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Politics of Cuba

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Title: Politics of Cuba  
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Subject: Human rights in Cuba, Rationing in Cuba, Cuban Democratic Socialist Current, Independent Republican Party, Cuban dissident movement
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Politics of Cuba

This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of

Cuba has had a democratic centralist[1][2] political system since 1959. Cuba is constitutionally defined as a Marxist–Leninist "socialist state guided by the principles of José Martí, and the political ideas of Marx, one of the fathers of historical materialism, Engels and Lenin." The present Constitution also ascribes the role of the Communist Party of Cuba to be the "leading force of society and of the state" and as such has the capability of setting national policy.[3]

Executive power is exercised by the Cuban Government, which is represented by the Council of State and the Council of Ministers. Legislative power is exercised through the unicameral National Assembly of People's Power, which is constituted as the maximum authority of the state. Currently Raúl Castro—brother of former President Fidel Castro—is President of the Council of State, President of the Council of Ministers (sometimes referred to as the Prime Minister), First Secretary of the Communist Party, and Commander-in-Chief of the Revolutionary Armed Forces. Esteban Lazo Hernández is President of the National Assembly.


  • Executive 1
  • Legislature 2
  • Judiciary 3
  • Committees for the Defense of the Revolution 4
  • Political parties and elections 5
  • State leaders 6
    • Communist Party of Cuba 6.1
    • Council of State 6.2
    • Council of Ministers 6.3
    • National Assembly of People's Power 6.4
  • Foreign relations 7
  • Democracy 8
  • Human rights 9
  • Corruption 10
  • References 11
  • Further reading 12
  • External links 13


Executive power is exercised by the government. Until February 2008, Cuba was led by President Fidel Castro, who was Chief of State, Head of Government, Prime Minister, First Secretary of the (CPC), and Commander in Chief of the Cuban armed forces. The Ministry of Interior is the principal organ of state security and control.

According to the Cuban Constitution Article 94, the First Vice President of the Council of State assumes presidential duties upon the illness or death of the President. On July 31, 2006, during the 2006 Cuban transfer of duties, Fidel Castro delegated his duties as President of the Council of state, first secretary of the Cuban Communist Party and the post of commander in chief of the armed forces to first Vice President Raúl Castro.


Cuba has an elected national legislature, the National Assembly of People's Power (Asamblea Nacional del Poder Popular), which has 612 members, elected every 5 years and holds brief essions to ratify decisions by executive branch. The National Assembly convenes twice a year in ordinary periods of sessions. However, it has permanent commissions to look after issues of legislative interest. Among its permanent or temporary commissions are those in charge of issues concerning the economy, sugar industry, industries, transportation and communications, constructions, foreign affairs, public health, defense and interior order. The National Assembly also has permanent departments that oversee the work of the Commissions, Local Assemblies of the People's Power, International Relations, Judicial Affairs and the Administration.[4]

Article 88(h) of the Constitution of Cuba, adopted in 1976, provides for citizen proposals of law, prerequisite that the proposal be made by at least 10,000 citizens who are eligible to vote. In 2002 supporters of a movement known as the Varela Project submitted a citizen proposal of law with 11,000 signatures calling for a national referendum on political and economic reforms. The Government response was to collect 8.1 million signatures to request that Cuba's National Assembly make the Socialist Constitution untouchable.[5]


The People's Supreme Court is the highest judicial body. The constitution states that all legally recognized civil liberties can be denied to anyone who opposes the decision of the Cuban people to build socialism. They rule on constitutional matters, and review final appeals from lower courts including all criminal, civil, administrative, labor law, and economic cases.

Committees for the Defense of the Revolution

A CDR in Old Havana on Paseo de Martí facing Parque Central


Political parties and elections

Cuba is a one-party political system. Suffrage is non-compulsory and is afforded to Cuban citizens who have resided for two years on the island. Such citizens must be aged over sixteen years, must not have been found guilty of a criminal offense, and cannot be mentally handicapped. Cubans living abroad are denied the right to vote. The national elections for the 612 members[6] of the National Assembly of People's Power are held according to this system and the precepts of the 1976 Constitution. From 1959 to 1976, a legislative branch did not exist. In 1992 the Constitution was reformed to allow direct voting to elect members to the National Assembly. Only one candidate stood for each seat in the January 19, 2003 election.

