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Fulgencio Batista

Batista in 1938

President of Cuba
In office
10 October 1940 – 10 October 1944
Vice President Gustavo Cuervo Rubio
Preceded by Federico Laredo Brú
Succeeded by Ramón Grau
In office
10 March 1952 – 1 January 1959
Preceded by Carlos Prío
Succeeded by Anselmo Alliegro

Born January 16, 1901(1901-01-16)
Banes, Cuba
Died August 6, 1973 (aged 72)
Guadalmina, Spain[1]
Nationality Cuban
Political party United Action Party, Progressive Action Party
Spouse(s) 1st Elisa Godinez-Gómez
2nd Marta Fernandez Miranda de Batista
Children Mirta Caridad Batista Godinez
Elisa Aleida Batista Godinez
Fulgencio Rubén Batista Godinez
Jorge Batista Fernández
Roberto Francisco Batista Fernández
Carlos Batista Fernández

Fulgencio Batista y Zaldívar (Spanish pronunciation: [fulˈxensjo baˈtista i salˈdivar]; January 16, 1901 – August 6, 1973) was a U.S.-backed Cuban military leader, President and dictator.[2] He served as the leader of Cuba from 1933–1944, and 1952–1959, before being overthrown as a result of the Cuban Revolution.[3]


Early life

Batista was born in Banes, Cuba in 1901, to Belisario Batista Palermo[4] and Carmela Zaldívar González, who had fought for independence from Spain. 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's 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.[5]

Of mixed European, African, Chinese and Amerindian descent, Batista was considered a mulatto socially. He was educated in an American Quaker school.[1] Coming from a humble background, he earned a living as a laborer in the cane fields, docks and railroads.[6] He was a tailor, mechanic, charcoal vendor, fruit peddler, and an Army stenographer.[6] In 1921, he traveled to Havana and joined the army.[7] 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 which overthrew the government of Gerardo Machado.[8] Machado was succeeded by Carlos Manuel de Céspedes y Quesada, who lacked a political coalition that could sustain him and was replaced a short time thereafter.

Initially, a presidency composed of five members, one from each anti-Machado faction, was created. Within days the representative for the students and professors of the University of Havana, 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.[9] The majority of the commissioned officer corps were forcefully retired or, as some speculate, killed.[9] Grau was president for just over 100 days before Batista, conspiring with the U.S. envoy Sumner Welles, forced him to resign in January 1934.[8]

Batista became the strongman behind a succession of "puppet presidents" until he was elected president himself in 1940.[8] Grau was replaced by Carlos Mendieta, and within five days the U.S. recognized Cuba's new government, which lasted 11 months. Succeeding governments were led by José Barnet (5 months) and Miguel Mariano Gómez (7 months) before Federico Laredo Brú ruled from December 1936 to October 1940.

First Presidency (1940–1944)

Batista defeated Ramón Grau in the 1940 election, and served a four year term as President of Cuba.[10][11] Supported by a coalition of political parties, he defeated Grau in the first presidential election under the new Cuban constitution. Although Batista was a capitalist and an admirer of the United States, he was endorsed by the old Communist Party of Cuba, 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.[12] Communists attacked the anti-Batista opposition, saying Grau and others were "fascists", "reactionaries" and "Trotskyists".[13]

During this term in office, Batista carried out major social reforms[11] and established numerous economic regulations and pro-union policies.[13] In 1941, Cuba declared war on Nazi Germany and in December 1942, after a friendly visit to Washington, Batista said Latin America would applaud a decision by the United Nations to go to war with Francisco Franco's Spain.[14][15]


In 1944, Batista's handpicked candidate for President 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 stated:

"It is becoming increasingly apparent that President Batista intends to discomfit the incoming Administration in every way possible, particularly financially. A systematic raid on the Treasury is in full swing with the result that Dr. Grau will probably find empty coffers when he takes office on October 10. It is blatant that President Batista desires that Dr. Grau San Matin should assume obligations which in fairness and equity should be a matter of settlement by the present Administration." [1]

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 in a home in Daytona Beach, Florida.[8]

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 Unitary Action Party.[16]

Second Coup and Presidency (1952–1959)

Fulgencio Batista in 1952.
"The corruption of the Government, the brutality of the police, the regime's indifference to the needs of the people for education, medical care, housing, for social justice and economic justice ... is an open invitation to revolution."
Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., when asked by the U.S. government to analyze Batista's Cuba [17]

In 1952, Batista again ran for president. In a three-way race, Roberto Agramonte of the Ortodoxos party led in all the polls, followed by Dr. Carlos Hevia of the Auténtico party, while Batista 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, 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 social policies of his earlier term. He was consumed with overcoming his social status and being accepted by Cuba's upper class, who had never allowed him membership in their social circles and clubs. He also concentrated heavily on increasing his own personal fortune.

