Cuba Government and Politics

Cuba is a socialist republic where the Communist Party has a monopoly of power. The political system was designed during a period of strong influence from the Soviet Union, but it also has a number of Cuban characteristics, and has undergone changes since the 1990s.

Cuba Country Flag


Much of the roots of the current political system in Cuba lie in the 1959 takeover of Fidel Castro.

The institutions of the pre-revolutionary republic collapsed with Fulgencio Batista’s coup in 1952, or in the chaos surrounding Castro’s takeover of power. The first years after 1959 were very turbulent, and the institutions that emerged during this period were built around Castro’s revolutionary army with a view to addressing immediate challenges such as ensuring the survival of the revolution and radically changing society.

In the mid-1970s, the leaders of the revolution initiated the so-called institutionalization process, which introduced a new socialist constitution, and more permanent political institutions. The Communist Party’s power was consolidated and its monopoly of power enshrined in the Constitution. This was a period of strong Soviet influence in Cuba, and much was copied from there. Nevertheless, the system had some special features, such as certain peculiar institutions and the strong role of the charismatic leader.

“The People’s Power”, the Communist Party and the mass organizations

The National Assembly of the People’s Assembly, Asamblea Nacional del Poder Popular, with one chamber, is formally the country’s top representative body. There are also elected bodies at the provincial and municipal level, municipio. The representatives are elected in the general and direct elections with voting age 16, where voters vote for individuals, not parties. The National Assembly has 612 members and is elected for five years. It normally has two sessions a year and otherwise works through the Cabinet, which starts from the Assembly. One also has a government (known as the Council of Ministers), whose members are elected by the National Assembly (or the Government). The head of the government is at the same time the country’s president and head of government, and the head of the ministerial council. There is usually a large degree of overlap in the membership between the two councils.

Cuba’s Communist Party, Partido Comunista de Cuba, is defined in the Constitution as the guiding force of society and the state, and exists independently of elections. The party emerged from a rally of several groups, including Fidel Castro’s revolutionary movement. It was formally established in 1965, several years after the revolution, but its power was very limited until the early 1970s. In order to become a member, one must usually be suggested by his closest colleagues in the workplace, and then go through a further approval process. The party’s formally supreme body is the Central Committee. Following the sixth party congress in April 2011, the Central Committee consists of 114 members. In fact, the power in the Politburo is 24 members.

When the National Assembly passes laws and budgets, it is expected to be based on the more general objectives set by the Communist Party.

Another important piece of the Cuban system is the so-called mass organizations, which act as a link between the party and the population. Examples are the trade union Confederación de Trabajadores de Cuba (CTC), the Federation of Women’s Federations of Mujeres Cubanas (FMC). But the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution, the Committees de Defensa de la Revolución(CDR) is perhaps the most distinctive Cuban institution. These were originally established in the early 1960s to monitor and combat threats to the revolution. These functions are still there, but the around 15,000 neighborhood committees are also participating in the election process, and are also expected to receive input from the population that is being transferred upward in the system. They also have a number of social tasks, such as cleaning and infection prevention in the housing cooperative and evacuation in the event of hurricanes.

All of the mass organizations have been criticized for most acting as tools for the party.

One mechanism to ensure communication between the rulers and the population, in a country where most of the media is controlled directly or indirectly by the Communist Party, is public inquiries. Such queries were carried out, among other things, in 2010–2011, in connection with the preparation of the party’s work plan. In such queries, meetings are typically arranged in the neighborhoods, at workplaces and places of study.

Although there is room for public debate within certain frameworks, the legislation does not allow the establishment of opposition organizations, and one can be punished for this. In practice, various system critical groups meet with everything from relative tolerance to serious reprisals: shorter prison stays, confiscation of material, surveillance, media suspension, lack of access to jobs, threats and/or use of violence.

The role of leaders

Fidel Castro was the country’s dominant leader from the revolution in 1959 until he became seriously ill in 2006. His personal imprint is emphasized by his five-year-old brother Raúl being the first vice president until he “temporarily” assumed the role of head of state and head of government in 2006. In February 2008, Raúl Castro was officially appointed to these positions by the National Assembly. Fidel Castro retained the post of First Secretary (top leader) of the state-carrying Communist Party until 2011, when Raúl Castro also took over this office, which is considered the country’s most important power position.

Under Fidel Castro, the policy was for a long period characterized by the charismatic leader’s ruling partly independent of the institutions, and partly dominated by them. Raúl Castro has chosen a somewhat more laid-back role, with fewer and shorter public appearances.


The political system has undergone changes, especially since the fall of the Soviet Union. Examples are that the Communist Party opened its doors to religious in 1991 and the amendment to the Electoral Act of 1992 which, among other things, means that the Communist Party may not participate in nomination processes for elected bodies. In recent years, under Raúl Castro, a reform process has taken place, which the government itself describes as an “update” of the model, to emphasize that the basic principles of the revolution are firm. It is mainly economic and provides an opening for small and medium-sized private companies in specific sectors, although the state is still dominant in the economy. The Communist Party’s power over society is therefore less total than in previous years. In addition, Raúl Castro has facilitated a somewhat more collective leadership and implemented some decentralization of decision-making authority (to, for example, state-owned enterprises and local authorities). He also proposed a restriction so that elected representatives can only sit for two five-year terms.

