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Global Political Economy of Cuba

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    Global Political Economy of Cuba

                Christopher Columbus landed on the island of Cuba on October 28, 1492, throughout his initial westward expedition. In tribute of the daughter of Ferdinand V and Isabella I of Spain, his benefactors, Columbus named it Juana, the first of numerous names he consecutively applied to the island. It finally became known as Cuba, from its original name, Cubanascnan. Slowly the name Cuba was adopted by the Spanish. Cuba’s size and diversity of landscape no doubt convinced Columbus that he had indeed found Asia.

                Furthermore, Cuba was the last major Spanish colony to achieve independence, following a long struggle begun in 1868. Jose Marti, Cuba’s national hero, helped start the final push for independence in 1895. In 1898, after the USS Maine sunk in Havana Harbor on February 15 due to an explosion of undetermined origin, the United States entered the conflict. In December of that year Spain relinquish power of Cuba to the United States with the Treaty of Paris. On May 20, 1902, the United States granted Cuba its independence however retains the right to interfere to preserve Cuban independence and stability under the Platt Amendment. In 1934, the amendment was repeal, and the United States and Cuba agreed to continue the 1903 agreement that leased the Guantanamo Bay naval base to the United States.

                In addition, independent Cuba was frequently ruled by controlling political and military figures that either obtained or remained in power by force. Fulgencio Batista, an army sergeant, organized a non-commissioned officer revolution in September 1933 and wielded important 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 detained power in a bloodless takeover 3 months before the election was to take place, suspended the balloting, and began ruling by verdict. Several political figures and movements that wanted a return to the government according to the Constitution of 1940 disputed Batista’s inequitable rule.

                In spite of recurrent raids by buccaneers and marine units of rival and enemy powers, the island prospered all through the 16th and 17th centuries. Limitations imposed by the Spanish authorities on commercial activities were normally ignored by the colonists, who resorted to prohibited trade with privateers and neighboring colonies. Following the conclusion of the Seven Years’ War in 1763, during which the English captured Havana, the Spanish government liberalized its Cuban policy, encouraging colonization, expansion of commerce, and development of agriculture. Between 1774 and 1817 the population increased from about 161,000 to more than 550,000. The remaining limitations on trade were formally eliminated in 1818, further promoting material and cultural advancement.

                During the 1830s, though, Spanish rule become gradually more oppressive, provoking a widespread movement among the colonists for independence. This movement attained particular momentum between 1834 and 1838, through the dictatorial governorship of the captain general Miguel de Tacón. Revolts and conspiracies against the Spanish government dominated Cuban political life all through the rest of the century. In 1844 an uprising of black slaves was cruelly concealed. A movement during the years 1848 to 1851 for takeover of the island to the United States ended with the capture and execution of its leader, the Spanish-American general Narciso López. Offers by the U.S. government to purchase the island were constantly rejected by Spain. In 1868 revolutionaries under the leadership of Carlos Manuel de Céspedes proclaimed Cuban independence. The following Ten Years’ War, a costly struggle to both Spain and Cuba, was terminated in 1878 by a truce granting lots of significant concessions to the Cubans.

                Moreover in December 1941 the Cuban government declared war on Germany, Japan, and Italy; as a result it becomes a charter member of the United Nations (UN) in 1945. The presidential election of 1944 resulted in victory for Grau San Martin, the candidate of a broad coalition of parties. The first year of his administration was one of persistent crises caused by different factors, including widespread food shortages, however he regained popularity the following year by obtaining an agreement with the U.S. government for an increase in the price of sugar. In 1948 Cuba joined the Organization of American States (OAS).

                In the mid-1990s, tourism surpassed sugar as the major source of foreign exchange. Tourism figures importantly in the Cuban Government’s plans for development, and a top official cast it as at the “heart of the economy.” Havana devotes important resources to building new tourist facilities and renovating significant structures for use in the tourism sector. Approximately 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, mostly from Canada and the European Union, generating revenue of $2.1 billion.

                Furthermore, remittances as well play a big role in Cuba’s economy. Cuba does not publish precise economic statistics, however 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 allowing 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 might 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.

