The Corporation: An Epic Story of The Cuban American Underworld

The epic “Godfather” movie trilogy introduced much of America to the Italian Mafia.

But a lesser known organization, run by Cuban Americans, was perhaps even more violent and powerful according to journalist and screenwriter T. J. English who delves into the world of bolita, a Cuban numbers racket, and cocaine trafficking in his book, “The Corporation: An Epic Story of the Cuban American Underworld.” (William Morrow, 584 pages)

The irony of the Cuban mafia is that it’s Godfather or El Padrino was an ex-policeman in pre-Castro Cuba. Jose Miguel Battle (in the spanish, “Batlle”) had worked as a vice-cop in Batista’s regime before fleeing Communist Cuba and heading to America.

Like many of his fellow Cubans who had fled Castro’s brutal dictatorship, Battle had taken part in the disastrous Bay of Pigs Invasion which was an ill conceived plot of the American CIA to reclaim Cuba from Fidel Castro and his communist cohorts during the Kennedy administration.

The American government refused to give the soldiers air support which doomed the invasion. Eventually, the United States government paid some $62 million in farming equipment, medical supplies, as ransom for the captured troops from the Bay of Pigs debacle.

After their release from Cuba, the American government offered the Cuban exiles a chance to join the U.S. military – an offer accepted by Jose Miguel Battle.

Just as Franklin Roosevelt had sought the assistance of an Italian mobster during the Second World War, the CIA was more than willing to recruit the staunchly anti-Castro Cuban refugees in their war on communism — even if they had to overlook a few of the unsavory criminal elements in their background.

With the help of mobster Santo Traficante Jr., Jose Miguel Battle was allowed to bring his numbers game, bolita, into the east coast with the blessings of the five families of the Italian mafia.

But what had been a relatively harmless lottery in Cuba,

became a racket which provoked great violence between rival gangs in America. Much like their Italian counterparts, the Cuba mob quickly laundered its wealth

into more legitimate enterprises.

Jose Miguel Battle’s son, in the manner of a Michael Corleone, organized his bolita enterprise into “the Corporation” and purchased a number of businesses.

But a rival bolitero emerged in Isleno Davila and his organization, “La Compania” (which had partnered with the Lucchese family) — and a blood bath began as two Cuban mobsters sought supremacy on the East Coast.

Unlike Don Corleone of the “Godfather” series, Jose Miguel Battle was no family man; nor did he eschew trading in narcotics.

Not only was Jose Miguel Battle a central player in cocaine trafficking in Miami, he began using the drug — a habit which led to his death on August 4, 2007 of liver failure.

In this real life tale of Cuban American gangsters, author T. J. English hits a cynical note as he insists that he is telling the authentic history of “the United States of America, (in which) the true melting pot has been organized crime.”