The Spirit Of Moncada: Fidel Castro's Rise To Power, 1953 - 1959 CSC 1984 SUBJECT AREA Foreign Policy ABSTRACT Author: BOCKMAN, Larry James, Major, U.S. Marine Corps Title: The Spirit of Moncada: Fidel Castro's Rise to Power, 1953-1959 Publisher: Marine Corps Command and Staff College Date: 1 April 1984 Since his overthrow of President Batista in 1959, the degree of influence that Fidel Castro has exercised over worldwide political and military events has been astounding. His reach has far exceeded the borders of the tiny island nation he rules. Not infrequently, great and emerging nations alike have altered their most diligent strategies in response to the Cuban leader's interpretation of the world order. How did an obscure, middle-class lawyer with no military training first rise to such prominence? The object of this study is to discover the answer to that question. The essay opens with a brief discussion of Cuba's geographic, demographic and historic heritages. This is followed by a section that outlines the major economic, social, political and military factors which forced the climate for Castro's insurrection. The main body of the study follows with an examination of the insurrection itself. Included are detailed historical events, strategies and tactics, beginning with Castro's background and proceeding through his emergence at the head of the Cuban government. Both sides of the conflict are presented, where appropriate, to maintain balance. The final section of the paper contains an analysis of the major elements leading to Castro's victory. These encompass, among others: the role of the United States, Castro's guerrilla warfare philosophy, Batista's counter-guerrilla tactics, and the Castro persona. This study relied heavily upon previously published documents and books concerning various aspects of Castro's background and rise to power. Particularly useful were those works written through eyewitness accounts of the actual events addressed in the paper. WAR SINCE 1945 SEMINAR The Spirit of Moncada: Fidel Castro's Rise to Power, 1953-1959 Major Larry James Bockman, USMC 2 April 1984 Marine Corps Command and Staff College Marine Corps Development and Education Command Quantico, Virginia 22134 ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS I owe a debt of gratitude to a number of people for their professional assistance, guidance, morale support and encouragement. They have my sincere appreciation. Of the many, I would like to single-out for special thanks Lieutenant Colonels Donald F. Bittner and James F. Foster. Their editorial and conceptual assistance plus personal encouragement assisted me over several obstacles. I would especially like to acknowledge my debt to the staff of Breckinridge Library, and particularly Ms. Mary Porter, the Reference Librarian. Her capable and efficient assistance in securing books and documents was superb. Likewise, I would like to thank Ms. Pam Lohman for cheerfully and expertly typing this manuscript, and for never being discouraged by revisions or deadlines. Finally, I would like to thank my wife, Karen. Without her editorial assistance, moral support and encouragement, I would not have completed this project. TABLE OF CONTENTS Page Introduction 1 Chapter 1. Background 4 Geographic 4 Demographic 5 Historical 6 Notes 17 2. Inducing Factors to Revolution 18 Economic 18 Social 25 Political 28 Military 29 Notes 31 3. Castro's Insurrection 32 The Sergeant and the attorney 32 Moncada 44 Movimiento 26 de Julio 47 Sierra Maestra 55 Total War 75 Batista's Departure 94 Notes 97 Page 4. Castro's Revolution 102 At Long Last; Victory 103 The Communist State 106 Notes 111 5. Analyses and Conclusion 112 Buerrilla Warfare a la Castro 113 Internal Defense 119 Neutralization of the United States 124 El Caudillo 128 Conclusion 130 Notes 132 Maps 133 Bibliography 137 INTRODUCTION In the early 1950's there were many Cubans who believed that their country was in the midst of a gradual revolution that had begun as early as 1930. Political and economic upheaval and social rebellion had become commonplace and expected throughout Cuban society. Most viewed this process as disruptive, but nonetheless necessary if Cuba was ever to attain constitutionality and honest government. Among those Cubans was Fidel Castro, a young lawyer just entering practice. Having earned an early reputation as a champion of the oppressed and underprivileged, Castro was anxious to use his political skills to harness and guide the Cuban revolutionary spirit. The spirit was crushed, however, when Fulgencio Batista seized control of the Cuban government in 1952. The insurrection which Castro orchestrated between 1953 and 1959 wad designed to revitalize the interrupted Cuban revolution and install Fidel Castro as its epicenter. The purpose of this essay is to examine the Cuban Onsurgency of 1953-1959, focusing on Fidel Castro's role. The premise of this effort is that the detailed examination of Castro's rise to power and Batista's attempts to stop him can increase our understanding of the evolution of insurgencies and the difficulties associated with countering them. The study's objective is to achieve that understanding by discovering how Castro won, or perhaps more importantly, why Batista lost. The scope of the study is limited primarily to events occurring on the island of Cuba between 1953 and 1959. No attempt is made to consider other worldly events unless there is some direct relationship. Likewise, recent Cuban history beyond Castro's consolidation of power in 1959 is omitted. Finally, discussions and comparisons of various revolutionary warfare ideologies are left to another time and place. The terms insurrection, revolution, rebellion and their derivatives are used interchangeably throughout. The paper is organized into five chapters following the introduction. Maps are provided at the end, just prior to the bibliography. Chapter I provides a brief background study of Cuba's geography, people and history. Keying on the background established in Chapter I, Chapter II distills and investigates the economic, social, political and military factors which fueled Cuba's revolutionary fervor and ultimately led to Fidel Castro's insurrection. Chapters III and IV give a detailed account of the rebellion and Castro's consoldation of power, spanning the years 1953- 1959. in general, analysis and conclusions are withheld until the final chapter. Much has been written about Fidel Castro and his revolution. The sources that were available for this study seemed to fall into two general categories: those works written by individuals with personal experience in the revolution and those works written by scholars who researched the revolution, generally through the works of those who had personal experience. The result of this phenomenon is that unbiased sources which address Castro or his revolution are rare. I used two techniques to counter this bias. First, I generally discounted or ignored those sources which tended to be the most biased (i.e., newspaper accounts and periodicals*), and concentrated on published books and research studies. This approach was only partially successful because the majority of the books available on Castro or his revolution were written by journalists. Further, those books not written by journalists often list newspaper accounts as sources. Second, I developed the habit of cross-checking every source, consciously seeking either the opposite viewpoint or commonality for each section of the study. Where appropriate, I have tried to present both sides. In retrospect, I must admit that it is extremely difficult to remain impartial where Castro is concerned. The man was, and still is, a hero to millions of people. Through the course of my research I developed a grudging admiration for him. While I have attempted to keep this paper as dispassionate as possible, I am sure that some of that admiration has filtered through. *Journalists were notoriously pro-Castro during this period. CHAPTER I: BACKGROUND To properly understand Fidel Castro and the insurrection which he led, one must first grasp the essence of Cuba itself. These initial pages will provide a brief overview of the major geographic, demographic and historic factors which have influenced Cuba and its people from the earliest Spanish explorers until Fulgencio Batista's 1952 coup. Geographic 1/ Cuba, situated approximately 90 miles from the southern coast of Florida, is actually an archipelago of more than 1600 keys and small islands clustered around Cuba proper (see Map #1). The island is 745 miles long, and 25 to 120 miles at its narrowest and widest points. It boasts excellent harbors, although only Havana has ever been extensively developed. Cuba enjoys a moderately warm climate with temperatures varying little more than 10-15 degrees between its summer and winter months. The two seasons are differentiated from each other mainly by the level of rainfall, with the rainy season running from May through October. The stable climate is marred only by the island's vulnerability to passing hurricanes. The unusually varied terrain is about 40% mountainous. The Sierra Maestra and smaller parallel ranges dominate the eastern provinces of Oriente and Camaguey. Cuba's highest mountain, Pico Turquino (over 6,500 feet), is located in the Sierra Maestra range. In Las Villas province, in the central part of the island, the Trinidad and Sancti-Spiritus ranges form the so-called Escambray. Lesser ranges are located in western Cuba. The island has no major lakes or rivers. Only eight percent of the land is forested. Cuba's most precious natural resource is probably her land. A red soil, ideal for sugarcane, is prevalent in Matanzas and Camaguey provinces. Mineral resources found in sufficient quantities to mine include: iron, copper, nickel, chromite, manganese, tungsten and asphalt. Since Cuba lacks fossil fuel, its industrial prospects are limited without reliance upon heavy imports.* Demographic 2/ Roughly the size of the state of Pennsylvania, Cuba supported a population of roughly 5,830,000 or 132 people per square mile in 1953. With a growth rate of 2.5 percent, the population had increased to an estimated 6,700,000 by 1960. There were only three other Latin American countries with comparable or higher population densities. *A favorable offshore geological structure may contain large oil and natural gas reserves. In 1953, the population of Cuba was estimated to be 30 percent white (mainly Creole), 20 percent mestizo (racially mixed), 49 percent black and one percent oriental. While a certain degree of racial discrimination and segregation was practiced in Cuba prior to the 1950's, race generally did not play a major causative role in any of the Cuban insurrections. Race, as an issue, was largely overshadowed by the existing class system. The upper-class, which was almost exclusively white, excluded nonwhites from its schools and clubs. Upper-middle-class whites generally avoided any type of contact with nonwhites except as in employer-employee relationships. Nonwhites were usually underrepresented in most professional clubs. Usually the only way nonwhites could gain any social prestige was through memberships in nonwhite societies, labor unions, or the Communist Party. Except for one incident in 1911, there were no serious racial incidents in Cuba by 1953. 3/ Historic 4/ Cuba was discovered and claimed for Spain by Christopher Columbus during his first voyage on October 26, 1492. Quickly settled under the guidance of its first governor, Diego Velasquez, the isle demonstrated a great deal of commerical promise until the mid-16th century. During this period considerable gold was found and farming was developed. After 1550, however, the island's internal development began to falter. Cuba's strategic location guarding the entrance to the Gulf of Mexico became far more important than its commerical value. She simply could not compete with the vast riches being envisioned and discovered further to the west. Consequently, Cuba became the political and military focal point for the Spanish exploration, conquest and colonization of the Caribbean Basin and North America. All Spanish convoys converged on Havana before dispersing throughout the Gulf or massing for the dangerous voyage back to Spain. Throughout the 17th and 18th centuries Cuba maintained her role as the epicenter of Spain's New World interests. The large Spanish population supported an effective militia, and the island was well garrisoned as a major military base. Subsidies from Mexico helped cover this expense as well as other costs connected with administration of the colony. As far as the European inhabitants of the island were concerned, with the possible exception of periodic foreign and pirate attacks, life during this period was good. During the early part of the 19th century, when most of the other Spanish colonies in South and Central America had risen in revolt, Cuba remained loyal. Her largely middle- class population was highly educated, prosperous and almost totally Spanish or Creole (Spaniards born in the New World). While slavery was present and becoming increasingly prevalent with the growth of the sugar cane industry, the large peasant class and/or slave population associated with insurrections in the other Spanish colonies did not exist. Moreover, administration of the island had been relatively liberal and quite benign since the French Bourbons had ascended to the Spanish throne in 1700. This era ended when Ferdinand VII was restored as King of Spain in 1814. Ferdinand's abandonment of the previous Bourbon policies quickly stimulated unrest, and the Cuban government became further centralized and militarized. In 1825, the governor was given extensive repressive powers based on a state of siege that existed following several minor revolts. Initiating a tendency that dogged them through every insurrection until Castro, Cubans in the mid-19th century were slow to revolt largely because they could not agree upon objectives. The desire to preserve slavery, the possiblity of increased trade, and pure intellectual ties led some to favor annexation to the United States. The U.S. Civil War dampened those sentiments, leaving most Creoles (the main source of dissatisfaction) to favor either autonomy, including reforms, within the Spanish Empire, or full independence. When it bacame clear in the 1860's that Spain was unwilling to let autonomy be a viable option, independence became the only realistic revolutionary course. The first major Cuban revolt against Spain began in 1868 and lasted for a decade. This has become known as the Ten Year's War. Led by Carlos Manuel de Cespedes, the Cuban revolutionaires won control over half the island before finally being defeated. The United States played a major role in support of the rebellion by providing the rebels with arms, supplies and a base for propaganda.* While the Pact of Zanjon, which ended the Ten Year's War, guaranteed that Spain would relax restrictions and improve conditions, Creole unrest remained. Small revolts in 1879-1880, 1884 and 1885 also failed. Cuban sugar exports were significantly reduced in 1894 when an increase in the U.S. tariff on sugar was announced. The resulting depression in the island's economy only served to deepen revolutionary fervor. In 1895, a political coalition, led by Jose Marti, renewed the insurrection. Interventionist sentiment and the mysterious sinking of the American battleship Maine in Havana's harbor on February 15, 1898, drew the United States into the Cuban struggle against Spain. The ensuing Spanish- American War marked the beginning of a close, though uneven, relationship between Cuba and the United States that was to continue until Castro's rise to power some 60 years later. With the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1898, Cuba was placed under the protection of the United States. Minimizing the contributions of the Cuban insurrectionists in the war with Spain, Washington initially refused to recognize the rebel government, preferring instead to occupy and Americanize the island. American occupation continued *During the succeeding decades, the United States was to repeat these roles many times. from 1898-1902 with only marginal success. Although an impressive public school system was initiated and health care standards were enforced, the local population was largely unsupportive of the U.S. presence. Recognizing the long-range futility of American control of the island, the United States initiated steps in June 1960, to establish a democratic government. Local elections for municipal offices were held under the protection of U.S. officials. in September of that same year, 31 delegates were elected to a Cuban Constitutional Convention that drafted the Cuban Constitution of 1901. However, the United States decided not to completely abandon Cuba. With the Congressional passage of the Platt Amendment in March 1901, the United States guaranteed itself the right to intervene in Cuban affairs whenever appropriate. 5/ Fearing an otherwise indefinite occupation, the Cuban Constitutional Convention reluctantly agreed to adopt the amendment as part of its Constitution of 1901. On May 20, 1902, the American occupation ended, and Tomas Estrada Palma, the first elected president of the new republic, took office. It was a day of national happiness tempered by concern that Cuba had not seen the last of U.S. interference. President Estrada Palma was honest and relatively effective. However, the discovery of his underhanded efforts to obtain a second term by inviting the United States to dispose of his political rivals led to a rebellion in 1906. Ironically, while Washington was not initially inclined to intervene based upon Estrada Palma's request, the outbreak of the rebellion forced a quick response. American Marines were dispatched to the island. This newest U.S. intervention, which lasted from 1906-1909, was heavily criticized by Cubans. From this time until 1933, Cuban Presidents and their political parties (Liberals and Conservatives) alternated in power without substantive changes in policy.* Both parties looked to the Platt Amendment as a potential way to avoid political defeat by obtaining U.S. military, economic or diplomatic intervention. The overall impact of Washington's protectionist role is best summarized in the following quote. As successor to Spain, as the overseer of the island's affairs, the United States unwittingly perpetuated the Cubans' lack of political responsibility. Cubans enjoyed the assurance that the United States would intervene to protect them from foreign entanglement or to solve their domestic difficulties, but the situation only encouraged their irresponsible and indolent attitude toward their own affairs and was not conducive to responsible self-government. 6/ Of the several Cuban presidents in office from 1902- 1933, Gerardo Machado (Liberal, 1924-1933) was by far the worst. His reliance on unscrupulous and often brutal tactics to remain in power, coupled with the worldwide sugar market collapse of 1930, aroused broad, popular opposition. As Cuba again teetered on the brink of insurrection, U.S. pressure forced Machado from office in 1933. That August, *Of the six elections held between 1908 and 1933, each of the parties won three. Carlos Manuel de Cespedes was appointed by the U.S. and the Cuban army to succeed Machado. His appointment was short- lived. Revolutionary student groups loosely confederated into an organization called the Directorio, had strongly supported reform through Machado's ouster. To them, Cespedes' regime represented an attempt to slow down the reformist movement that had been gathering momentum since the 1920's. Considering Cespedes merely a stooge of the United States, the Directorio, supported by several minority groups, was relentless in its opposition to the new president. Meanwhile, new unrest within the enlisted ranks of the Cuban army began to erode Cespedes' influence from another direction. Unhappy with both a proposed reduction in pay and an order restricting their promotions, the lower echelons of the army inivited representatives of the Directorio to meet with them at Camp Columbia in Havana on September 4, 1933. By the time the students arrived, enlisted members of the garrison at Camp Columbia had staged the so called "Sergeant's Revolt" and taken command. That same night, Cespedes handed over the Presidency to a five- member commission comprised of students and enlisted members of the Cuban army. The revolt of 1933 has been called the "thwarted revolution" because Cubans looked for, but failed to achieve, a rapid solution to economic and political problems. Their hopes resided in a new and younger group of leaders who believed, not unlike Franklin Roosevelt, that government must take a major role in reform. At the same time they also blamed Cuba's economic problems on the United States. Despite the problems and short duration, the 1933 revolution had a profound impact on subsequent Cuban development and events. University students had experienced political power and had stimulated an awareness among themselves and the general population of the need, and possibility, of rapid and drastic change. In addition, the revolution weakened U.S. domination of the Cuban economy and created opportunities for several sectors previously excluded from gaining a bigger share of the national wealth. Of perhaps the greatest importance was the fact that for the first time the Cuban army became a viable force in the governing of Cuba, and an obscure Sergeant by the name of Fulgencio Batista Y Zaldivar, leader of the Sergeant's Revolt, emerged as the self-appointed Chief of the armed Forces and architect of Cuba's future for many years. Of mixed racial ancestry (Caucasian, Negro and Chinese) and lower-class origin, Batista ruled Cuba from behind the scenes from 1934 to 1940. Acting through a succession of presidents that he personally appointed, Batista managed to secure Washington's agreement to the revocation of the Platt Amendment in 1934. He also supported the drafting of a liberal constitution in 1940, but never saw its precepts enforced while he was in office. The Constitution of 1940 was in many respects the embodiment of the aspirations of the 1933 revolt. For the first time Cuba had a constitution that reflected Cuban ideals and philosophy, rather than that of a foreign power. The president would serve only one term of four years. He could be reelected, but only after remaining out of office for eight years. Many civil liberties and social welfare provisions were defined at great length, and the government would play a strong role in social and economic development. Workers were guaranteed paid vacations, minimum wages and job tenure, with Cuban nationals favored over foreigners in the establishment of new industries. The autonomy of the University of Havana received full sanction, thus fulfilling one of the oldest student demands. Batista was the first president elected under the new constitution. Supported by a coalition of political parties, including the Communists, he assumed office in 1940. His administration (1940-1944) coincided with World War II, with Cuba declaring war on the Axis powers in 1941. Setting aside the 1940 constitution before it had even been executed, Batista declared martial law. Although Batista held wartime powers, his stewardship fell short of dictatorial. He maintained the support of the landed classes by guaranteeing tax concessions, and actively sought the backing of labor. He particularly catered to the left, allowing the communists relative freedom of action in return for their support. Although not particularly popular among the poor and some segments of the working class because of the war taxes he imposed, Batista's initial term as president brought a degree of solidarity and calm to Cuba that had not been experienced in decades. In 1944 and 1948, Batista permitted free elections, remaining discreetly in the background while Ramon Grau San Martin (1944-1948) and Carlos Prior Socarras (1948-1952) sought to fulfill the promises of 1933 and the Constitution of 1940. Unfortunately, neither of these Presidents -- both members of the Autentico (conservative) Party -- was able to completely remove the ubiquitous political corruption or solve Cuba's most serious economic problems. The sometimes stormy eight year period reached a perverse climax when Eduardo "Eddy" Chibas, demagogic leader of the opposition Ortodoxo (liberal) Party, committed suicide while conducting a weekly radio broadcast in 1951. This act was interpreted by many Cubans as a gesture of revulsion at the deplorable conditions that he had long criticized. Despite the turmoil, Cubans had reason to hope that free elections were moving their country toward democratic stability. Batista shattered those hopes, however, on March 10, 1952, when he executed a coup to prevent the approaching presidential elections. Batista had been precluded from running for reelection in either 1944 or 1948 by the Cuban Constitution. Contrary to his reputation, he smugly awaited the 1952 election. in the interim, he occupied himself by manipulating Cuban politics from behind the scenes and managing his business interests in Florida. When he began campaigning for reelection in 1952, however, Batista found that much of his old political support had eroded. Many Cubans still feared him, recalling his ruthless handling of political enemies and dissidents during the 1930's. As it became apparent that his candidacy had little chance of success, Batista called upon the one element of Cuban society that he still controlled -- the arms. Confronted with the spector of a military coup, elected officials decided to flee rather than fight, leaving Batista unopposed. When the shock of this unexpected takeover subsided, all political elements began to search for a way to return to constitutional democracy, but the two main political parties (Autentico and Ortodoxo) splintered, because their leaders could not agree on whether or not to organize armed resistance or negotiate with Batista for elections. Once again the Cuban stage was set for revolution. NOTES Chapter I: Background 1/ Priscilla A. Clapp, The Control of Local Conflict: Case Studies: Volume II (Latin America), (Washington, D.C.: ACDA, 1969), pp. 71-73. 