By pjain      Published July 14, 2021, 7:40 p.m. in blog Geo-Politics   

Cuba Lessons

How Cuba Dictatorship lasted 60 years despite US Sanctions

USA Relations in Modern Times Review

Economics, Demographics

Political History of Cuba - Based on US Relations and Sanctions

Columbus "discovers" Cuba to 1511 Spanish Colony

Columbus' second landfall was one of the largest islands in the world, Cuba. Columbus' expedition explored along the north-northeastern coast of Cuba. After apparently rejecting Cuba as a colonization site Columbus sailed east to the island of Hispaniola where he did establish the first Spanish colony in the Americas.

Spanish colonies were later established in Cuba but only in 1511 after a lapse of nearly twenty years. The task of subduing the natives of Cuba was assigned to Diego Velázquez de Cuellar, the governor of Hispaniola who had subdued the natives there. In gaining control over the Cuban natives Velázquez.

Abusive "Black Spanish" Conversion and Oppression of Cuban Natives by Spanish Petty Tyrants

Bartolomé de Las Casas, a Dominican friar who went first to the native villages to try to convert them and get them to accept the control by the Spanish. Las Casas was appalled at the severe treatment of the natives and later in Spain participated in an extensive debate on the question of the morality of Spanish conquest of the natives of the Americas. Las Casas' charges were the foundation of the Black Legend of the Spanish Conquest.

When Cortez and Pizarro confirmed that lands to the west contained fabulous treasures Cuba became a staging area for expeditions to the west and a way station for convoys traveling back to Spain. In Cuba the first industries were stock raising and food production for outfitting the expeditions into central and south america.

The Spanish administrators in Cuba were placed there to facilitate staging the expeditions and refitting. So they became autonomous and petty tyrants, rewarded for rapacious plunder of wealth as long as they kept ports and Spanish ships supplied.

1600s-1750s Plantation Economy

In Cuba the first industries were stock raising and food production for outfitting the expeditions into central and south america.

In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries cattle hides for leather were the most important export of Cuba to Europe.

Tobacco was also an important crop.

Sugar cane growing was encouraged early but was not successful until the eighteenth century and became the major industry of Cuba only in the nineteenth century. It developed as a result of local initiative rather than as a policy decisions from Madrid.

African Slaves Imported as Natives Died

As the native labor force decreased due to disease, social upheaval and ill treatment African slave labor was imported. There had been African slaves brought from Spain by the conquistadors. Later slaves were brought from Africa on a massive scale and by 1825 the black population of Cuba exceeded its white population.

1762-63 British in Caribbean and Brief Cuban Occupation

In 1762-63 the British occupied Havana and lifted the Spanish mercantilist restrictions on trade. Although the occupation lasted only 11 months it had a long lasting impact on trade with Cuba.

1850-1898 US Resists invasion to keep Spanish Control, Repel Britain/France

1850's US Trade surges with Cuba as the British North American traders who engaged in trade during the occupation were difficult to deter from continuing that trade once Spain regained control of Havana. This was especially true after the successful slave rebellion in Haiti in 1790 cut off access to the sugar and coffee of Haiti.

In the 1850's the U.S. developed an interest in acquiring Cuba, by purchase if possible by invasion if necessary.

There were Cuban elements that supported the acquisition of Cuba by the U.S. On the U.S. side the impulse to acquire Cuba was tempered by the opposition of northern elements to extending the area of the country subject to slavery. After the Civil War in the U.S. and the abolition of slavery the slave-owning elements in Cuba were no longer interested in being annexed by the U.S.

While most of the Spanish Empire territories in the Americas achieved independent nationhood in the 1820's Cuba continued under Spanish control until 1898.

The United States, fearing that weak Spanish control of Cuba would be replaced by stronger British or French control of Cuba, tolerated continuing Spanish control during most of the 19th century. There were unsuccessful rebellions, notably in the 1860's and 1870's.

1866-1878 Ten Year war for Independence FAILED on Racism of Plantation Owners and Lack of US Backing

The Cubans were driven to rebellion in the mid-19th century by vacillating Spanish policies and their enforcement. Spain was undergoing political upheavals during that time and the Spanish government fluctuated between those adhering to the traditional conservatism of church and aristocracy and those wanting to open Spanish society to business and trade (liberalism in the classical European sense). On top of the fluctuating policies there was the variation in the severity of the administrative officials enforcing the policies. Some representatives of Spanish authority ruled harshly, some ruled with an understanding of the purpose of authority was to promote the general welfare of the population under their administration.

