Fulgencio Batista
Fulgencio Batista y Zaldívar (fulˈxensjo βaˈtista i salˈdiβar; January 16, 1901 – August 6, 1973) was the United States-aligned Cuban President, dictator and military leader who served as the leader of Cuba from 1933 to 1944 and from 1952 to 1959, before being overthrown as a result of the Cuban Revolution
Cuban Revolution
The Cuban Revolution was an armed revolt by Fidel Castro's 26th of July Movement against the regime of Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista between 1953 and 1959. Batista was finally ousted on 1 January 1959, and was replaced by a revolutionary government led by Castro...


Batista initially rose to power as part of the 1933 "Revolt of the Sergeants" that overthrew the authoritarian rule of Gerardo Machado
Gerardo Machado
Gerardo Machado y Morales was President of Cuba and a general of the Cuban War of Independence...

. Batista then appointed himself chief of the armed forces with the rank of colonel, and effectively controlled the five-member Presidency. He maintained this control through a string of puppet presidents until 1940, when he was himself elected President of Cuba on a populist
Populism can be defined as an ideology, political philosophy, or type of discourse. Generally, a common theme compares "the people" against "the elite", and urges social and political system changes. It can also be defined as a rhetorical style employed by members of various political or social...

 platform. He then instated the 1940 Constitution of Cuba
1940 Constitution of Cuba
The 1940 Constitution of Cuba, was implemented in 1940, during the presidency of Federico Laredo Brú. It was primarily influenced by the collectivist ideas that inspired the Cuban Revolution of 1933. Widely considered one of the most "progressive" constitutions in existence at the time, it provided...

, deemed progressive for its time, and served until 1944. After finishing his term he lived in the United States, returning to Cuba to run for president in 1952. Facing certain electoral defeat, he led a military coup
Coup d'état
A coup d'état state, literally: strike/blow of state)—also known as a coup, putsch, and overthrow—is the sudden, extrajudicial deposition of a government, usually by a small group of the existing state establishment—typically the military—to replace the deposed government with another body; either...

 that preempted the election.

Back in power, Batista now suspended the 1940 Constitution and revoked most political liberties, including the right to strike. He then went into league with the wealthiest landowners who owned the largest sugar plantations, and presided over a stagnating economy which saw a widened gap between rich and poor Cubans. Batista's increasingly corrupt and repressive regime then began to systematically profit from the exploitation of Cuba's commercial interests, by negotiating lucrative relationships with the American mafia
American Mafia
The American Mafia , is an Italian-American criminal society. Much like the Sicilian Mafia, the American Mafia has no formal name and is a secret criminal society. Its members usually refer to it as Cosa Nostra or by its English translation "our thing"...

, who controlled the drug, gambling, and prostitution rackets in Havana, and with large multinational American corporations that had invested considerable amounts of money into Cuba. To quell the growing discontent amongst the populace — which was subsequently displayed through frequent student riot
Student riot
Student riots, college riots, or campus riots are riots precipitated by students, generally from a college, university, or other school.-Background:...

s and anti-Batista demonstrations — Batista established tighter censorship of the media, while also utilizing his anti-Communist secret police
Bureau for the Repression of Communist Activities
The Bureau for the Repression of Communist Activities was the secret police agency that Fulgencio Batista maintained in the 1950s, which gained a reputation for brutality in its fight against pro-Castro rebels.The bureau was headed by Mariano Faget, who had first gained fame as a Nazi hunter...

 and U.S.-supplied weaponry to carry out wide-scale violence, torture
Torture is the act of inflicting severe pain as a means of punishment, revenge, forcing information or a confession, or simply as an act of cruelty. Throughout history, torture has often been used as a method of political re-education, interrogation, punishment, and coercion...

 and public execution
Public Execution
Public Execution is a Mouse and the Traps retrospective album that has been released in both LP and CD formats. The LP has an unusually large number of tracks , while the CD includes 4 bonus tracks and catalogues almost all of the released music by Mouse and the Traps and their associated bands: ...

s; ultimately killing as many as 20,000 Cubans.

Catalyzing the resistance to such tactics, for two years (December 1956 – December 1958) Fidel Castro
Fidel Castro
Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz is a Cuban revolutionary and politician, having held the position of Prime Minister of Cuba from 1959 to 1976, and then President from 1976 to 2008. He also served as the First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba from the party's foundation in 1961 until 2011...

's July 26 Movement and other nationalist rebelling elements led an urban and rural-based guerrilla uprising against Batista's regime, which culminated in his eventual defeat by rebels under the command of Che Guevara
Che Guevara
Ernesto "Che" Guevara , commonly known as el Che or simply Che, was an Argentine Marxist revolutionary, physician, author, intellectual, guerrilla leader, diplomat and military theorist...

 at the Battle of Santa Clara
Battle of Santa Clara
The Battle of Santa Clara was a series of events in late December 1958 that led to the capture of the Cuban city of Santa Clara by revolutionaries under the command of Che Guevara...

 on New Year's Day 1959. Batista immediately fled the island with an amassed personal fortune to the Dominican Republic
Dominican Republic
The Dominican Republic is a nation on the island of La Hispaniola, part of the Greater Antilles archipelago in the Caribbean region. The western third of the island is occupied by the nation of Haiti, making Hispaniola one of two Caribbean islands that are shared by two countries...

