Cuba History Timeline Events
March 14, 1958
US Ambassador Smith noted a critical turning point, writing in his book The Fourth Floor:
“March 12, 1958 is an important date in Cuban history. After that date it was no longer possible to engender any support in the [US] State Department for the Batista government. It was on March 12 that Batista found it necessary to renew the suspension of constitutional guarantees and to reimpose censorship of the press.”
The ambassador summarized how this turn of events shifted power in the US State Department:
“For months I had used every means of persuasion to convince Batista to restore constitutional guarantees in the island. Overruling the advice of his confidants he complied and did so on January 25. The Department, believing this to be a big step in the right direction, assumed a waiting attitude. As I mentioned before they agreed to renew delivery instructions for twenty armored cars, which had been on order for some time.
Now, after approximately seven weeks, the strong man was forced to clamp down again because of the stepped-up activities of the terrorists. The waiting attitude ended. The Rightist-dictator-haters and the pro-Castro elements, whose estimate of the situation was that Batista could only control through strong-arm methods, were back in charge.”
The ambassador’s assessment of support having ended for the government of Cuba was publicly visible in the imposition on March 14 of an arms embargo, halting all armament and other military shipments to Batista’s government, even enforcing the embargo by intercepting ships enroute to turn them back to US ports. The embargo strictures even extended to forbidding the use of earlier supplied US armaments to suppress domestic rebellion.
The Eisenhower administration cited its reasons for the embargo as not wanting US-supplied weapons to be used in a civil war. The persistent lobbying of Castro and his revolutionary allies for a US embargo achieved their intended result. While the State Department enforced the embargo on Batista, with American tacit consent Castro continued to receive armaments and military supplies.
At this time the ambassador came to appreciate more fully how correct Assistant Secretary of State Robert C. Hill was in confiding when he accepted the post that Smith would be presiding over Batista’s demise since the US had already decided Batista had to go.