previously been a minor economic driver, had become, by the late 1990's, the is-
land's main source of revenue.
The Special Period is generally recognized as having ended at about the year
2000. The fostering of close relations with Venezuela, after the election of social-
ist president Hugo Chavez in 1998, had a major positive impact on Cuba's eco-
nomy. The two countries forged a close alliance in order to further their shared
political and economic goals.
Today, many of the young people in Cuba have little first hand knowledge of The
Special Period, and negative views towards the United States have greatly sub-
sided. Evidence of past policies to deal with the economic hardship are still
present, but Cuba has made significant headway in becoming a diversified, indus-
trial nation, albeit with a communist/socialist structure. The American embargo
still persists and is one of the largest points of contention between the two na-
tions. Fidel Castro ceded political control to his brother Raul in 2008, but is still
considered to be the ideological leader of the country.