Fulgencio Batista made the cover of Time Magazine after his being elected President of Cuba in 1940
He murdered peasants he suspected of disloyalty, ordered mass public executions of thousands of his opponents, dragged long-haired youth off the street and sent them off to work camps, banned free speech and filled the prisons with thousands of those political opponents of his that he didn’t murder outright and his name was Fulgencio Batista? Right?
Wait a minute…hold on…now, I remember…no, no, no – actually it was Batista’s successor who did all of those things and his name was Fidel Castro.
Perhaps if Batista had been as brutal as his successor, Castro, he might have remained in power and ultimately, the people of Cuba would have benefited. He was not – unfortunately for the majority of people living in Cuba. In fact, Batista was rather lenient in dealing with revolutionaries. Exhibit “A,” when the Castro Brothers led their first unsuccessful revolution to overthrow the Batista government, they were sentenced to prison. Later, Castro would summarily (that means without due process of the law) execute people who had done only a fraction of what the Castro brothers themselves had done years earlier. In fact, feeling sorry for the young Fidel and his brother, Batista commuted their sentences and they ended up spending less than two years in prison. That alone, as much as anything, represents the stark differences in styles of governance between Batista and Fidel Castro.
Batista, after winning election in 1940, established a constitution and attracted industries which created jobs for Cuban workers. Before he was illegally ousted from office in a revolution marked by a bloodbath of mass executions, Cubans enjoyed the highest standard of living in all of Latin America. The previous fact is undisputed and documented in numerous studies and comparative economic reports from the era.
So, let’s examine the charges against Batista – shall we?
Charge One: Batista was a dictator.
Yes, although first elected, he did later refuse to step down but he was also fighting a subversive revolutionary force. Oh, I almost forgot, Fidel was also a dictator who, unlike Batista, had never been elected to so much as the office of Dog Catcher. I don’t know, point to Batista on this one.
Charge Two: Batista murdered people.
No, not really. Batista himself disliked the death penalty which is why he spared Castro, and those like him, the first time for trying to overthrow his government – a death penalty offense even in the United States.
Further, the court’s system in Cuba worked quite well under Batista and yes, on rare occasions, people were executed in Cuba while Batista was President. However, these were for horrific criminal acts and ordered by courts of law and not by Batista himself- no mass murder (such as was ordered by Castro) to be found here. What can I say? The point goes to Batista – an easy call.
Charge Three: Evil Batista allowed the establishment of large casinos, hotels, night clubs which a) brought in organized crime; b) encouraged prostitution, and c) exploited the workers.
Really? Those casinos, hotels and clubs filled the tax coffers of the Cuba government and helped provide a largely unskilled Cuban workforce with tens of thousands of jobs. The casinos never measured up to Las Vegas but, they were great and, when combined with the pristine beaches and natural beauty of Cuba, they drew millions of tourists who injected nearly a billion dollars into the Cuban economy – a lot of money in the 1950s.
Organized crime you say? Wow, I’m glad there’s none of that in America. If so, what harm did they do? Prostitution you say? Since the dawn of man, there have been prostitutes. There were and are plenty of prostitutes under the Castro dictatorship – still today. For many women, the meager food rations and allowances afforded them, under Castro’s failed Marxist policies, forced them to prostitution. Yes, kinda like what’s happening today in another failed Marxist country, Venezuela.
Finally the accusations that these casinos exploited workers – really? For many casino workers these jobs were the first substantial incomes they ever earned.
Charge Four: Batista allowed Bell Telephone to come into Cuba and set up a monopoly.
Yes, he most certainly did. Bell Telephone was already a monopoly in the United States and the Cuban telephone system was broken-down and unreliable. Batista wanted to modernize and expand the national telephone network that would allow the county to enjoy a single interconnected telecommunications network like the United States. Yes, Bell Telephone did give Batista a gold plated telephone for his office – oooohhhhhhh! For shame! Of course had there been another private telecommunications company capable of doing this, he might considered them but, alas, there were no others.
Charge Five: Batista had people tortured.
Yes, although not quite on the scale of the United States and it’s allies in the Global War on Terror. Certainly nowhere near the size of scope of the the wholesale torture practiced by Castro.
As the revolution progressed, Castro and his Communist friends began murdering private citizens, engaging in theft on a mass scale and engaging in terroristic acts against private and governmental properties and offices. Some relatively limited torture techniques were successfully used to gain useful information in the Cuban government’s defense against the Communist terrorists. Boo Hoo! The poor little terrorist babies!
