Ramón Grau

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Ramón Grau
Grau.jpg
President of Cuba
In office
10 October 1944 – 10 October 1948
Vice President Raul de Cardenas Echarte
Preceded by Fulgencio Batista
Succeeded by Carlos Prío Socarrás
In office
10 September 1933 – 15 January 1934
Vice President None
Preceded by Carlos Manuel de Céspedes y Quesada
Succeeded by Carlos Hevia
Personal details
Born Ramón Grau San Martín
(1881-09-13)September 13, 1881
La Palma, Pinar del Río Province, Spanish Cuba
Died July 28, 1969(1969-07-28) (aged 87)
Havana, Cuba
Nationality Cuba Cuban
Political party Partido Auténtico
Alma mater University of Havana
Occupation Medical Doctor

Dr. Ramón Grau San Martín (September 13, 1881, La Palma, Pinar del Río Province, Spanish Cuba – July 28, 1969, Havana, Cuba) was a Cuban physician and the President of Cuba (1933–1934, 1944–1948). He was the last president other than an interim president, Carlos Manuel Piedra, to be born during Spanish rule. He is sometimes called Raymond Grau San Martin in English.[1]

Youth[edit]

Grau's father, a rich tobacco grower, wanted Ramón to continue in his footsteps, but Ramón himself wanted to be a doctor. He studied at the University of Havana and graduated in 1908with a Doctor of Medicine degree, then expatriated to Europe in order to expand his medical knowledge. He returned to Cuba in 1921 and became a professor of physiology at the University of Havana.

In the 1920s he was involved with the student protests against then–President Gerardo Machado, and was jailed in 1931. Upon his release he was exiled from Cuba, temporarily migrating to the United States.

The Revolution of 1933[edit]

After the 1933 Cuban Revolution Grau initially became one of the five members of the Pentarchy of 1933 government (September 5, 1933-September 10, 1933). Thereafter, on September 9, 1933, members of the Directorio Estudiantil Universitario met in the Hall of Mirrors in the Palacio de los Capitanes Generales and after intensive debate between various proposed candidates, it was agreed that Ramon Grau would be the next president. Ramon Grau was then President of what was famously called the government of One Hundred Days.

Cabinet Members[edit]

Carlos E. Finlay for Secretary of Health, Antonio Guiteras Holmes for Secretary of Government, Ramiro Copablanca for Secretary of the Presidency, Carlos Hevia for Secretary of Agriculture/Commerce, Joaquin del Rio Balamaseda for Secretary of Justice, Julio Aguado for Secretary of War & Navy, Gustavo Moreno for Secretary of Public Works and Manuel Marquez Sterling for Secretary of State

The One Hundred Days government[edit]

The One Hundred Days government was in part a mixture of reformist-moderate minded individuals such as Ramon Grau and radicals such Antonio Guiteras Holmes. The One Hundred Days government is mainly remembered for left-leaning or progressive reforms such as the establishment of the 8-hour work day as per Grau’s Presidential decree 1693, a raise of minimum wage, nationalization of Cuban Electric Company, and granting the University of Havana autonomy. Despite the government’s progressive agenda, the government faced significant political power struggles. On the one-hand it was not recognized by the U.S. government, secondly there were still other groups especially members of the traditional parties such as the Liberal, Conservative and Union Nacionalista parties as well as the ABC who either did not support Grau’s government or wanted a more inclusive administration. Finally, while the Army Chief of Staff Fulgencio Batista, nominally surrendered the power of the army to the new government, in reality Batista was having talks, making behind-doors deals with Sumner Welles and other political groups.[2]

Eventually Batista would force Grau’s resignation on January 15, 1934. Grau, however, still maintained significant power throughout the beginning of his presidency and on one occasion various ranking members of Grau's cabinet as well as students from the Directorio Estudiantil Universitario wanted Batista removed or assassinated. This was partly because Batista was holding talks with Sumner Welles and other members of the Cuban opposition regarding a potential change in government without the knowledge or public sanctioning of Grau's administration. [3] In addition to the political struggles, the dire state of the economy due to the Depression of the 1930s and the massive debt left over by Machado’s administration, there was also the issue of the army officials regrouping and setting up camp in the Hotel Nacional de Cuba. After failed negotiations between army officials and Grau's government, this deadlock would ultimately end with the Battle of the Hotel Nacional of Cuba on October 2, 1933.

