Useful Notes / Fulgencio Batista

Before he was formally president.

Fulgencio Batista (1901-1973) was a former president of Cuba, best known for being "the guy who was president before the Cuban Revolution and Fidel Castro." He was born Ruben Zaldivar in Banes, Oriente Province, to parents who were canecutters on a sugar plantation. Batista's father, Belisario, fought in the Spanish-American War or Cuban War of Independence and when he was 8, his mother, Carmela, died, forcing him to leave school and work in the canefields.

However, he eventually managed to get a job as a railroad brakeman which enabled him to attend night classes at a Quaker-run school. He joined the Cuban army, and in 1933 he was a participant in the Sergeants' Revolt, overthrowing Gerardo Machedo's corrupt government and installing a series of puppet presidents until he himself was elected in 1940. During his term as elected President, he was actually quite popular and progressive, to the point that even the Cuban Communist Party supported him. Despite this, however, he was unable to secure a re-election.

After doing everything in his power to handicap his successor administration with what time he had left in office, he left Cuba to live in the US for 8 years. In 1952 he returned to Cuba to run for Cuban president again, but wound up running in dead last behind 2 other candidates. With defeat all but guaranteed, Batista, with military backing, overthrew the government and installed himself as "President"/dictator of Cuba. During his reign over Cuba as dictator, in stark contrast to his 1940 presidency, he favored the elite instead of the people of Cuba. As a result, Havana became a playground for the Mafia and American tourists, essentially becoming the Las Vegas of the Caribbean, and the rest of the island became a playground for American businesses. Corruption was rampant and the needs of actual Cubans were generally ignored. 2 out of every 3 Cubans living outside Havana lacked access to basic household features such as running water, electricity, or even basic tiled floors, and those opposed to Batista's regime were brutally oppressed.

In 1958, growing antipathy from the US lead to the US imposing a weapons embargo on Batista's regime. About a year later, he was overthrown in the Cuban Revolution. Batista then fled Cuba, eventually finding refuge in Portugal where he lived for the rest of his life. Due to his role in Cuban history, he often appears as a character in productions involving the Cuban Revolution, including The Godfather.

In media:

  • The movie The Lost City shows his Committee for the Suppression of Communist Activities shooting a wounded dissident.
  • The Godfather TV series shows him and his family leaving Havana on boats with the rest of the city's rich.
  • The 1979 movie Cuba is about a British soldier who meets him and helps him train Cuban military troops in a counter-insurrection against Fidel Castro.
  • The 1954 book A Sergeant Named Batista was written by his friend and speechwriter Edmund Chester.
  • He's the last boss in the original version of the video game Guerrilla War.