, where strongman
Strongman (politics)
A strongman is a political leader who rules by force and runs an authoritarian regime. The term is often used interchangeably with "dictator," but differs from a "warlord".A strongman is not necessarily always a formal head of government, however...

 and previous military ally Rafael Trujillo held power. Batista eventually found political asylum in Portugal, where he lived until dying of a heart attack on August 6, 1973 near Marbella
Marbella is a town in Andalusia, Spain. It is situated on the Mediterranean Sea, in the province of Málaga, beneath the La Concha mountain. In 2000 the city had 98,823 inhabitants, in 2004, 116,234, in 2010 approximately 135,000....

, Spain.

Early life

Batista was born in Banes, Cuba
Banes, Cuba
Banes is a municipality and city in the Holguín Province of Cuba.The name comes from the inhabitants Taino language word Bani, meaning "valley".-Demographics:In 2004, the municipality of Banes had a population of 81,274...

 in 1901, to Belisario Batista Palermo and Carmela Zaldívar González, who had fought in the Cuban War of Independence
Cuban War of Independence
Cuban War of Independence was the last of three liberation wars that Cuba fought against Spain, the other two being the Ten Years' War and the Little War...

. His mother named him Rubén and gave him her last name, Zaldívar. His father did not want to register him as a Batista. In the registration records of the Banes courthouse he was legally Rubén Zaldívar until 1939, when, as Fulgencio Batista, he became a presidential candidate and it was discovered that this name did not exist. It is alleged that a judge was bribed 15,000 Cuban pesos (about the same amount in U.S. dollars at the time) to fix the discrepancy.

Of mixed European, African, Chinese and Amerindian descent, Batista was considered a mulatto
Mulatto denotes a person with one white parent and one black parent, or more broadly, a person of mixed black and white ancestry. Contemporary usage of the term varies greatly, and the broader sense of the term makes its application rather subjective, as not all people of mixed white and black...

 socially. He was educated in an American Quaker school
Quaker school
Quaker school may refer to:* list of Friends schools, a school which provides an education based on the beliefs and testimonies of the Religious Society of Friends...

. Coming from a humble background, he earned a living as a laborer in the cane fields, docks and railroads. He was a tailor, mechanic, charcoal vendor, fruit peddler, and an Army stenographer. In 1921, he traveled to Havana and joined the army. After promotion to Sergeant, he became the union leader of Cuba's soldiers.

The Coup of 1933

In 1933, Batista led an uprising known as the "Revolt of the Sergeants", as part of the coup that overthrew the government of Gerardo Machado
Gerardo Machado
Gerardo Machado y Morales was President of Cuba and a general of the Cuban War of Independence...

. Machado was succeeded by Carlos Manuel de Céspedes y Quesada
Carlos Manuel de Céspedes y Quesada
Carlos Manuel de Céspedes y Quesada was a Cuban writer, politician, diplomat, and President of Cuba.-Biography:...

, who lacked a political coalition that could sustain him and was replaced a short time thereafter.

A short-lived five-member presidency, known as the Pentarchy of 1933
Pentarchy of 1933
Pentarchy of 1933 was a coalition that ruled Cuba from September 5 to September 10, 1933 after Gerardo Machado was deposed on August 12, 1933...

, was established, including a representative from each anti-Machado faction; Batista was not a member but was in control of Cuba's armed forces. Within days the representative for the students and professors of the University of Havana
University of Havana
The University of Havana or UH is a university located in the Vedado district of Havana, Cuba. Founded in 1728, the University of Havana is the oldest university in Cuba, and one of the first to be founded in the Americas...

, Ramón Grau San Martín, was made president and Batista became the Army Chief of Staff, with the rank of colonel, and effectively controlled the presidency. The majority of the commissioned officer corps were forcefully retired or, as some speculate, killed.
Grau himself remained president for just over 100 days before Batista, conspiring with the U.S. envoy Sumner Welles
Sumner Welles
Benjamin Sumner Welles was an American government official and diplomat in the Foreign Service. He was a major foreign policy adviser to President Franklin D. Roosevelt and served as Under Secretary of State from 1937 to 1943, during FDR's presidency.-Early life:Benjamin Sumner Welles was born in...

, forced him to resign in January 1934. Grau was replaced by Carlos Mendieta
Carlos Mendieta
Carlos Mendieta y Montefur was a Cuban politician and Provisional President of Cuba.A chief opponent of Gerardo Machado, Mendieta was installed as provisional President of Cuba in 1934 by a coup led by Fulgencio Batista. During his presidency, women gained the right to vote and the Platt Amendment...

, and within five days the U.S. recognized Cuba's new government, which lasted eleven months. Batista then became the strongman behind a succession of "puppet presidents" until he was himself elected president in 1940. After Mendieta, succeeding governments were led by José Barnet (5 months) and Miguel Mariano Gómez
Miguel Mariano Gómez
Miguel Mariano Gómez y Arias , was a Cuban politician who served as President of Cuba for seven months in 1936....

 (7 months) before Federico Laredo Brú
Federico Laredo Brú
Dr. Federico Laredo Brú was an attorney and served as President of Cuba from 1936 to 1940. He was married to Leonor Montes .-Rise to power:...

 ruled from December 1936 to October 1940.

