Prío Socarrás, Carlos (1903–1977)

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Prío Socarrás, Carlos (1903–1977)

Carlos Prío Socarrás (b. 1903; d. 1977), Cuban lawyer and politician, president of Cuba (1948–1952). From a middle-class family outside Havana, Prío Socarrás moved to the capital city to further his education and quickly became embroiled in the university reform movement of the 1920s. As a student of law, he upheld constitutionality and led the student protest when Gerardo Machado decided to run for a second term as president in 1927. In response, Machado abolished the student federation and briefly closed the university itself. Prío and other student leaders were banned from campus, but Ramón Grau San Martín, a professor-activist and future Auténtico president, permitted Prío to read his manifesto out loud in Grau's class; this was the beginning of a close political relationship between the two men.

In 1930 Cuban students organized opposition to dictator Machado, with Prío serving as a leader of the student Directorio. The generation of 1930 viewed themselves as the heirs of José Martí and the legitimate representatives of the Cuban national will. Its members were young, middle-class idealists, usually from rural regions where people naively thought all Cuba's ills could be solved merely by removing Machado. In August 1933 their wish was fulfilled when a military coup and general strike forced Machado into exile. Prío, as a Directorio leader, wielded great power and supported the civilian-dominated Pentarchy of Grau over the military elements during the subsequent struggle for control. Grau's reform experiment lasted only four months before, he, too, was ousted by the military under Fulgencio Batista y Zalvídar. In February 1934 Prío and like-minded Cubans founded the Auténtico Party and named Grau, now in exile, its leader. Their platform pledged economic and political nationalism, social justice, civil liberties, and greater Cuban control of the island's natural resources. Prío attended the Constitutional Convention of 1940 as a delegate and won recognition for university autonomy, a long-held student goal.

Carlos Prío Socarrás served in many government positions during the 1940s. He was a senator from 1940 to 1948, prime minister from 1945 to 1947, and labor minister under Grau from 1947 to 1948. In 1948 the electorate chose Prío as president, and he continued the moderate reformist policies of his Auténtico mentor, Grau San Martín. Prío managed to reduce political gangsterism, but his administration was plagued by charges of corruption and ineptitude. The 1940s were afterward generally seen as the high-water mark of constitutional liberalism in Cuba, although they failed to legitimize politics or entrench a system of loyal opposition and regular transfers of power. The Cuban public increasingly lost confidence in politicians, and the ensuing instability led Batista to oust Prío in a coup on 10 March 1952, less than three months before elections were to be held.

See alsoCuba: The Republic (1898–1959); Grau San Martín, Ramón; Machado y Morales, Gerardo.


Jaime Suchlicki, University Students and Revolution in Cuba, 1920–1968 (1969).

Luis Aguilar, Cuba 1933: Prologue to Revolution (1972).

Samuel Farber, Revolution and Reaction in Cuba, 1933–1960 (1976).

Louis A. Pérez, Jr., Cuba: Between Reform and Revolution (1988).

Additional Bibliography

Whitney, Robert. State and Revolution in Cuba: Mass Mobilization and Political Change, 1920–1940. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2001.

                                            Karen Racine