Politician and military officer who served as president of Cuba between 1940 and 1944 and from 1952 to 1959. During the second time period, he ruled as a dictator, imprisoned his opponents and used terrorist tactics against those who disagreed with him.

Fulgencio Batista y Zaldívar was born January 16, 1901, in Cuba and was educated in an American Quaker school. He came from a poor background and before entering the army he earned a living working in the sugar cane fields and on the railroad. He also was a mechanic, a tailor, a fruit vendor and a stenographer in the army. In 1926, he married Elisa Godínez Gómez de Batista and they had three children: Mirta, Elisa and Fulgencio. Later, he married Marta Fernández Miranda de Batista and they had five more children: Jorge Luis, Roberto Francisco, Carlos Manuel, Fulgencio José and Marta María.

He joined his country’s army in 1921, rose to the rank of sergeant and, in September of 1933, organized the “sergeants’ revolt,” which overthrew the provisional regime of Carlos Manuel de Céspedes. As president, in addition to enriching himself personally, he expanded the educational system, sponsored a large program of public jobs and significantly increased the island’s economic growth. After the end of his first presidential term in 1944, he went to Florida for eight years. During his absence, Cuba experienced high levels of corruption and a crisis in public services.

He returned to power as a brutal dictator after a military coup in 1952 overthrew incumbent Carlos Prío Socarrás. He controlled the University, the press and Congress and rigged elections so that he was the only candidate. In 1958, however, his regime was overthrown by rebels led by Fidel Castro.

During his government, Batista cooperated closely with the government of the United States and his private interests supported and favored U.S. businesses. One example of the corruption toward U.S.industry was the gold-plated telephone that ITT Corporation, a multi-national telephone company, made for him in gratitude for raising telephone rates in Cuba. Because of this and many other examples of corruption, then-Senator John F. Kennedy criticized Batista and the suspicious relationship between his government and the U.S. government in 1960. Batista was accused of having assassinated 20,000 people in seven years and having stolen the individual freedom of his fellow citizens with the support of the Eisenhower administration.

With the fall of his regime, Batista decided to flee with his family in January of 1959 to the Dominican Republic. He later went into exile on the Portuguese island of Madeira and finally settled in Estoril, near Lisbon, where he dedicated his time to writing books and managing a Spanish life insurance company.

He died of a heart attack on August 6, 1973, in Guadalmina, near Marbella, Spain, two days before a group of assassins from Cuba could carry out a plan to kill him.

Author: Grupo Editorial
Published: June 11, 2012.

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