First Presidency (1940–1944)

Batista, supported by the "Democratic Socialist" coalition which included Julio Antonio Mella
Julio Antonio Mella
Julio Antonio Mella was a founder of the "internationalized" Cuban Communist Party.Mella studied law in the University of Havana until he was expelled in 1925 and is considered a hero by the present Cuban government. Some Cubans view him as a victim of the Stalin-Trotsky struggle...

's Communist Party, defeated Grau in the first presidential election under the new Cuban constitution
Constitution of Cuba
Since attaining its independence from Spain, Cuba has had five constitutions. The current constitution was drafted in 1976 and has since been amended.-1901 Constitution:The 1901 Constitution was Cuba's first as an independent state...

 in the 1940 election, and served a four year term as President of Cuba
President of Cuba
-- 18:43, 22 November 2011 The President of Cuba is the Head of state of Cuba. According to the Cuban Constitution of 1976, the President is the chief executive of the Council of State of Cuba...

, the first non-white Cuban in that office. Although Batista was a capitalist and an admirer of the United States, he was endorsed by the old Communist Party of Cuba
Popular Socialist Party (Cuba)
The Popular Socialist Party was a communist party in Cuba. Originally called the Communist Party of Cuba , it was formed in the 1925 by a group including Blas Roca, Anibal Escalante, Fabio Grobart and Julio Antonio Mella, who acted as its leader until his assassination in Mexico in 1929. It was...

, which at the time had little significance and no chance of an electoral victory. This support was primarily due to Batista's labor laws and his support for labor unions, with which the communists had close ties. In fact, Communists attacked the anti-Batista opposition, saying Grau and others were "fascists" and "reactionaries
The term reactionary refers to viewpoints that seek to return to a previous state in a society. The term is meant to describe one end of a political spectrum whose opposite pole is "radical". While it has not been generally considered a term of praise it has been adopted as a self-description by...

" During this term in office, Batista carried out major social reforms and established numerous economic regulations and pro-union policies.

Cuba entered World War II on the side of the Allies on December 8, 1941, declaring war on Japan the day following the attack on Pearl Harbor
Pearl Harbor
Pearl Harbor, known to Hawaiians as Puuloa, is a lagoon harbor on the island of Oahu, Hawaii, west of Honolulu. Much of the harbor and surrounding lands is a United States Navy deep-water naval base. It is also the headquarters of the U.S. Pacific Fleet...

. On December 11, the Batista government declared war on Germany and Italy. In December 1942, after a friendly visit to Washington, Batista said Latin America would applaud a decision by the United Nations
Declaration by United Nations
The Declaration by United Nations was a World War II document agreed to on January 1, 1942 during the Arcadia Conference by 26 governments: the Allied "Big Four" , nine American allies in Central America and the Caribbean, the four British Dominions, British India, and eight Allied...

 to go to war with Francisco Franco
Francisco Franco
Francisco Franco y Bahamonde was a Spanish general, dictator and head of state of Spain from October 1936 , and de facto regent of the nominally restored Kingdom of Spain from 1947 until his death in November, 1975...

's Spain
Spanish State
Francoist Spain refers to a period of Spanish history between 1936 and 1975 when Spain was under the authoritarian dictatorship of Francisco Franco....

, labeling the regime as "fascist".


In 1944, Batista's handpicked candidate for his successor, Carlos Saladrigas Zayas
Carlos Saladrigas Zayas
Carlos Saladrigas Zayas was a Cuban politician and diplomat....

, was defeated by Grau. In the final months of his presidency, Batista sought to handicap the incoming Grau administration. In a July 17, 1944, dispatch to the U.S. Secretary of State, U.S. Ambassador Spruille Braden
Spruille Braden
Spruille Braden was an American diplomat, businessman, lobbyist, and member of the Council on Foreign Relations. He served as the ambassador of various Latin American countries, and as Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs...


Shortly after the inauguration of his successor Batista left Cuba for the United States. "I just felt safer there", he said. He divorced his wife, Elisa, and married Marta Fernández Batista in 1945; two of their four children were born in the United States.

For the next eight years Batista remained in the background, spending time between the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City and a home in Daytona Beach, Florida
Daytona Beach, Florida
Daytona Beach is a city in Volusia County, Florida, USA. According to 2008 U.S. Census Bureau estimates, the city has a population of 64,211. Daytona Beach is a principal city of the Deltona – Daytona Beach – Ormond Beach, Florida Metropolitan Statistical Area, which the census bureau estimated had...


He continued to participate in Cuban politics and was elected to the Cuban Senate in absentia in 1948. Returning to Cuba, he decided to run for president and was given permission by President Grau, whereupon he formed the United Action Party. He later founded the Progressive Action Party, upon taking power, but never regained his former popular support, although the unions supported him until the end.

Military coup and second presidency (1952–1959)

In 1952, Batista again ran for president. In a three-way race, Roberto Agramonte
Roberto Agramonte
Dr. Roberto Agramonte was a philosopher and Cuban politician....

 of the Ortodox Party
Partido Ortodoxo
The ' was a Cuban political party, otherwise known as the . It was founded in 1947 by Eduardo Chibás in response to perceived government corruption and lack of reform...

 led in all the polls, followed by Dr. Carlos Hevia
Carlos Hevia
Carlos Hevia y Reyes-Gavilan was the President of Cuba, serving for less than three days. During the third week of 1934, Hevia was President from 5:00 p.m. on Monday, January 15, until 1:20 a.m. on Thursday, January 18. Cuban junta leader Fulgencio Batista had obtained the resignation of Hevia's...

 of the Autentic Party
Partido Auténtico
The Partido Auténtico was a political party in Cuba most active between 1933 to 1952...