Under the system,[7] neighbors meet to propose the candidates to the Municipal Assemblies. The candidates do not present a political platform, but only their resumes. The municipal candidates elected in each neighborhood then elect the Municipal Assembly members. In turn, the Municipal Assembly members elect the Provincial Assembly members, who in turn elect the national Assembly members. A direct vote is then cast to decide whether the decanted members that appear in the final step need to be ratified.

From 1959 to 1992, when the New Electoral Law of the new Constitutional amendments was enacted, the Cuban people were not afforded the right to vote for the members of the legislative power—the executive power is elected by the National Assembly and there is no popular vote for the President or the Prime Minister. Aside from the Communist Party of Cuba, political parties have legally existed within the country since 1992. Nevertheless, the Constitutional reform of 1992 that granted their right to exist simultaneously denied their right to gather or publicize their existence (a restriction the Communist Party also faces, at least in theory). The most important of these political parties are the Christian Democratic Party of Cuba, the Cuban Socialist Democratic Current, the Democratic Social-Revolutionary Party of Cuba, the Democratic Solidarity Party, the Liberal Party of Cuba and the Social Democratic Co-ordination of Cuba.

 Summary of the 19 January 2003 Cuban Parliament election results
Members Seats
609 candidates (one candidate per seat). Up to 50% of the candidates must be chosen by the Municipal Assemblies. The candidates are otherwise proposed by nominating assemblies, which comprise representatives of workers, youth, women, students and farmers as well as members of the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution, after initial mass meetings soliciting a first list of names. The final list of candidates is drawn up by the National Candidature Commission taking into account criteria such as candidates' merit, patriotism, ethical values and revolutionary history. [8][9] 609
Total elected 609

State leaders

Communist Party of Cuba

Ministry of the Interior building on the Plaza de la Revolución, Havana

Council of State

Council of Ministers

National Assembly of People's Power

Foreign relations

Vladimir Putin and Castro in 2000.

Cuba's foreign policy has been scaled back and redirected as a result of economic hardship after the collapse of the Soviet bloc. Without massive Soviet subsidies and its primary trading partner Cuba was comparatively isolated in the 1990s, but has since entered bilateral co-operation with several South American countries, most notably Venezuela and Bolivia. Cuba has normal diplomatic and economic relations with every country in the Western hemisphere except El Salvador and the United States. El Salvador, under the new government of Mauricio Funes, is expected to institute both in June, 2009.[10] The United States continues an embargo "so long as it continues to refuse to move toward democratization and greater respect for human rights."[11] The European Union accuses Cuba of "continuing flagrant violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms", but also "Reiterates its condemnation of the US embargo on Cuba, and calls for it to be lifted forthwith, as the UN General Assembly has repeatedly demanded."[12]

Cuba has developed a growing relationship with the People's Republic of China and Russia. In all, Cuba continues to have formal relations with 160 nations, and provided civilian assistance workers – principally medical – in more than 20 nations.[13] More than two million exiles have escaped to foreign countries. Cuba's present foreign minister is Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla.

Poster urging citizens to vote to make the socialist system permanent and irrevocable by amending the constitution
Candidates of the 2008 elections of the national and provincial parliaments in Santiago de Cuba


Officially, Cuba considers itself a "people's democracy", as opposed to the "liberal democracy" of Western states. Cuba thus rejects criticism of its political system as a lack of apprehension for different forms of democracy other than those in capitalist states.[14] It alludes to the grass roots elements in the nomination of candidates at neighborhood level (in the so-called circunscripciones).[15]

Opposition groups inside and outside the country as well as international NGOs[16] and foreign governments have described the Cuban political system as undemocratic. The United States Government has initiated various policy measures; these have been ostensibly designed to urge Cuba to undertake political change towards a multi-party electoral system. These plans have been condemned by the Cuban Government, who accuses the United States of meddling in Cuba's affairs.[17] The Cuban political system is normally described as undemocratic by human rights groups and academics and is usually classified as a dictatorship, single-party state or a totalitarian state. Those who see Cuba as a democracy have described it a grassroots democracy, a centralized democracy or a revolutionary democracy.[18]

Cuba is the only authoritarian regime in the Americas, according to the 2010 Democracy Index. Cuba's extensive censorship system was close to North Korea on the 2008 Press Freedom Index.[19] The media is operated under the Communist Party’s Department of Revolutionary Orientation, which "develops and coordinates propaganda strategies".[20] According to Maria Werlau, the extreme concentration of power to the Castro family seems comparable in modern times only to that of North Korea under the regimes of Kim Jong Il and Kim Il Sung.[21]

