The Cuban archipelago, consisting of the island of Cuba, the Isle of Youth and around 4200 other keys, islets and islands, has a land area of 42,827 square miles (110,922 square kilometers) and is 744 miles (1200 kilometers) long. It is in the Caribbean Sea, near the Tropic of Cancer, at the entrance to the Gulf of Mexico, between North and South America, nearly 87 miles (140 kilometers) from the Bahamas, 90,5 miles (146 kilometers) from Jamaica, just over 111,5 miles (180 kilometers) from Florida and 130 miles (210 kilometers) from Cancún. There are a wide variety of plants and animals and over 280 beaches, virgin islands, grottoes, caves, mountains, forests, plains and wetlands.
The climate is moderate subtropical. Because of its long, narrow shape and east-west position, Cuba is refreshed by the trade winds and sea breezes. During the short winter, masses of cold air from the north affect it, but these cold fronts don't last long. Variations in temperature between day and night are less accentuated near the coast than inland. The eastern region is hotter than the rest of the country.
Flora & Fauna
Cuba's flora is one of the richest on any islands in the world. Royal palms, coconut palms, sugarcane and tropical fruits are some of the many varieties. More than 50 percent are endemic. There are over 16,500 species of Cuban fauna. Most of the fauna is small or medium-sized, and it includes two of the smallest species in the world: the "sapito" (Sminthillus limbatus) and the Hummingbird (Mellisuga helenae) There are no animals that are dangerous to man.
A wide range of cultural manifestations are developed in Cuba. Cubans in the spheres of literature, the fine arts, movies, ballet, modern dance, the theater and music have attained world renown. The cultural infrastructure consists of a nationwide network of theaters, museums, art galleries and movie theaters, which present both national and international works. Cuba also hosts many important international events: ballet festivals, fine arts biennials, festivals of pop music and New International Latin-American Film Festivals, among others.
Education & Sports
Education is free at all levels. There is no illiteracy. Every province has at least one university or university school, institute of higher learning, center of specialized education and polytechnic institute. The school year extends from September through June.
Cuba's sports achievements in the past 40 years include excellent Olympic results; an outstanding place in world sports; and the people's massive, free participation in sports.
Cuba's public health system is unique in Latin America. It offers coverage to everyone in the country. Medical services are provided free of charge for all Cubans. Cuba has the lowest infant mortality rate in Latin America and one of the lowest such rates in the world: 7,2 for every 1000 live births. Life expectancy is more than 75,2 years.
Tourism is the mainstay of the Cuban economy. Sugar, tobacco, nickel, rum, coffee and-in recent years-the pharmaceutical and biotechnological industries are also important. The Cuban economy was transformed in the '90s to facilitate its reinsertion in the world economy. Those basic changes included opening the door to foreign capital, ending the government's monopoly over foreign trade and decentralizing it, diversifying the organization and forms of ownership, creating the possibility of establishing joint ventures based on foreign capital and decentralizing management functions at the company and territorial levels.
Institutional transformations include improving economic organization, management and planning. The application of these measures halted the slowing of the Cuban economy in 1994 and, one year later, initiated a process of recovery, which has been growing steadily.
The highest-ranking governmental body is the National Assembly of People's Power, with constituent and legislative powers. The voters choose its members in free elections by means of a direct and secret vote. It holds regular sessions-and special sessions when so requested by more than half of the deputies.
The National Assembly of People's Power appoints the members of the Council of State, which represents it between sessions. The Council acts as a single unit and represents the Government for both national and international purposes. The Chairman of the Council of State is, at the same time, President of the Republic.
Cuba is divided into 14 provinces and 169 municipalities, including one special municipality. From west to east, the provinces are Pinar del Río, Havana, City of Havana, Matanzas, Villa Clara, Cienfuegos, Sancti Spíritus, Ciego de Avila, Camagüey, Las Tunas, Holguín, Granma, Santiago de Cuba, and Guantánamo. The special municipality of the Isle of Youth, south of Havana and City of Havana provinces, is the second largest island in the Cuban archipelago.
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