2/ Wyatt MacGaffey and Clifford R. Barnett. Cuba: Its People, Its Society, Its Culture, (New Haven: HRAF Press, 1962), pp. 1835. 3/ Lowry Nelson. Rural Cuba, (Minneapolis: U. of Minnesota Press, 1950), p. 158. 4/ Unless otherwise noted, this historical survey is based on the following three sources: John Edwin Fagg, Cuba, Haiti & The Dominica Republic (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall, Inc., 1965), pp. 1-111; Hudson Strode, The Pageant of Cuba (New York: Harrison Smith and Robert Haas, 1934), pp. 3-342; and Jaime Suchlicki, Cuba From Columbus to Castro (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1974), pp. 3- 174. 5/ Strode, op. cit., pp. 343-344. The complete text of the Amendment is cited. The Platt Amendment also gave the United States the right to establish naval bases. Quantanamo Naval Base, acquired in 1903, is a direct result. 6/ Jaime Suchlicki,op. cit., p. 105. CHAPTER II: INDUCING FACTORS TO REVOLUTION Virtually all popular revolutions have had their roots in economic, social, political or military gievances. Cuba was no exception. Chapter I offered a general overview of historic conditions leading to Batista's 1952 coup. From those conditions, Chapter II will isolate and explore the factors which set the stage for Castro's insurrection. Economic 1/ Foreign Control of the Economy. As noted in Chapter I, Spanish administration of Cuba in the 18th and early 19th centuries had been relatively liberal. Economic reform measures instituted during the same period launched Cuba into rapid economic expansion with new sugar markets both in Europe and North America. Cuban economic prosperity ended, however, when Ferdinand VII assumed the Spanish throne and established restrictive trade measures and heavy taxation, all designed to protect Spanish goods from foreign competition. The brunt of these restrictions fell mainly on Cuban landowners. Moreover, Ferdinand's return heralded the resurgence of Spanish control over the Cuban economy, thus creating another source of irritation to Cuban landowners. The combination of these two circumstances eventually drove the landowners to ally themselves with middle-class groups in support of a Cuban independence movement in the 1890's. One consequence of this movement was the Spanish-American War. Following the Spanish-American War, Cuba's economic base remained primarily in agriculture, with sugar the largest cash crop. Commerce maintained a distant second place, while manufacturing and food processing were virtually nonexistent. With the United States emerging from the war as both Cuba's protector and primary trade partner, Washington was under considerable pressure from American business groups to annex the island purely for economic reasons. Although the U.S. government resisted these urgings, the fact that Cuba represented an excellent capital outlet for American investors certainly could not be ignored. Consequently, as U.S. investments in Cuba increased in the early 1900's, the United States increasingly became a stabilizing force in Cuban affairs, as much for the protection of American lives and business interests as for strategic considerations. The controversial Platt Amendment became the political solution to America's duel economic and strategic concerns in Cuba. As U.S. investments rose from $205 million in 1911 to $919 million in 1929, American businessmen often sought the implementation of the amendment for the protection of their interests. 2/ Indeed, most of the military interventions by the United States in Cuba during this period arose from concerns that American economic interests were being threatened. American investments in Cuba began to decline sharply following the 1929 stock market crash. Cuban prosperity of the 1920's was dashed by the world-wide financial crisis that followed. In an effort to stabilize Cuba's economy and rekindle American investments, Washington and Cuba signed a trade agreement in 1934. This agreement reduced U.S. tariffs and sugar quotas, and guaranteed Cuba higher than world market prices for its sugar crop. Between 1935 and 1959, Cuban-American economic ties remained relatively stable. American commitments totaled approximately $713 million by 1954, and between $800 million and $1 billion by 1958. 3/ The United States, as a market for sugar and a source of imports, continued to carry much influence in Cuba. In 1955, for example, the U.S. purchased 73.4 percent of Cuba's total exports, while Cuba obtained 68.9 percent of her imports from the United States. 4/ At that time, sugar and sugar by-products accounted for 79.8 percent of Cuba's exports. 5/ American business interests by the mid-1950's controlled over half of Cuba's public railroads, about 40 percent of her sugar production and over 90 percent of her utilities (telephone and electric). 6/ Cuba's efforts to institute tariffs to protect her fledgling non-sugar industries were generally unsuccessful because Cuban producers, attempting to establish themselves in these areas, were never able to compete with the quality of American-made goods. In summation, it is significant to note that while Cuban-American economic ties brought obvious prosperity to limited segments of the island's population, they did so only at the expense of Cuba's national potential and economic independence. Land Reform. During the early colonial period, 'Spain awarded large land tracts (haciendas) to certain colonists. Spain later attempted to reverse this trend in the late 18th and early 19th centuries by subdividing some of the haciendas into small tracts and selling them in odd sized parcels. Most were purchased by business groups, some remained in the hands of large landholders and a few were bought by small-scale farmers. Unfortunately, economic and technological factors of the time worked to countermand this first attempt at agrarian reform. During the same period, the sugar industry began its rapid expansion into a position of extreme dominance in the Cuban economy. The application of steampower plus other technological advances, both increased the efficiency of sugar production and opened new markets. The Cuban sugar industry received its greatest boost in the late 19th century when a precipitous drop in steel prices made the construction of railroads on the island financially feasible. Until then, the antiquated means of transporting sugar cane had limited mill size and production. Railroads greatly increased the territory that an individual mill could support. This breakthrough convinced most sugar corporations that the way to increase profits was to assume control over all aspects of sugar production, from the field through the mill. Accordingly, throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries, these corporations launched major efforts to acquire their own land. Small sugar cane farmers were largely eliminated in this process. Those that resisted were either coerced to sell or bludgeoned with he Cuban legal system until hey acquiesced. As a result, although sugar production increased markedly between 1877 and 1915, the number of mills decreased from 1,190 to 170. Meanwhile, the sugar corporations and large landowners increased their control of Cuba's agricultural land to over 76 percent. 7/ Throughout the 1920's, and particularly during the Depression, various Cuban political groups agitated for agrarian reform. Their demands concentrated primarily on greater government control over the sugar corporations and redistribution of the large estates among the landless. These very issues were among the major causative factors leading to the 1933 Revolution and the ouster of President Machado. A series of sugar control acts enacted during the mid and late 1930's followed, but the politically powerful landowners and sugar corporations saw little actual loss of control. A provision in the 1940 Cuban Constitution designed to fragment the large estates was equally ineffective since it was never enforced. President Batista and his successors valued the support of the wealthy land- owners too much to alienate them by executing this particular law. Agrarian reform remained a major issue into the 1950's when Fidel Castro used the simple appeal that those who farmed the land should own it. However, Castro's position on agricultural reform did not gain him significant support from the Cuban peasants until the end of his revolt. Many peasants never had an opportunity to hear his ideas until the later phases of the conflict, and those that did usually did not understand them because they were couched in such heavy revolutionary rhetoric. Nevertheless, Castro continued to propagandize the evils of Batista's agricultural policies throughout the revolt, using his own reformist ideas as part of his revolutionary platform. Unemployment. Because of Cuba's one crop economy, thousands of Cubans faced several months of unemployment every year. Potential full employment existed only 4 to 6 months of the year when sugar was being harvested and brought to the mills. The spector of a bad harvest or low world demand for sugar only served to compound the problem. Sugar workers, unable to find other work during the off- season, were reduced to living on credit or asking for handouts to survive. This situation was more severe in the rural areas where alternate jobs were not available. Moreover, rural workers frequently migrated to the cities in search of employment, where they helped worsen the situation in urban areas. They often settled in city slums, usually becoming a source of political unrest and agitation. U.S. Department of Commerce figures indicate that 400,000 - 450,000 workers (over 20 percent of the work force) were unemployed during the 1952 off-season. At the peak of the 1953 harvest, 174,000, or eight percent, were still looking for work. 8/ Labor fared very badly during the late 1920's and early 1930's when Cuba's economy was in the doldrums. Government attempts to stabilize the economy often eliminated the few existing worker protections. Labor unions were illegal, and labor organizers were often prosecuted and imprisoned. Conditions became so intolerable by 1933 that many workers struck against the government, helping to overthrow President Machado. Batista eventually checked the revolutionary tendency of the labor movement by legalizing labor unions and promising concessions to their organizers. 9/ Urban labor conditions improved dramatically under Batista's tutelage, as many social and labor measures (minimum wage, vacations, bonuses, working hours, medical benefits) were incorporated into the 1940 Constitution. However, labor conditions for rural workers remained largely unchanged as the unemployment situation was not realistically addressed. Ironically, the advent of labor unions and their often excessive demands tended to lead many companies into bankruptcy and stymie the growth of others. Obviously, such instances only served to deepen the unemployment situation. Social Class System. Not unlike most countries emerging from colonial rule, Cuba had a fairly well entrenched class system, loosely defined by economic stature. The upper- class consisted of the landed and moneyed class, owners of businesses and plantations, remnants of the old elite or self-made individuals who had amassed their wealth through a combination of business and politics. At the opposite end of the spectrum was the lower-class, most who made their living in the fields and factories of the country. Professionals, small merchants, army officers and government workers occupied the levels between the above extremes, and generally comprised the middle-class. Upward mobility from the lower-class, especially the rural lower-class, was difficult at best. The period 1933- 1959 saw some improvement in the lot of urban workers because of the aforementioned labor movements. In isolated instances, industrial workers or their offspring were able to move into the lower-middle-class through education opportunities. Interestingly, social conditions during the 1956-1959 insurrection against Batista were considerably better than they had ever been. General worldwide prosperity, plus the demands of the Korean War, kept Cuba's sugar exports high. During this same period wage earners were receiving the biggest share of the national income they had ever experienced, 65 percent between 1950 and 1954. Per capita income, while not high by U.S. standards, averaged $312 per year, ranking as one of the highest in Latin America at the time. 10/ Consequently, while Cuba was certainly no economic paradise, it is not surprising that the insurrection garnered little support from the well- organized, politically-influential labor unions and the industrial workers they represented. Middle-class intellectuals, on the other hand, unhappy with their economic position and frustrated by their inability to breach the political power held by the upper- class, were a frequent source of revolutionary spirit in Cuba.* In Cuba, upward mobility was marked by education; lower-class and lower-middle-class aspirations were fueled by it. A good education leading to a degree as a lawyer, doctor or teacher was virtually the only way an individual could hope to improve his economic position. Paradoxically, the undiversified nature of the Cuban economy often forced these newly trained, middle-class professionals to settle for occupations far below the levels for which they were qualified. This under-employment was a constant source of frustration for individuals so afflicted; it not only cost them wealth, but more importantly, deprived them of the *This is not unique to Cuba. For example, the American, French, and Russian revolutions all had their roots in the middle-class. prestige they thought they deserved. Inevitably, these professionals were frequently dissatisfied with their society and often sought to change it, usually through some sort of revolutionary movement. Thus, every Cuban insurrection from the mid-1800's onward was lead by individuals and segments from the middle-class who had the intellectual ability, education, and skills to provide the appropriate organization, leadership, articulation of goals, and action.* The impracticality of many of the idealistic programs espoused by the middle-class doomed most of their movements to failure even before they had started. Their general lack of ability to institute those programs on which they had risen to power only seemed to hasten the return of other, more oppressive forms of government. The frustration and disillusionment resulting from their failures usually laid the ground work for future movements. Understandably, the cyclical nature of these revolutions and counter-revolutions tended to destabilize and fragment Cuban politics from the 1860's to 1959. Urbanization. The rapid expansion of the sugar corporations in the early 1900's gave tremendous impetus to urban growth. As small landowners and tenant farmers were *Even Castro's organization, which purported to have strong rural roots, actually had very little active support from the rural lower-class until the last days of the insurrection. It was, in fact, composed almost totally of members of the middle-class. displaced by land appropriation schemes and mill modernizations, they began to seek other jobs and higher wages in the cities. Thus, by 1953, residents of Cuban cities and bateyes (small communities established near sugar mills) accounted for 57% of the total population. 11/ Disappointed by what they found upon arrival in the cities, these new urban migrants formed the core of the labor movement that ousted President Machado in 1933. The new government established by Batista took a much greater interest in their plight. Legislation was passed that offered these new urbanities more security than they had had previously in either the city or the country. As a result, the guarantees provided a stabilizing force in the Cuban society; urban workers generally supported the incumbent government, as evidenced by their refusal to join the called general strikes against Batista in the mid-1950's. Thus, contrary to classic Marxist theory, the rural Cubans who elected not to move toward urbanization were the most susceptible to Castro's appeals. This occurred for one basic reason: the rural poor generally did not benefit from the economic improvements their city brethren had won. Political Latin American constitutions have often been filled with idealistic goals which in reality were too difficult to attain. The Cuban Constitutions of 1901 and 1940, and subsequent revisions of the electorial codes, were no exceptions. All were written in such a way as to allow wide popular participation in the electorial process. However, political realities such as "personalismo" (personality cults), jealous rivalries, unlawful political pressure, and occasional applications of force, kept Cuba's political process in constant turmoil. Political parties not in power were suspicous of the incumbent's promises and intentions; ruling and opposition parties, usually loyal to leaders rather than ideals, frequently splintered; and alliances between political groups for purely practical reasons (usually political survival) seldom endured. 12/ The government of Cuba, sustaining the Spanish tradition, was rarely free of graft between 1902 and 1959. Its primary function as a means by which politicians could achieve wealth and status understandably made incumbents reluctant to reform the system which perpetuated their own longevity and interests. Consequently, even Cuba's most elementary economic and social problems were seldom addressed, and constitutional processes and provisions were usually bypassed or ignored. With this type of political climate engrained in Cuban society, it is not dificult to understand how Batista was twice able to easily grab power. Military Since their inception following independence in 1902, the Cuban armed forces, to include the police, were organized to control internal disorders rather than fight major battles or wars. It is not an exaggeration to say that whoever controlled the military, controlled the government. When Batista seized power in 1933, for example, he owed his success to the armed forces. In turn, they eventually owed their wealth, position and privileges to him. Batista never forgot his military roots and continually nurtured the support of the military even after he left office in 1944. Although Presidents Grau San Martin and Prio Socarras each altered the composition of the high command to install men more loyal to themselves, no serious effort was made to undermine the basic military structure or budgetary support that Batista had carefully built. Consequently, when Batista decided to stage his 1952 coup, Cuba's armed forces were quick to help reestablish their benefactor. By the mid-1950's the Cuban armed forces had become a class unto themselves. They were superior in numbers and weapons to any opposition force. 13/ They influenced every segment of Cuban society and were more powerful than any political party. Over time they had grown to represent everything that was repressive about Batista's government, because they were the enforcers of his policies and purges. Castro eventually came to realize that this symbiotic relationship between Batista and his armed forces made political, social or economic change impossible unless one resorted to violence. NOTES Chapter II: Inducing Factors to Revolution 1/ Unless otherwise noted, material on the economic background of Cuba is from: Robert F. Smith. The United States and Cuba: Business and Diplomacy, 1917-1960, (New York: Bookmen Associated, 1960). 2/ Foreign Area Studies Division, Special Warfare Area Handbook for Cuba, (Washington, D.C.: SORO, 1961), p. 503. 3/ Ibid., p. 37. 4/ Smith, op. cit., p. 166. 5/ U.S. Department of Commerce. Investment in Cuba: Basic Information for United States Businessmen, (Washing- ton, D.C.: GPO, 1956), p. 139. 6/ Ibid., p. 10. 7/ Smith, op. cit., p. 175. 8/ Department of Commerce, op. cit., p. 23. 9/ Lowry Nelson, Rural Cuba, (Minneapolis: U. of Minnesota Press, 1950), pp. 88-92. 10/ Department of Commerce, op. cit., p. 184. 11/ Ibid., p. 178. 12/ Foreign Area Studies Division, op. cit., p. 356. 13/ Adrian H. Jones and Andrew R. Molnar. Internal Defense Against Insurgency: Six Cases, (Washington, D.C.: SSRI, The American University, 1966), p. 69. By the late 1950's, Cuba's armed forces, to include police and para- military, numbered between 30,000 and 40,000 men. They were considered to be well-armed, at least in relation to their traditional role. Their equipment included tanks and half- tracks, both of which were periodically used against Castro's insurgents. The Cuban Air Force had about 65 aircraft, including both fighters and bombers. CHAPTER III: CASTRO'S INSURRECTION Castro's insurrection began in July 1953 with his attack on the Moncada Fortress in Oriente Province, and ended in January 1959 when President Batista was forced to leave the country. During the intervening years, Fidel Castro planned, organized and executed a guerrilla war that brought about the defeat of one of the largest and best and well-equipped armed forces in Latin America. Chapter III provides a chronological account of that period beginning with brief biographical sketches of the two primary antagonists. The Sergeant and the Attorney In the tradition of the Spanish, Cubans have long sought to choose their leaders based on the cults of "personalismo" (personality) or "caudillo" (charismatic leader). Perhaps the two finest examples of that tradition are the two Cubans who shaped Cuba's destiny from 1933 to the present: Fulgencio Batista Y Zaldivar and Fidel Castro Ruz. A better understanding of their power struggle during the 1950's can be acquired if background on their origin is noted. The two men facing each other in the Cuban ring were completely different both physically and mentally. Batista was fifty-two and Castro twenty- seven when the attack on the Moncada took place. The President was short, with an olive complexion and mestizo features, while his opponent was tall, athletic and fair skinned. Batista was an ordinary soldier, though he promoted himself from sergeant to general. Castro was a lawyer, more interested in social causes than in bourgeois litigation. The President had been born in Oriente, like Castro, but while Batista came from a very humble home, the rebel had been born into a comfortably-off landowning family. 1/ Batista. 