Date of Degree
Latin American History
Caribbean history, Cuban political parties
There is ample evidence to suggest that Eduardo Chibás (1907-1951), despite never having been president, was of primary importance to Cuba’s political system in the years 1940-1952. As a congressman, senator and presidential candidate who was also the island’s most popular radio commentator, Chibás was afforded an excellent opportunity to alter government policy and shape public opinion. Specifically, Chibás denounced what he saw as the vices and inadequacies of Cuba’s fledgling democracy, especially corruption in public office. By all accounts, Chibás was a man of unquestioned probity. Unlike his political rivals, who gained financially from their elected positions, Chibás’ economic position declined – leading him to sell the family residence, built by his father, to pay for his 1948 presidential campaign.
Chibás’ participation in Cuba’s 1933 revolution, which overthrew the dictatorial government of Gerardo Machado (1925-1933), and in the mass strikes of 1935, which opposed Fulgencio Batista’s first military regime (1934-1940), enhanced his public stature and lent him further political credibility. Moreover, the scandal-plagued Auténtico administrations of Ramón Grau San Martín (1944-1948) and Carlos Prío Socorrás (1948-1952) fell far short of the Cuban public’s expectations – helping to swell the ranks of Chibás followers. Through personal charisma and media savvy Chibás revived the prospect of efficient and transparent governance through a renewal of the nation’s institutions led by his Ortodoxo party. These hopes were dashed suddenly when Chibás shot himself three times in the stomach during his broadcast of August 5, 1951. His death 11 days later deprived the island of its most admired politician.
In the short term, Chibás’ influence was felt in the fact that the two major candidates for the 1952 presidency were Roberto Agramonte (Chibás’ ex vice presidential candidate), and Carlos Hevia – both of whom were honest, albeit un-charismatic, figures. Hevia was only the third most popular politician in his own (Auténtico) party according to opinion polls. His nomination thus owed a great deal to Chibas’ strident attacks on malversation. On the other hand, the disappearance of Cuba’s most popular and magnetic politician surely facilitated the military coup, headed by Fulgencio Batista, that took place a mere seven months after Chibás’ suicide.
Ehrlich, Ilan, "Eduardo Chibás: The Incorrigible Man of Cuban Politics" (2009). CUNY Academic Works.