(The U.S. in HAWAII, the PHILIPPINES and LATIN AMERICA in the 1920s – continued)
World War I curtailed sugar production in Europe, resulting in a boom in sugar production in Cuba and a boom in Cuba's economy. There, virgin lands were put into sugar production and numerous new sugar mills were built, some of them funded by U.S. investors. Cuban politics, meanwhile, was in turmoil. The Conservative Party had won the elections of 1916 using violence and other undemocratic methods. The rival political party, the Liberal Party, had rejected the results of the elections, and civil war had erupted. The United States looked upon this with distaste, and although it had a treaty with Cuba that allowed it to intervene to protect lives, property and individual liberty, it did not do so. In 1917, the Conservatives crushed the Liberals militarily, and the Conservative Party's leader, General Mario G. Menocal, began his second term as Cuba's president.
By 1920, Menocal's administration was being denounced in the Cuban press as a "classic and vulgar dictatorship," and it was being accused of having abandoned the maintenance of roads and other public services and having let education decline. (Only a minority of Cuba's children were receiving any formal education.) U.S. spokesmen spoke to Cuba's conservatives about their desire for a return to democracy in Cuba, and the Conservative Party, apparently fearing U.S. intervention, listened. And in anticipation of elections that were to be held in 1920, the Conservatives invited the U.S. to Cuba to establish new election laws.
In the new elections, a conservative-popular alliance ran Alfonso Alfredo Zayas. And, despite U.S. efforts, the conservative-popular alliance ran a corrupt campaign. Zayas won, but barely. The Liberal Party appealed to the U.S., protesting that their candidate, José Gómez, was the real winner of the elections. Disliking elections with intimidation and fraud, the U.S. intervened, and new elections were scheduled. But by now economic bad times had fallen upon Cuba, and there were labor strikes and demonstrations, and many unhappy Cubans were scapegoating the United States. Liberal Party leaders joined the rising tide of hostility toward the United States and decided that the new elections would be rigged to suit U.S. interests. The Liberal Party charged that no one could become president of Cuba without the endorsement of the United States. The Liberal Party called on their supporters to stay away from the polls. Their candidate for the presidency withdrew. And in the new elections victory went to the Conservatives.
The Cubans had mismanaged their economy, and from the United States came loans. And for help in organizing the economy the Cubans invited to Cuba an advisor, Enoch Crowder – a man respected by all for his honesty and integrity. In 1923 a substantial sugar harvest and a return of a better price for sugar helped bring economic recovery. Zayas, meanwhile, was involved in graft, and in anticipation of the presidential elections to be held in 1924 the Conservatives replaced him as their candidate. Unlike 1920, the Liberal Party ran a candidate, and won. Gerardo Machado was the new president, taking office in 1925. And he was re-elected in 1928.
Copyright © 1998-2011 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.