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January 7, 2013


Washington, D.C.  (JFK+50) 54 years ago today, January 7, 1959, the United States officially recognized the new provisional government of Cuba less than a week after the overthrow of dictator Fulgencio Batista.*

The formal recognition came despite the concerns of Earl E. T. Smith,** U.S. ambassador to Cuba.

President Eisenhower was advised by Secretary of State John Foster Dulles to recognize the provisional government under Manuel Urrutia Lleo.***

The corruption of the overthrown Batista regime was well known in the United States.  Historian & future JFK aide, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. said:

“The corruption of the government, the brutality of the police, the regime’s indifference to the needs of the people for education, medical care, housing, for social justice & economic justice…is an open invitation to revolution.”

During his presidential campaign, on October 6, 1960, Senator John F. Kennedy said:

“At the beginning of 1959, U.S. companies owned about 40% of the Cuban sugar lands–almost all the cattle ranches–90% of the mines…80% of the utilities, practically all the oil industry–& supplied 2/3 of Cuba’s imports.”

US Ambassador Smith reported to the Senate…

“Until Castro, the U.S. was so overwhelmingly influential in Cuba that the American ambassador was the second most important man, sometimes even more important than the Cuban president.”

On October 24, 1963, President Kennedy said:

“To some extent it is though Batista was the incarnation of a number of sins on the part of the United States.  Now we shall have to pay for those sins.  In the matter of the Batista regime, I am in agreement with the first Cuban revolutionaries.”

*Fulgencio Batista (1901-1973) was born in Banes, Cuba.  He led a revolt in 1933, became a ‘strongman’ for a series of Cuban presidents, & then served as president himself from 1940 to 1944.

In 1952, he came back to power following a coup & served until Jan 1, 1959 when he fled to the Dominican Republic with 180 followers & $300 million.

Batista died in Spain & is buried in Madrid.


Fulgencio Batista, President of Cuba, 1952


**Earl E.T. Smith (1903-1991) was born in Rhode Island, studied at Yale, & became an investment broker in the 1930s.  He became US Ambassador to Cuba in 1957 & served until Jan 20, 1959.

***Manuel Urrutia Lleo (1901-1981) was born in Yaguajay, Las Villas, Cuba.  He became a leading civilian revolutionary but was forced into exile in Venezuela.  He returned to Cuba as provisional president after the overthrow of Batista & immediately closed all brothels & casinos.

Urrutia resigned on July 17, 1959 & eventually moved to Queens, NY where he taught Spanish.


Manuel Urrutia Lleo, Provisional President of Cuba, 1959.


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