Fulgencio Batista y Zaldívar (Spanish pronunciation: [fulˈxensjo βaˈtista i salˈdiβar]; January 16, 1901 – August 6, 1973) was the capitalist Cuban dictator and military leader closely aligned with and supported by the United States. He served as the leader of Cuba from 1933–1944, and 1952–1959, before being overthrown as a result of the Cuban Revolution.
Batista initially rose to power as part of the so-called 1933 "Revolt of the Sergeants" that overthrew the liberal government of Grerado Machando. 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 until 1940, when he was himself elected President of Cuba, serving until 1944. From 1944–1952 he lived in the United States, returning to Cuba to run for president in 1952. Facing electoral defeat, he led a U.S. backed coup that preempted the election.
Beginning in 1952, Batista suspended the Constitution of 1940 and revoked most political liberties, including the right to strike. He then went into league with the wealthiest landowners who held the largest sugar plantations, and presided over an economy which saw a widening in the gap between the rich and the poor. 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 rackets in Havana, and with large multinational American corporations that had invested considerable amounts of money into Cuba. To quell the growing discontent amongst the populace, which was subsequently displayed through frequent student riots and anti-Batista demonstrations; Batista established tighter censorship of the media, while also utilizing his secret police and U.S.-supplied weaponry to carry out wide-scale violence, torture and public executions, ultimately killing as many as 20,000 people.
As a result of such tactics, for two years (Dec 1956 – Dec 1958) Fidel Castro's July 26 Movement and other nationalistic 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, run by his fellow strongman and previous military ally Rafael Trujillo. Batista eventually found political asylum in Portugal, where he lived until dying of a heart attack on August 6, 1973 near Marbella, Spain.
- Encyclopedia Britannica entry for Fulgencio Batista
- Fulgencio Batista, from army sergeant to dictator of Cuba. historyofcuba.com
- Historical Dictionary of the 1950s, by James Stuart Olson, Greenwood Publishing Group, 2000, ISBN 0313306192, pp. 67–68
- Havana Nocturne: How the Mob Owned Cuba and Then Lost It to the Revolution, by T. J. English, William Morrow, 2008, ISBN 0-06-114771-0
- Conflict, Order, and Peace in the Americas, by the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, 1978, pg 121 ~ "The US-supported Batista regime killed 20,000 Cubans"
- Fulgencio Batista by Spartacus School Encyclopedia
- "Batista Dies in Spain at 72", New York Times, August 7, 1973.
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