When Spanish policies of protectionism for Spain conflicted with the interests of the sugar plantations owners the plantation class rose in rebellion.

In 1868 the rebellion broke in Oriente Province in eastern Cuba. It was led by Carlos Manuel de Céspedes y Quesada, the son of a wealthy plantation owner who issued a manifesto calling for Cuba independence from Spain. Céspedes freed his slaves and organized them into an ill equipped, untrained rebel army. He called for the eventual freeing of all slaves in Cuba with compensation paid to their owners.

Céspedes tried to obtain political recognition of his movement by the U.S. government and was unsuccessful.

The military command was in the hands of a man from the Dominican Republic, Máximo Gómez. One outstanding commander of rebel forces was Antonio Maceo. Through daring tactics he inflicted losses on the Spanish forces and disrupted the operations of the sugar plantations in eastern Cuba and prompted the escape of their slaves. Although Maceo was successful militarily.

The military successes were having an adverse effect politically due to the "noble" spanish heritage of the plantation owners who thrived first by brutal repression of natives then replacing them with African slaves. The owners noted that Maceo was a mulatto and his troops were black. This raised the possibility that the rebellion would lead to a black republic ruled by Maceo similar to what had developed in Haiti. This prospect was distinctly more threatening to the upper classes of Cuba than the continuation of corrupt, incompetent Spanish rule.

The war dragged on for ten years till 1878 Spain negotiated an end to the rebellion with a pact that all of the rebel leaders except Maceo accepted. He and his troops attempted to fight on but facing the full force of the Spanish forces had to give up.

Maceo went to Jamaica and from there he went to New York to try to raise funds for weapons to continue the rebellion. He ended up joining former general, Calixto García, who started a new rebellion. That rebellion lasted only during 1879 and 1880 and was dubbed the La Guerra Chiquita, the Little War.

The original Ten-Years War and the Little War accomplished little militarily but they gave rise to a national Cuban identity where there had been identification by Cubans only with local regions before.

1895-1902 War and Struggle for Cuban Independence

Cubans are more conscious of the three years of Cuban rebellion.

The rebellion which started in 1895 was organized by José Martí who emphasized that the Cuban rebellion had to achieve victory in order to forestall any U.S. intervention. Clearly after 1850s, Cubans mistrusted US duplicity in foreign affairs and lack of democratic support. Marti said that if the U.S. came into Cuba there would be no one in the world powerful enough to get it out. Martí also feared US military dictatorship might replace Spanish colonial control.

For this reason Marti was reluctant to cooperate with Máximo Góez and Antonio Maceo, the military leaders of the Ten-Years War of 1868 to 1878. Eventually he did cooperate with them and worked unceasingly during the 1880's and early 1890's to organize the rebellion. In 1892 Martí formed a political party while he was in the U.S. He called it the El Partido Revolucionario Cubano PRC (the Cuban Revolutionary Party). In February of 1895 Martí initiated the rebellion. Unfortunately he lost his life in May of that year.

Gómez and Maceo had some successes against the Spanish forces but Maceo was killed at the end of 1896. The Spanish brought in a new, tougher commander and more forces which shifted the control of the war away from the rebel forces. Gómez to the rebel forces to the eastern provinces and began to fight a strictly guerilla style war. Spain tried in 1898 to end the rebellion by agreeing to let Cuba become a self-governing state within the Spanish Empire. Gómez refused this offer and continued the war.

Spanish-american-war and Emergence of USA as A Power

Eventually it was the rebellion which preceded the American intervention and expulsion of the Spanish which came only with the Spanish-American War.

  • Role of US Owned Businesses in Swaying US Foreign Policy from 1896-Present The war was detrimental to the sugar plantations, some of which were owned by American businesses and pressured the U.S. to intervene and end the war by defeating the Spanish forces.

The U.S. did declare war on Spain in April of 1898, ostensibly because of the destruction of the American battleship U.S.S. Maine in Havana harbor. After the declaration of war the U.S. achieved a quick and relatively easy victory.

