Fidel Castro signs First Agrarian Reform into law
The agrarian reform laws of Cuba sought to break up large landholdings and redistribute land to those peasants who worked it, to cooperatives, and the state.
Laws relating to land reform were implemented in a series of laws passed between 1958 and 1963 after the Cuban Revolution. Che Guevara was named head of the INRA as minister of industries and oversaw the land reform policies.
No. 3 of the Sierra Maestra was enacted in the Fall of 1958. It was enacted by the rebel forces under the command of Fidel Castro and implemented only in the "liberated territories" of Eastern Cuba under their control.
On January 27, 1959, Che Guevara made one of his most significant speeches where he talked about "the social ideas of the rebel army." During this speech, he declared that the main concern of the new Cuban government was "the social justice that land redistribution brings about."
On May 17 1959, the Agrarian Reform Law called on by and crafted by Che Guevara went into effect, limiting the size of farms to 1,000 acres. Any holdings over these limits were expropriated by the government and either redistributed to peasants in 67 acre parcels or held as state run communes. The law also stipulated that sugar plantations could not be owned by foreigners. A new government agency the National Institute of Agrarian Reform (INRA) was established to administer this law, and quickly became the most important governing body in the nation with Guevara named minister of industries.
INRA established its own 100,000 person militia, used first to help the government seize control of the expropriated land, supervise its distribution, and later to set up cooperative farms. The land confiscated included 480,000 acres owned by U.S. corporations.
Soon after Guevara trained these forces as a regular army, while the INRA also financed most of the highway construction in the country, built rural housing and even tourist resorts per Guevara’s industrial plans.
The Second Agrarian Reform Law was enacted in October 1963.
May 17: Upon his return to Cuba, Castro signs the Agrarian Reform Act. The government expropriates farm lands over 1,000 acres and bans land ownership by foreigners. Two hundred thousand peasants receive titles to land.
On May 17, 1959, the Cuban government enacts its Agrarian Reform Law: distributing all farmlands over 1,000 acres to landless peasants and workers, and prohibiting foreign ownership of land — which had owned 75 percent of Cuba's most fertile land. The Cuban government buys all foreign owned land with 20 year fixed-term government bonds paying an annual interest rate of 4.5 percent (higher than most U.S. government bond rates at the time). Over 200,000 Cuban families own land for the first time in their lives as a result of the reform.