Human rights

According to Human Rights Watch, Castro constructed a "repressive machinery" that continues to deprive Cubans of their basic rights.[22] The Cuban government has been accused of numerous human rights abuses, including torture, arbitrary imprisonment, unfair trials, and extrajudicial executions (a.k.a. "El Paredón").[23] Human Rights Watch reports that the government represses nearly all forms of political dissent. There are many restrictions on leaving the country.[24]

The country's first ever transgender municipal delegate was elected in the province of Villa Clara in early 2013. Adela Hernández, born José Agustín Hernández, is a resident of the town of Caibarién and works as a nurse electrocardiogram specialist. In Cuba, delegates are not professional politicians and, therefore, do not receive a government salary.[25]


The 2012 Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index ranked the Cuba 58th out of 176 countries, tied with Jordan and Namibia.[26] and therefore has lower levels than most of the other countries in the Caribbean and Central America. Also ranked in 112th place in 2006, tied with India.


  1. ^ The Reform of the Cuban Economy, 1976-86: Organisation, Incentives and Patterns of Behaviour. 
  2. ^ "Democracy in Cuba". Retrieved 2015-09-28. 
  3. ^ Peters, Philip (23 May 2012). "A Viewer's Guide to Cuba's Economic Reforms". Lexington Institute. 
  4. ^ Cuban Political system Cuba education tools.
  5. ^ "Cuba's Parliament Seeks to Approve Constitutional Change Ratifying Socialism". Associated Press. June 21, 2002. Retrieved September 20, 2014. 
  6. ^ "Inter-Parliamentary Union". 
  7. ^ El sistema político y electoral cubano. Retrieved on 2011-09-30.
  8. ^ Cuba. Asamblea nacional del Poder popular (National Assembly of the People's Power). Electoral System. Inter-Parliamentary Union
  9. ^ Lijphart Elections Archive. UC San Diego
  10. ^ "US Lawmakers Say Normalize Cuba Relations",, April 2009.
  11. ^ "Cuban Democracy Act of 1992". State Department. 
  12. ^ "EU-Cuba relations". Official Journal of the European Union. 4 September 2003. 
  13. ^ Cuba (09/01) US Department of State report
  14. ^ Roman, Peter. "Electing Cuba’s National Assembly Deputies: Proposals, Selections, Nominations, and Campaigns" (PDF). Retrieved 2 January 2015. 
  15. ^ Mendoza, Juan. "Elecciones en Cuba - un proceso democrático". Cubadebate. Cubadebate. Retrieved 2 January 2015. 
  16. ^ Human Rights Watch. "Country Summary: Cuba" (PDF). Human Rights Watch. Human Rights Watch. Retrieved 2 January 2015. 
  17. ^ "Cuban official discounts US action".  
  18. ^ Chavez appears with Castro in TV broadcast – World news – MSNBC (2005-08-21). Retrieved on 2011-09-30.
  19. ^ "Press Freedom Index 2008" (PDF). Reporters Without Borders. 2008. 
  20. ^ "10 most censored countries". The Committee to Protect Journalists. 
  21. ^ Maria C. Werlau. "Fidel Castro, Inc.: A global conglomerate" (PDF). 
  22. ^ "Cuba: Fidel Castro’s Abusive Machinery Remains Intact". Human Rights Watch. 
  23. ^ "Information about human rights in Cuba" (in Spanish). Comision Interamericana de Derechos Humanos. April 7, 1967. Retrieved 2006-07-09. 
  24. ^ "Cuba". Human Rights Watch. 2006. 
  25. ^ Fernando Ravsberg (8 January 2014). "Cuba’s First Transsexual Politician". Havana Times. Retrieved 9 January 2014. 
  26. ^ "Transparency International - the global coalition against corruption". Transparency International. 2012. Retrieved 24 March 2012. 

Further reading

  • Erikson, Daniel P. (2005). "Charting Castro's Possible Successors". SAIS Review 25.1, 89–103.
  • Evenson, Debra (1994). Revolution in the balance: Law and society in contemporary Cuba. Westview Press, Boulder. ISBN 0-8133-8466-4.

External links

  • Cubaweb – Official Cuban Web Portal
  • Gobierno de la República de Cuba – Government of the Republic of Cuba
  • Cuban Parliament
  • People's Supreme Court
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