling. For current information on Cuban entry and customs requirements, travelers should contact:

Cuban Interests Section (an office of the Cuban government)
2630 16th Street NW
Washington, DC 20009
Telephone (202) 797-8518
Fax (202) 797-8521

Consular Section
2639 16th Street NW
Washington, DC 20009
Telephone (202) 797-8609/8610/8615
Fax (202) 986-7283

In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments have initiated procedures at entry/exit points. These often include requiring documentary evidence of relationship and permission for the child’s travel from the parent(s) or legal guardian not present. Having such documentation on hand, even if not required, may facilitate entry/departure.

The Cuban Air Force shot down two U.S. registered civilian aircraft in international airspace in 1996. As a result of this action, the President of the United States and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued an “Emergency Cease and Desist Order and Statement of Policy,” which allows for vigorous enforcement action against U.S. registered aircraft that violate Cuban airspace. Additional information is available through the FAA’s Internet web site at http://www.intl.faa.gov, or by telephone at 202-267-3210.

In addition to the appropriate general or specific license, aircraft and vessels seeking to travel to Cuba must obtain a temporary sojourn license from the Department of Commerce. Temporary sojourn licenses are not available for pleasure boaters. Additional information is available at http://www.bis.doc.gov/. Pursuant to an Executive Order issued after the 1996 shoot-down incident, boaters departing south Florida ports with the intention of entering Cuban territorial waters also must obtain permission in advance from the U.S. Coast Guard. The U.S. Coast Guard provides automated information at 1-800-582-5943.

Safety and Security: In the opening months of 2003, there were numerous attempts to hijack aircraft and oceangoing vessels by Cubans seeking to depart from Cuba. In several cases, these attempts involved the use of weapons by the hijackers. Cuban authorities failed in their efforts to prevent two air hijackings, largely because of weak security procedures at satellite airports. U.S. citizens, although not necessarily targets, may be caught up in any violence during an attempted hijacking. Accordingly, U.S. citizens should exercise caution when traveling by public transportation within Cuba.

The United States Government has publicly and repeatedly announced that any person who hijacks (or attempts to hijack) an aircraft or vessel (common carrier or other) will face the maximum penalties pursuant to U.S. law, regardless of that person’s nationality. In Cuba, hijackers will be sentenced to lengthy prison terms at a minimum, and may be subject to the death penalty; on April 11, 2003, the Government of Cuba executed three suspected hijackers, nine days after taking them into custody.

The waters around Cuba can be dangerous to navigation. Since 1993 there have been at least ten shipwrecks involving U.S. citizens. U.S. boaters who have encountered problems requiring repairs in Cuba have found repair services to be expensive and frequently not up to U.S. standards. Note that it is not permitted by law for U.S. persons to use such repair services in non-emergency situations. Any U.S. person who makes use of Cuban repair facilities should be prepared to provide documentary evidence demonstrating the emergency nature of that activity. The government of Cuba often holds boats as collateral to assure payment for salvage and repair services. Transferring funds from the U.S. to pay for boat repairs in Cuba is complicated by restrictions codified in U.S. law relating to commercial transactions with the Government of Cuba. A Treasury license is required for such payments.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department’s Internet web site where the current Travel Warnings and Public Announcements, including the Worldwide Caution Public Announcement, can be found. Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S., or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

Crime: Although crime against U.S. and other foreign travelers in Cuba has generally been limited to pick pocketing, purse snatching, or the taking of unattended items, the U.S. Interests Section has received increased reports of violent assaults against individuals in connection with robberies. In cases of violent crime, Americans should not resist if confronted, as perpetrators are usually armed with a knife or machete and often work with partners.

Pick pocketing and purse snatching usually occurs in crowded areas such as markets, beaches, and other gathering points, including Old Town Havana. Travelers should use caution in all such areas and are advised not to leave belongings unattended, nor to carry purses and bags loosely over one’s shoulder. Visitors should avoid wearing flashy jewelry or displaying large amounts of cash. When possible, visitors should carry a copy of their passport with them and leave the original at a secure location.

Thefts of property from air travelers’ baggage have become increasingly common. All travelers should ensure that valuables remain under their personal control at all times, and are never put into checked baggage.

Information for Victims of Crime: The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, to contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed. Posts in countries that have victims of crime assistance programs should include that information.

Medical Facilities and Health Information: Medical care does not meet U.S. standards. While medical professionals are generally competent, many health facilities face shortages of medical supplies and bed space. Many medications are unavailable so travelers to Cuba should bring with them any prescribed medicine in its original container and in amounts commensurate with personal use. Travelers may also consider bringing additional amounts of prescribed medicines in the event that a return to the U.S. is delayed for unforeseen reasons. A copy of the prescription and a letter from the prescribing physician explaining the need for prescription drugs facilitates their entry into the country.

Travelers to the Havana area should be aware that U.S. and other foreign visitors are limited to using only the “tourist” Cira Garcia Hospital located in the Miramar neighborhood of Havana. Treatment at Cira Garcia and any other medical consultation would require that U.S. travelers pay in cash.

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747, or via the CDC’s Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization’s (WHO) website at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith.

Medical Insurance: No medical facility in Cuba will accept U.S. issued insurance cards and medical services will need to be paid for in cash. The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.

Traffic Safety and Road Conditions: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below Cuba is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Driving is on the right-hand side of the road; speed limits are sometimes posted and generally respected. Reports suggest that accidents involving motor vehicles are now the leading cause of accidental death in Cuba.

Passengers in automobiles are not required to wear seatbelts and motorcyclists are not required to wear helmets, as these are not generally available on the local market. Many accidents involve motorists striking pedestrians or bicyclists. Drivers found responsible for accidents resulting in serious injury or death are subject to prison terms of up to 10 years, and Cuban authorities may prohibit drivers of rental cars who are involved in accidents from leaving the country until all claims associated with an accident are settled. Additionally, the Interests Section notes that mere witnesses to vehicular accidents may not be permitted to leave Cuba until an investigation into the accident has been completed.

Taxis are available in busy commercial and tourist areas; radio-dispatched taxis are generally clean and reliable. Travelers should be aware that licensed taxis available near hotel areas are often driven by DGSE agents, or the drivers report to the DGSE, as a part of the regime’s efforts to follow the activities of foreign visitors. However, travelers should not accept rides in unlicensed taxis as they may be used by thieves to rob passengers. Buses designated for tourist travel, both between and within cities, generally meet international standards for both cleanliness and safety. Public buses used by Cubans, known as “guaguas” or “camellos,” are crowded, unreliable and havens for pickpockets. These public buses will usually not offer rides to foreign visitors.

Although popular with tourists, the three-wheeled, yellow-hooded “CoCo” taxis are highly unsafe and should be avoided. “Co-Co” taxis are modified motorcycles that reach speeds of up to 40 mph, but have no seat belts or other safety features.

Although the main arteries of Havana are generally well-maintained, secondary streets often are not. Many roads and city streets are unlit, making night driving dangerous, especially as some cars and most bicycles lack running lights or reflectors. Street signage tends to be insufficient and confusing. Many Cuban cars are old, in poor condition and lack turn signals and other standard safety equipment. Drivers should exercise extreme care.

The principal Cuban east-west highway is in good condition but lacks lights and extends only two-thirds of the way from Havana to the eastern tip of the island. The extension of that highway on to the east is in poor condition in many areas, with washed out sections and deep potholes. Night driving should be strictly avoided outside urban areas. Secondary rural roads are narrow, and some are in such bad condition as to be impassable by cars. Due to the rarity of cars on rural roads, pedestrians, bicycles, and farm equipment operators wander onto the roads without any regard to possible automobile traffic. Unfenced livestock constitute another serious road hazard.

Rental car agencies provide roadside assistance to their clients as a condition of the rental contract. Cuban authorities may prohibit drivers of rental cars who are involved in accidents from leaving the country, even if they are injured and require medical evacuation, until all claims associated with an accident are settled. Travelers should not permit unauthorized persons to drive the rental vehicle. Automobile renters are provided telephone numbers to call in Havana or in other places where they might be motoring; agencies respond as needed with tow trucks and/or mechanics. A similar service is available to foreigners resident in Cuba who insure cars with the National Insurance Company.

Aviation Safety Oversight: As there is no direct scheduled commercial air service between the United States and Cuba, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Cuba’s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA’s Internet web site at http://www.faa.gov.

Because of serious concerns about the safety and security standards, maintenance regime and history of fatal accidents, including the hijacking concerns noted above of the Cuban flag carrier, Cubana de Aviacion, as well as other Cuban carriers on-island, U.S. Interests Section staff and official visitors to Cuba are instructed to avoid flying aboard either the domestic or the international flights of any Cuban airline, including Cubana de Aviacion. Americans considering travel on any Cuban airline may wish to defer their travel or pursue an alternative means of transportation.

Special Circumstances: Photographing military or police installations or personnel, harbor, rail, and airport facilities is forbidden.

Dual Nationality: The Government of Cuba does not recognize the U.S. nationality of U.S. citizens who are Cuban-born or are the children of Cuban parents. These individuals will be treated solely as Cuban citizens and may be subject to a range of restrictions and obligations, including military service. The Cuban government may require U.S. citizens, whom the Government of Cuba considers to be Cuban, to enter and depart Cuba using a Cuban passport. Using a Cuban passport for this purpose does not jeopardize one’s U.S. citizenship; however, such persons must use their U.S. passports to enter and depart the United States. There have been cases of Cuban-American dual nationals being forced by the Cuban government to surrender their U.S. passports. Despite these restrictions, Cuban-American dual nationals who fall ill may only be treated at hospitals for foreigners (except in emergencies). See the paragraph below on Consular Access for information on Cuba’s denial of consular services to dual American-Cuban nationals who have been arrested, as well as the paragraph below on Children’s Issues for information on how dual-nationality may affect welfare inquiries and custody disputes.

Cuban-American dual nationals should be especially wary of any attempt by Cuban authorities to compel them to sign “repatriation” documents. The Government of Cuba views a declaration of repatriation as a legal statement on the part of the dual national that she/he intends to resettle permanently in Cuba. In several instances, the Government of Cuba has seized the U.S. passport of dual nationals signing declarations of repatriation and has denied these individuals permission to return to the United States.

Consular Access: U.S. citizens are encouraged to carry a copy of their U.S. passport with them at all times, so that, if questioned by local officials, proof of identity and U.S. citizenship are readily available. The original should be kept in a safe location.

Cuba does not recognize the right or obligation of the U.S. Government to protect Cuban-born American citizens, whom the Cuban government views as Cuban citizens only. Cuban authorities consistently refuse to notify the U.S. Interests Section of the arrest of Cuban-American dual nationals and deny U.S. consular officers access to them. They also withhold information concerning their welfare and treatment.

Currency Regulations: Since November 2004, the U.S. dollar has not been accepted for commercial transactions. The Cuban government requires the use of convertible Cuban pesos (“chavitos”) for all transactions.

Cuba-Related Travel Transactions: Only persons whose travel falls into the categories mentioned above may be authorized to spend money related to travel to, from, or within Cuba. Persons traveling to Cuba to visit immediate family members (a “member of the immediate family” is defined as a spouse, child, grandchild, parent, grandparent, or sibling of the remitter or that remitter’s spouse, as well as any spouse, widow or widower of any of the foregoing) pursuant to a specific-license may spend no more than $50 per day on non-transportation-related expenses in Cuba, and up to an additional $50 per trip to pay for transportation-related expenses in Cuba. Persons licensed to engage in other travel-related transactions in Cuba may spend up to the State Department Travel Per Diem Allowance for Havana, Cuba, for purchases directly related to travel in Cuba, such as hotel accommodations, meals, local transportation, and goods personally used by the traveler in Cuba (travelers can check the current per diem rate on the Internet at http://www.state.gov/www/perdiems/index.html). Most licensed travelers may also spend additional money for transactions directly related to the activities for which they received their license. For example, journalists traveling in Cuba under the journalism general license (described above) may spend money over and above the current per diem for extensive local transportation, the hiring of cable layers, and other costs that are directly related to covering a story in Cuba. Purchases of services unrelated to travel or a licensed activity, such as non-emergency medical services, are prohibited. The purchase of publications and other information materials is not restricted.

Sending or Carrying Money to Cuba: U.S. persons aged 18 or older may send to members of the remitter’s immediate family in Cuba or to a Cuban national in a third country “family” cash remittances of up to $300 per household in any consecutive three-month period, provided that no member of the household is a prohibited official of the Government of Cuba or a prohibited member of the Cuban Communist Party. (The term “prohibited official of the Government of Cuba” means: Ministers and Vice-Ministers, members of the Council of State, and the Council of Ministers; members and employees of the National Assembly of People’s Power; members of any provincial assembly; local sector chiefs of the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution; Director Generals and sub-Director Generals and higher of all Cuban ministries and state agencies; employees of the Ministry of the Interior (MININT); employees of the Ministry of Defense (MINFAR); secretaries and first secretaries of the Confederation of Labor of Cuba (CTC) and its component unions; chief editors, editors, and deputy editors of Cuban state-run media organizations and programs, including newspapers, television, and radio; and members and employees of the Supreme Court (Tribuno Supremo Nacional). The term “prohibited members of the Cuban Communist Party” means: members of the Politburo, the Central Committee, Department Heads of the Central Committee; employees of the Central Committee; and secretary and first secretary of the provincial Party central committee.) No more than a combined total of $300 of family remittances may be sent by a remitter to any one household in any consecutive three-month period, regardless of the number of members of the remitter’s immediate family residing in that household. A licensed traveler may carry up to $300 of his own family remittances to Cuba.