, while Batista's United Action coalition was running a distant third.

On March 10, 1952, three months before the elections, Batista, with army backing, staged a coup and seized power. He ousted outgoing President Carlos Prío Socarrás
Carlos Prío Socarrás
Carlos Prío Socarrás was the President of Cuba from 1948 until he was deposed by a military coup led by Fulgencio Batista on March 10, 1952, three months before new elections were to be held.- Governance :...

, canceled the elections and assumed control of the government as "provisional president". Shortly after the coup, the United States government recognized his regime.

Upon his return to power, Batista did not continue the progressive
Progressivism is an umbrella term for a political ideology advocating or favoring social, political, and economic reform or changes. Progressivism is often viewed by some conservatives, constitutionalists, and libertarians to be in opposition to conservative or reactionary ideologies.The...

 social policies of his earlier term. He was consumed by a desire for recognition by the upper strata of Cuban society, which had never accepted him in their social circles and clubs. He also worked to increase his personal fortune.

Meanwhile, poverty on the island was growing. In 1953, the average Cuban family had an income of $6.00 a week, 15 to 20 percent of the labor force was chronically unemployed, and only a third of the homes had running water.

The Dallas
Dallas, Texas
Dallas is the third-largest city in Texas and the ninth-largest in the United States. The Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex is the largest metropolitan area in the South and fourth-largest metropolitan area in the United States...

 industrialist Jack Crichton
Jack Crichton (Texas businessman)
John Alston Crichton, known as Jack Crichton , was an oil and natural gas industrialist from Dallas, Texas, who was among the first of his ranks to recognize the importance of petroleum reserves in the Middle East. In 1964, he carried the Republican banner in a fruitless campaign against the...

 joined with several other oilmen to negotiate drilling rights in Cuba under the Batista administration. Standard Oil
Standard Oil
Standard Oil was a predominant American integrated oil producing, transporting, refining, and marketing company. Established in 1870 as a corporation in Ohio, it was the largest oil refiner in the world and operated as a major company trust and was one of the world's first and largest multinational...

 of Indiana
Indiana is a US state, admitted to the United States as the 19th on December 11, 1816. It is located in the Midwestern United States and Great Lakes Region. With 6,483,802 residents, the state is ranked 15th in population and 16th in population density. Indiana is ranked 38th in land area and is...

 signed an agreement with the Cuban-Venezuelan Oil Voting Trust Company, a unit originally established by William F. Buckley, Sr., for access to fifteen million acres. CVOVTC was during the middle 1950s one of the four or five most traded entities on the American Stock Exchange
American Stock Exchange
NYSE Amex Equities, formerly known as the American Stock Exchange is an American stock exchange situated in New York. AMEX was a mutual organization, owned by its members. Until 1953, it was known as the New York Curb Exchange. On January 17, 2008, NYSE Euronext announced it would acquire the...

. (Batista's successor, Fidel Castro, reduced the size of claims for oil exploration to a maximum of twenty thousand acres and ended large-scale explorations by private companies.)

Relationship with organized crime

Batista established lasting relationships with organized crime
Organized crime
Organized crime or criminal organizations are transnational, national, or local groupings of highly centralized enterprises run by criminals for the purpose of engaging in illegal activity, most commonly for monetary profit. Some criminal organizations, such as terrorist organizations, are...

, notably with American mobsters Meyer Lansky
Meyer Lansky
Meyer Lansky , known as the "Mob's Accountant", was a Polish-born American organized crime figure who, along with his associate Charles "Lucky" Luciano, was instrumental in the development of the "National Crime Syndicate" in the United States...

 and Lucky Luciano
Lucky Luciano
Charlie "Lucky" Luciano was an Italian mobster born in Sicily. Luciano is considered the father of modern organized crime in the United States for splitting New York City into five different Mafia crime families and the establishment of the first commission...

, and under his rule Havana became known as "the Latin Las Vegas." Batista and Lansky formed a friendship and business relationship that flourished for a decade. During a stay at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York in the late 1940s, it was mutually agreed that, in return for kickbacks, Batista would give Lansky and the Mafia control of Havana's racetracks and casinos.

After World War II, American mobster Lucky Luciano
Lucky Luciano
Charlie "Lucky" Luciano was an Italian mobster born in Sicily. Luciano is considered the father of modern organized crime in the United States for splitting New York City into five different Mafia crime families and the establishment of the first commission...

 was paroled from prison on the condition that he permanently return to Sicily
Sicily is a region of Italy, and is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. Along with the surrounding minor islands, it constitutes an autonomous region of Italy, the Regione Autonoma Siciliana Sicily has a rich and unique culture, especially with regard to the arts, music, literature,...

. Luciano secretly moved to Cuba where he worked to resume control over American mafia operations. Luciano also ran a number of casinos in Cuba with the sanction of Batista, though the American government eventually succeeded in pressuring the Batista regime to deport Luciano.

