IMPRESSIONS OF CUBA
A territorial division created in 1974 politically and administratively divides Cuba and it is made up of the following:
i. 14 provinces: Camaguey, Ciego de Avila, Cienfuegos, Ciudad de La Habana, Granma, Guantanamo, Holguin, La Habana, Las Tunas, Matanzas, Pinar del Rio, Sancti Spiritus, Santiago de Cuba, and Villa Clara
ii. 169 municipalities
iii. and one special municipality on the Isle of Youth
Christopher Columbus landed on the island of Cuba on October 28, 1492, during his initial westward voyage. In honour of the daughter of Ferdinand V and Isabella I of Spain, his benefactors, Columbus named it Juana, the first of several names he successively applied to the island. It eventually became known as Cuba, from its aboriginal name, Cubanascnan.
The following outline describes Cuba’s institutional order of political associations, institutions, and organizations:
These function as the political safeguard of the population. The political sub-system is comprised of the Partido Comunista Cubano (PCC) -Cuban Communist Party and its juvenile organization, the Union de Jovenes Comunistas (UJC) – Communist Youth Union
The most important characteristics of the political sub-system are:
a. single political party
b. sanctioned powers of the PCC in the constitution
The assemblies of institutions that make up the state are:
a. Asamblea del Poder Popular – National Assembly of the People’s Power: representative legislative body that is constituted as the maximum authority of the state at the municipal, provincial, and national levels.
b. Organ of government: designated by the National Assembly and corresponds to the application of laws, regulation and planification of the economy and society, the application and formulation of political development, and the administration of public activities. These organs are constituted by the Council of Ministers and integrated by the President, Vice-president, Secretary, Ministers, and other members determined by law in representation of their perspective organizations.
c. Armed institutions: are the armed organizations in charge of defense, national security, and the internal order that are subordinate to the central government’s institutions. The principal armed institutions are the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias (FAR) – Revolutionary Armed Forces; Fuerzas de Seguridad del Estado – the State Security Forces and Polica Nacional Revolucionaria – Revolutionary National Police are subordinate to the Ministerio del Interior (MININT) – Ministry of the Interior.
d. Organizations that carry out the administration of justice: are agencies responsible for the imparting of justice and control of the law – comprised by the Corte Suprema del Pueblo – People’s Supreme Court and Tribunales Populares – Popular Tribunals are constituted at each territorial level. The Tribunals’ and Fiscalas – Prosecutor’s offices are state organizations with functional independence. The judicial system and the Fiscala General de la Repblica – Attorney General of the Republic are only subordinate to the Asamblea del Poder Popular and the Council of State.
Cuban Health Care
The Cuban health-care system functioned effectively up through the 1980s. Life expectancy increased, infant mortality declined, and access to medical care expanded. Cuba began to resemble developed nations in health-care figures. While the U.S. embargo prevented Cuba from buying medicines and medical supplies directly from the United States, many U.S. products were available from foreign subsidiaries. Cuba may have paid higher prices and higher shipping costs, but it was able to do so.
The Cuban health-care system has been weakened in the last seven years, as the end of Soviet-bloc aid and preferential trade terms damaged the economy overall. The economy contracted some 40 percent, and there was simply less money to spend on a health-care system, or on anything else. And because the weakened Cuban economy generated less income from foreign exports, there was less hard currency available to import foreign goods. This made it more difficult to purchase those medicines and medical equipment that had traditionally come from abroad, and contributed to shortages in the Cuban health-care system.
In the context of the weakened Cuban economy, the U.S. embargo exacerbated problems in the health-care system. The embargo forced Cuba to use more of its now much more limited resources on medical imports, both because equipment and drugs from foreign subsidiaries of U.S. firms or from non-U.S. sources tend to be higher priced and because shipping costs are higher.
