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Cuba Under Castro, Political and Economic Changes in the 1970s
COMECON, popular participation, personal influence, domestic issues, Castro
The political ramifications were just as sobering. The USSR agreed to provide financial assistance to Cuba, but it insisted that Castro create a Soviet-style bureaucracy that limited his personal influence on policy. The Communist Party assumed more authority and pushed for efficient economic practices. In 1972 Cuba became a member of the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (COMECON), the trade association of Communist nations. By the mid-1980s, the USSR accounted for 64 percent of Cuba’s exports and 62 percent of its imports.
Many experts predicted that the reforms demanded by the USSR would diminish Castro’s authority. Contrary to expectations, however, the new bureaucracy left Castro free to deal with political issues and international affairs. In 1976 Castro introduced a new constitution for Cuba, which allowed people a greater voice in choosing their leaders and approving legislation. Citizens elected representatives to local, provincial, and national assemblies. Representatives to the National Assembly selected a president, who had authority over the ministers who ran government departments. The assembly chose Castro as president.
The new constitution encouraged popular participation through large government-approved organizations. The Federation of Cuban Women, the Confederation of Cuban Workers, the Small Farmers’ National Organization, and the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution drew members from every occupational and social sector. These organizations were designed to allow the people to recommend policies to the central government. Conversely, the central government implemented policies by sending directives to citizens through these organizations. The government decided domestic issues regarding family law, education policies, child care, and gender after taking into consideration dialogues among people and between people and the government.
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