Thursday, January 16, 2014

Dictator Batista ran Cuba until 1959

It is the birthday of Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista (1901), who was first elected president of the island nation in 1940, but who had run the government behind the scenes since a coup in 1933. After serving as president for four years and instituting progressive reforms, Batista moved to the United States, where he divided his time between the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City and a home in Daytona Beach.

In 1952, Batista returned to Cuba to run for president again but when it became clear he wasn’t going to win, he staged a military coup and seized power. Batista made deals with Mafia figures Lucky Luciano and Meyer Lansky, allowing them to run gambling, prostitution, and drug operations in exchange for kickbacks. He aligned himself with wealthy landowners and U.S. corporations that had made huge investments in Cuba. He censored the media, and used violence, and public executions to put down any protests.

Fidel Castro and Che Guevara led a rebellion that brought Castro to power in 1959. Batista fled to the Dominican Republic (run by fellow dictator Rafael Trujillo), and eventually settled in Portugal, living off the millions in his Swiss bank accounts that he had siphoned off during his years in power. 

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