Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Cuban Elections of 1958: The Real Story

FIU's Center for Cuban Studies is hosting a seminar at Graham Center on the Cuban elections of November 1958. From what El Nuevo Herald reports "Cuba: Between Bullets and Ballots" is based on the erroneous premise that these elections were fraudulent. I am the only living person to the best of my knowledge who knows the truth about Cuba's last democratic elections. I suppose I have the responsibility of revealing these facts for the historical record, and since I never promised my grandfather that I would keep them as a trust, I can do so now without betraying a personal confidence. Since he always stood by his actions in those final days of the Cuban Republic, I feel no compunction myself to excuse much less apologize for them. Others, perhaps most, may take exception at his conduct, which, I think, only confirms the truth of his revelations, since men generally conceal that which indicts them in the eyes of their critics. If I have not made public these facts before it is because there was no audience for them. The elections of 1958 have been dismissed by most historians as irrelevant if not irreverent: at best, a solution to a problem that, by then, admitted of no civil solution; or, at worst, an electoral farce that was universally repudiated by everybody except Batista's most die hard supporters. It was neither.

More than 50 percent of the Cuban electorate participated in 1958 elections. Such a turnout would have been the norm in any U.S. election. Of course, the elections of 1958 were not held under normal conditions in Cuba but in the midst of a civil war. The rebels called for a boycott of the elections and warned that anyone who voted in the morning would be dead by noon. Having carried out indiscriminate bombings against the civilian population for three years, the rebels' threats were taken very seriously. Nevertheless, 50% of voters were not cowed by their threats and exercised their right of suffrage in what amounted to a public repudiation of Castro and his barbudos.

Six months earlier, in March 1958, Cubans had ignored Castro's call for a general strike, which was also phrased in the same menacing terms. Less than 10 percent of Cuba's workers succumbed to Castro's intimidation on that occasion, which Castro called the greatest defeat of the Cuban Revolution. Clearly, between March and November 1958, the rebels had succeeded in increasing their popular support from 10 percent to just under 50 percent. Their terrorist campaigns, however, were not solely responsible for this increment. In the interim, the U.S. had switched its allegiance from Batista to Castro and instituted an embargo on arms sales to the Cuban government. Never before had the U.S. undertaken such an action against a friendly government and its implications were not lost on anyone, least of all the Cuban people. Still, 50 percent of Cuban voters cast their ballots on November 3, 1958 in what was not only a repudiation of the rebels but of U.S. meddling in Cuban affairs, which, more than anything else, had brought us to such a juncture.

There were three main candidates running for president: former prime minister Andrés Rivero Agüero, who had the backing of Batista; ex-president Ramón Grau San Martín, who had run against Batista's candidate in 1944 and won; and Carlos Márquez Sterling, former Speaker of the House of Representatives and president of the constitutional convention of 1940. It was expected that Grau and Márquez Sterling would split the anti-Batista vote between them. Castro's call for a boycott of the election was also expected to diminish the vote for the opposition. In fact, the U.S. ambassador, Earl T. Smith, in another flagrant violation of Cuban sovereignty, met with both opposition candidates in a failed attempt to convince them to form a unitary ticket that could guarantee the defeat of Batista's candidate. Still, Batista was thought to be so unpopular in Cuba that even with the opposition divided it was far from certain that Rivero Agüero would prevail. Batista was not sure that his candidate could win, either; but was determined that the election of 1958 would not be a repeat of that of 1944, when he had allowed his handpicked successor, Carlos Saladrigas, to be defeated by his perennial rival Grau San Martín.*

Batista believed, and not without good cause, that a victory for Grau or Márquez Sterling amounted to a victory for Castro. Neither of the opposition candidates had agreed to continue fighting Castro's rebels and both had insinuated that they would ask them to join the government if elected. This would have been tantamount, of course, to handing power over to them. As president (1944-48) Grau had in fact granted complete freedom to gangsters like Castro, deputized them and had them compete for his favor. His administration had incubated all the nefarious personalities that took center stage in the Cuban Revolution. Marquéz Sterling, although an honest man, also believed that he could institutionalize the Cuban Revolution. [The rebels had such contempt for this member of the loyal opposition that they put him under house arrest when they seized power and would have had him shot except that they were too busy dispatching Batista's supporters to tackle (quite yet) his democratic opponents].

My maternal grandfather, Alberto García Valdés, was minister of communications at the time of the 1958 elections, which portfolio he had assumed after serving for one-week as minister of labor during Castro's failed general strike. As communications minister he was in charge of the railroads, motorized traffic and civil aviation; the postal and telegraph offices and radio and television. He controlled the distribution and collection of the ballots, the transmission of the results by telegraph lines and their release to the media. In short, he had it in his power to assure a victory for the government candidate had that been necessary and was disposed to do so to save the country from a Communist takeover.

