Home | Contacts | Autors
The struggle for national independence
The U.S Military occupation in Cuba
First decades of neo-colonial republic
1898 - 1902  
 

With the signature of the Treaty of Paris the political situation of the former colony was defined. Cuba was not a colony any longer, but, at the same time, the establishment of the republic neither was carried out. A transitional period began, mediated by the direct presence of the United States in handling the fate of islanders.

On the 1st of January 1899, the United States formally occupies Cuba, true to its secular ambition. The question now was defining the future of the Island. Whatever the future would be, the Government in Washington considered it would be convenient to dissolve all institutions that represented the Cuban liberation movement.

To this end, the US would work to increase the weaknesses and contradictions already existing, namely, the differences between General in Chief of the Liberation Army, Máximo Gómez, and the Representatives of the Constitutional Assembly, the highest political body of the Revolution, in reference to the methods used to license the Liberation Army.

Consequently, both institutions disappeared and this, together with the dissolution of the Cuban Revolutionary Party by its delegate Tomás Estrada Palma dispersed independence forces and left them without a leadership.

The military occupation, legitimated by the Treaty of Paris (signed on December 10,1898) became the experimental framework in the implementation of the policy towards Cuba. This period in the United States was, at the same time a period of strong domestic and foreign tensions, characterized by constant pressure and negotiations regarding governmental decision-making.

Among the factors that had a bearing on the internal restlessness was precisely the way in which the Cuban situation was manipulated by the sectors that were, in one way or another, interested in a particular end for such situation. In spite of the efforts of the groups in favor of peace in the Northern nation, the annexionist trend, in any of its diverse modalities, was opening itself a wider and wider space in the various spheres of power. The rather pejorative concept that the Cuban people suffered from "infantilism" was present in all the annexionist groups. That is, the infant, meaning the Cuban people, was starting to walk and had to have the strong arm of the father for support and protection from any fall.

The campaign in favor of annexionism reached its climax at the end of the government of John Brooke, the first military governor in the Island, consisting of the idea of transferring in one single stroke the sovereignty of the Island to a civil government that would turn Cuba into a part of the American territory. This idea was gaining force among expansionist circles and their spokesmen.

However, internal opposition and, above all, the Cuban people’s resistance to the idea, made the new Governor, Leonard Wood think of the need to "Americanize" the Island by means of a long occupation. His idea had two main directions. First, a centralized comprehensive project of reforms "from above", which essentially aimed at the transformation of the Cuban social context (schools, health care, judicial reforms, city councils). Second a line of action aimed at encouraging immigration, Anglo-Saxon of course, and a gradual colonization which would establish "from bellow" the spirit and customs of the American society.

Leonard Wood, Second Military Gobernor.

Second Military Gobernor. He occupied the control of the island from December 20, 1899 up until May 20, 1902.

None of the measures had as an objective the transformation of the old colonial structures. On the contrary, they aimed at creating the necessary conditions to encourage a "land market" and to facilitate transfer of properties to the hands of US politicians, financial tycoons, economists and planters. Meanwhile, the scarcity of investment and loan capitals placed Cuban planters in a very difficult position, a great disadvantage to restart business, mainly all the activities related to the sugar industry.

However, the need for a change in policy increased every day. The issue of how the way for annexation could be paved, not by extending occupation, but by establishing a Republic in a short term and under certain specific conditions had been discussed since very early in 1899. The alleged incapacity of the Cubans to rule themselves would eventually force them to plead for annexation with their powerful neighbor.

The first stone of the building would be passing the decisions to convene the Cuban Constitutional Assembly according to what the Military Order No. 301, dated on July 25, 1900 established. The Convention, according to the military orders, should draft and adopt a Constitution for the Cuban people and, as part of such document provide and regulate with the Government of the United States all matters related to the relationship between both countries and governments.


While the Cuban constitutional commission in charge of regulating on the future relationship between Cuba and the United States was working, the US Congress passes the Platt Amendment, according to which the US government had the right to interfere in the internal affairs of the Island whenever it was considered convenient. In spite of the opposition of the delegates to the Constitutional Assembly, the American pressure placed the Cubans in a very difficult disjunctive: having a Republic with an amendment to the Constitution which limited its independence or continue under a military occupation. The Cubans had no other choice, and the Constitution was thus passed with the Platt Amendment on June 12, 1901.

Caricature

A period caricature, that expressed the corrupt and dependent condition imposed to the Cuban people by the Northamerican intervention.

back Up next
 
 
   
   
   

Instituto de Historia de Cuba. Palacio Aldama. Amistad No 510 entre Reina y Estrella. CP: 10200
Phone: (537)-862 2076 Fax: (537)-861 3545
e-mail: webmaster@one.gov.cu