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Cubas Politics

Cuba`s Politics While the isle of Cuba was initially discovered on October 27, 1492 during one of Columbus first voyages, it wasnt actually claimed by Spain until the sixteenth century. However, its tumultuous beginnings as a Spanish sugar colony provides an insightful backdrop into the very essence of the countrys political and economic unrest. From its early revolutionary days to the insurrectional challenge of the Marxist-Leninist theories emerged the totalitarian regime under Fidel Castro in present day Cuba. Cuban colonial society was distinguished by the characteristics of colonial societies in general, namely a stratified, inegalitarian class system; a poorly differentiated agricultural economy; a dominant political class made up of colonial officers, the clergy, and the military; an exclusionary and elitist education system controlled by the clergy; and a pervasive religious system.1 Cubas agrarian monocultural character, economically dependant upon sugar cultivation, production and export severely restricted its potential for growth as a nation, thereby firmly implanting its newly sprouted roots firmly in the trenches of poverty from the very beginning of the countrys existence. In 1868, Cuba entered in to The Ten Years War against Spain in a struggle for independence, but to no avail. Ten years of bitter and destructive conflict ensued, but the goal of independence was not achieved. Political divisions among patriot forces, personal quarrels among rebel military leaders, and the failure of the rebels to gain the backing of the United States, coupled with stiff resistance from Spain and the Cubans inability to carry the war in earnest to the western provinces, produced a military stalemate in the final stages.2 The war had a devastating effect on an already weak economic and political infrastructure. The defeat, however, did not hinder the resolution of the Cuban proletariat for an independent nation.

In the words of one author, The Cubans ability to wage a costly, protracted struggle against Spain demonstrated that proindependence sentiment was strong and could be manifested militarily. On the other hand, before any effort to terminate Spanish control could succeed, differences over slavery, political organization, leadership, and military strategy had to be resolved. In short, the very inconclusiveness of the war left a feeling that the Cubans could and would resume their struggle until their legitimate political objectives of independence and sovereignty were attained.3 The years following the Ten Years War were harsh and austere. The countryside, ravaged and desolate, bankrupted Spanish sugar interests in Cuba, virtually destroying the industry. The Spanish owners sold out to North American interests, a process accelerated by the final abolition of slavery in Cuba in 1886.4 The end of slavery, naturally, meant the end of free labor.

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The sugar growers, therefore, began to import machinery from the United States. Essentially, Cuba deferred its economic dependence from Spain directly to the U.S. What became known as the American Sugar Refining Company supplied from seventy to ninety percent of all sugar consumed by the United States, thus mandating the direction of the Cuban agricultural industry and thereby controlling its economy. Moreover, the United States interventionism in the Cuban-Spanish war in 1898, motivated primarily by interests in the Cuban market, led the surrender of the Spanish army directly to the United States, not Cuba. This war later became known as the Spanish-American War. The leader and organizer of the Cuban Revolutionary Party, Jose Martis, goal of true independence was buried without honor in 1898.5 In the years from 1902 to 1959, following the institution of the Platt Amendment, which was an amendment to the Cuban constitution, that stated that the United States had the right to intervene in Cuba at any time, a period which came to be termed the “Pseudo Republic” ensued.

In the words of General Wood: Of course, Cuba has been left with little or no independence by the Platt Amendment..The Cuban Government cannot enter into certain treaties without our consent, nor secure loans above certain limits, and it must maintain the sanitary conditions that have been indicated. With the control that we have over Cuba, a control which, without doubt, will soon turn her into our possession, soon we will practically control the sugar market in the world. I believe that it is a very desirable acquisition for the United States. The island will gradually be “Americanized,” and in the due course we will have one of the most rich and desirable possessions existing in the entire world..6 The Great Depression however, had a immense impact on United States holdings of the Cuban sugar industry. In the summer and fall of 1920 when the price of sugar fell from twenty-two cents a pound to three cents a pound, Cubans were left poverty stricken and starving, as their sugar market was totally dependent upon the United States. Additionally, America began to disengage itself from the strangling hold it had over the Cuban economy by vastly diminishing the amount of its imports from forty percent in previous years to eighteen percent. In the wake of this massive monetary pull-out, a vacuum formed in which a basically leaderless Cuba (its current leader, President Machado, had lost the ability to govern after his promise of”tranquility of the government and the country” had not been delivered) became ripe for radical student uprisings and the introduction of Marxist ideas.

