The nineteenth-century Cuban struggle for independence was long and bloody. Repeatedly the Cuban rebels asked the U.S. government to grant them belligerent status against Spain, but at no time, neither in the Ten Years’ War (1868-1878), nor in the War for Independence (1895-1898), did the U.S. acknowledge the legitimacy of the rebellion. Almost up to the moment of the Spanish American War the U.S. supported the Spaniards. In the final years of the struggle, the rebels pleaded for recognition, material aid and troops to be used as auxiliaries under the Cuban commander-in-chief. They got none of these, but thanks to the “Yellow Press,” “Manifest Destiny,” and the “Maine,” Cuba was invaded by the U.S. army. The invasion was followed by a four-year military occupation, during which the revolutionaries were either ignored or insulted, and the government turned over to the “better classes.” This was the period during which the South was forging the segregation system and the U.S. was convincing itself of white supremacy. One of the reasons the leaders of the occupation could not deal with the rebel army was that it consisted in large measure of mulattoes and Negroes.
Before the military occupation ended, the Platt Amendment was imposed on Cuba. The U.S. took Guantanamo and claimed the right of intervention in domestic politics—a right exercised in 1906-09, in 1916 and again in the early 1920s. While U.S. troops were busily occupying and unoccupying Cuba, U.S. investments grew and the one-crop (sugar) economy took on the form it would have until 1959.
In the late twenties “order” came to Cuba. Dictator Machado took power and ruled in violation of every principle of political democracy. He was, however, on the best of terms with U.S. business, and was regarded as a friend by U.S. governments. While Machado was jailing and killing, President Coolidge claimed that the Cubans were “independent, free, prosperous, peace-loving and enjoying the advantages of self-government.”
In spite of U.S. support, the Machado regime fell in 1933. The pro U.S. Cespedes government which followed was forced out almost immediately and then Dr. Grau San Martin came to power with a program of social legislation and agrarian reform. Isis government opposed the influence of U.S. business in Cuba, and, after a fight over utility rates, nationalized the U.S.-owned utility companies. Such a government—it had also defaulted on Cuba’s debts to the U.S.—was, in the eyes of the U.S., profoundly suspect and sometimes said to be Communist. In fact, the Communists were bitter enemies of the social reformers. Without U.S. recognition and under the shadow of U.S. naval guns, the San Martin regime survived only four months. The succeeding Mendieta regime, drawn from the old oligarchy, was recognized by the State Department within five days.
Cuba was again “safeR...
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