With the flight of Machado on August 12, 1933 (see “FDR and US mediation in Cuba” 8/7/2014), US ambassador Benjamin Sumner Wells sought to establish a government that would be capable of frustrating the popular revolution. He pressured the Congress to designate as president Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, a bland politician who possessed the merit of being the son of the first President of the Republic of Cuba in Arms, established in 1869 during the first Cuban war of independence (see “The Cuban war of independence of 1868” 6/17/2014). In accordance with the desires of the US ambassador, Céspedes was designated president on August 13. The Céspedes government was supported by the national estate bourgeoisie as well as the reformist opposition to Machado. In addition, the fascist ABC, with paramilitary structures of direct action, was an important social base of support. However, inasmuch as the Cespédes government had been established by the US ambassador, it was lacking in moral authority in the eyes of the people. The Céspedes government tried to take advantage of popular hostility to Machado by setting aside the changes that the Machado regime had made in the Constitution, placing the Constitution of 1901 in full vigor. But the workers continued with the wave of strikes, directed by committees elected by the masses, putting forth economic, social and political demands. At the same time, using distinct strategies, the Communist Party of Cuba, the Revolutionary Union, and the University Student Directorate sought to bring down the Céspedes government. The Céspedes government lasted only three weeks, and it was characterized by vacillations. It was a moment of anarchy, including executions of Machado government officials by the enraged people (Instituto de Cuba 1998:300-2).
In the Cuban army and navy, there had emerged a caste division between the officers, who proceeded from the upper and middle classes; and the non-commissioned officers, soldiers, and sailors, who were from the lower classes. The officers lived in a privileged manner, and they were abusive toward non-commissioned officers and enlisted men, whose salaries were low. In addition, non-commissioned officers were disheartened by the role that the army had played during the Machado regime, lowering its prestige among workers and peasants. As a result, revolutionary and reformist ideas permeated the ranks of enlisted men, and there were significant contacts between them and Guiteras, the Revolutionary Union, and the University Student Directorate (Instituto de Cuba 1998:302-3).
On September 4, 1933, the sergeants, corporals and enlisted men seized control of the military base of Columbia. Along with leaders of the University Student Directorate and some university professors, they formed the Revolutionary Group of Cuba, which declared itself to be the Provisional Revolutionary Government of Cuba. It announced a program that reflected the reformist proposals of the University Student Directorate: the convoking of a Constitutional Assembly; affirmation of the principles of representative democracy; the establishment of special tribunals for the trial and punishment of officials of the Machado government; protection of the life and property of citizens and foreigners; and recognition of the good faith and patriotism of the members of the Céspedes government. The Revolutionary Group received the support of the units of the army, navy and police throughout the country, so that chiefs and officers were replaced by sergeants, corporals, and soldiers across the nation (Instituto de Cuba 1998:303-4).
Among the members of the Revolutionary Group was Sergeant Fulgencio Batista. He suggested that the key leaders of the rebellion in Columbia, located in Havana, travel to the cities of Matanzas and Pinar del Río, in order to control the uncertain situation in the barracks of these cities. This enabled Batista to personally conduct negotiations in the early morning of September 5, with respect to the first public proclamation by the recently created Revolutionary Group. The “Proclamation to the People of Cuba” was signed by sixteen civilians, two ex-military men, and only one military man in active service, Batista, who signed the document with the self-designated title of “Revolutionary Chief Sergeant of all the Armed Forces of the Republic.” Later that same day, Batista issued a public statement in the name of the armed forces, signed by him, and he met with the US ambassador. In this way, Batista came to be identified in public opinion as the leader of the sergeant’s revolt. When the other leaders returned to the capital, they decided to accept the facts that had transpired, including the new prominent role of Batista, rather than undermine the sergeant’s revolt through an internal struggle for power (Instituto de Cuba 1998:303-4).
On September 5, the Revolutionary Group established a collective presidency of five persons, implementing a proposal to this effect that had been put forward a month earlier by the University Student Directorate. The “Pentateuch,” as it was called by the people, could not function, because ideological divisions among the five prevented the emergence of consensus. So the Pentateuch was dissolved on September 10, and Dr. Ramón Grau San Martín was named President. Thus began the “government of 100 days,” which was the only government of the neocolonial republic to be established without US approval, and which during its brief existence enacted progressive reforms, as we will discuss in the next post (Instituto de Cuba 1998: 304-5).
During its five days of life, the Pentateuch promoted Batista to the rank of coronel (Instituto de Cuba 1998:304-5). The era of Batista had begun.
Instituto de Historia de Cuba. 1998. La neocolonia. La Habana: Editora Política.
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