Relationship with organized crime

Brothels flourished. A major industry grew up around them: Government officials received bribes, policemen collected protection money. Prostitutes could be seen standing in doorways, strolling the streets, or leaning from windows. One report estimated that 11,500 of them worked their trade in Havana. Beyond the outskirts of the capital, beyond the slot machines, was one of the poorest, and most beautiful countries in the Western world.
— David Detzer, American journalist, after visiting Havana in the 1950s[17]

Batista encouraged large scale gambling in Havana, announcing that the government would provide a casino license and match the amount invested by anyone making a hotel investment over $1 million. Meyer Lansky, a leading American mobster, took advantage of the offer and became a prominent figure in Cuba's gambling operations.[8]

Batista established lasting relationships with organized crime, and under his rule Havana became known as "the Latin Las Vegas."[18] Lansky associate Chauncey Holt described Batista as "always in Lansky's pocket."[17]

During Frank Sinatra's 1946 singing debut in Havana, a summit was held at Havana's Hotel Nacional, where mobsters Frank Costello, Vito Genovese, Santo Trafficante Jr., Moe Dalitz and others confirmed Lucky Luciano's authority over the American Mafia, with Lansky using the occasion to order the murder of Bugsy Siegel.[18]

Fidel Castro and the Cuban Revolution

"I believe that there is no country in the world including any and all the countries under colonial domination, where economic colonization, humiliation and exploitation were worse than in Cuba, in part owing to my country’s policies during the Batista regime. I approved the proclamation which Fidel Castro made in the Sierra Maestra, when he justifiably called for justice and especially yearned to rid Cuba of corruption. I will even go further: to some extent it is as though Batista was the incarnation of a number of sins on the part of the United States. Now we shall have to pay for those sins. In the matter of the Batista regime, I am in agreement with the first Cuban revolutionaries. That is perfectly clear."
U.S. President John F. Kennedy, interview with Jean Daniel, October 24, 1963 [19]

Just over a year after Batista's second coup, a small group of revolutionaries attacked the Moncada Barracks in Santiago on July 26, 1953. The assault was easily defeated and many of its leaders executed, while others were jailed. Among those jailed was the primary leader of the attack, Fidel Castro, 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."[8]

Batista held an election in 1954, which the opposition boycotted. Just before the election his opponent, Grau, withdrew from the campaign, charging that his supporters had been terrorized. Thus, Batista was elected president with 45.1% of the votes. Grau received only 6.8%.

The distinguished Colonel Cosme de la Torriente, a surviving veteran of the Cuban War of Independence, emerged in late 1955 to offer compromise. A series of meetings led by de la Torriente became known as "El Diálogo Cívico" (The Civic Dialogue). Writes Hugh Thomas: "This Diálogo Cívico represented what turned out to be the last hope for Cuban middle-class democracy, but Batista was far too strong and entrenched in his position to make any concessions."[citation needed]

By late 1955, student riots and anti-Batista demonstrations had become frequent. These were dealt with in the violent manner his military police had come to represent. Due to its continued opposition to Batista, the University of Havana was temporarily closed on November 30, 1956.[citation needed] (It would not reopen until early 1959, after a revolutionary victory.) Student leader Jose Antonio Echeverría was killed by police outside a radio station he had taken over to make broadcasts, in concert with an attack on the Presidential Palace on March 13, 1957.

