The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers

Fulgencio Batista Zaldivar (1902-1975)

The product of plantation-worker parents, Fulgencio Batista was born in Cuba's rural Oriente Province in 1902. At the age of nineteen he enlisted in the Cuban army, working his way through the enlisted ranks until September 4, 1933, when he led a "Revolt of the Sergeants," which toppled the Cuban government. Using the army as his base of support, Batista ruled Cuba indirectly through a series of puppet presidents from 1933 through 1940, retaining the role of armed forces chief for himself. Batista's coup in Havana had come on the heels of Franklin D. Roosevelt's attempt to foster better relations with Latin American countries and Batista soon became a reliable U.S. ally.

Formally elected president in 1940, Batista governed Cuba for four years before being defeated for reelection in 1944. After his defeat, Batista left Cuba for the United States but returned in 1949 when circumstances seemed ripe for him to regain power. Eventually sponsoring a second coup in 1952, Batista used coercion and repression to maintain power through the 1950s. Closely associating his regime with the U.S., Batista ensured that Cuba soon became a magnet for American tourists and investment dollars. While Batista encouraged these developments, he neglected Cuba's laboring classes. Despite domestic unrest, he successfully suppressed several challenges to his authority between 1952 and 1958. Eventually, however, the Cuban masses grew weary of Batista's authoritarian excesses and revolted in autumn 1958 when he attempted to install another puppet president. Abandoning Havana to Fidel Castro's revolutionary forces, Batista left Cuba on New Year's Day, 1959. He died in exile in Spain in 1975.

Sources: Jerry A. Sierra, "Batista," The Timetable History of Cuba. Internet on-line. Available From; "Fulgencio Batista y Zaldír." The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia. Internet on-line. Available From

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Recommended citation: Eleanor Roosevelt, John Kennedy, and the Election of 1960: A Project of The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers, ed. by Allida Black, June Hopkins, John Sears, Christopher Alhambra, Mary Jo Binker, Christopher Brick, John S. Emrich, Eugenia Gusev, Kristen E. Gwinn, and Bryan D. Peery (Columbia, S.C.: Model Editions Partnership, 2003). Electronic version based on unpublished letters. .

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