Politics of Cuba

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Cuba has had a socialist political system since 1959 based on the "one state – one party" principle. Cuba is constitutionally defined as a Marxist–Leninist socialist state guided in part by the political ideas of Karl Marx, one of the fathers of historical materialism, Friedrich Engels and Vladimir Lenin. Despite being regarded as a Communist state, the ideology of José Martí is what serves as the main source of influence in Cuban politics.[1][2] The present Constitution, which was passed in a 2019 referendum,[3][4] also describes 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][4] The 2019 Constitution identifies the ideals represented by Cuban independence hero José Martí and revolutionary leader Fidel Castro as the primary foundation of Cuba's political system, while also stressing the importance of the influence of the ideas of Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, and Vladimir Lenin.[5]

The most recent leader was Raúl Castro, who held the title of First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba, the most powerful position in Cuba.[6] As of 2019 Miguel Díaz-Canel is now the President of Cuba and is likely to succeed Raúl Castro as First Secretary in 2021.[7]

Executive power is exercised by the 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. With effect from 10 October 2019, Miguel Díaz-Canel is President and Manuel Marrero is Prime Minister. The previous president of the State Council, Raúl Castro — brother of former leader Fidel Castro — remains First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba, and Commander-in-Chief of the Revolutionary Armed Forces. Fidel Castro ruled from 1959 to 2006 before illness forced him to hand power to his brother. Esteban Lazo Hernández is President of the National Assembly.


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, 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. Since 2019, the President of Cuba is also limited to two five year terms.[3][8][9][10][11][12]


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 sessions to ratify decisions by the 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.[13]

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 enact a constitutional amendment making socialism an unalterable feature of Cuban government.[14]

Committees for the Defense of the Revolution[edit]

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

The Committees for the Defense of the Revolution is a network of neighborhood organizations across Cuba and most Cubans are members.[15] The organizations are designed to put medical, educational or other campaigns into national effect, and to report "counter-revolutionary" activity. It is the duty of the CDR officials to know the political activities of each person in their respective blocks.

Political parties and elections[edit]

Political parties other than the PCC are illegal.[16]

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.[citation needed] The national elections for the 612 members[17] of the National Assembly of People's Power are held according to this system and the precepts of the 1976 Constitution.

Under the system,[18] neighbors meet to propose the candidates to the Municipal Assemblies in a public, show of hands vote.[19] The candidates do not present a political platform, but only their resumes. No political party, not even the Communist Party of Cuba, is permitted to nominate or campaign for any candidate. 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.[citation needed]

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.[20][21] 609
Total elected 609

State leaders[edit]

Communist Party of Cuba[edit]

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

Council of State[edit]

Council of Ministers[edit]

National Assembly of People's Power[edit]

Foreign relations[edit]

Vladimir Putin and Fidel 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.[22] The United States continues an embargo "so long as [Cuba] continues to refuse to move toward democratization and greater respect for human rights."[23] 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."[24]

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.[25] 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 is 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 appreciation for different forms of democracy other than those in capitalist states.[26] It alludes to the grass roots elements in the nomination of candidates at neighborhood level (in the so-called circunscripciones).[27]

Opposition groups inside and outside the country as well as international NGOs[28] 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.[29] Those who see Cuba as a democracy have described it a grassroots democracy, a centralized democracy or a revolutionary democracy.[30]

Cuba is the only authoritarian regime in the Americas, according to the 2010 Democracy Index, published by the Economist Group. Cuba's extensive censorship system was close to North Korea on the 2008 Press Freedom Index, published by Reporters Without Borders.[31] The media is operated under the Communist Party's Department of Revolutionary Orientation, which "develops and coordinates propaganda strategies".[32]

Human rights[edit]

According to Human Rights Watch, Castro constructed a "repressive machinery" that continues to deprive Cubans of their basic rights.[33] 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").[34] Human Rights Watch reports that the government represses nearly all forms of political dissent. There are many restrictions on leaving the country.[35]

The country's first ever transgender municipal delegate was elected in the province of Villa Clara in early 2013. Adela 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.[36]


