As we observed in one of our previous posts, Havana: Post WW II and Limited Industrialization, Havana was not Cuba. The capital was quite modern and habaneros enjoyed relatively high standards of living. Still, most Cubans did not live in Havana and, by 1952, Cubans were looking for new leadership.
The idea of a military coup originated with young officers who wanted to restore order and hold new elections. They called on General Batista for leadership because he had carried out a similar program in the 1930s.
On March 10, 1952, Batista and the army easily seized power, and Havana was militarized overnight. Louis Perez recounts:
All principal army posts in Havana were seized at 2:40 a.m., and military units moved into the city to garrison strategic positions. Bus and rail stations, airports, docks, electricity plants, radio transmitters, banks, and offices of government ministries passed under army control. Military roadblocks sealed access to and from the capital. Army units occupied local radio stations…Telecommunication service to the interior was interrupted. Sites of potential protest demonstrations against the coup passed under military control. Opposition press offices were closed. Local headquarters of various unions and the communist party were occupied, and union leaders and political opponents were detained and arrested. The university was closed. Constitutional guarantees were suspended; congress was dissolved….The effects of nearly a decade of graft, corruption, and scandal at all levels of civilian government had more than adequately paved the way for the return of military. . .
Quite easily, the military became politically preeminent in Cuban politics.
Notably, the militarization of the Cuban polity was accomplished without the assistance of the United States and was unrelated to Cold War competition or confrontation.
Circumstances in 1952 were quite different from those of the 1930s, however, and the officers were soon disillusioned. Lacking popular support, Batista sidetracked the expectations of the younger officers and concerned himself solely with remaining in power.
Do you want to see Cuba before the “capitalist invasion?”
Americans can now travel to Cuba legally. Let us show you how to take advantage of OFAC licensed people-to-people programs:
- meet the people of Cuba and come home with a deeper understanding of the island and its culture
- stroll through the UNESCO World Heritage site of Old Havana and explore the diversity of its architectural history
- visit artist venues and cultural projects celebrating Afro-Cuban music and dance.
All trips are fully licensed.