Cuba in the 1970’s and 1980’s

By | December 16, 2021

The 1970s saw a gradual institutionalization of the Cuban political system which, after the revolution, had maintained a provisional and relatively informal character: since 1959, pending a new constitution (that of 1940 had been replaced by a Ley fundamental), an organ main of the state power was the Council of Ministers, chaired by F. Castro, whose role of leader charismatic was accompanied by a direct mobilization of the masses, called to participate in political life above all through the Committees for the defense of the revolution. Beginning in 1970 the organizational structure, hitherto very weak, of the Partido Comunista Cubano (PCC) was developed, whose members grew from just over 50,000 in 1969 to over 200,000 in 1975. In December 1975 the first congress of the CCP adopted statutes and program of the single party and re-elected F. Castro as first secretary; the congress also voted on a project for the new constitution of the country which, approved by a popular referendum, entered into force in February 1976.

The new constitution, which declares Cuba a socialist state, establishes as basic organs of people’s power 169 municipal assemblies, whose members, elected by universal suffrage every two and a half years, in turn elect the National Assembly every five years, supreme body of the state and holder of the legislative power. In the intervals between the sessions of the National Assembly, its functions are carried out by the Council of State, which the Assembly elects from among its own members. The president of the council of state (head of state) also chairs the council of ministers, holder of executive power and accountable to the national assembly. The leading role of the Communist Party is enshrined in the constitution. For Cuba 2008, please check

After the election of the Municipal Assemblies (October 1976) and of the National Assembly (inaugurated in December) F. Castro was elected President of the Council of State, joining this office to those, already held, of President of the Council of Ministers, secretary of the CCP and Supreme Commander of the Revolutionary Armed Forces.

These offices were regularly reconfirmed by successive party congresses (1980, 1986) and after the electoral consultations of 1981 and 1986, while the institutionalization process of the regime strengthened the position of Fidel’s brother, Raúl, vice-president of the State Council since 1976., vice president of the council of ministers, deputy secretary of the CCP and minister of the Revolutionary Armed Forces.

In foreign policy, Cuba’s gradual reintegration into the Latin American context, which began in the 1970s, was accompanied by an extension of his role in the Third World, within the framework of close ties with the USSR; president of the movement of non-aligned countries between 1979 and 1982, F. Castro supported the thesis of the “natural alliance” between them and the “socialist camp”, leading the group more favorable to the Soviet Union. In connection with Moscow, Cuba intervened massively in Africa, sending troops to Ethiopia (1977), in support of the Addis Ababa government in the war against Somalia and subsequently against the various separatist movements, and especially in Angola, where he contributed to the victory. of the MPLA (Popular Movement de Libertaçâo de Angola) in the civil war of 1976. In the following years, however, the persistence of the UNITA guerrilla (Uniâo Nacional para a Independência Total de Angola), supported by Pretoria and Washington, and the heavy forays of South Africa into Angolan territory forced the Havana to maintain large forces in the country to ensure the defense of the Luanda government. Relations with the United States, after a relative improvement during the Carter presidency, worsened again in the 1980s, mainly due to the Central American crisis, in which Cuba, who supported Nicaragua Sandinista, repeatedly expressed his support for the initiatives peace of the Contadora group (Mexico, Panama, Colombia and Venezuela).

The exodus to the US of over 120,000 Cuban dissidents in 1980 represented a further factor of friction between the two countries, also in relation to Washington’s subsequent attempts to send back to the island some thousands of ” undesirables ”, common criminals or affected by mental illness. On the other hand, relations with the Catholic Church underwent a marked improvement, in particular after the trip to Cuba of Mother Teresa of Calcutta in July 1986.

Dependence on the USSR remained very high, which, together with other COMECON countries, continued to purchase most of Cuban exports and to ensure essential supplies to the island. Despite the aid from Moscow, the worsening of the international economic situation in the 1980s affected the trend of the external accounts, causing a lowering of the rate of development and the introduction of austerity measures.

