Contemporary cuban politics I. Basic Political Institutions

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I. Basic Political Institutions

II. “Concessions on the Road to Socialism” (1993-present)

III. Support & Opposition

IV. The U.S. Embargo

I. Basic Political Institutions

  1. STALINIST model in place since 1976:

  2. one legal party: the PCC

  3. citizens have option of not voting for all candidates (v. “unity ballot”)

  4. democratic centralism

  5. no disagreement in public transformed into no disagreement w/ leader

  6. PCC General Secretary as leader

  7. Castro (& associates) approve all candidates

  8. Party Organs more important than Government Organs in most decisions

organizational chart on Cuban version of Stalinist model


  2. PRES of Council of Ministers

  3. elected by National Assembly to 5-year term

  4. Castro is:

  5. President of Council of Ministers
  6. President of Council of State
  7. First Secretary of PCC
  8. Commander-in-Chief

  10. 601-member National Assembly elected to 5-year terms; meets once or twice per year

  11. the PCC calls on citizens to cast the “unity ballot”
  12. 31-member Council of State as standing legislature (parallel to the Politburo)


  14. elected by National Assembly

  15. historically pliant to demands of the party

II. “Concessions on the Road to Socialism” (1993-present)

  1. A. Economic Collapse in 1990-93:

GDP change in CUBA, 1990-2006




































  1. B. Economic Reforms in 1993:

  2. agro collectives freed up slightly

  3. self-employment legalized

  4. 7/26/93: U$S legalized & foreign investment welcomed

  5. investment heaviest in tourism and oil
  6. C. Retrenchment in mid-1994:

  7. May 1 attack on "profiteering"

  8. clampdown on self-employed

  9. higher prices & taxes

  10. D. Further Economic Reform

  11. tax system restructured in mid-1990s

  12. new Central Bank est. in 1997

  13. 3 special economic zones est. in ‘97

  14. late 2004: new restrictions on the U.S. dollar

  15. citizens are required to convert U.S. dollars to pesos at a 10% loss

III. Support & Opposition

  1. A. The Implications of Economic Change

  2. A new cleavage of haves & have-nots

  3. those w/ access to dollars: via political connections, tourism, remittances

  4. those w/o access to dollars: everyone else (including some true believers and many families that historically had never opposed the regime)

  5. B. A (Small) Opposition Stirs the Pot

  6. 1996-97: Osvaldo Payá’s efforts to organize public opposition meetings & to run for the legislature are blocked

  7. 1998: Payá’s Christian Liberation Movement (MCL) begins circulating a petition (the “Varela Project”) to reform the constitution

  8. 1999: Leaders of the Dissident Working Group receive 3- to 5-year sentences for publishing works advocating multiparty democracy

  9. C. 2002-2003 The Castro Regime Digs In

  10. Varela Project shelved by the National Assembly

  11. Castro mobilizes signatures to make the revolution “irrevocable”

  12. Tens of dissidents are tried and jailed in 2003

  13. C. 2006 A Reminder of Mortality

  14. Fidel delegated authority to his brother Raúl & others on 7/31 after major surgery

  15. The announcement also moved his birthday celebration from 8/13 to December

  16. Events sparked rumors of imminent death (& reminded all that death will come…eventually)

IV. The U.S. Embargo

A. CHRONOLOGY of U.S. Policy

  1. 1959-60:

  2. “constructive engagement”

  3. acceptance of over 60,000 immigrants/year during 1959-61

  4. April 1961: Bay of Pigs fails badly

  1. Feb. 1962: U.S. trade embargo begins

  2. Oct. 1962: Cuban missile crisis heightens tension

  3. July 1964: Venezuela sponsors OAS economic embargo

  4. Mexico refuses to comply

  5. early 1970s: Chile, Peru, & Argentina resume relations

  6. July 1975:

  7. OAS resolution calls for each to form own policies re: Cuba

  8. U.S. permits U.S. MNC subsidiaries in Latin America to trade w/ Cuba

  9. late 1975: Cuban intervention in Angola stalls talks w/ U.S.

  10. 1977:

  11. Cuba & U.S. establish “interests sections” in each country

  12. travel restrictions on U.S. citizens relaxed

  13. 1978:

  14. talks toward ending embargo stall when Cuba sends troops to Ethiopia & then backs rebels in Central America

  15. 1980:

  16. Mariel boatlift in which Castro permits 125,000 “undesirables” to leave for U.S.

  17. 1982:

  18. U.S. renews travel restrictions

  19. U.S. increases enforcement of limits on trade between MNCs and Cuba

  20. 1992: U.S. passes Cuban Democracy Act

  21. outlaws trade ($700m/year) between U.S. MNCs abroad & Cuba

  22. encourages recipients of U.S. foreign aid to cut economic ties with Cuba

  23. bans ships which trade w/ Cuba from landing at U.S. ports

  24. permits U.S. to open ties of communication with anti-Castro forces in Cuba

  1. 1996:

  2. 2/24/96: Cuba shoots down 2 planes piloted by Brothers to the Rescue

  3. Clinton decides not to veto Helms-Burton bill when passed in March 1996

  4. the Helms-Burton Act

  5. gives U.S. citizens who lost property in Cuba the right to sue for reparations

  6. gives U.S. authority to launch economic sanctions on foreign countries whose firms use seized properties

  7. PRESIDENT has right to suspend in 6-month intervals
  1. 2000:

  2. NOTE: legislators later open a limited range of agricultural & medicine trade w/ Cuba

  3. in the same bill, Cuban exile groups get a codification of travel restrictions that previously had been by executive order

  4. 2002:

  5. Jimmy Carter mentions dissident Varela Project during his visit

  6. Castro responds by asking citizenry to sign a petition to the National Assembly requesting that the revolution be made irrevocable (which it does)

  7. 2004:

  8. On 6/30, the U.S. embargo tightens

  9. Cuban exiles limited to 1 visit every 3 years, rather than an annual visit

  10. exemptions for family emergencies closed
  11. spending limit reduced from $164 to $50 per day

  12. remittances limited to immediate family members

  13. These measures expand generational tensions among Cuban exiles

  14. most of the pre-1980 era do not have family in Cuba while those from Mariel onward tend to have family in Cuba

  15. 2005:

  16. Caleb McCarry named Cuban Transition Coordinator by U.S. Dept. of State

  17. Castro responds by asking citizenry to sign a petition to the National Assembly requesting that the revolution be made irrevocable (which it does)

  18. 2006:

  19. Discovery of new offshore oil reserves prompts proposals to exempt U.S. oil firms from the embargo

  20. Canada, China, India, Norway, & Spain already have exploration underway

IV.B. Some Issues to Consider

  1. Do you support some or all of the goals of the embargo policy?

  2. Do you believe that the embargo is a useful tool toward achieving those goals?

  3. Why or why not?

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