On August 12, 1933, President Machado fled Cuba with ABC terrorists shooting at his laden airplane as it prepared to take off from the long hot runway. He left Cuba without any continuity of leadership and a smooth transfer of authority to the next administration became impossible in Havana.
American envoy, Sumner Welles stepped into the vacuum and encouraged Carlos Manuel de Céspedes y Quesada to accept the office of Provisional President of Cuba. Céspedes was a Cuban writer and politician, born in New York City, son of Carlos Manual de Céspedes del Castillo who was a hero of the Cuban War of Independence. Wearing a spotlessly clean, crisp white suit, Céspedes was installed as the Provisional President of Cuba, on what was his 62nd birthday.
This expedient political move failed to prevent the violence that broke out in the streets. Mobs looted and behaved with viciousness that lasted for six long hours and created a mayhem not witnessed since Cuba’s Independence from Spain. Students from the university ransacked the previously pro-Machado newspaper “Heraldo de Cuba.” The Presidential Palace was stormed and severely damaged, with the culprits leaving a “For Rent” sign hanging on the front gate. The temperament of the mob that rallied against the Machado supporters, including the hated Porristas who had been left behind, was ferocious. They wounded over 200 hapless souls and cost 21 people their lives. Five members of the Porristas as well as Colonel Antonio Jimenez, the head of Machado’s secret police, were summarily shot to death and trampled upon. The rioters then tied the mutilated body of Jimenez to the top of a car and paraded his bullet-riddled carcass through the streets of Havana, showing it off as a trophy. When the howling throng of incensed people finally dumped him in front of the hospital, it was determined that he had been shot 40 times.
Students hammered away at an imposing bronze statue of Machado, until piece by piece it was totally destroyed. Shops owned by the dictator’s friends were looted and smashed, as were the homes of Cabinet members living in the affluent suburbs.
Photo Caption: A Citizen in 1933 Havana by Walker Evans. (Visit Captain Hank Bracker Facebook)
Captain Hank Bracker, served with the U.S. Military Intelligence Corps and is the author of the multi-award winning book, “The Exciting Story of Cuba.” Available at Amazon.com.