2/ The son of Belisario and Carmela Batista, Fulgencio Batista was born in the sugar town of Banes in early 1901. His parents were peasants and descendants of the Bany Indians of Oriente province. His father had been a sergeant in the Cuban Army of Liberation and fought against the Spanish during the Spanish American War. Belisario Batista began work in the early 1900's for the United Fruit Company as a cane cutter, and Fulgencio learned from his father the rigors of dawn to dusk work in the fields. Intent on receiving an education, Fulgencio attended both public night school and a day school ("Los Amigos") run by American Quaker missionaries. At night school he learned to read and write Spanish; at Los Amigos he mastered speaking and writing English. By the time he was 20, Batista had held jobs as a cane-cutter, wood cutter, store attendant, planter, carpenter and railroad brakeman. In classical Marxist terms, his class origins made him an excellent prospect to become a communist revolutionary. At age 20, Batista enlisted in the army to gain experience and see the world. He was initially assigned to the Fourth Infantry Division based at Camp Columbia in Havana. At first, he planned to use his free time to train as an attorney, but discovered that he had to have a high school diploma. Undaunted, he enrolled in the San Mario academy night school to become a speedtypist and stenographer. In 1923, Batista passed his examination for corporal and in 1926, that for sergeant. Upon promotion to sergeant he was assigned as a recorder to the Councils of War of the Cuban War Department. While there, he discovered and quickly assimilated the arts of political power and class privilege. Educated in the full range of the human condition in the Cuba of the early 1900's as few men were, Batista saw his chance for power and influence after the ouster of President Machado. Without hesitation, he led soldiers, corporals and sergeants in a revolt against their military superiors. Batista's mutiny was supported throughout the armed forces. Corrupt officers made its success inevitable. On September 4, 1933, Batista was turned overnight into a Colonel, and Chief of the Cuban Armed Forces. As Chief of the Cuban Armed Forces, Batista soon realized the power of his position. President Machado had resigned as had his U.S. appointed successor, President Cespedes. The five member commission that ruled the country (of which Batista was a member) was having a very difficult time reestablishing the government. After several weeks of watching the new government struggle, Batista finally seized upon the situation, used his military position to ensure success and assumed de facto control of the government. He believed that Cuba had discarded its colonial status only to become a pawn of foreign capitalism. Advocating sweeping social, economic and political reforms, he tried to build the Cuba the 1898 revolution had envisioned. The Cuban Constitution of 1940 reflected most of Batista's ideas, although, like the previous Cuban Constitution of 1902; it was more idealistic than practical. Elected president in 1940, Batista never really had a chance to enact the constitution he supported. War time powers temporarily set aside constitutional guarantees until 1944, when his term ended. Consequently, most of the long awaited reforms sought during the 1933 revolution had to wait until 1945 to be instituted. While the 1940-1944 period was not particularly oppressive from economic and social viewpoints, a considerable amount of political division arose about what was best for Cuba. Through it all, Batista emerged remarkably unscathed. He had become an inspiration to the poor because of his humble beginnings and "bootstraps" rise to power, and an idol to his soldiers because he had lifted them from poverty through rapid promotions, increased salaries and benefits, and no modicum of class privilege. In 1952, Batista knew that his chances for reelection were poor; he was generally not attuned with Cuban politics after having spent several years living in the United States managing his business interests, and was running seriously behind in the polls. However, he also knew that his strong- man image could easily frighten the incumbent government as well as gain the unconditional support of the regular army. Batista correctly guessed that wealthy businessmen, peasants and workers would not be threatened by any coup he led. With little fanfare, Fulgencio Batista entered Camp Columbia, the principal garrison of Havana, on March 10, 1952. in less than 12 hours he had deposed President Prio Socarras and assumed control of the government; not a shot was fired. He swept aside the prevailing political parties since none was led by anyone who had the political seniority or wherewithall to oppose him. Yet, for all his political astuteness, Batista made one mistake; he underestimated the mental frame of mind of a generation of young, middle-class Cubans who were tired of political cynicism and ready for a fresh revolutionary start. Batista has stated that he returned to politics and staged the 1952 coup because he was the only Cuban leader who could restore the country to the path directed by the 1946 Constitution. This altruistic rationale is arguable for two reasons. First, Batista's support for the 1940 Constitution was always closely aligned with some sort of political gain that helped solidify his power. World War II conviently precluded him from ever having to make good his support. Second, Batista's actions following his 1952 coup were generally not those of a man interested in promoting the general welfare of his constituents. While he had numerous opportunities to install some of the political and land reforms that the Constitution guaranteed, he instead chose to provide the country with cronyism, repression and corruption. The idealism that Batista espoused in the 1930's was replaced by personal aggradizement in the 1950's. Ironically, while he had been viewed by many as a caudillo (charismatic leader) in 1933, he was seen as just another usurper in 1952. Castro. Fidel Castro Ruz was born on August 13, 1927, in Biran, Oriente province, about 40 miles form Batista's birthplace. 3/ His father, Angel Castro Y Argiz, was a Galician who had come to Cuba as a soldier with the Spanish army in 1898. Upon demobilization, Angel Castro elected to stay on the island, subsequently working for the United Fruit Company that also employed Belisario Batista. Unlike Belisario, Angel became an overseer for United Fruit and in 1920, sold the company a strategic piece of land, for which he was handsomely paid. That sale maked the beginning of Angel Castro's prosperity and eventual movement into the upper-middle-class. In Fidel Castro's own words: I was born into a family of landowners in comfortable circumstances. We were considered rich and treated as such. I was brought up with all the privileges attendant to a son in such a family. Everyone lavished attention on me, flattered, and treated me differently from the other boys we played with when we were children. These other children went barefoot while we wore shoes; they were often hungry; at our house, there was always a squabble at the table to get us to eat. 4/ By his first marriage, Angel had two children, Lidia and Pedro Emilio. Following the death of his first wife, he married his house servant, Lina Ruz Gonzales, by whom fathered seven more: Angela, Agustina, Ramon, Fidel, Raul, Ernma and Juana. Fidel and those born before him were actually illegitimate as Angel did not marry Lina until sometime after Fidel's birth. 5/ Of Fidel's eight brothers and sisters, only Raul, who linked his fate to Fidel from the beginning, was to play an important part in Cuban affairs. At age seven, Fidel began his primary education at the Colegio La Salle, a Jesuit school in Santiago de Cuba. He later attended the Colegio Dolores, also a Jesuit institution, from which he graduated in 1942. That same year, at age sixteen, Fidel enrolled at the Colegio Belen in Havana, the most exclusive Jesuit school in the country. At Belen his best subjects were Agriculture, Spanish and History. In 1944, he was voted "the best school athlete." 6/ Fidel graduated the next year. In his school yearbook it was noted: 1942-1945. Fidel distinguished himself always in all subjects related to letters. His record was one of excellence, he was a true athlete, always defending with bravery and pride the flag of the school. He has known how to win the admiration of all. He will make law his career and we do not doubt that he will fill with brilliant pages the book of his life. He has good timber and the actor in him will not be lacking. 7/ A prophetic description indeed, but wrong on one count; revolution and the leaderhip of Cuba, instead of law, would become Fidel's vocation Castro entered the University of Havana in the autumn of 1945. As his school yearbook had predicated, he chose law as his course of study. Of Fidel's early university career Theodore Draper observed: Fidel Castro was a classic case of the self-made rich man's son in a relatively poor country for whom the university was less an institution of learning or a professional-training school than a nursery of hothouse revolutionaries. He chose a field of study in which the standards were notoriously low, the pressure to study minimal, and his future profession already overcrowded. Since he did not have any real needs to satisfy in the school, did not respect his teachers, and could get by on his wits and retentive memory, he was easily tempted to get his more meaningful and exciting experiences in extra-school political adventures. 8/ Starting a political career while still a young man was somewhat of a Cuban tradition, so Fidel was not particularly unique. Perhaps what did make him standout, however, was the intensity with which he pursued political goals. In Fidel's words: From all indications, I was born to be a politician, to be a revolutionary. When I was eighteen, I was, politically speaking, illiterate. Since I didn't come from a family of politicians or grow up in a political atmosphere, it would have been impossible for me to carry out a revolutionary role, or an important revolutionary apprenticeship, in a relatively brief time, had I not had a special calling. When I entered the university, I had no political background whatsoever. Until then I was basically interested in other things, for instance, sports, trips to the countryside -- all kinds of outlets that provided an outlet for my unbounded natural energy. I think that is where my energy, my fighting spirit, was channeled in those days. At the university, I had the feeling that a new field was opening for me. I started thinking about my country's political problems -- almost without being conscious of it. I spontaneously started to feel a certain concern, an interest in social and political questions. 9/ Only two years after he first enrolled at the University, Fidel became involved in with an attempted coup d'etat. In 1947, he joined a group of revolutionaries who were planning the overthrow of the Dominican Republic's dictator, General Rafael L. Trujillo. The exiled Dominican, General Juan Rodriquez, was paying the expenses, and the invasion had the tacit support of Cuba's President Ramon Grau San Martin. While final preparations were being made in Oriente Province, the Dominican delegate to a meeting of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Pan-American Union in Petropolis, Brazil, accused the Cuban government of mounting an invasion of his country. Documentation of his accusation clearly showed that the security of the plan had been broken. Grau San Martin, embarrassed that these covert plans had been discovered, ordered the Cuban Navy to intercept the would-be expeditionaries. The Navy did manage to apprehend the group at sea, but Fidel was able to escape by swimming to shore with a tommy-gun slung round his neck. This setback, like others Castro was to experience in the future, only seemed to inspire Fidel with more political dedication. The planned coup was really nothing more than a personality shift. While Trujillo's regime was extremely repressive, Rodriquez did not offer much of an alternative. Grau San Martin, as a democratic reformist, apparently supported the coup because of its potential for change. Although little is known about Castro's reasons for joining the expedition, he evidently did so out of a sense of adventure. At the University he quickly acquired the reputation of a rabble-rouser. He frequently spoke out against repression, communism and dictatorships. Fidel already saw himself as the champion of the oppressed; the Dominican Republic expedition was an extension of that fervor. His participation was particularly significant because it marked the first time that he became actively involved in a revolutionary cause. Castro returned to the University. However, less than a year after the abortive attempt to overthrow Trujillo, he was on the way to Bogota, Colombia, as a delegate to the Anti-Colonist, Anti-Imperialist, Student Congress that was assembling to demonstrate at the 9th Conference of the Pan- American Union.* On the opening day of the conference, the popular Colombian Liberal Party leader, Jorge Gaitan, was murdered while on his way to make a speech. His assassination enraged liberal student groups who quickly began to take violent actions against Gaitan's enemies. With the Pan-American Conference in disarray and the Colombian *The Student Congress was sponsored by Colombian liberal leaders (non-communists) who wanted to see less American influence in Latin America. capital on the verge of total anarchy, Colombia's President called the waring factions together and secured an agreement to end the fighting. Student groups were accused of instigating the disruption, so Castro and his delegation were forced to take refuge in the Cuban embassy. They were later smuggled out and returned to Cuba aboard an aircraft that was transporting cattle. Castro's role in the "Bogotazo," as the riot became known, has apparently never been clearly defined, other than to say that it matched his previous pattern of supporting liberal causes. After his return to the University, Castro married fellow-student, Mirtha Diaz Balart. They then had a son, Fidelito, born in 1949. Fidel became President of the Association of Law Students that same year and eventually graduated with a law degree in 1950. Following graduation, Fidel established a law partnership with two other attorneys. However, his proclivity to accept cases with social or political notoriety brought him little monetary reward, although they did gain him considerable publicity. Meanwhile, Castro was attracted by the anti-government corruption platform of Eduardo "Eddy" Chibas and his Ortodoxo Party. Fidel joined the Party and shortly afterwards became a Congressional candidate for one of the Havana districts in the approaching 1952 elections. He was precluded from ever actually standing for the June 1st election by Batista's March 10th coup. Immediately following Batista's coup, activists in Havana began to plan his ouster, Fidel Castro among them. He first appealed to the Court of Constitutional Guarantees on the ground that the dictator was violating the 1940 Constitution. A few days later he petitioned the Emergency Court of Havana on the same grounds, noting that Batista had so undermined and violated the Cuban Constitution that he was liable to serve over 100 years in prison. Only the Court of Constitutional Guarantees responded, rejecting Castro's petition by noting that "revolution is the fount of law" and that since Batista had regained power by revolutionary means, he could not be considered an unconstitutional President. 10/ As a "former" radical student organizer and Congressional candidate, Castro was under periodic government surveillance. Nevertheless, frustrated by Batista's coup and his fruitless legal attempts to countermand it, Fidel joined with Abel Santamaria Cuadrado to form a loose revolutionary organization of approximately 200 students.* Their first priority was to get weapons. Over the course of the next few months they purchased shotguns and .22 caliber semi-automatic rifles at various armories. At the same time, they began planning and training for a raid on one of the regular army's garrisons. *Santamaria was an accountant employed by General Motors (Pontiac) of Cuba and assistant editor of El Acusador, a revolutionary paper. Their plan was to seize the type and number of heavy weapons and ammunition they would need to carry-out an effective insurrection. After months of preparation, Castro and Santamaria decided to attack the military garrisons of Santiago and Bayamo in Oriente province. Moncada Fortress in Santiago was to be the main target, with the attack on the army post in Bayamo a diversion. Fidel did not intend to occupy Moncada, only to seize the weapons and ammunition in the armory, and withdraw. Ninety-five rebels were allotted to the task. Armed only with shotguns and .22 caliber rifles, and dressed in Khaki uniforms to blend with the regular forces, Castro's men relied heavily upon surprise. Once they had established control over the two garrisons, Fidel hoped the regular troops would join the anti-Batista movement. He planned to distribute the weapons to the revolutionary supporters that he envisioned were everywhere, thus presenting Batista with a fait d' accompli. Moncada 11/ The attack led by Fidel Castro on the Moncada Barracks in Santiago de Cuba on July 26, 1953, has a similar significance for the Cuban Revolution as the fall of the Bastille eventually had for the French Revolution. In both cases, their signifi- cance was symbolic, not practical, and they were made important by the events that came after. 12/ At 5:15 a.m. on July 26, 1953, the attempt to seize Moncada Fortress began. After staging at a farm just outside Santiago, Castro's advance force surprised the sentries at one of the gates and entered the fort undetected. Unfortunately, the main body of the force was not so lucky. Because of poor reconnaissance, the majority of the rebels were unfamiliar with either the layout of the fort or the streets of Santiago. Approaching in small groups or in cars, several lost their way without even reaching the fort. Castro's car accidently came face-to- face with an army patrol; the firefight that resulted alerted the rest of the barracks. The one group that did penetrate the fort found themselves occupying the barber shop rather than the armory. Realizing that futher attack was hopeless, Fidel ordered a withdrawal. Remarkably, until this point, only seven rebels had become casualties, against some 50 soldiers. In the military pursuit that followed, however, approximately 70 rebels were killed (including Abel Santamaria), with most of the casualties occurring after they had surrendered. The small group that had attempted to capture Bayamo were equally unsuccessful. Over half of the group of 27 rebels who were captured, were shot. Fidel, his brother Raul, and a few others managed to escape to the Sierra Maestra Mountains. They were eventually captured there, but not harmed because of the compassion of Lieutenant Pedro Manuel Sarria who knew Fidel from their university days. In the subsequent trials, Castro and the other survivors were sentenced to prison on the Isle of Pines for terms ranging from six months to 15 years. During the trial, Fidel spoke in his own defense for five hours, voicing a general program of reform. He concluded his remarks with: I have reached the end of my defense, but I will not do what all lawyers do, asking freedom for the accused. I cannot ask that, when my companions are already suffering in the ignominious prison of the Isle of Pines. Send me to join them and to share their fate. It is understandable that men of honor should be dead or prisoners in a Republic whose President is a criminal and a thief ... As for me, I know that prison will be harder for me than it ever has been for anybody, filled with threats, ruin and cowardly deeds of rage, but I do not fear it, as I do not fear the fury of the wretched tyrant who snuffed out the lives of seventy brothers of mine. Condemn me. It does not matter. History will absolve me. 13/ Following the trials and flushed by his victory, Batista restored constitutional guarantees and lifted censorship. For the first time, the Cuban people were able to hear the uncensored version of what had happened at Moncada and the accusations of Fidel Castro at the trials. As a result, Castro became somewhat of a martyr among the anti-Batista forces. Batista, meanwhile, ordered new elections for November 1, 1954, offering himself as a candidate with his own election platform. The main opposition candidate was former president Ramon Grau San Martin. Initially subsidized and encouraged by Batista, Grau San Martin became convinced that Batista had no intention of holding fair elections. Forty-eight hours before the election he withdrew his candidacy, leaving Batista virtually unopposed. Batista won easily, and on February 24, 1955, began a new four-year term-of-office as Cuba's President. Movimiento 26 de Julion (26th of July Movement) Isle of Pines. The convicted survivors of Moncada, among them Fidel and Raul Castro, were imprisoned on the Isle of Pines in October 1953. The Moncada group resolved to continue their revolutionary plotting while incarcerated, and reorganize and train in Mexico upon their release. Moncada, they reasoned, had made them national heros, and martyrs; to give up short of victory would shame those who had already died. Shortly after his arrival, Fidel organized a school in which he was the sole instructor. He found a willing group of students among the veterans of Moncada and the uneducated peasants who were being held prisoner. Fidel's classes ranged from history to philosophy, encompassing contemporary politics and social issues along the way. He even taught weapons training (without weapons). The school passed the time and gave him an excellent opportunity to keep the revolutionary spark alive and plan for the future. Schools of this sort were not uncommon at the Isle of Pines because the prison was used primarily for political prisoners. The prison was considered to be a "minimum security" installation; prisoners were often left to their own devices. However, Castro's school stirred such strong revolutionary fervor among the inmates that it was eventually closed down, and Fidel was placed in solitary confinement. 15/ Meanwhile, with Batista's position again assured after the 1955 elections, several political leaders demanded the release of political prisoners. Batista at first turned a deaf ear. However, once approved by the Cuban House of Representatives, Batista relented and granted amnesty to all political prisoners on May 13, 1955.* Two days later, Fidel Castro and the other survivors of Moncada were released. The Moncada veterans were greeted by their families and friends at the prison gates, and welcomed throughout the Isle of Pines. ** A warm reception followed at the railway station when they arrived in Havana. Everyone wanted to see and hear Fidel Castro. Both the radio and television services were after him and flattering offers ... 16/ It was not long, however, before Castro was reinforced in his conviction that he would never unseat Batista if he remained in Cuba.*** Every attempt he made to address the people at organized rallies, on television or on the radio *He justified his decision on the grounds that these men no longer posed a threat to his power following the elections. **Fidel's wife and son were not present. She and Fidel had become estranged several years before, partially because Fidel could not support her in the upper-middle-class style with which she was accustomed, and partially because her brother was a close friend and confident of Batista. ***Castro had actually made the decision to leave Cuba while still in prison. was thwarted. Finally, the combination of government suppression and his uncertain leadership position within the Ortodoxo Party induced Fidel to leave for Mexico in July 1955, thus implementing the plan he had formulated in prison. 17/ In a letter to a friend just prior to his departure, Castro observed: I am packing for my departure from Cuba, but I have had to borrow money even to pay for my passport. After all, it is not a millionaire who is leaving, only a Cuban who has given and will go on giving everything to his country. All doors to a peaceful political struggle have been closed to me. Like Marti,* I think the time has come to seize our rights instead of asking for them, to grab instead of beg for them. Cuban patience has its limits. I will live somewhere in the Carribean. There is no going back possible in this kind of journey, and if I return, it will be with tyranny beheaded at my feet. 18/ Exiled in Mexico. Raul Castro and most of the other Moncada rebels were waiting for Fidel in Mexico when he arrived.** They had gone ahead after their release from prison, and were already engaged in preparations to invade Cuba from Mexico. Not long after his arrival in Mexico, Fidel solicited and secured the services of two men who were to prove invaluable: Ernesto "Che"*** Guevara and "Colonel" *Jose Marti: Cuban liberator and national hero. Died in 1895 while fighting to free Cuba from Spain's domination. Primary influence, from Cuban perspective, behind Spanish- American War. Reagan adminstration plans to establish "Radio Marte" broadcasts to Cuba, named in his honor. **A few remained behind to establish underground activities in Cuba and prepare for Castro's return. ***Nickname given Guevara by the Cubans while they were training in Mexico. It means "mate." Alberto Bayo. Both would be lieutenants to Castro in the coming years. Ernesto "Che" Guevara. Ernesto Guevara was born in Cordoba, Argentina, in 1928. The son of an architect- engineer, he was raised as a firm member of the middle-class in Buenos Aires. As a youth, Guevara showed himself to be a carefree, unconventional and tireless boy. Only his asthma, which was to plague him throughout life, slowed him down. Early-on he displayed a deep interest and concern for the plight of the common Argentinian, often preferring the company of members of the lower-classes to those of his own socio-economic level. Contiguously, he began to develop a deep and unabiding hatred of the upper-classes in Latin America. Guevara entered medical school in 1947, graduating in March 1953. Following graduation, he left Argentina to visit parts of South and Central America. He first heard of Castro and his raid on Moncada while in Costa Rica. By early 1954, Guevara had become involved in an unsuccessful countercoup attempt in Guatamala. A marked man, he took refuge in Mexico; a few months later, he met Fidel Castro and decided to join his movement. 19/ Alberto Bayo. Alberto Bayo was a former acquaintance of Fidel's who was in exile from Spain. Bayo was born in Cuba in 1892, but had migrated to Spain. He studied military tactics at the Spanish Infantry Academy, and fought as a member of the Spanish army for eleven years in Spanish Morocco. Having also seen extensive service as a Loyalist during the Spanish Civil War, Bayo was generally regarded to be an expert on guerrilla warfare. Castro considered him to be the ideal person to train an expeditionary force for the return to Cuba. 20/ Castro's Revolutionary Platform. The first documented evidence of Castro's revolutionary platform is contained in the transcript of the trial which followed his ill-fated attack on the Moncada Fortress. Addressing the court in his own defense, Castro set forth the problems his revolution aimed to solve: land, housing, industrialization, unemployment, education and health, as well as the restoration of public liberties and political democracy. Although Castro delivered his speech in private, his followers later published it in full and widely distributed it. The document was entitled History Will Absolve Me. It contained the text of Castro's speech at the trial and listed the five basic revolutionary laws upon which Castro planned to rebuild Cuba once Batista was defeated: 1. Assumption of all legislative, judicial and executive authority by the Revolution itself, pending elections, subject to the Constitution of 1940. 2. Land for the landless, through the expropriation of idle lands, and through the transfer of legal title from big owners, renters and landlords to all sharecroppers, tenants and squatters occupying fewer than 165 acres -- the former owners to be recompensed by the state. 