Batista encouraged large-scale gambling in Havana, announcing in 1955 that Cuba would grant a gaming license to anyone who invested US$1 million in a hotel or $200,000 in a new nightclub – and that the government would provide matching public funds for construction, a 10-year exemption from taxes, and impose no duties on imports of equipment and furnishings for new hotels. From each casino the government was to receive $250,000 for the license and a percentage of the profits. The policy waived the background checks that were required for casino operations in the United States and opened the door for casino investors with illegally obtained sources of funding. Cuban contractors with the right connections made windfalls by importing, duty-free, more materials than were needed for new hotels and selling the surplus to others. It was rumored that besides the $250,000 to obtain a license an additional fee was sometimes required under the table.

Lansky became a prominent figure in Cuba's gambling operations, and exerted influence over Batista's casino policies. Lansky associate Chauncey Holt described Batista as "always in Lansky's pocket." Lansky also turned Cuba into an international drug trafficking port. The Mafia's Havana Conference
Havana Conference
The Havana Conference of 1946 was an historic meeting of United States Mafia and Cosa Nostra leaders in Havana, Cuba. Supposedly arranged by Charles "Lucky" Luciano, the conference was held to discuss important mob policies, rules, and business interests. The Havana Conference was attended by...

 was held on December 22, 1946 at the Hotel Nacional de Cuba
Hotel Nacional de Cuba
The Hotel Nacional de Cuba is an historic luxury hotel located on the Malecón in Havana, Cuba. It was designed by the famous New York firm McKim, Mead and White and features an eclectic mix of architectural styles...

. This was the first full-scale meeting of American underworld leaders since the Chicago meeting in 1932.

Lansky set about cleaning up the games at the Montmartre Club, which soon became the place to be in Havana. He also wanted to open a casino in the Hotel Nacional, the most elegant hotel in Havana. Batista endorsed Lansky's idea over the objections of American expatriate
An expatriate is a person temporarily or permanently residing in a country and culture other than that of the person's upbringing...

s like Ernest Hemingway
Ernest Hemingway
Ernest Miller Hemingway was an American author and journalist. His economic and understated style had a strong influence on 20th-century fiction, while his life of adventure and his public image influenced later generations. Hemingway produced most of his work between the mid-1920s and the...

 and the renovated casino wing opened for business in 1955 with a show by Eartha Kitt
Eartha Kitt
Eartha Mae Kitt was an American singer, actress, and cabaret star. She was perhaps best known for her highly distinctive singing style and her 1953 hit recordings of "C'est Si Bon" and the enduring Christmas novelty smash "Santa Baby." Orson Welles once called her the "most exciting woman in the...

. The casino was an immediate success.

As the new hotels, nightclubs, and casinos opened Batista wasted no time collecting his share of the profits. Nightly, the "bagman" for his wife collected 10 percent of the profits at Trafficante's interests; the Sans Souci cabaret, and the casinos in the hotels Sevilla-Biltmore, Commodoro, Deauville, and Capri (partly owned by the actor George Raft
George Raft
George Raft was an American film actor and dancer identified with portrayals of gangsters in crime melodramas of the 1930s and 1940s...

). His take from the Lansky casinos – his prized Habana Riviera
Hotel Habana Riviera
The Hotel Habana Riviera, or Havana Rivera as it is otherwise known, is located on the Malecón waterfront boulevard in Havana, Cuba. The hotel has over 350 rooms.- History :The hotel was owned and operated by Riviera de Cuba S.A...

, the Hotel Nacional, the Montmartre Club, and others – was said to be 30 percent. Lansky was said to have personally contributed millions of dollars per year to Batista's Swiss bank accounts.

Support of U.S. business and government

In a manner that antagonized the Cuban people, the U.S. government used their influence to advance the interests of and increase the profits of the private American companies, which "dominated the island's economy." As a symbol of this relationship, ITT Corporation
ITT Corporation
ITT Corporation is a global diversified manufacturing company based in the United States. ITT participates in global markets including water and fluids management, defense and security, and motion and flow control...

, an American-owned multinational telephone company, presented Batista with a gold-plated telephone, as an "expression of gratitude" for the "excessive telephone rate increase" that Batista had granted at the urging of the U.S. government.

Earl T. Smith
Earl T. Smith
Earl Edward Tailer Smith was a United States foreign diplomat, ambassador to Cuba , mayor of Palm Beach , and husband of model Florence Pritchett Smith .-Biography:...

, former U.S. Ambassador to Cuba, testified to the U.S. Senate in 1960 that "until Castro, the U.S. was so overwhelmingly influential in Cuba that the American ambassador was the second most important man, sometimes even more important than the Cuban president." In addition, nearly "all aid" from the U.S. to Batista's regime was in the "form of weapons assistance", which "merely strengthened the Batista dictatorship" and "completely failed to advance the economic welfare of the Cuban people." Such actions later "enabled Castro and the Communists to encourage the growing belief that America was indifferent to Cuban aspirations for a decent life."

According to historian and author James S. Olson
James S. Olson
James Stuart Olson is an academic and Pulitzer Prize nominee author. In 1994 he was appointed Distinguished Professor of History at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas....

, the U.S. government essentially became a "co-conspirator" in the arrangement because of Batista's bitter anti-communism, which in the rhetoric of the Cold War
Cold War
The Cold War was the continuing state from roughly 1946 to 1991 of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, and economic competition between the Communist World—primarily the Soviet Union and its satellite states and allies—and the powers of the Western world, primarily the United States...