In April 2018, former Vice President Miguel Díaz-Canel was elected new president by a close unanimous National Assembly (minus one vote). At Díaz-Canel’s inauguration, the authorities also announced a constitutional process, and shortly thereafter, Parliament presented a draft that proposes that 70 percent of the Soviet-inspired constitution of 1976 may be amended, with the opening, among other things, for increased local autonomy and with promises on a “socialist rule of law”. A national referendum on the draft was arranged.

Raúl Castro has announced that in 2021 Díaz-Canel will also take over as first party secretary, although this must be formally approved in internal elections in the organization. So far, Díaz-Canel, like Raúl Castro, has had a relatively withdrawn role compared to Fidel Castro.


Following the political-administrative division of 2010, Cuba is divided into 15 provinces and 168 municipalities. Both the provinces and the municipalities are formally led by directly elected elections for the people, but in reality the policy is characterized by the president and secretary of each assembly – the only full-time members of the assembly. The Communist Party also has party bodies at the provincial and municipal level, and it has posed challenges to set clear boundaries between the tasks of the party on the one hand and the elected bodies on the other. Local self-government is very limited, but since 2008 more decision-making power has been transferred to the local level, including issues related to agriculture and housing policy.


The Supreme Court of the People is the highest court. It consists of five judiciary, the government and plenary. The judiciary consists of one criminal law, one civil and administrative law, one labor law, one state security law and one military law. These have from two to eight professional judges and from 32 to 64 judges. The Government Council consists of the President and the Vice President of the Supreme Court, as well as the President of each of the judiciary and the Attorney General. The Minister of Justice also has the right to attend. The Supreme Court is responsible to the National Assembly for the People’s Power. Through its government it can propose laws and promulgate regulations. In addition to the Supreme Court, there are provincial and local courts. Neither the courts nor the public prosecutor’s office can be said to be completely independent.

Cuba’s President

Cuba is a socialist republic where the Communist Party has a monopoly of power. Much of the roots of the current political system in Cuba lie in Fidel Castro’s takeover of power in 1959. In 2018, Miguel Díaz-Canel took over as the country’s president.

Formally, Cuba was a democracy from independence in 1902 to 1952, with the exception of Gerardo Machado’s dictatorship, which lasted from 1929 to 1933. After the former elected president Fulgencio Batista carried out a military coup in 1952, several armed resistance groups emerged, and on 1 January 1959 took a guerrilla movement led by Fidel Castro power and initiated a revolution which in 1961 declared socialist.

Presidents of Cuba since 1902

Year President
1902-1906 Tomás Estrada Palma
1906-1909 Occupied by the United States
1909-1913 José Miguel Gómez
1913-1921 Mario García Menocal
1921-1925 Alfredo Zayas and Alonso
1925-1933 Gerardo Machado de Morales
1933 Carlos Manuel de Céspedes y Ortiz
1933-1934 Ramón Grau San Martín
1934-1935 Carlos Mendieta
1935-1936 José A. The child and Vinageras
1936 Miguel Mariano Gómez y Arias
1936-1940 Federico Laredo Bridge
1940-1944 Fulgencio E. Batista y Zaldívar
1944-1948 Ramón Grau San Martín
1948-1952 Carlos Prío Socarrás
1952-1959 Fulgencio E. Batista y Zaldívar
1959 Manuel Urrutia
1959-1976 Osvaldo Dórticos Torrado
1976-2008 Fidel Castro Ruz
2008-2018 Raúl Castro Ruz
2018- Miguel Díaz-Canel

Cuba’s defense

Cuba’s defense consists of army, air force and navy. The President is the Chief of Defense. Cuba has a general duty of conscience for 2 years for all men from the age of 17, while women can sign up for service. Weapons and material derive mainly from old Soviet production. Cuba has few military relations with other countries, and has not had any significant participation in international operations and exercises for many years.

The total force figures for Cuba’s armed forces are 49,000 active personnel, with a reserve of 39,000 personnel (2018, IISS). In addition, there are 20,000 semi-military security forces and 6500 border guards, and about 1,120,000 semi-military reservists.


The army has a workforce of about 38,000 active personnel. Materials include about 900 tanks (of types T-34, T-54 and T-55 and T-62), an unknown number of light tanks of the PT-76 type, about 50 storm tanks, about 500 armored personnel vehicles, and about 40 self-propelled artillery. In addition, the army has heavy artillery, short range air defense missiles and light air defense artillery.

Air Force

The Air Force has a personnel force of about 8,000 active personnel. Materials include 33 fighter jets (28 MiG-23 and five MiG-29), 12 fighter aircraft of the MiG-21 type, one reconnaissance aircraft, 11 transport aircraft, 45 training aircraft (of which 25 L-39 Albatros which can also be used as light attack aircraft) and 14 helicopters, including four Mi-35 combat helicopters. In addition, the Air Force has medium range air defense missiles.

The Navy

The Navy has a workforce of 3,000 active personnel, including a naval infantry of about 550 personnel. The fleet comprises eight patrol vessels, five minesweepers and two auxiliary vessels. The coastal defense has heavy artillery and naval missiles.

Cuba’s national anthem

The national anthem is La Bayamesa with lyrics and melody by Pedro Felipe (“Perucho”) Figueredo. The tune was composed in 1867, first performed with newly written text during the Battle of Bayamo 1868 and officially accepted as a national anthem in 1902.

Cuba Head of Government

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