In an attempt to cope with economic difficulties and to eliminate the phenomena of corruption manifested in some sectors of the state apparatus, the government of Havana decided, starting from 1986, to strengthen the role of centralized planning and to privilege moral mobilization. and citizen policy with respect to market mechanisms and material incentives to production experienced in previous years. These measures were accompanied by a vast renewal of political and administrative frameworks and the formulation, also in the international field, of “radical” proposals, such as the cancellation of the foreign debt of Third World countries. Particular uproar, in the context of the campaign against corruption, caused the scandal that exploded in 1989, when two ministers and numerous senior officers were tried for drug trafficking and embezzlement; among the four soldiers sentenced to death and shot in July was the popular A. Ochoa Sánchez, former commander of the Cuban forces in Angola.

Cuba’s progressive rapprochement with other Latin American countries was confirmed in the official visits of F. Castro to Ecuador (August 1988; the first in South America since the 1971 trip to Chile by Allende), to Mexico (December 1988), in Venezuela (February 1989) and Brazil (March 1990), on the occasion of the respective installation of the new presidents of the Republic; further successes in foreign policy were the establishment of diplomatic relations with the EEC in September 1988 and the election of Cuba to the UN Security Council for the two-year period 1990-91.

The commitment of Havana in the African continent, despite the reduction to 5000 men in 1984 and 2000 in 1988 of the troops sent to Ethiopia, remained very onerous until the end of the 1980s: in fact, the presence in Angola remained conspicuous, where Cuban forces (about 50,000 men in 1988) waged violent fighting against the South African army – in particular, their role was decisive in early 1988 in repelling a massive offensive in Pretoria (Battle of Cuito Canavale) – helping to put the preconditions for an unblocking of peace negotiations. The agreement reached in December 1988 between Angola, Cuba and South Africa, with the mediation of the United States, and formally signed by the three states on December 22 in the United Nations building in New York, finally, it allowed for the gradual withdrawal of Cuban troops from Angola in January 1989; to this withdrawal, which ended in May 1991, they were ” linked ” (according to the US formula of linkage) the end of the South African occupation of Namibia and the consequent independence of the former German colony (reached March 21, 1990). The withdrawal from Ethiopia had been completed in the fall of 1989.

The late 1980s saw an increase in economic difficulties, also in relation to the fall in international oil prices which, obtained from Moscow (in quantities exceeding Havana’s needs) at political prices and re-exported at market prices, had generated for Cuba a major source of foreign currency. A further increase in dependence on the USSR and on the other COMECON countries followed (both in terms of trade and foreign debt), while the reforms introduced by Gorbachev and the upheavals that occurred in 1989 in Eastern Europe tended to call into question the policy of aid and preferential agreements between the member states of the organization and to replace them with relations based on the free market. Despite the fact that during Gorbačëv’s visit to Cuba dell ‘ April 1989 (the first at the highest level after that of Brezhnev in 1974) a twenty-five-year treaty of friendship and cooperation with the USSR was stipulated, subsequent international events accentuated Havana’s concerns and dissent towards the new Soviet policy, also in relation to the persistent tension with Washington (which maintained the embargo against Cuba) and the renewed US leadership in Central America (invasion of Panama in December 1989, followed in February by the defeat of the Sandinistas in the elections in Nicaragua). This dissent also manifested itself, during the Persian Gulf crisis, in Cuba’s vote against, within the UN Security Council, on some of the resolutions agreed between the superpowers, and in particular no. 678 of 29 November 1990,

The dissolution of COMECON in 1991 accentuated the preponderant weight of economic relations with the USSR, which, while renewing the bilateral agreements with Cuba at the end of 1990, reduced their expiry to one year (compared to the previous five) and initiated a radical revision of it; these developments seem destined to aggravate the difficulties of Havana, which since 1990 has enacted rationing measures for basic necessities. In September 1991, Moscow announced its decision to withdraw its military advisers from Cuba, while the US reiterated its refusal to return Guantánamo, where it has established a naval base since 1903.

Cuba in the 1970's