Except that it wasn't necessary.

It was the Cuban people who made Andrés Rivero Agüero Cuba's last constitutional president in the last democratic election held on the island.

The election of 1958 was their last public repudiation of Fidel Castro.

My grandfather personally informed Batista of the results, who was astonished but not more so than the president-elect himself. Rivero Agüero was scheduled to be sworn-in on February 24, 1959. The U.S. did not allow him to take office but gave an ultimatum to Batista to resign by January 1st and clear the way for Castro.

38 comments:

Fantomas said...

Manuel y ese mamotreto. Oye el 70% de la poblacion cubana de hoy dia no estaba vivo cuando el 1958. Nada de los que escribes ahi tiene que ver con la realidad de la Cuba de hoy- Falta de viviendas, hambre, desempleo, falta de libertad, etc. Vamos al grano , la historia es historia . Sirve para leerla pero no trae la carne ni la yuca a la mesa
Basta ya de comemierderias Manuel

Centurion said...

Fantomas tiene razon . No comas tanta mierda Manuel. Deja de ser tan comemierda como los Babalusianos

Centurion said...

Y por favor escribeme en español Manuel el idioma de todos los cubanos

Anonymous said...

John a little question for ya

Who is to blame for :

2 ongoing wars

High unemployment

Mortage crisis

Dow Jones 7000

Massive bailouts

Fear, panic among US citizens

Is it Bush or Obama , Sir

Anonymous said...

Andrés Rivero Agüero nació en el barrio de Burene, en el Municipio de San Luís, en Oriente el 4 de febrero de 1905. Venía de origen humilde, y decía que unos de sus primeros recuerdos era de cuando dormía en un colchón lleno de hojas de plátano secas en un pequeño bohío. Su padre era agricultor, y tanto él como su esposa eran muy pobres. Ni Rivero Agüero ni sus hermanos y hermanas pudieron asistir a la escuela de niños. Sin embargo, a los 12 años de edad, Rivero Agüero decidió estudiar. Aprendió a leer y a escribir estudiando por su cuenta y buscando ayuda donde podía. A pesar de las dificultades, se graduó del bachillerato de Santiago de Cuba. A los 14 años ya había comenzado a trabajar para el gobierno, sirviendo de mensajero en la oficina de colección de impuestos de Santiago de Cuba. Aunque comenzó en la Universidad de la Habana en 1927, dicha institución estuvo cerrada por largos periodos por las continuas protestas en contra del gobierno del Presidente Gerardo Machado y Morales, en las cual él participó. De dicha Universidad se graduó de Leyes en 1934 y de Filosofía y Letras en 1935. Se casó con Isabel Collado, y con ella tuvo 3 hijos, Andrés, Carlos, y Jorge Luís, y una hija, Rosa.

Después de su graduación regresó a Santiago de Cuba. Fue electo Concejal de dicha ciudad y subió rapidamente en el escalafón del Partido Liberal. También fue Presidente del Instituto del Café en 1939. En esta época ya era amigo del General Fulgencio Batista y Zaldívar. En 1940, el General Batista fue electo Presidente de la República y nombró a Rivero Agüero a varios cargos. Primero fue Consultor Jefe del Ministerio de Salubridad, en 1940. Luego fue Ministro de Agricultura, de 1941 a 1943. En esta capacidad llevó a cabo el plan del Presidente Batista de asentar a los campesinos sin tierras en Oriente. También fue Embajador en la República del Perú, de 1943 a 1944. Continuó siendo amigo del General Batista aun durante el exilio de este. Cuando Batista decidió postularse a las elecciones de 1952, Rivero Agüero fue uno de los fundadores del Partido de Acción Unitaria (PAU). Cuando Batista dió el golpe de estado el 10 de marzo del mismo año, nombró a Rivero Agüero como Ministro de Educación, cargo que ocupó hasta que fue electo Senador por la Provincia de Pinar del Rio en 1954. Fue Primer Ministro desde el 26 de marzo de 1957 hasta el 6 de marzo de 1958, fecha en la cual renunció al cargo para postularse a la Presidencia de la República. Salió electo Presidente en las elecciones de ese año, pero huyó hacia la República Dominicana junto a Batista en la madrugada del 1 de enero de 1959. El 4 de mayo de 1960, testificó ante el Senado de los Estados Unidos sobre la amenaza comunista a los Estados Unidos a través del Caribe.

