Cuba’s Isle of Youth Wants its Political and Administrative Status Defined

Isla de la Juventud in Red

HAVANA TIMES – Including the Constitution that is currently being debated today under the Cuban Communist Party’s (PCC) watch, Cuba will have had 4 Constitutions in 118 years, none of which have clearly defined the Isle of Youth’s (previously Isle of Pines) administrative and territorial status as part of the Cuban archipelago. Pineros are worried, as lawyer Miguel Angel Palencia Hernandez reveals from Cuba’s second most important island:

“The Constitution needs to establish the Isle of Youth’s special status because it isn’t a province, but it isn’t a municipality in the correct sense of the word either. Thus, any attempt to subordinate it to another province, with the consequences this leads to, will be avoided. Today, many government bodies on the Isle of Youth have been mainly subordinated to Mayabeque province and we are suffering from the negative consequences that this has given rise to. According to the draft Constitution, because the Isle of Youth is a municipality without a province and doesn’t have a Governor, it is excluded and lacks any direct ties to executive and legislative powers, as well as the Presidency.”

The lawyer, an expert in international law and graduate from the Lomonosov Moscow State University, offers a concrete suggestion:

“It has to be granted its own legal status, autonomy and other rights as if it were a province.”

He explains the root of such a legal anormality:

“For that matter, this territory’s chequered history weighs heavily, especially ever since the Republic was founded.”

What does History say?

In 1901, the first Cuban Republic constitution came to light, mediated by a US law passed by Congress, known as the Platt Amendment, which was an appendix and a compulsory part of the Cuban Constitution.  Everybody knows full well about this interventionist monstrosity, but people don’t know so much about Article 6. which states: “That the Isle of Pines shall be omitted from the proposed constitutional boundaries of Cuba, the title thereto being left to future adjustment by treaty.”

Cuba’s geography and history were omitted. Cuba isn’t an island, it’s an archipelago which the Isle of Pines forms a part of, plus the history of its 2200 km2 is directly linked to the largest island in the Caribbean.

However, the Isle of Pines was in fact administered as if it were a municipality that was subordinated to the Havana province. By law, sovereignty of the Isle of Pines was finally endorsed to Cuba in 1925.

It held onto its status as a municipality until well into the Revolutionary period, when in 1976, a new political and administrative department was created and it gave rise to the “Special Municipality of the Isle of Youth” (as the island was baptised in 1978), along with the 14 newly-created provinces.

Isla de la Juventud

New vagaries came when Fidel Castro proposed to transform this unique piece of Cuban land into Cuba’s First Communist Region. In fact, the vague condition of “region” arose without any law being passed, a special administration which was rather subordinated to the Supreme Leader’s will, with scarce intervention from provincial authorities.

The Communist dream was based on 64 rural high schools and further education centers, with approximately 22,000 students from 30 third-world countries. At that time, every Head of State or Government who visited Cuba, except for one or two, ended up admiring the preface to the Communist future that Fidel Castro had designed…

That was until Gorbachev came with his suitcases full of papers that read Glasnost and Perestroika, which was not pleasant news in Havana’s Revolution Square at all. The Berlin Wall fell, three Slavic leaders set out the terms of the end of the Soviet Union in the Belavezha forest; in Cuba, the Isle of Youth lost its importance of yesteryear as international grants slowly disappeared, which were funded by subsidies from the Soviet Bloc that collapsed.

Without losing its legal status, the second biggest island in the Cuban archipelago, returned to the sidelines it had been delegated to in previous centuries, ever since Colombus discovered the Americas. No longer a priority, pineros are afraid about their uncertain fate. The Supreme Leader will no longer come with his whimsical fancies which granted residents here a higher quaity of life than the national average for a brief decade.

At the very least they are hoping that an article in the new Constitution sets out their right to be treated differently, special, without which they will be forgotten in the face of today’s critical situation, its pompous name being lost in History (received with applause and enthusiasm one fine morning, 40 years ago).

Will the fourth constitution of the Cuban Republic be drizzle on wet soil or will it be a hurricane of change that not only pineros are in need of?

Hope really is the last thing you lose.

Vicente Morin Aguado: [email protected]