Short for CU by Abbreviationfinder, Cuba is one of the last one-party states in the world. The constitution, which is designed according to a Soviet model, states that Cuba’s Communist Party should play the leading role in society and the state. No other parties are allowed. Anyone who opposes the system risks harassment and, in the worst case, prison.
The Communist Party (Partido Comunista de Cuba, PCC) controls and directs all governing bodies from the government down to the municipal council. The party also appoints all managers within the administration, at state-owned enterprises and at a number of social functions such as hospitals and universities.
- Countryaah: Total population and chart of Cuba for years of 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023 and 2024. Also covers population density, birth rate, death rate and population growth rates.
The Communist Party’s highest body is the party congress. The delegates at the congress elect a central committee of 115 members. They in turn appoint a 15-member police bureau.
According to the constitution, the highest power is held by Parliament, the National Assembly, but it has in fact limited influence and only meets a couple of times a year to push through the government’s bill. The real power lies with the Government with 31 members. The Prime Minister’s chair is the head of state, head of government and commander-in-chief. The members of the Council are appointed by the National Assembly after ordinary parliamentary elections.
Elections to the National Assembly are held every five years. All candidates must be approved in advance by the party and there is only one candidate for each term. Candidates must win more than 50 percent of the vote in their constituency. If this fails, a new candidate must be appointed and a new round of elections held.
Voters can to some extent express their will by voting blank / leaving invalid votes or deleting any of the proposed names (each ballot includes several mandates and names). The party has previously carried out major mobilization campaigns to get the Cubans to actively vote for the proposals, the so-called unanimous vote, but before the 2013 parliamentary elections, mobilization failed for the first time. As much as 25 percent then chose not to support the party’s proposal. In the 2018 election, the share was close to 20 percent. At the same time, turnout has decreased. In 1998, more than 98 percent of Cubans went to the polls. At the 2018 election, the share had dropped to just over 83 percent.
In the municipal elections held every two and a half years, there is more than one candidate for each seat, but all are appointed at party-supervised neighborhood meetings in each constituency. Previously, candidates were required to be party members, but at the 2015 local elections independent candidates were allowed for the first time if they received enough votes at the nomination meetings. The change hardly impacted on the 2015 local elections, but when the procedure was repeated in 2017, the opposition tried to bring forward several hundred people who could be described as either independent or opposition. The government responded by discrediting and disqualifying opposition candidates in various ways. Some were temporarily imprisoned so that they could not attend the nomination meetings. None of the opposition candidates succeeded in being nominated.
The task of the municipal assemblies is to elect delegates to the provincial assemblies and the national assembly.
Cuba is divided into 14 provinces and 169 municipalities. The island of Isla de Juventud has a special status and is governed by the central government.
At the local level, the Communist Party, through so-called Committees for the Defense of the Revolution , controls the task of overseeing “anti-social behavior”, that is, opposition activities. The committees will also cooperate against common crime and coordinate social campaigns, such as for vaccinations and cleaning of public places.
The party has also created mass organizations for workers, young people, women, farmers and so on. The organizations serve as a forum for spreading the government’s message in broad layers.
Politically, Cuba is divided between those who are still faithful to the ideal of the revolution and a growing proportion of the population hoping for a development towards greater political and economic freedom. The dissatisfaction is especially great among young people who have no memories of the oppression and poverty before the revolution of 1958–1959. For this group, improved living conditions are more important than demands for democratic reform.
The right to organize is severely restricted. The opposition is divided into several hundred small groups that are opposed and persecuted. Security forces, or gangs acting on behalf of the party, regularly break up meetings and protests organized by opposition groups. Activists are threatened, beaten, imprisoned, at risk of losing their jobs and prevented from traveling abroad.
Several of the opposition groups are dedicated to documenting the regime’s violation of human rights. The most well-known organization is Ladies in White. The women gather at a church service on Sundays and then conduct a silent march in protest of their relatives being imprisoned on political grounds. The manifestation is often interrupted by the police who arrest the participants for a few hours before being released again.
# Otro18, Candidates for Change, and Pinero’s Autonomous Party are other examples of opposition groups.
Throughout the years, Cuba has been repeatedly criticized by the UN and the EU for the persecution of dissent, and the country has refused to allow any inspectors with the mission to review the situation. However, at the beginning of 2008, Cuba signed two basic UN human rights conventions.
In 2010, the majority of the opposites arrested in 2003 were released (see Modern History). That same year, one of the country’s best-known regime critics, 42-year-old Orlando Zapata, passed away after 85 days of hunger strike. Zapata, who had been incarcerated since 2003, refused to eat in protest of the prison conditions. In Cuba, the prisons are characterized by overcrowding, inadequate sanitary conditions and insufficient access to health care. In early 2012, another hunger-striking dissident and prisoner, Wilman Villar, passed away.
According to the Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN), the authorities changed tactics after 2010. Instead of condemning opposition to prison for a long time, the police engaged in arbitrary short-term arrests in greater numbers. In 2017, the CCDHRN reported that the organization has documented over 51,800 arrests on political grounds since 2010.
Judging from the surveys conducted by the Transparency International organization each year, Cuba belongs to the less corrupt countries in the region, but corruption is prevalent, especially in the tourism sector. Waste of public funds is another problem. Under Raúl Castro, who was president from 2006 to 2018, the fight against corruption intensified, and he brought to life a sleepy national audit firm with the task of reviewing the accounts of public institutions. The agency’s initial investigations revealed major shortcomings and difficulties when government employees working in top-tier institutions would adapt to the new accounting rules. In the agency’s annual report for 2016, Chief Gladys Bejerano, (called the Lady of Iron), wrote that the losses that the agency discovered in 2015 alone amounted to the equivalent of five million US dollars. It was about IT equipment, fuel, building materials, tires and spare parts and more that have come to rest. The Ministry of Agriculture, the Department of Commerce and the administration in Havana were identified as the worst culprits.
During the campaign against corruption, some senior officials have been prosecuted, convicted and imprisoned. Lower-level corruption in the system has been more difficult to access.
The courts are under the influence of the Communist Party and help to maintain the system by judging and punishing oppositionists. The laws make it possible to convict people for vaguely defined crimes such as “creation of general disorder” and “lack of respect for authorities”.
The Supreme Court is subordinate to the National Assembly, which appoints and dismisses judges. There is no constitutional court that can repeal laws that violate the Constitution.
Regarding common criminal and civil cases, the legal system functions as a traditional legal system.
Cuba has formally retained the death penalty, but no executions have been carried out since 2003 when three people were arched for hijacking a passenger ferry to flee to the United States.