, seemed to maintain business stability and a pro-US posture on the island. Thus, in the view of Olson, "the U.S. government had no difficulty in dealing with him, even if he was a hopeless despot
Despotism is a form of government in which a single entity rules with absolute power. That entity may be an individual, as in an autocracy, or it may be a group, as in an oligarchy...


Senator John F. Kennedy
John F. Kennedy
John Fitzgerald "Jack" Kennedy , often referred to by his initials JFK, was the 35th President of the United States, serving from 1961 until his assassination in 1963....

, in the midst of his campaign for the U.S. Presidency, described Batista's relationship with the U.S. government and criticized the Eisenhower Administration for supporting him, on October 6, 1960:

Batista, Fidel Castro, and the Cuban Revolution

Just over a year after Batista's second coup, a small group of revolutionaries attacked the Moncada Barracks
Moncada Barracks
The Moncada Barracks was a military barracks in Santiago de Cuba, named after General Guillermón Moncada, a hero of the War of Independence. On July 26, 1953, the barracks was the site of an armed attack by a small group of revolutionaries led by Fidel Castro. This armed attack is widely accepted...

 in Santiago
Santiago de Cuba
Santiago de Cuba is the second largest city of Cuba and capital city of Santiago de Cuba Province in the south-eastern area of the island, some south-east of the Cuban capital of Havana....

 on July 26, 1953. The assault was easily defeated and its leaders jailed, while many fled the country. The primary leader of the attack, Fidel Castro
Fidel Castro
Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz is a Cuban revolutionary and politician, having held the position of Prime Minister of Cuba from 1959 to 1976, and then President from 1976 to 2008. He also served as the First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba from the party's foundation in 1961 until 2011...

, was a young attorney who had been running for parliament in the canceled 1952 elections. In the wake of the Moncada assault, Batista suspended constitutional guarantees and increasingly relied on police tactics in an attempt to "frighten the population through open displays of brutality."

Batista held an election in 1954, running as the candidate of a political coalition that included the Progressive Action Party, the Radical Union Party, and the Liberal Party. The opposition divided into abstentionists and electoralists. The abstentionists favored boycotting the elections regardless of the circumstances in which they were held, whereas the electoralists sought certain rights and guarantees to participate. The CIA had predicted that Batista would use any means necessary to ensure that he won the election. Batista lived up to their expectations, utilizing fraud and intimidation to secure his presidency. This led most of the other parties to boycott the elections. Former President Ramón Grau San Martín, leading the electoralist factions of the Cuban Revolutionary Party, participated through the political campaign but withdrew from the campaign days before election day, charging that his supporters had been terrorized. Thus, Batista was elected president with the support of 45.6% registered voters. Despite the boycott, Grau received the support of 6.8% of those who voted. The remaining voters abstained.

By late 1955, student riots and anti-Batista demonstrations had become frequent, and unemployment became a problem as graduates entering the workforce could not find jobs. These were dealt with through increasing repression. All youth were seen as suspected revolutionaries. Due to its continued opposition to Batista and the large amount of revolutionary activity taking place on its campus, the University of Havana
University of Havana
The University of Havana or UH is a university located in the Vedado district of Havana, Cuba. Founded in 1728, the University of Havana is the oldest university in Cuba, and one of the first to be founded in the Americas...

 was temporarily closed on November 30, 1956 (it did not reopen until 1959 under the first revolutionary government). On March 13, 1957, student leader José Antonio Echeverría was killed by police outside Radio Reloj
Radio Reloj
Radio Reloj is an internationally-broadcast Spanish language radio station, located in Cuba.The station is heard on various AM frequencies throughout the country and also on certain FM frequencies, such as 101.5 FM in Havana....

 in Havana after announcing that Batista had been killed in a student attack on the Presidential Palace; in reality, Batista survived, and the students of the FEU and DR who led the attack were killed in the response by the military and police. Ironically, Castro quickly condemned the attack, since the July 26 Movement had not participated in it.
In April 1956, Batista called popular military leader Col. Ramón Barquín
Ramón Barquín
Ramón M. Barquín was a Cuban military colonel and opponent of former President Fulgencio Batista. Barquín was jailed by the Batista government for leading a failed coup attempt in 1956. He later fled Cuba in 1960 following the 1959 takeover by Fidel Castro.- Early life :Ramón M. Barquín was born...

 back to Cuba from his post as military attaché
Military attaché
A military attaché is a military expert who is attached to a diplomatic mission . This post is normally filled by a high-ranking military officer who retains the commission while serving in an embassy...

 to the United States. Believing Barquín would support his rule, Batista promoted him to General. However, Barquín's Conspiración de los Puros (Conspiracy of the Pure) was already underway and had already progressed too far. On April 6, 1956, Barquín led a coup by hundreds of career officers but was frustrated by Lieutenant Ríos Morejón, who betrayed the plan. Barquín was sentenced to solitary confinement for eight years on the Isle of Pines, while some officers were sentenced to death for treason. Many others were allowed to remain in the military without being reprimanded.

