From Citizendium, the Citizens' Compendium
Flag of Cuba.
Cuba consists of the island of Cuba (the largest of the Greater Antilles), Isla de la Juventud and several smaller islands. Cuba is located in the northern Caribbean at the confluence of the Caribbean Sea, the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. Its location is south of the eastern United States and the Bahamas, west of the Turks and Caicos Islands and Haiti, east of Mexico and north of the Cayman Islands and Jamaica.
Cuba is a one-party state, the only legal party being the Cuban Communist Party. From 1959 until 2008 the country's main politician was Fidel Castro, first as Prime Minister and later as President, but in 2008 he officially stepped down, handing the presidency to his younger brother Raúl.
The economy was nationalised from 1959 to 1990 but was forced to allow some privatisation after the collapse of other communist states in Europe. It has large industries in both sugar, being the world's second-largest producer, and tobacco, as well as nickel mining, being the world's fifth-largest producer.
For more information see Cuba, history
The islands were encountered by Christopher Columbus on his first voyage in 1492, and were colonised by the Spanish as of 1511. Spain control ended in 1898 when a US-supported revolution, led by José Martí overthrew the government, in exchange for the support during the revolution the US retained the right to a number of naval bases in the country as well as the right to intervene in domestic matters. This regime came to an end in 1959 when the dictator Fulgencio Batista was overthrown by Fidel Castro and the current Communist government was set up; Castro had attempted a revolution earlier in 1953 but this was put down. Whilst the country's system of government has not changed since 1959 there have been a number of incidents involving Cuba that threatened both the state's existence and its, already frosty, relations with the United States of America. In 1961 the infamous Bay of Pigs Invasion was staged by Cuban exiles with the help of US CIA operatives, in an attempt to overthrow Castro's regime. The invasion force was defeated almost immediately. The clandestine manner in which the invasion was planned and executed caused the US President, John F. Kennedy, to undergo severe criticism as well as spurring anti-American demonstrations in Latin America and Europe. The next year there was further strain on the state's relations with the USA. When US spy planes discovered Soviet missile sites in Cuba an international diplomatic crisis began, known as the Cuban Missile Crisis. During this crisis the US President denounced the Soviet actions and began an embargo on the island. The Soviet Premier, Nikita Khrushchev, however had cargo ships containing ballistics missiles bound for Cuba. The ships turned back shortly before entering the embargo area, and the crisis was averted, many historians believe it to be the closest either side came to direct warfare during the Cold War. Since then US-Cuba relations have not improved although there have been no direct actions by either nation.