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Cuba is the largest island in the Caribbean, 144km (90 miles) from the shores of the United States.

It was home to the Taino and Ciboney peoples before they were wiped out following the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1492 and the ensuing Spanish Conquest.

The island became an important asset for Spain, which brought in African slaves to work the coffee and sugar plantations.

A series of strongmen held power in the years that followed independence in 1902, including two-time coup leader Fulgencio Batista.

Batista fled Cuba after an insurgency by nationalist rebels, including Fidel Castro, took Havana on 1 January 1959. Castro went on to become president in a single-party state until 2008.

Relations with the US have been openly antagonistic, with crises ranging from the failed Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961 and the 1962 Cuban missile crisis to the 2000 custody battle over five-year-old refugee Elian Gonzalez.

map of Cuba

Clockwise from top left: Castro and Cuban forces await Bay of Pigs invasion; Che Guevara billboard in Cuba; Elian Gonzalezremoved from relations in Miami; refugees flee Cuba in 1994

The Bay of Pigs invasion, the 1994 refugee crisis and custody battle over six-year-old of Elian Gonzalez have tested US-Cuban relations

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