U.S. persons also may send up to $1,000 per payee on a one-time basis as an “emigration-related” remittance to a Cuban national to enable the payee to emigrate from Cuba to the United States. Specifically, up to $500 may be remitted to a Cuban national prior to the payee’s receipt of a valid U.S. visa or other U.S. immigration document, and up to $500 may be remitted to the Cuban national after the payee receives a valid U.S. visa or other U.S. immigration document. A licensed traveler may only carry immigration remittances to Cuba if the visa has already been issued.

Remittances must be transferred through an OFAC-licensed depository institution or remittance forwarder. These OFAC-licensed entities originating transfers on behalf of non-aggregating customers must obtain an affidavit from the remitter certifying that each family remittance does not exceed $300 in any consecutive three-month period and that each emigration-related remittance meets the requirement of the Regulations. Remitters can expect to have their identity, date of birth, address, and telephone number verified.

U.S. citizens and permanent resident aliens are prohibited from using credit cards in Cuba. U.S. credit card companies do not accept vouchers from Cuba, and Cuban shops, hotels and other places of business do not accept U.S. credit cards. Neither personal checks nor travelers’ checks drawn on U.S. banks are accepted in Cuba.

Exportation of Accompanied Baggage: Authorized travelers to Cuba are limited to 44 pounds of accompanied baggage per traveler unless a specific license from OFAC or the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security authorizes a higher amount.

What Can Be Brought Back: If U.S. travelers return from Cuba with Cuban origin goods, such goods, with the exception of informational materials, may be seized at Customs’ discretion. [Section 515.204 of the Regulations.] Cuban cigars and rum are routinely confiscated at U.S. ports of entry. The fact that Cuban cigars and rum are purchased in a “duty free” shop at the Havana Airport does not exempt them from seizure by U.S. customs. There are no limits on the import or export of informational materials [Section 515.206 of the Regulations]. Such materials, for example books, films, tapes and CDs, are statutorily exempt from regulation under the embargo and may be transported freely. However, blank tapes and CDs are not considered informational materials and may be seized.

Fair Business Practices: Anyone authorized by the U.S. Department of the Treasury to provide Cuban travel services or services in connection with sending money to Cuba is prohibited from participating in the discriminatory practices of the Cuban government against individuals or particular classes of travelers. The assessment of consular fees by the Cuban government, which are applicable worldwide, is not considered to be a discriminatory practice. However, requiring the purchase of services not desired by the traveler is not permitted. Persons wishing to provide information regarding arbitrary fees, payments for unauthorized purposes, or other possible violations furnished to the U.S. Treasury Department will be handled confidentially.

U.S. citizens and permanent resident aliens are prohibited from using credit cards in Cuba. U.S. credit card companies do not accept vouchers from Cuba, and Cuban shops, hotels and other places of business do not accept U.S. credit cards. Neither personal checks nor travelers’ checks drawn on U.S. banks are accepted in Cuba.

Criminal Penalties: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country’s laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offences. Persons violating Cuba’s laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Cuba are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Those accused of drug-related and other crimes face long legal proceedings and delayed due process. In one recent drug arrest, two American citizens were sentenced to terms of 25 and 30 years. In another recent criminal case, the accused was detained for more than 18 months without a trial.

Cuba’s Law of Protection of National Independence and the Cuban Economy contains a series of measures aimed at discouraging contact between foreign nationals and Cuban citizens. These measures are aimed particularly at the press and media representatives, but may be used against any foreign national coming into contact with a Cuban. The law provides for jail terms of up to 30 years in aggravated cases. U.S. citizens traveling in Cuba are subject to this law, and they may unwittingly cause the arrest and imprisonment of any Cuban with whom they come into contact. For more information, please contact the U.S. Interests Section’s American Citizens Services Unit at:

U.S. Interests Section
American Citizen Services Unit
Calzada, entre L y M
Vedado, Havana, Cuba
Phone: 53-7-833-3551 (through 3559)
Fax: 53-7-833-1084

Engaging in sexual conduct with children (persons under the age of 18) or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in both the United States and Cuba.

Children’s Issues: Cuba does not allow adoption of children by U.S. citizens. Additionally, children who maintain both Cuban and U.S. citizenship are considered to be Cuban citizens by the Government of Cuba because dual nationality is not recognized. Consequently, it is often difficult for U.S. consular officers to ascertain the welfare and whereabouts of U.S. citizen children living with their Cuban parents or relatives. In the event of a custody dispute, the American parent may need to pursue a legal hearing in Cuba with the assistance of a Cuban attorney. The Interests Section can provide a list of attorneys practicing in the Havana area to interested parties.

U.S. Representation/registration: The U.S. Interests Section (USINT) represents American citizens and the U.S. Government in Cuba, and operates under the legal protection of the Swiss government. The Interests Section staff provides the full range of American citizen consular services. U.S. citizens who travel to Cuba are encouraged to contact and register with USINT’s American Citizen Services section.

U.S. citizens who register at the U.S. Interests Section in Havana may obtain updated information on travel and security within the country. There is no access to the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay from within Cuba. The U.S. Embassy in Kingston, Jamaica handles consular issues for Guantanamo Bay. For further information on Guantanamo Bay, please contact the U.S. Embassy in Kingston at telephone (876) 929-5374. The Interests Section is located in Havana at Calzada between L and M Streets, Vedado; telephone (537) 833-3551 through 833-3559. Hours are Monday through Thursday, 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. For emergency assistance after hours and on weekends, individuals should call (537) 833-3026 and request to speak with the duty officer.

USINT staff members provide briefings on U.S.-Cuba policy to American individuals and groups visiting Cuba. These briefings or meetings can be arranged through USINT’s Public Diplomacy office.

International Adoption : November 2006

The U.S. Interest Section in Havana has been advised that Cuban law does not allow for intercountry adoption. Adoptions of Cuban children are reserved for adoptive parents who are Cuban citizens.

Dual nationality is also not recognized under Cuban law. The U.S. Interest Section in Havana has issued no immigrant visas to Cuban orphans for a at least the past five fiscal years.

International Parental Child Abduction : February 2007

The information below has been edited from the report of the State Department Bureau of Consular Affairs, Office of Overseas Citizens Services. For more information, please read the International Child Abduction section of this book and review current reports online at www.travel.state.gov.

Disclaimer: The information in this flyer relating to the legal requirements of specific foreign countries is provided for general information only. Questions involving interpretation of specific foreign laws should be addressed to foreign legal counsel.

General Information: Cuba is not a party to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, nor are there any international or bilateral treaties in force between Cuba and the United States dealing with international parental child abduction. American citizens who travel to Cuba place themselves under the jurisdiction of local courts. American citizens planning a trip to Cuba with dual national children should bear this in mind.

Custody Disputes: In Cuba, if parents are legally married they share the custody of their children. If they are not married and the parents cannot reach an agreement, custody is granted by the courts in the best interests of the child. Foreign court orders are not automatically recognized.

Enforcement of Foreign Judgements: Custody orders and judgments of foreign courts are not enforceable in Cuba.

Visitation Rights: In cases where one parent has been granted custody of a child, the other parent is usually granted visitation rights. If a custodial parent fails to allow visitation, the non-custodial parent may appeal to the court.

Dual Nationality: Dual nationality is not recognized under Cuban law.

Travel Restrictions: Cuban citizen children (including dual nationals) are required to have exit visas to depart Cuba.

Criminal Remedies: For information on possible criminal remedies, please contact your local law enforcement authorities or the nearest office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Information is also available on the Internet at the web site of the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) at http://www.ojjdp.ncjrs.org. Persons who wish to pursue a child custody claim in a Cuban court should retain an attorney in Cuba. The U.S. Interests Section at the Embassy of Switzerland in Cuba maintains a list of attorneys willing to represent American clients. A copy of this list may be obtained by requesting one from the U.S. Interests Section of the Embassy at:

Embassy of Switzerland
U.S. Interests Section
Calzada between L & M Streets
Vedado, Havana, Cuba
Telephone: 011-53-7-33-3551/59
Fax: 011-53-7-33-3700

The workweek for the Embassy is Monday through Friday from 8:30am to 5:00pm.

Questions involving Cuban law should be addressed to a Cuban attorney or to the Cuban Interests Section of the Embassy of Switzerland in the United States at:

Embassy of Switzerland
Cuban Interests Section
2630 16th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20009
Telephone: (202) 797-8518

For further information on international parental child abduction, contact the Office of Children’s Issues, U.S. Department of State at 1-888-407-4747 or visit its web site on the Internet at http://travel.state.gov. You may also direct inquiries to:

Office of Children’s Issues
SA-29
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20520-2818
Phone: (202) 736-9090
Fax: (202) 312-9743

views updated

CUBA

Compiled from the December 2005 Background Note and supplemented with additional information from the State Department and the editors of this volume. See the introduction to this set for explanatory notes.

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

Population:

11 million; 70% urban, 30% rural.

Ethnic groups:

51% mulatto, 37% white, 11% black, 1% Chinese (according to Cuban census data).

Language:

Spanish. Literacy—97%.

Work force (4.5 million):

Government and services—30%; industry—22%; agriculture—24%; commerce—11%; construction—11%; transportation and communications—6%.

Government

Type:

Totalitarian Communist state; current government assumed power by force January 1, 1959.

Independence:

May 20, 1902.

Political party:

Cuban Communist Party (PCC); only one party allowed.

Administrative subdivisions:

14 provinces, including the city of Havana, and one special municipality (Isle of Youth).

Economy

GDP (2004 est.):

Purchasing power parity—$33.92 billion.

Real annual Growth rate:

6.2% (1999); 3.0% (2001); 1.1% (2002); 1.3% (2003); 3.0% (2004 est.).

GDP per capita income (based on purchasing power parity):

$3,000 (2004 est.).

Natural resources:

Nickel, cobalt, iron ore, copper, manganese, salt, timber.

Agriculture:

Products—sugar, citrus and tropical fruits, tobacco, coffee, rice, beans, meat, vegetables.

Industry:

Types—sugar and food processing, oil refining, cement, electric power, light consumer and industrial products.

Trade:

Exports—$2.104 billion f.o.b. (2004 est.): nickel/cobalt, sugar and its byproducts, tobacco, seafood, pharmaceuticals, citrus, tropical fruits, coffee. Major markets—Netherlands $480 million (this figure includes goods shipped to the Netherlands for onward shipment to EU countries); Canada $265 million; Russia $185 million; Venezuela $150 million (est.); Spain $125 million. Imports—$5.296 billion f.o.b. (2004 est.): petroleum, food, machinery, chemicals. Major suppliers—Venezuela $900 million; Spain $700 million; Italy $375 million; China $340 million; United States $295 million.

Official exchange rate:

Convertible pesos per U.S.$1 = 0.93.

Cuba has three currencies in circulation:

the Cuban peso (CUP), the convertible peso (CUC), and the U.S. dollar (USD), although the dollar is being withdrawn from circulation. In April 2005, the official exchange rate changed from $1 per CUC to $1.08 per CUC (0.93 CUC per $1), both for individuals and enterprises. Individuals can buy 24 Cuban pesos (CUP) for each CUC sold, or sell 25 Cuban pesos for each CUC bought; enterprises, however, must exchange CUP and CUC at a 1:1 ratio. It is also important to note that the Cuban regime taxes and receives approximately 20% of each conversion of U.S. dollars into CUCs.


PEOPLE AND RELIGION

Cuba is a multiracial society with a population of mainly Spanish and African origins. The largest organized religion is the Roman Catholic Church, but evangelical protestant denominations continue to grow rapidly. Afro-Cuban religions, a blend of native African religions and Roman Catholicism, are widely practiced in Cuba. Officially, Cuba has been an atheist state for most of the Castro era. In 1962, the government of Fidel Castro seized and shut down more than 400 Catholic schools, charging that they spread dangerous beliefs among the people. In 1991, however, the Communist Party lifted its prohibition against religious believers seeking membership, and a year later the constitution was amended to characterize the state as secular instead of atheist.

While the Cuban constitution recognizes the right of citizens to freedom of religion, the government de facto restricts that freedom. Twenty-two denominations, including Presbyterians, Episcopalians, and Methodists, are members of the Cuban Council of Churches (CCC). Most CCC members are officially recognized by the State, though several, including the Evangelical Lutheran Church, are not registered and are recognized only through their membership in the CCC. Another 31 officially recognized denominations, including Jehovah's Witnesses and the small Jewish community, do not belong to the CCC. The government does not favor any one particular religion or church; however, the government appears to be most tolerant of those churches that maintain close relations to the State through the CCC. Unregistered religious groups experience various degrees of official interference, harassment, and repression. The Ministry of Interior engages in active efforts to control and monitor the country's religious institutions, including through surveillance, infiltration and harassment of religious professionals and practitioners. The most independent religious organizations—including the Catholic Church, the largest independent institution in Cuba today—continue to operate under significant restrictions and pressure imposed on them by the Cuban regime. The Cuban Government continues to refuse to allow the church to have independent printing press capabilities; full access to the media; to train enough priests for its needs or allow adequate numbers of foreign priests to work in the country; or to establish socially useful institutions, including schools and universities, hospitals and clinics, and nursing homes. All registered denominations must report to the Ministry of Interior's Office of Religious Affairs.