                In addition, to help keep the economy buoyant, Cuba has aggressively courted foreign investment, which frequently 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. Moreover, the antagonistic investment climate, characterized by incompetent and overpriced labor imposed by the communist government, intense policy, and an impassable 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, throughout its embassies in Havana, transmitted to the Cuban Government a document that outlined the troubles encountered in operating joint ventures in Cuba. The government continues to balance the need for economic loosening against a desire for firm political power. It has rolled back limited reform undertaken in the 1990s to increase enterprise competence and lessen serious shortages of food, consumer goods, and services. The average Cuban’s standard of living remains at a lesser level than before the downturn of the 1990s, which was caused by the loss of Soviet aid and domestic inefficiencies. The government in 2005 strengthened its controls over dollars coming into the economy from tourism, remittances, and trade. External financing have help growth in the mining, oil, construction, and tourism sectors.

                Furthermore, economically, there was little gold in Cuba, but agriculture more than made up for it. Nevertheless, the native labor force was disappearing so rapidly, additional labor had to be obtained. Cuba recovered and prospered principally due to the high price of sugar until 1920, when a financial crisis strike. A fifty- million dollar loan from the U.S. returned Cuba to prosperity until revolts against President Zayas become widespread.

                Moreover, human rights in Cuba are dishonored in a myriad of domains. The Cuban people are incapable to exercise primary rights, such as freedom of speech, congregation, and the right to association. In addition, 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 danger to Cuban dominion, making human rights violations hard to document correctly. The Government of Cuba operates an extremely complicated and widespread network of observation over every part of the country and has a tight grip on civil society movements.

                Cuba’s Civil War was over in 1878, but conflict continued. The rebellion of 1895 was orchestrated roughly single-handedly by Jose Julian Marti. Marti rallied military leaders, raised funds and organized expeditions. Much, but not most, of the funds were raised in Key West.  Open rebellion in Cuba broke out on February 24, 1895. President William McKinley asked Spain for American negotiation, however Spain refused. When the U.S. battleship USS Maine exploded in Havana harbor on February 15, 1898, the U.S. public demanded war with Spain. The reason of the battleship exploded remains unidentified.

         The war lasted merely a few months. Cuba was relinquished to the U.S. in trust for its inhabitants by the signing of the Treaty of Paris on December 20, 1898. Spanish rule ended January 1, 1899 and the U.S. military rule ended May 20, 1902. After USA got independence trade picked up and numerous US businesses invested in Cuban sugar and banana companies. Countless US shipping companies began operating routes between Cuba and southern ports in Florida and New Orleans in the 1800’s. In the 1870’s and 1880’s Cuba attempted a revolt to achieve independence from Spain which the USA supported and thought about assisting. The USA took power of Cuba following the Spanish American War in 1898. Then the USA granted Cuba its independence 1902 with the exception of a small section to use as a military installation called Guantanamo Bay. Since then, relations had been extremely good with open and successful tourism and trade going both ways until 1959 when Fidel Castro led a bloody revolt and made Cuba a communist dictatorship and aligned himself with the Soviet Union. The tensions intensify in 1963 during the Cuban Missile Crisis that was when the USA discovered that Cuba was allowing the Soviet Union to set up nuclear missiles within range of the southern part of the USA and it almost led to an attack of Cuba by US forces and as well could have led to a nuclear war. Since then, the Soviet Union has collapsed along with several other communist nations and Castro has held strong to his ways.

                In addition, without fertilizer and pesticides, Cubans turned to organic methods. Without fuel and machinery parts, Cubans turned to oxen. Without fuel to transport food, Cubans started to grow food in the cities where it is consumed. Urban gardens were established in unoccupied lots, school playgrounds, patios and back yards. As a result Cuba created the biggest program in sustainable agriculture ever undertaken. By 1999 Cuba’s agricultural production had recovered and in some cases reached historic levels.

                In addition, like no other country, Cuban religion has been overwhelmingly surprising Cuban Religion has unable to worship honestly for nearly five decades of religious restriction. The general condition of the country, the social, political and economic systems have deteriorated as has Cuban religion in general. Religion in Cuba has grown despite of the fact that Cuba is formally a nonbeliever country. In Cuba, religious proselytizing is illegal. Cuban Christianity suffered in popularity in 1902, at the bloody birth of the Cuban Republic, during the Cuban war for its independence, the Church sided with the colonizing Spanish, causing the church and the government to formally divide. The visit of Pope John Paul II in 1998, a reinstitution of Christmas as a holiday, and renewed communication among the government and Christian are sparking new Religious activity in Cuba. About two-fifths of Cubans are Roman Catholics, at least supposedly; even though only a limited number keenly practice the religion, there has been a rebirth of interest in Catholicism since the late 1990s. Protestants represent a small however quickly growing fraction of the population. Only a handful of Jews and Muslims remain.