The 2012 Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index ranked the Cuba 58th out of 176 countries, tied with Jordan and Namibia.[37] 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. ^ "Fidel Castro, Loyal Follower of Jose Marti – Escambray". en.escambray.cu. November 30, 2017.
  2. ^ Jr, W. T. Whitney (January 22, 2018). "José Martí, soul of the Cuban Revolution".
  3. ^ a b c "Cuba to reshape government with new constitution". Washingtonpost.com. Retrieved 2020-01-09.
  4. ^ a b "Cuba ditches aim of building communism from draft constitution". Theguardian.com. 22 July 2018. Retrieved 9 January 2020.
  5. ^ "Cuban Constitution of 2019".
  6. ^ Peters, Philip (23 May 2012). "A Viewer's Guide to Cuba's Economic Reforms". Lexington Institute. Archived from the original on 13 November 2012. Retrieved 15 March 2013.
  7. ^ "Raul Castro to lead Cuba's Communist Party until 2021". France 24. 19 April 2018. 'I confirm to this assembly that Raul Castro, as first secretary of the Communist Party, will lead the decisions about the future of the country,' Diaz-Canel said.
  8. ^ "Cuba sets out new constitutional reforms". BBC News. 2018-07-15. Retrieved 2020-01-09.
  9. ^ Marc Frank (21 February 2019). "Explainer: What is old and new in Cuba's proposed constitution". Reuters. Retrieved 9 January 2020.
  10. ^ Antonio Recio (21 August 2018). "Some Traps in Cuba's New Constitution". The Havana Times.
  11. ^ "Cuba expands rights but rejects radical change in updated constitution". UPI. Retrieved 2019-01-09.
  12. ^ Mega, Emiliano Rodríguez (2019-03-08). "Cuba acknowledges climate change threats in its constitution". Nature. 567 (7747): 155. doi:10.1038/d41586-019-00760-3. PMID 30862928.
  13. ^ Cuban Political system Cuba education tools.
  14. ^ "Cuba's Parliament Seeks to Approve Constitutional Change Ratifying Socialism". Associated Press. June 21, 2002. Retrieved January 21, 2016.
  15. ^ "AFP: Cuba's neighborhood watches: 50 years of eyes, ears". 2013-04-10. Archived from the original on 2013-04-10. Retrieved 2019-03-06.
  16. ^ "Freedom in the World 2020 Cuba". Freedom House.
  17. ^ "IPU PARLINE database: CUBA (Asamblea nacional del Poder popular), General information". archive.ipu.org.
  18. ^ El sistema político y electoral cubano Archived 2009-01-30 at the Wayback Machine. Cubasocialista.com. Retrieved on 2011-09-30.
  19. ^ "Ley No. 127, Artículo 93.1" (PDF). August 19, 2019.
  20. ^ Cuba. Asamblea nacional del Poder popular (National Assembly of the People's Power). Electoral System. Inter-Parliamentary Union
  21. ^ Lijphart Elections Archive. UC San Diego
  22. ^ "US Lawmakers Say Normalize Cuba Relations" Archived 2009-09-03 at the Wayback Machine, lataminfo.org, April 2009.
  23. ^ "Cuban Democracy Act of 1992". State Department.
  24. ^ "EU-Cuba relations". Official Journal of the European Union. 4 September 2003.
  25. ^ Cuba (09/01) US Department of State report
  26. ^ Roman, Peter. "Electing Cuba's National Assembly Deputies: Proposals, Selections, Nominations, and Campaigns" (PDF). Retrieved 2 January 2015.
  27. ^ Mendoza, Juan. "Elecciones en Cuba - un proceso democrático". Cubadebate. Cubadebate. Retrieved 2 January 2015.
  28. ^ Human Rights Watch. "Country Summary: Cuba" (PDF). Human Rights Watch. Human Rights Watch. Retrieved 2 January 2015.
  29. ^ "Cuban official discounts US action". Television New Zealand. Reuters. 14 July 2006. Retrieved 3 November 2011.
  30. ^ Chavez appears with Castro in TV broadcast – World news – nbcnews.com. NBC News (2005-08-21). Retrieved on 2011-09-30.
  31. ^ "Press Freedom Index 2008" (PDF). Reporters Without Borders. 2008. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2009-03-03.
  32. ^ "10 most censored countries". The Committee to Protect Journalists.
  33. ^ "Cuba: Fidel Castro's Abusive Machinery Remains Intact". Human Rights Watch.
  34. ^ "Information about human rights in Cuba" (in Spanish). Comision Interamericana de Derechos Humanos. April 7, 1967. Retrieved 2006-07-09.
  35. ^ "Cuba". Human Rights Watch. 2006.
  36. ^ Fernando Ravsberg (8 January 2014). "Cuba's First Transsexual Politician". Havana Times. Retrieved 9 January 2014.
  37. ^ "Transparency International - the global coalition against corruption". Transparency International. 2012. Retrieved 24 March 2012.

Further reading[edit]

  • 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.
  • Grenier, Yvon (2017), Culture and the Cuban State; Participation, Recognition, and Dissonance under Communism (Lexington Books)
  • (fr) Danielle Bleitrach and Jean-François Bonaldi, Cuba, Fidel et le Che ou l'aventure du socialisme, Editions Le Temps des Cerises, 2009 ISBN 978-2-8410-9671-8.

External links[edit]