Americans and March 10, 1952 / 14ymedio, Gabriel Barrenechea Jose

Fragment of the cover of the book 'Batista, The Coup’ by Jose Luis Padron and Luis Adrian Betancourt.
Fragment of the cover of the book ‘Batista, The Coup’ by Jose Luis Padron and Luis Adrian Betancourt.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Jose Gabriel Barrenechea, Santa Clara, 10 March 2016 — In the early hours of Monday 10 March 1952, a coup closed the democratic cycle in Cuba, open since the Constituent Assembly of 1940 which has begun with the Protest of the Thirteen and the university reform movement captained by Julio Antonio Mella.

Despite what Fidel Castro and his less serious historiographical followers have stated so many times, in no way can the responsibility for the coup be placed on the Americans or specifically on their secret agencies, the CIA and the FBI. As has been recognized even by a long series of Cuban historians publishing on the island since the 1959 Revolution.

Among them is Newton Briones, who, in his semi-fictional “The General Returns,” describes step-by-step the process of preparation for the coup. From the Orthodox party dalliances of its promoters led by Captain Garcia Tuñón, to inspiration from a professor at the Army War College, Garcia Barcena, until the final links with Fulgencio Batista.

Even in the highly biased The Cry of Moncada, by Mario Mencia, a complete representation of Castro-regime historiography, we find nothing to support the official version according to which the Americans inspired and even led the coup; it only manages to draw on an alleged “approval by omission” by the Embassy, having not warned President Carlos Prio.

According to the author, not only did the members of the US military mission know what was being cooked up in Columbia and Kuquine, the well-known hacienda of the “Mulato Lindo” – as Batista was called – but so did almost all of Havana and even the country. If no one took this stew seriously, it is due to the circumstances of that time in Cuba, where almost all shared the same blind confidence in the solidity of democracy.

At the end of February, in the face of the warning from the Venezuelan Romulo Gallegos – fired three years earlier – of what was afoot, someone as sharp as Raul Roa responded with absolute certainty that something like this had no place in the Cuba of 1952.

The latest example is Batista, the Coup, by two historians closely linked to State Security, Jose Luis Padron and Luis Adrian Betancourt. The central thesis of this book is that in essence there is nothing to prove American inspiration behind the barracks coup, and that, on the contrary, everything seems to demonstrate that the coup was not very well received by most of the institutions of the United States.

This work admits that it was not the United States that was among the first to offer de facto recognition to the regime, but rather among the last, at least in the Americas. It goes on to detail, based on abundant declassified documentation from the US State Department, the tense process of recognition and the subsequent chill that the American embassy in Havana maintained for months toward the de facto regime. The authors do not fail to clarify that the motives for it were the well-known links between Batista and the Cuban communists, who generated great suspicion in the circles of American power.

We can affirm that this lack of a link is no longer based only on the opinions of the intellectual authority, but on simple and plain common sense. Still, through covert operations, during the dawn of the Cold War, Americans have only intervened where it was clear, or at least highly possible, that the advance of the Communists, or any political force which by its nature had some chance of allying itself to the USSR (this breach of tolerance was what allowed the consolidation of the Fidel regime soon afterwards). This kind of situation could not have been further from that of the Cuba of the late forties and beginning of the fifties.

The Communist Party, the PSP, had seen how the masses withdrew their already low support historically during the democratic period. If in the 1948 elections they got 142,972 votes, less than 6% of the total, in the reorganization of the parties in November of 1949 and 1952 it fell respectively to 126,542 and 59,000. This last figure was just a few thousand votes from the 2% required in the Constitution to legalize a political party, and, therefore, its electoral demise.

Moreover, to pretend that the Americans promoted the coup to stop the certain victory of the Orthodox party is complete nonsense. Would the Yankees have feared the party of Chibás, which was entirely in the hands of the most implacable and popular enemy of communism in Cuba? Not to mention, the only Cuban politician of the first-rank who opposed the leftist government of Juan Jose Arevalo in Guatemala or who sent a parliamentary commission to investigate the violation of human rights during the uprising of independence supporters in Puerto Rico in 1950… that is, the Cuban politician of the first rank least likely to upset Washington.

It is not very well understand how it served the foreign policy of the United States to get rid of what was then its democratic showcase in the Southern Hemisphere. It was an alliance that played an extremely important role in the defense mechanisms of the hemisphere, in a moment of incomparable popular approval in Latin America, and in which there was seen no immediate possibility of marked retreat.

On the contrary, there is abundant evidence of the American displeasure with the coup, and the supposed complacency of the military attaché in Havana suggested by Batista, the Coup is highly doubtful. In the post-coup report the barracks attack was called a danger for American interests on the continent, which leads us to interpret differently the efforts of those officers to convince many military of the academy and great technical capacity to remain in the Constitutional Army. The American military in reality did not try to strengthen the Batista regime, but rather to leave a door open for the return of institutional democracy without the need for a popular insurrections, that is, thanks to a future civilian-supported military coup.

With regards to the Americans finally giving recognition to the de facto Batista government, its doing so more than two weeks after it had usurped the Presidential Palace, and when all of Latin America had already done so, was the best possible attitude for the continuity of Cuban political independence.

Calmly analyzing the last 64 years, we understand that the U.S. Department of State ended up adopting the recognition promoted by the Democratic administrations since 1933, very knowledgeable about our susceptibility on the subject, such that we could not accuse them of interfering with their enormous force of gravity in the seriousness of our internal issues. The lack of support from the United States is clearly what got Batista to leave power in less than six months, as was well-known by many Cuban politicians of that time, but in turn it profoundly discredited our independence, or at least our capacity to manage our own sovereignty with a minimum of responsibility.

It is here where the inextricable relationship between our two nations becomes transparent: having denied recognition, having demanded the immediate return of the previous government, in the face of a situation that after almost three weeks did not seem to result in civic rejection by Cuban citizens, the United States would in consequence become the de facto guarantor of our democracy and real sovereignty.

From that moment, our authorities could be elected in the most free and democratic way, but at the end of the day their remaining in their jobs would depend on the will of the United States to maintain them in the face of our own authoritarian and anti-democratic forces. This would have ultimately led us into a quasi-similar position to the years of the Protectorate, or an even worse one.

It is worth remembering that the alleged control over Cuban society of the institutions of American intelligence is belied by events occurring after the 1952 coup, as it failed to discover the massive conspiratorial movements of Fidel Castro, who came to gather more than one thousand men who trained for months around the University of Havana.