A Guide to Legal Research in Cuba

By Yasmin Morais

Yasmin Morais is the Cataloging and Reference Librarian at the Mason Law Library, University of the District of Columbia. She was previously Resident Librarian at the Georgetown Law Library. Yasmin obtained her MSc in International Relations from the University of the West Indies (Mona) and her MLIS from the University of Toronto. She is pursuing her LLB degree at the University of London.

Published June 2015
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Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. Country Data

3. A Brief History

4. The Cuban Constitution

5. Government

5.1. Executive Branch

5.2. Legislative Branch

5.3. Judicial Branch

6. Primary Legal Resources

7. Secondary Legal Resources

7.1. Government Websites

7.2. Law Schools and Law-Related Associations

7.3. Libraries

7.4. Books

7.5. Journals

7.6. Newspapers

7.7. Blogs

8. General Sources

1.      Introduction

This research guide was created to assist with researching Cuban Law. This is an interesting period for Cuban law and politics. In December 2014, the United States moved to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba. By January 2015, the Obama Administration announced new rules to ease trade and travel restrictions. The April 2015 Summit of the Americas in Panama marked the first meeting in over 50 years between leaders of the United States and Cuba. Visit the White House website to access documents relating to US-Cuba developing relations. Cuba is currently a member of the United Nations, the Non-Aligned Movement, and the Association of Caribbean States. Cuba has also over the years maintained strong ties to member states of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). As of May/June 2015, the key diplomatic developments are the removal of Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism; plans to re-establish an embassy in Cuba in the next few months; expansion of travel to Cuba (ferry service was approved); expanded commercial sales/exports from the United States; increasing access to communication for Cubans.

2.      Country Data

The Republic of Cuba is an island state located in the northwestern Caribbean. In addition to the mainland, there is territorial claim to the Isla de Juventud (Isle of Youth), and several other smaller islets. Havana, located in the northwestern section of the island, is the capital, and Cuba’s largest city. The United States, The Bahamas and Turks and Caicos Islands are north of Cuba, while Haiti and the Dominican Republic are east, and Jamaica and the Cayman Islands are south of the island. Cuba’s total land mass is 109,886 kilometers. Cuba is divided into 14 provinces and 169 municipalities. At the end of the 2013 census, Cuba’s population was approximately 11.2 million. The official currency is the peso.

3.      A Brief History

Spanish settlement and colonization of Cuba began after the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1492. San Cristobal de Habana (present day Havana), was founded in 1515. France briefly seized control of Cuba from the Spanish in 1555. Cuba’s desire for independence from Spain resulted in three phases of struggle: the Ten Year’s War, (1868-1878); a smaller conflict (1879-1880), and the Cuban War of Independence (1895-1898). The intervention of the United States in the conflict in 1898 resulted in a three-month war with Spain, known as the Spanish American War which was ended by the Treaty of Paris.

As a result of the Platt Amendment, the United States occupied Cuba in 1906-1909, 1917, and 1921. The 1930s and 1940s saw the rise of dictatorships under Presidents Gerardo Machado and Carlos Manual Cespedes, and a brief revolution which brought Fulgencio Batista to power. After brief periods of democracy under Presidents Grau San Martin and Carlos Prio Socarras, Fulgencio Batista again led a coup d’état in 1952, and assumed power.

On January 1, 1959, Fidel Castro Ruz, leading the 26 th of July Movement, ( Movimiento 26 de Julio ), seized power in the Cuban Revolution, ushering in a one-party communist system of government. In October 1960, the United States imposed an embargo on Cuba and ended diplomatic relations in 1961. After failed attempts to oust Castro, such as the Bay of Pigs Invasion, heightened US-Cuba tensions resulted in The Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962 as Cuba moved closer to the former Soviet Union. In 1996, the United States Congress passed the Helms-Burton Act, which introduced tougher sanctions against Cuba, including sanctions against third-party states, companies or individuals engaged in commerce with Cuba. In July 2006, an ailing Fidel Castro transferred power to his brother, Raul Castro Ruz.

4.      The Cuban Constitution

Since attaining independence from Spain, Cuba has been governed by four constitutions: the 1901, 1934, 1940 and 1976. The present Cuban Constitution of 1976 was amended in 2002. For more details on the Cuban Constitution, see the Law Library of Congress Cuba Profile .

5.      Government

5.1.   Executive Branch

Cuba’s sole political party is the Cuban Communist Party, the PCC ( Partido Comunista de Cuba ). Raul Castro Ruz was elected President of the Council of State and President of the Council of Ministers at the most recent elections held in February 2013. Miguel Diaz-Canel Burmudez is First Vice President of the Council of State and First Vice President of the Council of Ministers. The Cabinet consists of Council of Members who are proposed by the President of the Council of State and appointed by the National Assembly of People’s Power ( Asamblea Nacional del Poder Popular). For more details on the structure of government and current ministers, see the Government of Cuba website.

