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The Search for Stability, Grauís Revolutionary Government

Sumner Welles, Platt Amendment, fair taxation, sugar companies, hour work day

Without consulting the Cuban opposition, Sumner Welles appointed his close friend, diplomat Carlos Manuel de Cespedes, as the interim president. Cespedes stepped into a difficult situation. Outbursts of pent-up bitterness continued against Machado, and indignation grew over U.S. handling of the situation. Another coup within the army weakened Cespedesí ability to govern. The coup was led by Sergeant Fulgencio Batista y Zaldivar, who seized control of the armed forces in September 1933. The Student Directorate rushed to support Batista and turned the mutiny into a demand that Cespedes step down, which he promptly did after serving only 23 days in office.

The unlikely alliance of military officers and students introduced a dynamic period of national reform. The Student Directorate installed Ramon Grau San Martin, a physician and a professor at the University of Havana Law School, as the new president. Grau moved quickly to put in place a program of radical measures. He nullified the Platt Amendment, gave women the vote, established an eight-hour work day, dissolved the political parties that had cooperated with Machado, approved a land redistribution program, and tried to extract fair taxation from U.S. sugar companies.

Grauís administration quickly attracted enemies from both sides of the political spectrum. On the Left, the Communists urged the Student Directorate to seize U.S. businesses and the estates of wealthy Cubans. Frightened moderates and conservatives feared that Grauís reform policy would erode their own power and wealth and also foresaw conflict with the United States. Both sides undercut Grauís support. Confronted with growing opposition, the Student Directorate shocked everyone when it voted to dissolve itself, leaving Grau at the mercy of his adversaries. As Grauís power base disintegrated, political instability returned and his economic reforms faltered.

Article key phrases:

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