Brief Data: 42,803 sq mi. The size of Tennessee. Pop. 2006 est. 11,382,820. Est. GDP per capita $3,000. Internet TLD .cu Calling code +53
In 1895, Tomás Estrada Palma and the poet José Martí, led a successful revolt against Spanish rule. Cuba was proclaimed an independent republic on
July 15, 1895. Martí was killed shortly thereafter and has become Cuba’s undisputed national hero. Freedom was short lived however, the Spanish
reasserted control over Cuba by 1897.
On February 15, 1898, the American battleship USS Maine was mysteriously blown up in Havana harbor, killing 266 men. See Note 1, below. Aggressive
political forces in the US led by publisher William Randolph Hearst, favored US intervention in Cuba and war with Spain. The ugly head of an American
empire had reared its head. Here was a golden opportunity not to let pass.
The popular war cry, “Remember the Maine” captured the public’s interest and distracted it from the many scandals of the Gilded Age. The US
formerly accused Spain of blowing up the ship. Although Spain had no motive for attacking the Maine, and there was no evidence of Spanish culpability,
a rising popular sentiment riding a wave of super-nationalism swept aside those who argued for the US to go slowly. But calmer heads were overruled in
the well orchestrated rush to war. The US Congress cheerfully succumbed to the hysteria and passed a resolution calling for American intervention in
Cuba. War was strongly favored by Pres. William McKinley, who eagerly complied.
The result was the Spanish-American War, in which U.S. forces landed in Cuba in June 1898 and quickly overcame Spanish resistance. In August a peace
treaty was signed under which Spain agreed to withdraw from Cuba. Some people in America supported Cuban independence, while others argued for
outright annexation, as we had done earlier in Texas. As a compromise, the McKinley administration placed Cuba under a 20-year U.S. trusteeship. The
Cuban independence movement bitterly opposed this arrangement, but unlike the Philippines, where events followed a similar course, there was no
outbreak of armed resistance.
Theodore Roosevelt, who became President in 1901 following Pres. McKinley's assassination, cancelled the 20-year trusteeship proposal and instead
created the Republic of Cuba on May 20, 1902. The US wrote the new Cuban constitution. and the US wrote in the right for America to intervene in Cuban
affairs when it determined it was proper to do so and kept the right to supervise Cuba’s finances and its foreign relations. So much for
“spreading” democracy and nation building! This must be our first effort at a "puppet" state?
In 1906, following a disputed election, the US exercised its “right” of intervention. The country was placed under US Army occupation. Army
General Leonard Wood was appointed Governor-General. He took charge of Cuba for three years. See Note 2, below. In 1908 José Miguel Gómez was
elected President, ending the direct control of Cuba by the US but we retained our so-called “constitutional right” of on-going American
supervision of Cuban affairs. Which "right" has never endeared us to Cubans of a nationalistic spirit. Say Hello, Ho Chi Minh!
Under terms of the notorious Platt Amendment - attached to an appropriations bill Congress knew TR would not veto - Cuba was forced to agree to a 99
year lease of the Guantánamo Bay site for a US Navy base with an US option to renew. Post-Fidel Cuba has never cashed the checks sent from the US in
annual payment on the lease, and continues to protest the lease as having been obtained under duress. Castro’s Cuba wants to submit the matter to
the World Court of Justice. The US refuses.
In 1925, on his election as president, Gerardo Machado y Morales, suspended the constitution. His regime had considerable local support. In August
1933, the Cuban army staged a coup which deposed Machado and installed Carlos Manuel de Céspedes as president. In September, a second coup led by
Sergeant Fulgencio Batista overthrew Céspedes. In 1940 Batista ran for President and was elected with strong support from the labor unions. His
administration carried out major social reforms and introduced a new progressive constitution. At the end of his term in 1944, Batista stood down and
Ramón Grau was elected as president to succeed him.
In 1954, under pressure from the US, new elections were held. (The McCarthy-era US was displeased withe perceived communist influence in the labor
unions.) Batista was re-elected President in a disputed election. His second regime unlike his first, was marked by severe corruption and widespread
poverty. Batista's police force became infamous for harsh tactics and violence against the general population.
In 1956, a band of idealistic young nationalists, including Fidel Castro, started a resistance movement in the Sierra Maestra Mountains. Through 1957
and 1958 country-wide opposition to Batista grew. By late 1958, the rebels broke out of the Sierra Maestra launching a general insurrection. When the
rebels captured Santa Clara, just east of Havana, Batista decided the struggle was futile and fled the country to exile in Portugal and Spain.
Castro’s rebel forces entered the capital on 1 January 1959. Independence Day!
Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz, born August 13, 1926. Fidel Castro became Prime Minister of Cuba in February 1959 and has held effective power in the
country ever since. He was a strong nationalist, even a radical one and his victory was generally welcomed in Cuba and the US until the summary
execution of 500 police officers and others accused of being agents of the Batista regime, aroused immediate disquiet.
During 1959 Castro’s government carried out popular measures such as land reform, the nationalization of public utilities and the nationalization of
leading Cuban industries including the American Sugar Refining Company. Typical of Communist regimes - I’m tongue-in-cheek - he implemented a
of corruption, including closing down the gambling industry and evicting
the American Mafiosi.
AND THEREIN LIES THE CUBAN PARADOX. OR IS IT DILEMMA? Where the US goes, the Mafia - drugs, gambling, prostitution - is soon to follow! Say No
Under Castro, the expansion of publicly funded health care and education has been a cornerstone of Cuba’s domestic social agenda. Some attribute
these policies for Cuba's relatively high Human Development Index. In contrast, look at Haiti, which has seen the intervention of the US more than
10 times, and which we occupied from 1918 to 1933. Haiti is still the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere. Hmm?
Beginning in 1989, and by 1991, coinciding with the decline and fall of the USSR, Castro’s priorities shifted from supporting foreign interventions
to partnering with regional socialist figures such as Hugo Chávez in Venezuela and Evo Morales in Bolivia. Data from:
Note 1. Contemporary investigation of the hull of the Maine indicate a not uncommon coal dust explosion was the most likely cause of the loss of the
ship and crew. This conclusion is supported by an on-site examination of the hull showing evidence of an outward force indicative of an internal
explosion, rather than an inward force pointing to an external source of the explosion.
Note 2. Leonard Wood (1860 -1927) was the only Army physician who also served as the Chief of Staff of the United States Army. In 1898, while serving
as a doctor in Cuba, he was awarded the Medal of Honor for carrying dispatches 100 miles through hostile territory and for commanding an infantry
detachment whose officers had been lost. He also was Governor-General of Cuba from 1906 to 1908. In 1920, then retired General Wood was an
unsuccessful candidate for the Republican presidential nomination which was won by Warren G. Harding.
[edit on 8/2/2006 by donwhite]