The revolutionary government, headed by Fidel Castro as Prime Minister, issued the Fundamental Law of the Republic Fundamental Law of the Republic that reestablished the Constitution of 1940. After its reestablishment, other laws of constitutional status were issued: the Law of Agrarian Reform, Urban Reform, and Nationalization of Education, among others, which extensively modified its precepts.
They reproduced the basic scheme and the body of the Super Act of 1940, with significant omissions. The number of articles in the Basic Law was reduced from 286 to 233. Those relating to fundamental rights are reproduced almost verbatim, but many exceptions were added.
According to Leonel Antonio de la Cuesta, in his book Cuban Constitutions from 1812 to Today, this revolutionary trend was called the legislation of “however”. In legal parlance this means that the government, in its actions relating to the individual, was not limited by the initial restrictive declaration.
Ultimately, the Basic Law of 1959 was extensively modified. It could be reformed by actions of the Council of Ministers, chaired at that time by the ailing Fidel Castro, by a two-thirds vote, and after ratification of this measure, in three consecutive sessions of this body, by the same number or proportion of votes. There is no record in the Official Gazette of the Republic that it had complied with this formal requirement.
The reform acts began to take effect by their mere appearance in the Official Gazette, the official legislative publication. From its enactment until December 1962, it was amended 19 times. The Official Gazette ceased publication for a while, so no one knows for certain the number of changes that were made.
The principle of legal certainty, meaning that citizens should know where they stand legally, was eliminated. It was replaced by the principle that “the rule is the rule”, characteristic of totalitarian systems. Since then, we have effectively had a dual legal system.
A directive at the administrative level, issued by a state official, amends the constitution, a practice consistent with socialist justice. From the outside, all you know is the written legal text. When complaints are made in the international arena about violations of positive law, these are attributed to the excessive zeal of an isolated official, not to the socialist government.
The Basic Law of 1959 became a super-diluted version of the 1940 Constitution, and in force the longest time since national independence in 1901: 17 years.
Source: Cuban Constitutions from 1812 to Today, author Leonel Antonio de la Cuesta, second edition 2006, Spanish-Cuban Publishers.
Translated by: Tomás A.