Conquering Nature: The Enviromental Legacy of Socialism in Cuba (Pitt Latin American Series)


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When the Cuban financial system collapsed after a drop in sugar prices, Zayas secured a loan from the United States in President Gerardo Machado was elected by popular vote in , but he was constitutionally barred from reelection. Machado, determined to modernize Cuba, set in motion several massive civil works projects such as the Central Highway, but at the end of his constitutional term he held on to power.

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The United States, despite the Platt Amendment, decided not to interfere militarily. The Sergeants' Revolt undermined the institutions and coercive structures of the oligarchic state. The young and relatively inexperienced revolutionaries found themselves pushed into the halls of state power by worker and peasant mobilisations. Between September and January a loose coalition of radical activists, students, middle-class intellectuals, and disgruntled lower-rank soldiers formed a Provisional Revolutionary Government. The Grau government promised a 'new Cuba' with social justice for all classes, and the abrogation of the Platt Amendment.

While the revolutionary leaders certainly wanted diplomatic recognition by Washington, they believed their legitimacy stemmed from the popular rebellion which brought them to power, and not from the approval of the United States' Department of State. To this end, throughout the autumn of , the government decreed a dramatic series of reforms. The Platt Amendment was unilaterally abrogated, and all the political parties of the Machadato were dissolved.

The Provisional Government granted autonomy to the University of Havana, women obtained the right to vote, the eight-hour day was decreed, a minimum wage was established for cane-cutters, and compulsory arbitration was promoted. The government created a Ministry of Labour, and a law was passed establishing that 50 per cent of all workers in agriculture, commerce and industry had to be Cuban citizens. The Grau regime set agrarian reform as a priority, promising peasants legal title to their lands.

For the first time in Cuban history the country was governed by people who did not negotiate the terms of political power with Spain before , or with the United States after The Provisional Government survived until January , when it was overthrown by an equally loose anti-government coalition of right-wing civilian and military elements.

Led by a young mulatto sergeant, Fulgencio Batista y Zaldivar , this movement was supported by the United States. In , Cuba conducted free and fair national elections. A populist physician, who had briefly held the presidency in the revolutionary process, Grau made a deal with labor unions to continue Batista's pro-labor policies. He instituted programs of public works and school construction, increasing social security benefits and encouraging economic development and agricultural production.

Conquering Nature - University of Pittsburgh Press

However, increased prosperity brought increased corruption, with nepotism and favoritism flourishing in the political establishment, and urban violence, a legacy of the early s, reappearing on a large scale. Around the same time, Fidel Castro became a public figure at the University of Havana. Taking advantage of the opportunity, Batista, who was expected to win only a small minority of the presidential vote, seized power in an almost bloodless coup three months before the election was to take place.

Due to the corruption of the previous two administrations, the general public reaction to the coup was somewhat accepting at first. However, Batista soon encountered stiff opposition when he temporarily suspended the balloting and the constitution, and attempted to rule by decree. Nonetheless, elections were held in and Batista was re-elected under disputed circumstances. Opposition parties mounted a blistering campaign, and continued to do so, using the Cuban free press throughout Batista's tenure in office.

Although corruption was rife under Batista, Cuba did flourish economically during his regime. Wages rose significantly; [96] according to the International Labour Organization , the average industrial salary in Cuba was the world's eighth-highest in , and the average agricultural wage was higher than in developed nations such as Denmark, West Germany, Belgium, and France.

Latin America School of Medicine (ELAM), Havana, Cuba

In the s, Cuba's gross domestic product GDP per capita was roughly equal to that of contemporary Italy, and significantly higher than that of countries such as Japan, although Cuba's GDP per capita was still only a sixth as large as that of the United States. Cuba also had Latin America's highest per capita consumption rates of meat, vegetables, cereals, automobiles, telephones and radios during this period. According to the United Nations, 58 different daily newspapers operated in Cuba during the late s, more than any Latin American country save Brazil, Argentina and Mexico. Moreover, Cuba's health service was remarkably developed.

However, the United States, rather than Latin America, was the frame of reference for educated Cubans. Large income disparities arose due to the extensive privileges enjoyed by Cuba's unionized workers. Cuba's labour regulations ultimately caused economic stagnation. Hugh Thomas asserts that "militant unions succeeded in maintaining the position of unionized workers and, consequently, made it difficult for capital to improve efficiency.

Conquering Nature: The Enviromental Legacy of Socialism in Cuba (Pitt Latin American Series)

Unemployment was high; many university graduates could not find jobs. In , Fidel Castro , a young lawyer running for a seat in the Chamber of Representatives for the Partido Ortodoxo , circulated a petition to depose Batista's government on the grounds that it had illegitimately suspended the electoral process.

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However, the courts did not act on the petition and ignored Castro's legal challenges. However, the Batista government released him in , when amnesty was given to many political prisoners, including the ones that assaulted the Moncada barracks. Castro and his brother subsequently went into exile in Mexico, where they met the Argentine revolutionary Ernesto "Che" Guevara. In December , Fidel Castro led a group of 82 fighters to Cuba aboard the yacht Granma , landing in the eastern part of the island. Castro managed to escape into the Sierra Maestra mountains with as few as 12 fighters, aided by the urban and rural opposition, including Celia Sanchez and the bandits of Cresencio Perez's family.

