By Vicente Morin Aguado
HAVANA TIMES – Ever since 1959, the Cuban Revolution is celebrated every January 1st, by decree and out of people’s sympathy for it; yet, the final move to begin with the reforms that would change the largest country in the Caribbean forever, came 38 days later.
On February 7th that same year, the Cuban Republic’s Official Gazette published a document that would be a breakthrough in Cuban history, called the “Fundamental Law of Cuba, 1959”.
Let’s highlight the following 18 words from this document:
Article 119. – Legislative power will be exercised by the Council of Ministers.
And just like that, the 1940 Constitution was reformed (which was still in force in theory), thereby overthrowing the country’s legal order so as to give a smaller group of people the power to pass laws. According to subsequent statements, only two-thirds of votes from the Council of Ministers were needed to make any legal action by the government in power, irrevocable.
How did things get to this? Dr. Luis M. Buch, secretary of the First Council of Ministers after Batista fled the country, writes in his memoirs about the details that led to Fidel Castro’s imperative assumption as Head of State, on February 16th 1959:
“Late one night, after a Council of Ministers session had ended, members of this council who belonged to the July 26th Movement (Armando Hart, Faustino Perez, Enrique Oltuski and Julio Camacho) went looking for the Revolution’s Leader at the Habana Hilton hotel (which is the Habana Libre hotel today), but as they weren’t in the most appropriate place to talk about this business, Fidel proposed: “Well, let’s meet to talk about all of this. Where shall we meet?” Oltuski suggested his house, on the Almendares’ riverbanks. That was the first and most important meeting after the Revolution’s triumph.” (Cuban revolutionary government: genesis and first steps. Reproduced on Cubadebate.)
(The July 26th Movement was an organization founded by Fidel Castro when he was granted amnesty and left the Isle of Pines prison in May 1955.)
Fidel had publicly denied his intention to take on the Head of State position, up until then. Once he was convinced of the much-needed sacrifice he must make for the sake of the country, the Comandante demanded full powers, which the Constitution only bestowed to the President. On top of that, there was another legal obstacle: you needed to be at least 35 years old to become President. However, you only needed 30 to become Prime Minister.
Fidel was 32 years old. Would he be the the President’s right-hand man? Of course NOT. Buch continues:
“Before the session began that day, the requirement raised by Fidel was analyzed so he could become Prime Minister. This led to a great debate. We are looking for a way to ammend Article 146. in the Fundamental Law. The document stipulated: “The Prime Minister shall represent the general policy of the Government.”
“Article 146. was drafted in the following way: “It will be the Prime Minister’s responsibility to direct general government policy and, in conjunction with the President of the Republic, delegate administrative matters, and in conjunction with ministers, the affairs of each of these departments.”
On February 16th 1959, Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz became Prime Minister. Appearances were kept hidden, the Comandante wouldn’t be the President of Cuba, but the president wouldn’t really be the highest power in the country.
The Cuban Revolution went public, the work of a constitutional reforms process that was done without a Constituent Assembly, and instead carried out over several sleepless nights by a group of revolutionaries who met at a private residence in Havana.
Was this the work of the wild imagination of those men hellbent on changing the world, according to Karl Marx’s wish which he expounded in his Thesis #11 about Feuerbach?
NO, they just took the origins of a poor farmer in Banes, who was initially registered as Ruben Zaldivar (he only had his mother), only around 50 miles from the son of Angel Castro Arguiz, a landowner in Biran, both towns belonging to what is today Holguin province.
Ruben became General Fulgencio, who came to power for a second time after orchestrating a coup d’etat on March 10th 1952. On April 4th, he would sign the so-called “Constitutional Statutes”, the first reforms de facto and by force to the 1940 Constitution.
Angel’s young son, called Fidel, graduated from Havana University as a lawyer. Days after the 1952 coup d’etat, he formally accused his fellow countryman of serious crimes that violated the Constitution and demanded that due process be taken, as outlined by the Law. He then went on to attack the La Moncada military barracks in Santiago de Cuba the following year, an action which was protected by the 1940 Constitution. Locked up in prison and taken to trial, he was his own counsel and he gave his famous “History Will Absolve Me” speech.
The lawyer from Holguin attacked Batista’s “Statutes”:
“[The Statutes] harbor a monstrous, shameless, and brazen contradiction in regard to the most vital aspect of all: the integration of the Republican structure and the principle of national sovereignty. Article 1. reads: ‘Cuba is a sovereign and independent State constituted as a democratic Republic.’ … The President will be nominated by the Council of Ministers.”
Fidel continues his line of logic:
“And who chooses the Council of Ministers? Article 120, section 13: “The President will be authorized to nominate and reappoint the members of the Council of Ministers and to replace them when occasion arises.” So, in the end, who is nominating whom? Is this not the age-old problem of the chicken and the egg that no one has ever been able to solve?”
This was enough to make his point, but there is something else that Fidel Castro said on October 16, 1953, in that Courtroom in Santiago de Cuba:
“This constitutional law is open to reform by the Council of Ministers with a two-thirds quorum vote.” This is where mockery reaches its climax. Not only did they exercise sovereignty in order to impose a Constitution upon a people without that people’s consent, and to establish a regime which concentrates all power in their own hands, but also, through Article 257, they assume the most essential attribute of sovereignty: the power to change the Basic and Supreme Law of the Land.”
The quotes in this article aren’t just pure coincidence, they are our HISTORIC TRUTH.
On February 7, 1959, the Cuban Revolution gave itself a green light. The Fudamental Law of Cuba was in vigor for 17 years, until the Cuban people voted in a referendum and approved the new “1976 Socialist Constitution.”
The Cuban Revolution was created in a private residence in Havana, copying the constitutional statutes on April 4, 1952, a monstrosity of dictator Fulgencio Batista Zaldivar.
Vicente Morin Aguado: [email protected]