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Manuel Urrutia

Manuel Urrutia

In office
January 3, 1959 – July 17, 1959
Preceded by Carlos Modesto Piedra
Succeeded by Osvaldo Dorticós Torrado

Born December 8, 1901(1901-12-08)
Yaguajay, Las Villas, Cuba
Died July 5, 1981 (aged 79)
Queens, New York, United States

Manuel Urrutia Lleó (December 8, 1901, Yaguajay, Las Villas, Cuba – 5 July 1981, Queens, New York, United States) was a Cuban lawyer and politician. Urrutia campaigned against the Gerardo Machado government and the second presidency of Fulgencio Batista during the 1950s, before serving as president in the first revolutionary government of 1959. After only six months, Urrutia resigned his position due to a series of disputes with revolutionary leader Fidel Castro and emigrated to the United States shortly after.


Role in the Cuban revolution

Urrutia was a leading figure in the civic resistance movement against Batista's government during the Cuban Revolution, and was the agreed choice of future president among Fidel Castro's 26th of July Movement as early as April 1958.[1] In 1957 Urrutia had presided in court over a case in which members of the movement had been charged with "anti-government activities", ruling that the defendants had been acting within their rights.[2] A year later, Urrutia visited the U.S. to gain support for the Cuban revolution, successfully lobbying for a halt of weapons shipments to Batista's forces.[3] It was considered that the choice of Urrutia, an educated liberal and Christian, as president would be welcomed by the United States.[1]


The Cuban Revolution gained victory on January 1, 1959, and Urrutia returned from exile in Venezuela to take up residence in the presidential palace. Urrutia's new revolutionary government consisted largely of Cuban political veterans and pro-business liberals including José Miró, who was appointed as Urrutia's prime minister.[4]

Once in power, Urrutia swiftly began a program of closing all brothels, gambling outlets and the national lottery, arguing that these had long been a corrupting influence on the state. The measures drew immediate resistance from the large associated workforce. The disapproving Castro, then commander of Cuba's new armed forces, intervened to request a stay of execution until alternative employment could be found.[5]

Disagreements also arose in the new government concerning pay cuts which were imposed on all public officials on Castro's demand. The disputed cuts included a reduction of the $100,000 a year presidential salary Urrutia had inherited from Batista.[6] By February Castro had assumed the role of prime minister following the surprise resignation of Miró, strengthening his power and rendering Urrutia increasingly a figurehead president.[4] As Urrutia's participation in the legislative process declined, other unresolved disputes between the two leaders continued to fester. Urrutia's belief in the restoration of elections was rejected by Castro, who felt that they would usher in a return to the old discredited system of corrupt parties and fraudulent balloting which marked the Batista era.[3]

Urrutia was then accused by the Avance newspaper of buying a luxury villa, which was portrayed as a frivolous betrayal of the revolution and led to an outcry from the general public. Urrutia denied the allegation issuing a writ against the newspaper in response. The story further increased tensions between the various factions in the government, though Urrutia asserted publicly that he had "absolutely no disagreements" with Fidel Castro. Urrutia attempted to distance the Cuban government (including Castro) from the growing influence of the Communists within the administration, making a series of critical public comments against the latter group. Whilst Castro had not openly declared any affiliation with the Cuban communists, Urrutia had been a declared anti-Communist since they had refused to support the insurrection against Batista,[7] stating in an interview, "If the Cuban people had heeded those words, we would still have Batista with us ... and all those other war criminals who are now running away".[3]

Cuban Revolutionary Government Cabinet, January 1959


  • Prime Minister : Jose Miro Cardona
  • Minister of State: Roberto Agramonte
  • Minister of the Treasury: Raul Chibas Rivas
  • Minister of Justice: Angel Fernandez Rodriguez
  • Minister of Health: Julio Martinez Paez
  • Minister of Commerce: Raul Cepero Bonilla
  • Minister of Labor: Manuel Fernandez Garcia
  • Minister of Education: Armando Hart Davalos
  • Minister of Government: Luis Orlando Rodriguez
  • Minister of Public Works: Manuel Ray Rivero
  • Minister of Agriculture: Humberto Sori Marin
  • Minister of Recuperation of Misappropriated Goods: Faustino Perez Hernandez
  • Minister of National Defense: Augusto R. Martinez Sanchez
  • Minister of Communications: Enrique Oltuski Ozacki
  • Minister of Social Welfare: Elena Mederos Cabanas
  • Minister of National Economic Council: Regino Boti Leon
  • President of the National Bank of Cuba: Felipe Pazos Roque
  • Secretary to the President and Council of Ministers: Luis M. Buch Rodriguez
  • Chief of the Navy: Gasper Brooks Avella
  • Army Chief of Staff: Colonel Jose M. Rego Rubido
  • National Police Chief: Efigenio Ameijeiras
  • President of the Supreme Court: Emilio Menendez Menendez
  • Supreme Court Prosecutor: Felipe Luaces Sebrago
  • Ambassador to the United States: Ernesto Dihigo Lopez-Trigo
  • Delegate General of the President to the Armed Forces and the Maximum Leader of the 26 of July Movement: Fidel Castro Ruz


On July 17, 1959, Conrado Bécquer, the sugar workers' leader demanded Urrutia's resignation. Castro himself resigned as Prime Minister of Cuba in protest, but later that day appeared on television to deliver a lengthy denouncement of Urrutia, claiming that Urrutia "complicated" government, and that his "fevered anti-Communism" was having a detrimental effect. Castro's sentiments received widespread support as organized crowds surrounded the presidential palace demanding Urrutia's resignation, which was duly received. On July 23, Castro resumed his position as premier and appointed Osvaldo Dorticós as the new president.[7]

After Cuba

After leaving his post Urrutia sought asylum in the embassy of Venezuela before settling in Queens, New York, United States. Urrutia worked as a high school Spanish teacher until his death in 1981.

Political offices
Preceded by
Carlos Modesto Piedra
President of Cuba
Succeeded by
Osvaldo Dorticós


  1. ^ a b Richard Gott. Cuba. A new history. p162.
  2. ^ Julia E. Sweig, Inside the Cuban Revolution : Fidel Castro and the Urban Underground. p12
  3. ^ a b c The Political End of President Urrutia. Fidel Castro, by Robert E. Quirk 1993. Accessed 8th October. 2006.
  4. ^ a b John Lee Anderson, Che Guevara : A revolutionary life. 376-405.
  5. ^ Robert E. Quirk. Fidel Castro. p229.
  6. ^ Richard Gott. Cuba. A new history. p170.
  7. ^ a b Hugh Thomas, Cuba. The pursuit for freedom. p830-832
  8. ^

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