The visit of Pope John Paul II in January 1998 was seen as an important, positive event for bringing a message of hope and the need for respect of human rights. Unfortunately, these improvements did not continue once the Pope left the island. While some visas were issued for additional priests to enter Cuba around the time of the visit, the regime has again sharply restricted issuance of visas. Moreover, despite explicit regime guarantees and repeated follow-up requests, the regime has refused to permit the Catholic Church to establish Internet connections or an intranet among dioceses on the Island. In a pastoral letter entitled "There is No Country Without Virtue" ("No Hay Patria Sin Virtud"), the Cuban Conference of Catholic Bishops in February 2003 openly criticized the government's strict control over the activities of the Catholic Church, especially state restrictions on religious education and Church access to mass media, as well as the increasingly amoral and irreligious character of Cuban society under Communist rule.

Other Cuban religious groups—including evangelical Christians, whose numbers continue to grow rapidly—also have benefited from the relative relaxation of official restrictions on religious organizations and activities. Although particularly hard hit by emigration, Cuba's small Jewish community continues to hold services in Havana and has members in Santiago, Camaguey, and other parts of the island. See also the Department's report on international religious freedom for further information.


HISTORY

Spanish settlers established the raising of cattle, sugarcane, and tobacco as Cuba's primary economic pursuits. As the native Indian population died out, African slaves were imported to work the ranches and plantations. Slavery was abolished in 1886.

Cuba was the last major Spanish colony to gain independence, following a lengthy struggle begun in 1868. Jose Marti, Cuba's national hero, helped initiate the final push for independence in 1895. In 1898, the United States entered the conflict after the USS Maine sank in Havana Harbor on February 15 due to an explosion of undetermined origin. 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 in accordance with the Platt Amendment. In 1934, the Platt Amendment was repealed. The United States and Cuba concluded a Treaty of Relations in 1934 which, among other things, continued the 1903 agreements that leased the Guantanamo Bay naval base to the United States.

Independent Cuba was often ruled by authoritarian political and military figures who either obtained or remained in power by force. Fulgencio Batista, an army sergeant, organized a non-commissioned officer revolt in September 1933 and wielded significant power behind the scenes until he was elected president in 1940. Batista was voted out of office in 1944 and did not run in 1948. Both those elections were won by civilian political figures with the support of party organizations. Running for president again in 1952, Batista seized power in a bloodless coup 3 months before the election was to take place, suspended the balloting, and began ruling by decree. Many political figures and movements that wanted a return to the government according to the Constitution of 1940 disputed Batista's undemocratic rule.

On July 26, 1953, Fidel Castro, who had been involved in increasingly violent political activity before Batista's coup, led a failed attack on the Moncada army barracks in Santiago

de Cuba in which more than 100 died. After defending himself in a trial open to national and international media, he was convicted and jailed, and subsequently was freed in an act of clemency, before going into exile in Mexico. There he organized the "26th of July Movement" with the goal of overthrowing Batista, and the group sailed to Cuba on board the yacht Granma, landing in the eastern part of the island in December 1956.

Batista's dictatorial rule fueled increasing popular discontent and the rise of many active urban and rural resistance groups, a fertile political environment for Castro's 26th of July Movement. Faced with a corrupt and ineffective military—itself dispirited by a U.S. Government embargo on weapons sales to Cuba—and public indignation and revulsion at his brutality toward opponents, Batista fled on January 1, 1959.

Although he had promised a return to constitutional rule and democratic elections along with social reforms, Castro used his control of the military to consolidate his power by repressing all dissent from his decisions, marginalizing other resistance figures, and imprisoning or executing thousands of opponents. An estimated 3,200 people were executed by the Castro regime between 1959-62 alone. As the revolution became more radical, 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 and worked in concert with the geopolitical goals of Soviet communism, funding and fomenting violent subversive and insurrectional activities, as well as military adventurism, until the demise of the U.S.S.R. in 1991.

Relations between the United States and Cuba deteriorated rapidly as the Cuban regime expropriated U.S. properties and moved toward adoption of a one-party communist system. In response, the United States imposed an embargo on Cuba in October 1960, and, in response to Castro's provocations, broke diplomatic relations on January 3, 1961. Tensions between the two governments peaked during the October 1962 missile crisis.


GOVERNMENT

Cuba is a totalitarian state controlled by Fidel Castro, who is chief of state, head of government, First Secretary of the PCC, and commander in chief of the armed forces. Castro seeks to control most aspects of Cuban life through the Communist Party and its affiliated mass organizations, the government bureaucracy, and the state security apparatus. In March 2003, Castro announced his intention to remain in power for life. The Ministry of Interior is the principal organ of state security and control.

According to the Soviet-style Cuban constitution of 1976, the National Assembly of People's Power, and its Council of State when the body is not in session, has supreme authority in the Cuban system. Since the National Assembly meets only twice a year for a few days each time, the 31-member Council of State wields power. The Council of Ministers, through its 9-member executive committee, handles the administration of the economy, which is state-controlled except for a tiny and shriveling open-market sector. Fidel Castro is President of the Council of State and Council of Ministers and his brother Raul serves as First Vice President of both bodies as well as Minister of Defense.

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, particularly 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." Citizens can be and are jailed for terms of 3 years or more for simply criticizing the communist system or Fidel Castro.

The Communist Party is constitutionally recognized as Cuba's only legal political party. 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 a tiny number of non-party members have on extremely rare occasions been permitted by the controlling Communist authorities to serve in the National Assembly. The Communist Party or one of its front organizations approves candidates for any elected office. Citizens do not have the right to change their government. In March 2003, the government carried out one of the most brutal crack-downs on peaceful opposition in the history of Cuba when it arrested 75 human rights activists, independent journalists and opposition figures on various charges, including aiding a foreign power and violating national security laws. Authorities subjected the detainees to summary trials and sentenced them to prison terms ranging from 6 to 28 years. Amnesty International identified all 75 as "prisoners of conscience." The European Union (EU) condemned their arrests and in June 2003, it announced its decision to implement the following actions: limit bilateral high-level governmental visits, reduce the profile of member states' participation in cultural events, reduce economic assistance and invite Cuban dissidents to nationalday celebrations. See also the Department's Country Report on Human Rights Practices for Cuba.

Although the constitution allows legislative proposals backed by at least 10,000 citizens to be submitted directly to the National Assembly, in 2002 the government rejected a petition known as the Varela Project, supporters of which submitted 11,000 signatures calling for a national referendum on political and economic reforms. Many of the 75 activists arrested in March 2003 participated in the Varela Project. In October 2003, Project Varela organizers submitted a second petition to the National Assembly with an additional 14,000 signatures. Since April 2004, some prisoners of conscience have been released, seven of whom were in the group of 75; all suffered from moderate to severe medical conditions and many of them continue to be harassed by state security even after their release from prison. Moreover, in response to a planned protest by activists at the French Embassy in Havana in late July 2005, Cuban security forces detained 33 opposition members, three of whom had been released on medical grounds. At least 16 other activists were either arrested or sentenced to prison since 2004 for opposing the Cuban Government. There has also been a resurgence of harassment of various activist groups, most notably the "Damas en Blanca," a group of wives of political prisoners.

Principal Government Officials

Last Updated: 12/20/2005

President of the Council of State: Fidel CASTRO Ruz
First Vice Pres. of the Council of State: Raul CASTRO Ruz, Gen.
Vice Pres. of the Council of State: Juan ALMEIDA Bosque
Vice Pres. of the Council of State: Abelardo COLOME Ibarra, Corps Gen.
Vice Pres. of the Council of State: Carlos LAGE Davila
Vice Pres. of the Council of State: Esteban LAZO Hernandez
Vice Pres. of the Council of State: Jose Ramon MACHADO Ventura
Min. Sec. of the Council of State: Jose M. MIYAR Barruecos
Pres. of the Council of Ministers: Fidel CASTRO Ruz
First Vice Pres. of the Council of Ministers: Raul CASTRO Ruz, Gen.
Vice Pres. of the Council of Ministers: Osmani CIENFUEGOS Gorriaran
Vice Pres. of the Council of Ministers: Jose Ramon FERNANDEZ Alvarez
Vice Pres. of the Council of Ministers: Pedro MIRET Prieto
Vice Pres. of the Council of Ministers: Otto RIVERO Torres
Vice Pres. of the Council of Ministers: Jose Luis RODRIGUEZ Garcia
Sec. of the Council of Ministers: Carlos LAGE Davila
Min. of Agriculture:
Min. of Auditing & Control: Lina PEDRAZA Rodriguez
Min. of Basic Industries: Yadira GARCIA Vera
Min. of Construction: Fidel FIGUEROA de la Paz
Min. of Culture: Abel PRIETO Jimenez
Min. of Domestic Trade: Barbara CASTILLO Cuesta
Min. of Economy & Planning: Jose Luis RODRIGUEZ Garcia
Min. of Education: Luis I. GOMEZ Gutierrez
Min. of Finance & Prices: Georgina BARREIRO Fajardo
Min. of the Fishing Industry: Alfredo LOPEZ Valdes
Min. of the Food Industry: Alejandro ROCA Iglesias
Min. of Foreign Investment & Economic Cooperation: Marta LOMAS Morales
Min. of Foreign Relations: Felipe PEREZ ROQUE
Min. of Foreign Trade: Raul DE LA NUEZ Ramirez
Min. of Higher Education: Fernando VECINO Alegret
Min. of Information Science & Communication: Ignacio GONZALEZ Planas
Min. of Interior: Abelardo COLOME Ibarra, Corps Gen.
Min. of Justice: Roberto DIAZ Sotolongo
Min. of Labor & Social Security: Alfredo MORALES Cartaya
Min. of Light Industry: Jesus PEREZ Othon
Min. of Public Health: Jose Ramon BALAGUER Cabrera
Min. of the Revolutionary Armed Forces: Raul CASTRO Ruz, Gen.
Min. of Science, Technology, & Environment:
Min. of the Steelworking Industry: Fernando ACOSTA Santana
Min. of the Sugar Industry: Ulises ROSALES del Toro, Div. Gen.
Min. of Tourism: Manuel MARRERO Cruz
Min. of Transportation: Carlos Manuel PAZO Torrado
Min. Without Portfolio: Ricardo CABRISAS Ruiz
Pres., Central Bank of Cuba: Francisco SOBERON Valdes
Attorney General: Juan ESCALONA Reguera
Permanent Representative to the UN, New York: Rodrigo MALMIERCA Diaz


NATIONAL SECURITY

Under Castro, Cuba is 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.

With the loss of Soviet-era subsidies in the early 1990s, Cuba's armed forces have shrunk considerably, both in terms of numbers and assets. Combined active duty troop strength for all three services is estimated at 50,000 to 55,000 personnel (compared to some 235,000 on active duty 10 years ago) and much of Cuba's weaponry appears to be in storage. Cuba's air force, once considered among the best equipped in Latin America, no longer merits that distinction, though it still possesses advanced aircraft and weapons systems; the navy has become primarily a coastal defense force with no blue water capability. The Cuban army is still one of the region's more formidable, but it also is much reduced and no longer has the considerable resources necessary to project power abroad.

The military plays a growing role in the economy and manages a number of hotels in the tourist sector. 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 continues to maintain a large state security apparatus under the Ministry of Interior to repress dissent within Cuba, and in the last decade has formed special forces units to confront indications of popular unrest.


ECONOMY

The Cuban Government continues to adhere to socialist principles in organizing its state-controlled economy. Most of the means of production are owned and run by the government and, according to Cuban Government statistics, about 75% of the labor force is employed by the state. The actual figure is closer to 93%, with some 150,000 small farmers and another 150,000 "cuentapropistas," or holders of licenses for self-employment, representing a mere 2.1% of the nearly 4.7 million-person workforce.

The Cuban economy is still recovering from a decline in gross domestic product of at least 35% between 1989 and 1993 as the loss of Soviet subsidies laid bare the economy's fundamental weaknesses. To alleviate the economic crisis, in 1993 and 1994 the government introduced a few market-oriented reforms, including opening to tourism, allowing foreign investment, legalizing the dollar, and authorizing self-employment for some 150 occupations. These measures resulted in modest economic growth; the official statistics, however, are deficient and as a result provide an incomplete measure of Cuba's real economic situation. Living conditions at the end of the decade remained well below the 1989 level. Lower sugar and nickel prices, increases in petroleum costs, a post-September 11, 2001 decline in tourism, devastating hurricanes in November 2001 and August 2004, and a major drought in the eastern half of the island caused severe economic disruptions. Growth rates continued to stagnate in 2002 and 2003, while 2004 promised to be little better. Moreover, the gap in the standard of living has widened between those with access to dollars and those without. Jobs that can earn dollar salaries or tips from foreign businesses and tourists have become highly desirable. It is not uncommon to see doctors, engineers, scientists, and other professionals working in restaurants or as taxi drivers.

Castro's regime has pulled back on earlier market reforms and is seeking tighter state control over the economy. The Cuban Government is aggressively pursuing a policy of re centralization, making it increasingly difficult for foreigners to conduct business on the island. Likewise, Cuban citizens are adversely affected by reversion to a peso economy.

Prolonged austerity and the state-controlled economy's inefficiency in providing adequate goods and services have created conditions for a flourishing informal economy in Cuba. As the variety and amount of goods available in state-run peso stores has declined, Cubans have turned increasingly to the black market to obtain needed food, clothing, and household items. Pilferage of items from the work place to sell on the black market or illegally offering services on the sidelines of official employment is common, and Cuban companies regularly figure 15% in losses into their production plans to cover this. Recognizing that Cubans must engage in such activity to make ends meet and that attempts to shut the informal economy down would be futile, the government concentrates its control efforts on ideological appeals against theft and shutting down large organized operations. A report by an independent economist and opposition leader speculates that more than 40% of the Cuban economy operates in the informal sector.

