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Cuba, officially the Republic of Cuba, is an island country in the Caribbean. The nation of Cuba comprises the main island of Cuba, the Isla de la Juventud and several archipelagos. Havana is the capital of Cuba and its largest city. The second-largest city is Santiago de Cuba. To the north of Cuba lies the United States (150 km (93 mi) away), the Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands are to the northeast, Mexico is to the west (210 km (130 mi) away), the Cayman Islands and Jamaica are to the south and Haiti and the Dominican Republic are to the southeast.
The island of Cuba was inhabited by numerous Mesoamerican Indian tribes prior to the landing of explorer Christopher Columbus in 1492, who claimed it for the Kingdom of Spain. Cuba remained a colony of Spain until the Spanish–American War of 1898, after which it gained nominal independence as a de facto U.S. protectorate in 1902. The fragile republic endured increasingly radical politics and social strife, and despite efforts to strengthen its democratic system, Cuba came under the dictatorship of former president Fulgencio Batista in 1952. Growing unrest and instability led to Batista’s ousting in January 1959 by the July 26 movement, which afterwards established a government under the leadership of Fidel Castro. Since 1965 the country has been governed as a single-party state by the Communist Party.
Cuba is the largest island in the Caribbean, and with over 11 million inhabitants, is the second-most populous after Hispaniola, albeit with a much lower population density for the region. It is a multiethnic country whose people, culture and customs derive from diverse origins, including the aboriginal Taíno and Ciboney peoples, the long period of Spanish colonialism, the introduction of African slaves, a close relationship with the Soviet Union during the Cold War, and proximity to the United States.
Cuba today is the only remaining communist state to receive a “very high” human development ranking from the United Nations, and ranks well in measures of health and education.
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