On 1934 Grau went on to found the Partido Auténtico. His niece, Pola Grau Alsina (1915– 2000), served as First Lady of Cuba during his first presidency.

Constitution of 1940[edit]

Grau was instrumental in passing the 1940 Constitution of Cuba. For much of the Constitutional Convention, he served as the presiding officer (even after his coalition was pushed into the minority after the defection of one of the parties that formed it). He would eventually come to be replaced by Carlos Márquez Sterling.

In 1940 Grau ran in the presidential election and lost to Fulgencio Batista. Most independent observers at the time qualified the 1940 election as free and fair elections.

Election of 1944[edit]

In 1944 Grau won the popular vote in the presidential election, defeating Carlos Saladrigas Zayas, Batista's handpicked successor, and served until 1948. Despite his initial popularity in 1933, accusations of corruption tainted his administration's image, and a sizable number of Cubans began to distrust him.

As Grau assumed the presidency, he was forced to address many financial problems left by his predecessor, Batista. In a July 17, 1944 dispatch to the U.S. Secretary of State, U.S. Ambassador Spruille Braden stated:

"It is becoming increasingly apparent that President Batista intends to discomfit the incoming Administration in every way possible, particularly financially. A systematic raid on the Treasury is in full swing with the result that Dr. Grau will probably find empty coffers when he takes office on October 10. It is blatant that President Batista desires that Dr. Grau San Matin should assume obligations which in fairness and equity should be a matter of settlement by the present Administration." [1]

After turning over the presidency to his protégé, Carlos Prío, in 1948, Grau virtually withdrew from public life. He emerged again in 1952 to oppose Batista's coup d'état. Grau ran for president in the 1954 and 1958 Batista-sponsored elections but withdrew just prior to each election day, claiming government fraud. After the Cuban Revolution and the rise of Fidel Castro in 1959, Grau retired to his home in Havana and maintained a low profile. He died there on July 28, 1969.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Grau San Martin Leaves Cuba In Plane". The Pittsburgh Press (The United Press). September 28, 1934. Retrieved 5 January 2015. 
  2. ^ Foreign Relations of the United States: Diplomatic Papers, 1933. The American Republics: Volume V, p. 468 http://images.library.wisc.edu/FRUS/EFacs/1933v05/reference/frus.frus1933v05.i0010.pdf
  3. ^ http://www.revistacaliban.cu/articulo.php?evento_id=5&numero=4&libro_id=19&article_id=47
  • Otero, Juan Joaquin (1954). Libro De Cuba, Una Enciclopedia Ilustrada Que Abarca Las Artes, Las Letras, Las Ciencias, La Economia, La Politica, La Historia, La Docencia, y El Progreso General De La Nación Cubana - Edicion Conmemorative del Cincuentenario de la Republica de Cuba, 1902–1952.  (Spanish)
  • Argote-Freyre, Frank. Fulgencio Batista: Volume 1, From Revolutionary to Strongman. Rutgers University Press, Rutgers, New Jersey. ISBN 0-8135-3701-0. 2006.
  • The Cuban Democratic Experience: The Autentico Years 1944–1952, University Press of Florida, 2000. Dr.Charles D.Ameringer. ISBN 978-0813026671
  • "En Defensa Del Autenticismo"- Aracelio Azcuy y Cruz, Julio 1950, La Habana, 135 pages, P. Fernandez y Cia.
  • Rodriguez Garcia, Rolando. "La revolución que no se fue a bolina, Editorial Ciencias Sociales, 2013."
Political offices
Preceded by
Carlos Manuel de Céspedes y Quesada
President of Cuba
10 September 1933 – 15 January 1934
Succeeded by
Carlos Hevia
Preceded by
Fulgencio Batista
President of Cuba
1944–1948
Succeeded by
Carlos Prío Socarrás