Cuba's Special Period

Amid the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Cuba suffered from a period of economic crisis, which former Cuban leader Fidel Castro coined the “Special Period in Time of Peace.” The country’s key imports and exports, which were heavily tied to the Eastern Bloc, dissolved; its gross domestic product drastically decreased by 35 percent in four years. In response, Cuba developed a series of initiatives to fix its economy and establish greater sustainability. Some of these efforts included promoting self-sufficient farming, creating institutions to regulate environmental issues, incentivizing organic farming, and exploring renewable resources. Despite these efforts—primarily made out of necessity—Cuba’s relationship with the environment remained ambivalent. While Cuba now faces fewer environmental risks, other economic policies set forth during the Special Period, including the government’s embrace of mining and promotion of tourism, has led to different sources of environmental concern, such as soil degradation and deforestation. 

Contributed by Preston Schmitt
Course: Modern Global Environmental History
Instructor: Dr. Wilko Graf von Hardenberg
University of Wisconsin–Madison, US

Further Readings: