Fulgencio Batista

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Batista warmly welcoming U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt

Fulgencio Batista was the President of Cuba for two periods, 1940–44 and 1952–1959. He was head of the Cuban military and effective de facto Cuban leader when not in office from 1933. His first period in power saw Cuba undertake significant liberal reforms, and Batista, of mixed heritage, was initially popular amongst black and poor Cubans.

Batista's return to presidency via a coup d'État in 1952 led to the suspension of the Cuban constitution, and sparked unrest in Cuba. Rigged elections and an increasingly corrupt regime with close ties to the United States drew large opposition from a coalition of Cubans from all political backgrounds including Fidel Castro's 26th of July Movement. During the tenure of Batista media freedom prevailed largely.

Batista was eventually overthrown by the Soviet-sponsored Cuban Revolution spreading from the east of the island, and fled the country on January 1, 1959. The key turning point in the 6 year long struggle was in 1958 when the U.S. ceased selling Batista arms. These arms had been effective in suppressing the rebels and brutally terrorizing agricultural workers, who had supported the revolution, into submission. A new government took over chosen by Castro and headed by traditional liberals Manuel Urrutia Lleó and José Miró Cardona. Castro became head of the new armed forces before quickly maneuvering himself into the position of prime minister.