  • The Treaty of Paris which ended the war allowed the U.S. to take over Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines as major prizes but also a few minor possessions such as the island of Guam. The Treaty of Paris allowed for the Spanish citizens in the possessions to remain if they wished and to retain their properties. There were a hundred or so thousand such Spaniards in Cuba. The Spanish soldiers were however repatriated back to Spain.

  • Panama Canal Routes Control deemed Strategic National Interest But the motivation was deeper ie the U.S. saw a need to gain control of the sea routes to the canal which it was going to build in Panama. Cuba and Puerto Rico as large islands with great harbors were keys to assuring protection for those sea routes.

  • US Occupied Cuba till 1902 and under its Army, many of the Cuban soldiers joined the rural guards and were trained, built hospitals, schools and courts. Sanitation was improved and Yellow Fever suppressed.

  • But the US Congress was opposed to long term occupation.

  • The Platt Amendment called for the leasing of a naval base in perpetuity.

  • Democracy Foundations Laid. US Generals decreed that all males who were literate and owned property or served in the Cuban army could vote. and elections were held for municipal offices in June of 1900. In September of that year an election was held for delegates to a convention to draft a constitution for Cuba done in June 1901. The Platt Amendment was incorporated in that constitution. That constitution gave great powers to a president to be elected by universal suffrage. The legislative authority was vested in a Senate and a Chamber of Deputies.

  • Milestones: 1866–1898 - Office of the Historian

Populating Cuba - Mulatto and Spanish Settler Racism

An estimate of major population inflows, note during this time the natives essentially died out due to diseases and abusive exploitation.

Period Source of Immigration Number Notes
1500-1900 Spanish Settlers expeditions/army ? millions
1500-1800 Plantation Slaves Senegal/Guinea 800k First seeding from W.Africa by British Slave Vessels - "Pirates"
1853-1874 Yellow Canton China Laborers 125k Chinese indentured labor by British were expected to be hardier
1900-1929 Spanish Settlers - homestead LatAm 1000k
1919-1926 Plantation Labor Haitian,Jamaiican 250k Support post WWI efforts to make money for plantation owners now often US
1920-1929 Canton Chinese Labor 30k Now contracted by US, like building transcontinental railroads in West
1959-1973 Flight from Cuban dictatorship -600k Flight mainly to south Florida, USA

Note the "declared" ethnicity of Cuban population has since 1900 been 65% to 73%. But like Caribbean Islands, the mixed probably is more than 15%, while African stagnated between 10-15%.

Cuban Democracy = Corrupt Weak administrations, Gang/Factions

Cuba's curse prior to Castros was of elected presidents that ended multimillionaires.

  1. Little Racism. There was no remaining indigenous population to create a racial divide that plagues so many Latin American countries. Whites and blacks constituted roughly equal proportions of the population but black/white racialism had not been a problem.

  2. Massive culture of corruption in government that stemmed, at least in part, from four centuries of Spanish governance in which, as in the rest of the Spanish Empire, the primary function of government was to extract as much as possible from the populace for remission back to Spain.

  3. US Business Interests Pull the Levers behind the Curtain.

  4. Gang/Factions

But the overall country continued to prosper to some degree as they were not totally rapacious and supported business and capitalist interests.

May 1902 President Palma and the Republic of Cuba

Elections were held and Tomas Estrada Palma was elected president. He had assumed leadership of Martí's PRC after Martí's death in 1895.

1906 Election Breakdown - Magoon imposed Cuba Debt, Gomez President to 1913. Fraudulent elections to 1921.

In the 1906 relection protests, Charles E. Magoon was established as military governor of Cuba by the U.S. Because this was to be a temporary occupation Magoon did not undertake as much public improvement as had Leonard Wood.

a. Construction of a sewage system for Havana.

b. Magoon tried to create a body of law that would ensure that the legislation enacted would be fair and reasonable. Similarly he tried to create systems of municipal laws, municipal taxation and a civil service to maintain government operations. Likewise he tried to create a system of laws for the courts.

But Magoon spent lavishly and left Cuba in debt.

Cuba called for elections in 1908 and the winner of the presidency was José Miguel Gómez. Gómez had been the leader of the rebellion against Estrada Palma. Gómez governed from 1909 to 1913.

