On March 10, 1952, Fulgencio Batista Zaldivar, a former military colonel who was Cuba's president between 1940 and 1944, returned to power through a coup d'etat, after his effort to reclaim the presidency through election faltered. Batista would rule the country until Dec. 31, 1958, when he fled the country to Spain, where he would live out the remainder of his days. Fidel Castro became Cuba's new leader.

Batista's Rule

Throughout the 1950s, as he battled communist guerrillas led by Fidel Castro, Batista became increasingly unpopular. While many Cuban dissenters in the cities were tortured and killed under his rule, Batista was unable to dispose of Castro and his mountain-based rebels, even though he had several opportunities. He suspended constitutional protections and refused to leave office. Eventually, when his erstwhile allies in the United States abandoned him, Batista was forced to flee.

Pre-Castro Cuba

Despite Batista's flaws as a political leader, Cuba did enjoy some advantages in the 1950s, including a high literacy rate and thriving cities. However, there was gross inequality between the rich and poor, as well as the strong taint of racism in Cuban society and a longstanding history of government corruption, all of which helped pave the way for Castro's revolution.