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Cuba: Havana Daydreaming

Our key facts on Cuba, its culture, its economy — and its global role.

May 12, 2002

Our key facts on Cuba, its culture, its economy — and its global role.

Cuba has been a trouble spot for centuries: Cubans fought Spanish colonization in the 19th century, then U.S. domination for the better part of the 20th. Now, 43 years later — and with Fidel Castro still president — the United States has decided that, starting in 2004, travel to Cuba will be limited to educational pursuits only. Our new Globalist Factsheet examines how Cuba is doing.

How much does the average Cuban earn?

As of July 2003, the average Cuban salary stood at around $10 a month.

(The Philadelphia Inquirer)

Why are Cubans driving so many vintage U.S. cars?

Only foreigners and a few favored professionals can purchase cars in Cuba. Ordinary Cubans are allowed to keep cars owned before the revolution — which explains the high number of U.S. vintage cars on Cuban roads.

(Washington Post)

Is Cuba’s sugar industry robust?

For 2003, officials project Cuba’s sugar harvest to be 4 million metric tons — less than half of the 8.4 million tons of sugar harvested in 1990.


What other industry generates even more money?

As of 2003, Cuba is the world’s sixth-largest nickel producer and holds 30% of the world’s reserves of the metal. Cuba’s exports of nickel and cobalt totaled $600 million last year — more than sugar.

(The Economist)

Which other industry helps support Cuba’s economy?

In 2003, 1.9 million tourists are expected to visit Cuba. That will be the highest number of tourists Cuba has ever received — and will top the previous high of 1.7 million set in 2001.

(The Dallas Morning News)

How much does Cuba earn from foreign visitors?

Cuba earns $2 billion per year in tourism revenues — a little less than half of its active foreign-exchange income.

(Wall Street Journal)

Where do the visitors come from?

Over 90% of visitors come from Europe, Asia or the Americas. Most are Canadians, Italians, Spaniards and Germans.

(The Dallas Morning News)

How many U.S. citizens travel to Cuba?

In 2002, 160,000 Americans visited Cuba, most under special exception licenses for Cuban-Americans, journalists, educational exchanges and other projects — such as humanitarian workers and academics with Treasury department permission.

But as many as 60,000 visited the country in violation of U.S. law.

(The Washington Post)

What happens to U.S. citizens who illegally visit Cuba?

U.S. citizens found to have been in Cuba receive letters from the Treasury Department, threatening them with fines that can reach as high as $55,000. The average threatened fine was about $7,500.

Although there are those who visit Cuba legally through humanitarian, academic or journalistic visits, it is illegal for them to spend U.S. dollars there without a special license. They can also be fined for doing so.

(The Washington Post)

How many people receive letters each year?

Since Bush took office, some 1,226 Americans have received letters from the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) threatening them with fines. That’s more than double the total during Bill Clinton’s entire last term. Scores of others are being investigated.

(The Dallas Morning News)

What does the U.S. Treasury say about these fines?

“This is the law,” explained Tony Fratto, a Treasury spokesman. “When President Bush came in, we looked at the statute and it was our determination to strictly enforce the statute.”

(The Washington Post)

What other sum sustains the Cuban economy?

Cuban émigrés send an estimated $500 million to $800 million annually to family members in their homeland.

(Milken Institute)

Does the U.S. economy suffer because of the U.S. embargo?

The U.S. trade embargo against Cuba costs U.S. companies between $652 million and $990 million in potential exports a year.

(U.S. International Trade Commission)

Are there U.S. companies in Cuba?

The McDonald’s serving the personnel on the U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay is probably the only legal U.S.-based company in Cuba.

(Miami Herald)

Does the United States have any presence on Cuba?

The U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay covers 45 square miles. Since 1898, it has been leased by the U.S. government for the nominal sum of $4,085 per year.


How is the Cuban economy hurt by the U.S. embargo?

As of 2003, U.S. citizens can’t even spend U.S. dollars in Cuba — including money from credit cards from U.S. banks. They are unusable there.

(Washington Post)

What are Cuba’s trade relations with Europe?

Cuba conducts more than 40% of its international commerce with Europe.

(Washington Post)

In which area is the performance of Cuba and the United States eerily similar?

As of 2000, the United States, the world’s richest country, ranked 32nd alongside Cuba and Cyprus for mortality rates of children under the age of five years.


And finally, Mr. Castro, your view on the future?

“It cannot be claimed that the human species has attained a maximum of consciousness while it is incapable of hurting for the suffering of others.”

(Fidel Castro, President of Cuba, September 2000)