However Racist America reinvaded Cuba in 1912 using Platt Amendment. Gómez narrowly prevented another U.S. intervention in 1912. This incident stemmed from a development during the 1908 election. In that year some black Cubans organized a racially defined political party, called Agrupación Independente de Color (AIC) (Independent Colored Association). The Cuban Senate about 1912 passed legislation which prohibited political parties defined by race. The AIC rebelled and the image of a black rebellion alarmed the U.S. which then invoked the Platt Amendment and landed U.S. Marines at several points around Cuba. To head off this incipient intervention the Gómez government acted swiftly and harshly. It captured the rebels and executed the leaders.

Cuba Fraudulent elections to 1921

Menocal was elected to a four year term to run from 1913 to 1917. He decided to run for reelection and won but allegedly by fraudulent means.

Former president José Manuel Gómez led rebellion in protest and captured provinces in the east.

But the U.S. stuck by the status quo and declared that it would never recognize a government which gained power by non-electoral means. Menocal's government captured the rebels but pardoned them, including former president José Manuel Gómez.

First Military Junta of Bastista

In early January of 1934 Fulgencio Bastista, as the effective head of the Cuban army, dismissed Grau and appointed Carlos Mendieta to take his place. A few days later the U.S. government gave formal recognition to Mendieta's government.

He came from a very poor family in Oriente Province and had to leave school early to help support the family. He later returned to school at night to complete essentially elementary school. His family was of Hispanic, African, Amerindian and possibly Chinese descent. He described them as just Cuban. Socially he was classified as mulatto. He worked at numerous unskilled occupations in his youth. At age of about 20 he joined the Cuban army as a private. He took training as a stenographer and rose to the rank of sergeant. As stenographer he was privy to some high level affairs, such as the trial of the student leaders during the Machado administration.

Bastista was the effective ruler of Cuba for the next ten years to 1944 he promoted social welfare program

It is notable that that Batista was the only non-white ruler of Cuba from colonial times to the present.

Batista permitted a free election to be held in 1940. He was a candidate for the presidency and expected to win fair and square. He did win against Ramón Grau San Martín.

1944 San Martín's Party returns

In 1934, Bastista overthrew Ramón Grau San Martín and his Partido Auténico but which had re-emerged in the movement to create a new constitution for Cuba which was achieved in 1940.

But under the new Constitution of 1940 Batista could not run for reelection. He handpicked Carlos Saladrigas Zayas to run in his place. The election was free and fair.

Ramón Grau San Martín of the Partido Auténtico won instead. Batista did what he could to make it difficult for Grau San Martín to govern, such as emptying the treasury. Batista then went into voluntary exile.

Bastista military coup in 1952

Naked Casinos Mafia - Bigger and Brighter Future under US Robber Barons?

1959-01 Fidel Castro and Communists takes over

Rise of Communism as an anti-Gangster/Factions Reaction

Communists supported Bastista due to his Union Autonomy

One of the embarrassments of the Communists in Castro's government is that the Communist Party of Cuba supported Batista. It did so because Batista, coming from a union background, supported union autonomy. That is to say, he did not believe the government should take control of the unions. Because the Communist Party of Cuba controlled so many of the unions Batista's stance on union autonomy meant that the Communists could continue to control the unions.

Fidel Castro had reached power slightly more than two years before, on 1 January 1959, when his forces brought down the government of Fulgencio Batista, whom they accused of being authoritarian and corrupt.

Economic Slowdown under Communism

This probably contrasted against the socialist and low growth rhetoric of Communists particularly of the Soviet Central Planned economy variety. Ironically under Nehru, the Five year plans also fared pretty badly!

Soviet Union Strategic Foothold in Monroe-Doctrine Americas Hemisphere

1959+ Soviet Cuba Romance and Communism dooms US relations, as Economy Hurt

But the country continued to prosper to some degree as they were not totally rapacious and supported business and capitalist interests. This probably contrasted against the socialist and low growth rhetoric of Communists particularly of the Soviet Central Planned economy variety. Ironically under Nehru, the Five year plans also fared pretty badly!

The Soviet Union, which at that time was consolidating its position as a key ally of Castro.

Even at time of Bay of Pigs 1961, JFK was worried of USSR response and provoke an unprecedented nuclear conflict.