Sugar, which has been the mainstay of the island's economy for most of its history, has fallen upon troubled times. In 1989, production was more than 8 million tons, but by the mid-1990s, it had fallen to around 3.5 million tons. Inefficient planting and cultivation methods, poor management, shortages of spare parts, and poor transportation infrastructure combined to deter the recovery of the sector. In June 2002, the government announced its intention to implement a "comprehensive transformation" of this declining sector. Almost half the existing sugar mills were closed, and more than 100,000 workers were laid off. The government has promised that these workers will be "retrained" in other fields, though it is unlikely they will find new jobs in Cuba's stagnant economy. Moreover, despite such efforts, the sugar harvest continued to decline, falling to 2.1 million tons in 2003, the smallest since 1933. The harvest was not much better in 2004, with 2.3 million tons.

In the mid-1990s, tourism surpassed sugar as the primary source of foreign exchange. Tourism figures prominently in the Cuban Government's plans for development, and a top official cast it as at the "heart of the economy." Havana devotes significant resources to building new tourist facilities and renovating historic structures for use in the tourism sector. Roughly 1.7 million tourists visited Cuba in 2001, generating about $1.85 billion in gross revenues; in 2003, the number rose to 1.9 million tourists, predominantly from Canada and the European Union, generating revenue of $2.1 billion.

Remittances also play a large role in Cuba's economy. Cuba does not publish accurate economic statistics, but academic sources estimate that remittances total from $600 million to $1 billion per year, with most coming from families in the United States. U.S. regulation changes announced in June 2004 allow remittances to be sent only to the remitter's immediate family; they cannot be remitted to certain Cuban Government officials and members of the Cuban Communist party; and the total amount of family remittances that an authorized traveler may carry to Cuba is now $300, reduced from $3,000. (See also the Commission on Assistance to a Free Cuba report, cited below.) The Cuban Government captures these dollar remittances by allowing Cuban citizens to shop in state-run "dollar stores," which sell food, household, and clothing items at a high mark-up averaging over 240% of face value.

Beginning in November 2004, Castro mandated that U.S. dollars be exchanged for "convertible pesos"—a local currency that can be used in special shops on the island but has no value internationally—for a 10% charge. The conversion fee disproportionally affects Cuban who receive remittances from relatives in the U.S.

To help keep the economy afloat, Cuba has actively courted foreign investment, which often takes the form of joint ventures with the Cuban Government holding half of the equity, management contracts for tourism facilities, or financing for the sugar harvest. A new legal framework laid out in 1995 allowed for majority foreign ownership in joint ventures with the Cuban Government. In practice, majority ownership by the foreign partner is nonexistent. Of the 540 joint ventures formed since the Cuban Government issued the first legislation on foreign investment in 1982, 397 remained at the end of 2002, and 342 at the close of 2003. Due in large part to Castro's recentralization efforts, it is estimated that one joint venture and two small cooperative production ventures have closed each week since 2000. Responding to this decline in the number of joint ventures, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Investment explained that foreign investment is not a pillar of development in and of itself. Moreover, the hostile investment climate, characterized by inefficient and overpriced labor imposed by the communist government, dense regulations, and an impenetrable bureaucracy, continue to deter foreign investment. Foreign direct investment flows decreased from $448 million in 2000 to $39 million in 2001 and were at zero in 2002. In July 2002, the European Union, through its embassies in Havana, transmitted to the Cuban Government a document that outlined the problems encountered in operating joint ventures in Cuba. Titled "The Legal and Administrative Framework for Foreign Trade and Investment by European Companies in Cuba," the paper noted the difficulty in obtaining such basic necessities as work and residence permits for foreign employees—even exit visas and drivers licenses. It complained that the Government of Cuba gave EU joint venture partners little or no say in hiring Cuban staff, often forced the joint venture to contract employees who were not professionally suitable, and yet reserved to itself the right to fire any worker at any time without cause. It noted administrative difficulties in securing financing and warned that "the difficulties of state firms in meeting their payment obligations are seriously threatening some firms and increasing the risk premium which all operators have to pay for their operations with Cuba." The Cuban Government offered no response.

Investors are also constrained by the U.S.-Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity (Libertad) Act that provides sanctions for those who "traffic" in property expropriated from U.S. citizens. As of August 2005, 24 executives of foreign companies and their spouses remained excluded from entry into the United States under Title IV of the Act, while 26 other cases were under active review. More than a dozen companies have pulled out of Cuba or altered their plans to invest there due to the threat of action under the Libertad Act.

In an attempt to provide jobs for workers laid off due to the economic crisis and bring some forms of black market activity into more controllable channels, the Cuban Government in 1993 legalized self-employment for some 150 occupations. This small private sector is tightly controlled and regulated. Set monthly fees must be paid regardless of income earned, and frequent inspections yield stiff fines when any of the many self-employment regulations are violated. Rather than expanding private sector opportunities, in recent years, the government has been attempting to squeeze more of these private sector entrepreneurs out of business and back to the public sector. Many have opted to enter the informal economy or black market, and others have closed. These measures have reduced private sector employment from a peak of 209,000 to less than 100,000 now. Moreover, a large number of those people who nominally are self-employed in reality are well-connected fronts for military officials. No recent figures have been made available, but the Government of Cuba reported at the end of 2001 that tax receipts from the self-employed fell 8.1% due to the decrease in the number of these taxpayers. Since October 1, 2004, the Cuban Government no longer issues new licenses for 40 of the approximately 150 categories of self-employment, including for the most popular ones, such as private restaurants.

In June 2005, 2,000 more licenses were revoked from self-employed workers as a means to reassert government control over the economy and to stem growing inequalities associated with self-employment. The licenses for self-employed workers were typically for service-oriented work, allowing the Cuban people to eke out a small living in an otherwise impoverished state. Moreover, workers in Cuba's tourist sector—at resorts where native Cubans are prohibited unless they are on the job—have been prohibited by a Ministry of Tourism regulation from accepting gifts, tips, or even food from foreigners, in a further attempt at increasing the tourist apartheid that exists on the island.

A 2004 UN Economic Commission on Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) report recommends that Cuba "redesign the parameters of competition in the public, private and cooperative sectors [and] redefine the role of the state in the economy." It recommends more flexibility in self-employment regulations, property diversification, economic decentralization, and a role for the market. The Cuban Government, however, is today reversing the economic liberalization of the 90s and re-centralizing its economy. Evidence of this is found in the decline in the number of firms participating in the perfeccionamiento empresarial, or entrepreneurial improvement (EI), program, which is based on capitalist management techniques. EI was instituted in the 1980s as a military-led pilot project, and in 1998, the Cuban Government extended it from military to civilian "parastatals," reportedly to foster capitalist competitiveness. At first, the government highlighted participating companies' achievements in cutting costs and boosting profitability and quality and suggested that the increased autonomy of state managers under EI was producing an efficient form of socialism with a strong link between pay and performance. However, many in the Communist Party, even Castro himself, resisted EI. Many of the original participants have since left the program and participating firms have seen little growth in revenue. The EI program has fallen far short of expectations and the Cuban Government no longer heralds its successes nor its future prospects. In 2003 the Cuban Government also tightened foreign exchange controls, requiring that state companies hold money in convertible pesos and obtain special authorization from the central bank before making hard currency transactions. Practically speaking, this restricted companies from using the dollar for internal trade. Following this, in 2004 the government announced that all state entities must stop charging in U.S. dollars and charge only in pesos for any products and services not considered a part of a company's "fundamental social objective." It also recently implemented new requirements to channel imports through monopolistic Soviet-style wholesale distribution companies.

Cuba's precarious economic position is complicated by the high price it must pay for foreign financing. The Cuban Government defaulted on most of its international debt in 1986 and does not have access to credit from international financial institutions like the World Bank, which means Havana must rely heavily on short-term loans to finance imports, chiefly food and fuel. 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%. In 2002, citing chronic delinquencies and mounting short-term debts, Moody's lowered Cuba's credit rating to Caa1—"speculative grade, very poor." Dunn and Bradstreet rate Cuba as one of the riskiest economies in the world.


HUMAN RIGHTS

Human rights in Cuba are violated in a myriad of domains. The Cuban people are unable to exercise fundamental rights, such as freedom of speech, assembly, and the right to association. Furthermore, no organizations or activities outside those controlled by the Cuban Government are allowed. Human rights monitoring groups are not welcomed in the island and are seen as a threat to Cuban sovereignty, making human rights violations difficult to document accurately. The Government of Cuba operates a very sophisticated and extensive network of surveillance over every part of the country and has a tight grip on civil society movements. In 2002 the Cuban Government rejected the Varela Project—a 2002-2003 referendum in which supporters submitted 11,000 signatures to call for economic and political reforms. It did so even though the Cuban constitution allows legislative proposals backed by at least 10,000 citizens to be submitted directly to the National Assembly. In October 2003, Project Varela organizers submitted a second petition to the National Assembly with an additional 14,000 signatures.

In March 2003, the Cuban Government carried out one of the most brutal crackdowns on peaceful opposition in the history of Cuba when it arrested 75 human rights activists, independent journalists, and opposition figures on various trumped-up charges, including aiding a foreign power and violating national security laws. Authorities subjected the detainees to summary trials and sentenced them to prison terms ranging from 6 to 28 years. The Government of Cuba has not released any political prisoners this year and continues to hold 61 of the 75 "prisoners of conscience" jailed in 2003 along with 300 others who were arrested and convicted during the past decade. More than 20 of the 75 activists arrested in March 2003 participated in the Varela Project.

Prison conditions on the island are alarming. Prisoners are offered few medical attentions and are kept in harsh environments which contribute to the spread of illness and to the worsening of prisoner's health. In late 2004, the Cuban Government released 14 prisoners in an attempt to improve relations with the EU, which had imposed restrictive measures on Cuba after the crackdown. The prisoners suffered from moderate to severe medical conditions and many of them continue to be harassed by state security even after their release. Others have been warned that if they try to resume their dissident activities, they will be rearrested. Moreover, at least 16 other activists were arrested or sentenced to prison during that period for opposing the Cuban Government for crimes such as "dangerousness" and disrespect to authority. The EU suspended its restrictive measures in January 2005.

Political prisoners in Cuba must serve out their sentences under atrocious prison conditions. Prisoners often have to endure rat and insect infestation, beatings, infrequent access to light, sweltering and freezing temperatures, as well as solitary confinement. In addition, they are often sent to prisons hundreds of miles away from their places of residence. This places an even greater burden on the prisoners' families, as they must bear the expense and hard-ship of traveling long distances with Cuba's woefully inadequate public transportation system for visits sometimes as short as five minutes.

Despite the possibility of harassment and imprisonment, approximately 200 Cuban dissidents gathered on May 20, 2005 for a pro-democracy rally organized by the Assembly for the Promotion of Civil Society in Cuba. Present at the rally were a number of dissident organizations which called for increased freedom of expression and for the release of all political prisoners, among other things. The attendees also heard a video message of support from President George W. Bush. While the Cuban authorities did not prevent the rally from taking place they did deny visas to a number of European diplomats and journalists covering this historic event. Subsequently, the regime has since arrested (and in some cases re-arrested) many of the organizers of this event for their planned participation in other demonstrations.


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 physicians and nurses—in more than 20 nations.

Since the end of Soviet backing, Cuba appears to have largely abandoned monetary support for guerrilla movements that typified its involvement in regional politics in Latin America and Africa, though it maintains relations with several guerrilla and terrorist groups and provides refuge for some of their members in Cuba. Cuba's support for Latin guerrilla movements, its Marxist-Leninist government, and its alignment with the U.S.S.R. led to its isolation in the hemisphere. Cuba is a member of the Organization of American States (OAS), although its present government has been excluded from participation since 1962 for incompatibility with the principles of the inter-American system.

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Cuba expanded its military presence abroad, spending millions of dollars in exporting revolutions; 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.

EU-Cuban diplomatic relations have suffered as a result of the March 2003 crackdown on dissidents. In June 2004, EU members imposed restrictive measures on Cuba including inviting dissidents to national day celebrations and suspending high-level meetings between EU members and the Cuban Government. In January 2005, though, the restrictions were suspended in an effort to re-engage the regime as a means of advancing the EU's policy of encour-aging reform while preparing for the transition.

Spain is among the most important foreign investors in Cuba. The ruling Zapatero government continues Spain's longstanding policy of encour-aging further investment and trade with Cuba. Cuba imports more goods from Spain (almost 13% of total imports) than from any other country. Spanish economic involvement with Cuba is exclusively centered on joint venture enterprises that provide financial benefit to the Cuban Government through state-owned firms. Spain's desire to provide support to its business community often impedes its willingness to pressure the Cuban Government on political reform and human rights issues.