                Furthermore, Catholicism is the most common apparent faith in Cuba, although numerous people combine their named religion with African rooted Santeria. There are several Protestant churches in Cuba. Churches frequently seen in Cuba are Baptist, Methodist, and Presbyterian. Communication with the dead and brujeria (witchcraft) are as well seen practiced by scattered small groups. Cuba’s Protestant churches are growing at a faster rate than the island’s Catholic Church, which suffers from a lack of priests. Castro has been unkind on the island’s Catholic Church and its people. It is reported that over 700 new churches have been established since 1992 when Fidel Castro’s past anti-religion policies eased and the Cuban government relaxed its official “atheist” status and relabeled the Cuban nation as simply “secular.”

                In addition, Judaism in Cuba, like the open practice of other religions in Cuba, has as well been harshly restricted for decades. It is now being rebuilt by those Jewish remaining on the island after the take-over of the government by Castro. As individual congregations struggle, new challenges arise as some Jewish families leave for Israel. Moreover, religion is not a part of official Cuban schooling, although it can be, and is, taught in Cuba’s 1,800+ churches and chapels. The government removed Christmas from its list of national holidays in 1969. The constitution of 1976 guaranteed limited religious freedoms, even though it proclaimed scientific materialism as the basis of the state and of the educational system. For decades religion in Cuba has been personally monitored by Cuban security agents who thoroughly watched and spied on those who have worshiped in churches and in their homes. The government of Fidel Castro, to this day, continues to keep close power on religious activity on this island nation of Cuba. In the past few years there is no change in Cuba’s mistreatment under the so-called “Cuban religious freedom.”

                Throughout Cuba’s history, the slaves identified their deities with Catholic saints, a process that, according to experts, led to a sort of religious syncretism identified as Santeria. In Santeria, the life of each person is supervised by a specific god or Orisha, which plays an active role in that process, in a combination of Catholic and African beliefs. Santeria rites are controlled by priests called “babalawos”, who are consulted frequently for advice to solve particular problems, cure diseases or seek protection. The offerings consist of food, fruit, cigars, rum and herbs that are placed before a small altar in the babalawo’s house, amid rituals that include animal sacrifices.

                Although the images of Catholic saints worshiped in the altars represent the Orishas, their true power is in the necklaces of multicolored-beads, as there exists the belief that the beads keep the spirit of the deities.

                Moreover, Cuba is unlike any other place on earth. What draws people to this fascinating Caribbean island is much more than beaches, sun, and cheap drinks, although there are plenty of all three for those who want them. Cuba’s rich culture, unique political history, and continued economic hardship make it one of the most eye-opening countries that experienced travelers can still discover. Seeing the best of Cuba means grooving to its exciting music, marveling at how Cubans manage on a daily basis to make ends meet, and visiting a land in which the past 50 years seem to have crept by. Cuban culture is world-renowned. Its colorful history is expressively expressed in its wonderful architecture, its national traditions and local customs. The island boasts four UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Cuba’s international reputation for ballet, and for popular and classical music, goes from strength to strength. The restoration of its historic cities and the care of its stunning countryside are acclaimed by conservationists all over the world. The exhibitions of its modern artists win international critical acclaim. Those who appreciate the Arts, colorful history, wonderful weather, good food and complete uniqueness find Cuba hard to resist. Havana used to be one of the world’s grandest cities, a fact expressively attested to by the amazing variety and quality of its architecture. It is now one of the world’s most exclusive venues for very special events.

                Sugar is white, brown and mid brown, same as Cubans. Havana City is a universal place with its rumbas, carnivals and parties. It is the legendary bridge between real and unreal. There are more than 11 million inhabitants in Cuba. It’s a mixture of different cultures and race, not Spanish or Africans, but just Cubans.
    Cubans are creative, gay, without prejudices.

    References:

    History of Cuba, Retrieved on December 10, 2006 at http://www.classbrain.com/art_cr/publish/printer_cuba_introduction.shtml

    History of Cuba, Retrieved on December 09, 2006 at         http://www.historyofcuba.com/main/hstintro.htm

    History of Cuba, Retrieved on December 10, 2006 at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cuba

    Religion in Cuba, Retrieved on December 10, 2006 at             http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/cuba/religion.htm

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