New restrictions imposed by the Cuban Democracy Act of 1992 (CDA) have further exacerbated problems in Cubas medical system. The CDA prohibits foreign subsidiaries of U.S. corporations from selling to Cuba, thus further limiting Cubas access to medicine and equipment, and raising prices. In addition, the CDA forbids ships that dock in Cuban ports from docking in U.S. ports for six months. This drastically restricts shipping, and increases shipping costs some 30 percent.
The Cuban government has prioritized health care spending in the last five years. The proportional share of the national budget that goes to health care has increased from 5.8 percent in 1989 to 7.6 percent in 1995, while proportional spending on defense and government administration has dropped substantially. As a result, general public-health indicators continue to be good (long life expectancy, low infant mortality), but that is not enough to cushion Cubas health-care system from the effects of the economic crisis, as exacerbated by the embargo and the CDA. There are shortages and delays throughout the medical system and troubling signs of public health problems, including increases in mortality from infectious diseases and higher numbers of low-birth-weight babies.
The Cuban population is made up mainly of three groups. Approximately 66 per cent of the population is white and mainly of Spanish descent; 22 per cent is of mixed racial heritage and 12 per cent is black. Almost all of the people are native-born. More than 70 per cent of the population is classified as urban. The revolutionary government, installed in 1959, has generally destroyed the rigid social stratification inherited from Spanish colonial rule.
Cuba has a population (1991 estimate) of 10,736,000, giving the country a population density of about 92 persons per sq km (238 per sq mi). Life expectancy at birth is 72.7 years for men and 76.3 for women (1986-1987 United Nations estimate). Professed Roman Catholics have declined from more than 70 per cent to about 33 per cent of the population since 1957. Among Protestants, about 1 per cent of Cubans, Pentecostalism is the predominant tradition. About 50 per cent of Cubans consider themselves nonreligious. Spanish is the official language of Cuba.
Economic Relations with Europe
Cuba has relied heavily on the U.S. dollar in the past. Six years ago, President Fidel Castro reluctantly legalized use of the currency to encourage tourism and accommodate the heavy flow of money sent by Cuban Americans to their relatives there. Today there are shops and restaurants that accept nothing else.
The government has not been happy about the presence of the dollar, and not just because Castro considers it a vile symbol of American imperialism. The prolonged U.S. economic embargo against Castro’s regime, Cuba has long had difficulty using the dollar which dominates the world economy in commerce with other nations. As a result, the government pays large commissions and other fees. A reported $260 million last year was paid to financial institutions to change dollars into other currencies, as well as cover other complex transaction costs.
Cuba is preparing to embrace an alternative, which is the euro. Havana officials hope the new currency will help them build trade ties with Europe and aid Cuba in its nearly four-decade struggle against U.S. isolation efforts.
Cuba plans to start using the common currency on July 1 in transactions with the 11 European Union nations that adopted it at the beginning of the year.
The euro currency is scheduled to start circulating in Europe in three years, at which time, Cuban officials say, they will introduce the money themselves.Most likely beginning with the thriving tourist sector. Now, the 11 European nations that have joined the program have fixed their national exchange rates to the euro and are using the new money for computerized and credit card transactions.
Cuban officials said that at this stage it is unclear to what extent the dollar’s dominant role in Cuba’s economy could be.
For now, the government is counting on the euro to help it circumvent the embargo and strengthen the island’s commercial ties with Europe, its largest source of trade, visitors and credit.
Cuba conducts more than 40 percent of its international commerce with Europe while upward of 50 percent of its tourists are European. Most of Cuba’s debt, largely short-term, has been negotiated with European banks.
The climate of Cuba is semitropical, the mean annual temperature being 25 C (77 F). Extremes of heat and relative humidity, which average 27.2 C (81 F) and 80 per cent, respectively, during the summer season, are tempered by the prevailing northeastern trade winds. The annual rainfall averages about 1,320 mm (52 in). More than 60 per cent of the rain falls during the wet season, which extends from May to October. The island lies in a region occasionally traversed by violent tropical hurricanes during August, September, and October.