The purge of the officer corps contributed to the inability of the Cuban army to successfully combat Castro and his guerrillas. Batista's police responded to increasing popular unrest by torturing and killing young men in the cities; his army, however, was ineffective against the rebels based in the Sierra Maestra
Sierra Maestra
Sierra Maestra is a mountain range that runs westward across the south of the old Oriente Province from what is now Guantánamo Province to Niquero in southeast Cuba, rising abruptly from the coast. Some view it as a series of connecting ranges , which joins with others extending to the west...

 and Escambray mountains
Escambray Mountains
The Escambray Mountains are a mountain range in the central region of Cuba, in the provinces of Sancti Spíritus, Cienfuegos and Villa Clara....

. Another possible explanation for the failure to crush the rebellion was offered by author Carlos Alberto Montaner
Carlos Alberto Montaner
Carlos Alberto Montaner is an exiled Cuban author and journalist known for his more than 25 books and thousand of articles, including several novels, the last of which is La mujer del coronel, The colonel's wife. Some of his books are devoted to explain the true nature of the Cuban dictatorship,...

: "Batista does not finish Fidel out of greed ... His is a government of thieves. To have this small guerrilla band in the mountains is to his advantage, so that he can order special defense expenditures that they can steal." Batista's rule became increasingly unpopular among the population, and the Soviet Union began to secretly support Castro. However, some of Batista's former generals have also criticized him in recent years, saying that Batista's excessive interference in his generals' military plans to defeat the rebels hampered Army morale and rendered all operations ineffective.

In an effort to gather information about Castro's army, people were pulled in by Batista's secret police for questioning. Many innocent people were tortured by Batista's police, while suspects, including youth, were publicly executed as a warning to others who were considering joining the insurgency. Additionally, "Hundreds of mangled bodies were left hanging from lamp posts or dumped in the streets in a grotesque variation of the Spanish colonial practice of public executions." The behavior of Batista's forces backfired and increased support for the guerrillas. In 1958, forty-five organizations signed an open letter supporting the July 26 Movement, among them national bodies representing lawyers, architects, dentists, accountants and social workers. Castro, who had originally relied on the support of the poor, was now gaining the backing of the influential middle classes.

The United States supplied Batista with planes, ships, tanks, and the latest technology, such as napalm
Napalm is a thickening/gelling agent generally mixed with gasoline or a similar fuel for use in an incendiary device, primarily as an anti-personnel weapon...

, which were used in his battle against the insurgency. However, in March 1958, the U. S. announced it would stop selling arms to the Cuban government. Soon after, the U.S. imposed an arms embargo, further weakening the government's position, although land owners and others who benefited from the regime continued to support Batista.

Elections were scheduled for June 1958, as required by the Constitution, but were delayed until November 1958 when Castro and the revolutionaries called for a general strike and placed several bombs in civilian areas of the country. There were three main candidates in the elections, Carlos Márquez Sterling
Carlos Márquez Sterling
Dr. Carlos Márquez Sterling y Guiral was a Cuban lawyer, writer, politician and diplomat....

 of the Party of the Free People, Former President Ramón Grau San Martín of the Cuban Revolutionary Party-Authentic, and Andrés Rivero Agüero
Andrés Rivero Agüero
Andrés Rivero Agüero was the last person to be elected president of Cuba in a multiparty election. He was born to extremely poor parents in San Luis, Oriente Province on 4 February 1905. He taught himself to read when he was 16...

 of the government coalition. All three of these candidates were threatened by Castro, and several assassination attempts were made on both Ramón Grau San Martín and Carlos Márquez Sterling. Castro threatened the candidates in the elections because if any of the non-government candidates won, they would have blocked the Revolution's triumph and his ascent to power, since it would have meant that the elections were free and fair. In the end, he did not have to worry about this. On Election Day, estimates on the turnout range from 30–50% in the areas where voting took place, which did not include parts of Las Villas and Oriente, which were controlled by Castro. The initial results showed a Márquez Sterling victory, but the military ordered the counting to stop as they changed the actual ballots for fraudulent ones, and Batista declared Rivero Agüero the winner. Once Castro came to power, he ordered all records from the elections destroyed, so that Carlos Márquez Sterling could not claim that he should rightfully have been President.

On December 11, 1958, U.S. Ambassador Earl Smith
Earl T. Smith
Earl Edward Tailer Smith was a United States foreign diplomat, ambassador to Cuba , mayor of Palm Beach , and husband of model Florence Pritchett Smith .-Biography:...

 visited Batista at his hacienda, "Kuquine". There Smith informed him that the United States could no longer support his regime. Batista asked if he could go to his house in Daytona Beach. The ambassador denied his request and suggested instead that he seek asylum in Spain.

On December 31, 1958, at a New Year's Eve party, Batista informed his Cabinet and top officials of his government that he was leaving the country. After seven years, Batista knew his presidency was over and fled the island in the early morning hours. At three A.M. on January 1, 1959, Batista boarded a plane at Camp Columbia with one hundred and eighty of his supporters and flew to Ciudad Trujillo in the Dominican Republic
Dominican Republic
The Dominican Republic is a nation on the island of La Hispaniola, part of the Greater Antilles archipelago in the Caribbean region. The western third of the island is occupied by the nation of Haiti, making Hispaniola one of two Caribbean islands that are shared by two countries...

. With him went his personal fortune of more than $300 million amassed through graft and payoffs. Critics accused Batista and his supporters of taking as much as $700 million in fine art and cash with them as they fled into exile.

