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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 eventually provoked an independence movement and occasional rebellions that were harshly suppressed. US intervention during the Spanish-American War in 1898 assisted the Cubans in overthrowing Spanish rule. The Treaty of Paris established Cuban independence from the US in 1902 after which the island experienced a string of governments mostly dominated by the military and corrupt politicians. 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 faced a severe economic downturn in 1990 following the withdrawal of former Soviet subsidies worth $4 billion to $6 billion annually. Cuba at times portrays the US embargo, in place since 1961, as the source if its difficulties. 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 some 1,000 individuals attempting to cross the Straits of Florida in fiscal year 2011.


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Airports World Ranking: 42
136 (2012)

Airports - with paved runways
Total 65
Over 3,047 m 7
2,438 to 3,047 m 9
1,524 to 2,437 m 18
914 to 1,523 m 4
Under 914 m 27 (2012)

Airports - with unpaved runways
Total 71
914 to 1,523 m 12
Under 914 m 59 (2012)

Gas 41 km; oil 230 km (2010)

Railways World Ranking: 24
Total 8,598 km
Standard gauge
8,322 km 1.435-m gauge (124 km electrified)
Narrow gauge 276 km 1.000-m gauge
4,533 km of the track is used by sugar plantations; 4,257 km is standard gauge; 276 km is narrow gauge (2006)

Roadways World Ranking: 73
Total 60,858 km
29,820 km (includes 638 km of expressway)
Unpaved 31,038 km (2000)

Waterways World Ranking: 95
240 km (almost all navigable inland waterways are near the mouths of rivers) (2011)

Merchant marine World Ranking: 135
Total 3
By type
Cargo 1, passenger 1, refrigerated cargo 1
Registered in other countries
5 (Curacao 1, Panama 2, unknown 2) (2010)

Ports and terminals
Antilla, Cienfuegos, Guantanamo, Havana, Matanzas, Mariel, Nuevitas Bay, Santiago de Cuba, Tanamo


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  Cuba (Havana):

  GPS points from Cuba (Havana)

Jose Bermudez Provincia De Holguin

Bahia De Mata Provincia De Guantanamo

Loma Rovira Provincia De Holguin

Caleta Alejandro Provincia Mayabeque

Estero Felipe Provincia De Villa Clara

Pal'marekho Provincia De Santiago De Cuba

Cieguito Las Tunas

Gabriel Provincia De Ciudad De La Habana
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