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Nationalization means to put under the nation’s control

Ley nacionalización para blogsThe first laws approved by the revolutionary government had little impact on private industrial interests, and measures adopted to provide social benefits contributed to the prosperity of their businesses, since elevating the standard of living of all Cubans created more domestic demand. Despite this reality, the Cuban industrial bourgeoisie did not support the revolutionary measures which actually favored their interests.

Toward the end of 1959 and the first part of 1960, the majority of large proprietors increasingly sabotaged production. After withdrawing huge sums of cash from operating funds, many left the country, abandoning their businesses and creating labor conflict. In addition to extracting earnings, instead of re-investing, in an undisguised attempt to make as much money as possible and remove it from the country, other proprietors made common cause with enemies of the Revolution, financing subversive groups which proliferated in support of U.S. plans to attack Cuba.


With the goal of definitively liquidating the economic power of the privileged few who were conspiring against the people, in a session which began on the evening of October 13, 1960, the Council of Ministers approved Law 890 on corporations, and Law 891 regarding banking.

Law 890 stipulated the nationalization via expropriation of all industrial and commercial companies, including all associated factories, warehouses, depots, other property and rights. Among the 382 companies nationalized were 105 sugar mills; 18 distilleries; six alcoholic beverage companies; seven food processors; two oil and fats companies; three soap and perfume factories; five dairies; two chocolate factories; nine packaging manufacturers; 60 textile and clothing companies; three paint producers; three chemical companies; seven paper mills; six basic metallurgical companies; one flour mill; 16 rice processors; 47 household goods warehouses; ten coffee roasters; three drug companies; 13 departments stores; eight railroad companies; one printer; 11 movie theater chains; 19 construction companies, one electrical company; and 13 maritime shippers.

Law 891 stipulated the nationalization of private banking to meet the needs of the Cuban economy, declaring that the functions carried out by banks could only be conducted by the state, via bodies created for this purpose in accordance with current law. Only two private banks continued operations, the Royal Bank of Canada and the Bank of Nova Scotia.

The approval of these two laws, which incorporated as the nation’s patrimony banks and large, strategic companies which were decisive to the country’s development, established that Cuba would be responsible for its own destiny.


On Saturday, October 15, 1960, Prime Minister Fidel Castro appeared on a special “Meet the Press” television program, to answer questions from a panel of journalists. Carlos Rafael Rodríguez, who was on the panel, asked the Comandante en Jefe why the Canadian banks were exempted from the Banking Law.

Fidel, answered, “…Simply because these two banks are offering a great service to the government, of an international nature, by facilitating commercial operations, export and import operations; that is all the payment transactions these banks are making, providing the Revolution a service through their main headquarters in Canada… Whenever we establish a law, we must take into account all these facts, as we advance the revolutionary process using all the means and all facilities available. That is the reason these two Canadian banks were not included in the Law.” [1]

In his response to Rodríguez, Fidel also mentioned other entities which were not nationalized, saying, “Some may ask what about Sears, what about the dime stores. For a very simple reason, since these are U.S. companies, they are subject to the Defense of the National Economy Law, legislation which was formulated for these cases and this law is different from that one. Those companies are covered, and have been nationalized as attacks against us have occurred. They are covered by a law which was already created. That is the only reason that they are not included, because these have their own law, and this is a new law for different cases.” [2]

Fidel clarified, “This is also a Defense of the National Economy Law, but with respect to companies which are not foreign; they are Cuban companies. They are not national companies, since some say, ‘What is this, nationalizing national companies?’ No, nationalization means to put under the nation’s control. They were private companies belonging to Cuban citizens or entities, but they were not national companies, and that is why it is called the Law of Nationalization of Companies, which are not national, but rather private. They are two distinct cases, two distinct laws, but no one should be too concerned about this. If economic aggressions against us continue, we will continue to nationalize U.S. companies, in accordance with the legislation.” [3]

While the nationalization of sugar mills, public service and oil companies of foreign ownership was a transcendental act securing Cuba’s national independence, the signing of these laws to nationalize banks and 382 large corporations was undoubtedly an historic complement to that first decision.


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