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Environmental Crime Legal Framework in Cuba

Cuba's initial environmental legal framework was founded on the Constitution of 1976. Article 27 stipulated that all citizens and cognizant government agencies are to take measures to ensure a clean environment.

Cuba's current Constitution was enacted in 1992: Article 27 of the new Constitution states:

“The State protects the environment and the natural resources of the country. It recognizes their close connection with sustainable social and economic development, so as to make human life more rational and ensure the survival, well being and safety of the current and future generations. It is the responsibility of the cognizant State or-gans to apply this policy. It is the duty of all citizens to contribute to the protection of the waters and the air, and to preserve the soil, theflora, the fauna, and all of nature's rich potential.”

The Cuban National Assembly passed the first environmental law enacted by Cuba's socialist government in 1981 - Law 33, known as the "Law on Environmental Protection and the Ra-tional Use of Natural Resources."

Featured Legislation

1981: Law 33 (The Law on Environmental Protection and the Rational Use of Natural Resources) was passed, containing provisions for the definition and protection of:

  • Water
  • Soils
  • Mineral resources
  • Marine resources
  • Flora and Fauna
  • Atmosphere
  • Agricultural resources
  • Human settlements
  • Landscape and Tourism resources

1990: Decree-Law 118 (On the Structure, Organization, and Functioning of the National System on the Protection of the Environment and the Rational Use of Natural Resources) was enacted, establishing The National Commission for the Protection of the Environment (COMARNA) which is in charge of the environmental regulatory system.

1994: the Cuban government sought to address unenforceable laws and inter-agency conflict by reorganizing its framework and creating a single agency known as The Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment of the Republic of Cuba (CITMA). CITMA has two main divisions: the Board of Environmental Policy and the Environmental Agency.

1995: Law 77 was enacted, requiring that the Ministry of Foreign Investment and Economic Cooperation consider the environmental implications of potential new projects funded byforeign investors.

1997: Law 81 was passed with the intent to create a legal framework through which socioeconomic activities are developed in a manner that is environmentally compatible based on the principles of sustainable development. Law 81 established a three-tier system of environmental legal standards:

  • The first tier is Law 81 itself
  • The second tier are sector-specific laws and decrees to be issued by the National Assembly or the Council of Ministers
  • The third tier are detailed regulations and standards to be issued by CITMA

2000: Decree Law 212 was signed, overseeing coastal zone management to mitigate impacts to lands and waters from new construction and other activities.

2002: CITMA integrated regulatory entities on environment, biosafety, chemical security, and nuclear safety into a single agency with the goal of strengthening its regulatory capacities, creating The Regulatory Office.

2005: Resolution No. 84/05 was presented. This Resolution creates the Santiago de Cuba Hydraulic Research and Projects Company, integrated into the Research, Projects and Engineering Business Group belonging to the National Institute of Hydraulic Resources, in order to provide technical services for new investments and expansion works. , reconstruction, conservation, restoration, repair, maintenance, demolition and disassembly of engineering works in systems, facilities, plants and other hydraulic and hydrotechnical objectives.

2018: Decree No. 345/2018 was tabled. The purpose of this Decree, which consists of 32 articles divided into four Chapters, is to establish the principles that govern the operation of the geological research activity and the Geological Service of Cuba. The provisions of this Decree apply to natural and legal persons who carry out geological research activities in the national territory and to those who use the geological information generated. Geological research activity is made up of all geological works, basic or applied, that contribute to increasing the country’s geological knowledge, both in its theoretical aspects and in specific applications. The agencies of the Central State Administration, entities and associations are linked to the geological research activity, which are interrelated, some as generators of geological information, others as users and some with both roles. The Ministry of Energy and Mines decides the priorities and needs of the geological works proposed to be executed with financing from the State Budget and consequently approves the plan of geological objectives for each year, taking into account the economic and social interests of the country, the budget availability and other factors.

Featured Case Studies: Transnational Environmental Crime, Human Security, and Biosecurity

  • In 2018: Damuji River broke its banks near the Camilo Cienfuegos Refinery, leading to mass flooding of containment pools for contaminated water. This resulted in 12,000 cubic meters of oil leaking into the bay. Subtropical Storm Alberto pushed the oil slicks further into several rivers, wreaking havoc on the ecosystem. This environmental disaster, however, needs to be put into context: another oil spill from 1986 caused severe contamination, while another spill In 2001 was the result of negligence at a fertilizer plant. Large-scale industrialization during the decades of Soviet Union influence over Cuba is to blame: most of these companies lack the resources and capacity to operate and are often unregulated by the government. During the 1980s, an average of 694 ships would sail into Cienfuegos port each year, dumping 93.5 tons of garbage and more than 5,657 tons of oily waters into the bay. Local communities also allege that the government has lagged its feet when cleaning up these disasters and, moreover, simply do not care to do so. These spills have engendered inimical effects on human health; for example, elevated levels of arsenic in shrimp and shellfish is extremely dangerous for human consumption. Despite this, poor rural fishermen in a neighbourhood referred to as “100 Casitas”continue to engage in the fish trade.

References and Further Reading


Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment: