Americas are celebrating, no, let us call it gloating, over the death of Fidel Castro. It’s easy to forget how Castro came to power in the first place. A little history might be in order for the self-righteous in America who long to go back to the days before Cuba’s communist revolution.
Prior to Castro, Cuba was run by Fulgencio Batista. He was the elected President of Cuba from 1940 to 1944, and dictator from 1952 to 1959.
Batista initially rose to power as part of the 1933 Revolt of the Sergeants that overthrew the authoritarian rule of Gerardo Machado. 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.
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 that preempted the election.
Again in power, Batista suspended the Constitution and revoked most political liberties, including the right to strike. He then aligned with the wealthiest landowners who owned the largest sugar plantations, and presided over a stagnating economy that widened the gap between rich and poor Cubans.
Batista’s corrupt and repressive government profited from the exploitation of Cuba’s commercial interests, by negotiating lucrative relationships with organized crime in America, who controlled the drug, gambling, and prostitution businesses in Havana.
He did the same with large US-based multinationals who were awarded lucrative contracts.
To quell the growing discontent among the populace Batista established tighter censorship of the media, while also utilizing his police state to carry out wide-scale violence, torture and public executions. It is estimated that Batista was ultimately responsible for killing up to 20,000 people.
Naturally, the Batista government received financial, military, and logistical support from the United States, which turned a blind-eye to Batista’s brutality. American’s bottom-line has always outweighed the liberty of the people of Latin America.
Finally, thanks to the brutality of Batista’s U.S. backed police state, Fidel Castro’s 26th of July Movement and other nationalist rebelling elements took shape.
These forces led an urban and rural-based guerrilla uprising against Batista’s government, which culminated in his eventual defeat by rebels under the command of Che Guevara at the Battle of Santa Clara on New Year’s Day 1959.
As is typical of American puppet dictators, Batista fled the island with an amassed personal fortune to the Dominican Republic, where strongman and ally Rafael Trujillo held power. He eventually found political asylum in Oliveira Salazar’s Portugal, where he lived until his death on August 6, 1973, near Marbella, Spain.
Batista was a disgusting, U.S. backed dictator, who systematically brutalized the Cuban people for decades. With the 20-20 hindsight that history provides, it is easy to understand Castro’s popularity, and the hatred Cubans have for the corporate interests that run the United States.
Unfortunately, as is so often the case, the Castro regime didn’t liberate the Cuban people in the real sense. Rather it was a change from one dictatorial regime to another. If anything, America’s myopic loathing of Communism helped prop-up Castro during decades awful economic times. Another epic failure in American foreign policy.
We hold or breath in anticipation of the next chapter in Cuba’s history. In the euphoria over Castro’s demise, let’s not long to go back to the good old days. They weren’t so good.