3. Inauguration of a profit-sharing system under which workers employed by large industrial, commerical and mining companies would receive 30% of the profits of such enterprises. 4. Establishment of minimum cane production quotas to be assigned to small cane planters supplying a given sugar mill, and the assignment of 55% of the proceeds of the crop to the planter, against 45% to the mill. 5. Confiscation of all property gained through political malfeasance or in any other illict manner under all past regimes. 21/ Over the course of his insurrection, virtually all of Castro's speeches and proclamations referred to these revolutionary laws. Their real beauty was their adaptability. Castro frequently altered their priority, percentages and/or scope to suit his audience and strategy. Depending upon how the laws were presented or explained, they had almost universal appeal. Castro's incessant manipulation of these laws was not without its drawbacks, however; the average Cuban often found it difficult to understand just what Castro's rebellion was about. This was particularly true of the peasants. In fact, Castro's own followers sometimes had problems staying abreast of their leader's ideas. Prelude to Invasion. Between late 1955 and early 1956, Castro amassed the nucleus of an invasion force -- veterans of the Moncada attack as well as other recruits from the United States, Cuba and various Latin American countries. after their initial organization in Mexico City, a ranch was leased outside the city in order to engage in more extensive, and private, maneuvers. While his force was training, Castro traveled extensively throughout the United States, attempting to raise financial and moral support for his cause from exiled Cubans and American sympathizers. By the time he returned to Cuba, he had established some 62 Cuban "patriotic clubs," raised approximately $50,000 in cash and received pledges for considerably more. 22/ In late 1955, Castro's movement absorbed the Accion Nacional Revolucionaria (ANR) led by Frank Isaac Pais. The ANR had been a small clandestine organization operating out of Oriente Province. Castro planned to use Pais and his followers to support his landing in Cuba, now planned for July 1956. In March 1956, Castro broke officially with the Ortodoxo Party, establishing the Movimiento 26 de Julio (26th of July Movement of M-26-7) as an independent revolutionary movement dedicated to the overthrow of Batista.* By then, M-26-7 had gained an initial, but firm foothold in Oriente Province, thanks to the momentum being built by Frank Pais. Castro wanted to coordinate his invasion with an island- wide revolt against Batista to gain maximum effect. In the summer of 1956, he met with Jose Antonio Echeverria and Ricardo Corpion, representatives of the Directorio *The title of the movement was derived from the date of the attack on the Moncada Fortress. Castro considered that attack the beginning and inspiration of his rebellion. Revolucionario (DR), a student organization also advocating Batista's ouster.* After listening to Castro's plans for the invasion of Cuba and overthrow of Batista, the DR representatives agreed to sign a pact with Castro and the M- 26-7, stipulating that the two groups would coordinate their future actions. This very important alliance, which became known as the Mexico Pact, succeeded in uniting for common purpose two of the most highly organized factions opposing Batista. Castro had never tried to conceal his activities in Mexico. Consequently, Batista was probably aware of the time and place of the planned invasion well ahead of time. The Mexican police and Cuban Intelligence agency (SIM) kept close tabs on Castro's activities at the ranch outside Mexico City; Mexican authorities also raided it several times, each time confiscating rather sizeable caches of arms. Castro's attempts to purchase a boat large enough to get his group to Cuba met with similar "success." In September 1956, he placed a down-payment of $5,000 on an ex- U.S. Navy crashboat; when Washington checked with the Cuban Embassy about the validity of the purchase, Batista's *M-26-7, ANR and DR were not the only revolutionary groups operating in Cuba at the time. Several other organizations such as the Organizacion Autentica (OA), Federation of University Students (FEU) and many others were active against the government: publishing underground newspapers, gathering arms, and engaging in sabotage and other terrorist activities. government interceded and convinced Washington to cancel the sale. By the end of the month, Castro found himself the leader of a highly trained and organized insurrectionist group, but without weapons or the means to get to Cuba. After considerable difficulty, Fidel managed to secure both a boat and arms for his men. The boat was the yacht Granma, designed to carry ten passengers. Castro intended to load her with 82 men plus their weapons, ammunition and food. Finally, on November 25, 1956, after a delay of several months, Fidel Castro and 81 other members of M-26-7 departed Mexico for Cuba. Sierra Maestra 23/ Fidel Returns. Castro had allowed six days for the trip. He was expected to arrive on November 30th which would coincide with a general, island-wide uprising led by Frank Pais and the M-26-7 Santiago group. However, the expedition encountered problems. Most of the 82 men were seasick and the Granma experienced severe engine problems caused by the overloading. As planned, Frank Pais and the M-26-7 went into action on November 30th. Pais had planned to stage a general show- of-force throughout Oriente province and in isolated locations across the island. Pais's plan called for coordinated attacks on Santiago's National Police headquarters and the maritime police station, while keeping the Moncada Fortress under bombardment with 81mm mortars. Castro and Pais assumed that the general population would join in the revolt as soon as the attacks began. Once the police stations had been captured, arms and ammunition would then be distributed to the population, and a full scale attack would be launched against Moncada. Pais began the operation with 86 armed men; he counted heavily upon surprise.* Unfortunately, he lost this element almost immediately when one of his men was captured on the way to man a mortar position. The police, thus alerted, barracaded themselves in their headquarters and fought off all attempts by the rebels to breach their positions. In addition, Batista wasted no time in flying in reinforcements. By nightfall, Pais could see the futility of his position. Unaware of Castro's plight, he canceled the attack and withdrew with his men, fading back into the civilian population. With the exception of a few isolated incidents elsewhere in Oriente province, the general revolt throughout the island did not occur. Lack of arms, poor organization and limited information on Castro's intentions and timetable were the major problems. However, the events of November 30th were not without successes. Some arms and ammuntion were captured and later turned over to Castro, manpower was preserved to fight another day, and the weaknesses in the *By November 1956, the Moncada garrison had been reinforced, and now totalled some 2,000 soldiers. M-26-7 organization were rather graphically displayed.* Castro heard of the Santigo uprising -- and its failure -- while still at sea. He had been unable to report his position and problems and thus delay the revolt, because he had only a radio receiver and no transmitter. Undaunted by the setback Santiago represented, he decided to forge ahead with the landing. The original plan had been for Fidel and his men to land near Niquero on November 30th (see Map #2). He was to join forces with approximately 100 men under Crescencio Perez, seize Niquero and Manzanillo, and then proceed (via Bayamo) to join Pais's group in Santiago.** Unfortunately, the Granma's problems and the failure of the Santiago attack placed the whole plan in jeopardy. On December 2nd, Castro's group finally came ashore near the town of Belic, several miles east and south of their intended landing. The yacht was so overloaded that it could not actually beach. Since there were no piers, the men were forced to unload her in water up to their chests. Their debarkation proved to be particularly difficult, not only because of the depth of the water, but because they landed in a swamp and were spotted almost immediately by *Only three members of M-26-7 were killed during the fighting. **Perez was a sort of bandit-patriarch of the Sierra Maestra. Convinced by Pais to join M-26-7, he later became one of Castro's most trusted lieutenants. alert sea and air patrols. 24/ Unable to make contact with Perez's group, under fire from the Cuban Air Force and pursued by the Cuban Army, Fidel decided to abandon his original plan and converge on the jungle-covered and precipitious Sierra Maestra Mountains, a bandit haven not under government control.* Thus began an arduous inland march with Batista's forces in trace. On December 5th, the army cornered Castro's troops and almost decimated them with artillery fire and air attacks. 25/ At that point, Fidel elected to split his force into smaller groups in the hope that they would be more likely to break through the encircling army. This maneuver was probably what saved some of them. Fidel's own group, which by now only numbered three men, was forced to hide for five days in a cane field without food or water. Other groups were not so lucky. Some were overrun completely; all who surrendered were executed. 26/ About this time, word was circulated by the Cuban government that Castro and his entire group had been killed. This popularly held belief, repeatedly reinforced by government propaganda, was not disproven until the New York Times published an interview between Castro and Herbert Matthews in February, 1957. 27/ *Perez's group had been in place, but Castro's delayed arrival plus heavy army patrols had caused him to withdraw. The Rebellion Begins. Shortly before Christmas, Castro and 11 survivors of the Granma expedition, including Raul Castro and "Che" Guevara, assembled at Pico Turquino, the highest mountain in the Sierra Maestra range. The outlook was not good. The almost total loss of their provisions and ammunition placed them at the mercy of the local inhabitants: However, as usual, Fidel's confidence was unshakeable. Upon reaching the mountains, he is reported to have asked a peasant: "Are we already in the Sierra Maestra?" When he heard that the answer was "yes," he concluded, "Then the revolution has triumphed." 28/ Castro might have been overly optimistic. For days he and his small group travelled continuously throughout the mountains, fearing capture by government forces, although the Cuban Army made no real attempt to find them. They slept on the ground and stayed alive by eating roots. Eventually, Fidel and his men located Crescencio Perez, the man they had planned to link-up with at Niquero. Perez helped the rebels obtain food from the peasants, and lent material support in the way of arms and ammunition. Castro's position soon improved to the point where he felt comfortable enough to launch his first attack against a government outpost. Attack on La Plata. On January 16, 1957, Castro and 17 of his followers attacked a small army outpost of 18 soldiers at la Plata. 29/ The tactics used were the same that would be repeated throughout the next 20 months, with essentially the same degree of success. A daylight reconnaissance was made of the objective, the activities of the soldiers were noted, and approach and retirement routes were plotted. Early the next morning, the surprise attack began. Seven soldiers were killed or wounded, and the position was seized. Precious weapons, ammunition, food and equipment were confiscated and taken back to the mountains, while Castro and his men, anticipating that the Army would attempt to pursue them, took up positions at a prepared ambush site. Later that morning, an army patrol stumbled into the ambush and was virtually annihilated. Incidents like this, coupled with Herbert Matthews' New York Times interview the following month, forced Batista to take Castro seriously; the Army committed more troops to Oriente Province, and a reward of 100,000 pesos was placed on Castro's head. However, Batista's response had little impact upon the rebels. Castro's alliance with the local population, fostered by his respectful treatment of them, gave him an intelligence network the Cuban Army found impossible to defeat. Castro was kept constantly aware of the army's intentions and position, while the government forces were continually misled and misinformed as to Castro's whereabouts. Palace Attack. Castro and the M-26-7 were not alone in opposing Batista. Several groups across the island, some aligned with Castro and others not, were in open rebellion against the government. One of these groups, the Directorio Revolucionario (DR), was composed of a group of students from the University of Havana. Allied with the M-26-7 through the Mexico Pact, the DR had been quite active in Havana for several months. On March 13, 1957, they staged an attack against the Presidential Palace in Havana using "fidelista" tactics. The attack took everyone by surprise and would have been successful in killing or capturing Batista except that, by chance, the President had left his first-floor office and gone to his second-floor apartment because of a headache. Twenty-five members of the DR were killed during the fight, and the whole operation was generally acknowledged to be the work of Castro. In what was quickly becoming one of his favorite tactics in response to rebel attacks, Batista ordered the arrest of all known rebels and rebel sympathizers in the Havana area. Those that were found were executed. While this counter-revolutionary technique was somewhat successful in eliminating unwanted opposition, it tended to alienate the population. In conducting these purges, the army and police were not usually discriminatory in their selection of targets. "Body count" frequently became more important than eliminating known rebels. Organization for Guerrilla Warfare. By mid-April, Castro had acquired more than 50 volunteers from Santiago and other parts of the island; he now formed the first of an eventual 24 "columns' ranging in size from 100 to 150 rebels. The majority of these volunteers, and those joining in the following months, were middle-class students, merchants or professionals being hunted by Batista's police. Nevertheless, Castro generally would not accept volunteers who arrived without arms; he simply could not afford to feed them. He would turn them away, promising to let them join his group if they came back armed. To obtain arms, would-be "fidelistas" looked for the opportunity to relieve Batista's soldiers of weapons and ammunition. Eventually, more guns came, sometimes from underground supporters, sometimes flown in from overseas, but most (about 85 percent) directly from the enemy itself. In the beginning, the rebels dared make forays against only the most isolated of the army outposts, and even then a rifle was so valuable that if a rebel abandoned one during a battle, he had to go back unarmed to retrieve it. As Castro used to tell his men, We are not fighting for prisoners. We are fighting for weapons.' 30/ Recruits who were allowed to stay were put through a lengthy period of political, physical and military training patterned after that conducted in Mexico. The training was purposely difficult; Castro wanted only the toughest and most dedicated to remain. Fidel kept his column constantly moving throughout the Sierra Maestra, seldom stopping for more than 24 hours. Even though the rebels ate but once a day, adequate food stores were a constant problem. A tiny tin of fruit cocktail was considered a great luxury. To maintain discipline, strict rules were enforced; food was never taken from a peasant without permission and payment, and a rebel officer was never to eat a larger portion than his men. A person could be shot if merely suspected of being an informer. Alcohol was forbidden, and sex was discouraged unless the couple consented to be married. Fidel shared the mountain hardhips with his followers, often out-distancing them in an effort to set the example. His ability to march for hours without stopping earned him the nickname "El Caballo" -- The Horse. Despite such spartan conditions, Castro's group continued to grow. Sleeping on the ground gave way to hammocks, and later, more permanent camps with "Bohios" (huts), kitchens and hospitals. 31/ As Fidel's stability in the Sierra maestra grew, so did his intelligence system. Warning networks were established using the well-treated farmers and mountain people as spies. Beards. At this point, it is worth noting the origin of the famous rebel beard. Initially, Castro and his followers grew beards for the very practical reason that they had no razors and little soap or fresh water for shaving. As the rebellion continued, however, the beards took on important meaning. In time, they became so conspicuous and so representative of Castro's movement that beards became the major distinguishing feature between rebels and ordinary citizens. Unless the bodies were bearded, photos of "rebels" killed by the army fooled no one. Beards became such a symbol of rebellion that a Batista soldier on leave who had allowed his beard to grow was machine-gunned and killed from a police car in the middle of Santiago, having been taken for a rebel. 32/ Later, as part of a planned general strike, Fidel intended to infiltrate the towns with members of his rebel force. Wishing to make a good impression on the population, he considered having these men shave off their beards. He was finally convinced otherwise by Enrique Meneses, a newspaper photographer, when Meneses pointed out that "Any photographs in existence anywhere in the world at the time would lose their news-value if the rebels shaved off their beards." 33/ Eventually, following Castro's victory, everyone, except Fidel and a few others, was ordered to shave. It seemed that some individuals, who had never even been near the Sierra Maestra, were wearing beards, attempting to capitalize on the implication. El Uvero. With reinforcements and added firepower, Castro began to expand his base of operations. On May 28th he led a band of 80 guerrillas against the military garrison of El Uvero (see Map #3). El Uvero, located on the seacoast at the foot of the Sierra Maestra, was isolated and manned by only 53 soldiers. The garrison presented an ideal target for Castro's limited forces and assets. Using the "fidelista" tactics described earlier, Castro's group took the outpost by surprise when they approached the garrison in the early morning hours. The fighting, though intensive, was over in about 20 minutes. The army regulars sustained 14 dead and 19 wounded, and Castro's forces lost six killed and nine wounded. The rebels then confiscated the garrison's arms, ammunition and supplies. The battle was Castro's first significant victory, proving that, given the right conditions, regular army forces would be soundly defeated. In Guevara's words: ... we now had the key to the secret of how to beat the enemy. This battle sealed the fate of every garrison located far enough from large concentrations of troops, and every small army post was soon dismantled. 34/ The psychological value of the victory cannot be overemphasized; it brought to fruition months of hardship and training, and, like an elixir, immeasureably bolstered dedication to the struggle. Batista Reacts. Faced with the increased irritation of incidents involving Castro, Batista decided to alter his strategy of ignoring Castro to one of containment. After El Uvero, the army abandoned its forays into the Sierra Maestra, gradually withdrawing from isolated outposts that were not vital. Castro's small force was left free to roam the mountains, but was kept from operating in the open plains. The Army declared, and attempted to enforce, a "deadzone" between the mountains and the plains to prevent Castro's forces from venturing beyond the mountains or communicating with urban organizations. Castro, in turn, carefully avoided openly meeting government forces. Meanwhile, the Cuban Air Force carried out a program of saturation bombing on suspected guerrilla strongholds. Following the El Uvero attack, government censorship was again imposed, and the Presidential elections that had been scheduled for November 1, 1957, were postponed until June 1, 1958. Coincidently, Batista's counter-terrorist measures against the civilian population were increased, especially in Oriente Province. Generally, these amounted to the loss of all civil liberties and the institution of martial law. Illegal searches and seizures, torture and outright murder became commonplace. 35/ Batista's soldiers would stop at nothing to present the impression that they were in control of the situation. Frequently, when frustrated by their inability to gain information or capture rebels, soldiers would summarily execute civilians, claiming that they were either guerrillas or rebel sympathizers. The Sierra Maestra Manifesto. Despite calls for negotiations between the government and the rebels by the Institutions Civicas (IC), a loose federation of civic and professional associations, President Batista was unrelenting. Castro, on the other hand, joined by Raul Chibas and Felipe Pazos,* responded to the IC by issuing a proclamation which they called the "Sierra Maestra Manifesto." Although not detailed, it became one of the basic rhetorical documents for the M-26-7 Movement. *Key members of the Resistencia Civica, another revolutionary organization aligned with the M-26-7. Although it was drafted on July 12, 1957, it was not seen in print until it was published in the Bohemia newspaper in Havana on July 28th. In addition to rejecting Batista's election plan, the Manifesto called for: 1. A Civic Revolutionary Front with a common strategy for the struggle. 2. A provisional government, headed by a neutral leader selected by the civic association. 3. Free elections within one year of the establishment of the provisional government. 4. Reforms in the areas of political freedom, civil service, civil and individual rights, agriculture, labor unions and industry. 5. An end to arms shipments from the United States to Batista. 6. Depoliticalization of the armed forces and abolition of military juntas. 36/ The "Sierra Maestra Manifesto" was doubly important because it set a more neutral tone on the subject of reforms than some of Castro's earlier bellicose statements released through newspapermen such as Herbert Matthews, and gave political substance to the revolution by outlining specific organizational structure and goals for the proposed government. Death of Frank Pais. While Castro was busy conducting rural guerrilla warfare from the mountains, Frank Pais was active in establishing urban organizations throughout the island. With the death of Jose Antonio Echeverria during the unsuccessful Palace Attack, Pais was left alone to carry on the M-26-7 movement in the cities and towns. By the summer of 1957, Pais' tremendous organizational skills had begun to show progress throughout Oriente, even down to remote village levels. While Castro's activities seemed confined to the areas immediately surrounding the Sierra Maestra, Pais was spreading his influence far and wide. As his reputation as a M-26-7 organizer grew, Pais came under increasing pressure from Batista's forces in Santiago, his base of operations. Finally, in July 1957, an all-out manhunt for his capture was launched by the Santiago police. As the net tightened, Pais knew he would have to leave the city. Since exile was out of the question, he chose to join Castro in the mountains. As he prepared to leave, the house in which he was hiding he was surreptitiously surrounded by police. As Pais walked out of the house, he was gunned down. The death of Frank Pais marked a turning point in the internal organization of the M-26-7. With no firm leadership evident elsewhere, the heart of the movement gradually centered in the rural campaign being waged from the Sierra Maestra. For the next several months, the urban arm of the M-26-7 was assigned one specific role: to support and sustain Fidel Castro's guerrillas. The deaths of Echeverria and Pais had eliminated two of the three genuine leaders of the Cuban insurrection; only Castro remained. Equally important, two potential challenges to Castro's post-revolutionary leadership were eliminated. The Cienfuegos Uprising. On September 5, 1957, the most serious and ambitious attack to date against Batista's regime was launched by a group of young naval officers in the coastal town of Cienfuegos in Las Villas province. The navy was traditionally not as pro-Batista as the army. A large number of naval officers were frustrated by Batista's propensity to appoint men who had not graduated from the Mariel Naval Academy to the highest ranks of the naval service. Rear Admiral Rodriquez Calderon, Chief of the Cuban Navy, was such a man. He was thoroughly despised by young naval officers. The uprising was to be a coordinated effort among youthful elements of the Cuban Navy stationed at Cayo Loco Naval Base in Cienfuegos and M-26-7 activists positioned in Havana and Santiago. Originally scheduled for May 28th, the plan called for an island-wide revolt, to consist of two phases. In the first phase, a navy frigate would shell the Presidential Palace in Havana, while, simultaneously, navy pilots would bomb Camp Columbia. M-26-7 urban cadres would then capture the Havana radio stations and call for a general strike. The second phase would center around uprisings at all navy bases beginning with Cayo Loco. When the May 28th plan was compromised by an informer, the revolt was rescheduled for September 5th to coincide with the Army's celebration of the 1933 "Sergeant's Revolt." On September 5th the plan was again postponed because of another breach of security, but for some reason -- either poor communications or stubborn determination -- the second phase of the Cienfuegos operation went into effect at the appointed hour. Although the rebels initially succeeded, Batista responded with brutal force; aircraft, tanks and troops were rushed to Cienfuegos to crush the uprising. The ensuing battle left more than 300 dead. 37/ A handful of the rebels escaped to the Escambray Mountains where they continued to wage war against the government. It is unclear exactly what the naval officers associated with the Cienfuegos uprising hoped to gain. Evidence indicates that they were highly influenced by elements of the M-26-7 who had infilitrated their ranks. Apparently, the M-26-7 viewed these disgruntled naval officers as a good source of revolutionary fervor and planned to use their dissatisfaction with Batista as a foundation for an island-wide revolt. The naval officers themselves had no stated goals other than to return control of the navy to graduates of the Cuban Naval Academy. Cienfuegos was certainly a military victory for Batista, but not a political one. For the first time, members of Cuba's Armed Forces had united against him. Never again could he depend upon their unified support, the bedrock of his regime. Officers of all three branches had been implicated; not even the Cuban Army had remained faithful. Perhaps even more significant, not since Batista's own revolt in 1933, had military and civilians united to oppose a Cuban President. Pact of Miami. Members of the major revolutionary factions opposing Batista met in Miami during December 1957, to attempt to unify their efforts. This particular meeting was significant because it was composed of representatives of virtually all of the anti-Batista organizations operating within Cuba or in exile. After some debate, a number of members of the revolutionary groups, including representatives of the M-26-7, signed a pact signifying solidarity and co-equal status in the struggle against Batista. Provisions of the pact called for the creation of a provisional government and closely resembled those of the earlier "Sierra Maestra Manifesto." When Castro heard of the pact, he was enragad.