Last week we left off with ‘your friendly neighborhood terrorist’ on the run for murder. Not to be outdone, while Castro was on the run, another tyrant stepped in to take his place. In 1952 it was time for another general election…if you want to call it that. Candidates were being attacked and some blood had been spilled. In the Cuban Army, it was becoming considered to use force to seize power and restore order. General Fulgencio Batista decided to seize Cuba’s political reigns and restore order himself. In order to understand his definition of ‘order’ it is important to understand the political climate in Cuba. Never for any appreciable time since Cuba won her independence had she enjoyed democracy or stable self-government. Her political history had been a tragic composite of illegal elections, assassinations, inefficiency in government, graft, nepotism, intimidation, and dictatorships. Losers of elections frequently became leaders of revolutionary parties seeking to seize control. So ‘restoring order’ was not exactly what we might consider it to be in the United States…at least not yet.
General Batista had himself elected president in 1940 but when the election was held in 1944, his candidate was defeated. Batista’s regime was followed by two extremely corrupt, graft-ridden administrations, once more destroying confidence in the democratic processes. By 1952, these corrupt politicians were also destroying the stability of Cuba’s economy. Having seen enough of civil government, General Batista considered the circumstances sufficiently critical to justify his taking over again and establishing a temporary military government. Despite the outrage of both the United States and the citizens of Cuba, Batista forged ahead with a four-pronged program:
> Stabilizing Cuba’s economy through diversified agriculture and accelerated industrial development
> Strengthening economic and political ties with the US
> Resisting Communism
> Raising the Cuban standard of living
He also promised free elections would be held no later than 1958. By 1957, “The Cuban national income had reached levels which gave the Cuban people one of the highest standards on living in Latin America.” (U.S. Department of Commerce Report, Investments in Cuba, p. 184). The General was not the usual Latin American ‘army strong man’, but was actually very pro-labor and persuaded the people that he wanted to carry out policies which would be popular rather than dictatorial. Cuba was becoming a tourist mecca and attracting vast amounts of American capital for industrial development.
This, then, was the promising development of Cuba which was taking place at the time Batista was overthrown. For the most part, the Batista government was typical of Cuba’s past. The regime indulged itself in certain quantities of graft; when there were armed insurrections, he met violence with violence, and when there were minor uprisings, he suspended civil rights and established full military control. Promising to submit himself to the people in a popular election once order was established, his sincerity was seriously doubted by one of his most staunch opponents, Fidel Castro. The record shows that every time Batista tried to slacken the reigns of control, there were immediate outburst of violence, and the reign would be tightened once again. Of course, the outbursts were lead and encouraged by the politician least likely to want democracy…Castro. It was during the Castro Revolution that Batista’s political sincerity was actually demonstrated. Batista announced there would be a general election on June 1, 1958. He even invited Castro to restore peace so that the will of the people could be determined. Castro responded with a bloodthirsty manifesto in which he declared that as of April 5, 1958, any person who remained in an office of trust in the executive branch of the government would be considered guilty of treason. He said that candidates for the election must withdraw immediately or suffer ‘ten years imprisonment to the death sentence.’ He authorized his revolutionary militia in the towns and cities to shoot down candidates summarily. Castro refused to let the elections go forward.
Earlier, US Ambassador Arthur Gardner had been removed because he urged support of Batista until Cuba’s problems could be settled at the polls. He was replaced by Ambassador Earl Smith who soon received a horrified State Department stare when he tried to put over the point that Castro was obviously leading Cuba and the United States into a Soviet-built Communist trap. These shocked State Department ‘experts’ reflected their complete disdain for their ambassador’s advice by deliberately engineering a tight arms embargo against Batista. The State Department further promoted an agreement among the South and Central American republics that they would not sell arms to Batista either. Batista finally got the US to agree to selling 15 unarmed training planes to Cuba, which were paid for in cash in advance. Castro then ordered his brother, Raul, to launch a project specifically designed to intimidate and humiliate the United States. Raul kidnapped 30 US Marines and sailors, 17 American civilians, and 3 Canadians. Threats against the lives of these hostages were used to force the United States to cancel the shipment of training planes to Batista. The ‘experts’ in the State Department meekly capitulated!
Castro had been working behind the facade of the Orthodox Party, but after the Batista coup, he insisted the party include the Communist Party and set up a ‘popular front’ against Batista. Leaders of the Orthodox Party refused to do this. Castro promptly left the party to form his own movement. It was only a short time after this…July 26,1953…that Castro’s men made a disastrous attack on the Army barracks at Santiago. Castro’s actions were made possible because of the inaction of a ‘democratic’ government just 90 miles away. More on this next week.
All the while Cuba…not unacquainted with Christian principles, became more and more imbedded in this attempt by Satan inspired Communists to take over and rule the island. I had earlier compared the actions in Cuba with those of Judah in the days of Jeremiah. I compare the false prophets of those days with the State Department officials of the Cuban takeover days. Behind the king stands the prophet. When the heart of the king goes astray, it is the job of the prophet…the preacher…to confront and correct the king. But if the heart of the prophet is evil…the heart of the preacher not concerned with the politics of the society…there is no one to hold the king accountable…. thus, there is no hope for that land or its people. There was a cancer in the heart of the nation of Judah, a terminal condition that could not be cured. If we equate the prophets of Jeremiah’s day to the pastors and other religious leaders of our day, we can sense a challenge that needs to be heeded…a challenge that existed in Cuba. The church is supposed to be a good example in the world…raising moral standards, proclaiming God’s truth, and holding government accountable for its actions…just as Jeremiah held the government of Judah accountable. Perhaps the government of Cuba would not have collapsed into Communist domination if the church had taken a strong stand on the essential values and teachings of God’s Word. Could that same lack of political concern by the church today be making it possible for a liberal/progressive/communist takeover with the associated loss of individual freedom. Just like cancer, the progress is slow and not realized until it is almost too late. Who is going to sound the alarm if many in government leadership are complicit in the takeover? Jeremiah’s accusations were against the priests of Jerusalem…the church of that day.
Next week we will see how Communist persistence leads from a Castro defeat to victory in controlling the nation.
“I have come to the conclusion that politics is too serious a matter to be left to the politicians.” Charles de Gaulle, French general & politician