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Cuba:
Geography

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Background
Definition
The native Amerindian population of Cuba began to decline after the European discovery of the island by Christopher COLUMBUS in 1492 and following its development as a Spanish colony during the next several centuries. Large numbers of African slaves were imported to work the coffee and sugar plantations, and Havana became the launching point for the annual treasure fleets bound for Spain from Mexico and Peru. Spanish rule, marked initially by neglect, became increasingly repressive, provoking an independence movement and occasional rebellions that were harshly suppressed. It was US intervention during the Spanish-American War in 1898 that finally overthrew Spanish rule. The subsequent Treaty of Paris established Cuban independence, which was granted in 1902 after a three-year transition period. Fidel CASTRO led a rebel army to victory in 1959; his iron rule held the subsequent regime together for nearly five decades. He stepped down as president in February 2008 in favor of his younger brother Raul CASTRO. Cuba's Communist revolution, with Soviet support, was exported throughout Latin America and Africa during the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. The country is now slowly recovering from a severe economic downturn in 1990, following the withdrawal of former Soviet subsidies, worth $4 billion to $6 billion annually. Cuba portrays its difficulties as the result of the US embargo in place since 1961. Illicit migration to the US - using homemade rafts, alien smugglers, air flights, or via the southwest border - is a continuing problem. The US Coast Guard intercepted 2,864 individuals attempting to cross the Straits of Florida in fiscal year 2006.
Location
Definition
Caribbean, island between the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, 150 km south of Key West, Florida
Geographic coordinates
Definition
21 30 N, 80 00 W
Map references
Definition
Central America and the Caribbean
Area
Definition - World rank and map
total: 110,860 sq km
land: 110,860 sq km
water: 0 sq km
Area - comparative
Definition
slightly smaller than Pennsylvania
Land boundaries
Definition
total: 29 km
border countries: US Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay 29 km
note: Guantanamo Naval Base is leased by the US and remains part of Cuba
Coastline
Definition
3,735 km
Maritime claims
Definition
territorial sea: 12 nm
contiguous zone: 24 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
Climate
Definition
tropical; moderated by trade winds; dry season (November to April); rainy season (May to October)
Terrain
Definition
mostly flat to rolling plains, with rugged hills and mountains in the southeast
Elevation extremes
Definition
lowest point: Caribbean Sea 0 m
highest point: Pico Turquino 2,005 m
Natural resources
Definition
cobalt, nickel, iron ore, chromium, copper, salt, timber, silica, petroleum, arable land
Land use
Definition - World rank and map
arable land: 27.63%
permanent crops: 6.54%
other: 65.83% (2005)
Irrigated land
Definition
8,700 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources
Definition
38.1 cu km (2000)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural)
Definition
total: 8.2 cu km/yr (19%/12%/69%)
per capita: 728 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazards
Definition
the east coast is subject to hurricanes from August to November (in general, the country averages about one hurricane every other year); droughts are common
Environment - current issues
Definition
air and water pollution; biodiversity loss; deforestation
Environment - international agreements
Definition
party to: Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: Marine Life Conservation
Geography - note
Definition
largest country in Caribbean and westernmost island of the Greater Antilles


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