En Miami se dedicó a escribir y sirvió como comentarista radial en varias emisoras locales, entre ellas la WOCN “Unión Radio”. También participó “en cuanta actividad verdaderamente patriótica se hiciera por un futuro cubano libre (Rivero Collado).” El Dr. Rivero Agüero murió el 11 de noviembre de 1997 a los 92 añ os de edad.

Según su hijo, Andrés Rivero Collado, el Dr. Rivero Agüero vivió una “vida honorable, admirable, y realizada”. Cita su “honestidad política, decencia humana, nobleza de carácter, y fidelidad a sus raices campesinas”. Según él, “para el cubano, trágica disyuntiva entre 4 años de gobierno honesto, responsable, democrático, del Presidente Rivero Agüero” y “47 años de Fidel Castro”.

Centurion said...

Mucho cuidado con los impostores. El verdadero Centurion no dice malas palabras.

Anonymous said...

No es Rivero Aguero de tu barrio, fantomas, de tu querido Oriente?

Anonymous said...

Fantomas, no dormias tu tambien en un saco de hojas de platano?

Centurion said...

Anonymous said...
Fantomas, no dormias tu tambien en un saco de hojas de platano


No, Fantomas dormia en un corral de cerdos blancos

El Centurion de las 7y 21 pm y 7.22pm es el impostor. Yo soy el verdadero

La diferencia esta en el profile

Anonymous said...

No, Fantomas dormia en un corral de cerdos blancos


Mentiroso, fantomas nunca duerme, el lo mismo postea a las 3.21 am que a las 5.51 am

Anonymous said...

Yo siempre he pensado que Fantomas es mas de uno. Es decir otras personas postean usando el mismo password en diferentes ciudades y time zones. Asi de simple

Charlie Papa said...

Mike do you have any photos of copious amounts of animal droppings? Mammals, primates, they're all good. I'd like to send the framed pic to a very, very special person we all know...

Posted by George L. Moneo at November 19, 2008 07:33 PM


Manuel, who is Moeno referring to in the above comment Fantomas, Rick or Yourself

Anonymous said...

Where is Longjohn when you need him the most

Manuel, bring him to us

Angel Garzón said...

Manuel, thanks a million for this piece, not only for its obvious historical importance, but also for its paramount message to all of us Cubans who hope and pray for the defeat of the tyranny and the restoration of a civil republic in our motherland, above all though, thank you for your courage, clearly writing this piece and making it public was a deeply personal decision, I admire and respect your conviction and your honorable decision. Thanks again.

Angel Garzón said...

FWIW, Fantomas IS NOT from Santiago de Cuba as he has claimed, some time ago I tested him by asking him a number of questions that only a true Santiaguero such as me would know the answers, that test resides within the RCAB archives and although at the time I told Fantomas that he had passed the test, in reality he failed it and in miserable fashion, he may be from that so-called "Province" that the communists invented in the 1976 reorganization of the national system of tyranny, when they copied the Soviet model almost to exactitude.

I reiterate, Fantomas is not from the City of Santiago de Cuba, he calls himself a Santiaguero because he may be from one of the various municipalities within that fake Province invented by the Casstros, I've heard that he may be from El Caney, but I have a difficult time believing that story, I visited El Caney many times when I was a teenager in Cuba and I didn't find its residents to be of Fantomas nature, he may very well be a foreigner pretending to be Cuban, in the end what matters is that he is not worth his salt in any respect, all he does is insult the memory of so many Cuban patriots, known and unknown, that have sacrificed so much for so long for the freedom of our people, his very first comment on this thread and all the subsequent ones under different personalities speak volumes about his lack of character, the fellow has no respect and no sense of honor, not even to his own self.

john longfellow aka lou dobbs said...

Where is Longjohn when you need him the most

Manuel, bring him to us

11/19/2008 9:04 PM




I was in bed by then. But now i have had my 6 hours of sleep.

john longfellow aka lou dobbs said...

Proof that John Longfellow, is not Manuel, or Fantomas. Neither one of them could survive a day in Indiana.

http://www.topix.net/forum/source/south-florida-sun-sentinel/T8BAM9KQI5P18GVVO#lastPost

john longfellow aka loudobbs said...

Have a look at the Cuban-American's spokesman.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k6Y_ncOVlDw

john longfellow aka lou dobbs said...

See, if President Obama confers upon me the opportunity to be one of his "brown shirts." Then i know i will have to keep hours like this. See, this is the witching hour if you must tend to President Obama's enemies. As Cuban militants do not get up early. This is the hour where you can catch the Cuban militant as his most vulnerable.