Growing anti-Batista resistance, including a bloodily crushed rising by Cuban Navy personnel in Cienfuegos, soon led to chaos in the country.

At the same time, rival guerrilla groups in the Escambray Mountains also grew more effective. Castro attempted to arrange a general strike in , but could not win support among Communists or labor unions. The United States imposed trade restrictions on the Batista administration and sent an envoy who attempted to persuade Batista to leave the country voluntarily. Within months of taking control, Castro moved to consolidate his power by marginalizing other resistance groups and figures and imprisoning and executing opponents and dissident former supporters.

The new government of Cuba soon encountered opposition from militant groups and from the United States, which had supported Batista politically and economically. Loyalty to Castro and the revolution became the primary criterion for all appointments.

Militant anti-Castro groups, funded by exiles, by the Central Intelligence Agency CIA and by Rafael Trujillo 's Dominican government, carried out armed attacks and set up guerrilla bases in Cuba's mountainous regions. This led to the six-year Escambray Rebellion — , which lasted longer and involved more soldiers than the Cuban Revolution. Castro's government ultimately defeated the rebels with its superior numbers and firepower, and executed those who surrendered.

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In a national referendum ratified a new constitution , with Smith , who had been close to Batista. The Eisenhower administration , in agreement with the American media [ citation needed ] and Congress , did this with the assumption that "Cuba [would] remain in the U. Foreign-policy professor Piero Gleijeses argued that if Castro had accepted these parameters, he would be allowed to stay in power.

Otherwise he would be overthrown. Among the opponents of Batista, many wanted to accommodate the United States. However, Castro belonged to a faction which opposed U. Castro did not forgive the U. On 5 June , at the height of the revolution, he had written: "The Americans are going to pay dearly for what they are doing.

That will be my true destiny". Only six months after Castro seized power, the Eisenhower administration began to plot his ouster. The United Kingdom was persuaded [ by whom? In January Roy R. Rubottom, Jr. In April a downward trend in US—Cuban relations had been evident… In June we had reached the decision that it was not possible to achieve our objectives with Castro in power and had agreed to undertake the program referred to by Undersecretary of State Livingston T.


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On 31 October in agreement with the Central Intelligence Agency , the Department had recommended to the President approval of a program along the lines referred to by Mr. The approved program authorized us to support elements in Cuba opposed to the Castro government while making Castro's downfall seem to be the result of his own mistakes.

The CIA blamed the explosion on the Cuban government.


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  • Relations between the United States and Cuba deteriorated rapidly as the Cuban government, in reaction to the refusal of Royal Dutch Shell , Standard Oil and Texaco to refine petroleum from the Soviet Union in Cuban refineries under their control, took control of those refineries in July The Eisenhower administration promoted a boycott of Cuba by oil companies, to which Cuba responded by nationalizing the refineries in August Both sides continued to escalate the dispute.

    In the Castro government's first agrarian reform law, on 17 May , the state sought to limit the size of land holdings, and to distribute that land to small farmers in "Vital Minimum" tracts. This law served as a pretext for seizing lands held by foreigners and for redistributing them to Cuban citizens.

    Conquering Nature: The Enviromental Legacy of Socialism in Cuba (Pitt Latin American Series) Conquering Nature: The Enviromental Legacy of Socialism in Cuba (Pitt Latin American Series)
    Conquering Nature: The Enviromental Legacy of Socialism in Cuba (Pitt Latin American Series) Conquering Nature: The Enviromental Legacy of Socialism in Cuba (Pitt Latin American Series)
    Conquering Nature: The Enviromental Legacy of Socialism in Cuba (Pitt Latin American Series) Conquering Nature: The Enviromental Legacy of Socialism in Cuba (Pitt Latin American Series)
    Conquering Nature: The Enviromental Legacy of Socialism in Cuba (Pitt Latin American Series) Conquering Nature: The Enviromental Legacy of Socialism in Cuba (Pitt Latin American Series)
    Conquering Nature: The Enviromental Legacy of Socialism in Cuba (Pitt Latin American Series) Conquering Nature: The Enviromental Legacy of Socialism in Cuba (Pitt Latin American Series)
    Conquering Nature: The Enviromental Legacy of Socialism in Cuba (Pitt Latin American Series) Conquering Nature: The Enviromental Legacy of Socialism in Cuba (Pitt Latin American Series)
    Conquering Nature: The Enviromental Legacy of Socialism in Cuba (Pitt Latin American Series) Conquering Nature: The Enviromental Legacy of Socialism in Cuba (Pitt Latin American Series)
    Conquering Nature: The Enviromental Legacy of Socialism in Cuba (Pitt Latin American Series) Conquering Nature: The Enviromental Legacy of Socialism in Cuba (Pitt Latin American Series)
    Conquering Nature: The Enviromental Legacy of Socialism in Cuba (Pitt Latin American Series)

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