Thus was formed the Cuban Communist Party, led by Julio Mella and Carlos Balino, the former an eighteen year old university basketball player and the latter, a veteran socialist and comrade of Jose Marti. In 1933, President Roosevelt sent Cuban ambassador, Sumner Wells, to Havana in an attempt to stop the “political whirlpool in which an estimated $1,500,000,000 in U.S. investments was likely to drown”.7 Welles proposed the appointment of Carlos Manuel de Cespedes, former Cuban ambassador to Washington, as president. Shortly thereafter, leaders of a radical student organization “transformed their rebellion into a revolt”, and informed President Cespedes that he had been deposed. Cespedes abandoned the presidential palace as inconspicuously as he had arrived.8 From 1930 to 1935, Antonio Guiteras led the island on a “revolutionary path” and formed a government that was “for the people, but not by the people or of the people”9, which the U.S.

refused to recognize. In 1935 Guiteras was assassinated by Fulgencio Batista who proceeded to run Cuban affairs for the next decade. It was a government that the United States recognized as the”only legitimate authority on the island”.10 Then in 1944, Batista, the “American darling”, lost the presidential election to Grau San Martin, who had recently returned from exile. The Grau presidency has been described as such: The Autentico administrations of Grau (1944-1948) and Prio (1948-52) had failed to curb the political corruption and the associated gangster violence; more importantly they had failed to satisfy popular aspirations for independence and social progress. here were still disruptive protests against U.S. control and exploitation of the Cuban economy; and when Prio agreed to send Cuban troops to support the U.S. invasion of Korea in 1950, the offer was backed by a successful campaign around the slogan, No cannon fodder for Yankee imperialists.

The general political instability, the growing unpopularity of the Autenticos, the rampant corruption and violence – all were again setting the scene for political upheaval.11 On January 1, 1959 unable to withstand the burden of both a politically and economically failing nation, and under pressure from the Cuban Communist Party led by Fidel Castro and his Marxist-Leninist revolutionary followers, Batista fled Cuba. Paradoxically, the breakdown of the authoritarian regime in Cuba illustrates the fragility of presumably reliable clientelistic arrangements, insofar as these cannot substitute for strong central authority.12 Foreign investment in the economy was substantial once again in the late 1950s, with U.S. capital dominant in the agricultural sectors.13 Having gained a substantial amount of support from the Cuban people, Fidel Castro was quick to move into power as the countrys most prominent leader. Shortly thereafter, Castro allied his nation with the Soviet Union and denounced the United States as an imperialistic and capitalist aggression. In essence, the U.S.S.R.

became Cubas new “lifeline”. Naturally, the Cuban relationship with the Soviet Union made for inevitable tensions with its neighbor.14 The United States belief that the “Cuban leader had allowed his country to become a Soviet satellite, and that Castros regime might produce a spate of revolutions throughout Latin America”15 led directly to the Bay of Pigs invasion of 1961, a failed attempt to overthrow Castro. The Bay of Pigs invasion combined with the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 sufficiently set the stage for the present day political tensions between the United States and Cuba. Due to the isolationist mood in the United States in the years following the failed Cuban Missile Crisis and then the Vietnam War, Fidel Castro was free to rise to power and create the communist island he so desperately endeavored to achieve. Without the U.S. to interfere, Castro could be likened to a “kid in a candy store”.

Because Cuba had historically always been in political turmoil, it was not difficult for Castro, for all his charm and charisma, to win the popular vote of the people. Traditionally, in a nation as oppressed as Cuba had been, citizens tend to fall easy prey to totalitarian or authoritarian rule due to their need to be led by a government, any government, that may possibly facilitate any kind of economic growth. The end of the Cold War, however, left Cuba isolated when it lost its Soviet Patron.16 It has been argued that there are two schools of thought on how to deal with Castro in the post Cold War era: One school, championed primarily by the exiled Cuban community and Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Jesse Helms, wanted a full court press to bring Castro down. They assumed further economic deprivation would push the Cuban people to rise up and rid themselves of the Castro dictatorship at last. The United States, with new laws penalizing countries, corporations, or persons doing business with Cuba, would compel the international community to join in the strangulation.

This strategy received no international support. The second school wanted to coax Cuba out of its shell without trying to overthrow Castro. For all his brutality and repression, Castro provided ed …


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