I play the video beneath, over and over. I hope President Obama shuts down all forms of news, accept hardcore leftist. After 8 years of Bush, there is no need to listen to the right-wing ever again. President Obama will need "brown shirts" in order to carry out the suppression necessary to silence the right-wing voices. And i offer my humble self as President Obama's sword to silence his foes.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k6Y_ncOVlDw


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k6Y_ncOVlDw

john longfellow aka lou dobbs said...

Onward leftist soldiers, ONWARD!!

Anonymous said...

Angel dicen que Fantomas es de Songo _ La Maya o de Chivirico

john longfellow aka lou dobbs said...

Who cares what cubans have to say anymore.

Anonymous said...

FWIW, Fantomas IS NOT from Santiago de Cuba as he has claimed

Yes, he is.. I saw him there growing up. Santiaguero hasta la medula.

john longfellow aka lou dobbs said...

You Cuban Chicano illegal militant ignorant immigrants need to showing some graciousness toward your new leader, President Obama. Show some grace and class for the first time in your life.

john longfellow aka lou dobbs said...

1:52 is my all time favorite scene on any of the thousands of videos that i have watch. It speaks to power, strength, and conquering the Cuban illegal immigrant, right-wing, militant maggots, no-good cockroaches.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5xCujfg5w5w&feature=related

john longfellow aka lou dobbs said...

And yet another right wing Cuban militant who must be taken off the air, and replaced with a left wing talk show host.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k6Y_ncOVlDw

john longfellow aka lou dobbs said...

If you Cuban militant cockroaches think that you are going to get a job with the Obama adminstration, you better think again. Obama doesnt want your type of illegal immigrant to work for him. Only "real" Americans like me can sign up to be an Obamanite!!

Maybe if you get down on your hands and knees and beg like dogs, then you may be considered, but i doubt it.

john longfellow aka lou dobbs said...

Who cares about the Cuban militant maggots anymore. I know i sure dont.

john longfellow aka lou dobbs said...

You Cuban militants are going to learn that is "our" nation, not yours. You are nothing but mere visitors. Nothing more, nothing less. It will take years, but we are going to teach you, your proper place in America. So grab a chair, sit back, and take notes.

john longfellow aka lou dobbs said...

Nobody respects the Cuban conservative immigrant anymore. And why should they. They fled!!

john longfellow aka lou dobbs said...

And what makes the next 8 years so bad, is that you Cuban militants have no where to escape from the Obama Adminstration. Really, what nation on earth respects the Cuban immigrant that gave the world Bush? Where in the world can you go, and proudly say that you are Cuban? Where in the world can you go and say that you are a proud Pailin supporter? The only country where you could do that was America. And Bush has destroyed this safe haven for the Cuban immigrant.

Charlie Bravo said...

Manuel, it's interesting how a blog written in Cuba, Octavo Cerco, mentions the need of relearning history, so the same mistakes are never repeated.

CUBAWATCHER said...

This is a very important history to preserve and its appearance hear is welcomed.

Carlos Márquez Sterling, who was incidentally an old friend of our family, was a stellar candidate. His Historia de la Isla de Cuba is also an absolute must-read. I remember clearly, receiving a copy as a child and being obliged to read it with my mother. I believe you can still find copies of it on Amazon.

Vana said...

Manuel:

I love posts like this where you give us a well deserved history lesson, thank you my friend for being so candid with us about your own family's history.

Vana said...

Anon 8:02PM

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Manuel y ese mamotreto. Oye el 70% de la poblacion cubana de hoy dia no estaba vivo cuando el 1958. Nada de los que escribes ahi tiene que ver con la realidad de la Cuba de hoy- Falta de viviendas, hambre, desempleo, falta de libertad, etc. Vamos al grano , la historia es historia . Sirve para leerla pero no trae la carne ni la yuca a la mesa
Basta ya de comemierderias Manuel

Fantomas is right on this one

Agustin Farinas said...

MAT,
I hope you have a nice Thanksgiving together with your family.

Anonymous said...

Con comentaristas tan estupidos como la mayoria de los que comentan aqui, no se necesitan comunistas que intervengan en este foro. Si desean pueden reirse de mi; ya Fidel se rio de ustedes. Al menos yo disfrute lo que Cuba un dia fue. Muchos de ustedes nacieron en el desastre cubano de hoy; o nacieron en los EE.UU. de America, aunque nunca los veran aqui, como "Americanos". ¿Comprenden lo que les quiero decir, cubiches?....Ustedes no son "ni chi;ni cha".
Gracias Manuel por tu articulo.