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Castro's Cuba is in dire economic straits, and many wonder about the future of Castro's regime.The famous Cuban poet and dissident Jose Marti lived in exile in the United States before returning to Cuba to lead the 1895 rebellion against Spanish forces.The capital of Cuba is Havana, located on the northwestern coast of the island.Nearly 20 percent of Cubans are city dwellers; most live in the capital city.Cuba is an island nation located on the northern rim of the Caribbean Sea. To Cuba's east is the island of Hispaniola, shared by Haiti and the Dominican Republic.Off the southeastern coast of Cuba lies Jamaica, and to the north is the state of Florida.Two-fifths of the Cuban population is Roman Catholic. Many of those who call themselves Catholics are also adherents of an Afro-Cuban religious tradition known as santeria.The official language of Cuba and the language spoken by nearly all Cubans is Spanish.

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However, in this brief period North Americans had become buyers of Cuban goods, a factor that would contribute greatly to the wellbeing of the island population.

At home, Castro has used a heavy hand against dissidents, imprisoning, executing, and exiling many who have opposed him.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Cuba has lost its most important trading partner and supporter.

By the end of the seventeenth century, Spain itself had begun to decline as a world power through financial mismanagement, outmoded trade policies, and continued reliance on exhausted extractive industries. Then the British captured Havana in 1762 and encouraged the cultivation of sugar cane, an activity that would dominate the economy of the area for centuries to come.

The need for labor on the sugar and tobacco plantations and in raising livestock, which had been the area's first major industry, resulted in the growth of African slavery.

Sugar is the principal export of Cuba, but the Cuban economy, by most accounts, is weak.

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