Cuban dictator sought refuge here after his defeat by Castro, document shows


FORMER CUBAN dictator General Fulgencio Batista sought refuge in Ireland in March 1959, just four months after fleeing the island following his defeat by Fidel Castro’s forces, according to a document recently discovered.

In a letter to the then Irish president Seán T O’Kelly, Marta D de Batista, the dictator’s wife, then resident at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York, expressed the hope that the general and his family could set up home in Ireland.

“Knowing of your presence today in the city , and faced with the circumstance under which I live these days, it is that I take the liberty of addressing you in this informal way.

“It is my hope and that of my children, that my husband, the former president of Cuba, General Fulgencio Batista, would be granted permission to reside in your beautiful country, so that we can establish our home there and be all together again. If this were to be possible, we shall always be grateful for your excellency’s kindness.”

The file, found by a member of the Cuba Support Group Ireland, Declan McKenna, while searching in the Irish National Archives for references to the Bay of Pigs invasion which happened 50 years ago this Sunday, also contains a note from the office of the president’s secretary, later stamped by the office of then taoiseach Eamon de Valera: “I send you the enclosed letter received by the president from Madam Marta D de Batista now residing at the Waldorf Astoria, New York, asking that her husband, the former president of Cuba, be granted permission to reside in Ireland. A simple acknowledgement has issued in the matter.”

It is likely that Mrs Batista believed that presidential power here was of a similar order to that in the US – if not in Cuba – but it is not known if Mr de Valera responded.

Meanwhile, a high-level delegation from Cuba has arrived in Ireland for a series of events to mark the 50th anniversary of the Bay of Pigs invasion, which began on April 17th, 1961.

The invasion shook the US presidency of John F Kennedy to the core, bolstered the fledgling Castro regime and a year later led the world to the brink of nuclear war with the outbreak of the Cuban missile crisis.

Over next week, the group, led by Bay of Pigs survivor Col Victor Dreke Cruz and veteran Cuban broadcaster Reinaldo Taladrid, will tour Ireland for a series of seminars which will include talks and in some places a screening of the documentary film on the invasion, 66 Hours, the True Story of the Bay of Pigs.

During the invasion, Col Cruz served under Che Guevara and was wounded in the battle. He later became a Cuban diplomat.

The delegation’s tour of Ireland continues tomorrow in Liberty Hall for a day-long symposium, then on to Belfast, Derry, Galway, Letterkenny, Sligo, Dundalk and Cork.