|Office:||President of Cuba|
|Term Start:||10 October 1940|
|Term End:||10 October 1944|
|Vicepresident:||Gustavo Cuervo Rubio|
|Predecessor:||Federico Laredo Brú|
|Term Start2:||10 March 1952|
|Term End2:||1 January 1959|
|Birth Date:||16 January 1901|
|Birth Place:||Banes, Cuba|
|Death Place:||Guadalmina, Spain|
|Party:||United Action Party, Progressive Action Party|
|Spouse:||1st Elisa Godinez-Gómez |
2nd Marta Fernandez Miranda de Batista
|Children:||Mirta Caridad Batista Godinez|
Elisa Aleida Batista Godinez
Fulgencio Rubén Batista Godinez
Jorge Batista Fernández
Roberto Francisco Batista Fernández
Carlos Batista Fernández
Batista was the military leader of Cuba from 1933 to 1940 and President of Cuba from 1940 to 1944. After staging a successful coup in 1952, Batista ran unopposed in an election in 1954 and ruled the nation as President until ousted on December 31, 1958 by the Cuban Revolution led by Fidel Castro's guerrilla movement.
Fulgencio was born in Oriente Province Cuba, Holguín Province, in 1901 to Belisario Batista Palermo and Carmela Zaldívar González, Cubans who fought for independence from Spain. His mother named him Rubén and gave him her last name, Zaldívar. His father did not want to register him as a Batista. In the registration records of the Banes courthouse he was legally Rubén Zaldívar until 1939, when, as Fulgencio Batista, he became a presidential candidate, but it was discovered that this name did not exist. It's alleged that a judge was paid off 15,000 Cuban pesos (about the same amount in U.S. dollars at the time) to fix the discrepancy.
Of very humble origins, Batista began working from a very early age. A self-educated man, he attended night school and is said to have been a voracious reader. Batista was considered socially a mulatto (mixed African and European ancestry), although other sources state that he had Chinese ancestry as well. He bought a ticket to Havana and joined the army in 1921. Sergeant Batista became the union leader of Cuba's soldiers,
Battista was the leader of the 1933 Sergeants' Revolt that replaced the provisional government of Carlos Manuel de Céspedes y Quesada, at the request of the coalition that had recently ousted President Gerardo Machado. It is generally conceded that U.S. Special Envoy Sumner Welles approved of this since it was a fait accompli. Céspedes was a well-respected civil engineer and the most successful minister in the Machado government but lacked a political coalition that could sustain him. Initially a presidency composed of five members, one each anti-Machado faction, was created, but within days the representative for the students and professors of the University of Havana, Ramón Grau, was made president and Batista became the Army Chief of Staff, with the rank of colonel, and effectively controlled the presidency. The majority of the commissioned officer corps was forcefully retired or, as some speculate, were killed.
During this period, Batista violently suppressed a number of attempts to defeat his control. This included the quashing of an uprising in the ancient Atarés fort (Havana) by Blas Hernández, a rural guerrilla who had fought Machado. Many of those who surrendered were killed. Another attempt was the attack on the Hotel Nacional in which former army officers of the Cuban Olympic rifle team (including one Enrique Ros, father of U.S. Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen) put up stiff resistance until being defeated. There were many other often minor and almost unrecorded attempted revolts against Batista that were bloodily suppressed. These minor revolts included one in Guamá, a place in the Sierra Maestra, south of Guisa, where the followers of an anti-Batista guerrilla leader known as Gamboa (apparently a member, or former member, of the Antonio Guiteras anti-Machado guerrillas) were defeated and dispersed.
Grau was president for just over 100 days before Batista forced him to resign in January 1934. He was replaced by Carlos Mendieta and within five days the U.S. recognised Cuba's new government, which lasted 11 months. Succeeding governments were led by José Barnet (5 months) and Miguel Mariano Gómez (7 months) before Federico Laredo Brú managed to rule from December 1936 to October 1940.
Batista was well liked by the USA, who had feared Grau's socialistic reforms, but saw Batista as a stabilizing force for American interests. It was in this time period that Batista formed a renowned friendship and business relationship with gangster Meyer Lansky that lasted over three decades.