Modern US-Cuban Clash 1960s-2021

1962 JFK hard threat of Nuclear Strikes makes Krushchov blink and withdraw missiles

1961-04 Rushed Bay of Pigs invasion Fails after JFK takes over Jan 1961

Original Change of Regime plan by CIA

The Bay of Pigs invasion was a failed attempt to overthrow Fidel Castro's regime in Cuba

The 2506 Brigade, an army of 1,400 youths were Cuban exiles who, following Castro's victory, were recruited and trained by the CIA to overthrow the island's revolutionary government. The original plan designed by the CIA and the Eisenhower administration was to have the exiles leave from Puerto Cabezas, in Nicaragua, and land near the city of Trinidad, in southern Cuba. The main objective was to occupy the zone and resist for enough time to establish a rival government by exiled leaders that would later be supported by the United States. Trinidad is near the Escambray mountain, where there were already members of an anti-Castro group, that would join the invading troops, and, if necessary, would organise a guerrilla warfare campaign similar to the one successfully conducted by Fidel Castro in the Sierra Maestra mountains a few years before.

16 US aircraft would previously bomb Castro's main airports, destroying his air force and gaining advantage over the Cuban skies. Brigade still blames Washington saying it was doomed to fail even before the first shot was fired.

JFK Pulls back the Plan

JFK said the invasion esp. air support would not only damage its international reputation, but would also give an excuse to the Soviet Union, which at that time was consolidating its position as a key ally of Castro, to respond and provoke an unprecedented nuclear conflict.

  1. JFK forced a covert invasion instead of broad daylight original Trinidad plan. Kennedy gave the CIA three days to re-elaborate a plan that had been under preparation for a whole year

  2. JFK reduced the aircraft from 16 to 8 the US air strikes that would have neutralised Castro's aviation and artillery advantages. The eight aircraft left on the morning of 15 April from the base at Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua, and dropped their bombs over the airfields of Santiago de Cuba, in the country's east, and over Ciudad Libertad and San Antonio de los Banos, both in Havana. Very ineffectual as they only damaged a few Cuban airplanes, some of them which were already out of service.

  3. No surprise. But the 15 April air bombing was a FULL TWO DAYS before the Bay of Pigs landing - giving Cuban forces ample warning and time to deploy.

  4. JFK urged the CIA to modify the zone and time for the landing. The CIA chose what would later prove to be one of the worst possible sites: the Bay of Pigs, a hard to reach inlet in the south of the island. In this zone, coastlines are hostile. It is a swampy region with impenetrable mangroves and razor-sharp "dog's teeth", as reefs are known in Cuba. A difficult scenario to carry out a landing with stealth and speed.

  5. USA role revealed and followup strikes cancelled! Although the US denied it, all the world learned that the aircraft were American and that they wanted to pretend that the attack had been executed by Cuban deserters. With suspicions aroused over US participation, Kennedy cancelled the rest of the air strikes, landing a devastating blow against the objectives of the 2506 Brigade, which was left with insufficient air support.

  6. Castro Patrolling and moved fast to intercept. Castro had anticipated US invasion, and had militias patrolling practically every beach of the island. One of these patrols hears noises and turning on their flashlights and open fire forcing the invaders response to overwhem patrol. But the militias had time to sound the alarm and with radios the surprise factor is gone and point of invasion was known to Castro's armed forces, preempting the beachhead. The sharp reefs of the Bay of Pigs were too much for the "paper boats ... our boats were all too small. Every time they hit one of the reefs they ended up practically destroyed and many sunk". Further, with no air support, the 2506 brigade were like baby sheep in mouths of a pack of wolves.

Net Result - Massive Resentment in Cuban Emigres

By 19 April 1961 the brigade then failed and in less than 72 hours their attempt to invade Cuba was crushed at Giron beach by Fidel Castro's professional armed forces.

Nearly 1,100 detainees were survivors with hundreds dying even during detention.

JFK Assassination, CIA and Cuba Connections?

Raúl Castro takes over as Fidel Bro Declines

US Sanctions

Hunger and Poverty from US Sanctions and ever tightening

Crime, Murders High in Cuba

Obama Dec 2014 tries to improve U.S. ties with Cuba.

Trump Tears up Obama Failed

Post Castro - Biden Challenge and Opportunity - but Weak US Politics make it Hard



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