In April 1956, Batista called popular military leader, Col. Ramón Barquín back to Cuba from his post as military attaché to the United States. Believing Barquín would support his rule, Batista appointed him General and Chief of the Army.[20] 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 many officers were sentenced to death.[20]

The purge of the officer corps contributed to the inability of the Cuban army to successfully combat Castro and his guerrillas.[20][21] 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 and Escambray mountains.[8] Another possible explanation for the failure to crush the rebellion was offered by author Carlos Alberto Montaner: "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."[8]

Batista's rule became increasingly unpopular among the population, and the Soviet Union began to secretly support Castro.[22] 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, while suspects, including children, were publicly executed and left hanging in the streets for several days as a warning to others who were considering joining the insurgency.[17] The behavior of Batista's forces backfired and increased support for the guerrillas. In 1958, forty-five organizations signed an open letter supporting the 26th of July 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.[17]

The United States supplied Batista with planes, ships, tanks, and the latest technology such as napalm which were used in his battle against the insurgency.[17] However, in March 1958, the U. S. announced it would stop selling arms to the Cuban government.[23] Soon after, the U.S. imposed an arms embargo and recalled their ambassador, further weakening the government's position,[24] although land owners and others who benefited from the regime continued to support Batista.[12]

In March 1958, President Eisenhower, disillusioned with Batista's performance, suggested he hold elections. Batista did, but the people showed their dissatisfaction with his government by refusing to vote. Over 75% percent of the voters in the capital, Havana, boycotted the polls. In some areas, such as Santiago, it was as high as 98 percent. The election placed another Batista puppet, Andrés Rivero, in the president's chair, but Batista knew losing the support of the U.S. government meant his days in power were numbered.[17]

On December 11, 1958, U.S. Ambassador Earl Smith visited Batista at his hacienda, "Kuquines". 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, Batista raised a New Year's Eve toast to his cabinet members and senior military officers and told them hasta la vista. After seven years, Batista knew his presidency was over and fled the island in the early morning hours as rebel forces entered Havana.[25] 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. With him went his personal fortune of more than US$300 million amassed through graft and payoffs.[26] Critics accused Batista and his supporters of taking as much as US$700 million in fine art and cash with them as they fled into exile.[27][28]

As news of the fall of Batista's government spread through Havana, The New York Times described the scene as one of jubilant crowds pouring into the streets and automobile horns honking. The black and red flag of the 26th of July Movement waved on automobiles and buildings. The atmosphere was chaotic. On January 8, 1959, Castro and his army rolled victoriously into Havana.[29]

Batista was not welcome in the Dominican Republic. Having already been denied entry to the United States, he sought asylum in Mexico, which also refused him entry. Portugal's dictator António Salazar allowed him to settle there on condition he completely remove himself from politics.

Personal life and death

He was married to Elisa Godinez-Gómez (1905–?) on July 10, 1926, and they had three children: Mirta Caridad (April 1927), Elisa Aleida (1933), and Fulgencio Rubén Batista Godinez (1933–2007) [30]). He later married Marta Fernandez Miranda de Batista (1920–2006), and they had two sons: Jorge and Roberto Francisco Batista Fernández.

Batista later moved to Madeira, then Estoril, outside Lisbon, Portugal, where he lived and wrote books the rest of his life. He was also the Chairman of a Spanish life insurance company which invested in property and mortgages on the Spanish Riviera.

He died of a heart attack on August 6, 1973 at Guadalmina, near Marbella, Spain,[31] two days before a team of assassins from Castro's Cuba could carry out a plan to kill him.[8]

Marta Fernandez Miranda de Batista, Batista's widow, died on October 2, 2006.[27] Roberto Batista, her son, says that she died at her West Palm Beach home. [28] She had suffered from Alzheimer's disease[28] and had a heart attack on September 8, 2006.[citation needed] Batista was buried with her husband in San Isidro Cemetery in Madrid after a mass 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. ASIN B0007DEH9A
  • The Growth and Decline of the Cuban Republic (translated by Blas M. Rocafort) Devin-Adair Company, New York, 1964. ISBN 0-8159-5614-2
  • unfinished autobiography, held by the University of Miami’s Cuban Heritage Collection [2]

Further reading

  • Argote-Freyre, Frank. Fulgencio Batista: Volume 1, From Revolutionary to Strongman. Rutgers University Press, Rutgers, New Jersey, 2006. ISBN 0-8135-3701-0.
  • Chester, Edmund A. A Sergeant Named Batista . Holt, 1954. ASIN B0007DPO1U
  • Gellman, Irwin F. Roosevelt and Batista: Good neighbor diplomacy in Cuba, 1933–1945. University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque, NM, 1973. ISBN 0-8263-0284-X
  • Valdés Sánchez, Servando Fulgencio Batista: El poder de las armas (1933–1940) Editora Historia, 1998. SBN 597048051.


