I am doing a video on how Fidel Castro held onto power for almost 50 years before turning leadership fully over to his brother Raul in 2008 but I feel I need to paint a bigger picture of what life was like under Batista. In this post, I will go into more detail of what he did in his time ruling the country, and the radical changes he made when he took over and ruled a second time. This may help paint a picture of how the people, and the military, were demoralized, which opened the door to Fidel being accepted as the new leader of Cuba.
He overthrew this existing Government
Fulgencio ruled ruled Cuba twice and in two drastic ways. We will begin with his first rule which lasted from 1934-44. As the son of poor farmers, he became a jack of all trades until serving in the army in 1921. His final rank was sergeant though he started as a stenographer. Growing tired of how the government was being run, he was able to lead a “Sergeants’ Revolt” and overthrew the regime of Carlos Manuel de Cespedes, who had replaced Gerardo Machado y Morales, a provisional regime. Due to this, he gained recognition of the U.S. government.
He was a benevolent leader, at first
He exercised his talent for judging people, he garnered the support of the army, the civil service, and organized labor. He chose to rule through associates for the first few years of his elected presidency. He proved to be an efficient leader as he expanded the educational system, sponsored public works, and he also helped to grow the economy. He increased trade with the United States, and in doing this, he gained the respect of several American interests, who saw him as a force that can stabilize Cuba. It was during this time, he built a business relationship with Meyer Lansky, Luciano’s money man. He traveled abroad after his term ended in 1944.
Side note: Lucky Luciano fled to Cuba with a false passport after being deported to Italy from the U.S.
While he was gone, he amassed large sums of money, which he invested in Cuba. Little did he know corruption was tearing the country’s economy apart. Public services were falling apart. He led a bloodless coup against Carlos Prio Socarras in the year 1952. This was the coup he staged after Batista realized he would come in third behind Fidel in the election for the next president.
His second time was not as pleasant
He temporarily suspended constitutional guarantees and along with this, the right to strike. He proclaimed a new constitutional code which contained 275 articles with a “new progressive essence”. This happened in 1940.
He then allowed large-scale gambling in Havana and rearranged the Cuban state. This would let his political employees as well as himself reap the benefits. He proclaimed the ability to match dollar amounts of $1 million dollars. Casino licenses would be in this matching as well. This was when Lansky was placed smack in the middle of the gambling scene in Cuba.
During this time, in 1953, Fidel led an attack against Batista which failed. Batista laid down an edict to “kill ten rebels for every soldier killed” in the conflict. His general carried out the order and killed 59 more rebels. After the repelled attack, Cuban officials continued to reap the riches of the country while Lanksy made Cuba a major drug port.
Fulgencio’s take from the casinos was reported to be 30%, which is apart from the general funds which should have been funneled to the education system, public health, and the maintenance of the city. He instead handed contracts to many US friends for huge construction programs:
1. Havana-Varadero highway,
2. Rancho Boyeros airport,
3. train lines,
4. the power company, and a
5. strange plan for a canal which would have run across Cuba.
He did hold an election to try and allay the concerns of the US, but it was rigged so he was the only candidate. This made Cubans distrust him and demand an actual and legal election. In late 1955, “El Dialago Civicio (Civil Dialoge) was tried by Colonel Cosme de la Torriente, but Batista was to powerful and did not want to concede to the middle-class. This was after he has released the Castros and other survivors of the failed coup attempt.
This led to protests against the constitution, marches, and riots held by students of the University of Havana. This forced Batista to completely suspend any freedoms the people had and lock the city down with the use of the military police.
In 1956, the Castro brothers returned to Cuba with Che to amass forces for another coup.
Keep an eye out, my loyal readers, for the video about Castro’s rule on my YouTube Channel.
Until the next post,
The Mad Woman
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