Authoritarianism in Latin America since Independence

By Will Fowler | Go to book overview

1940-58 period, gave any dissident movement a ready-made manifesto, program and symbol around which to mount a serious and radical challenge. The constitution had, by the 1950s, become yet another in a long line of powerful myths of a cubanismo, whose "true destiny" had been frustrated and denied by history, from the two wars of independence through a highly questionable Independence, the person, image and impact of José Martí, the 1921-24 dissidence, the 1933-34 revolution, and finally, the end of the 1933 challenge to the system in the person of Eddy Chibas and the Ortodoxo party. 26

Finally, there is the significant point that the groups on which Batista based his populist coalition, and on which he hoped to build his corporatist system, were the very groups that became increasingly marginalized by the political and economic developments and, ultimately, by the insurrection of 1953 and the revolution that followed. In a very real sense, that revolution was a rebellion of the "out" groups of the 1934-44 period--the radicalized petty bourgeoisie, the non- proletarianized peasantry, and the informal sector of the cities, (especially Santiago). Batista, in his several incarnations, was therefore a turning point in Cuban history, not, however, in his 1952-58 period (as might at first have seemed logical) but in the 1934-44 experience of a populism which, fundamentally, was flawed, dangerous, and worked only by default. Ironically, the success of Batista in those several incarnations before 1944 meant the failure of 1952-58.


NOTES
1.
The 1933 revolution came as the final act of the political struggle against the dictator Gerardo Machado, whose decision in 1927 to prolong his term of office beyond the constitutional period generated a widespread, radical, and popular protest, which culminated, in 1929-33, in a period of strikes, violence, and terrorism. Much of the anger expressed in that struggle was attributable to the hopes vested in Machado on his election in 1924, following a period of protest against corruption and the perceived betrayal of the ideals of independence. The student rebels of the Directorio Estudiantil Universitario (DEU) created the Pentarqua, a junta of "notables" (doctors, lawyers and bankers), as the revolutionary government, to provide clean, as well as radical, leadership.
2.
The Platt Amendment was the clause inserted into the Cuban constitution in 1901, as a result of pressure from the U.S. government and occupation authorities on the island. It arose from domestic U.S. legislation and became the clause that formally tied Cuba to the United States after it gained its independence in 1902 (following the 1898-1902. U.S. occupation, which resulted from the Cuban War of Independence of 1895-98 and the Spanish-American War of 1898). The 1903 Reciprocity Treaty between Cuba and the United States was the formal legal instrument by which the new Cuban economy was tied to the American metropolis; it guaranteed preferential duties to Cuban sugar exports to the United States in return for extensive reductions in tariffs on manufactured imports into Cuba. As a result, it ensured that Cuba remained dependent on exports of raw sugar and lacked an industrial base.
3.
In 1920-21 Cuba experienced the shock of the so-called Danza de los Millones, when sugar prices rose vertiginously from 10 cents a pound in March

-90-

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