Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Sixty nine years ago today Cuba's last democratic government was overthrown: The Batista Dictatorship and the Decline of Democracy in Cuba

The beginning of the Republic's end

Fulgencio Batista (Left) Carlos Prio Socarras (Right)

From CubaBrief

Sixty nine years ago today democracy ended in Cuba when General Fulgencio Batista carried out a coup d’état against the democratically elected President of Cuba, Carlos Prio Socarras. Professor Jaime Suchlicki, of the Cuban Studies Institute analyzed the conditions and circumstances that led to the 1952 Batista dictatorship.

In a Memorandum of Conversation, by the Ambassador in Cuba (Beaulac) with Dr. Miguel Angel de la Campa, Minister of State datelined Habana, March 22, 1952 and marked secret the U.S. Ambassador indicated that according to Dr. Campa:
“ Cuba intended to restore normal relations with countries toward which the former Cuban Government had had an attitude of hostility. He mentioned Spain and the Dominican Republic in particular. He said he thought the United States should recognize promptly; that it was in our interest that the situation should develop in an orderly way. I reminded Dr. Campa that our Government had not been consulted about the coup d'etat and that Cuba could not expect automatic recognition from us.” 
On March 24, 1952 in a memorandum by the Secretary of State Dean Acheson to President Harry S. Truman expressed surprise and " deplore[d] the way in which the Batista coup was brought about and is apprehensive that this kind of thing may occur in other countries of Latin America where elections are being held this year." 

Secretary of State Dean Acheson and President Harry S. Truman
The U.S. eventually recognized the Batista regime, but the ambivalence remained. On May 20, 1957 Fidel Castro requested that the United State stop sending arms to Batista. The United States complied with an arms embargo imposed on the Batista regime less than a year later.

In January of 1958 the United States was pressuring Batista to restore Constitutional guarantees in exchange for the sale of arms.

On March 14, 1958 the State Department in a telegram to the U.S. Embassy in Cuba  requested that the export license for 1,950 M-1 rifles for the Cuban Army awaiting shipment be suspended. This was done because the State Department felt that the Cuban government had failed to "create conditions for fair elections." 

Manuel Urrutia

On March 17, 1958 Fidel Castro's future candidate for provisional president, Manuel Urrutia, along with a delegation of other supporters in exile of the July 26th movement, met with officials at the State Department. They lobbied the U.S. government and argued that arms shipments to Cuba were for hemispheric defense, and they claimed that Batista using them against Cuban nationals was in violation of the conditions agreed to between the two countries. On the same day the Cuban Government presented to the U.S. Embassy in Havana a formal note protesting the delay in the shipment of M-1 rifles to the Cuban Army, and warned that it would weaken  the Cuban government and lead to its possible downfall.  

On March 26, 1958 in another telegram from the State Department to the U.S. Embassy in Havana the view was expressed how the arms embargo could lead to the fall of Batista's regime:
“Department has considered possibility its actions could have an adverse psychological effect GOC and could unintentionally contribute to or accelerate eventual Batista downfall. On other hand, shipment US combat arms at this time would probably invite increased resentment against US and associate it with Batista strong arm methods, especially following so closely on heels of following developments:
  1. Government publicly desisted from peace efforts.
  2. Government suspended guarantees again.
  3. Batista expressed confidence Government will win elections with his candidate and insists they will be held despite suspension guarantees but has made no real effort to satisfy public opinion on their fairness and effectiveness as possible means achieve fair and acceptable solution.
  4. Batista announced would increase size arms and informed you he would again undertake mass population shift Oriente, and otherwise acted in manner to discourage those who supported or could be brought to support peaceful settlement by constructive negotiations.
The United States would continue to pressure Batista to hold free elections and leave office for the remainder of 1958. Earl E. T. Smith, the U.S. ambassador to Cuba, on December 17, 1958 delivered a message from the State Department to Fulgencio Batista that the United States viewed "with skepticism any plan on his part, or any intention on his part, to remain in Cuba indefinitely."
Ambassador Earl E. T. Smith
The U.S. government had dealt Batista a mortal blow, and fourteen days later the Cuban dictatorship fell, and the Castro era had started. 

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