Cuba

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History of Cuba

Before Columbus reached it in 1492 Cuba was home to three major peoples: the Guanahatabey and the Ciboney lived in the western part of the island, and the Taino lived the eastern part. The history of Spanish occupation is a bloody one for both the indigenous people who were killed in the colonial abuse and constant fighting, and the Spanish on whom the disease, hurricanes and battles with competing colonial powers took a huge toll. The 16th century though, saw the Spanish better off. A huge demographic shift sponsored by the colonisers involving a massive import of slaves from a newly colonised Africa eased conditions considerably.

Two wars of independence were fought in the late 19th century against the Spanish. While the first (1868-1878) ended in a stalemate, the second (1895-1898) ended with the involvement of the Americans. Cuba was independent in name for two years after but continued to be under US occupation till 1902. A series of dictators ruled Cuba thereafter, such infamous names as Carlos Pro Soccaras and Fulgencio Batista are associated with this period during which, effectively, Cuba was a satellite state of the US. Through the 1950s, a difficult and hard fought civil war rocked this island nation; in 1959 the Communist guerrillas led by Fidel Castro established the socialist republic.

In 1961 after the Bay of Pigs fiasco that was a part of the US strategy to keep its ‘backyard’ from turning Red at the height of the Cold War, Cuba was declared a Marxist-Leninist state. As a Marxist Leninist state, Cuba moved decidedly towards the Soviet camp in a world that was split neatly into bipolar alliances, doctrines of non-alignment notwithstanding. In 1962 came the famous Cuban Missile crisis: the world waited with bated breath as the USA and USSR headed for a nuclear confrontation over Soviet missile installations in Cuba.

Fidel Castro stepped down as Cuba’s head of state in 2008 and his brother Raul was made the president. The US is still to normalise relations with its island neighbour, the reasons for which lie mostly in its strong anti-Castro lobby of expatriate Cubans. But Cuba has good relations with many countries: it has friends in Latin America, particularly Venezuela, Peru, Argentina and Colombia, it also enjoys a good relationship with Canada, many European countries and the People’s Republic of China.


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