Through Lansky, the Mafia knew they had a friend in Cuba. Gangster Lucky Luciano, after being deported to Italy in 1946, went to Havana with a false passport. A summit at Havana's Hotel Nacional, with mobsters such as Frank Costello, Vito Genovese, Santo Trafficante, Jr., Moe Dalitz, and others, confirmed Luciano's authority over the U.S. mob and coincided with Frank Sinatra's singing debut in Havana. It was here that Lansky gave permission to kill Bugsy Siegel for skimming construction money from the Flamingo hotel and casino on the Las Vegas Strip in Paradise, Nevada, USA, near Las Vegas.
Many of Batista's enemies faced the same fate as the ambitious Siegel. One of his most bitter opponents, Antonio Guiteras (founder of the student group Joven Cuba) was gunned down by government forces in 1935 while waiting for a boat in Matanzas province. Others just seemed to disappear into thin air.
Batista's chance to sit in the president's chair came in 1940. Supported by a coalition of political parties, which included the old Cuban Communist Party, he defeated his rival Grau in the first presidential election under the new Cuban constitution.
During his presidency, trade relations with the U.S. increased, Cuba entered World War II on the side of the Allies in December 1941, and a series of war taxes was imposed on the Cuban population.
In 1945, Ramón Grau was elected president and Cuba experienced its first peaceful transfer of power in two decades.
In 1948, while living luxuriously in Daytona Beach, Florida, former president Batista sucessfully ran for the Cuban Senate.
In 1952, he again ran for president in a three-way race. Roberto Agramonte of the Ortodoxos party led in all the polls, followed by Dr. Carlos Hevia of the Auténtico party, while Batista was running a distant third.
Both Agramonte and Hevia had decided to name Colonel Ramón Barquín, who was then serving as the Cuban military attache in Washington, D.C. from 1950 until 1956, to head the Cuban Armed Forces after the elections. Barquín was a top officer who commanded the respect of the professional army and had promised to eliminate corruption in the ranks.
Batista feared that Barquín would oust his followers, and when victory in the elections appeared unlikely, he staged a coup. On March 10, 1952 - three months before the elections - he ousted outgoing president Carlos Prío. With the backing of a nationalist section of the army, Batista cancelled the elections and assumed government as "provisional president". On March 27, just seventeen days after the coup, Batista's government was formally recognised by U.S. President Harry S. Truman. Shortly after this recognition, Batista declared that, although he was completely loyal to Cuba's constitution of 1940, constitutional guarantees including the right to go on strike, would have to be temporarily suspended.
Knowing that Batista's coup had aimed the coup at Barquín, the military attache and inner military circles immediately began to conspire to oust Batista and reestablish the democracy and civilian government.
Batista opened the way for large-scale gambling in Havana. He announced that his government would match, dollar for dollar, any hotel investment over $1 million, which would include a casino license. Havana became a playground of choice for many gamblers.
In his book Havana Nocturne: How the Mob Owned Cuba and Then Lost It to the Revolution T. J. English writes, that the mobsters (Meyer Lansky, Santo Trafficante, Thomas Lucchese and Lucky Luciano), were the real rulers of Batista's Cuba.
In 1956, in midst of the revolutionary upheaval, the 21-story, 440-room Hotel Riviera was built in Havana at a cost of $14 million. It was known as mobster Meyer Lansky's dream and crowning achievement. The hotel opened on December 10, with a floor show headlined by Ginger Rogers. Lansky's official title was "kitchen director", but he controlled every aspect of the hotel.
Just over a year after Batista's second coup, a small group of revolutionaries attacked the Moncada Barracks in Santiago on July 26, 1953. The rebellion was easily crushed and many of its leaders killed, while others were jailed. Among the jailed was Fidel Castro, a young attorney who had run for parliament in the cancelled 1952 elections.
Due to growing popular opposition and unrest, manifested by the Cuban people with increasing acts of civil disobedience, and in order to appease the growing concerns in Washington, DC, Batista held an election in 1954 in which he was the only legal candidate and was once more elected president, prompting yet more waves of civil unrest.
The distinguished Colonel Cosme de la Torriente, a surviving veteran of the Cuban War of Independence, emerged in late 1955 to offer compromise. A series of meetings led by de la Torriente became known as "El Diálogo Cívico" (the civic dialogue). Writes Hugh Thomas: "This Diálogo Cívico represented what turned out to be the last hope for Cuban middle-class democracy, but Batista was far too strong and entrenched in his position to make any concessions."
