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Platt Amendment (1903)

At the end of the Spanish-American War in 1898, the United States found itself in control of several overseas territories, including Cuba. (see the de Lôme letter) In April of 1898, Senator Henry M. Teller, of Colorado, proposed an amendment to the United States’ declaration of war against Spain, which stated that the United States would not establish permanent control over Cuba. The Teller Amendment asserted that the United States "hereby disclaims any disposition of intention to exercise sovereignty, jurisdiction, or control over said island except for pacification thereof, and asserts its determination, when that is accomplished, to leave the government and control of the island to its people." The Senate adopted the amendment on April 19.

Nonetheless, the occupation of Cuba by U.S. troops continued for several years after the war was over. Under the military governor, Gen. Leonard Wood, a school system was organized, finances were set in order, and significant progress was made in eliminating yellow fever. In July 1900, the Constitutional Convention of Cuba started its deliberations and was notified that the U.S. Congress intended to attach an amendment to the Cuban Constitution. In 1901, Secretary of War Elihu Root drafted a set of articles as guidelines for future United States–Cuban relations. This set of articles became known as the Platt Amendment, after Senator Orville Platt of Connecticut, who presented it. Platt, 1827–1905, was a U.S. Senator from 1879 to 1905 and influenced the decision to annex Hawaii and occupy the Philippines. He sponsored this amendment as a rider attached to the Army Appropriations Bill of 1901. Cubans reluctantly included the amendment, which virtually made Cuba a U.S. protectorate, in their constitution. The Platt Amendment was also incorporated in a permanent treaty between the United States and Cuba.

The Platt Amendment stipulated the conditions for U.S. intervention in Cuban affairs and permitted the United States to lease or buy lands for the purpose of the establishing naval bases (the main one was Guantánamo Bay) and coaling stations in Cuba. It barred Cuba from making a treaty that gave another nation power over its affairs, going into debt, or stopping the United States from imposing a sanitation program on the island. Specifically, Article III required that the government of Cuba consent to the right of the United States to intervene in Cuban affairs for “the preservation of Cuban independence, the maintenance of a government adequate for the protection of life, property, and individual liberty, and for discharging the obligations with respect to Cuba imposed by the Treaty of Paris on the United States, now to be assumed and undertaken by the Government of Cuba.” The Platt Amendment supplied the terms under which the United States intervened in Cuban affairs in 1906, 1912, 1917, and 1920. By 1934, rising Cuban nationalism and widespread criticism of the Platt Amendment resulted in its repeal as part of Franklin D. Roosevelt's Good Neighbor policy toward Latin America. The United States, however, retained its lease on Guantánamo Bay, where a naval base was established.

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