As news of the fall of Batista's government spread through Havana, The New York Times
The New York Times
The New York Times is an American daily newspaper founded and continuously published in New York City since 1851. The New York Times has won 106 Pulitzer Prizes, the most of any news organization...

described the scene as one of jubilant crowds pouring into the streets and automobile horns honking. The black and red flag of the July 26 Movement waved on automobiles and buildings. The atmosphere was chaotic. On January 8, 1959, Castro and his army rolled victoriously into Havana.

Having already been denied entry to the United States, Batista sought asylum in Mexico, which also refused him entry. Portugal's dictator António Salazar
António de Oliveira Salazar
António de Oliveira Salazar, GColIH, GCTE, GCSE served as the Prime Minister of Portugal from 1932 to 1968. He also served as acting President of the Republic briefly in 1951. He founded and led the Estado Novo , the authoritarian, right-wing government that presided over and controlled Portugal...

 allowed him to settle there on condition he completely remove himself from politics.

By the end of Batista's rule, described by U.S. President John F. Kennedy as "one of the most bloody and repressive dictatorships in the long history of Latin American repression", many claim that up to 20,000 Cubans had been killed.

Personal life and death

He was married to Elisa Godinez Gomez de Batista
Elisa Godinez Gomez de Batista
Elisa Godinez Gomez de Batista was the First Lady of Cuba from 1940-1944. She was the first wife of Cuban President Fulgencio Batista....

 (1900–1993) on July 10, 1926, and they had three children: Mirta Caridad (April 1927–2010), Elisa Aleida (born 1933), and Fulgencio Rubén Batista Godinez (1933–2007). He later married Marta Fernandez Miranda de Batista
Marta Fernandez Miranda de Batista
Marta Fernandez Miranda de Batista was First Lady of Cuba from 1952 until 1959. She was the second wife of Cuban President Fulgencio Batista, who was overthrown by Fidel Castro in the 1959 Cuban Revolution, which forced the couple to flee permanently into exile.-First Lady:Fulgencio Batista had...

 (1920–2006), and they had five children: Jorge Luis (born 1942), Roberto Francisco (born 1947), Carlos Manuel (1950–1969), Fulgencio José (born 1953) and Marta Maria Batista Fernández. He also had a daughter, Fermina Lazara Batista Estevez, in 1935.

Batista later moved to Madeira
Madeira is a Portuguese archipelago that lies between and , just under 400 km north of Tenerife, Canary Islands, in the north Atlantic Ocean and an outermost region of the European Union...

, then Estoril
Estoril is a seaside resort and civil parish of the Portuguese municipality of Cascais, Lisboa District. The Estoril coast is close to Lisbon, the capital of Portugal. It starts in Carcavelos, 15 kilometres from Lisbon, and stretches as far as Guincho, often known as Costa de Estoril-Sintra or...

, outside Lisbon
Lisbon is the capital city and largest city of Portugal with a population of 545,245 within its administrative limits on a land area of . The urban area of Lisbon extends beyond the administrative city limits with a population of 3 million on an area of , making it the 9th most populous urban...

, Portugal, where he lived and wrote books the rest of his life. He was also the Chairman of a Spanish life insurance company that invested in property and mortgages on the Spanish Riviera.

He died of a heart attack on August 6, 1973, at Guadalmina, near Marbella
Marbella is a town in Andalusia, Spain. It is situated on the Mediterranean Sea, in the province of Málaga, beneath the La Concha mountain. In 2000 the city had 98,823 inhabitants, in 2004, 116,234, in 2010 approximately 135,000....

, Spain, two days before a team of assassins from Castro's Cuba could carry out a plan to assassinate him.

Marta Fernandez Miranda de Batista
Marta Fernandez Miranda de Batista
Marta Fernandez Miranda de Batista was First Lady of Cuba from 1952 until 1959. She was the second wife of Cuban President Fulgencio Batista, who was overthrown by Fidel Castro in the 1959 Cuban Revolution, which forced the couple to flee permanently into exile.-First Lady:Fulgencio Batista had...

, Batista's widow, died on October 2, 2006. Roberto Batista, her son, says that she died at her West Palm Beach home. She had suffered from Alzheimer's disease
Alzheimer's disease
Alzheimer's disease also known in medical literature as Alzheimer disease is the most common form of dementia. There is no cure for the disease, which worsens as it progresses, and eventually leads to death...

. Batista was buried with her husband in San Isidro Cemetery in Madrid
Madrid is the capital and largest city of Spain. The population of the city is roughly 3.3 million and the entire population of the Madrid metropolitan area is calculated to be 6.271 million. It is the third largest city in the European Union, after London and Berlin, and its metropolitan...

 after a Mass
Mass (liturgy)
"Mass" is one of the names by which the sacrament of the Eucharist is called in the Roman Catholic Church: others are "Eucharist", the "Lord's Supper", the "Breaking of Bread", the "Eucharistic assembly ", the "memorial of the Lord's Passion and Resurrection", the "Holy Sacrifice", the "Holy and...

 in West Palm Beach.

Books written by Batista

  • Estoy con el Pueblo (I am With the People), Havana, 1939
  • Repuesta, Manuel León Sánchez S.C.L., Mexico City, 1960
  • Piedras y leyes (Stones and Laws), Mexico City, 1961
  • Cuba Betrayed, Vantage Press, New York, 1961
  • To Rule is to Foresee, 1962
  • The Growth and Decline of the Cuban Republic, Devin-Adair Company, New York, 1964

External links

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