* In a letter to the conference he wrote: "... while leaders of other organizations are living abroad carrying on imaginary revolutions, the leaders of the M-26-7 are in Cuba, making a real revolution." 38/ What really upset Fidel was that the pact left the M-26-7 on equal footing with the other organizations, although the M-26-7 and the DR had carried the full load of the insurrection. While the DR was *Castro's representatives had signed the pact, apparently misunderstanding their leader's position, a phenomenon not uncommon at the time because Castro frequently shifted or "expanded" his ideology to suit the occasion. apparently ready to grant equal status to the other groups, Fidel was not. Castro denounced the pact and reinterated his position on Cuba's future as offered by the "Sierra Maestra Manifesto." In addition, he offered his own candidate, Manuel Urrutia Lleo, for the post of Provisional President. Castro's rejection of the Pact of Miami had major repercussions. First, Fidel demonstrated within his own movement that he would not be the pawn of politicians. Second, he established the M-26-7 as a clearly independent movement, never again to be confused with other organizations. Third, he demonstrated his preeminence among the other opposition groups; and finally, it portended that any future attempts at unity would be fruitless without prior consultation with Castro. The Second Front. The end of 1957, and the early part of 1958, saw a sort of unofficial cease-fire. Both sides used the period to consolidate their positions and prepare for future operations. Batista increased his forces and prepared them for mountain warfare. This was done primarily in response to Castro's ill-advised scheme to disrupt the island's single-crop economy. Late in the fall of 1957, just as the sugar crops were to be harvested, Castro's followers began burning the cane fields hoping to bring economic disparity to the government. Understandably, farmers and local merchants -- many of whom were ardent supporters of Castro -- began to complain to the rebel leader. Belatedly realizing that the harvest was the major source of livelihood for his supporters as well as the government, Castro rescinded his order, thus preserving his popular support. Enough of the sabotage was carried-out, however, to gain Batista's attention. Recognizing the potential seriousness of that kind of action if it were to be repeated on a large scale, the President resolved to end Castro's rebellion the following year. This decision proved to be the beginning of Batista's downfall. Castro, meanwhile, was engaging in a program to paralyze the rail and road networks near the Sierra Maestra. Gradually he was expanding his control beyond the mountains to other parts of Oriente province. By the beginning of 1958, no vehicles, trains or military patrols could move at night in the Manzanillo-Bayamo area without being ambushed. On January 25, 1958, President Batista restored constitutional guarantees everywhere on the island except Oriente province. Under increasing pressure from the United States, he called for free elections, promising to turn over the government to his elected successor. However, he retained the right to control the armed forces. Earl Smith, the U.S. Ambassador to Cuba at the time, reported that Castro indicated, at least unofficially, his willingness to accept general lections provided that Batista would withdraw his troops (without their equipment) from Oriente province. 39/* The Papal Nuncio of Cuba, representing the Catholic Church, even attempted to bring the two sides together.** While Batista professed interest, Castro rejected these overtures, saying that the committee appointed by the church was pro-Batista and therefore not acting for the benefit of the Cuban people. 40/ In early March, Raul Castro led a small column out of the Sierra Maestra northeastward toward the Sierra Cristal Mountains with the goal of opening a second front in Oriente province. On March 12th, Raul established the Second Front "Frank Pais," and Fidel issued a 21-point manifesto announcing its opening and declaring that total war would begin against Batista on April 1, 1958. 41/ Batista responded by airlifting more government troops into Oriente to reinforce the 5,000 already there. In addition, constitutional guarantees were again suspended throughout the island, and elections were postponed from June 1st to November 3rd. On March 14th, the U.S. government announced its intention to cease the shipment of arms to Cuba. 42/ *The sincerity of Castro's overture is suspect since it violates his "Sierra Maestra Manifesto." Evidence indicates that he planned to use Ambassador Smith for leverage in an attempt to buy time and maneuvering room. **The Papal Nuncio more likely represented the Church hierarchy and wealthy patrons only, since most young cubans advocated the overthrow of Batista, although not necessarily in accordance with Castro's plan. Castro's forces made important advances in the early spring of 1958, prior to April 9th. Besides Raul's second front, there were four other separate guerrilla forces at work in Oriente, keeping the whole province in an almost constant state of turmoil. Uprisings were also reported in Camaguey and Pinar del Rio provinces and the Escambray Mountains. 43/ Total War 44/ General Strike: April 9th, 1958. As promised in his March 12th manifesto, Castro called for an island-wide general strike to commence on April 9th, 1958. As originally conceived, the strike was to bring the country to a standstill; however, contrary to statements claiming otherwise, the M-26-7 did not yet have the level of urban revolutionary organization, leadership and popular support necessary to make it successful. Batista ordered his 7,000 man National Police force to brutalize strikers wherever they were found; furthermore, the head of Cuba's labor unions promised that anyone who struck would lose their job forever. Needless to say, the strike was a dismal failure and acute embarrassment for Castro. At this stage of the revolt the majority of the Cuban people simply did not have the confidence to risk their livelihoods, and perhaps lives, for Fidel Castro's dreams. His revolutionary platform was neither well known nor understood. Not surprisingly, after April 9th, Castro placed increased emphasis on the military solution as the principal means of removing Batista from power. Less stringent measures virtually disappeared from his strategy. Batista's Summer Offensive. Meanwhile, interpreting the strike's failure as a sign of Castro's vulnerability, Batista surged forward with his plan to mount a summer offensive against the rebel's forces in the Sierra Maestra. General Eulogio Cantillo was appointed to head the campaign, and in early May he presented his plan to Batista and the general staff. Basically, Cantillo's strategy called for a 24 battalion attack against Castro's stronghold in the Sierra Maestra. He planned to establish a blockade around the mountains to isolate the guerrillas from potential supplies, arms and men. Once the blockade was in place, Cantillo envisioned that the army would attack the rebels from the north and northeast with 14 battalions while holding 10 in reserve. Faced with such overwhelming odds, Castro would have no choice but to withdraw to the west into the plains north of Santiago, or risk being driven into the sea. Cantillo reasoned that if Castro's forces could be forced into open terrain, they could be easily eliminated. Batista approved Cantillo's basic plan, but feared that such large numbers committed to one operation would leave other areas of the country dangerously exposed. Instead, Cantillo was given 14 battalions (roughly 12,000 men), of whom approximately 7,000 were new peasant recruits who had responded to Batista's recent recruiting drive. The latter were poorly trained, and generally unreliable.* Cantillo was dissatisfied with the number and quality of troops he had been given for the offensive, and argued strenuously with Batista for more forces. The President remained firm, however, claiming that he could not afford to shift troops who were guarding private farms and sugar mills. Still disgruntled and now pessimistic, General Cantillo nevertheless proceeded with his plans. ** The government's offensive was still in the planning stages when Batista made his first error. In early May the President had installed General Cantillo to replace General Alberto del Rio Chaviano as the head of army forces in Oriente province. Chaviano had frequently shown himself to be incompetent in trying to deal with the rebels, and Batista did not trust him. However, Chaviano had a strong ally in his father-in-law, General Francisco Tabernilla, Sr., the Chief of Staff of the Cuban Army. Tabernilla convinced Batista to reappoint Chaviano to Oriente province. The President acquiesced and ordered the province to be *The vast majority of these peasants had joined purely for economic reasons. The Army offered steady employment while farming did not. **Cantillo's concern stemmed primarily from his belief that Castro's forces numbered between 1,000 and 2,000 veteran guerrilla fighters. The number was actually much closer to 300. split; Chaviano was given command of the eastern sector with the Central Highway as the dividing line between the two generals' spheres of influence. Cantillo was furious because the reappointment represented a political rather than a military decision. Cantillo's fears were not unfounded a Chaviano was in charge of the sector in which Raul Castro's guerrillas operated, but made no attempt to engage them. Worse yet, he frequently interfered with, or failed to support, Cantillo's efforts in the western sector. Finally, Chaviano undermined Cantillo's campaign by frequently complaining to Tabernilla that General Cantillo's ineffectiveness was causing the government to lose control of Oriente province. As a result, Tabernilla was often slow to extend much needed logistical support to Cantillo's forces, assuming that the supplies and ammunition would only be wasted. All of this military intrigue and infighting only served to highlight Batista's inability to conduct an effective military operation. For years the President had played one officer against another, until none of them were capable of leading any serious military operation. Since enlisted troops and junior officers were aware of this impotency among their commanders, discipline and morale was at an ebb before the summer offensive began. By the middle of June 1958, General Cantillo was completing his plans. Rather than blocking with his poorer troops and using his better units to drive Castro's guerrillas onto the plains, Cantillo's tactics amounted to a series of piecemeal attacks.* Castro's strategy was by now standard; bleed and exhaust the enemy until the time as ripe for counterattack. He relied heavily upon minefields and ambushes to protect his flanks. His main tactic was to allow the army to move forward, extending its lines, then hit the advanced guard and fall back. The maneuver was to be repeated as many times as possible. In the event the army penetrated deep enough to threaten the guerrilla's base- camp, Castro's forces prepared an extensive trench and bunker network designed to hold the enemy back from the vital areas. If necessary, this network would be manned by Guevara's column, allowing Castro to freely move the remaining columns along interior lines to the weakest point, counterattacking when the opportunity arose. However, this close-in defense was never necessary. Cantillo launched his initial attack with two battalions moving out from the Estrada Palma Sugar Mill at the base of Sierra Maestra on June 28, 1958 (see May #4). The force relied upon a single road as its axis-of-advance. Flank security was poor. Less than four miles from the mill, forces under the command of "Che" Guevara attacked the vanguard battalion. Thrown into disarray, the battalion stopped while armored cars were brought up to clear the battalion's flanks. As the armored cars deployed, they ran *It's hard to say whether there tactics grew from ineptness or caution. Considering Cantillo's reverence for his enemy, it was probably the latter. directly into minefields the rebels had placed on either side of the road. Several of the cars were destroyed. As the Cuban soldiers panicked and attempted to retreat, Guevara's sharpshooter's opened fire and killed several. The situation totally degenerated when the second battalion failed to come to the relief of the first. As both battalions began to withdraw, the guerrillas moved forward, covering the flanks of the retreating column. The sharpshooters now caused heavy casualties on the routed soldiers. In total, the regular army suffered 86 casualties compared to only three for the rebels. Guevara's forces captured some 65 weapons and 18,000 rounds of ammunition. General Cantillo's plan to force Castro's rebels onto the western plains was not working. Castro's position was too strong to be taken with a single point thrust, so Cantillo devised a daring plan that featured an amphibious landing at La Plata, a coastal town south of Castro's Turquino Peak base camp. Cantillo envisioned a pincer movement with a single battalion landing at La Plata, a two company landing a little further to the west and a simultaneous assault by another battalion from the north and east. If the plan worked, Castro's base on the western slope of Turquino Peak would be surrounded on three sides. The guerrillas would be forced to stand and fight against overwhelming odds, or withdraw to the plains where they were especially vulnerable. On July 11, 1958, Battalion No. 18, commanded by Major Jose Quevedo Perez, a former student colleague of Castro's at Havana University, landed about ten kilometers southeast of Turquino Peak at the mouth of the La Plata River. Quevedo's troops, most of whom had never experienced combat, moved cautiously inland, expecting an ambush at any minute. Alerted by his intelligence network that the landing had occurred, Castro did not disappoint them. In the classic fashion of the Cuban Army, Quevedo's soldiers blundered into Castro's ambush. Working rapidly and moving constantly, the rebels fragmented and then surrounded the battalion in a matter of minutes. Observing the battle from a helicopter, General Cantillo decided that while Castro was busy beseiging Battalion No. 18, he might be vulnerable to a flanking/ surprise attack. Consequently, Cantillo ordered the planned second landing of two companies to the west of La Plata. Again, Castro's intelligence paid-off; he had been warned to expect this tactic. In response, the guerrilla leader had emplaced two .50 caliber machine-gun sites overlooking the beach intended for the second landing. The vicious grazing- fire that these positions produced forced the lightly-armed landing-barges to turn back. Cantillo ultimately had to land the two companies behind Battalion No. 18 at La Plata. His amphibious plan in obvious jeopardy, General Cantillo shifted his emphasis to Battalion No. 17 which was attempting to bring pressure on Castro's position from the north and east. Meanwhile, upon learning that the leader of the army forces was his former classmate, Castro repeatedly called upon Quevedo to surrender and join the revolution. Each time Quevedo declined, and the fighting continued. Quevedo believed that reinforcements would eventually arrive and simply would not capitulate even though his position was increasingly untenable. What Quevedo did not know was that Battalion No. 17 had met determined fighting against Guevara's column, and had withdrawn. General Cantillo, acknowledging that the operation was another failure, now looked for another strategy. Disheartened and exhausted, Quevedo finally surrendered his command on July 21st. In all, his force had suffered 41 killed and 30 wounded. Castro's rebels had but three deaths, yet managed to capture 241 prisoners, 249 assorted weapons including bazookas, machine guns and mortars and 31,000 rounds of ammunition. By the end of July, Cantillo's confidence in the Army's ability to defeat Castro was rapidly waning. In a confidential report to Batista, he described the rebels in superhuman terms: ... (they) can tolerate staying for days at the same place, without moving, eating or drinking water. Furthermore, he still believed he was facing a force of between 1,000-2,000 rebels.* *Cantillo's overestimation can partially be contributed to faulty intelligence. However, the primary reason stems from the fact that he refused to believe that a force of only 300 men could be so effective. Cantillo's assessment of his own troops in the same report was far different. He cited low morale and discipline, plus a lack of weapons. One of the main problems effecting morale was the troops': ... awareness that there is no strong penalty against those who surrender or betray their unit, and that falling prisoner to the enemy ends all their problems, has sapped the will to fight through the ranks ... . The number of self- inflicted wounds is extraordinarily high. It is necessary to punish troops refusing to advance and to occupy their positions. 45/ A review of the record reveals that Cantillo's forces suffered considerably more than low morale and weapons' shortages. His forces lacked tactical knowledge in military operations in general, and counterguerrilla operations in particular. In addition, lack of command unity above the battalion level (except for Cantillo himself), and the refusal of many of his officers to fight, contributed to the generally poor performance of his units. With these problems weighing heavily upon his mind, Cantillo decided to make one more attempt to defeat Castro. The General's new strategy was based on a venture designed to capitalize on the tactical situation remaining from his last plan. Battalion No. 17 was still stranded in the mountains following their abortive attempt to relieve Quevedo's battalion. Cantillo planned to trick Castro into pursuing Battalion No. 17 as it withdrew, pulling the rebel leader into an ambush by making him think that the regular army was in full retreat. Cantillo's plan consisted of developing a triangular perimeter around the town of Las Mercedes, located to the north of the Sierra Maestra. To preclude any chance of escape should the rebels take the bait, Cantillo also stationed several companies on the flanks of the retreating battalion. The General hoped that the rebels would pursue Battalion No. 17 in its retreat from the mountains until it became impossible for them to escape the army's encirclement. Cantillo's plan depended upon Castro's probable ambition to defeat a second battalion within a one month period. He correctly guessed that Fidel would want to take advantage of his newly acquired firepower and the apparent demoralization of the retreating troops. Cantillo read Castro perfectly. Overly anxious to score a major offensive victory and sustain the momentum of his insurrection, Fidel was ripe for this kind of ruse. It played not only to his sense of drama, but his ego. Las Mercedes. The Battle of Las Mercedes began on July 29, 1958. Just as General Cantillo had hoped, the opportunity to defeat another army battalion was too much for Castro to ignore. As Battalion No. 17 began to retreat, Fidel ordered the complete mobilization of his Sierra Maestra columns. With uncharacteristic abandon, the rebel leader plunged his forces headlong into Cantillo's trap. On the first day of the battle, about half of Castro's forces positioned themselves along Battalion No. 17's withdrawal route, while the rest of the rebels kept pressure on the battalion's rear-guard. In classic "fidelista" style, the rebels opened up on the battalion's advance-guard as soon as it entered the ambush site. The rebels quickly dispatched 32 soldiers before realizing that they themselves were in an ambush, and Battalion No. 17's advance unit had been the bait. As regular army forces began to close on the ambush site, Major Rene ("Daniel") Ramos Latour, commander of the guerrilla forces now engaged, attempted to withdraw his column while calling to Castro for reinforcements. Fidel responded by moving to the aid of his beleagured column, only to move within the encirclement himself. Seizing upon the situation, General Cantillo moved to take the unique opportunity of engaging the guerrillas on the plains by ordering three battalions from the Estrada Palma post into position against the rebels. In addition, the General further increased his forces by committing another 1,500 troops from Bayamo and Manzanillo garrisons. Toward the end of the day, Castro finally realized his precarious position. He sent word to "Che" Guevara, describing his serious situation. Guevara, probably the best of the guerrilla leaders from a tactical viewpoint, had the ability to see the whole battlefield in any given encounter. After receiving Castro's report, he quickly deduced Cantillo's plan. "Che" realized that Castro could be saved from disaster only if Cantillo's reinforcements could be delayed. Without hesitation, Guevara and his forces attacked the reinforcing column as they moved into position near Cubanacao, inflicting serious casualties and capturing some 50 prisoners. This action caused a brief impasse in the fighting, during which Castro was able to withdraw some of his troops and consolidate the rest into better defensive positions. July 31st, despite Guevara's brilliant action, found Castro still entrapped. By now, the guerrilla forces had suffered some 70 rebels killed. The price of Fidel's vainglory had become quite high. Still, General Cantillo did not press his advantage. He as yet believed that Castro's forces numbered much higher than was actually the case. In addition, his great respect for the guerrilla fighter's tenacity made him naturally cautious. He seemed to be waiting until he was absolutely sure of victory before he proceeded with the action. Early on August 1st, Castro sent a messenger to General Cantillo asking for a ceasefire and negotiations. Castro, the politician, would try to salvage the situation that Fidel, the guerrilla leader, had caused. Cantillo agreed and sent forth negotiators. In a letter to Cantillo on a page from his personal notebook, Castro wrote: "It is necessary to open a dialogue so that we can put an end to the conflict." 