Cuba has naval borders with the United States ( Florida
), the Bahamas
and two British overseas territories.
While Christopher Columbus visited the island in 1492, Spain failed to colonize it until 1511. The Spanish administration lasted from 1511 to 1898. It was ceded to the United States following the Spanish-American War (1898). Administrating it for a few years, the States declared it an independent Republic in 1902. However the States "retained the right to intervene in Cuban affairs and to supervise its finances and foreign relations." Arguably making it a protectorate.
Cuba joined the United States in World War II, though it had a peripheral role in the conflict. From 1952 to 1959 Cuba was a military dictatorship under Fulgencio Batista. He established close relations with the American Mafia, particularly Meyer Lansky. Their partnership led to prosperity for casinos and brothels. A communist coup under Fidel Castro deposed Batista and ousted the Americans in January, 1959.
Castro continued governing Cuba from 1959 to 2008, forced to resign for health reasons. He survived numerous American attempts to depose or assassinate him. Cuba held close relations with the Soviet Union throughout the Cold War. Castro's policies remained controversial both inside and outside Cuba. Castro nationalized some $850 million worth of U.S. property and businesses, nationalized the native industry, redistributed property, collectivized agriculture and created policies that would benefit the poor. Health care and education became available to wider portions of the population.
On the other hand, members of the upper and middle classes were forced into self-exile and public informers were spread among the population. All media resources and education establishments were controlled by the government, offering no outlets for free speech. Following then-current Communist thought of homosexuality being "bourgeois decadence", the 1960s saw purges of all homosexuals from the state mechanism. Several of them were further targeted for "re-education".
Cuba survived the fall of the Soviet Union, though a long-term trade embargo on it led to fuel shortages. The 1990s saw its borders open for tourism. The retired Fidel Castro was succeeded by his younger brother Raul, acting President since 2006. While the senior Castro was a charismatic orator and enjoyed wide popularity, the younger one has decades of military experience but very little political one. So far Raul has distributed unused state-owned land to private farmers and rewarded hard-working employees of state-run companies with higher wages than their peers. He has removed from position various high-ranking officials of Fidel\s latest governments. Whether he is preparing for wider reforms or simply removing rivals for power remains unclear.
Cuban characters: La Bandera