Welcome nowhere in the Western Hemisphere, ousted Cuban Dictator Fulgencio Batista y Zaldivar chartered a plane in the Dominican Republic one day last week and droned off to exile on the faraway Portuguese island of Madeira, a land full of terraced vineyards and empty of revolutionary ferment. "Too bad." grumped Cuban Prime Minister Fidel Castro, who would like to shoot Batista as a war criminal. "Batista's departure." said U.S. State Department Press Officer Lincoln White, "will contribute to the efforts of the entire American community of nations to restore calm to the Caribbean."
Batista itched to get out of the Dominican Republic almost from the day he hit there last January. A subdued and indifferent man desiring only to enjoy the $40 million plus that he stole from Cuba, Batista instead found himself sucked into anti-Castro plots by Dominican Dictator Rafael Trujillo. A Cuban general named Jose Eleuterio Pedraza (who urged Batista to stay in Cuba and fight instead of fleeing) became Trujillo's favorite, put the bite on Batista for arms money. When Batista dragged his feet, he came in for scathing attacks in Trujillo's press (BATISTA SHOULD GET OUT).
Batista kept hoping against hope for permanent residence in Daytona Beach, Fla., where he has a wife and five children, a $100,000 mansion and extensive investments in real estate. Batista's 11-year-old son sent a telegram to President Eisenhower, and Batista's wife followed through with a tearful letter to Mamie: "In the moment of my sadness, shall I have you to help me? Dear lady, do your best." But, according to Batista's Washington lawyers, the best that the State Department offered was to "help get Batista anywhere else, if it could avoid the embarrassment it felt would arise if he came to the U.S." Accordingly, when the State Department declared last week that Batista's application for a U.S. visa was a "dead issue," his Portuguese visa was ready and waiting.
"In granting asylum to ex-President Batista in the quiet and isolated island of Madeira." said Portugal, "the government has been moved solely by its earnest desire to assist the parties more directly concerned to maintain peace in a vital area of the world." At the Lisbon airport, cops threw a protective ring around Batista's 15-man party, sped it off to a gold-and-blue suite at the just-opened Ritz Hotel. "I am out of politics," Batista told the few newsmen admitted to his rooms. "Cubans deserve their own decisions. They chose not to have me as President." He planned to sail in a few days for Madeira, a haunt for retired Britons. 400 miles west of the Moroccan coast, which has no airstrip, and is rarely visited by tourists.