On May 15, 1955, Batista unexpectedly released Fidel Castro and the remaining survivors of the Moncada attack, hoping to dissuade some of his critics. Within weeks it was rumoured that Batista's military police were out to kill Castro, prompting him to flee to Mexico and plan for revolution.
The Havana Post, expressing the attitude of the U.S. business community after a survey of the four years of Batista's second reign, alluded to the disappearance of gangsterism and said: 'All in all, the Batista regime has much to commend it." Hugh Thomas disagrees: "In a way, Batista's golpe formalized gangsterism: the machine gun in the big car became the symbol not only of settling scores but of an approaching change of government."
By late 1955, student riots and anti-Batista demonstrations had become frequent. These were dealt with in the violent manner his military police had come to represent. Students attempting to march from the University of Havana were stopped and beaten by the police, and student leader José A. Echeverría had to be hospitalized. Another popular student leader was killed on December 10, leading to a funeral that became a gigantic political protest with a 5-minute nationwide work stoppage.
Instead of loosening his grip, Batista suspended constitutional guarantees and established tighter censorship of the media. His military police would patrol the streets and pick up anyone suspected of insurrection. By the end of 1955 they had grown more prone to violent acts of brutality and torture, with no fear of legal repercussions. In March 1956, Batista refused to consider a proposal calling for elections by the end of the year. He was confident that he could defeat any revolutionary attempt from the many factions who opposed him.
In April 1956, Batista appointed Barquín as General and Chief of the Army. However, Barquin's Conspiración de los Puros had already progressed too far. On April 6, 1956, Barquin led a coup by hundreds of career officers but was frustrated by Lieutenant Ríos Morejón, who betrayed the plan. Barquín was sentenced to solitary confinement for 8 years on the Isle of Pines, while many officers were sentenced to maximum penalties. Cuba's war college and military academy, both closely connected to Barquin, were closed.
Batista continued to rule without concerns, even after the landing of the Granma in December 1956 (which brought the Castro brothers back to Cuba along with Che Guevara marking the start of the armed conflict).
Due to its continued opposition to Batista, the University of Havana was temporarily closed on November 30, 1956. (It would not reopen until early 1959, after a revolutionary victory.) Echeverría was killed by police after a radio broadcast and attempted attack on the Presidential Palace on March 13, 1957.
Another election in 1958 placed Andrés Rivero in the president's chair, but losing the support of the U.S. government meant his days in power were numbered.
On January 1, 1959, after formally resigning his position in Cuba's government and going through what historian Hugh Thomas describes as "a charade of handing over power" to his representatives, remaining family and closest associates boarded a plane at 3 a.m. at Camp Colombia and flew to Ciudad Trujillo in the Dominican Republic.
Throughout the night various flights out of Camp Colombia took Batista's friends and high officials to Miami, New York, New Orleans and Jacksonville. Batista's brother Francisco "Panchín" Batista, governor of Havana, left several hours later, and Meyer Lansky was also flown out that night. There was no provision made for the thousands of other Cubans who had worked with Batista's regime. Critics have accused Batista and his supporters of taking as much as $700 million U.S. dollars in fine art and cash with them as they fled into exile.
He was married to Elisa Godinez-Gómez (1905-?) on July 10, 1926 and they had three children, Mirta Caridad (April 1927), Elisa Aleida (1933), and Fulgencio Rubén Batista Godinez (1933-2007  ). He later married Marta Fernandez Miranda de Batista (1920-2006) and they had Jorge and Roberto Francisco Batista Fernández.
Marta Fernandez Miranda de Batista, Batista's widow, died on October 2, 2006. Roberto Batista, her son, says that she died at her West Palm Beach home.  She had suffered from Alzheimer's disease and had a heart attack on September 8, 2006. Batista was buried with her husband in San Isidro Cemetery in Madrid after a mass in West Palm Beach.
Batista later moved to Madeira, then Estoril, outside Lisbon, Portugal, where he lived and wrote books the rest of his life. He was also the Chairman of a Spanish life insurance company which invested in property and mortgages on the Spanish Riviera. He died of a heart attack on August 6, 1973 at Guadalmina, near Marbella, Spain.