46/ Upon receipt of the letter and after consultation with his advisors, Cantillo decided that the letter was important enough to warrant Batista's attention. Batista was puzzled as to Castro's intentions. The President was convinced that, despite his losses at Las Mercedes, Castro had the ability to carry on the guerrilla war almost indefinitely. Batista sensed that Castro was only delaying, but on Cantillo's insistence, he decided to appoint a government negotiator and personal representative to return with Cantillo to talk to Castro. Batista's analysis of Castro's scheme was accurate, although neither the President nor Cantillo guessed the extent of Castro's peril. Fidel kept the discussions going until August 8th, by which time he had managed to remove his forces from Cantillo's grasp. After the negotiations failed, Cantillo and Batista found that they had no one left with whom to resume the battle. The impact of this debacle upon the morale of the Cuban army was devastating. The majority of the junior officers who had fought so hard over the preceding weeks were disgusted that Cantillo had even stooped to negotiate. Moreover, Castro's masterful maneuver had come at just the juncture when the regular army, after having fought well for the first time in the campaign, seemed to have all the advantages. In later years Castro frequently claimed Las Mercedes as a military victory for the M-26-7. While the results may be viewed as a political success, the fact is that Las Mercedes almost resulted in a disaster for his movement and in Fidel's capture by the government forces. Ultimately, Las Mercedes was particularly significant in two respects: it marked the final phase of Batista's unsuccessful summer offensive, and established General Cantillo as a point of contact between Fidel Castro and Fulgencio Batista. While the former result faded in comparison to the events that followed, the latter was to be a portentous occurrence. The Last Campaign 47/. As Batista's summer offensive ended, the regular army forces withdrew to their major garrisons, allowing Castro to commence his own offensive. On August 21st, Fidel summoned two of his most respected lieutenants, "Che" Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos. In their presence he signed the general order that ultimately sealed Batista's fate. Guevara and Cienfuegos were to depart the Sierra Maestra between August 24th and August 30th, each at the head of his own column.* He assigned them one primary mission: to march to Las Villas province, more than 600 kilometers to the east: Once there, Guevara was to organize the rebel groups in the Escambray Mountains under the M-26-7 Movement and begin Third Front operations against the government in accordance with Castro's plan to cut the island in half Cienfuegos, meanwhile, would organize M-26-7 elements in northern Las Villas, and then press-on with his own column to open a fourth front in the mountains of Cuba's eastern most province, Pinar del Rio. In order to reach *The Second Column, under Cienfuegos, numbered about 60 and the Eight Column, under Guevara, about 150. these eastern provinces, however, the guerrilla columns had to transit Camaguey province. The M-26-7 movement was essentially nonexistent in Camaguey province; crossing was therefore a problem. The open, flat terrain and limited vegetation the province offered was not conducive to the brand of rural mountainous operations Castro's guerrillas were accustomed to waging. Further, since the majority of the island's agricultural effort was centered in Camaguey, the province was relatively prosperous, and the populus was generally unsupportive of Castro's aims. To counter the obvious treat of crossing this unfamiliar and unfriendly terrain, arrangements were made to bribe the army commander of Camaguey to guarantee the safe passage of the two columns. Unfortunately, the commander's defection was discovered, and the columns encountered disjointed, but often heavy, resistance from Batista's air and ground forces. Almost immediately upon entering Camaguey province, Guevara and Cienfuegos were forced to separate their columns; they were never able to reunite until after they reached Las Villas. Once the rebels were detected, the army mobilized its forces and carefully laid a series of ambushes and blockades across the province. Incensed that the guerrillas would be so bold, the army's byword became: They shall not pass! We shall serve the corpses of their chiefs on a silver platter, because they have had the audacity to think that they can conduct a military parade throughout Camaguey. 48/ Largely because of the attitude suggested in this quote, the progress of Guevara's and Cienfuegos's columns was extremely slow. Often they would have to wait for days, without food or water, before the way was clear to move. As always, they were forced to traverse the most impassable terrain possible, to avoid the army's roadlocks and ambushes. The author of the above quote, Colonel Suarez Suquet of the Camaguey Rural Guards Regiment, took it upon his command to zero in on Guevara's column. However, "Che" had years of experience in this type of movement behind him, and managed to frustrate every ambush and blockade effort that Suarez devised. By the first part of October, Guevara's column had woven its way through Camaguey, avoiding major confrontation with government forces. On October 12th, Guevara led his force across the Jatibonico River into Las Villas province after being surreptitiously escorted through Suarez's final blockade by an informer. By October 15th, "Che" was installed in the Escambray Mountains. Guevara's tactical skill and patience had again proved successful. Camilo Cienfuegos arrived in northern Las Villas province a few days before Guevara was established in the Escambray. While government forces were busy trying to capture "Che," the Second Column had managed to slip through relatively unscathed. On October 14th, Castro wrote to Cienfuegos saying: There are no words with which to express the joy, the pride and the admiration that I feel for you and your men. What you have done is enough to win you a place in the history of Cuba and of great military exploits. Don't continue your advance until you get further orders. Wait for Che in Las Villas and stay with him. The politico-revolutionary situation there is complicated and it is essential for you to remain in the province long enough to help stabilize it solidly. 49/ Cienfuegos was not to venture westward until the rebels had been able to recover physically, and until the conflict intensified in the areas already under Castro's influence. While Guevara and Cienfuegos were moving to establish the Third Front in Las Villas, the Castro brothers were solidifying their control over Oriente. By mid-October their forces, now numbering about 2,000, were operating freely throughout the province. Castro's strategy for the next weeks centered on the capital cities of Oriente and Las Villas provinces: Santiago and Santa Clara, respectively. His plan called for the Third Front to capture Santa Clara, thus severing the western half of the island from Havana, and leaving the way open for Fidel and Raul to capture Santiago and its military garrison at Moncada. Using the arms that would be captured in these operations, the rebels could then move on Camaguey. Once the western half of the island was secured, Castro planned to proceed with his plans to establish the Fourth Front in Pinar del Rio province. Santa Clara. The conquest of Santa Clara was left to the combined forces of Guevara and Cienfuegos. Together, their columns had swollen to about 1,000 guerrilla fighters by the first part of December. "Che" was given overall command for the approaching battle. Santa Clara, geographically in the center of Las Villas province, is surrounded by four strategically located towns that form a kind of man-made barrier around the provincial capital. Guevara's plan was to attack all four towns simultaneously. Cienfuegos and his guerrillas were to operate north of the city while Guevara's forces attacked from the south. To preclude the possibility of reinforcements, Guevara also planned to blockade major resupply routes to the east (from Havana) and west (from Camaguey). Finally, Guevara planned the capture of the orts of Caibarien, to the north, and Cienfuegos, to the south, to complete Santa Clara's isolation. With the isolation of the capital and capture of the four towns surrounding Santa Clara, including their garrisons, the rebels then would attempt to capture the city. The battle for Santa Clara began on December 14th when Guevara's columns attacked the town of Fomento, southeast of Santa Clara. The Fomento garrison capitulated, without serious resistance, on the 17th. Leaving a small rear guard, the rebels pressed on to the town of Remedios the next day. To the north, Camilo Cienfuegos advanced with little opposition until he reached the town of Yaguajay. Yaguajay's garrison was defended by a relatively small group of regulars (250) under the command of Captain Abon Ly, a Cuban of Chinese ancestry. Convinced that reinforcements would be sent from Santa Clara, Ly put up a determined defense of his post. Repeatedly, the guerrillas attempted o overpower Ly and his men, but each time they failed. By December 26th, Cienfuegos had become quite frustrated; it seemed that Ly could not be overpowered, nor could he be convinced to surrender. In desparation, Cienfuegos began to use a homemade "tank" against Ly's position. The "tank" was actually a large tractor encased in iron plates with a .50 caliber machine gun mounted on top. It, too, proved unsuccessful. Finally, on December 30th, Ly, out of ammunition, surrendered his garrison. Cienfuegos, one of the most gallant of the rebel officers, allowed Captain Ly to retain his weapon and accepted his honorable surrender. On December 27th, following the uncontested surrender of the port cities of Caibarien and Cienfuegos, Guevara met with his officers to study the plan for the final attack on Santa Clara. On December 30th, with Cienfuegos's success at Yaguajay, the way was now open to the capital. The early morning hours of December 31st found Guevara's combined forces converging from all directions on the city. By mid- afternoon the battle was over. Having little heart for combat, most of the city's 6,500 regular troops and police surrendered without a fight. Meanwhile, in Oriente province, Fidel Castro and his rebel army continued their general offensive toward the Santiago. From December 23rd to December 26th the offensive in Oriente had cost the rebels 26 dead and over 50 wounded, but the Army had sustained over 600 casualties. 50/ On December 30th, the town of Maffo fell to Fidel after 20 days of seige. The way was now clear to the capital of Oriente, and the battle for Santiago could begin. Batista's Departure 51/ By the end of December, 1958, Castro's forces controlled virtually all of Las Villas and Oriente provinces, and Camaguey province from its geographical center westward to Oriente. In Havana, events of the last days of December were beginning to affect the morale of Batista and his high ranking officers. The Chief of Staff of the Cuban Armed Forces, General Tabernilla, Sr. was actively pursuing a plan to remove Batista and install a civilian or military junta in his place. Tabernilla approached U.S. ambassador Earl Smith asking for American support for the junta, but Smith replied that he could only discuss such a solution with Batista himself.* Tabernilla next turned to other members of the general staff. After consultation, they decided that General Cantillo should once again negotiate a settlement with Castro based upon Tabernilla's plan for a junta to succeed the President. *In point of fact, Washington had been trying for some time to remove Batista from power, while preventing Castro from taking over. Cantillo flew to Oriente to meet with Castro on December 28th and explain the Chief of Staff's proposal. Castro rejected Cantillo's overture out-of-hand because it included Batista's escape. Castro wanted the President arrested and brought to trial for crimes against the Cuban people.* Castro also opposed the junta, preferring (he said) a return to constitutional guarantees and democracy. As a counter-proposal, Castro suggested that he and Cantillo join their forces and carry out a joint operation against Batista starting with the capture of Santiago and sweeping eastward across the island to Havana. Under Castro's plan, the army would support the insurrection unconditionally, back the president appointed by the revolutionary organizations and accept whatever decisions were made as to the military's future. 52/ Cantillo would not promise outright support for Castro, but closed the meeting saying that he would return to Havana and consider the proposal. He promised he would send word to Castro prior to December 31st, Fidel's deadline for the attack on Santiago. Upon his return to Havana, Cantillo was summoned to the Presidential Palace by Batista. The President chastised his Chief of Operations for negotiating with Castro without his approval. Cantillo explained that he was under orders from Tabernilla and thought that Batista had approved his *Castro did not consider Batista's coup d'etat to be a legitimate revolution as had been ruled by the Court of Constitutional Guarantees in 1952. He instead believed that Batista had violated Cuban law and should be punished. mission. Calling Tabernilla a traitor, Batista asked for Cantillo's support until the President could devise a plan himself. Cantillo agreed. Late on December 31st, after the word of Santa Clara's fall had reached the capital, Cantillo met with Batista again. The President explained his plan of succession to the General. He said that he would be leaving in a few hours, and that Cantillo should assume control of the armed forces. In addition, Batista proposed that a civilian junta be organized with individuals not involved with the government, and that the senior member of the Supreme Court assume the presidency in accordance with Article 149 of the Cuban Constitution. Unhesitatingly, Cantillo agreed to follow the President's plan. In the early morning hours of January 1, 1959, President Batista released a message to the Cuban people. He stated that, upon the advice of his generals and to avoid further bloodshed he was leaving the country. At 2:10 A.M. Batista boarded a DC-4 bound for the Dominican Republic with members of his family and those "Batistianos" who knew they could expect no mercy from the rebels. In Cuba, all was lost for Fulgencio Batista, Fidel Castro had triumphed. NOTES Chapter III: Castro's Insurrection 1/ Enrique Meneses, Fidel Castro (New York: Taplinger Publishing Company, 1966), p. 29. 2/ The material on Batista is based primarily on: Edmund A. Chester, A Sergeant Named Batista (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1954). 3/ Unless otherwise noted, the principal sources for the background on Castro are: Jules Dubois, Fidel Castro (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill Co., Inc., 1959, pp. 14-25; Herbert L. Matthews, Fidel Castro (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1969), pp. 17-62; and Meneses, op. cit., pp. 29- 38. 4/ Ramon L. Bonachea and Marta San Martin, The Cuban Insurrection: 1952-1959, (New Brunswick: Transaction Books, 1974), p. 10. A birth year for Fidel Castro of 1926 is the popularly accepted year used by most of Castro's biographers. However, Bonachea and San Martin cite convincing evidence, in the form of a certifying letter from Castro's mother, that attests to Fidel's birthyear as 1927. 5/ Carlos Franqui, Diary of the Cuban Revolution, (New York: Viking Press, 1976), pp. 1-2. Extracted from an interview taken by Franqui. 6/ This fact is noted by all three of the above principal sources cited in note 3, although Meneses explains that only Castro's detractors make this accusation. 7/ Matthews, op. cit., p. 21. 8/ Dubois, op. cit., p. 15. 9/ Theodore Draper, Castroism: Theory and Practice (New York: Frederick A. Praeger, Inc., 1965), p. 114. 10/ Franqui, op. cit., p. 1. 11/ Meneses, op. cit., p. 38. 12/ The principal sources for this account of the assault on the Moncada Barracks are: Franqui, op. cit., pp. 43-64; Meneses, op. cit., pp. 37-40; Bonachea, et. al., op. cit., pp. 17-28; Matthews, op. cit., pp. 63-77; and Dubois, op. cit., pp. 30-83. 13/ Matthews, op. cit., p. 63. In his conclusion to his defense, Castro argued that he had the right to rebel against tyranny as was guaranteed by article 40 of the 1940 Constitution. Judge Manual Urrutia, during the 1957 trial of some of the Granma prisoners, used the same reasoning in his refusal to condemn the accused to death. Urrutia's decision ended his career as a judge and caused his exile, but laid the groundwork for Fidel to chose him, in 1958, as the future President of Cuba. (Matthews, pp. 75-76). 14/ Dubois, op. cit., pp. 84-137; and Bonachea, et. al., op. cit., pp. 34-79. 15/ Meneses, op. cit., p. 39. 16/ Ibid, p. 40. 17/ Wyatt Mac Gaffey and Clifford R. Barnett, Cuba: Its People, Its Society, Its Culture (New Haven: ARAF Press, 1962), p. 235. Although Castro continued to express loyalty to the Ortodoxo Party, he failed to gain the level of Party leadership he had anticipated upon his release from prison. according to Meneses, op. cit., p. 42, indications were that the Ortodoxo Party had split, and Castro had followed the more revolutionary faction. Apparently the more conservative (and largest) element of the Party did not agree with Fidel's advocation of violence to overthrow Batista. 18/ Franqui, op. cit., p. 90. 19/ Martin Ebon, Chea The Making of a Legend (New York: Universe Books, 1969), pp. 7-35. 20/ Meneses, op.cit., p. 41. 21/ Fidel Castro, History Will Absolve Me (New York: Lyle Stuart, 1961), pp. 35-36. This publication is said to be a reprint of the pamphlet that was circulated following the Moncada trial. 22/ Bonachea, et. al., op. cit., p. 65. 23/ Unless otherwise noted, the principal sources for the Sierra Maestra phase of Castro's revolution are: Dubois, op. cit., pp. 139-324; Bonachea, et. al., pp. 79- 197; and Matthews, op. cit., pp. 93-125. 24/ Ernesto Guevara, Reminiscences of the Cuban Revolutionary War, (New York: Grove Press, 1968), p. 41. 25/Fulgencio Batista, Cuba Betrayed, (New York: Vantage, 1962), p. 51. In his own account of this period, Batista implies that his artillery attacked Castro's forces as soon as they landed, inflicting significant casualties. His account is vague, however, and disagrees with all other sources which place the attack several days later. 26/ More than anything else, this practice by the Cuban Army of executing prisoners caused the rebels, in future battles, to fight to the death. 27/ R. Hart Phillips, Cuba: Island of Paradox (New York: McDowell, Obolensky, n.d.), pp. 289-291. Hart and others indicate that the Matthew's interview was a significant turning point in Castro's insurrection. Prior to its release, many Cubans believed Castro to be dead. After the interview was published, fighters with food and weapons began to stream into the Sierra Maestra seeking to join Fidel. 28/ John Dorschner and Roberto Fabricio, The Winds of December (New York: Coward, McCann & Geoghegan, 1980), p. 34. 29/ Batista, op. cit., p. 51. Batista chose to ignore any activity by Castro or his men until after Matthews' article appeared in February, calling this attack the "act of bandits." 30/ As soon as the Cuban Army pressure against the rebels relaxed, Guevara abandoned Castro's technique of roaming the mountains, and remaining constantly on the move. Throughout the major portion of the rebellion "Che" maintained a base camp in a valley near Pico Turquino. He established a hospital, armament workshop, tailor's shop, bakery and newspaper. 32/ Meneses, op. cit., pp. 56-57. 33/ Ibid., p. 57. 34/ Ernesto Guevara, Episodes of the Revolutionary War (New York: International Publishers, 1968), p. 69. 35/ Ray Brenman, Castro, Cuba and Justice (New York: Doubleday and Co., 1959), pp. 20-21. Not all of Batista's measures were as harsh. More subtle reprisals such as neglect of public schools, garbage collection and street repairs were also used. 36/ Manuel Urrutia Lleo, Fidel Castro & Company, Inc. (New York: Frederick A. Praeger, 1964), pp. 3-4. 37/ Earl E.T. Smith, The Fourth Floor (New York Random House, 1962), p. 31. 38/ Bonachea, et. al., op. cit., p. 166. 39/ Smith, op. cit., p. 71. 40/ Ibid., pp. 74-76. 41/ Robert Taber, M-26: Biography of a Revolution (New York: Lyle Stuart, 1961), p. 30. 42/ Batista opponents had been petitioning the U.S. State Department for sometime to stop the flow of arms to Batista. In addition, there was considerable disagreement within Congress concerning the same subject. As a point of information, U.S. arms shipments to Cuba had actually stopped several months before the official announcement. Only Batista's insistence upon delivery of some 20 armored cars he had previously been promised brought the issue to a climax. See Urrutia, op cit., pp. 17-18 and Smith, op. cit., passim. 43/ Guevara, op cit., p. 124. At least two unasso- ciated groups were known to be operating in the Escambray in early 1958. One, built on the remnants of the Cienfuegos disaster, and the other comprised of the survivors of the 1957 palace attack. 44/ Unless otherwise cited, the principal source is Bonachea, et. al., op. cit., pp. 198-317. 45/ Bonachea, et. al., ibid., pa 248. 46/ Ibid., p. 257. 47/ The principal sources for the discussion of the final campaign area Dubois, op. cit., pp. 302-351; Bonachea, et. al., op. cit., pp. 266-301; Matthews, op. cit., pp. 127-130; and Dorschner, et. al., op. cit., pp. 81- 185. 48/ Bonachea, et. al., op. cit., p. 273. Extracted from a confidential set of instructions issued by Colonel Suarez Suquet, commander of the Camaguey Rural Guards Regiment. 49/ Franqui, op. cit., p. 416. 50/ Bonachea, et. al., op. cit., p. 299. 51/ The principal sources for the climax of Castro's rebellion are: Meneses, op. cit., pp. 85-86; Bonachea, et. al., op. cit., pp. 302-317; and Franqui, op. cit., pp. 481- 506. 52/ Bonachea, et. al., op. cit., p. 307. CHAPTER IV: CASTRO'S REVOLUTION 1/ Cuba's new government was essentially stillborn. When General Cantillo informed Supreme Court Magistrate Carlos Manuel Piedra, a septuagenarian, that he was the new president, Piedra is reported to have said, "Now what do we do, General?" 2/ Cantillo suggested that they call together some advisors and attempt to form a government. Before dawn on January 1st, Cantillo, Piedra and several handpicked civilians met to discuss the situation. All of those present represented the passing of an era; and, confronting a desperate situation (they) launched into long, rhetorical discourses. While the speakers reminisced about the 1933 Revolution, World War II and Batista's regime ... , Cantillo observed that, 'the whole structure of the armed forces was falling apart while the old men discussed irrelevancies.' 3/ At mid-day, Cantillo suggested that the group move to officially install Piedra as president by gaining the approval of the Supreme Court: However, the Court refused to legitimize Piedra, citing the legal principle that Batista's resignation was the result of a victorious revolution and not the normal course of events; therefore, the revolution was the font of law, leaving the insurgents in the position of organizaing their own government. Once learning of the Courts decision, Piedra told Cantillo that he could not serve as president without his fellow jurists' acceptance. When the news of Cantillo's failure to form a government reached the M-26-7 urban underground, they moved to take control of Havana's streets, government buildings and police precincts. By the end of the day, the underground controlled most of the city. At Long Last; Victory Castro did not learn of Batista's departure until about 9:00 AM on January 1st. Hearing too of Cantillo's attempts to form a civilian or military junta, Fidel knew he had no time to waste in consolidating his position. Consequently, he immediately ordered "Che" Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos to proceed to Havana to consolidate M-26-7 control of the capital. Immediately thereafter, he delivered a dramatic radio address to the Cuban people, alerting them to Batista's departure and Cantillo's unlawful attempts to take over the government. In the same speech, he warned the workers to be prepared for a general strike to counteract Cantillo's scheme. Finally, Castro ordered his forces to immediately march on Santiago. News of the events in Havana also reached Santiago early on January 1st. The city was under regular army control, and a battle seemed inevitable. As the guerrilla army approached the city, Castro released a communique to the Santiago garrison: the army was to surrender before 6:00 PM, or his guerrilla forces would take the city by assault. The commander of the regular forces, Colonel Rego Rubido, flew by helicopter to see Castro. Acknowledging that in light of the events in the capital further bloodshed was useless, Rubido agreed to allow Castro to enter Santiago de Cuba unopposed. In turn, to placate Rubido's officers and troops as well as to ensure their neutrality, Fidel appointed Rubido commander-in-chief of the revolutionary army in Santiago. The city fell into Castro's hands on January 2, 1959. At 1:30 AM that same morning, Castro made his first speech to a large crowd. He spoke from the wall of the same Moncada Fortress where the M-26-7 Movement has begun five and one-half years before. Fidel Castro had fulfilled his promise to liberate Cuba. He had started with 200 men who were reduced to seventy; seventy who, with another twelve, made up the eighty-two who disembarked at Belic; eighty- two, of whom twelve remained at the end of the first week in the Sierra; twelve, who in twenty- five months had wiped out an army of 30,000 professional soldiers. Fidel Castro was to go through many emotional moments on his journey along the length of the island to the Presidential Palace in Havana, but perhaps none was so significant, so full of drama, as when he spoke at Moncada on that morning of the 2nd January 1959. Next to him stood the new President of Cuba, Manuel Urrutia Lleo, and on his other side Monsignor Enrique Perez Serantes, Archbishop of Santiago de Cuba, the man who had not only baptized Fidel Castro, but also saved his life when Batista wanted to eliminate him after the unsuccessful attack on Moncada. 