Cuba, the biggest island in the Caribbean, is located at the entrance
to the Gulf of México. Cuba's nearest neighbors are: to the East, Haití (77 kilometers), to the West, the Yucatan Peninsula
(210 kilometers), to the North, Florida Peninsula (180 kilometers) and to the South, Jamaica (140 kilometers). The Bahamas
are very near, toward the Northwest of the eastern end of Cuba. Formed by around 4 195 smaller keys, cays and islets, it covers
a surface of 110 922 square kilometers and1 200 kilometers of extension, on a mostly karstic and flat territory. Its nature,
diverse and prodigal, shows wide variety of plants, animals and more than 280 beaches, virgin islands, grottos, caves, mountains,
forests, savannas and marshes.
Main article: Geography of Cuba
The elongated island of Cuba is the largest island in the Caribbean and is bounded to the north by the Straits of Florida and the greater North Atlantic Ocean, to the northwest by the Gulf of Mexico, to the west by the Yucatan Channel, to the south by the Caribbean Sea, and to the east by the Windward Passage. The Republic comprises the entire island, including many outlying
islands such as the Isle of Youth, previously known as the Isle of Pine, with the exception of Guantanamo Bay, a naval base that has been leased by the United States since 1903. The mainland is the world's 16th largest island.
The island consists mostly of flat to rolling plains, with more
rugged hills and mountains primarily in the southeast and the highest point is the Pico Real del Turquino at 2,005 m. The local climate is tropical, though moderated by trade winds. There is a drier season
from November to April, and a rainier season from May to October.
Havana is the largest city and capital; other major cities include Santiago de Cuba and Camagüey. Some of the well-known smaller towns are Baracoa which was the first Spanish settlement on Cuba, as well as Trinidad and Bayamo.
Main article: Economy of Cuba
The economy of Cuba is based on state ownership with some small
scale private enterprise existing at the fringes. Tourism has become one of the largest sources of income for Cuba, and in
1993 the U.S. dollar was made legal tender (the country operated under a dual-currency
system); this arrangement was, however, revoked on 25 October 2004.
The Cuban economy was hit hard in the early 1990s following the
collapse of the Soviet Union and the Comecon economic bloc, with which it had traded predominantly. More recent
problems include high oil prices, recessions in key export markets such as sugar and nickel, damage from hurricanes (most recently an estimated 1 billion dollars economic damage from
hurricane Charley), depressed tourism, and faltering world economic conditions. In late
2003, and early 2004, both tourism levels and nickel prices increased. One other factor in the recovery of the Cuban economy
is the remittances of Cuban-Americans (which constitute almost 3% of the Cuban Economy, by some estimates). Cuba currently
trades with almost every nation in the world (including the U.S.). However, Cuba owes billions in Paris Club debt to nations such as France, Japan and Germany.
Cuba is notable for its national organic agriculture initiative, undertaken in order to feed a population faced with starvation.
In the early 1990s, post-Soviet Union, Cuba lost over 70% of agricultural chemical imports, over 50% of food imports, and
an equally significant amount of oil. Its agricultural sector, built on a large-scale, mechanized, chemical-based model, was
instantly crippled. By restructuring its agricultural industry, and focusing scientific efforts on organic solutions, Cuba
managed to rapidly and successfully convert the country to entirely organic production. Currently, only organic agriculture
is permitted by law.