The Republic of Cuba (Spanish: República de Cuba) of 1902 to 1959, refers to the historical period in Cuba from 1902, when Cuba seceded from US rule in the aftermath of the Spanish–American War that took Cuba from Spanish rule in 1898, until communist revolutionaries took power in 1959.
The official form of government was representative democracy though at times it was controlled by a military junta or otherwise unelected government. After becoming head of the armed forces in 1933, colonel Fulgencio Batista played a dominant role in Cuban politics over the next decades. The Cuban Revolution of 1953–1959 massively changed Cuban society, creating a socialist state and ending US economic dominance in Cuba, as it aligned the country with the Soviet Union.
The Republic of Cuba has been regarded as a client state of the United States. From 1902–1932 Cuban and United States law included the Platt Amendment, which guaranteed the US right to intervene in Cuba and placed restrictions on Cuban foreign relations. In 1934, Cuba and the United States signed the Treaty of Relations in which Cuba was obligated to give preferential treatment of its economy to the United States, in exchange the United States gave Cuba a guaranteed 22 percent share of the US sugar market that later was amended to a 49 percent share in 1949.
After the Spanish–American War, Spain and the United States signed the Treaty of Paris (1898), by which Spain ceded Puerto Rico, the Philippines, and Guam to the United States for the sum of $20 million. Cuba gained formal independence from the U.S. on May 20, 1902, as the Republic of Cuba. Under Cuba's new constitution, the U.S. retained the right to intervene in Cuban affairs and to supervise its finances and foreign relations. Under the Platt Amendment, the U.S. leased the Guantánamo Bay naval base from Cuba.
Following disputed elections in 1906, the first president, Tomás Estrada Palma, faced an armed revolt by veterans of the war for independence who defeated the government's meager forces. The U.S. intervened by occupying Cuba and named Charles Edward Magoon as Governor for three years. Cuban historians have attributed Magoon's governorship as having introduced political and social corruption.
In 1908, self-government was restored when José Miguel Gómez was elected President, but the U.S. continued intervening in Cuban affairs. In 1912, the Partido Independiente de Color attempted to establish a separate black republic in Oriente Province, but was suppressed by General Monteagudo with considerable bloodshed.
Sugar production played an important rule in Cuban politics and economics. In the 1910s, during and after World War I, a shortage in the world sugar supply fueled an economic boom in Cuba, marked by prosperity and the conversion of more and more farmland to sugar cultivation. Prices peaked and then crashed in 1920, ruining the country financially and allowing foreign investors to gain more power than they already had. This economic turbulence was called "the Dance of the Millions".
In 1924, Gerardo Machado was elected president. During his administration, tourism increased markedly, and American-owned hotels and restaurants were built to accommodate the influx of tourists. The tourist boom led to increases in gambling and prostitution in Cuba. Machado initially enjoyed support from much of the public and from all the country's major political parties. However, his popularity declined steadily. In 1928 he held an election which was to give him another term, this one of six years, despite his promise to serve only for one term.
The Wall Street Crash of 1929 led to precipitous drops in the price of sugar, political unrest, and repression. Protesting students, known as the Generation of 1930, and a clandestine terrorist organization known as the ABC, turned to violence in opposition to the increasingly unpopular Machado.
US ambassador Sumner Welles arrived in May 1933 and began a diplomatic campaign which involved "mediation" with opposition groups in including the ABC. This campaign significantly weakened Machado's government and, backed with the threat of military intervention, set the stage for a regime change.
A general strike (in which the Communist Party sided with Machado), uprisings among sugar workers, and an army revolt forced Machado into exile in August 1933. He was replaced by Carlos Manuel de Céspedes y Quesada, son of Cuban patriot Carlos Manuel de Céspedes and former ambassador to the US.
In September 1933, the Sergeants' Revolt, led by Sergeant Fulgencio Batista, overthrew Céspedes. General Alberto Herrera served briefly as president (August 12–13) followed by Carlos Manuel de Céspedes y Quesada from August 13 until September 5, 1933. A five-member executive committee (the Pentarchy of 1933) was chosen to head a provisional government. They were ousted by a student-led organization, the Student Directory, which appointed Ramon Grau San Martin as provisional president and passed various reforms during the ensuing One Hundred Days Government. Grau resigned in 1934, after which Batista dominated Cuban politics for the next 25 years, at first through a series of puppet-presidents. The period from 1933 to 1937 was a time of "virtually unremitting social and political warfare".
A new constitution was adopted in 1940, which engineered radical progressive ideas, including the right to labor and health care. Batista was elected president in the same year, holding the post until 1944. He is so far the only non-white Cuban to win the nation's highest political office. His government carried out major social reforms. Several members of the Communist Party held office under his administration. Cuban armed forces were not greatly involved in combat during World War II, although president Batista suggested a joint U.S.-Latin American assault on Francoist Spain in order to overthrow its authoritarian regime.
Batista adhered to the 1940 constitution's strictures preventing his re-election. Ramon Grau San Martin was the winner of the next election, in 1944. Grau further corroded the base of the already teetering legitimacy of the Cuban political system, in particular by undermining the deeply flawed, though not entirely ineffectual, Congress and Supreme Court. Carlos Prío Socarrás, a protégé of Grau, became president in 1948. The two terms of the Auténtico Party saw an influx of investment which fueled a boom and raised living standards for all segments of society and created a prosperous middle class in most urban areas.
After running unsuccessfully for the presidency in 1952, Batista staged a coup. He outlawed the Cuban Communist Party in 1952. Cuba had Latin America's highest per capita consumption rates of meat, vegetables, cereals, automobiles, telephones and radios, though about one third of the population was considered poor and enjoyed relatively little of this consumption.
In 1958, Cuba was a relatively well-advanced country by Latin American standards, and in some cases by world standards. On the other hand, Cuba was affected by perhaps the largest labor union privileges in Latin America, including bans on dismissals and mechanization. They were obtained in large measure "at the cost of the unemployed and the peasants", leading to disparities. Between 1933 and 1958, Cuba extended economic regulations enormously, causing economic problems. Unemployment became a problem as graduates entering the workforce could not find jobs. The middle class, which was comparable to that of the United States, became increasingly dissatisfied with unemployment and political persecution. The labor unions supported Batista until the very end. Batista stayed in power until he was forced into exile in December 1958.