major economic factor at this time was the Reciprocity Treaty of 1903
in which Cuba received lower tariff duties for certain exports in
exchange for lowering duties on select U.S. imports. Not surprisingly,
the Cuban market became engulfed in the produce of its much larger
trading partner, thus hurting the Cuban enterprise and detracting
the few local capital holders who became reluctant to invest in a
market saturated by the U.S. goods. At the same time, preferential
access to the U.S. Market for Cuban agricultural exports led to an
increasing dependence on sugar ( a pattern that, to this day, the
Castro regime has been unable to break) and an increase in foreign,
particularly American, control over this industry.
1) : Distribution of U.S. Capital in Cuba ( 1911 )
investment (in millions)
Mercantile and Manufacture
for stability soon deteriorated as Cuba became haunted by a revolutionary
history typical of Latin American countries. Perez explains: "
Armed rebellion to protest reelection gave powerful expression to
the urgency of politics in the republic. There was much at stake in
these proceedings. Politics was serious business, at least serious
enough to go to war for. If political means failed to dislodge incumbent
authorities according to prescribed electoral methods, the nature
of the stakes required the opposition to resort to military methods
to restore parity of access to the distributive mechanisms of state".
Such uprisings prompted the U.S. to invoke the Platt Amendment in
order to carry out its inherent right of interference in Cuban affairs.
When the election bid of the first Cuban President, Tomás Estrada
Palma, provoked his opponents into taking up arms in August 1906,
U.S. Marines were called in, and they occupied the island for three
years. Other rebellions and subsequent occupations were to take place
in 1912 and again in 1917.
beginning of the 1930's, the U.S. ceased its regional policy of military
invention in favour of spreading its economic influence through the
more subtle Good Neighbor Policy (1933). In this spirit, the Platt
Amendment was rescinded in 1934. Unfortunately, political instability
continued to be en vogue. In 1933, President Gerardo Machado was overthrown
by Army Sergeant Fulgencio Batista. For the rest of the decade he
ruled through a series of "puppet presidents and shadow governments:
José A. Barnet ( 1935-36 ), Miguel Mariano Gomez (1936) and
Federico Bru (1936 - 40)" (Perez), before being elected himself
for four years, during which he changed the constitution. He was succeeded
by Ramón Grau San Martin ( 1944-48) and Carlos Prío
Socarrás( 1948-52 ). During these two decades, Batista was
able to "restore some semblance of public order with the 1940
Constitution providing for free elections, universal suffrage, maximum
hours and minimum wages, pensions, workers' compensation and the right
the 1930's, there was an improvement in economic conditions: Cuban
participation in the U.S. market grew from 25.4% ( 1933 ) to 31.4%
( 1937). Meanwhile, Cuban sugar output increased from 1.9 million
tons to 2.9 million tons between 1933 and 1938 with the corresponding
value rising from $ 53.7 million to $ 120.2 million during the same
period. However, the social situation was in a much darker shade.
By the 1940's administration was tainted by graft and corruption while
gangsterism and political assassinations were also very much in evidence.
In 1952, Batista seized power again on the eve of the elections in
which he had been one of the candidates. Again, he sought to restore
law and order while also winning support from the bourgeois and the
organized labour unions. At the same time though, he suspended the
1940 Constitution, dissolved all political parties and gave special
privileges to members of the armed forces. Such activities resulted
in a growing list of problems for the dictator. These were, mainly,
a growing political opposition (which led to a harsh crackdown) along
with an increase in nationalism and anti-American sentiment. These
latter two schools had developed as reactions to certain factors that
had become apparent in Cuban society during the decade of the 1950's.
U.S. economic dominance led to an increase in the value of American
products from $ 515 million in 1950 to $ 649 million ( 1956 ) to $
777 million in 1958. By this time, U.S. investments had reached $
1.001 million (1 billion). Much to the dismay of the nationalists,
Cuban society was becoming Americanized with a marked preference for
American products (e.g. food and clothing ), particularly among the
upper classes. In addition, the "importance of sugar, and the
influx of U.S. capital meant that there was no land-bound class of
serfs, but rather an 'American-owned, agro-industrial unit' "(
Ruiz). Cuban society was also becoming typical of many Latin American
countries with large social divisions between the upper and lower
classes, leading to an atmosphere of tension. Because of his anti-Communist
stance, Batista continued to receive economic and military support
from the United States, and this caused an increase in anti-American
feeling and general opposition. Among those who found themselves opposed
to the Batista regime during the decade was a young university graduate
named Fidel Castro Ruz. A native of Oriente province, the 27 year
old had already been an activist for about 5 years when, in 1953,
he led an attack on the Moncada army barracks. It proved to be an
unsuccessful venture, and the young Castro was captured, imprisoned
and later pardoned by the President. These events did not dim his
revolutionary fervour and, in 1956, he and some other members of what
became to be known as the 26th of July movement left Mexico, where
they had been in exile, aboard a boat named the Granma.
their return to Cuba on December 2, was anticipated. The revolutionaries
walked into an ambush when they landed at Playa Colorada. Most of
the men were captured, but a band of about thirty, including Fidel
Castro, his brother Raul and an Argentine mercenary, Ernesto "Che"
Guevara, escaped into the Sierra Maestre mountains.
From this hiding spot, the rebels were able to elude Batista's forces.
Meanwhile, they received gracious aid from people in the mountain
villages while they began recruiting additional members to their ranks.
With a force of approximately 800 Castro began a fresh assault on
Havana. His organized units were able to defeat the national army
and Batista, apparently sensing the end was near, fled Cuba on January
1 1959, allowing Castro and his revolutionaries to assume control.