  1. ^ a b Batista y Zaldívar, Fulgencio by Aimee Estill, Historical Text Archive.
  2. ^ Cuba: Idea of a Nation Displaced, State University of New York Press, 2007, ISBN 0791471993, pg 77
  3. ^ Encyclopedia Britannica entry for Fulgencio Batista
  4. ^ "Mambí Army" Data Base
  5. ^ His given name was Rubén Zaldivar (Spanish)
  6. ^ a b "Evolution of a Dictator". Time Magazine.,9171,775003,00.html. 
  7. ^ La piel de la memoria by René Dayre Abella.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i American Experience: Fulgencio Batista by PBS
  9. ^ a b Frank Argote-Freyre. Fulgencio Batista: Volume 1, From Revolutionary to Strongman. Rutgers University Press, New Jersey.
  10. ^ Leslie Bethell. Cuba. ISBN 9780521436823. 
  11. ^ a b Julia E. Sweig. Inside the Cuban Revolution. ISBN 9780674016125. 
  12. ^ a b Jorge I. Domínguez. Cuba. p. 90. 
  13. ^ a b Jorge I. Domínguez. Cuba. 
  14. ^ "Plain Talk in Spanish", TIME, December 28, 1942, Retrieved March 2, 2010
  15. ^ "Batista's Boost", TIME, January 18, 1943, Retrieved March 2, 2010
  16. ^ Biography of Fulgencio Batista – Fulgencio Batista Profile
  17. ^ a b c d e f g Fulgencio Batista by Spartacus School Encyclopedia
  18. ^ a b Fulgencio Batista fun facts by History of Cuba
  19. ^ Spartacus Educational entry for Jean Daniel
  20. ^ a b c Sullivan, Patricia (2008-03-06). "Ramón M. Barquín, 93; Led Failed '56 Coup in Cuba". Washington Post. Retrieved 2008-03-31. 
  21. ^ DePalma, Anthony (2008-03-06). "Ramón Barquín, Cuban Colonel, Dies at 93". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-03-31. 
  22. ^ Timothy P. Wickham-Crowley. Guerrillas and revolution in Latin America. p. 189. 
  23. ^ Ernesto "Che" Guevara (World Leaders Past & Present), by Douglas Kellner, 1989, Chelsea House Publishers, ISBN 1555468357, pg 45
  24. ^ Louis A. Pérez. Cuba and the United States. 
  25. ^ Audio: Recalling Castro's Ascension – And CIA Reaction by Tom Gjelten, NPR Morning Edition, January 1 2009
  26. ^ Ernesto "Che" Guevara (World Leaders Past & Present), by Douglas Kellner, 1989, Chelsea House Publishers, ISBN 1555468357, pg 48
  27. ^ a b O'Meilia, Tim (2006-10-04). "Widow of Cuban dictator Batista dies in WPB". Palm Beach Post. 
  28. ^ a b c "Widow of Cuban strongman Batista dies". United Press International. Retrieved 2008-03-31. 
  29. ^ "Castro: The Great Survivor". BBC News. October 2000. Retrieved 2006-05-15. 
  30. ^ Son of former Cuban leader dies
  31. ^ "Batista Dies in Spain at 72". New York Times. August 7, 1973. 

External links

Simple English

General Fulgencio Batista y Zaldívar

19th President of Cuba
In office
October, 1938 – January, 1959
Preceded by Federico Laredo Brú

Born January 16, 1901
Banes, Holguín Province, Cuba
Died August 6, 1973
Guadalmina, Spain
Political party P.A.U.- Partido de Accion Unitaria

General Fulgencio Batista y Zaldívar (born January 16, 1901August 6, 1973) was the military leader of Cuba from 1933 to 1940.De jure he was President of Cuba from 1940 to 1944. In 1940 he won the election. He then became the country's leader from 1952 to 1959. In 1952 he did a coup. His authoritarian government during this time caused opposition despite his attempt to placate critics with a 'show' election in 1954 were he ran without oppossition. The opposition included the entire coalition that had overthrown Machado. of Fidel Castro's guerrilla movement overthrew Batista. This is known as the Cuban Revolution.

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