Miami Herald
October 11, 1963, page 4A

'To Much Enthusiasm for Russia' Disturbs
Batista in Portugal Refuge

By GRACE WING BOHNE Herald Staff Writer

LISBON - From his flower-bordered retreat on the Portuguese Atlantic shore, one of the best known of Cuban exiles, Fulgencio Batista, keeps a watchful eye on world affairs, and what he doesn't find good.

"I fear too much enthusiasm for Russia, too much of the feeling that it is better to ally with Russia than to risk another world war, as if one or the other has to be," the deposed dictator-president declared.

This he sees as playing into a strictly "heads I win, tails you lose" game, he explained at his rented villa in Estoril, a Lisbon suburb famous as the haunt of unemployed rulers.

"If the Russians are given their way in any more of the world, they will end up owning all of it anyway," Batista said. Then he added, "To see what becomes of a country that trusts Russia's friendship, look at my own. It's in hell."

In spite of this seemingly gloomy outlook, the onetime strongman of Cuba was in bubbling spirits when he received us. With his beautiful wife, Marta, he trotted out tea and then took us for a long sightseeing drive along the picturesque Atlantic.

At 62, the seasoned soldier who became his country's master when he was an unknown army sergeant 30 years ago, is still youthful in appearance and full of bounce.

His sooty hair is thick and graying, but nowhere near white. His step is quick. Even when he is wearing a dark business suit and horn-rim glasses instead of a general's uniform and medals, his personality is a powerful one.

Plainly, his mood has improved since, lonely and disenchanted, he took residence on the somewhat remote Portuguese island of Madeira after his fateful flight from Havana nearly five years ago.

This summer the Batistas enjoyed a motor trip through Spain. They make occasional short visits to their four sons at school in Switzerland, and to her mother in Madrid, where their six-year-old daughter will soon be sent to begin school.

From 1944, when his term as elected president was up and rival politicos took over in Cuba, until 1948, when he went back as a senator, Batista and his family lived in Daytona Beach.

He makes no bones about saying it is the place he would most prefer to be right now, but understands that his presence in Florida might appear ill-advised to the U.S. government. He is hurt,
though, that permission was refused him even to visit his married daughter in Boston. Another daughter, a son, a brother and his former wife live in the Miami area.

There wasn't a trace of bitterness in his manner as he talked. Rather, he was reveling in the satisfaction of a job completed.

His third book, dealing with last October's crisis and subsequent developments, on which he said he kept a daily box score, is just off the press, and another is being readied, for the publishers. Proudly, he held out a callused forefinger for us to examine.

And what does the general think the United States ought to do about Cuba now? He threw up his hands.

"The problem would have been much easier to solve before last October than it is now," he said significantly.

In a word, he doubts that the United States any longer has control over what happens to Cuba. He suspects we blew it completely in handling the October crisis and the abortive Bay of Pigs invasion that came before.

Both incidents, he said, are widely regarded in Europe as triumphs for the Russians, who carried their point and emerged wearing the halo of peacemakers.

"Russia still has Cuba," he said, "and if we are to believe Khrushchev, there has been a non-invasion pledge given. He can afford to take his weapons out."

Does he have a word for the Cuban exiles in Miami, from whom he remains aloof ?

"They should be patient, but without rest," Batista said thoughtfully. He said he believed their divisions of interests might be united in time, if not in time to rescue their captive island.

What about Cuba if the country should be liberated?

"The man who takes over that job will have to work very hard," he said.