What these Cuban officials did, at the time, is a relative drop in the bucket to the wide spread murder and heinous campaigns of torture visited upon Castro’s enemies – real or imagined. Since Castro’s gaining power, torture has been and remains widespread in Cuba. In Havana today, there is a giant steel rendering of Che Guevara’s face. It is affixed to the secret police building where anyone who is even suspected of disagreeing with the Castros may be sent to be tortured or, excuse me, “questioned,” by the secret police. In fact, even daring to attempt escape that little hell hole island, by boat or homemade raft, is enough to get one jailed and tortured – oh, excuse me, I mean “taken into custody and questioned.” If Cuba is such a worker’s paradise, why do on average, Cuban-American exhales, living in the United States, earn 29 times as much as the average Cuban who lives in Cuba? Hmm.
After the Castro Brothers overthrew the Cuban Government and executed and or tortured tens of thousands of people, the formerly productive corporate and large, large privately owned farms were seized, broken up, and given to the peasants. Yet, they never produced the same amount of food again and Cuba went from being a net exporter of agricultural products to relying heavily on subsidies from the Soviet Union. The factories stop producing and the Cuban GDP went into a free fall. The casinos were emptied out and many thousands thousands lost their jobs or owned tourist dependent businesses that failed. There was mass unemployment and while everyone received a roof over their head and ration cards, the cities were transformed, almost overnight it seemed, into giant slums.
The entire infrastructure began to collapse as there were no longer enough skilled technicians to keep it going. The beautiful modern phone network set up by Ma Bell was mostly dismantled. Fidel didn’t like the idea of widespread phone availability as the phone lines could been used to coordinate resistance to the Castro dictatorship just as the communist rebels had used them against Batista.
Liberals like to blame Communist Cuba’s economic downfall on the United States Embargo. How convenient? The problem was and is that liberals are unwilling to accept the fact that the Cuban system failed not because of the US but because, in the most simplistic of terms, Communism just doesn’t work. It never ever has and never will.
Perhaps liberals have never been able to except the failures of Communism because well, Communism is just a little too close to their own flawed ideology.. Don’t believe me? Go ahead and ask a liberal to explain why Communist country “X” (take you pick) failed? Then, watch them with true knee jerk speed say, “Well, County “X” was never really a true representation of proper socialism.” Go ahead and try it out on a liberal. It works every time.
I congratulate you on your article with very good approaches and wonderfully thoughtful. Batista’s figure was very unfairly slandered. He really loved the Cuban homeland and worked hard to bring Cuba to its highest standards. They always told me that despite being a dictator, he was a very good and very permissive man and you could live your normal life, that you did not find out that you were living in a dictatorship. All the people I knew from Cuba and who lived at that time always confirmed to me that the quality of life was very good and comparable to that of the United States and that there were hardly any inequalities. Everyone was very happy in that Cuba. They described it to me as a prosperous and advanced place for its time, and in some things ahead of the United States, as for equality of rights between sex and race. The 1940 constitution was the benchmark for the UN magna Carta.
I, as a descendant of Cubans of that time, can only show admiration and pride in coming from a place like that, a benchmark for the world at that time.
Communist ideology changed the facts of history at their convenience (you know, history is written by the victors) and everyone, not only on the island, believes its version. What is unforgivable is that many countries (which say they consider themselves “democratic”) are also willing to do business and turn a blind eye to everything that happens there. They are giving oxygen to this brutal dictatorship, and they are exploiting Cuban workers and promoting prostitution.
Without further elaboration, I leave you video links of what Cuba was like in the 50s since an image is worth more than a thousand words:
There are many more like this. I wish there were more blogs like yours defending the truth.
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Thank you sir, for sharing this important story of pre-Communist Cuba. May God Bless you!
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Te felicito por tu artículo con muy buenos planteamientos y estupendamente reflexionado. La figura de Batista fue muy injustamente calumniada. Él realmente amaba a la patria cubana y trabajó duramente para llevar a Cuba a sus máximos estandartes. Siempre me dijeron que a pesar de ser un dictador él era un hombre muy bueno y muy permisivo y podías hacer tu vida normal, que no te enterabas que estabas viviendo en una dictadura. Toda la gente que conocí de Cuba y que vivió en esa época siempre me confirmó que la calidad de vida era muy buena y equiparable a la norteamericana y que apenas había desigualdades. Todos eran muy felices en esa Cuba. Me la describían como un lugar próspero y avanzado para su época, y en algunas cosas adelantadas a Estados Unidos como en materia de igualdad de derechos entre sexo y raza. La constitución de 1940 fue el referente de la carta magna de la ONU.