Cuba's bilateral relationship with Venezuela has helped keep the Cuban economy afloat. The "Integral Cooperation Accord" signed by Fidel Castro and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in October 2000 laid the groundwork for a quasi-barter exchange of Venezuelan oil for Cuban goods and services that has since become a lifeline for Cuba. For Cuba, the benefits of the cooperation accord are subsidized petroleum and increased hard currency flows. The original agreement allowed for the sale, at market prices, of up to 53,000 barrels per day of crude oil and derivatives (diesel, gasoline, jet fuel, etc.) by PDVSA, Venezuela's state-owned petroleum company, to its Cuban counterpart, CUPET. The number of barrels of oil Venezuela began selling to Cuba has risen to 90,000 barrels daily. Under the accord, PDVSA extended preferential payment terms to CUPET, including 90-day short-term financing instead of the 30 days offered to its other customers and, in lieu of a standard letter of credit backed by an international bank, PDVSA accepted IOUs from Cuba's Banco Nacional, the central banking entity responsible for servicing Havana's foreign debt. In August 2001, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez amended the 2000 accord to allow Venezuela to compensate the Cuban Government in hard currency for any and all Cuban products and services originally intended as in-kind payment for Venezuelan oil. As a result, Cuban exports of goods and services to Venezuela climbed from $34 million in 2001 to more than $150 million in 2003. Venezuelan ministries are contracting with Cuba for everything from generic pharmaceuticals to pre-fabricated housing and dismantled sugar mill equipment. On April 28, 2005, Chavez and Castro signed 49 economic agreements in Havana, covering areas as diverse as oil, nickel, agriculture, furniture, shoes, textiles, toys, lingerie, tires, construction materials, electricity, transportation, health, and education. Venezuela is also committed to sending more than $400 million in various products duty free to Cuba and plans to open an office of state-owned commercial Venezuelan Industrial Bank (BIV) in Havana to finance imports and exports between the two countries, while Cuba will open an official Banco Exterior de Cuba in Caracas. Increased economic engagement along with the rapid growth in Cuban sales to Caracas has established Venezuela as one of the island's largest export markets.

A series of recent economic agreements between Cuba and China have strengthened trade between the two countries. Sino-Cuban trade totaled more than $525 million in 2004, according to China Customs statistics. This represents an increase of more than 47% over 2003. Most of China's aid involves in-kind supply of goods or technical assistance. During President Hu-Jintao's visit to Cuba in November 2004, China signed investment-related memorandums of understanding (MOUs) estimated at more than $500 million, according to press reports. If these MOUs are fully realized, they would represent a sharp increase in known Chinese investments in Cuba. In addition to these MOUs, a number of commercial accords were signed at the first-ever Cuba-China Investment and Trade Forum. China also plans to invest approximately $500 million in a nickel operation in Moa in the eastern province of Holguin. According to the MOU, Cuba will own 51% of the enterprise and Chinese-owned Minmetals the remaining 49%. Chinese and Venezuelan economic support, including investment and direct aid, have given Cuba the space to eliminate many of the tentative open market reforms Cuba put in place during the depth of its mid-1990s economic crisis.


U.S.-CUBAN RELATIONS

On May 20, 2002, President Bush announced the Initiative for a New Cuba that called on the Cuban Government to undertake political and economic reforms and conduct free and fair elections for the National Assembly. The Initiative challenged the Cuban Government to open its economy, allow independent trade unions, and end discriminatory practices against Cuban workers. President Bush made clear that his response to such concrete reforms would be to work with the U.S. Congress to ease the restrictions on trade and travel between the United States and Cuba. The Cuban Government did not enact any such reforms. Instead, elections for the National Assembly were held in January 2003, with 609 government-approved candidates running for 609 seats. That was followed by the March crackdown on members of civil society.

In October 2003, President Bush then created the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba to help the Cuban people achieve the goal of a rapid, peaceful transition to democracy that is strongly supportive of fundamental political and economic freedoms. Its mandate is to identify additional measures to help bring an end to the dictatorship and to lay out a plan for effective and decisive U.S. assistance to a post-dictatorship Cuba, should such be requested by a free Cuba. The commission report outlines how the United States would be prepared to help a free Cuba improve infrastructure and the environment; consolidate the transition and help build democracy; meet the basic needs of the Cuban people in health, education, housing, and social services; and create the core institutions of a free economy. These recommendations are not a prescription for Cuba's future, but an indication of the kind of assistance the United States and the international community should be prepared to offer a free Cuba.

The commission also sought a more proactive, integrated, and disciplined approach to undermine the survival strategies of the Castro regime and contribute to conditions that will help the Cuban people hasten the dictatorship's end. The recommendations focus on actions available to the United States Government, allowing it to establish a strong foundation on which to build supportive international efforts. This comprehensive framework is composed of six interrelated tasks considered central to hastening change: empowering Cuban civil society; breaking the Cuban Government's information blockade on the Cuban people; denying resources to the regime; illuminating the reality of Castro's Cuba to the rest of the world; encouraging international diplomatic efforts to support Cuban civil society and challenge the Castro regime; and finally, undermining the regime's "succession strategy."

To these ends, President Bush has directed that up to $59 million be committed over the next 2 years to carry out democracy-building activities in Cuba and to improve access to news and information through improved broadcasts of Radio and Television Martí into Cuba. Funding will support efforts by youth, women, and Afro-Cubans to take greater action in support of democracy and human rights in Cuba and efforts by NGOs in selected third countries to highlight human rights abuses in Cuba, as part of a broader effort to discourage tourist travel and reinforce international attention on the plight of the Cuban people, including political prisoners and civil society.

Over the past decade, the regime has built an apparatus designed to exploit humanitarian aspects of U.S. policy, specifically to siphon off hundreds of millions of dollars for itself. To deny resources to the regime, U.S. law enforcement authorities have been directed to conduct "sting" operations against "mule" networks and others who illegally carry money and to offer rewards to those who report on illegal remittances that lead to enforcement actions; family visits to Cuba have been limited to one trip every 3 years under a specific license (individuals are eligible to apply for a specific license 3 years after their last visit to Cuba); and the current authorized per diem amount (the authorized amount allowed for food and lodging expenses for travel in Cuba) has been reduced from $164 per day to $50 per day (i.e., approximately eight times what a Cuban national would expect to earn during a 14-day visit) for all family visits to Cuba, based on the presumption that travelers will stay with family in Cuba.

U.S. policy also pursues a multilateral effort to press for democratic change by urging its friends and allies to actively promote a democratic transition and respect for human rights. The United States opposes consideration of Cuba's return to the OAS or inclusion in the Summit of the Americas process until there is a democratic Cuban Government. The United States has repeatedly made clear, however, that it is prepared to respond reciprocally if the Cuban Government initiates fundamental, systematic, democratic change and respect for human rights.

All U.S. travel to Cuba must be licensed by the Department of Treasury's Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC), and must fall into one of ten categories. Further information on the licensing process can be obtained from OFAC or at their website. All exports to Cuba must also be licensed by the Commerce Department's Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS). Further information on exports to Cuba can be found at the BIS website.

Principal U.S. Interests Section Officials

HAVANA (USINT) Address: Calzada between L & M Streets; Phone: 011-537-833-3551/9; Fax: 011-537-833-2095; Workweek: Monday-Friday, 8:30 am-5:00 pm

AMB:Michael Parmly
AMB OMS:Debra Grau
DCM:Edward Alexander Lee
DCM OMS:Catherine Ramirez
CG:Carl Cockburn
POL:Robert Blau
POL/ECO:Usha Pitts
MGT:David S. Elmo
AFSA:Robert McCutcheon
CLO:Suzanne Moon
EEO:Usha Pitts
FMO:Peggy Guttierrez
GSO:Charles Sewall
ICASS Chair:Drew Blakeney
IMO:Art Mendez
INS:John Wallace Bird
IPO:Bernabe Gomez
PAO:Drew Blakeney
RSO:Thomas Borisch
Last Updated: 12/22/2005

TRAVEL

Consular Information Sheet

December 6, 2004

Country Description:

Cuba is a totalitarian police state, which relies on repressive methods to maintain control. These methods, including intense physical and electronic surveillance of Cubans, are also extended to foreign travelers. Americans visiting Cuba should be aware that any encounter with a Cuban could be subject to surreptitious scrutiny by the Castro regime's secret police, the General Directorate for State Security (DGSE). Also, any interactions with average Cubans, regardless how well intentioned the American is, can subject that Cuban to harassment and/or detention, amongst other forms of repressive actions, by state security elements. The regime is strongly anti-American yet desperate for U.S. dollars to prop itself up. The United States does not have full diplomatic relations with Cuba, but provides consular and other services through the U.S. Interests Section in Havana. The U.S. Interests Section operates under the legal protection of the Swiss government but is not co-located with the Swiss Embassy.

Entry/Exit Requirements/Travel Transaction Limitations:

The Cuban Assets Control Regulations of the U.S. Treasury Department require that persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction be licensed to engage in any transaction related to travel to, from, and within Cuba. Transactions related to tourist travel are not licensable. This restriction includes tourist travel to Cuba from or through a third country such as Mexico or Canada. U.S. law enforcement authorities have increased enforcement of these regulations at U.S. airports and pre-clearance facilities in third countries. Travelers who fail to comply with Department of Treasury regulations will face civil penalties and criminal prosecution upon return to the United States.

Licenses are granted to the following categories of travelers and they are permitted to spend money for Cuban travel and to engage in other transactions directly incident to the purpose of their travel under a general license, without the need to obtain special permission from the U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC):

  • Journalists and supporting broadcasting or technical personnel (regularly employed in that capacity by a news reporting organization and traveling for journalistic activities)
  • Official government travelers on official business.
  • Members of international organizations of which the United States is also a member (traveling on official business).
  • Travelers who have received specific licenses from OFAC prior to going.
  • Full-time professionals whose travel transactions are directly related to research in their professional areas, provided that their research: is of a noncommercial, academic nature; comprises a full work schedule in Cuba; and has a substantial like-lihood of public dissemination.
  • Full-time professionals whose travel transactions are directly related to attendance at professional meetings or conferences in Cuba organized by an international professional organization, institution, or association that regularly sponsors such meetings or conferences in other countries. An organization, institution, or association headquartered in the United States may not sponsor such a meeting or conference unless it has been specifically licensed to sponsor it. The purpose of the meeting or conference cannot be the promotion of tourism in Cuba or other commercial activities involving Cuba, or to foster production of any bio-technological products.

Specific Licenses to Visit Immediate Family Members in Cuba:

OFAC will issue specific licenses authorizing travel-related transactions incident to one visit lasting no more than 14 days to immediate family members who are nationals of Cuba per three-year period. For those who emigrated to the United States from Cuba, and have not since that time visited a family member in Cuba, the three-year period will be counted from the date they left Cuba. For all others, the three year period will be counted from the date they last left Cuba pursuant to the preexisting family visit general license, or from the date their family visit specific license was issued. Travelers wishing to visit an immediate family member in Cuba who is authorized to be in Cuba, but is not a national of Cuba, may be granted a specific license in exigent circumstances provided that the U.S. Interests Section in Havana concurs in the issuance of such a license.

Specific Licenses for Educational Institutions:

Specific licenses may be issued by OFAC to authorize travel transactions related to certain educational activities by students or employees at U.S. undergraduate or graduate institutions. Such licenses must be renewed after a period of one year. Once an academic institution has applied for and received such a specific license, the following categories of travelers affiliated with that academic institution are authorized to engage in travel-related transactions incident to the following activities without seeking further authorization from OFAC: Under-graduate or graduate students participating in a structured educational program lasting at least 10 weeks as part of a course offered at a U.S. undergraduate or graduate institution. Students planning to engage in such transactions must carry a letter from the licensed institution stating: 1) the institution's license number; 2) that the student is enrolled in an undergraduate or graduate degree program at the institution; and 3) that the travel is part of an educational program of that institution.

Persons doing noncommercial Cuba-related academic research in Cuba for the purpose of qualifying academically as a professional (e.g., research toward a graduate degree). Students planning to engage in such transactions must carry a letter from the licensed institution stating: 1) the institution's license number; 2) that the student is enrolled in a graduate degree program at the institution; and 3) that the Cuba research will be accepted for credit toward that graduate degree.

Undergraduate or graduate students participating in a formal course of study lasting at least 10 weeks at a Cuban academic institution, provided that the Cuban study will be accepted for credit toward a degree at the licensed U.S. institution. A student planning to engage in such transactions must carry a letter from the licensed U.S. institution stating: 1) that the individual is a student currently enrolled in an undergraduate or graduate degree program, or a full-time permanent employee at the institution; 2) that the Cuba-related travel is part of a structured educational program of that institution that will last at least 10 weeks; and 3) citing the institution's license number.

Persons regularly employed in a teaching capacity at a licensed U.S. undergraduate or graduate institution who plan to teach part or all of an academic program at a Cuban academic institution for at least 10 weeks. An individual planning to engage in such transactions must carry a letter from the licensed institution stating: 1) the institution's license number; and 2) that the individual is regularly employed by the licensed institution in a teaching capacity.

Cuban scholars teaching or engaging in other scholarly activities at a licensed college or university in the United States. Licensed institutions may sponsor such Cuban scholars, including payment of a stipend or salary. The Cuban scholar may remit all such stipends or salary payments back to Cuba.

Full-time employees of a licensed institution organizing or preparing for the educational activities described above. An individual engaging in such transactions must carry a letter from the licensed institution stating: 1) the institution's license number; and 2) that the individual is regularly employed there.

Specific Licenses for Religious Organizations:

Specific licenses may be issued by OFAC to religious organizations to authorize individuals affiliated with the organization to engage in travel transactions under the auspices of the religious organization. Applications by religious organizations for such licenses should include examples of the religious activities to be undertaken in Cuba. All individuals traveling pursuant to a religious organization's license must carry with them a letter from the licensed organization citing the number of the license and confirming that they are affiliated with the organization and that they are traveling to Cuba to engage in religious activities under the auspices of the organization.

