Sugar in Cuba
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History › Sugar
Cuba has an excellent climate and a rich soil for growing sugar cane. The island was once a world leader in sugar production and exportation.
When colonizer Spain allowed the export from Cuban ports, the sugar boom started, and the country became an important supplier.
After the war, the Spaniards left the island and the United States gained massive influence over the country, there were talks of annexation by the USA.
The United States cut tariffs on US goods entering Cuba, after time the Cuban economy was totally dominated by US capital. In 1902 US companies controlled and owned most of the sugar factories.
Sugar tycoons like Julio Lobo, the richest man in Havana ruled.
After the Revolution led by Fidel Castro the relations with the United States deteriorated rapidly as the Cuban government started the nationalization of of US companies and US property in the country as a reaction to the US boycott of Cuba. The US stopped the purchase of sugar which had a devastating effect on the economy of the Island.
The United States closed in Januari 1961 its embassy in Havana. In a reaction the Cuban government began to expand trade relations with the Soviet Union. Castro asked the Soviets for help and the country became increasingly dependent on Soviet economical support.
Soviet leader Khruschev approved the purchase of Cuban sugar in exchange for Soviet fuel, this deal sustained the Cuban economy for many years untill the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
The fall of the Soviet Union had a devastating effect on Cuba, the government was forced to downsize its production and could not recover its leading position in sugar production because world market situations changed.
Cuba downsizes the sugar industry
Havana Sugar Kings
Julio Lobo (1898-1983)
Julio Lobo, also named "The Sugar King of Havana" was once the wealthiest man in Cuba with an estimated fortune of five billion dollar.
Lobo was of jewish descent, officially born in Havana but this is uncertain. EnriqueCircules suggests in his book "El Imperio de la Habana" that Julio Lobo was born in the Netherlands or Aruba and his real name should be Julies Wolf (Lobo in Dutch).
The beginning and origin of his imperium in Cuba is obscure, rumors are that he was involved in several small import and trading companies. Enrique Circules also states in his earlier mentioned book, that there was evidence in the press, that Julio Lobo made a fortune on the black market and in speculation with commodities.
He was the owner of 14 sugar mills, owner and president of the important Cuban bank "Banco Financiero S.A.". Lobo was also the owner of a unique collection of Napoleonic memorabilia housed today in Havana's Museo Napoleonico.
After the Cuban Revolution, he was forced by Che Guevara, acting Minister of Economy, to leave the country, and his assets were seized by the Cuban State. Lobo died in Madrid (Spain) in 1983.
The Hershey Foods Corporation was founded in 1894 as Hershey Chocolate Company.
The Corporation owned five sugar mills and 251 mile of railroad in Cuba. Still famous today is the "Electric Hershey Train" between Matanzas and Casablanca, across the Havana Bay.