Platt amendment was a domestic amendment to U.S. law that governed the conditions for the withdrawal of U.S. military forces from the Cuban territory. It contained a number of provisions that were later incorporated into the international treaty between Cuba and the United States, some of which were incorporated into the Cuban Constitution and remained there until 1934.


Platt amendment is a document developed by the U.S. Senator Orville Platt and Secretary of War Elihu Root containing the conditions for the withdrawal of American military forces from Cuba after the occupation of 1898-1901. Initially, this was an amendment to the 1901 U.S. Army Appropriations Bill. Still, in accordance with its terms, it was to be included in an international treaty between the United States and Cuba.

The military occupation of Cuba began in 1898 during the Spanish-American War, in which U.S. military forces supported Cuba in its fight for independence from the Spanish Empire. The occupation continued after the defeat of Spain and the signing of the Treaty of Paris of 1898, signifying the end of Spanish imperialism. The island was administered by the U.S. military administration and Cuban civilian authorities under its supervision. Within this period, the American occupation authorities coped with hunger and illnesses, carried out sanitary measures to improve cities and villages, solved the problem of employment, as well as restored civil and public order. Nevertheless, Cuba has not been a sovereign state all this time.

The official rationale for the continued occupation in Cuba was to maintain order and protect the interests of the population. However, the anti-annexationists in Congress put forward the Teller amendment in response to President McKinley’s War message. It established that the United States could not annex Cuba, but should maintain a military presence on the island only until Cuba gained independence. Thus, the Platt amendment was a way of not violating the Teller amendment while maintaining a particular influence on Cuba’s affairs.

The Platt amendment was a list consisting of eight articles. Several provisions of that document were of particular significance for the sovereignty and independence of Cuba. It was stated that Cuba had no right to enter into any international agreements with foreign states that might threaten Cuba’s independence or allow other countries to take possession of any territory on the island. The amendment also gave the United States the right to intervene in Cuba to protect its independence and other interests.

The Island of Pines had been excluded from Cuba’s borders as specified in the Constitution, and the issue of ownership was to be resolved in the future. Cuba pledged to sell or lease to the United States certain lands for coal and marine bases. The other articles concerned the observance of sanitary regulations, the reaffirmation of the legal validity of the shares issued during the occupation period, and the prohibition to assume an unsustainable public debt. In accordance with article eight of the amendment, Cuba was to incorporate these provisions into the permanent treaty with the United States.

Although the Platt amendment was a domestic U.S. document, it regulated bilateral relations between America and Cuba and had the role of an international treaty. While Congress and the President of the United States adopted the amendment relatively easily and promptly, its adoption in Cuba provoked some resistance. Cuban Constitutional Convention discussed the amendment for a long time, putting forward its proposals for revision and mitigation, especially the article on potential U.S. intervention. There was even a mass demonstration in Havana against the adoption of the amendment conditions.

However, following the granting of specific tariff reductions by the United States with regard to duties on Cuban sugar imported and on American products supplied to Cuba, the amendment was adopted. A corresponding international treaty was concluded between Cuba and the United States, and the terms of the Platt amendment were incorporated into the Constitution of Cuba. As a result, the United States obtained a lease for the construction of a Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba, and the Island of Pines was eventually returned to Cuba. The Platt amendment was formally annulled by mutual agreement in 1934.