A factor leading up to the 1898 Spanish-American War was slavery in Cuba. President James Buchanan wrote Dec. 19, 1859: “When a market for African slaves shall no longer be furnished in Cuba … Christianity and civilization may gradually penetrate the existing gloom.”
In 1868, a revolt was begun by a wealthy Cuban sugar farmer named Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, called Padre de la Patria (Father of the Country). Céspedes freed his slaves and began Cuba’s first war for independence – the Ten Years War – against the oppressive government of Spain. He stated: “Citizens: that sun you can now see raising above the Turquino Peak has come to illuminate the first day of Cuba’s freedom and independence.”
Freed slaves joined together with criollos – those of Spanish ancestry born in Cuba – to fight for freedom and to end slavery.
Similar to America”s Declaration of Independence, Céspedes was one of the signers of the “10th of October Manifesto,” 1868, a translation of which reads: “When rebelling … against … Spanish tyranny we want to indicate to the world the reasons for our resolution. Spain governs us with iron and blood; it imposes … taxes at will; it (takes from) us … all political, civil and religious freedom; it has put us under military watch in days of peace. … (They) catch, exile and execute without …. any proceedings or laws; it prohibits (us from) freely assembling, (unless) under the (presence) of military leaders; and it declares (as) rebels (those who want) remedy for so many evils. …”
The Manifesto continued: “Spain loads us with hungry employees who live from our patrimony and consume the product of ours work. So that we do not know our rights, it maintains us in … ignorance; and so that we do not learn to exert it, it keeps us away from the administration of … public thing(s). … It forces us to maintain an expensive … army, whose unique use is to repress and to humiliate us. Its system of customs is so perverse that we (would have) already perished … (had it not been for) the fertility of our ground. … It prevents us (from) writing … and it (hinders) intellectual progress. … It has promised to improve our condition, and … it has deceived … us, and it (has) left us (only an) appeal to the arms to defend our properties, to protect our lives and to save our honor. To the God of our consciousness we appeal, and to the good faith of the civilized nations. …”
The 10th of October Manifesto concluded: “We aspire to (have) popular sovereignty and … universal suffrage. We want to enjoy the freedom for whose use God created the man. We profess sincerely the dogma of … brotherhood … tolerance and justice, and consider all men, equal, and … not be excluded from its benefits; nor even the Spaniards, if they decide to live peacefully among us. We want … (to) take part in the formation of the laws, and in the distribution and investment of the contributions. We want to abolish … slavery and compensate whoever is harmed. We want freedom of meeting, freedom of the press and freedom of … conscience, and we request … respect (of) the inalienable rights of … man, (the) foundation of … independence and the greatness of (our) towns. We want to remove from the yoke of Spain and to become a free and independent nation. If Spain recognizes our rights, (it) will have in Cuba an affectionate daughter; if it persists in subjugating … us, we are resolute to die before (we will) be under his domination.”
President Ulysses S. Grant stated Dec. 2, 1872: “Slavery in Cuba is … a terrible evil … It is greatly to be hoped that … Spain will voluntarily adopt … emancipation … in sympathy with the other powers of the Christian and civilized world.”
President Grant said Dec. 1, 1873: “Several thousand persons illegally held as slaves in Cuba. … The slaveholders of Havana … are vainly striving to stay the march of ideas which has terminated slavery in Christendom, Cuba only excepted.”
In 1878, the Spanish Government crushed the revolt, ending “the Ten Years War” in which over 200,000 died.
Another “Little War” took place in 1879. Under international pressure, Spain ended slavery by Royal decree in 1886. In 1895, open rebellion against Spain broke out in Cuba. Spain sent Governor Valeriano Weyler to smash anti-government protestors. Weyler rounded up nearly 300,000 Cubans and forced them into crowded concentration camps.
This policy may have been copied from the Democrat-controlled U.S. Congress which passed the 1830 Indian Removal Act, authorizing Federal troops to force Cherokee Indians into FEMA-style camps before marching them to Oklahoma.
Concentration camps were expanded during America’s Civil War, where 215,000 Southerners were held – 26,000 dying in captivity; and 195,000 Northerners held – 30,000 dying in captivity, such as in the Andersonville Camp.
