Fulgencio Batista was born in Banes, located in the Oriente province of Cuba, on January 16, 1901, to a poor farming family. He received little formal schooling, although he attended night school, and joined the army in 1931, where he studied stenography. He was promoted to sergeant in 1928.
During 1931–33 he took part in a conspiracy to overthrow the dictatorship of Gerardo Machado, which was successful in August 1933. In September of that year he led a revolt against Machado's successor, Manuel de Céspedes. During this period he violently suppressed a number of attempts to defeat his control.
During one attempt a number of those who surrendered to Batista and his men were executed. He was then promoted to colonel and commander in chief of the army by the provisional president, who Batista thanked by leading another revolt that overthrew him. Batista resigned from the army in 1944 and was elected president.
Batista was not allowed to succeed himself as president by Cuban law, so he left office in 1944. He traveled widely and lived in Florida for a time. He returned to Cuba and was elected to the senate in 1948. He staged another coup on March 10, 1952, and regained control of the government. He was elected president unopposed on November 1, 1954. In that election he was not expected to win and again used force to suppress his opponents.
During his presidency, Batista promoted education and public health care, encouraged independent economic development, and improved labor conditions. He also simplified administrative procedures. However, his regime was exceptionally corrupt, and that, along with his brutal terror against political opponents, turned the people against him.
There were several revolts, most notably the guerrilla campaign led by Fidel Castro in 1956, which was successful by late 1958. His regime was overthrown by Castro's forces, and he resigned the presidency on January 1, 1959, and fled the country with his family and many of his followers to the Dominican Republic.
He later settled in Portugal, where he wrote Cuba Betrayed in 1962. He also wrote I am With the People (1939), Repuesta (1960), Stones and Laws (1961), To Rule is to Foresee (1962), and The Growth and Decline of the Cuban Republic (1964). Batista died in Spain on August 6, 1973.