Background and causes
In the decades following
Cuba's liberation from Spain in 1898, and
formal independence from the U.S. on May 20, 1902, Cuba experienced a period of significant instability, enduring a number of revolts,
coups and periods of
U.S. military intervention.
Fulgencio Batista, a former soldier who had served as the elected president of Cuba from 1940 to 1944, became president for the second time in March 1952, after seizing power in a military coup and canceling the 1952 elections.
 Although Batista had been a relative
progressive during his first term,
 in the 1950s he proved far more dictatorial and indifferent to popular concerns.
 While Cuba remained plagued by high unemployment and limited water infrastructure,
 Batista antagonized the population by forming lucrative links to
organized crime and allowing American companies to dominate the Cuban economy.
During his first term as President, Batista had been supported by the Communist Party of Cuba,
 but during his second term he became strongly
anti-communist, gaining him political and military support from the United States.
 Batista developed a powerful security infrastructure to silence political opponents. In the months following the March 1952 coup,
Fidel Castro, then a young lawyer and activist, petitioned for the overthrow of Batista, whom he accused of corruption and tyranny. However, Castro's constitutional arguments were rejected by the Cuban courts.
 After deciding that the Cuban regime could not be replaced through legal means, Castro resolved to launch an armed revolution. To this end, he and his brother
Raúl founded a paramilitary organization known as "The Movement", stockpiling weapons and recruiting around 1,200 followers from Havana's disgruntled working class by the end of 1952.