4/ Castro began his long march to Havana on January 2, 1959. The progress of the march was tediously slow, but Fidel was in no hurry. President Urrutia had been sent ahead to install the government, and Guevara and Cienfuegos were establishing control over the capital. As for Castro, he had accepted the position of Representative of the Rebel Army. Behind this modest front, however, Castro had a well- conceived plan. He wanted to project his personality over the people and insure their support for the revolutionary changes he envisioned. He knew that a slow and triumphant march across the length of Cuba would set the island aflame with fervor. Through every town he passed Castro was greeted with wild enthusiasm. Old ladies blessed and prayed for him, and young women tried to get close enough to touch him. Fidel had become larger than life; all past "caudillos" paled before him. Meanwhile, General Cantillo was making a last-ditch attempt to consolidate his position. He reasoned, correctly, that a personal attempt to mobilize the army would fail. He needed to find someone who was both dynamic and anti-Batista. Cantillo concluded that only Colonel Ramond Barquin fit both of those requirements and ordered his release from the Isle of Pines.* Upon Barquin's arrival at Camp Columbia in Havana, Cantillo informed him of the situation. He suggested the Barquin attempt to organize the army in order to present a cohesive front to the guerrilla forces when they arrived. Barquin agreed and demonstrated his good faith by having Cantillo arrested. *Colonel Barquin had led an abortive coup attempt against Batista known as the "Conspiracy of the Pure" in late 1955. He was imprisoned for his efforts. With Cantillo out of the way, Barquin proceeded to consolidate his position. He planned to play a moderating role between the regular army and the revolutionary forces by demonstrating his neutrality and calling for compromise. Barquin soon came to the same conclusion Cantillo had reached, however; the insurgents were in no mood for compromise and any resistance would only cause unnecessary bloodshed, probably including his own. Consequently, with little ceremony, Barquin delivered command of the Havana garrison to Camilo Cienfuegos. The total victory of the insurrection was now guaranteed. The last bastion of hope was removed for those who wished to see Batista defeated, but not by Castro. The Communist State Fidel Castro finally reached Havana on January 6th, the day after the United States extended formal diplomatic recognition to President Urrutia's government. 5/ Few people paid much attention to anything Urrutia was engaged in, however; Castro was the main attraction and everything else was secondary. As Castro, surrounded by guerrillas, entered the capital, emotion reached incalculable heights. Banners and flags hung from almost every building in Havana. The national anthem was heard from loud speakers all along the way, as was the M-26-7 battle hymn ... . Castro stopped at the Presidential Palace to pay his respects to Urrutia. He went to the balcony, and addressed the thousands of people who surrounded the building. An ovation that lasted close to 15 minutes welcomed the Maximum Leader.* Castro gave a short, but emotional speech. He closed by raising his right hand, and lowering his voice. The multitude quieted. In a dramatic voice he asked Cubans to open a path for him to walk through. He would show the world, he said, how disciplined Cubans were. As he moved toward the palace's exit, the people, as if enchanted, opened a path for the Maximum Leader ... . This act impressed everyone who saw the event. For customarily emotional, undisciplined Cubans, it was unprecedented. 6/ From the palace, Castro marched toward Camp Columbia where he was scheduled to present a television address to the nation. Upon arriving, he launched into an impassioned oration that lasted for hours. Castro talked about the republic and the revolution entering a new phase. He denounced the cults of personality and ambition that might endanger the revolution and cautioned the people against accepting dictatorships. Toward the end of his speech, several white doves were released as a symbol of peace. One of the doves landed on Castro's shoulder causing the crowd to fall into a deep silence. Many fell to their knees in prayer, and a general sense of awe spread throughout the throng and the nation. While Fidel spoke of the evils of caudilloism, he was being simultaneously revered as the "Savior of the Fatherland." His words were falling on deaf ears. No one doubted on that day that Castro was a man inspired with a mission, and that Cuba was on its way to restoration of the 1940 Constitution and a return to democratic reforms. *English translation of "Maximo Lider," a title bestowed on Castro by his followers. In the days and weeks that followed, Castro appeared as a man driven by euphoria. Sleeping only three hours a night, he delivered speeches everywhere and anywhere there was a crowd, no matter how small. As Castro governed from his hotel, President Urrutia and his Prime Minister Jose Miro Cardona looked on helplessly from the Presidential Palace. Cardona finally became so frustrated with the dichotomy between what the government ordered and what Castro did, that on February 13th, he resigned, suggesting that Castro take over as Prime Minister. Fidel promptly obliged. With his brother Raul as head of the armed forces, Fidel now began to assume control of the "official" destiny of Cuba. As Castro became more enamored with his own fame, he began to reject any criticism, no matter how constructive, as anti-revolutionary. Any dialogue that questioned his ideas became viewed both as a personal attack and an affront to the M-26-7. It is significant to note that the only people who seemed to sense this, and therefore did not argue with him, were the members of the Cuban Communist Party. While Castro went on expounding theoretical jibberish with few, if any, practical ideas, the communists set about quietly gaining control of the labor unions, press, radio and television. Castro's personal connection with the Cuban Communist Party prior to the end of 1958 had been virtually nil, although toward the end of the offensive, an uneasy alliance had been struck: However, at the time, Castro was accepting aide from almost every corner, thinking he could sort things out later. Further, until Batista's fall seemed inevitable, the communists had been strong supporters of his regime. Batista had needed communist support to help keep control of the workers and labor unions, and allowed them a relatively free reign of Cuban politics as long as they did not present an overt threat. Castro was now faced with much the same situation. He desparately needed someone to shadow his theoretical ideas, and quietly place them into practice without detracting from his image of being the "Maximum Leader." Behind the scenes, Raul Castro and Che Guevara, both long established Marxists, provided that practicality, aided by the Cuban Communist Party. Fidel, perhaps at first unwittingly, assisted them by continually denouncing any disruption of his "plans" as anti-revolutionary. On July 17, 1959, the Havana newspaper Revolucion published a banner headline which read: "CASTRO RESIGNS!" 7/ As expected, the country was deeply shaken. Castro really had no intention of resigning. He was only using the threat to consolidate his control over the government by removing the last of the moderates, whom he considered to be anti-revolutionary. By mid-morning of the 17th, when the people had been sufficiently aroused with many protesting against his "resignation," Castro appeared on television, announced his resignation and launched a vicious attack against President Urrutia and other moderates who were trying to derail the revolution. Since Urrutia had often publically cautioned that the communists were becoming too powerful, Castro accused the President of trying to blackmail him with the communist menace. Prior to the speech, Castro had been out of the public eye for some time. The impact of his sudden reappearance, coupled with his "resignation" and his accusations against Urrutia was electric; the people clamored for the President's resignation. That same night, Urrutia sought protection in the Venezuelan Embassy. It had been his resignation, not Castro's, that had been accepted by the Revolutionary Cabinet. He was replaced by an obscure communist named Osvaldo Dorticos Torrado. From July 17th forward, Fidel Castro controlled the Cuban people while the Cuban Communist Party controlled the country. NOTES Chapter IV: Castro's Revolution 1/ Unless otherwise noted, the principal sources are: Enrique Meneses, Fidel Castro (New York: Taplinger Publishing Company, 1966), pp. 85-101; Ramon L. Bonachea and Marta San Martin, The Cuban Insurrection: 1952-1959 (New Brunswick: Transaction Books, 1974), pp. 313-331; John Dorschner and Robert Fabricio, The Winds of December (New York: Coward, McCann & Geoghegan, 1980), pp. 251-494; Manual Urrutia Lleo, Fidel Castro & Company, Inc., (New York: Frederick A. Praeger, 1964), pp. 3-54; and Irving Peter Pflaum, Tragic Island: How Communism Came to Cuba (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1961), pp. 1- 14, 28-81. 2/ Bonachea, et. al., op. cit., p. 313. 3/ Ibid. 4/ Meneses, op. cit., p. 87. 5/ Earl E.T. Smith, The Fourth Floor (New York: Random House, 1962), pp. 198-199. 6/ Bonachea, et. al., op. cit., p. 329. 7/ Meneses, op. cit., p. 97. CHAPTER V: ANALYSES AND CONCLUSION Fidel Castro won because he had a better plan, better tactics and better organization; Fulgencio Batista lost because he did not. Castro won because he had an idea whose time had come; Batista lost because his idea was no longer supportable. Castro won because he never quit; Batista lost because he did. In trying to discover the reasons for Fidel Castro's success, these comparisons may seem superficial, but they are not. Castro won because he developed and waged an effective guerrilla war; Batista lost because he could not mount a meaningful counter. Castro was successful because he neutralized the impact of the United States; Batista failed because he could not retain Washington's support. Finally, Castro won because he made the Cuban people believe in him; Batista lost because he could not hold their faith. The remainder of this chapter will concentrate on an analysis of the 1953-1959 Cuban Revolution with the objective of determining why Castro won and Batista lost. Four areas will be examined: Castro's guerrilla warfare technique, Batista's counter-insurgency policies, the role of the United States and the impact of ideology and charisma. Guerrilla Warfare a la Castro Prior to Fidel Castro, the traditional method of removing Latin American leaders had been by "golpe de estado" ("coup d'etat") or palace revolution. Generally, a small military detachment would occupy government buildings and the governmental leader and his associates would seek asylum -- usually in a foreign embassy. Then, with little ceremony, a new leader would proclaim himself in control of the government. More than 30 Latin American leaders were deposed by this technique between 1945 and 1955. 1/ Considering the inherent restrictions of a "golpe de estado," these revolts, while abruptly ending the tenure of political leaders and their followers, usually did not upset the prevailing patterns of social, economic or military relations. If Fidel Castro's assault on the Moncada Fortress had been successful, it is quite possible that Fulgencio Batista would have been removed as President, thus establishing Castro as the catalyst for a "golpe de estado." Since the attack on the Moncada Fortress was unsuccessful, Castro turned to a type of combat virtually unknown in Latin America -- guerrilla warfare. Whatever his intensions, Castro's commitment to this form of struggle implied a long military campaign, sweeping social reforms and major economic change. Revolutionary Doctrine. This is not to say that Castro and his lieutenants did not know what they were doing. On the contrary, several of the cadre of leaders that surrounded Castro were quite familiar with the principles of guerrilla tactics. Men such as "Che" Guevara and Alberto Bayo had studied the guerrilla warfare doctrines of both Mao and Giap. Bayo, and especially Guevara, became quite adept at altering established guerrilla tactical theory to suit Cuba's social conditions and terrain. They recognized the need to recruit young people who could endure the hardships of guerrilla fighting. Considering Batista's repressive practices, volunteers were easy to find. They quickly learned that surprise, hit and run and other highly mobile tactics were well suited to their small numbers and rural surroundings. They discovered the role of deception and became experts at setting ambushes. Perhaps most important, they understood the value of intelligence and were quick to establish an effective network throughout the island. Still, guerrilla warfare is not solely a military problem. Tactics, training, intelligence and strategy are not enough. Military operations are only one component in an overall system of insurgency. To be totally effective, combat actions must be coordinated with political, economic, social and psychological variables as well a Guerrilla warfare, for example, would not have proved a sufficient condition for success if other variables had not neutralized the power of the United States. 2/ Castro understood this symbiotic relationship and frequently demonstrated its application through the coordinated use of propaganda, urban underground activities and rural guerrilla attacks. "Che" Guevara. Guevara's contribution to Castro's success cannot be overemphasized. Teacher, tactician and warrior, he knew the importance of the sanctuary that was afforded by the Sierra Maestra and cautioned Castro not to leave it until the time was right. Guevara recognized the necessity of attention to detail, such as establishing hospitals and schools for the rural people who supported the guerrillas with food, shelter and intelligence. He and Castro both insisted that the local people never be abused. Food and supplies were never confiscated; the guerrillas always paid. Guevara and Raul Castro implemented plans to spread propaganda by radio and clandestine newspapers, carefully explaining Fidel Castro's revolutionary platform to thousands who previously had been unaware of what the rebels were fighting for. 3/ If Castro was the heart of the revolution, Guevara became its soul. Urban Guerrilla Organizations. As mentioned previously in the study, the Cuban Revolution was not the sole province of Fidel Castro and his rural guerrillas. Several urban organizations existed. Most were either directly under the control of M-26-7 (and thus in coordination with Castro), or nominally associated. These groups may have been the real heros of the Cuban Revolution because they took the brunt of any reprisals Batista's forces administered. Following every act of revolutionary sabotage or terrorism and every guerrilla success in the field, known members of the various urban undergrounds were sought out, and, if caught, executed. This counter-guerrilla technique proved highly successful. As a result, urban guerrilla activity was limited until the later months of the revolution; groups became fragmented and coordination, either among the numerous cadres or with Fidel Castro, became almost non- existent. Nevertheless, urban guerrilla organizations kept pressure on Batista until the end, providing Castro with valuable intelligence and smoothing the way for his eventual takeover of Havana and the island. Role of the Middle-Class. The Cuban Insurrection has often been publicized as a middle-class rebellion. This is an arguable point. Castro spent a considerable amount of time and rhetoric trying to convince the rural sugarmill workers and peasants to join his movement. His ideas on agricultural reform were based upon the precept of giving land to the landless and were specifically intended to attract rural lower-class subvention. Initially, he was not very successful in gaining peasant support beyond the immediate vicinity of the Sierra Maestra. Government propaganda, poor communications from Castro's headquarters and the factionalism of the revolutionary groups made it virtually impossible for the rural inhabitants to get a clear picture of what was happening. It was not until after Batista's summer offensive that rural support for the guerrillas became prominent. By then, Castro had been so successful that government anti-guerrilla propaganda was ineffectual. In addition, by mid-1958, most of the major revolutionary grups were either consolidated under Castro's control or coordinating their efforts with his. Also, "Radio Rebelde," Castro's short-wave radio station, was broadcasting the "revolutionary truth" throughout the island. Castro's initial failure to generate widespread interest among Cuba's rural poor held his rebellion in check for several months because of manpower shortages. Perhaps more importantly, it had the effect of giving the movement the personnel characteristics which ultimately accounted for its reputation as a middle-class revolt. The leaders of the guerrilla columns and many of their troops had backgrounds traceable to middle-class professions; the urban underground organizations were almost exclusively middle-class; and most of the financial support generated both at home and abroad came from middle-class pockets. Further, Castro deliberately did not antagonize Cuba's middle-class. In fact, he was careful to cultivate their support and sympathy by exploiting their hatred of Batista, promising free elections and the return of civil liberties, and avoiding social, economic and political statements which might alienate them from his cause. Even after he gained power, he transiently rewarded non-Communist, middle-class supporters with offical governmental positions. Ironically, the Cuban middle-class who had originally supported Castro eventually swelled the ranks of the exiled. Propaganda. In the hands of an expert, publicity can be a powerful weapon. Information about guerrilla leaders and their exploits, if handled properly, may serve to gain sympathy, attract recruits and create doubts about the effectiveness of the established government. The interviews between Castro and Matthews not only accomplished these objectives, but contradicted Batista's contentions that Castro was dead. Thanks to the efforts of Guevara, Castro learned the value of propaganda. As the guerrillas became more organized, Castro began to soften his statements for wider appeal. In addition, he shifted emphasis away from broad entreatment of the general population to specific solicitation of the rural lower-class. Coincidently, several revolutionary newspapers, bulletins and leaflets began to appear throughout the country, each touting the motives and successes of the revolution and the tyrantical excesses of the government. However, the most influential propaganda device used by Castro was "Radio Rebelde." First operated in February 1958, the station became an excellent tool by which Castro could personally reach the masses. Every night, exaggerated news of guerrilla victories and proclamations were broadcast throughout the island. In great oratorical style, Castro exhorted Cubans not to fear his revolution; denying Batista's charges that he was a communist and that M-26-7 was a communist movement. The broadcasts became so effective that Batista resorted to jamming the transmissions and simulating rebel broadcasts over the same frequency to counter the guerrilla propagand. 4/ Summary. In the final anaylysis, Castro's brand of guerrilla warfare did not depart dramatically from that of Mao or Giap. He and Guevara merely modified their theories to fit the Cuban scenerio. Neither was the middle-class nature of the Cuban Revolution unique. As has been previously pointed out, many revolutions, including the American, French and Russian, had deep, middle-class roots. What did set Castro's revolution apart, however, was its departure from the more traditional forms of Latin American insurrections. Events since 1959 have demonstrated that that lesson has not been wasted elsewhere in the Caribbean Basin. Internal Defense Some contend that Fidel Castro did not win, but rather, that President Batista lost. There is in fact evidence to support the contention that Batista never realized the magnitude of Castro's insurgency. It appears that he initially saw Castro as just another rival for political power who, although popular, had no widespread base of support among he Cuban population. Many of the decisions Batista made during the insurrection suggest that he was more concerned with maintaining the tenuous hold he had on the country than eradicating Castro. Internal Security Forces. 5/ Batista's counter- guerrilla forces numbered as high as 40,000 men and were composed of civilian police, paramilitary forces and military forces. The National Cuban Police Force was built around seven militarized divisions of approximately 1,000 men each. One division was assigned to each of Cuba's six provinces, with a central division maintained in Havana. The force was under the command of the Minister of Defense. In addition to the National Police, the Department of Interior and Justice also maintained police forces which primarily handled undercover activites. The Rural Guard Corps was a separate paramilitary force operated under the direction of the Chief of Staff of the Cuban Army. Its activities were much like that of a national guard or reserve. It was frequently mobilized to help control demonstrations or strikes and came into extensive use in the latter stages of the revolution. The actions of all these forces were closely coordinated with regular army operations. While the structure of Cuba's regular armed forces has already been discussed, it is significant to note that all of Cuba's internal security forces shared a common weakness: inability to fight a protracted war, especially a counter- guerrilla war. This condition was understandable considering the historical nature of revolutions in Latin America, and certainly not confined to Cuba. In the words of Fidel Castro: The Armies of Latin America are unnecessary if it's a guestion of this part of the world lining up against Russia. None of them is strong enough, and if the occasion arises, the United States will give us all the armaments we need. So, why do the Armies exist? Very simple: to maintain dictatorial regimes and let the United States sell them the old arms they don't need anymore .... The Army today, in Latin America, is an instrument of oppression and a cause of disproportionate expediture for countries whose economies cannot afford it. 6/ Counter-Insurgency Policy. Batista's initial counter- insurgency policy was denial. Until Castro's successful attack upon the Ulbero garrison in May 1957, the government's official policy was that no rebel forces existed. Unofficially though, Batista had begun expanding his armed forces soon after the Matthews interview. Batista's approach to combating the insurgency soon formed into two objectives. First to contain and then defeat the guerrillas in the mountains, and second, to maintain law and order in the cities. The regular armed forces and the Rural Guard Corps were given the primary responsiblity of combating the guerrillas in the field. Their tactics were military oriented, conventional and largely ineffective. The rebels seldom defended the terrain over which they fought; they merely withdrew. Consequently, traditional military tactics using armor and aircraft were of limited value. Hand grenades and machineguns proved to be the most useful weapons. 7/ Except for brief campaigns and forays, Batista's military strategy was generally one of containment. This is amazing when one considers the degree to which government forces outnumbered the guerrillas, especially in the early months of the conflict. In spite of their lack of training, it is difficult to understand why several thousand well- equipped soldiers could not have overrun the Sierra Maestra and killed or captured a few dozen poorly-armed guerrillas. In fact, just the opposite always seemed to happen. With few exceptions, Batista's soldiers proved time and again that they had no heart for fighting, and at the first sign of trouble they usually ran. In general, their officers were incapable of inspiring better performance. Meanwhile, the National Police were given the function of maintaining law and order within the urban areas. Unlike the regular military, they initially dispatched their duties with considerable effectiveness. Able to infiltrate many of the urban guerrilla organizations, the National Police conducted a mercilous campaign of counter-revolutionary techniques that included indiscriminate arrests, torture and murder. These countermeasures were so successful that urban activities were severely curtailed through all but the last months of the revolution. 