Constitution of Cuba

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Even before attaining its independence from Spain, Cuba had several constitutions either proposed or adopted by insurgents as governing documents for territory they controlled during their war against Spain. Cuba has had several constitutions since winning its independence. The current constitution was drafted in 1976 and has since been amended.

Early models

Events in early nineteenth-century Spain prompted a general concern with constitutions throughout Spain's overseas possessions. In 1808, both King Ferdinand VII and his predecessor and father, Charles IV, resigned their claims to the throne in favor of Napoleon Bonaparte, who in turn passed the crown to his brother Joseph. In the ensuing Peninsular War, the Spanish waged a war of independence against the French Empire. On 19 March 1812, the Cortes Generales in refuge in Cádiz adopted the Spanish Constitution of 1812, which established a constitutional monarchy and eliminated many basic institutions that privileged some groups over others. The Cortes included representatives from throughout the Spanish Empire, including Cuba.[1]

Several models of constitutional government were proposed for Cuba. José Agustín Caballero offered "a charter for Cuban autonomy under Spanish rule" in Diario de la Habana in 1810,[2] elaborated as the Project for an Autonomous Government in Cuba in 1811.[3] The next year, Bayamo attorney Joaquín Infante living in Caracas wrote his Constitutional Project for the Island of Cuba. He reconciled his liberal political principles with slavery in Cuba, noting that slavery exited in the United States alongside republican government. Spanish authorities imprisoned him for his writings.[2][3] In 1821, Félix Varela represented Cuba in the Cortes Generales of Spain during a short period when the Constitution of 1812 was revived. He joined in a petition to the Crown for the independence of Spain's Latin American colonies, supported by his Project of Instruction for the Politically and Economically Autonomous Government of the Overseas Provinces.[3]

Guáimaro Constitution

The Guáimaro Constitution was the governing document written by the idealistic and politically liberal faction in the insurgency that contested Spanish colonial rule in Cuba and imposed on Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, the conservative who claimed leadership of the independence movement. It was nominally in effect from 1869 to 1878 during the Ten Years' War against Spain.

1901 Constitution

The 1901 Constitution was Cuba's first as an independent state. It incorporated eight principles set out in the Platt Amendment without which U.S. troops would not have been withdrawn from Cuba, including the clause that the United States has the right to intervene in Cuba's affairs to protect its independence and guarantee the stability of its government. All but one of the Platt Amendment principles remained in force until a treaty between Cuba and the United States, negotiated as part of Franklin D. Roosevelt's Good Neighbor Policy toward Latin America, took effect on June 9, 1934, leaving U.S. only its right to a permanent lease to its Guantanamo Naval Station.[4]

1940 Constitution

During the presidency of Federico Laredo Brú, a Constitutional Assembly was elected in November 1939 to write a new constitution. The Assembly debated publicly for six months and adopted the constitution at the Capitol in Havana. It was signed by the delegates on July 1, 1940, and took effect on October 10, 1940.[5] It provided for land reform, public education, minimum wage and other progressive ideas. Some of its provisions were not implemented in practice. The Constitution established as national policy restrictions on the size of land holdings and an end to common ownership of sugar plantations and sugar mills, but these principles were never translated into legislation.[6] Fulgencio Batista suspended parts of this constitution after seizing power in 1952.

1976 Constitution

Poster instructing citizens to vote for the adoption of the new constitution

After 16 years of extra-constitutional rule from 1959 to 1975, the revolutionary government of Cuba sought to institutionalize the revolution by putting a new constitution to a popular vote. The Constitution of 1976 was adopted by referendum on February 15, 1976, in which it was approved by 97.7% of voters.[7] It took effect on February 24, 1976. This constitution called for a centralized control of the market and committed the State to providing its citizens with access to free education and health care. The state had the power to regulate the activities of religious institutions and the private ownership of media companies was forbidden.

In the late 1980s, the Eastern Bloc collapsed and Cuba confronted the economic crisis of the Special Period. In 1992, a constitutional amendment removed certain limitations on foreign investment and granted foreign corporations a limited right to own property on the island if they established joint ventures with the government.[8] Another amendment established that Cuba is a secular state rather than an atheist state, prompting an expansion of local participation in religious observance, increased social service work on the part of sectarian international charities, and public recognition of religious pluralism.[9] In 2002, the constitution was amended to stipulate that the socialistic system was permanent and irrevocable.[10]

See also


  1. Eastman, Scott; Sobrevilla Perea, Natalia, eds. (2015). The Rise of Constitutional Government in the Iberian Atlantic World: The Impact of the Cadiz Constitution of 1812. University of Alabama Press. p. 165. Retrieved 10 February 2016.
  2. 1 2 Eastman, Scott; Sobrevilla Perea, Natalia, eds. (2015). The Rise of Constitutional Government in the Iberian Atlantic World: The Impact of the Cadiz Constitution of 1812. University of Alabama Press. p. 156. Retrieved 10 February 2016.
  3. 1 2 3 Castellanos, Dimas (29 October 2012). "La Constitución de La Yaya y la futura constitución cubana". Diario de Cuba (in Spanish). Retrieved 9 February 2016. Available in English as Castellanos, Dimas. "The Constitution of La Yaya and the Future Cuban Constitution". Translating Cuba. Retrieved 9 February 2016.
  4. Woolsey, Lester H. (July 1934). "The New Cuban Treaty". The American Journal of International Law 28 (3): 530–34. Retrieved 10 February 2016.
  5. "Cuban Memories: the Cuban Constitution of 1940, then and today". Cuban Heritage Collection. University of Miami Libraries. Retrieved 8 February 2016.
  6. Bonsal, Philip W. (1971). Cuba, Castro, and the United States. Pittsburgh University Press. pp. 43, 70.
  7. Nohlen, p197
  8. Travieso-Diaz, Matias F. (1997). The Laws and Legal System of a Free-market Cuba: A Prospectus for Business. Quorum Books. p. 106. Retrieved 10 February 2016.
  9. Goldenziel, Jill I. (2009). "Sanctioning Faith: Religion, State, and U.S.-Cuban Relations". Journal of Law and Politics 25 (179). Retrieved 10 February 2016.
  10. Venegas, Cristina (2010). Digital Dilemmas: The State, the Individual, and Digital Media in Cuba. Rutgers University Press. p. 27. Retrieved 10 February 2016.

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