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Posted by on 19/05/2012
  • Pre-Columbian Cuba was inhabited by Indian tribes, it is estimated that in 1492 there was about a 500 thousands inhabitants. Columbus had his first impression about them (according to his notes): “We traded with them and they were voluntarily giving us everything they had… They coddled us with enthusiasm … They are very gentle and do not know about evil, there are no thefts and murders … I am convinced that there are no better people in the whole world … They love their neighbors as themselves, speaking the most beautiful in the world, they are gentle and always smiling.” After their arrival and declaring Cuba Spanish territory, Spaniards introduced intriguing rules for the natives: every resident over 14 years had to provide the required amount of gold every three months, or in the absence of gold 25 pounds of woven cotton. If this was not complied with they were punished – their hands were cut off and they were left to bleed to death. 60 years after the arrival of the Spaniards only a few thousand of the natives remained, all others were killed or died of smallpox and starvation.
  • America has repeatedly tried to buy Cuba from Spain. Known attempts were in 1848 (100 million dollars offer), in 1852 (120 million dollars offer), in 1854 (130 million dollars offer), in 1859 and in 1896. Although Spain has rejected an offer every time, Americans have continued to work in Cuba (mainly in the production of sugar and tobacco) and their investments reached $ 50 million in 1895.
  • Cuban struggle for independence culminated in the late 19th century. In 1898 riots in Havana, to “ensure safety” of its citizens in Cuba, Americans sent a battleship USS Maine at the scene. But the USS Maine was sunk after an explosion of unknown cause. Americans immediately accused Spaniards of conspiracy, although Spaniards had the least reason to pull them into conflict. American tabloid newspapers were informing about the unprecedented atrocities that Spaniards had been performing in Cuba. When a newspaper owner William Hearst received a report from his photographer that he can not make pictures in Cuba to prove it, he replied: “Just provide the photographs, and I’ll provide the war.” The war began in April 1898. Americans by the way “liberated” also the Philippines and Puerto Rico of Spain, and the peace was signed in August 1898.
  • In 1902 about 80% of the mines in Cuba were held by U.S. companies, as well as most of the sugar and tobacco factories. In 1905 circa 10% of Cuban land was owned by American citizens.
  • Eight-hour working time in Cuba was introduced in 1933, long before other countries. Workers had more rights and benefits. In 1958 average salary of industrial workers in Cuba was at the eighth place in the world (by the way it has brought economic stagnation and high unemployment due to incompetitive production and reduced investments). Farmers wage was higher than in Denmark, West Germany, Belgium and France. Gross national product was at the level of Italy, and higher than in Japan. It corresponded roughly to the sixth of the U.S. gross domestic product. At that time Cuba had the highest per capita consumption of meat, vegetables, grains, cars, phones, radios. By the number of television sets per capita they were the fifth in the world. Havana was the fourth most expensive city in the world of the late fifties and had more cinemas than New York. Health care was at very high level, with more doctors per capita than in the United Kingdom. Infant mortality was lower than in France, Belgium, West Germany, Austria, Israel, Japan, Italy, Spain and Portugal. Proportional investment in education was the highest in Latin America, and literacy was about 80%, which was higher than in Spain.
  • In 1970 unemployment became a problem in Cuba. The problem is solved by declaring it outlawed. The alternative was to go to Africa and to support the liberation movements in African countries.
  • In 1982 Cuba was second military force in Latin America (right after Brazil) considering power and equipment.
  • Part of the Atlantic Ocean between the two closest points between Cuba and Florida is known for its strong currents and a large number of sharks (also known as “Shark Capital Of The World”). However, since 1959 to 1993 about 1.2 million Cubans (10% of the population) fled to the U.S., mostly in small boats and rafts. The exception is the period from 1965 to 1971 when, by agreement between Cuba and the United States, “free flights” were established, and about 250.000 Cubans ‘flew’ away. Similar has happened in 1980, when in a six month period, approximately 125,000 Cubans legally sailed in the U.S. Among these 125.000 a large number of criminals and psychiatric cases emigrated, it was later discovered that the Cuban government used this opportunity to get rid of unwanted individuals.
  • After decomposition of Soviet Union in 1991, living conditions in Cuba have worsened considerably since the help “dried up”. With desire to take advantage and help Castro fall as soon as possible, Americans tightened trade embargo. Cuban economy, oriented to a few products and few customers, was paralyzed, and mass starvation was in effect. From Havana zoo a buffalo disappeared, as well as several peacocks and other large birds, and even domestic cats have not fared better. But Fidel Castro then opened the country for tourism and allowed joint ventures with foreign companies.
  • In 2005 besides national currency the peso Cuba has introduced another – the convertible peso. Its exchange rate against the dollar is 1:1, but there is exchange tax of 10% (for dollars only).
  • After Castro – Castro again. Fidel withdrew from public in 2006 for health reasons, in 2007 his brother Raul Castro took over the presidential office.