Fulgencio Batista

Fulgencio Batista

Fulgencio Batista y Zaldívar (; January 16, 1901 – August 6, 1973) was the U.S.-backed military leader who served as the elected President of Cuba from 1940 to 1944 and dictator from 1952 to 1959, before being overthrown as a result of the Cuban Revolution.

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 on a populist platform. He then instated the 1940 Constitution of Cuba, deemed progressive for its time, and served until 1944. 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.

Back in power, Batista suspended the 1940 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 increasingly corrupt and repressive regime then began to systematically profit from the exploitation of Cuba's commercial interests, by negotiating lucrative relationships with the American mafia, who controlled the drug, gambling, and prostitution businesses in Havana, and with large multinational American corporations that had invested considerable amounts of money in Cuba. To quell the growing discontent amongst the populace—which was subsequently displayed through frequent student riots and demonstrations—Batista established tighter censorship of the media, while also utilizing his anti-Communist secret police to carry out wide-scale violence, torture and public executions; ultimately killing anywhere from 1,000 to 20,000 people.

Catalyzing the resistance to such tactics, for two years (December 1956 – December 1958) Fidel Castro's July 26 Movement and other nationalist rebelling elements led an urban and rural-based guerrilla uprising against Batista's regime, 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. Batista immediately fled the island with an amassed personal fortune to the Dominican Republic, where strongman and previous military ally Rafael Trujillo held power. Batista eventually found political asylum in Portugal, where he lived until dying of a heart attack on August 6, 1973 near Marbella, Spain.

Read more about Fulgencio BatistaEarly Life, The 1933 Coup, First Presidency (1940–1944), Post-presidency, Military Coup and Second Presidency (1952–1959), Personal Life and Death, Books Written By Batista

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