THIS DAY IN CUBAN HISTORY
Eduardo René Chibás y Ribas Agramonte – Founder of the Partido del Pueblo (Ortodoxo). Son of a wealthy Santiago engineer, “Eddy” became a prominent student leader, and one of the originators of the Directorio Estudiantil Universitario (1930s). Graduating in law, his sharp criticism of Gerardo Machado’s government led to imprisonment, December 1931-December 1932, followed by exile in Miami. He returned following Machado’s downfall to support the presidential candidacy of Ramón Grau San Martín. He became a strong critic of the government again when Grau was forced to resign (early 1934) by Fulgencio Batista. In 1938 Chibás joined the Partido Revolucionario Cubano (Auténtico) and again backed Grau for the presidency in 1944.
In 1946, now a senator, and disillusioned by Grau’s nepotism, government corruption, and gangsterism (the violence of gangs) and his own ambition, he founded the Ortodoxo party and ran for president, coming third. During the Carlos Prío Socarrás administration (1948-52), he used his weekly radio broadcasts for bitter attacks on its policies, and, especially, its corruption, with direct attacks on personalities. There was a consequent considerable increase of this supporters, one of whom was Fidel Castro, nominated by the Ortodoxo for a congressional seat in the 1952 elections. On August 5, 1951, at the height of an emotional radio broadcast, Chibás shot himself in the stomach, in an attempt to ignite the Cuban populace into action after having failed to substantiate his charges of corruption against minister Aureliano Sanchez Arango. Chibás’ death three days later promoted more sadness than anger and created a political vacuum and a rift in his party that facilitated Batista’s March 1952 coup.
Chibás’ criticism, furthermore, helped to undermine, not only the authority of the Auténticos, destroying completely what little prestige they still enjoyed, but the stability of Cuba’s already fragile political institutions as well.
Jaime Suchlicki is Director of the Cuban Studies Institute, CSI, a non-profit research group in Coral Gables, FL. He is the author of Cuba: From Columbus to Castro & Beyond, now in its 5th edition; Mexico: From Montezuma to the Rise of the PAN, 2nd edition, and of the recently published Breve Historia de Cuba.