The Agrarian Reform Law implemented in Cuba on May 17, 1959, turns 64 today, I take advantage of the anniversary to mention three aspects: the violation of the declared objective, the connection with the Cuba–USA dispute, and the impact of both events on Cuban society.
In 1946, about 70% of the land in Cuba was not worked by its owners. In 1953, Fidel Castro announced at the trial following the attack on the Moncada Barracks that he would grant land ownership to all those who owned plots of land up to five caballerias. On October 10, 1958, on behalf of the rebel army command, he issued Law 3, through which he assignment of property to peasants who lived in less than five caballerias, With which, in the areas held by the rebel army, some property titles were assigned. And in 1959, once in government, he implemented legislation that limited private extensions to 30 caballerias and gave property rights to some 100,000 landless farmers.
The 1940 Constitution stated in its Article 24: “No one can be deprived of his property except by a competent judicial authority and for just cause of public utility or social interest and prior payment of the corresponding compensation in cash.” Article 87 recognized “the existence and legitimacy of private property in its broad concept of social work”, and Article 90 outlawed latifundia, limited the acquisition of land by foreign companies, and returned the land to the Cuban people. adopted measures to do so. However, the supplementary laws were never enacted.
Although The revolutionary government replaced the 1940 constitution with a fundamental law of the state. Articles 24, 87, and 90 became part of the constitutional laws by which the country was governed till 1976. Therefore, confiscations carried out after the agrarian reform of 1959—without competent judicial authority, public utility, true social interest, nor constitutionally established compensation—would be illegal.
US rejects bond payments to US companies that have seized land, noting that this does not constitute “adequate, prompt and effective compensation”. The method of action was also illegal. According to Cuban geographer Antonio Núñez Jiménez, then director of the National Institute of Agrarian Reform (INRA), Fidel Castro advised agrarian leaders that “when they are preparing to intervene in a farm, the law after the intervention should come and […] When deciding how many caballerias to leave to a landowner, they may have the criterion of leaving the 100 required by law if they farm well, but leaving 50 is better” (running with Fidel,
Dr. Armando Cañas Milanes, president of the banned Cuban Cattlemen’s Association, said at the time: “We have tried several times to discuss with Dr. Fidel Castro the points on which we disagree with the farm law. […]which we point out as slavery because it is not characteristic of our people, our democratic spirit, our customs […] The right to private property and free enterprise is undermined with an omnipresent and obtrusive state body”.
The confiscation of land from American companies gave the law a democratic and nationalistic character. However, in October 1963, with no more land in foreign hands, a second agrarian reform law was passed against medium-sized property in Cuban hands, which increased state land holdings to 70% and the unproductive socialist latifundia. Delivered. As a climax, the revolutionary offensive in March 1968 seized more than 55,000 small- and medium-sized businesses from the hands of Cubans, which demonstrated that the real—illegal—objectives went beyond the recovery of foreign assets: it was almost, and finally managed to wipe all the property out of the hands of Tha Cubans.
Agrarian Reform and Dispute with America
Before the issuance of the May 1959 law, on April 15 of that year, Fidel Castro traveled to the United States, where he stated that Cuba would follow a neutral policy and that it would maintain good relations with the northern country. “We need,” he said, “to develop our agriculture, in such a way that our farmers have money to buy industrial and manufactured products (…). That is why the economic foundation of our revolution is The program is based on the development of industry and the improvement of agriculture, in such a way that land that does not produce is put into production”.
however, As we have already seen, the Agrarian Law of May 1959 created friction between the governments of Cuba and the United States,
From that moment on, events can be summarized as the Cold War between the two great powers: the Soviet Union promised to buy 10% of Cuba’s sugar production and to supply the island with oil, a product that By the time it was acquired in America; American and British companies refused to refine it and Cuba ousted them; US reduces import of Cuban sugar; Cuba nationalized the remaining North American companies (August 1960); The US prohibited exports to Cuban territory – except for food and medicines – and President Eisenhower broke off diplomatic relations with the island (January 3, 1961). Later escalations included sponsoring the Bay of Pigs landing, the naval blockade of Cuba, the tightening of commercial and financial sanctions, the Torricelli and Helms-Burton laws, and the publication of a plan to “accelerate the transition to democracy”. in Cuba”, creating an independence fund, among other measures. In return, the Cuban government trained guerrillas to export the revolution, destroyed Cuban civil society, and participated in wars such as those in Angola and Ethiopia.
Disadvantages of trading with the world’s greatest economic and scientific power It was supplied by trade with countries of less economic, scientific, and technological development located thousands of miles away. This allowed it for 30 years—thanks to Soviet subsidies—to develop plans without an economy of its own and to circumvent the US embargo. Therefore, until 1992, having lost Soviet subsidies, Cuba did not submit the First censure motion against embargo from then on, he began to regard it as the cause of all the country’s difficulties, going so far as to consider it “one of the main obstacles to guaranteeing sexual rights in Cuba”.
Since external conflicts destroy internal conflicts, The Cuban government has used the controversy as an excuse to justify the absence of civil liberties and to prevent a resurgence of civil society.,
The more than six decades since then have shown how effective authoritarianism has been at maintaining power and avoiding any commitment to human rights. cannot be excluded for economic efficiency, and as a result, Cuba is immersed in the deepest structural crisis in its history.