The truth about
May 20th and
PRIOR to the revolutionary triumph
of 1959, circles of power in Cuba celebrated May
20th as Independence Day. It was said that this day,
in 1902, saw the birth of the independent republic,
that Spanish colonial domination had come to an end
and Cubans were able to enjoy complete freedom.
Statements added that all of this was thanks to the
"generous aid" of the U.S. government.
It is a fact that history was
totally falsified in the interest of governments of
the time and their imperial masters. The stark truth
is that on May 20, 1902, Cuba moved from being a
Spanish colony to becoming a neocolony of the United
In 1898, after 30 years of heroic
struggle, the Cuban Liberation Army had virtually
defeated the Spanish colonial army. Spain could no
longer sustain the war from the military, economic
and political points of view. Colonial morale had
plummeted against the force of the independence
That was the moment which the U.S.
government used to its advantage to satisfy its
long-held desire to intervene in Cuba and undertake
its annexation. The participation of the U.S. forces
was confined to landing, with the support of the
Cuban Liberation Army and engaging in a few battles
with the scattered remnants of the Spanish colonial
The leader of the world proletariat,
Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, described the ill-named
Hispanic-Cuban-American war as the first imperialist
war in the history of humanity.
However, when the war ended in 1898,
was Cuba a genuinely free nation?
On December 10 of that same year,
the Treaty of Paris, which officially ended Spanish
colonialism in Cuba, was signed. The first major
injustice and offense to the Cubans was their
exclusion from these negotiations. The United States
negotiated a freedom that it had not won and Spain
renounced a right which it had lost to the Cuban
The United States was not prepared
to engage in a war with a Cuban revolutionary army
that had defeated a colonial power after 30 years of
heavy fighting. It therefore prepared the conditions
to appropriate the island by less costly means in a
way that it could also take credit as the liberator.
With the war over, the U.S. army
remained in occupation and the freedom and
independence of the Cuban people remained in its
hands and in those of the country’s government.
Under Military Order 164 issued by
the U.S. army, the first elections of mayors,
councilmen, treasurers and municipal judges took
place on June 16, 1900. So-called American democracy
revealed its real essence. Voting rights were
limited to men aged 21 years and over, who were able
to read and write, who possessed capital of no less
than 250 pesos or had served in the Liberation Army
without any adverse reports in their file.
Given these and other restrictions,
only around 10% of the adult population were able to
exercise their vote.
Similar elections were held in June
1901, with further limitations in conjunction with
coercive and fraudulent measures designed to
guarantee a majority for candidates representing
Another military order, No 91,
established the rules for these elections. Those
able to vote could only elect 60% of councilmen.
Other restrictions included the loss of voting
rights for participants in the wars of independence
In the 1901 presidential elections,
the outrages against Cuba went much further.
Initially, three candidates ran for office.
Perceiving the manipulation of the process,
Generalissimo Máximo Gómez Báez, hero of the Cuban
wars of independence, withdrew. Another patriot,
Mayor General Bartolomé Masó, who refused to comply
with the U.S. designs in relation to these
elections, did likewise.
This left just one candidate, Tomás
Estrada Palma, who had succeeded José Martí as the
Cuban Revolutionary Party delegate and, in order to
run for election, had to renounce the U.S.
citizenship he had held for 26 years. Estrada Palma,
who had betrayed Martí’s ideals and cause, was an
unconditional supporter of the yankee government and
came to power through elections in which barely 7%
of Cubans old enough to do so, voted. But this was
not enough for U.S. interests in Cuba. Something
more secure, more efficient was needed, hence the
emergence of the Platt Amendment.
On February 28, 1901, U.S. Senator
Orville H. Platt proposed an amendment to the Army
Appropriations Bill which, once approved, would be
added to the constitution of the new Cuban Republic.
If the amendment was not accepted, military
occupation of Cuba would continue. That was the
dilemma of an amendment which bound Cuba militarily,
politically and economically to U.S. designs.
One of its articles removed the Isle
of Pines (now the Isle of Youth) from Cuban
jurisdiction, an affront maintained until 1925.
Another attributed to the United States the right to
military intervention in Cuba, under the false
pretext of preserving its independence, maintaining
good governance, protecting lives, properties and
Cuba was also obliged to hire U.S.
defense and protection services, which resulted in
what is currently the Guantánamo Naval Base,
maintained by the U.S. government against the will
of the Cuban people and utilized as an international
concentration and torture camp, in spite of demands
for its return in the highest international forums.
Additionally, Cuba was prevented
from establishing treaties or agreements with any
other power, or acquiring debts not contracted with
the imperial government.
It was Tomás Estrada Palma himself
who dissolved the Cuban Revolutionary Party founded
by José Martí to win independence and subsequently
direct the destiny of the Cuban nation. The
Liberation Army had also been dissolved. What
remained of Cuba’s independence when the Republic
was proclaimed on May 20, 1902? After 30 long years
of struggle, an independent Republic or a U.S.
Genuine independence, freedom,
sovereignty and full self-determination would have
to wait a further 60 years until, on January 1,
1959, Comandante en Jefe Fidel Castro
proclaimed the triumph of the Cuban Revolution.
Meanwhile, for the counterrevolution
located in and sustained by the United States, May
20th continues to be a patriotic date.