Other Specific Licenses:

Specific licenses may be issued by OFAC, on a case-by-case basis, authorizing travel transactions by the following categories of persons in connection with the following activities: Humanitarian Projects and Support for the Cuban People – 1) Persons traveling in connection with activities that are intended to provide support for the Cuban people, such as activities of recognized human rights organizations. 2) Persons whose travel transactions are directly related to certain humanitarian projects in or related to Cuba that are designed to directly benefit the Cuban people. Licenses authorizing transactions for multiple trips over an extended period of time are available.

Free-Lance Journalism – Persons with a suitable record of publication who are traveling to Cuba to do research for a free-lance article. Licenses authorizing transactions for multiple trips over an extended period of time are available for applicants demonstrating a significant record of free-lance journalism.

Professional Research and Professional Meetings – Persons traveling to Cuba to do professional research or to attend a professional meeting that does not meet the requirements of the relevant general license (described above). Licenses authorizing transactions for multiple trips over an extended period of time are available.

Religious Activities – Persons traveling to Cuba to engage in religious activities that are not authorized pursuant to a religious organization's specific license. Licenses authorizing transactions for multiple trips over an extended period of time are available.

Public Performances, Athletic or Other Competitions, and Exhibitions – Persons traveling to participate in a public performance, athletic or other competition (that does not meet the requirements of the general license described above), or exhibition. The event must be open for attendance, and in relevant situations participation, by the Cuban public, and all profits from the event after costs must be donated to an independent nongovernmental organization in Cuba or a U.S.-based charity with the objective, to the extent possible, of promoting people-to-people contacts or otherwise benefiting the Cuban people.

Amateur or semi-professional athletes or teams traveling to participate in Cuba in an athletic competition held under the auspices of the relevant international sports federation. The athletes must have been selected for the competition by the relevant U.S. sports federation, and the competition must be one that is open for attendance, and in relevant situations participation, by the Cuban people.

Activities of Private Foundations or Research or Educational Institutions – Persons traveling to Cuba on behalf of private foundations or research or educational institutes that have an established interest in international relations to collect information related to Cuba for noncommercial purposes. Licenses authorizing transactions for multiple trips over an extended period of time are available.

Exportation, Importation, or Transmission of Information or Informational Materials – Persons traveling to engage in activities directly related to the exportation, importation, or transmission of information or informational materials.

Licensed Exportation – Persons traveling to Cuba to engage in activities directly related to marketing, sales negotiation, accompanied delivery, or servicing of exports of health care products or other exports that may be considered for authorization under existing Department of Commerce regulations and guidelines with respect to Cuba or engaged in by U.S.owned or –controlled foreign firms.

Applying for a Specific License:

Persons wishing to travel to Cuba under a specific license should send a letter specifying the details of the proposed travel, including any accompanying documentation, to David Mills, Chief of Licensing, Office of Foreign Assets Control, U.S. Department of the Treasury, 1500 Pennsylvania Ave, NW, Washington, DC 20220. Academic institutions wishing to obtain one of the two-year specific licenses described above should send a letter to the same address requesting such a license and establishing that the institution is accredited by an appropriate national or regional accrediting association. Religious organizations wishing to obtain one of the two-year specific licenses described above should send a letter to the same address requesting such a license and setting forth examples of religious activities to be under-taken in Cuba.

The United States maintains a broad embargo against trading with Cuba, and most commercial imports from Cuba are prohibited by law. The sale of certain items, including medicine and medical supplies, and agricultural commodities have been approved for export by specific legislation. The Department of the Treasury may issue licenses on a case-by-case basis authorizing Cuba travel-related transactions directly incident to marketing, sales negotiation, accompanied delivery, and servicing of exports and re-exports that appear consistent with the licensing policy of the Department of Commerce. The sectors in which U.S. citizens may sell and service products to Cuba include agricultural commodities, telecommunications activities, medicine, and medical devices. The Treasury Department will also consider requests for specific licenses for humanitarian travel not covered by the general license, educational exchanges (of at least 10 weeks in duration), and religious activities by individuals or groups affiliated with a religious organization.

Unless otherwise exempted or authorized, any person subject to U.S. jurisdiction who engages in any travel-related transaction in Cuba violates the regulations. Failure to comply with Department of Treasury regulations may result in civil penalties and criminal prosecution upon return to the United States.

Additional information may be obtained by contacting: Licensing Division; Office of Foreign Assets Control; U.S. Department of the Treasury; 1500 Pennsylvania Avenue NW; Treasury Annex; Washington, DC 20220; Telephone (202) 622-2480; Fax (202) 622-1657. Internet users can log on to the web site through http://www.treas.gov/ofac/.

Should a traveler receive a license, a valid passport is required for entry into Cuba. The Cuban government requires that the traveler obtain a visa prior to arrival. Attempts to enter or exit Cuba illegally, or to aid the irregular exit of Cuban nationals or other persons, are contrary to Cuban law and are punishable by jail terms. Entering Cuban territory, territorial waters or airspace (within 12 miles of the Cuban coast) without prior authorization from the Cuban government may result in arrest or other enforcement action by Cuban authorities. Immigration violators are subject to prison terms ranging from four years for illegal entry or exit to as many as 30 years for aggravated cases of alien smuggling. For current information on Cuban entry and customs requirements, travelers should contact:

Cuban Interests Section (an office of the Cuban government)
2630 16th Street NW
Washington, DC 20009
Telephone (202) 797-8518
Fax (202)
797-8521

Consular Section
2639 16th Street NW
Washington, DC 20009
Telephone (202) 797-8609/8610/8615
Fax (202) 986-7283

In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments have initiated procedures at entry/exit points. These often include requiring documentary evidence of relationship and permission for the child's travel from the parent(s) or legal guardian not present. Having such documentation on hand, even if not required, may facilitate entry/departure.

The Cuban Air Force shot down two U.S. registered civilian aircraft in international airspace in 1996. As a result of this action, the President of the United States and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued an "Emergency Cease and Desist Order and Statement of Policy," which allows for vigorous enforcement action against U.S. registered aircraft that violate Cuban airspace. Additional information is available through the FAA's Internet web site at http://www.intl.faa.gov, (click on 'Americas/Spain and then 'Cuba) or by telephone at 202-267-3210.

In addition to the appropriate general or specific license, aircraft and vessels seeking to travel to Cuba must obtain a temporary sojourn license from the Department of Commerce. Temporary sojourn licenses are not available for pleasure boaters. Additional information is available at http://www.bis.doc.gov/. Pursuant to an Executive Order issued after the 1996 shootdown incident, boaters departing south Florida ports with the intention of entering Cuban territorial waters also must obtain permission in advance from the U.S. Coast Guard. The U.S. Coast Guard provides automated information at 1-800-582-5943.

Safety and Security:

In the opening months of 2003, there were numerous attempts to hijack aircraft and ocean-going vessels by Cubans seeking to depart from Cuba. In several cases, these attempts involved the use of weapons by the hijackers. Cuban authorities failed in their efforts to prevent two air hijackings, largely because of weak security procedures at satellite airports. U.S. citizens, although not necessarily targets, may be caught up in any violence during an attempted hijacking. Accordingly, U.S. citizens should exercise caution when traveling by public transportation within Cuba.

The United States Government has publicly and repeatedly announced that any person who hijacks (or attempts to hijack) an aircraft or vessel (common carrier or other) will face the maximum penalties pursuant to U.S. law, regardless of that person's nationality. In Cuba, hijackers will be sentenced to lengthy prison terms at a minimum, and may be subject to the death penalty; on April 11, 2003, the Government of Cuba executed three suspected hijackers, nine days after taking them into custody.

The waters around Cuba can be dangerous to navigation. Since 1993 there have been at least ten shipwrecks involving U.S. citizens. U.S. boaters who have encountered problems requiring repairs in Cuba have found repair services to be expensive and frequently not up to U.S. standards. Note that it is not permitted by law for U.S. persons to use such repair services in non-emergency situations. Any U.S. person who makes use of Cuban repair facilities should be prepared to provide documentary evidence demonstrating the emergency nature of that activity. The government of Cuba often holds boats as collateral to assure payment for salvage and repair services. Transferring funds from the U.S. to pay for boat repairs in Cuba is complicated by restrictions codified in U.S. law relating to commercial transactions with the Government of Cuba. A Treasury license is required for such payments.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department's Internet web site at http://travel.state.gov where the current Worldwide Caution Public Announcement, Travel Warnings and Public Announcements can be found. Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S., or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

Crime:

Although crime against U.S. and other foreign travelers in Cuba has generally been limited to pick-pocketing, purse snatching, or the taking of unattended items, the U.S. Interests Section has received increased reports of violent assaults against individuals in connection with robberies. In cases of violent crime, Americans should not resist if confronted, as perpetrators are usually armed with a knife or machete and often work with partners.

Pickpocketings and purse snatchings usually occur in crowded areas such as markets, beaches, and other gathering points, including Old Town Havana. Travelers should use caution in all such areas and are advised not to leave belongings unattended, nor to carry purses and bags loosely over one's shoulder. Visitors should avoid wearing flashy jewelry or displaying large amounts of cash. When possible, visitors should carry a copy of their passport with them and leave the original at a secure location.

Thefts of property from air travelers' baggage have become increasingly common. All travelers should ensure that valuables remain under their personal control at all times, and are never put into checked baggage.

Information for Victims of Crime:

The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, to contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed. Posts in countries that have victims of crime assistance programs should include that information.

Medical Facilities and Health Information:

Medical care does not meet U.S. standards. While medical professionals are generally competent, many health facilities face shortages of medical supplies and bed space. Many medications are unavailable so travelers to Cuba should bring with them any prescribed medicine in its original container and in amounts commensurate with personal use. A copy of the prescription and a letter from the prescribing physician explaining the need for prescription drugs facilitates their entry into the country.

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC's Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization's (WHO) web-site at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith.

Medical Insurance:

The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.

Traffic Safety and Road Conditions:

While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below Cuba is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Driving is on the right-hand side of the road; speed limits are sometimes posted and generally respected. Reports suggest that accidents involving motor vehicles are now the leading cause of accidental death in Cuba.

Passengers in automobiles are not required to wear seatbelts and motor-cyclists are not required to wear helmets, as these are not generally available on the local market. Many accidents involve motorists striking pedestrians or bicyclists. Drivers found responsible for accidents resulting in serious injury or death are subject to prison terms of up to 10 years, and Cuban authorities may prohibit drivers of rental cars who are involved in accidents from leaving the country until all claims associated with an accident are settled. Additionally, the Interests Section notes that mere witnesses to vehicular accidents may not be permitted to leave Cuba until an investigation into the accident has been completed.

Taxis are available in busy commercial and tourist areas; radio-dispatched taxis are generally clean and reliable. Travelers should be aware that licensed taxis available near hotel areas are often driven by DGSE agents, or the drivers report to the DGSE, as a part of the regime's efforts to follow the activities of foreign visitors. However, travelers should not accept rides in unlicensed taxis as they may be used by thieves to rob passengers. Buses designated for tourist travel, both between and within cities, generally meet international standards for both cleanliness and safety. Public buses used by Cubans, known as "guaguas" or "camellos," are crowded, unreliable and havens for pickpockets. These public buses will usually not offer rides to foreign visitors.

Although popular with tourists, the three-wheeled, yellow-hooded "Co-Co" taxis are highly unsafe and should be avoided. "Co-Co" taxis are modified motorcycles that reach speeds of up to 40 mph, but have no seat belts or other safety features.

Although the main arteries of Havana are generally well-maintained, secondary streets often are not. Many roads and city streets are unlit, making night driving dangerous, especially as some cars and most bicycles lack running lights or reflectors. Street signage tends to be insufficient and confusing. Most Cuban cars are old, in poor condition and lack turn signals and other standard safety equipment. Drivers should exercise extreme care.

The principal Cuban east-west highway is in good condition but lacks lights and extends only two-thirds of the way from Havana to the eastern tip of the island. The extension of that highway on to the east is in poor condition in many areas, with washed out sections and deep potholes. Night driving should be strictly avoided outside urban areas. Secondary rural roads are narrow, and some are in such bad condition as to be impassable by cars. Due to the rarity of cars on rural roads, pedestrians, bicycles, and farm equipment operators wander onto the roads without any regard to possible automobile traffic. Unfenced livestock constitute another serious road hazard.

Rental car agencies provide roadside assistance to their clients as a condition of the rental contract. Cuban authorities may prohibit drivers of rental cars who are involved in accidents from leaving the country, even if they are injured and require medical evacuation, until all claims associated with an accident are settled. Travelers should not permit unauthorized persons to drive the rental vehicle. Automobile renters are provided telephone numbers to call in Havana or in other places where they might be motoring; agencies respond as needed with tow trucks and/or mechanics. A similar service is available to foreigners resident in Cuba who insure cars with the National Insurance Company.

Aviation Safety Oversight:

As there is no direct scheduled commercial air service between the United States and Cuba, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Cuba's Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with ICAO international aviation safety standards. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA's internet web site at www.faa.gov/avr/iasa/index.cfm.

Because of serious concerns about the safety and security standards, maintenance regime and history of fatal accidents, including the hijacking concerns noted above of the Cuban flag carrier, Cubana de Aviacion, as well as other Cuban carriers on-island, U.S. Interests Section staff and official visitors to Cuba are instructed to avoid flying aboard either the domestic or the international flights of any Cuban airline, including Cubana de Aviacion.

Americans considering travel on any Cuban airline may wish to defer their travel or pursue an alternative means of transportation. The Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact DOD at (618) 256-4801.

Special Circumstances:

Photographing military or police installations or personnel, or harbor, rail, and airport facilities is forbidden.