Yo, como descendiente de cubanos de aquella época, no puedo mostrar más que admiración y orgullo de proceder de un lugar como ese, todo un referente para el mundo en aquella época.
La ideología comunista cambió los hechos de la historia a su conveniencia (ya sabes, la historia la escriben los vencedores) y todo el mundo, no sólo en la isla, se cree su versión. Lo imperdonable es que también muchos países (que se dicen considerar “democráticos”) se dispongan a hacer negocios y hacer la vista gorda con todo lo que ocurre ahí. Están dando oxígeno a esta brutal dictadura y ellos sí que explotan a los trabajadores cubanos y fomentan la prostitución.
Sin extenderme más, te dejo enlaces vídeos de cómo era Cuba en los años 50 ya que una imagen vale más que mil palabras:
Hay muchos más como éste. Ojalá existieran más blogs como el tuyo defendiendo la verdad.
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Congratulations on your no-nonsense article! While I am a self-described “Liberal,” I agree with all your points, except with the one regarding the Liberals who have become a catch-all for anything displeasing among Cubans. Would you entertain the proposition that “Conservatives” are just as much to blame if not more, for perpetuating the “Batista-as-Ogre” fallacy, just to save face for Eisenhower’s fault in helping Castro come to power? I am dumbfounded at the amount of misinformation by Americans and the Miami Cubans; apparently to save Republican Eisenhower and their own ego for having been bamboozled into believing that Castro was a bona fide “revolutionary” who wanted the best for Cuba! In a nutshell: the U.S. press (NYTs Herbert Matthews) and the Eisenhower State Department convinced Cubans–always enamored of all things U.S.–that Castro was their best option because Batista was a horrible person. Had the U.S. not intervened in what was a Cuban internal issue–by turning the Cuban population against the Batista government; allowing arms shipments to Castro while suspending those to the Cuban government; the State Department to issue statements designed to undermine confidence in the Cuban government; while its CIA not only did nothing to investigate Castro’s communist background but had most of its officials support Castro’s cause–the Castro so-called revolution would not have succeeded. It is frustrating to hear that, the Castro revolution toppled the Batista government, when in fact, it was the U.S. government who toppled Batista’s government through its meddling in all areas of the media and government! I have recently published “THE REVOLUTION THAT WASN’T: My Candid Observations About the Shared Cuba and United States Histories,” and hope to write a sequel making these points perfectly clear. In the meantime, please, remember Carl Sagan’s wise words, “One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we have been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We are no longer interested in finding the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It’s simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we have been taken. Once you give a charlatan [or an incorrect idea] power over you, you almost never get that power back.”
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Thank you for you help in clarifying this issue and for your book. Indeed, in so many of our national policy failings, Democrats and Republicans are both to blame.
Battista and the more recent case of Assad in Syria show similar traits. In both cases the US wanted to bring them down employing media the CIA and the state department
Earl E T Smith the last US ambassador to Cuba before the revolution, reported that the CIA rendered his job hopeless since they supported the rebels.
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All three US ambassadors felt the same way: disregarded by the State Department where Herbert Matthews of the NYT opinions and influence had more weight than any of them! The Miami-Cubans are the same people who fell for the NYT lies and Eisenhower’s trickery then left the country and continue to support the Republicans, the same people that made them lose their country! If we continue to blame only the “Liberals” we are leaving half the culprits out of the picture!
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CIAs Allen Dulles (I think he was a Knight of Malta) withheld from Eisenhower the crucial information he got from Cuban Intel about Castro’s communist sympathies.
Earl E T Smith wrote the book The Fourth Floor the title referring to the state department but didnt imply Eisenhower’s complicity.
Perhaps out of courtesy or caution but it is a fact that the powerful anglophile segment associated with the Pilgrim Society had already much earlier set out to control the media and the state department.
From the outset the Pilgrims explained that it wasnt about religious pilgrimmage but about anglosaxon brotherhood or something related.
The americans4innovation have published details about this whole connection.
For example the Pilgrim Whitwell Wilson housed Lenin in his home around 1911 and the YMCA was founded by the Pilgrims and was employed to support the training of communists in China after around 1925
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Eisenhower, John Foster Dulles and Allen Dulles were all LIFELONG Republicans; it makes no difference what other organizations they belonged to, that is a fact and they failed and/or covered up the fact that Castro was a communist. I have read and quoated The Fourth Floor in my book, The Revolution that Wasn’t: My Candid Observations About the Shared Cuba and United States Histories. There is no question that it was the Eisenhower administration that helped Castro into power.