Before communism, Cuba ranked among the most developed Latin American countries, with living standards exceeding those of many European countries. Forty years of communist dictatorship have now led the country to the verge of collapse.
A communist system was gradually imposed on Cuba after a revolution against unpopular dictator Fulgencio Batista was taken over by Fidel Castro, Ernesto Guevara and other guerrillas-turned-communists. Democracy was terminated as the new rulers adopted a one-party system, suspended civil liberties and put a strong pressure on the Church. Economy was nationalized and the society militarized.
To eradicate and prevent any anti-communist resistance, the rulers launched a wave of terror. According to the „Black Book of Communism“, death squads had shot at least 14,000 Cubans by 1970’s; in all, more than 100,000 have died or been killed as a result of the revolution. In 1960, Cuba established its first GULAG-style concentration camps. By 1961, some 300,000 of the island’s 6.4 million inhabitants were detained in the camps. This and other acts of communist terror prompted mass exodus. More than half a million people fled the country in just five years and the total number of refugees and exiles now exceeds two million.
Cuba remains among the handful of officially communist states, although inevitable change is high on the local agenda.