Dual Nationality:

The Government of Cuba does not recognize the U.S. nationality of U.S. citizens who are Cuban-born or are the children of Cuban parents. These individuals will be treated solely as Cuban citizens and may be subject to a range of restrictions and obligations, including military service. The Cuban government may require U.S. citizens, whom Cuba considers to be Cuban, to enter and depart Cuba using a Cuban passport. Using a Cuban passport for this purpose does not jeopardize one's U.S. citizenship; however, such persons must use their U.S. passports to enter and depart the United States. There have been cases of Cuban-American dual nationals being forced by the Cuban government to surrender their U.S. passports. Despite these restrictions, Cuban-American dual nationals who fall ill may only be treated at hospitals for foreigners (except in emergencies). See the paragraph below on Consular Access for information on Cuba's denial of consular services to dual American-Cuban nationals who have been arrested, as well as the paragraph below on Children's Issues for information on how dual-nationality may affect welfare inquiries and custody disputes.

Consular Access:

U.S. citizens are encouraged to carry a copy of their U.S. passport with them at all times, so that, if questioned by local officials, proof of identity and U.S. citizenship are readily available. The original should be kept in a safe location.

Cuba does not recognize the right or obligation of the U.S. Government to protect Cuban-born American citizens, whom the Cuban government views as Cuban citizens only. Cuban authorities consistently refuse to notify the U.S. Interests Section of the arrest of Cuban-American dual nationals and deny U.S. consular officers access to them. They also withhold information concerning their welfare and proper treatment under Cuban law.

Currency Regulations:

Beginning in November 2004, the U.S. dollar is no longer accepted for commercial transactions. The Cuban government now requires the use of convertible Cuban pesos ("chavitos") for all transactions.

Cuba-Related Travel Transactions:

Only persons whose travel falls into the categories mentioned above (under "Entry Requirements/Travel Transaction Limitations") may be authorized to spend money related to travel to, from, or within Cuba. Persons traveling to Cuba to visit immediate family members (a "member of the immediate family" is defined as a spouse, child, grandchild, parent, grandparent, or sibling of the remitter or that remitter's spouse, as well as any spouse, widow or widower of any of the foregoing) pursuant to a specific-license may spend no more than $50 per day on non-transportation-related expenses in Cuba, and up to an additional $50 per trip to pay for transportation-related expenses in Cuba. Persons licensed to engage in other travel-related transactions in Cuba may spend up to the State Department Travel Per Diem Allowance for Havana, Cuba, for purchases directly related to travel in Cuba, such as hotel accommodations, meals, local transportation, and goods personally used by the traveler in Cuba (travelers can check the current per diem rate on the Internet at http://www.state.gov/m/a/als/prdm/). Most licensed travelers may also spend additional money for transactions directly related to the activities for which they received their license. For example, journalists traveling in Cuba under the journalism general license (described above) may spend money over and above the current per diem for extensive local transportation, the hiring of cable layers, and other costs that are directly related to covering a story in Cuba. Purchases of services unrelated to travel or a licensed activity, such as non-emergency medical services, are prohibited. The purchase of publications and other information materials is not restricted.

Sending or Carrying Money to Cuba:

U.S. persons aged 18 or older may send to members of the remit-ter's immediate family in Cuba or to a Cuban national in a third country "family" cash remittances of up to $300 per household in any consecutive three-month period, provided that no member of the household is a prohibited official of the Government of Cuba or a prohibited member of the Cuban Communist Party (The term "prohibited official of the Government of Cuba" means: Ministers and Vice-Ministers, members of the Council of State, and the Council of Ministers; members and employees of the National Assembly of People's Power; members of any provincial assembly; local sector chiefs of the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution; Director Generals and sub-Director Generals and higher of all Cuban ministries and state agencies; employees of the Ministry of the Interior (MININT); employees of the Ministry of Defense (MINFAR); secretaries and first secretaries of the Confederation of Labor of Cuba (CTC) and its component unions; chief editors, editors, and deputy editors of Cuban state-run media organizations and programs, including newspapers, television, and radio; and members and employees of the Supreme Court (Tribuno Supremo Nacional). The term "prohibited members of the Cuban Communist Party" means: members of the Politburo, the Central Committee, Department Heads of the Central Committee; employees of the Central Committee; and secretary and first secretary of the provincial Party central committee) No more than a combined total of $300 of family remittances may be sent by a remitter to any one household in any consecutive three-month period, regardless of the number of members of the remitter's immediate family residing in that household. A licensed traveler may carry up to $300 of his own family remittances to Cuba.

U.S. persons also may send up to $1,000 per payee on a one-time basis as an "emigration-related" remittance to a Cuban national to enable the payee to emigrate from Cuba to the United States. Specifically, up to $500 may be remitted to a Cuban national prior to the payee's receipt of a valid U.S. visa or other U.S. immigration document, and up to $500 may be remitted to the Cuban national after the payee receives a valid U.S. visa or other U.S. immigration document. A licensed traveler may only carry immigration remittances to Cuba if the visa has already been issued.

Remittances must be transferred through an OFAC-licensed depository institution or remittance forwarder. These OFAC-licensed entities originating transfers on behalf of non-aggregating customers must obtain an affidavit from the remitter certifying that each family remittance does not exceed $300 in any consecutive three-month period and that each emigration-related remittance meets the requirement of the Regulations. Remitters can expect to have their identity, date of birth, address, and telephone number verified.

U.S. citizens and permanent resident aliens are prohibited from using credit cards in Cuba. U.S. credit card companies do not accept vouchers from Cuba, and Cuban shops, hotels and other places of business do not accept U.S. credit cards. Neither personal checks nor travelers' checks drawn on U.S. banks are accepted in Cuba.

Exportation of Accompanied Baggage:

Authorized travelers to Cuba are limited to 44 pounds of accompanied baggage per traveler unless a specific license from OFAC or the Department of Commerce's Bureau of Industry and Security authorizes a higher amount.

What Can Be Brought Back:

If U.S. travelers return from Cuba with Cuban origin goods, such goods, with the exception of informational materials, may be seized at Customs' discretion. [Section 515.204 of the Regulations.] Cuban cigars and rum are routinely confiscated at U.S. ports of entry. The fact that Cuban cigars and rum are purchased in a "duty free" shop at the Havana Airport does not exempt them from seizure by US customs. There are no limits on the import or export of informational materials [Section 515.206 of the Regulations]. Such materials, for example books, films, tapes and CDs, are statutorily exempt from regulation under the embargo and may be transported freely. However, blank tapes and CDs are not considered informational materials and may be seized.

Fair Business Practices:

Anyone authorized by the U.S. Department of the Treasury to provide Cuban travel services or services in connection with sending money to Cuba is prohibited from participating in the discriminatory practices of the Cuban government against individuals or particular classes of travelers. The assessment of consular fees by the Cuban government, which are applicable worldwide, is not considered to be a discriminatory practice. However, requiring the purchase of services not desired by the traveler is not permitted. Persons wishing to provide information regarding arbitrary fees, payments for unauthorized purposes, or other possible violations furnished to the U.S. Treasury Department will be handled confidentially.

U.S. citizens and permanent resident aliens are prohibited from using credit cards in Cuba. U.S. credit card companies do not accept vouchers from Cuba, and Cuban shops, hotels and other places of business do not accept U.S. credit cards. Neither personal checks nor travelers' checks drawn on U.S. banks are accepted in Cuba.

Criminal Penalties:

While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offences. Persons violating Cuba's laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Cuba are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Those accused of drug-related and other crimes face long legal proceedings and delayed due process. In one recent drug arrest, two American citizens were sentenced to terms of 25 and 30 years. In another recent criminal case, the accused was detained for more than 18 months without a trial.

Cuba's Law of Protection of National Independence and the Cuban Economy contains a series of measures aimed at discouraging contact between foreign nationals and Cuban citizens. These measures are aimed particularly at the press and media representatives, but may be used against any foreign national coming into contact with a Cuban. The law provides for jail terms of up to 30 years in aggravated cases. U.S. citizens traveling in Cuba are subject to this law, and they may unwittingly cause the arrest and imprisonment of any Cuban with whom they come into contact.

For more information, please contact the U.S. Interests Section's American Citizens Services Unit at: U.S. Interests Section; American Citizen Services Unit; Calzada, entre L y M; Vedado, Havana, Cuba; Phone: 53-7-833-3551 (through 3559); Fax: 53-7-833-1084

Engaging in sexual conduct with children (persons under the age of 18) or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in both the United States and Cuba.

Children's Issues:

Cuba does not allow adoption of children by U.S. citizens. Additionally, children who maintain both Cuban and U.S. citizenship are considered to be Cuban citizens by the Government of Cuba because dual nationality is not recognized. Consequently, requests to verify the welfare and inquiries regarding the whereabouts of children living with their Cuban parents and/or relatives may be more difficult to answer. In the event of a custody dispute, the American parent will need to pursue a legal hearing in Cuba with the assistance of a Cuban attorney. The Interests Section can provide a list of attorneys practicing in the Havana area to interested parties.

For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, see the Office of Children's Issues website at http://travel.state.gov/family/index.html.

U.S. Representation/Registration

The U.S. Interests Section (USINT) represents American citizens and the U.S. Government in Cuba, and operates under the legal protection of the Swiss government. The Interests Section staff provides the full range of American citizen and other consular services. U.S. citizens who travel to Cuba are encouraged to contact and register with USINT's American Citizen Services section.

U.S. citizens who register at the U.S. Interests Section in Havana may obtain updated information on travel and security within the country. There is no access to the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay from within Cuba. Consular issues for Guantanamo Bay are handled by the U.S. Embassy in Kingston, Jamaica. For further information on Guantanamo Bay, please contact the U.S. Embassy in Kingston at telephone (876) 929-5374.

The Interests Section is located in Havana at Calzada between L and M Streets, Vedado; telephone (537) 833-3551 through 833-3559. Hours are Monday through Thursday, 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. After hours and on weekends, the number is 833-3026 or 833-2302. Should you encounter an emergency after normal duty hours, call these numbers and request to speak with the duty officer.

USINT staff provide briefings on U.S.-Cuba policy to American individuals and groups visiting Cuba. These briefings or meetings can be arranged through USINT's Public Diplomacy office.

International Parental Child Abduction

January 2006

The information below has been edited from the report of the State Department Bureau of Consular Affairs, Office of Overseas Citizens Services. For more information, please read the International Child Abduction section of this book and review current reports online at travel.state.gov.

Disclaimer:

The information in this flyer relating to the legal requirements of specific foreign countries is based on public sources and our current understanding. Questions involving foreign and U.S. immigration laws and legal interpretation should be addressed respectively to qualified foreign or U.S. legal counsel.

General Information:

Cuba is not a party to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, nor are there any international or bilateral treaties in force between Cuba and the United States dealing with international parental child abduction. American citizens who travel to Cuba place themselves under the jurisdiction of local courts. American citizens planning a trip to Cuba with dual national children should bear this in mind.

Custody Disputes:

In Cuba, if parents are legally married they share the custody of their children. If they are not married and the parents cannot reach an agreement, custody is granted by the courts in the best interests of the child. Foreign court orders are not automatically recognized.

Enforcement of Foreign Judgments:

Custody orders and judgments of foreign courts are not enforceable in Cuba.

Visitation Rights:

In cases where one parent has been granted custody of a child, the other parent is usually granted visitation rights. If a custodial parent fails to allow visitation, the non-custodial parent may appeal to the court.

Dual Nationality:

Dual nationality is not recognized under Cuban law.

Travel Restrictions:

Cuban citizen children (including dual nationals) are required to have exit visas to depart Cuba.

Criminal Remedies:

For information on possible criminal remedies, please contact your local law enforcement authorities or the nearest office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Information is also available on the Internet at the web site of the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) at http://www.ojjdp.ncjrs.org. Persons who wish to pursue a child custody claim in a Cuban court should retain an attorney in Cuba. The U.S. Interests Section at the Embassy of Switzerland in Cuba maintains a list of attorneys willing to represent American clients. A copy of this list may be obtained by requesting one from the U.S. Interests Section of the Embassy at: Embassy of Switzerland U.S. Interests Section Calzada between L & M Streets Vedado Havana Cuba Telephone: 011-53-7-33-3551/59 Fax: 011-53-7-33-3700 http://www.usembassy.state.gov.

For further information on international parental child abduction, contact the Office of Children's Issues at 202-736-7000, visit the State Department website on the Internet at http://travel.state.gov, or send a nine-by-twelve-inch, self-addressed envelope to: Office of Children's Issues, SA-29, U.S. Department of State, 2201 C Street, NW, Washington, DC 20520-2818; Phone: (202) 736-9090; Fax: (202) 312-9743.

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CUBA

Compiled from the August 2004 Background Note and supplemented with additional information from the State Department and the editors of this volume. See the introduction to this set for explanatory notes.

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

Population: 11 million; 70% urban, 30% rural.

Ethnic groups: 51% mulatto, 37% white, 11% black, 1% Chinese (according to Cuban census data).

Language: Spanish. Literacy—95%.

Work force: (4.5 million) Government and services—30%; industry—22%; agriculture—20%; commerce—11%; construction—11%; transportation and communications—6%.

Government

Type: Totalitarian Communist state; current government assumed power by force January 1, 1959.

Independence: May 20, 1902.

Political party : Cuban Communist Party (PCC); only one party allowed.

Administrative subdivisions: 14 provinces, including the city of Havana, and one special municipality (Isle of Youth).

