Cuba’s Communist government has survived more than 50 years of US sanctions intended to topple veteran leader Fidel Castro.
It also defied predictions that it would not survive the collapse of its one-time supporter, the Soviet Union.
Since the fall of the US-backed dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista in 1959, Cuba has been a one-party state led by Mr Castro and – since February 2008 – by his chosen successor and younger brother, Raul.
Fidel Castro exercised control over virtually all aspects of Cuban life through the Communist Party and its affiliated mass organisations, the government bureaucracy and the state security apparatus.
Exploiting the Cold War, Fidel Castro was for decades able to rely on strong Soviet backing, including annual subsidies worth $4-5 billion, and succeed in building reputable health and education systems. But, at least partly because of the US trade sanctions, he failed to diversify the economy.
- REPUBLIC OF CUBA
- Capital: Havana
- Population 11.2 million
- Area 110,860 sq km (42,803 sq miles)
- Major language Spanish
- Major religion Christianity
- Life expectancy 77 years (men), 81 years (women)
- Currency Cuban peso