Cuban Government

Since all-time Cuban head of state Fidel Castro passed the torch to his younger brother Raúl, Cuba is gradually undergoing a transformation. Notable examples are the reforms in Cuba´s bureaucracy, the easing off of state interference in the economy, and a more compromising foreign policy.

Unthinkable only a few years ago, a Cuban citizen may now own a cellphone and under certain conditions may start a private business. However, things change slowly in what is one of the world´s last Communist regimes and one shouldn´t expect radical changes anytime soon.

The Cuban government structure is organised as follows: the executive consists of the Council of State and the Council of Ministers. Both councils are presided over by Raúl Castro, Fidel´s younger brother, since February 2008. Hence, he bears the title of chief of state as well as that of head of government. In addition, Raúl Castro is the Commander in Chief of Cuba´s Armed Forces.


The President and Vice-President are elected by the National Assembly for a five-year term. Once elected, the President together with the Council of State proposes the Council of Ministers, which in turn requires the approval of parliament.

Parliament, or the legislative branch, is elected once every five years during non-compulsory elections that see turnouts of about 95%. Each of the 614 seats represent a proportional percentage of the total population. The Communist Party of Cuba (PCC) is Cuba´s governing and for long only political party in parliament and, no surprise there, presided over by its First Secretary: Raúl Castro.

Finally, the judiciary consists of the People´s Supreme Court whose president, vice-president, and judges are elected by the National Assembly. It is often criticized for not being independent and in fact subordinate to the other two branches of government.

Cuba´s government and its policies are often subject of much debate. Whereas one could define Cuban government as a strong-minded administration pursuing its praiseworthy socialist ideals, another would say Castro´s regime is a downright tyranny. As is often the case, the truth probably lies somewhere in between these two opposite extremes.


The dichotomy surfaces in every aspect of Cuban life. For example, the Cuban education system imparts free learning and its working population is generally highly educated. However, at the same time many Cubans are ridiculously over-qualified as one might often earn more in tips serving drinks to tourists than, for example, as a medical practitioner. At the same time, it is difficult for a Cuban citizen to leave the island in search of a better salary.

Or consider the fact that the Cuban healthcare system seeks to guarantee certain basic needs, whereas at the same time many hospitals lack the necessary tools and equipment to meet those needs in a meaningful way.


A final example concerns the fact that in Cuba the arts are not considered to be commodities reserved only for those who can afford them, but instead are made accessible to everyone by government decree. Even the smallest provincial town harbours at least one ¨Casa de Cultura¨ where art and culture are brought to the people completely free of charge. Simultaneously, government organizations oversee the work of artists and writers and do not appear to be very tolerant of dissident opinion. In other words, artistic expression is both funded and controlled by Cuban government.

Throw in the mix such political hot potatoes as a continuing trade embargo imposed by the United States, the United Nations´ reproach of that same embargo, Cubans in exile that seek to topple the Castro government in any way they can, international organizations that criticize Cuban government for possible human rights violations, and it becomes clear that there is more than one way to go about a discussion on Cuban government.

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