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The Gómez administration


Photo of Havana in Cuba
Photo of Havana in Cuba

A republican administration that began on May 20, 1902, under Estrada Palma was subject to heavy U.S. influence. Estrada Palma tried to retain power in the 1905 and 1906 elections, which were contested by the Liberals, leading to rebellion and a second U.S. occupation in September 1906. U.S. secretary of war William Howard Taft failed to resolve the dispute, and Estrada Palma resigned. The U.S. government then made Charles Magoon provisional governor. An advisory commission revised electoral procedures, and in January 1909 Magoon handed over the government to the Liberal president, José Miguel Gómez. Meanwhile, Cuba’s economy grew steadily, and sugar prices rose continually until the 1920s.

The Gómez administration (1909–13) set a pattern of graft, corruption, maladministration, fiscal irresponsibility, and social insensitivity—especially toward Afro-Cubans—that characterized Cuban politics until 1959. Afro-Cubans, led by Evaristo Estenoz and Pedro Ivonet, organized to secure better jobs and more political patronage. In 1912 government troops put down large demonstrations in Oriente province.

The pattern of corruption continued under the subsequent administrations of Mario García Menocal (1913–21), Alfredo Zayas (1921–25), Gerardo Machado y Morales (1925–33), Fulgencio Batista (through puppets 1934–39 and himself 1940–44 and 1952–59), Ramón Grau San Martín (1944–48), and Carlos Prío Socarrás (1948–52).

Machado was one of the more notorious presidents, holding power through manipulation, troops, and assassins. The U.S. government helped leftist groups overthrow him in the so-called Revolution of 1933, which brought Batista to power. Batista, however, was cut from the same mold as Machado.

Cuba’s income from sugar, which still accounted for four-fifths of export earnings, was augmented by a vigorous tourist trade based on Havana’s hotels, casinos, and brothels, especially during the years of Prohibition (1919–33) in the United States. By the end of the 1950s, Cuba had developed one of the leading economies in Latin America, with an annual income of $353 per capita in 1958—among the highest in the region.

Yet economic disparities grew, and most rural workers earned only about one-fourth the average per year. Although the thriving economy enriched a few Cubans, the majority experienced poverty (especially in the countryside), an appalling lack of public services, and unemployment and underemployment. U.S. and other foreign investors controlled the economy, owning about 75 percent of the arable land, 90 percent of the essential services, and 40 percent of the sugar production. And for much of the 1950s, Batista exercised absolute control over the political system. "Cuba" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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