For those of you who pay no attention to the media, Cuban ex-President Fidel Castro died a day or so ago. There is a political divide in this country (and several other countries in the world) over whether Fidel Castro was a good man or not and whether or not he was a good president or not. The divide is so prominent in the U.S. that we’ve essentially been at one-step-away-from-war with Cuba for almost twice as long as I’ve been alive.
But what we must remember is that much of the cruelty Castro is accused of…is because of the United States meddling in his country. Much of the death toll associated with his regime are CIA-funded counter revolutionaries and assassins sent by the U.S. to destabilize Cuba and oust Castro.
Castro and his cronies ‘Che’ Gueverra and the current president of Cuba, Raul Castro, led a popular revolt to oust the American-backed president, Fulgencio Batista. In the first 50 years of Castro’s regime he is popularly regarded as killing or imprisoning 50,000 people. Batista was in power for 10 years and killed or imprisoned 20,000 people. If we assume that would have continued he would have a death toll of closer to 100,000 people in the same amount of time Castro was in power.
So let’s talk a bit about Batista. Donald Trump, our future president came out cheering on social media over Castro’s death. This id kind of interesting considering Batista was first elected president of Cuba in 1940 as a Democratic Socialist. He was pro-union, pro-labor law, and anti-Fascist and an accomplished military veteran (everything Trump isn’t and everything he hates). He won around 56% of the vote, in the 1940 election.
Batista’s regime lasted only 4 years and the man he groomed to replace him lost in the 1944 election. It is believed that Batista embezzled almost the entirety of Cuba’s treasury and fled to the U.S. before the next President could be sworn in. Batista spent the next few years living a life of luxury in the U.S. where he ran for re-election as a Cuban Senator in absentia (this means he won the position, despite not even being in Cuba). With this new position as Senator secured he returned to Cuba and ran for President in 1952.
It was a triple-threat race with the popular vote heading starkly toward Cuba’s Partido Orthodoxo party with a respectable second being the Cuban Partido Autentico party. Running a distant third was Batista’s party. So a few months before the election with almost no hope of actually winning, he secured his old military contacts and staged a military revolution. He declared himself President, cancel the elections, and exiled then-president Carlos Prio Socarras from the country. Well okay to be fair, Socarras was a bit of a dupe and apparently didn’t believe that Batista would actually stage a coup, so he did nothing to respond to the attacks when they occurred. Once Batista took control and named himself President, Socarras quietly ceded defeat and fled the country.
This is where the fun part occurs! The U.S. government recognized Batista’s as the legitimate government and remained allies with Cuba, under Batista. Now to be fair, sections of Cuba did continue to prosper under Batista – he wasn’t a complete idiot when it came to administration. He was actually a pretty good government administrator. But at this point he began a new direction where he desired more personal wealth, more power, and more respect – particularly from those of the upper echelons of Cuban society.
Batista got in deep with organized crime and American business. In one instance Batista allowed an American phone company to raise their service rates to Cuban by an astronomical rate (he, naturally, received kickbacks from them).
And the number one form of aid from the U.S. to Cuba during Batista’s reign? Weapons. The U.S. supplied Batista’s police forces and his military with the munitions they needed to ensure someone didn’t pull a Batista and raise their own military revolution. U.S. government officials even referred to him as a ‘despot’, but he was anti-communist by this point (remember that he got elected on a pro-Communist ticket in the 1940 election) and so that made him pro-America in the 1950s.
JFK was anti-Batista and actually, at least secretly, approved of Castro’s revolution when it began.
You see Fidel Castro was a young lawyer, a rising star in the political spectrum of Cuba. Right up until Batista canceled the elections that were supposed to bring Castro to the forefront.
Batista held fraudulent elections in 1954 and the man who had once defeated his protégé was the major runner-up against him. Batista used brutal intimidation tactics to keep people from voting for anyone but him, or for voting for anyone at all. Batista convinced the opposing parties in the election to abstain from voting if they opposed him. This would be the equivalent of saying, “Well I support Hillary Clinton, so I just won’t vote that way I can’t vote for Donald Trump.” In the election that Batista legitimately won over 75% of the country voted…in this one only 45% of the country voted. Batista’s opposition dropped out of the election out of fear for their supporters. The funny thing is…the guy still won almost 7% of the vote after dropping out of the race.
Batista began a campaign of brutality against his own people including killing University Students because his regime deemed all unemployed youth to be potential revolutionaries. He shut down the universities and recalled a military officer who was popular to help support him.
Sadly for him, said officer led a military revolution. It was found out though and Batista won the fight. Eventually Castro would gain enough support from the people to overthrow Batista and force him to flee to Europe.
So as we remember Castro upon his recent death at the age of 90. Remember that the U.S. of the 1950s created the Castro regime. We created it by keeping such a vile piece of brutality in power as Batista. Castro may not have been the perfect president, but I believe he was better than the alternative.
At least the good news is the U.S, doesn’t stand beside brutal dictators that turn the military on their own people any longer. Right?
Oh…yeah…I forgot we don’t learn from our mistakes. Damn it.