Just six days after the fall of the Fulgencio Batista dictatorship in Cuba, U.S. officials recognize the new provisional government of the island nation. Despite fears that Fidel Castro, whose rebel army helped to overthrow Batista, might have communist leanings, the U.S. government believed that it could work with the new regime and protect American interests in Cuba.
The fall of the pro-American government of Batista was cause for grave concern among U.S. officials. The new government, temporarily headed by provisional president Manuel Urrutia, initially seemed chilly toward U.S. diplomats, including U.S. Ambassador Earl E. T. Smith. Smith, in particular, was wary of the politics of the new regime. He and other Americans in Cuba were suspicious of the motives and goals of the charismatic rebel leader Fidel Castro.
Secretary of State John Foster Dulles overrode Smith’s concerns. The secretary counseled President Dwight D. Eisenhower to recognize the Urrutia government, since it seemed to be “free from Communist taint” and interested in “friendly relations with the United States.” Dulles and other U.S. officials may have viewed recognition of the new Cuban government as a way to forestall the ascension to power of more radical elements in the Cuban revolution. In addition, several other nations, including a number of Latin American countries, had already extended recognition.
Despite this promising beginning, relations between Cuba and the United States almost immediately deteriorated. U.S. officials realized that Castro, who was sworn in as the premier of Cuba in February 1959, wielded the real power in Cuba. His policies concerning the nationalization of American-owned properties and closer economic and political relations with communist countries convinced U.S. officials that Castro’s regime needed to be removed. Less than two years later, the United States severed diplomatic relations, and in April 1961, unleashed a disastrous—and ineffectual—attack by Cuban exile forces against the Castro government (the Bay of Pigs invasion).