How Many Times Has the United States Intervened in Cuba?
By Mildrey Ponce

- The United States intervened militarily in Cuba officially in two occasions and in two others it sent in its troops unofficially under the ploy of safeguarding its economic interests.

Its armed forces landed in Cuba for the first time in 1898 with the grand pretext that Spain, who at the time ruled the country, had sunk the U.S. warship Maine in a Cuban port. That is how it intervened in the war of independence Cubans waged against Spanish colonialism and seized the country.

With this intervention, the United States prevented the genuine emancipation of the Cuban people by creating a mechanism guaranteeing the legality of successive interventions, thus securing the continuity of their domination of the country. This mechanism for legal support received the name of Platt Amendment. Through it, the United States secured its hegemony in Cuba once the Spanish colonial regime was over.

A second military intervention in 1906 and other “less direct” operations were justified before the international public opinion as the implementation of this appendix to the constitution, which acted as a veritable legal backing of their interests.

How the History of Interventions Started

The moment our northern neighbor had so vehemently longed for to interfere in the fate of Cuba came in 1898. After 30 years of struggle by Cuban pro-independence forces against Spanish colonialism, the war ended with the opportunistic intervention of American troops when the Cuban Liberating Army had virtually defeated the colonial regime.

With their own interests in mind, U. S. officials deepened the blow by stripping the Cuban army from its triumph not letting them participate in the capitulation of the Spanish forces.

After the U. S. intervention, there came a military occupation of the country that found its legal basis in the Paris Peace Treaty signed by Spain and the United States.

At noon January 1st, 1899, the Spanish flag was lowered in the Palace of the Captain Generals and in the Castle of the Three Kings of Morro and in its place the American flag was hoisted. Twenty-one cannon salutes simultaneously announced the end of Spanish colonial rule in Cuba and the uncertain fate of Cuba’s ideals of freedom with the dissolution of its representative bodies: the Cuban Revolutionary Party and the Cuban Liberating Army, which was disarmed and demobilized.

The foreign administration gradually created an economic, political, legal and social structure that contributed to its interventionist plans. Since the Republic would soon be proclaimed, in 1901 the Military Governor recommended the discussion and adoption of a future Constitution, together with a definition of the relationship that should exist between Cuba and the United States.

To guarantee its interests, the U. S. administration forcibly imposed an annex to the Constitution under the name of Platt Amendment, which authorized American military intervention in Cuba whenever their interests were considered threatened. Cuba would also grant coaling stations for U. S. ships. That was how the Guantanamo Naval Base, still in place, came to be. The Amendment also demanded Cuba to sign an economic relations treaty that only favored U. S. capital.

After this first foreign military administration, the “Republic of Cuba”, almost absolutely dependent on the U. S. government, came to be on May 20, 1902.

As a practical implementation of the Platt Amendment, the U. S. administration soon found a new occasion to exercise the rights it had bestowed upon itself. A second U. S. intervention, between 1906 and 1909, was brought about mainly by the request of Tomas Estrada Palma’s administration, when an uprising of his opponents, as a reaction against his remaining in power after a fraudulent reelection, took place.

Both elements – that is, the fraudulent election and the uprising – were used by the U. S. to assert the legal nature of their presence in Cuba, although they kept a cautious position, since they had recently taken control of the Panama Canal and were trying to attract all the Latin American peoples.

After the Cuban president resigned, the “second U. S. occupation in Cuba” was declared and mediator forces landed in the country. Cuba’s administration fell in the hands of Secretary of War William Taft, who was soon replaced by a judge, Charles E. Magoon, with the purpose of driving away the shadow of militarism from their actions.

Together with their activity intended to improve the neocolonial system, the foreign administration considered its most important task the reestablishment of the political parties, which should recover their credibility to continue to serve as instruments of antinational capitulation to U. S. interests.

With this, American administration in Cuba was laying the foundations for the restoration of the republic. Once the country was pacified and the continuance of U. S. control was guaranteed, elections were called and the Liberal Party won by a wide margin. The new government took office on January 28, 1909, and the Provisional Governor Charles Magoon officially turned the government to Jose Miguel Gomez, who was sworn in before the Supreme Court. When the ceremony concluded, Magoon went back home.

That was the end of the “second U. S. intervention”. It lasted 28 months and was characterized by the squandering of public funds, administrative and political corruption, onerous transactions and the indebtedness of the country. Bribery and fraudulent inclusions in payrolls were also rampant. These inequities became deplorable models for successive Cuban rulers.

Once the second intervention ended, U. S. administrations started to implement what the president himself called “preemptive intervention”. They made it known that the United States would induce Cuba to prevent causes that might give rise to a potential direct intervention. The U. S, ambassador in Cuba was to be the main instrument of political control in the country.

In spite of this new policy, which began in 1912, U. S. troops landed once more, this time under the pretext of protecting American investments, after the insurrection caused by the outlawing of the Partido Independiente de Color, which started a Race War in the country. Although some 500 marines landed in the eastern province, Americans proclaimed it was not an interventionist action and allowed the Cuban administration to put an end to the uprising.

There was another threat of intervention in 1917, after fraudulent elections to maintain Mario Garcia Menocal in power, which caused the uprising of his political enemies. U. S. representatives acted once more as judges of the differences between the two Cuban parties vying for the presidency.

The policy of “preemptive” instead of direct intervention encouraged the strengthening of Cuba’s dependence by guaranteeing American meddling in all the issues they considered relevant, mainly directly supervising Cuban presidents. It was only a new façade for the growth and protection of U. S. investments in Cuba.

In the ‘30s, U. S. president Franklin D. Roosevelt started his well-planned “Good Neighbor” policy, with the purpose of creating a firm foothold for imperialist domination in America, with a style more in accordance with the new times.

Thanks to this strategy, on May 29, 1934, the Platt Amendment was officially and publicly repealed and the right of the United States to military intervention in Cuba ended, although it only meant replacing the obsolete document by a new one called “Treaty of Relations between Cuba and the United States,” meant to readjust and improve the mechanisms for economic control. Thus began a new path of more indirect but equally effective submission, which would end in 1959.

The history of U. S. interventions in Cuba is that of the control exercised by the United States in the first half of the 20th century, a clear example of the expansionist geopolitical efforts its rulers followed in the American hemisphere.

December 13, 2006