Economy

(Statistics drawn from the CIA World Fact Book)

GDP: (2003 est.) Purchasing power parity—$31.59 billion.

Real Annual growth rate: 6.2% (1999); 3.0% (2001); 1.1% (2002); 1.3% (2003 est.).

GDP Per capita income: (based on purchasing power parity) $2,800 (2003 est.).

Natural resources: Nickel, cobalt, iron ore, copper, manganese, salt, timber.

Agriculture: Products—sugar, citrus and tropical fruits, tobacco, coffee, rice, beans, meat, vegetables.

Industry: Types—sugar and food processing, oil refining, cement, electric power, light consumer and industrial products.

Trade: Exports—$1.467 billion: (2003 est.) nickel/cobalt, sugar and its byproducts, tobacco, seafood, pharmaceuticals, citrus, tropical fruits, coffee. Major markets—Netherlands $480 million (this figure includes goods shipped to the Netherlands for onward shipment to EU countries); Canada $265 million;Russia $185 million; Venezuela $150 million (est.); Spain $125 million. Imports—$4.531 billion: petroleum, food, machinery, chemicals. Major suppliers—Venezuela $900 million; Spain $700 million; Italy $375 million; China $340 million; United States $295 million.

Official exchange rate: 1 Cuban peso=U.S.$1 (official rate). 27 Cuban pesos=U.S.$1 (internal exchange rate)


PEOPLE AND RELIGION

Cuba is a multiracial society with a population of mainly Spanish and African origins. The largest organized religion is the Roman Catholic Church, but evangelical protestant denominations continue to grow rapidly. Afro-Cuban religions, a blend of native African religions and Roman Catholicism, are widely practiced in Cuba.

Officially, Cuba has been an atheist state for most of the Castro era. In 1962, the government of Fidel Castro seized and shut down more than 400 Catholic schools, charging that they spread dangerous beliefs among the people. In 1991, however, the Communist Party lifted its prohibition against religious believers seeking membership, and a year later the constitution was amended to characterize the state as secular instead of atheist.

While the Cuban constitution recognizes the right of citizens to freedom of religion, the government de facto restricts that freedom. Twenty-two denominations, including Presbyterians, Episcopalians, and Methodists, are members of the Cuban Council of Churches (CCC). Most CCC members are officially recognized by the State, though several, including the Evangelical Lutheran Church, are not registered and are recognized only through their membership in the CCC. Another 31 officially recognized denominations, including Jehovah's Witnesses and the small Jewish community, do not belong to the CCC. The Government does not favor any one particular religion or church; however, the Government appears to be most tolerant of those churches that maintain close relations to the State through the CCC. Unregistered religious groups experience various degrees of official interference, harassment, and repression. The Ministry of Interior engages in active efforts to control and monitor the country's religious institutions, including through surveillance, infiltration and harassment of religious professionals and practitioners. The most independent religious organizations—including the Catholic church, the largest independent institution in Cuba today—continue to operate under significant restrictions and pressure imposed by the Cuban regime. The Cuban Government continues to refuse to allow the church to have independent printing press capabilities; full access to the media; to train enough priests for its needs or allow adequate numbers of foreign priests to work in the country; or to establish socially useful institutions, including schools and universities, hospitals and clinics, and nursing homes. All registered denominations must report to the Ministry of Interior's Office of Religious Affairs.

The visit of Pope John Paul II in January 1998 was seen as an important, positive event for bringing a message of hope and the need for respect of human rights. Unfortunately, these improvements did not continue once the Pope left the island. While some visas were issued for additional priests to enter Cuba around the time of the visit, the regime has again sharply restricted issuance of visas. Moreover, despite explicit regime guarantees and repeated follow-up requests, the regime has refused to permit the Catholic Church to establish Internet connections or an intranet among dioceses on the Island. In a pastoral letter entitled "There is No Country Without Virtue" ("No Hay Patria Sin Virtud"), the Cuban Conference of Catholic Bishops in February 2003 openly criticized the government's strict control over the activities of the Catholic Church, especially state restrictions on religious education and Church access to mass media, as well as the increasingly amoral and irreligious character of Cuban society under Communist rule.

Other Cuban religious groups—including evangelical Christians, whose numbers continue to grow rapidly—also have benefited from the relative relaxation of official restrictions on religious organizations and activities. Although particularly hard hit by emigration, Cuba's small Jewish community continues to hold services in Havana and has members in Santiago, Camaguey, and other parts of the island. See also the Department's report on international religious freedom for further information.


HISTORY

Spanish settlers established the raising of cattle, sugarcane, and tobacco as Cuba's primary economic pursuits. As the native Indian population died out, African slaves were imported to work the ranches and plantations. Slavery was abolished in 1886.

Cuba was the last major Spanish colony to gain independence, following a lengthy struggle begun in 1868. Jose Marti, Cuba's national hero, helped initiate the final push for independence in 1895. In 1898, the United States entered the conflict after an explosion of undetermined origin caused the USS Maine to sink in Havana Harbor on February 15. In December of that year, under the Treaty of Paris, Spain relinquished control of Cuba to the United States. On May 20, 1902, the United States granted Cuba its independence but retained the right to intervene to preserve Cuban independence and stability in accordance with the Platt Amendment. In 1934, the Platt Amendment was repealed. The United States and Cuba concluded a Treaty of Relations in 1934 which, among other things, continued the 1903 agreements that leased the Guantanamo Bay naval base to the United States.

Independent Cuba was often ruled by authoritarian political and military figures who either obtained or remained in power by force. Fulgencio Batista, an army sergeant, organized a non-commissioned officer revolt in September 1933 and wielded significant power behind the scenes until he was elected president in 1940. Batista was voted out of office in 1944 and did not run in 1948. Both those elections were won by civilian political figures with the support of party organizations. Running for president again in 1952, Batista seized power in a bloodless coup 3 months before the election was to take place, suspended the balloting, and began ruling by decree. Many political figures and movements that wanted a return to the government according to the Constitution of 1940 disputed Batista's undemocratic rule.

On July 26, 1953, Fidel Castro, who had been involved in increasingly violent political activity before Batista's coup, led a failed attack on the Moncada army barracks in Santiago de Cuba in which more than 100 died. After defending himself in a trial open to national and international media, he was convicted and jailed, and subsequently was freed in an act of clemency, then went into exile in Mexico. There he organized the "26th of July Movement" with the goal of overthrowing Batista, and the group

sailed to Cuba on board the yacht Granma, landing in the eastern part of the island in December 1956.

Batista's dictatorial rule fueled increasing popular discontent and the rise of many active urban and rural resistance groups, a fertile political environment for Castro's 26th of July Movement. Faced with a corrupt and ineffective military, itself dispirited by a U.S. Government embargo on weapons sales to Cuba, and public indignation and revulsion at his brutality toward opponents, Batista fled on January 1, 1959. Although Castro had promised a return to constitutional rule and democratic elections along with social reforms, Castro used his control of the military to consolidate power by repressing all dissent from his decisions, marginalizing other resistance figures, and imprisoning or executing thousands of opponents. An estimated 3,200 people were executed by the Castro regime between 1959-62 alone. As the revolution became more radical, 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 and worked in concert with the geopolitical goals of Soviet communism, funding and fomenting violent subversive and insurrectional activities, as well as military adventurism, until the demise of the U.S.S.R. in 1991.

Relations between the United States and Cuba deteriorated rapidly as the Cuban regime expropriated U.S. properties and moved toward adoption of a one-party communist system. In response, the United States imposed an embargo on Cuba in October 1960, and, in response to Castro's provocations, broke diplomatic relations on January 3, 1961. Tensions between the two governments peaked during the October 1962 missile crisis.


GOVERNMENT

Cuba is a totalitarian state controlled by Fidel Castro, who is chief of state, head of government, First Secretary of the PCC, and commander in chief of the armed forces. Castro seeks to control most aspects of Cuban life through the Communist Party and its affiliated mass organizations, the government bureaucracy, and the state security apparatus. In March 2003, Castro announced his intention to remain in power for life. The Ministry of Interior is the principal organ of state security and control.

According to the Soviet-style Cuban constitution of 1976, the National Assembly of People's Power—and its Council of State when the body is not in session—has supreme authority in the Cuban system. Since the National Assembly meets only twice a year for a few days each time, the 31-member Council of State wields power. The Council of Ministers, through its 9-member executive committee, handles the administration of the economy, which is state-controlled except for a tiny and shriveling open-market sector. Fidel Castro is President of the Council of State and Council of Ministers and his brother Raul serves as First Vice President of both bodies as well as Minister of Defense.

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, particularly 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." Citizens can be and are jailed for terms of 3 years or more for simply criticizing the communist system or Fidel Castro.

The Communist Party is constitutionally recognized as Cuba's only legal political party. 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 a tiny number of non-party members have on extremely rare occasions been permitted by the controlling Communist authorities to serve in the National Assembly. The Communist Party or one of its front organizations approves candidates for any elected office. Citizens do not have the right to change their government. In March 2003, the government carried out one of the most brutal crack-downs on peaceful opposition in the history of Cuba when it arrested 75 human rights activists, independent journalists and opposition figures on various charges, including aiding a foreign power and violating national security laws. Authorities subjected the detainees to summary trials and sentenced them to prison terms ranging from 6 to 28 years. Amnesty International identified all 75 as "prisoners of conscience." The European Union (EU) condemned their arrests and in June 2003, it announced its decision to implement the following actions: limit bilateral high-level governmental visits, reduce the profile of member states' participation in cultural events, reduce economic assistance and invite Cuban dissidents to nationalday celebrations. See also the Department's Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for Cuba.

Although the constitution allows legislative proposals backed by at least 10,000 citizens to be submitted directly to the National Assembly, in 2002 the government rejected a petition known as the Varela Project, supporters of which submitted 11,000 signatures calling for a national referendum on political and economic reforms. Many of the 75 activists arrested in March 2003 participated in the Varela Project. In October 2003, Project Varela organizers submitted a second petition to the National Assembly with an additional 14,000 signatures. Since April 2004, some prisoners of conscience have been released, seven of whom were in the group of 75; all suffered from moderate to severe medical conditions and many of them continue to be harassed by State Security even after their release from prison. Moreover, at least 16 other activists were either arrested or sentenced to prison during that period for opposing the Cuban Government.

Principal Government Officials

Last Updated: 12/14/04

President of the Council of State: Castro Ruz , Fidel
First Vice Pres. of the Council of State: Castro Ruz , Raul, Gen.
Vice Pres. of the Council of State: Almeida Bosque , Juan
Vice Pres. of the Council of State: Colome Ibarra , Abelardo, Corps Gen.
Vice Pres. of the Council of State: Lage Davila , Carlos
Vice Pres. of the Council of State: Lazo Hernandez , Esteban
Vice Pres. of the Council of State: Machado Ventura , Jose Ramon
Min. Sec. of the Council of State: Miyar Barruecos , Jose M.
Pres. of the Council of Ministers: Castro Ruz , Fidel
First Vice Pres. of the Council of Ministers: Castro Ruz , Raul, Gen.
Vice Pres. of the Council of Ministers: Cienfuegos Gorriaran , Osmani
Vice Pres. of the Council of Ministers: Fernandez Alvarez , Jose Ramon
Vice Pres. of the Council of Ministers: Miret Prieto , Pedro
Vice Pres. of the Council of Ministers: Rivero Torres , Otto
Vice Pres. of the Council of Ministers: Rodriguez Garcia , Jose Luis
Sec. of the Council of Ministers: Lage Davila , Carlos
Min. of Agriculture: Jordan Morales , Alfredo
Min. of Auditing & Control: Pedraza Rodriguez , Lina
Min. of Basic Industries: Garcia Vera , Yadira
Min. of Construction: Figueroade la Paz , Fidel
Min. of Culture: Prieto Jimenez , Abel
Min. of Domestic Trade: Castillo Cuesta , Barbara
Min. of Economy & Planning: Rodriguez Garcia , Jose Luis
Min. of Education: Gomez Gutierrez , Luis I.
Min. of Finance & Prices: Barreiro Fajardo , Georgina
Min. of the Fishing Industry: Lopez Valdes , Alfredo
Min. of the Food Industry: Roca Iglesias , Alejandro
Min. of Foreign Investment & Economic Cooperation: Lomas Morales , Marta
Min. of Foreign Relations: Perez Roque , Felipe
Min. of Foreign Trade: de la Nuez Ramirez , Raul
Min. of Higher Education: Vecino Alegret , Fernando
Min. of Information Science & Communication: Gonzalez Planas , Ignacio
Min. of Interior: Colome Ibarra , Abelardo, Corps Gen.
Min. of Justice: Diaz Sotolongo , Roberto
Min. of Labor & Social Security: Morales Cartaya , Alfredo
Min. of Light Industry: Perez Othon , Jesus
Min. of Public Health: Balaguer Cabrera , Jose Ramon
Min. of the Revolutionary Armed Forces: Castro Ruz , Raul, Gen.
Min. of Science, Technology, & Environment:
Min. of the Steelworking Industry: Acosta Santana , Fernando
Min. of the Sugar Industry: Rosales del Toro , Ulises, Div. Gen.
Min of Tourism: Marrero Cruz , Manuel
Min. of Transportation: Pazo Torrado , Carlos Manuel
Min. Without Portfolio: Cabrisas Ruiz , Ricardo
Min. Without Portfolio: Lopez Rodriguez , Wilfredo
Pres., Central Bank of Cuba: Soberon Valdes , Francisco
Attorney General: Escalona Reguera , Juan
Permanent Representative to the UN, New York: Requei