5.2.   Legislative Branch

Under the Cuban Constitution, legislative power rests with the unicameral National Assembly of People’s Power , which has approximately 614 seats. The National Assembly meets twice each year and is responsible for appointing the members of the Council of State. For more information on the National Assembly, see the Government of Cuba Official Website .

5.3.   Judicial Branch

The People’s Supreme Court, ( Tribunal Supremo Popular ) is headquartered in Havana, and exercises jurisdiction for the entire Republic. It consists of a Court President, Vice-President, 41 professional justices, and lay judges. Justices are elected by the National Assembly for 2 ½ year terms, and lay judges are appointed to serve 5-year terms. There are also provincial courts, municipal courts and military courts.

6.     Primary Legal Resources

·        Codigo Civil (Civil Code)

·        Codigo De Familia (Family Law)

·        Codigo Penal (Penal Code)

·        Compendio de la Legislación Cubana at the Tribunal Supremo Popular (Compendium of the Cuban Legislation)

·        CubaWeb

·        International Treaties (See Cuba’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs Website)

·        Gaceta Oficial de la Republic de Cuba (Official Gazette of the Republic of Cuba)

7.      Secondary Legal Resources

7.1.   Government Websites

·        CubaMinRex: Ministry of Foreign Affairs

·        CubaWeb

·        Government of Cuba Official Website

·        National Statistics Office

·        Tribunal Supremo Popular (Supreme Court)

·        Justicia y Derecho. Revista Cubana del Tribunal Supremo Popular

7.2.   Law Schools and Law-Related Associations

·        Universidad de Camaguey

·        Universidad Central de Las Villas

·        Universidad de LaHabana

·        Universidad de Oriente

·        Organizacion Nacional de Bufetes Colectivos (National Organization of Collective Firms)

7.3.   Libraries

·        Biblioteca Nacional De Jose Marti

·        Friends of Cuban Libraries (Maintains a list of Cuban libraries and reports on intellectual freedom in Cuba)

7.4.   Books

  • Chomsky, Aviva.  A History of the Cuban Revolution. 2 nd ed.: Wiley-Blackwell, 2015.
  • Chomsky, Aviva. The Cuba Reader: History, Culture, Politics. Duke University Press Books, 2004.
  • Evenson, Debra. Law and Society in Contemporary Cuba. 2nd ed. Kluwer Law, 2003.
  • Farber, Samuel. Cuba since the Revolution of 1959: A Critical Assessment. Haymarket Books, 2011.
  • Farber, Samuel. The Origins of the Cuban Revolution Reconsidered. University of North Carolina Press, 2006.
  • Garibaldi, Oscar M. Expropriated Properties in a Post-Castro Cuba: Two Views. Miami Institute for Cuban and Cuban American Studies, University of Miami, 2003.
  • Gott, Richard. Cuba: A New History. Yale University Press, 2005
  • Guerra, Lillian. Visions of Power in Cuba: Revolution, Redemption and Resistance, 1959-1971 . University of North Carolina Press, 2014.
  • LeoGrande, William M. & Kornbluh, Peter. Back Channel to Cuba: The Hidden History of Negotiations between Washington and Havana. University of North Carolina Press, 2014.
  • Perez-Stable, Marifeli (editor). Looking Forward: Comparative Perspectives on Cuba’s Transition. University of Notre Dame Press, 2007.
  • Joaquin Roy. Cuba, the United States and the Helms-Burton Doctrine: International Reactions. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2000.
  • Staten, Clifford L. The History of Cuba. Palgrave Macmillan, 2005.
  • Sweig, Julia E. Cuba: What Everyone Needs to Know . Oxford University Press, 2012
  • Nigel D. White. The Cuban Embargo under International Law: El Bloqueo .  Routledge, 2015.
  • Marjorie Zatz. Producing Legality: Law and Socialism in Cuba (After the Law). Routledge, 1994.

7.5.   Journals

Below are links to both subscription-based and open source journals which regularly publish articles on Cuba.

·        Cuban Studies (Project Muse)

·        Foreign Affairs

·        Inter-American Dialogue Latin America Advisor

·        International Journal of Cuban Studies

·        World Affairs

7.6.   Newspapers

·      Agencia Cubana de Noticias

·      Cubadebate

·      El Economista De Cuba

·      Granma

·      Miami Herald

·      Trabajadores

·      Tribuna De La Habana

7.7.   Blogs

·        Cuba Study Group

·        Generacion Y

·        Jurisconsultocuba

·        The Cuban Economy

·        Translating Cuba (This blog provides English translations of writings from Cuba)

8.     General Sources

·        Amnesty International

·        Association of Caribbean States (ACS)

·        Caribbean Community (CARICOM)

·        Council on Foreign Relations

·        CubaLex

·        CubaNet

·        International Institute for the Study of Cuba

·        Library of Congress Cuba Law Page

·        Organization of American States (OAS)