8/ Insurgent countermeasures emphasizing terrorism were not confined to the cities. Batista's military forces were fond of torturing and summarily executing rebel prisoners, in marked contrast to Castro's policy of returning government prisoners unharmed. The same dissimilarity applied to the treatment of civilian. While Castro's troops were always courteous and honest in their dealings with civilians, government forces were usually contemptuous and brutal. Torture and executions only made the rebels more determined to fight to the death. Castro and the M-26-7 underground were quick to capitalize on the negative aspect of Batista's terrorist-style countermeasures by ensuring that accounts and photographs of the atrocities were widely circulated. Chances are that Batista's decision to use terrorism against the guerrillas and guerrilla sympathizers probably cost him his job. It certainly cost him the support of the Cuban people. Summary. Batista's internal defense plan can be summarized simply by saying that he really did not have one. Initially, he refused to acknowledge the threat that Castro imposed. Even after he apparently resolved to deal directly with the rebel leader, he was unable to bring his military might to bear on the greatly outnumbered guerrillas. The only anti-guerrilla successes his forces experienced were those spawned by terrorist activities far worse than anything the rebels were carrying out. In the end, these too proved ineffective. In fairness to Batista, he was attempting to counter a style of warfare that was totally unfamiliar to Latin America and most of the world. Proven tactics were generally unavailable. In addition, Batista was burdened with trying to maintain control of an unstable political situation of his own making. In effect, he was fighting a war on two fronts and largely unequipped to deal with either. Modern wisdom, in retrospect, would suggest that the answers to both of his problems could have been found in civil,not military measures. Had he chosen to conduct a social, political and economic revolution of his own by returning the country to the precepts of the 1940. Constitution, Castro would not have had much of a foundation on which to base his revolution. Instead, Batista chose repression, martial law, terrorism and inept military campaigns. Again in retrospect, it is not surprising that he lost. Neutralization of the United States 9/ It is impossible to rank the various factors which lead to Fidel Castro's rise to power. However, the neutralization of the United States as an effective supporter of Batista would have to be listed as a variable of extreme importance. Despite his charisma, tactics and popular appeal, Castro's quest may well have proved fruitless if the power of the United States had been applied to his downfall with unqualified vigor. As it happened, however, the capabilities of the United States were applied neither in Castro's direction nor away from it: American power was neutralized. This moderation can be attributed to three factors which greatly influenced U.S. policy toward Cuba. Batista's Negative Image. As the Cuban Revolution intensified, a cluster of negative images became attached to Batista. He was associated with repression and terrorism and portrayed as a leader who profited from corruption. Even Batista's supporters in the United States found themselves compelled to apologize for the nature of his regime. As a last resort, they appealed to Americans on the grounds that, at the very least, Batista was hostile to communism. However, the inclination of the American press to take a dim view toward dictators ultimately placed so much negative publicity on Batista that Washington had no choice but to curb enthusiasm and assistance toward the Cuban President. Ultimately, the United States withdrew military support from the Batista regime, thus hastening its demise. Castro's Confused Image. Washington's frigidity toward Batista did not mean that the United States embraced Castro. Instead, American leaders became preoccupied with the paradoxes of Castro's career. Was Castro a communist? Was he a nationalist? Did he really plan to restore Cuba to democratic ideals as he had promised? If he was not a communist, why did he ally himself with such avowed communists as his brother Raul and "Che" Guevara? If he was a communist, why was he scorned by most of the communist parties in Latin America, including the Cuban Communist Party? If he was a communist, why did responsible journalists such as Herbert Matthews portray him in such sympathetic terms? Obsession with these questions presented a blurred image of Castro. Unable to reconcile the numerous contradictions in his background or rhetoric, the United States became powerless to classify him as either friend or foe. Without that distinction, Washington could not decide whether to support his ascension or impede his progress. Upon reflection, it is highly unlikely that the American government would have been faced with this dilemma if Castro had announced in the late 1950's -- as he did in 1961 -- that he was a confirmed Marxist-Leninist. Policy Ambiguity. As suggested, the contradictory image of Castro combined with the tarnished image of Batista brought irresolution to America's Cuban policy. As a result, the United States neither offered Castro the kind of massive assistance that may have guaranteed reciprocal obligations, nor continued to support Batista's regime with economic and military sanctions which may have guaranteed his survival. Although the United States never diplomatically abandoned Batista, Washington's ambivalence doomed American's Cuban policy and the Cuban President to failure. Consequently, during most of the late 1950's, America's power, which might have proved decisive to the fate of Fidel Castro, was neutralized. Castro was allowed to consolidate his power with little or no assistance from the United States as American leaders failed to establish a claim to the benefits due a friend, much less assert the dominance of a militarily superior foe. Summary. The objective of American foreign policy toward Cuba during the 1950's was really no different then it had been since the early 1930's. Through all of Cuba's political turmoil since that time, Washington had always placed itself on the side of stability. The United States supported whichever Cuban leader demonstrated the greatest ability to guarantee domestic, and thus economic and military, tranquility. While Washington was not particularly enamored with Batista's 1952 coup, it could not ignore the fact that Batista was in an excellent position to ensure the security of American interests on the island. Even after Batista's regime began to show signs of failure, American leaders were unwilling to totally desert the foreign policy formula that had been so successful. Consequently, they resorted to a sort of non-policy in the hope that Batista would be deposed, but not by Castro. Unfortunately, their decision proved wrong and the United States was left out in the cold. El Caudillo 10/ While the guerrilla movements of Asia and Africa share many similarities with the Cuban Revolution, each also incorporates diverse and unique elements. The fact that Cuba is an island, for example, introduced special geographic variables that had an impact upon the strategy, tactics and patterns of logistical support for both factions. Similarly, guerrilla leaders may often exhibit charismatic qualities, yet Fidel Castro remains a distinct individual with traits and characteristics which distinguish him from other guerrilla leaders. In fact, it is the uniqueness of Fidel Castro that may have been the overriding factor which caused his revolution to succeed where several others had failed. Charismatic Leadership. That Fidel Castro qualifies as a charismatic leader is hard to dispute. His political style has always been colorful, extreme, flamboyant and theatrical. He disdains established conventions and routine procedures, and conspicuously departs from organizational norms of behavior and appearance. Castro instilled among his men an absolute certainty of final victory. He was never -- even in the worst of times -- pessimistic. For him, victory was always around the corner, and one final push was all that was necessary to attain what others had never reached. A mystique about his capacity to overcome adversities surrounded him. He was a man who inspired legends. Youthful, idealistic and audacious, he emulated the great Cuban revolutionaries of the past, thus capturing the imagination of the Cuban people. Notwithstanding the above, it is difficult to understand how one man can totally mesmerize an entire population. Three special conditions which are applicable to contemporary Cuba may hold the key. First, Third World countries with large rural populations often show a propensity to gravitate toward charismatic leaders. Many features of the Cuban economy, despite the country's large urban population, qualify Cuba as an underdeveloped country. Second, traditionally, Latin American countries have not formed their political conflicts along the lines of political parties. Rather, most Latin American political conflicts have assumed the form of struggles between two strong leaders or "caudillos." Cuba's history abounds with political movements built around personality cults of this nature. Batista and Castro are the most recent examples. The third, and last, condition involves the morale of the guerrilla fighter. His ability to carry on under adverse conditions is particularly dependent upon his exalted view of his leader. Fidel Castro could evoke intense emotional responses of faith and loyalty. Summary. Castro's image was that of a romantic fighter. He was a man who, true to the great traditions of Cuban revolutionaires, would know how to die, fighting with valor and dignity until the end. Most Cubans assumed that, like those revolutionaries before him, Fidel would one day be killed while fighting for their freedom. This fatalistic view of the future of all great "caudillos" was what fueled the mystique surrounding Castro. However, Fidel Castro was a dedicated insurrectionist, born for action and command, but definitely not martyrdom. It was his uncompromising belief in his own destiny that eventually raised him about the "caudillos" who had preceded him and established him as "El Caudillo," the supreme charismatic leader. Conclusion This study began with the premise that an examination of the circumstances surrounding the Cuban Revolution could broaden our professional understanding of the problems associated with countering insurgencies. In so doing we have explored the roots and causes of the Cuban Revolution and traced its evolution. The factors behind Castro's success and Batista's failure have, in retrospect, become all too common in Latin America and elsewhere in the world. The lessons learned from Cuba are the same as those that have been learned and relearned from Malaysia, Vietnam and Nicaragua the tenacity of the guerrilla fighter, the inadequacy of conventional warfare in a guerrilla warfare scenerio, the importance of civil measures, the complexity of the guerrilla warfare process and the impotence of Americn foreign policy to deal with most of the above. In a very real sense, the United States has not progressed very far in its capability to deal with insurrections which affect our vital interests. In Vietnam, for example, American disregard for the nonmilitary aspects of guerrilla warfare eventually cost us victory. The United States may, in fact, be doomed to relearn the lessons associated with guerrilla warfare indefinitely unless we can develop a more flexible policy which makes allowances for social and economic solutions as well as military action. Revolutionary ideas have traditionally been defeated only when countermeasures have represented better ideas. NOTES Chapter V: Analyses and Conclusion 1/ Merle Kling, "Cuba: A Case Study of Unconventional Warfare," Military Review, December 1962, p. 12 2/ See succeeding section entitled "Neutralization of the United States." 3/ These broadcasts/publications did not start until late in the campaign, but are credited with influencing many peasants and rural workers to join Castro in the last few months of the conflict. 4/ Norman A. La Charite, Case Studies in Insurgency and Revolutionary Warfare: Cuba 1953-1959 (Washington, D.C.: SORO, The American University, 1963), p. 112. 5/ Andrian H. Jones and Andrew R. Molnar, Internal Defense against Insurgency: Six Cases (Washington, D.C.: SSRI, The American University, 1966), pp. 65-71. 6/ Enrique Meneses, Fidel Castro, (New York: Taplinger Publishing Company, 1966), p. 58. 7/ La Charite op. cit., pp. 103-104. 8/ As further proof of their effectiveness, urban guerrillas suffered 20 times as many casualties as their rural counterparts. 9/ Priscilla A. Clapp, The Control of Local Conflict: Case Studies, Cuban Insurgency (1952-1959) (Waltham, Massachusetts: Bolt, Beranek and Newman, Inc., 1969), pp. 73-102; and Kling, op. cit., pp. 18-19. 10/ Ramon L. Bonachea and Marta San Martin, The Cuban Insurrection: 1952-1959 (New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction books, 1974), pp. 100-105; and Kling, op. cit., pp. 15-16. Click here to view image BIBLIOGRAPHY Books and Special Reports Asprey, Robert B. War in the Shadows: The Guerrilla in History. 2 vols. Garden City: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1975. Brief synopsis of Castro's insurrection in Volume II. Good overview of the rebellion. Manages to pack a lot of information in just three chapters. Index, bibliography, footnotes, maps. Batista, Fulgencio. Cuba Betrayed a New York: Vantage Press, 1962. Author*s own version of the collapse of his regime. Blames international Communist conspiracy for most of his problems. Very parochial. Frequently conflicts with other published accounts of historical events. Bonachea, Ramon L. and San Martin, Marta. The Cuban Insurrection: 1952-1959. New York Brunswick Transaction Books, 1974a Superior account of the Cuban Revolution. Very well researched and ex- tensively documented. Became one of my principal resource documents. Index, footnotes, bibliography, photos, maps. Brennan, Ray. Castro, Cuba and Justice. New York Doubleday, 1959. Newspaper correspondent offers eye-witness account of Castro's rise to power from 1953-1959. Excellent account of Batista's counter- insurgency methods. Index. Chester, Edmund A. A Sergeant Named Batista. New York: Henry Holt and company, 1954. Somewhat exhaustive, though interesting biographical sketch of Fulgencio Batista through 1953. Based upon personal inter- views of Batista and his acquaintances. Seems reasonably balanced and accurate. Aligns with other sources. Written before Castro became an issue of substance. Index. Clapp, Priscilla A. The Control of Local Conflict: Case Studies; Volume II (Latin America). Washington: ACDA, 1969. The Cuban Insurgency (1952-1959) is covered in pages 70-136. Includes an excellent appendix on weapons analysis. Footnotes. Dorschner, John and Fabricio, Roberto. The Winds of December. New York: Coward, McCann & Geoghegan, 1980. Superb and highly detailed account of the last weeks of Castro's revolution from 26 Novem- ber 1958 through 8 January 1959. Bibliography, index, map, photos. Draper, Theodore. Castroism: Theory and Practice. New York: Frederick A. Praeger, Inc., 1965. Tracks the evolution of Castroism and shows how it was applied during the early 1960's. Corre- lates Cuban history and customs with Castro's attempts to revolutionize Cuban agriculture and economy. Interesting, but of little value to the overall theme of this paper. Index. Draper, Theodore. Castro's Revolution: Myths and Realities. New York: Praeger, 1962. Good background source. Presents strong evidence that Cuban revolution was a middle-class revo- lution with little peasant support until the end. Dubois, Jules. Fidel Castro: Rebel, Liberator or Dictator? Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1959. Excellent biography covering Castro's life through 1959. Index, photos. Ebon, Martin. Che: The Making of a Legend. New York: Universe Books, 1969. Excellent biography of Che Guevara. Chapters 1-6 were particularly useful for this paper. Appendices, index, bibliography. Estep, Raymond. The Latin American Nations Today. Maxwell AFB: Air University, 1964. Covers major Latin American developments which occurred bet- ween 1950 and 1964. Pages 85-112 address Cuba. Good section on Cuba's political party alignments during the 1950's. Index, glossary, suggested readings. Fagg, John Edwin. Cuban Haiti & The Dominican Republic. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1965. Good historical sketch on Cuba, pp. 9-111. Maps, bib- liography, index. Ferguson, J. Halcro. The Revolution of Latin America. London: Thames and Hudson, 1963. Covers history of Latin American revolutions from early 1920's - 1962 with a special section devoted to the Cuban Revolution. Devoted more to the revolutionary phenomenon itself rather than details. Good dis- cussion of "Fidelismo" and its repercussions on the rest of Latin America. Ferguson is a British author and broadcaster on Latin American affairs. Book had limited value for this paper. Foreign Area Studies Division. Special Warfare Area Handbook for Cuba. Washingtona SORO, 1961. Presents social, economic, military background information intended for use in planning for psychological and unconventional warfare. Bib- liography, maps, charts. Franqui, Carlos, ed. Diary of the Cuban Revolution. New York: Viking Press, 1980. As the title suggests, the book contains numerous letters and diary excerpts from the actual participants of the Cuban Revolution including: Fidel Castro, Che Guevara and the book's editor/author who was the editor of an underground newspaper during the conflict. Arranged chronologically. Contains a brief biographical section on many of the lessor- known revolutionaries. Valuable source. Index. Guevara, Ernesto. Episodes of the Revolutionary War. New York: International Publishers, 1968. A collection of Guevara's articles describing the revolution. Includes descriptions of several battles. Guevara, Ernesto, Reminiscences of the Cuban Revolutionary War. New York: Grove Press, 1968. Translated by Victoria Ortiz. Compilation of 32 articles by Guevara. Also includes 26 letters. First hand account of several battles and the problems the rebels faced. Harris, Richard. Death of a Revolutionary: Che Guevara's Last Mission. New York; W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1976. Exhaustive account of Guevara's last years and days. Good biographical section. Index, map. Huberman, Leo and Sweezy, Paul M., eds. Regis Debrayy and the Latin American Revolution. New York: Monthly Review Press, 1968. Collection of essays written by or about Regis Debray. Wide variation of theories about Latin American revolutions, especially Cuba. Jones, Adrian H., and Molnar, Andrew R. Internal Defense Against Insurgency: Six Cases. Washington, D.C. a SSRI, The American University, 1966. Briefly sketches six post World War II insurgencies which occurred between 1948 and 1965. Pages 59-72 address Cuba. Good overview. Maps, footnotes, charts. Juvenal, Michael P. United States Foreign Policy Towards Cuba in This Decade. Carlisle Barracks: U.S. Army War College, 1971. Contains some information on United States-Cuban relations during the revolution, but concentrates mainly upon the 1960's. Footnotes, bibliography. La Charite, Norman. Case Studies in Insurgency and Re- volutionary Warfare: Cuba 1953 - 1959. Washington: SORO, 1963. Somewhat redundant analysis of the Cuban Revolution. Heavy emphasis on socioeconomic factors. Index, bibliography, footnotes, map. MacGaffey, Wyatt and Barnett, Clifford R. Cuba: Its People, Its Society, Its Culture. New Haven: HRAF Press, 1962. As the title suggests, a study of Cuba prior to 1960 with heavy emphasis on social and cultural conditions. Good demographic source. Index. Matthews, Herbert L. Fidel Castro. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1969. Newspaperman's account of Castro's rise to power. Based upon many personal interviews. Seems strongly biased in favor of Castro. Includes some biographical data on Castro's early life. Index. Matthews, Herbert L. The Cuban Story. New York: George Brazillier, 1961. Largely a self-aggrandizing account of the effects of the author's famous interview with Castro in 1957. Contains some valuable insights into the early stages of the insurrection. Index. McRae, Michael S. The Cuban Issue Reevaluated. Maxwell AFB: Air University, 1974. Investigates the rise of the Castro regime and its relationships with the United States, Soviet Union and the Organization of American States. Excellent discussion of Castro's evolution to communism. Footnotes, bibliography. Meneses, Enrique. Fidel Castro. New York: Taplinger Publishing Company, 1966. A Spanish reporter for the Paris-Match writes of his experiences with Castro and the Cuban Revolution. Chapters 1-8 deal specifically with the period covered by this paper and were very useful for their insights into Castro and his organization. Particularly signifi- cant because it helped to give the European view of the conflict. Index, maps, photos. Miller, William R. The Dyamics of U.S.-Cuban Relations and Their Eventuality. Maxwell AFB: Air University, 1976. Traces United States-Cuban relations through the mid-1970's. Good background on United States role during the revolution. Footnotes, biblio- graphy. Mydans, Carl and Mydans, Shelley. The Violent Peace. Kingsport: Kingsport Press, Inc., 1968. An excel- lent treatment of selected wars since 1945. Pages 248-267 deal with the Cuban Revolution. Most of the material is drawn from guotations by Sam Halper, one of the several correspondents who followed Castro around the Sierra Maestra moun- tains, trying to get a story. Index, map, excel- lent photos. Nelson, Lowry. Rural Cuba. Minneapolis: The University of Minnesota Press, 1950. Excellent source of in- formation about Cubans socioeconomic status prior to Castro's insurrection. Index. Perez, Louis A. Jr. Army Politics in Cuba, 1898-1958. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1976. Traces the creation of the Cuban Army from its inception until Castro's take over. Insightful historical analysis of role the army played during various political revolutions during that period and degree to which it came to dominate Cuban politics and government. Rich in names and details. Pflaum, Irving Peter. Tragic Island: How Communism Came to Cuba. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1961. Newspaperman's account of Castro's rise to power. The author traveled extensively in Cuba in late 1958 and through much of 1960. Excellent account of role U.S. played in Batista's ouster and Castro's conversion to communism. Phillips, R. Hart. Cuba: Island of Paradox. New York: McDowell, Obolensky, u.d. Newspaper correspondent gives her impressions of events in Cuba, primarily between 1931 and 1960. Excellent "on-scene" accounts of many events. Based largely upon interviews and hearsay. Rambling style, but quite readable. Facts, especially concerning dates and specific events, are often wrong or obscure. Author seems biased in favor of Castro. Not a good source from a research stand- point except that it gives one a feel for the events from an American's viewpoint. Some good guotations. Index. Smith, Earl E.T. The Fourth Floor: An Account of the Castro Communist Revolution. New York: Random House, 1962. Former U.S. Ambassador to Cuba from 1957-59, believes that U.S. policy was at least partially responsible for Castro's victory. Discusses exten- sively his efforts to stop the insurrection. Index. Smith, Robert F. The United States and Cuba: Business and Diplomacy, 1917-1960. New York: Bookmen Association, 1960. Good background on U.S. business and diplomatic involvement in Cuba from the Spanish- American War until Castro's takeover. Index. Strode, Hudson. The Pageant of Cuba. New York: Harrison Smith and Robert Haas, 1934. Detailed history of Cuba through Batista's initial rise to power in 1933. Old photos, index, bibliography, map. Suchlicki, Jaime. Cuba: From Columbus to Castro. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1974. Concise pre- Castro history, but sketchy once Castro is intro- duced. Index, bibliography, photos. Taber, Robert. M-26 Biography of a Revolution. New York: Lyle Stuart, 1961. Excellent journalist account of the revolution. Urrutia Lleo, Manuel. Fidel Castro & Company, Inc. New York: Praeger, 1964. A former President of Cuba 1959-60, and Castro's choice to lead the government following the revolution gives an account of his own attempts to establish a government following Batista's departure. Also describes Castro's coup d'etat which deposed Urrutia. Index. U.S. Army Command and General Staff College. Selected Readings on Internal Defense: Cuba 1953-59. Fort Leavenworth, Kansas: USACAGSC, 1970. Excepts from selected books and articles covering the Cuban Revo- lution. U.S. Department of Commerce. Investment in Cuba: Basic Information for United States Businessmen. Washington: GPO, 1956. Contai.ns a wide variety of facts and figures concerning Cuban commerce in the early 1950's. Periodicals Aaron, Harold R. "Why Batista Lost." Army Magazine, September 1965, pp. 64-71. Succint account of the Cuban Revolution. The author hypothesizes that Castro won because he met no meaningful opposition. Chapelle, Dickey. "How Castro Won." Marine Corps Gazette, February 1960. Excellent first-hand account of Castro's infrastructure and tactics. The author spent several months in the field, interviewing Castro and his men. Guevara, Ernesto. "La Guerra de Guerrillas." Army Magazine, March, April and May 1961: Guevara's ideas about guerrilla warfare translated and condensed by Army Magazine. Written in hindsight after Castro had succeeded. Very specific, right down to weapons, tactics, hygiene, role of women, logistics, etc. Kling, Merle. "Cuba: A Case Study of Unconventional Warfare. " Military Review, December 1962, pp. 11-22. Brief overview, excellent handling of Castro's strategy. Macaulay, Neill W. Jr. "Highway Ambush." Army Magazine, August 1964, pp. 50-56. Detailed account of a guerrilla attack in Pinar del Rio province during the latter phases of the revolution. St. George, Andrew. "A Visit With a Revolutionary." Coronet, Vol. 43, no. 4 (whole no. 256, February 1958), pp. 74- 80. Journalist's view of Castro based upon personal interviews. Heavily interspersed with Castro's quota- tions.
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|