Transportation for a Tyrant

In the early hours of New Year's Day, 1959, the Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista fled to the Dominican Republic, taking with him hundreds of millions of dollars amassed during his reign. On August 11, 1959, the U.S. State Department asked the government of Portugal to grant a visa to Batista. On August 19, 1959, the (U.S.) Director of the Executive Secretariat sent a memorandum to the President's Staff Secretary describing the events leading up to the flight. The memorandum bears a notation written by President Eisenhower, indicating that he saw it. The memorandum said, in part, 1

Because of its continuing concern over tensions and unrest in the Caribbean and its desire to take all steps necessary to alleviate this situation, the Department, through Embassy Lisbon, presented a note on August 11 to the Portuguese Government asking if that Government would consider the issuance of a visa to Batista as "a definite contribution to the maintenance of peaceful relations in the Caribbean." The Portuguese Government gave immediate verbal assent, stating that it would grant visas to Batista and his immediate entourage for admittance to the Island of Madeira.

On August 13 Mr. Lawrence Berenson, Batista's American attorney, flew to the Dominican Republic and returned with Batista's passport on August 16. The Portuguese Consul General in New York issued the visas on August 17 and on that same date Mr. Berenson arranged with Seaboard & Western Airlines a charter flight to go to the Dominican Republic today to pick up Batista and his group, numbering about twenty persons in all, to fly via the Azores to Lisbon from whence [sic] they will go by boat to Madeira.

On August 19, 1959, a Seaboard Super Constellation flew Batista, sixteen members of his Cuban entourage, and his American lawyer, to Lisbon. A copy of the passenger manifest can be seen here. Flight Attendant Doris Boulton later reported that Batista was continuously surrounded by his armed guards who maintained a distance between him and cabin personnel. All food and beverages were tested by a guard before he was served. Armed guards stood on both sides of the carpeted path leading to the aircraft and no cabin personnel were allowed outside the aircraft while on the ground. Navigator Glenn Van Warrebey was allowed to help Batista carry his suitcase up the boarding ladder as the suitcase was very heavy.

The known crewmembers were:

CaptainEdgar McKinney
Flight EngineerBernie Seidner?
NavigatorGlenn Van Warrebey
Flight AttendantDoris Boulton

Report of Batista's security precautions provided by Doris Boulton via Astrid Frank


  1 McElhiney, Thomas W. Memorandum From the Director of the Executive Secretariat to the President's Staff Secretary, U.S. Department of State, August 19, 1959

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