Britain, during the Second Boer War, 1899-1902, forced both white and black South Africans into concentration camps.
This policy evolved into:
- Imperial Japan’ concentration camps for Filipinos and others
- Hitler’s National Socialist Workers Party camps for Jews and others
- Pol Pot’s Communist Khmer Rouge torture camp & “killing fields”
- Stalin’s Union of Soviet Socialist Republics “gulag” camps
In Cuba, between 1896-1897, nearly a third of country’s population was in concentration camps. With cesspools of raw sewage, 225,000 died of starvation, exposure, dysentery, and diseases, like yellow fever.
Pleas for help reached the United States to intervene. In 1898, the U.S.S. Maine was in Havana’s Harbor and it blew up under suspicious circumstances on Feb. 15, beginning the Spanish-American War.
On April 20, 1898, Congress wrote: “The abhorrent conditions which have existed for more than three years in the Island of Cuba, so near our own borders, have shocked the moral sense of the people of the United States, have been a disgrace to Christian civilization. … Resolved … the people of the Island of Cuba are, and of right ought to be, free.”
On May 1, Commodore Dewey destroyed the Spanish fleet in Manila Bay. On July 3, the United States, aided by Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders, captured Santiago, Cuba, and the war soon ended with Cuba’s independence from Spain.
On July 6, 1898, President William McKinley wrote: “With the nation’s thanks let there be mingled … prayers that our gallant sons may be shielded from harm … on the battlefield and in the clash of fleets … while they are striving to uphold their country’s honor. …”
The treaty officially ending the Spanish-American War was signed Dec. 10, 1898.
President William McKinley wrote: “At a time … of the … glorious achievements of the naval and military arms … at Santiago de Cuba, it is fitting that we should pause and … reverently bow before the throne of divine grace and give devout praise to God, who holdeth the nations in the hollow of His Hands.”
Many wanted Cuba to be part of the United States, but not wanting to appear imperialistic, America recognized Cuba’s independence on May 20, 1902.
In 1906, a revolt occurred against Cuba’s first president. The United States sent in a governor for three years. Self-government was restored in 1908, but in 1912, a movement spread for a separate black state. The government crushed it.
In 1924, Gerardo Machado became president. He brought in American hotels, restaurants and tourism. Condition improved until the 1929 stock market crash and the Great Depression. Collapsing sugar prices led to protests, forcing President Machado into exile.
In 1933, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes y Quesada, son of 1868 leader, became president for one month, till he was forced out by Sergeant Fulgencio Batista. Batista ruled Cuba till 1944, when Ramon Grau San Martin won the election, followed by Carlos Prío Socarrás in 1948. In 1952, Batista staged a coup, retook power and outlawed the Communist Party.
At the time, two-thirds of Cubans had the highest standard of living in Latin America, with tourism, baseball, and casinos, but the remaining third suffered with unemployment or was in dire rural poverty.
In 1956, Fidel Castro started a rebellion. Batista responded with more arrests, imprisonments, and executions.
Senator John F. Kennedy stated Oct. 6, 1960: “Batista murdered 20,000 Cubans in seven years … and he turned Democratic Cuba into a complete police state-destroying every individual liberty.”
Castro forced Batista to flee in 1959. Promising freedom, Castro quickly embraced communism, made agreements with the Soviets, and took thousands of acres of farmland from citizens. He arrested anti-revolutionaries, imprisoned and enslaved dissidents.
One of Castro’s key men was Che Guevara, who stated:
- “We executed many people by firing squad without knowing if they were fully guilty. At times, the revolution cannot be stop to conduct much investigation.”
- “Hatred as an element of the struggle … transforming him into an effective, violent, selective, and cold killing machine. Our soldiers must be thus; a people without hatred cannot vanquish a brutal enemy.”
- “I’d like to confess … I discovered that I really like killing.”
Thousands of citizens, as well as church leaders, were tortured and executed. By some estimates, over 100,000 were killed. During Castro’s reign, over 1.5 million Cubans fled to the United States. Castro died Nov. 25, 2016. In hopes of a new era, the United States reopened its embassy in Havana, Cuba, on July 20, 2015.
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