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Cuba nationalizes U.S. companies

Fidel 55 años atrasAs an aggressive move against the Cuban people in 1960, U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s administration reduced Cuba’s sugar quota – the market share allotted to Cuba. ( – Spanish). Congress awarded the President the authority to make such a decision, allowing him to use regulatory mechanisms for the purpose of coercion and reprisals against the Cuban Revolution.

At the time, Fidel made clear that the action was intended to “undermine our country’s economy, defeat us with hunger, and subjugate our people.”

Just as had been warned, in accordance with decisions made by the U.S., the Revolutionary Government’s Council of Ministers approved the Nationalization Law, which, in its first article authorized the President of the Republic and the Prime Minister “to order jointly, through resolutions, when they consider appropriate for the defense of national interest, the nationalization via obligatory expropriation of property and companies owned by individuals or incorporated entities of the United States of America, and companies with interests or participation of such persons, regardless of their constitution in accordance with Cuban laws.” [1]


On the afternoon of August 6, 1960, every seat in the bleachers of the Cerro Stadium – now the Latinoamericano – was full, with tens of thousands of Havana residents, representing the entire Cuban people, and hundreds of youth attending the First Latin American Youth Congress. Once it was announced that Fidel would be speaking at the event’s final session about a new revolutionary law, crowds began to gather at the stadium.

Suffering from a touch of laryngitis, Fidel began his speech reviewing the history of Latin America, noting elements which unite the peoples despite efforts of U.S. imperialism to sow division.

He was addressing the precarious situation in which Latin Americans live, and the ideas which made the Cuban Revolution possible, when suddenly he lost his voice.

At this dramatic moment – with the people asking Fidel to rest, and he continuing to make an effort to speak – Raúl took the floor and called for calm.

“It is no accident that this should happen at a time which is historic for Cuba and our America, the true one. This is not about fate or a question of bad omens. This is simply a slight reverse, of little importance, because he has lost his voice for a moment, but there he is, and there he will be!

“… at this moment, he is suffering and we all suffer, because of the magnificent statements he was making… to the people and our America, about the conquests we have made. It is a glory only he can convey! So, we are not going to be very extensive, or keep you waiting long, anxious to hear the reason for this meeting… We will read these revolutionary laws, what we have here today.” [2]

Raúl immediately began reading Law no. 851, dated July 6, 1960. As he finished the first ‘Given,’ to everyone’s great joy, he stopped reading to announce that he had bad news for U.S. imperialism, Fidel’s voice had returned.
He asked the crowd to wait just five minutes and to cooperate with “Fidel speaking very softly and you all silent.” He then called for the singing of the national anthem.


After an emotional rendition of the national anthem led by Juan Almeida, everyone took their place. Fidel returned to the microphone to read the Nationalization Law in its entirety:

“Given that, in the development of said Law, considered was the attitude of constant aggression against the fundamental interests of the Cuban economy which has been assumed by the government and legislative powers of the United States of North America, as evidenced by the amendment to the Sugar Law approved by that country’s Congress, in which exceptional authority was granted to the President of that country to reduce the participation of Cuban sugar producers in the aforementioned country’s sugar market, as a weapon of political action against Cuba.

“Given that, the executive of the United States of North America’s government, making use of said exceptional powers, in a clear attitude of economic and political aggression toward our country, has proceeded to reduce the participation of Cuban sugar producers in the U.S. sugar market, with the unquestionable purpose of damaging Cuba, its development and revolutionary process.

“Given that this act constitutes a repetition of the ongoing conduct of the United States of North American government, directed toward denying our people the right to exercise its sovereignty and its comprehensive development, thus reflecting the despicable interests of U.S. monopolies which have hampered the growth of our economy, and the expression of our political freedom.”

Thus Fidel continued reading the ‘Givens’ which explained how the Revolutionary Government, faced with such actions, conscious of its historical responsibility and in legitimate defense of the national economy, was obliged to take the necessary measures to counteract the damage caused to our country by this aggression. In accordance with our laws and the exercise of our sovereignty, this law is promulgated, “as a decision justified by the nation’s need to compensate for the damage to its economy, and affirm the consolidation of the country’s economic independence.”

Justified in the ‘Givens’ was the legitimacy of nationalizing the extortionist, exploitative monopolies which had drained the national economy and mocked the people’s interests; the sugar companies which had appropriated the country’s best lands, under the protection of the Platt Amendment; and the oil companies which had continually bled the nation’s economy charging exorbitant monopoly prices and mounted a boycott of Cuba – thus forcing the Revolutionary Government to take action.

After declaring that it was “the duty of the peoples of Latin America to undertake the recuperation of our national resources, removing them from the domination of foreign monopolies which impede our progress, promote political intervention, and disregard the sovereignty of its peoples,” Fidel reiterated that the Cuban Revolution would not stop until the complete, definitive independence of the homeland was won.

Finally Fidel said, “Exercising the powers with which we have been invested, in accordance with the stipulations of Law no. 851, dated July 6, 1960, Be it resolved…”


“Number 1: Ordered is the nationalization, via obligatory expropriation, and the consequent adjudication to the Cuban state, in full, of property and enterprises located in national territory, and the rights and stocks emerging from the exploitation of these properties, and companies which are owned by incorporated entities from the United States, and those operating companies in which citizens of that country have predominant interest, identified below …”


The response to Fidel’s listing of the 26 companies to be nationalized will never be forgotten . The reading of every one of the names was followed by applause and thousands of voices spontaneously shouting, “It was called!” With this simple phrase, those present reaffirmed their support for the decision.

Thus, on August 6, 1960, nationalized were the businesses and properties of the national telephone and electricity companies; Texaco, Esso and Sinclair oil companies; and the 36 sugar mills owned by U.S. firms in Cuba.

Despite the applause and shouts of “It was called!” as the name of each nationalized company was read, Fidel asked the people present if they approved of the Nationalization Law or not, requesting that those who supported the Revolutionary Government’s decision raise their hands.


Also voting with the Cuban people were delegates to the Congress of Youth, since as Fidel said, “Cuba’s problem is not only Cuba’s problem; Cuba’s problem is all of Latin America’s problem, but not only that of Latin America – Cuba’s problem is the problem of Blacks in the south of the United States; Cuba’s problem is the problem of ‘wetbacks’ who work along the border with Mexico; Cuba’s problem is the problem of progressive intellectuals in the United States; it’s the problem of U.S. workers, of U.S. farmers and the U.S. people as well.

“That is why they have the right to vote here, too…”

On this day, before the historic event concluded, the decision was also made that every one of the sugar mills which had been owned by United Fruit Company’s Compañía Atlántica, and other U.S. companies, bear the name of a nation within Our America, as a symbol of Cuba’s unbreakable unity with the sister peoples of the continent.


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