Posted by samaya on अप्रील 27, 2007
Cuban Revolution, widespread uprising in Cuba that overthrew the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista (1952-1959) and brought the government of revolutionary leader Fidel Castro to power. The revolution established the only communist state in the western hemisphere and produced profound changes in the economic and social structure of Cuban society. It also ended more than a half century of United States influence in Cuban internal affairs.Batista’s government, which came to power following a military coup in 1952, had become widely unpopular as a result of rampant corruption and harsh repression of dissent. Batista faced growing opposition to his rule from many segments of Cuban society. Fidel Castro, a political activist and former lawyer, led the best organized of a number of anti-Batista forces. He waged a successful guerrilla campaign from the mountains of eastern Cuba while steadily building a broad network of support both within Cuba and abroad. This coalition of opposition forces eventually induced Batista to flee the country.Following the overthrow of Batista, Castro began changes that dramatically altered Cuba’s political, economic, and social structure. He confronted the United States, which had been involved in Cuba’s internal affairs for decades, and announced that Cuba would follow a socialist path. Castro severed Cuba’s close ties with the United States and aligned Cuba with the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), then the leading power among the world’s communist nations. This strain on relations between the United States and Cuba continued into the 1990s.The revolution also left a legacy of opposition among exiles who left Cuba rather than live under the Castro government. More than 1 million Cubans left the island for exile in the three years following the revolution. At first, many of these exiles were professional middle-class Cubans who saw their livelihoods threatened by Castro’s economic policies and objected to the political system that Castro imposed. Restrictions on political freedoms and economic hardships caused thousands of other Cubans to flee the island in the years since Castro seized power.Many of these exiles fled to the United States and settled in Miami Florida; many in this community remain committed to the overthrow of Castro and the establishment of a democratically elected government in Cuba. See Cuban Americans.
Cuba had been a Spanish colony since 1492. In 1898 the United States declared war on Spain and captured Cuba along with several other Spanish possessions (see Spanish-American War). The Cuban Republic was founded in 1902. However, its independence was limited by the insistence of the United States that it had the right to intervene in Cuban internal affairs.During the early part of the 20th century, U.S. business investment in Cuba grew, and by the late 1930s it had become an important part of the Cuban economy. U.S. influence in Cuban affairs and U.S. business interests on the island were often resented by Cubans, especially when the worldwide economic depression of the early 1930s devastated Cuba’s economy. When Cuban leader Ramón Grau San Martín enacted legislation that reduced the influence of the U.S. government and businesses in Cuba, the United States responded by supporting Cuban military officer Fulgencio Batista, who overthrew the Grau government in 1934.As Cuba’s army chief, Batista functioned as the real power in Cuba, installing a series of puppet presidents. He served a four-year term as president himself from 1940 to 1944 and returned to the presidency in 1952 when he organized a military coup that overthrew the elected government. During his second regime, Batista’s government grew increasingly repressive and corrupt.Batista’s relationship with U.S. businesses was complex. He promoted investments by U.S. companies, but he also encouraged the growth and diversification of Cuban businesses to reduce Cuba’s dependence on sugar production, which had dominated the economy since the late 1700s. During Batista’s regime U.S. businesses owned 35 percent of the Cuban sugar industry. This represented the smallest proportion of U.S. ownership since the 19th century. Nevertheless a growing number of Batista’s opponents came to see him as a symbol of continued U.S. economic dominance over the island.Resistance to Batista’s government developed among university students and gradually spread to include varied segments of Cuban society. Because the Cuban economy was growing in the mid-1950s, the opposition to Batista focused mainly on the repressive nature of the dictatorship and Batista’s suspension of constitutional government. A number of Cuban revolutionaries, however, advocated major social and economic reforms to end peasant land evictions, to reduce chronically high seasonal unemployment in Cuba’s important sugar industry, and to narrow social and economic inequalities.One of the people opposing Batista was Castro. On July 26, 1953, Castro and several dozen associates attacked the army’s Moncada barracks in Cuba’s second largest city, Santiago. The attack failed. Castro was captured following the attack, but the bravery of his actions and the edited version of the speech he gave in his defense at his trial won him widespread attention. Castro was sentenced to prison, but a confident Batista released him from jail in 1955. Castro went to Mexico and to the United States to gather forces and to raise funds for an invasion of Cuba. While in Mexico he met Argentine revolutionary Ernesto (Che) Guevara, who would prove a valuable ally in the coming revolution.
|THE VICTORY OVER BATISTA|
In 1956 Castro, Guevara, and about 80 other revolutionaries sailed from Mexico aboard the yacht Granma. They landed in Cuba in a shipwreck. Batista’s soldiers killed most of the guerrillas, and the remainder fled to the Sierra Maestra mountains of eastern Cuba and began fighting an improvised guerrilla war. The guerrillas adopted the name 26th of July Movement, after the date of Castro’s attack on the Moncada barracks.The guerrillas’ program was moderate, promising elections, constitutional government, and land reform according to the constitution. Castro affirmed that he was not a Communist. By mid-1958 the guerrillas under Castro’s command numbered just 400. Batista’s army proved inept, however, and 12,000 government troops failed to defeat Castro’s small band of guerrillas. The 26th of July Movement also had important support among the organized anti-Batista forces in the cities, where revolutionaries engaged in many acts of sabotage and acquired weapons and supplies for the guerrillas in the mountains.Especially important were university students organized in the Revolutionary Directorate, an independent group led by José Antonio Ecchevarría. The Directorate’s attempt to assassinate Batista in March 1957 nearly succeeded, but many of its members, including Echeverría, were killed in the attempt. In 1958 guerrillas from the Directorate and from another revolutionary group, the Second Front at Escambray (led by Eloy Gutíerrez Menoyo), were operating in the Escambray mountains of central Cuba.Another source of opposition to Batista was professional military officers, who conspired to overthrow Batista on several occasions. In September 1957 a major military uprising temporarily seized the naval base at Cienfuegos. The military plotters were arrested.In March 1958 Castro and his movement called a nationwide general strike. The strike failed in most of the country because Cuba’s major labor organization, the Cuban Confederation of Labor, threw its support behind Batista. In the same month, the U.S. government cut off weapons sales to Batista’s government. U.S. envoys and political moderates in Cuba tried to convince Batista to leave power peacefully, but Batista refused. Meanwhile, revolutionaries from Castro’s movement and from other organizations escalated violent resistance. During the second half of 1958, guerrillas seized ground in the countryside from the army. In the cities, several of Batista’s leading henchmen were assassinated and numerous government buildings were bombed. Batista’s forces responded by killing the leading urban revolutionaries.As a result, Castro emerged as the only significant revolutionary leader. In late 1958 Castro dispatched an invasion force led by Guevara and fellow revolutionary Camilo Cienfuegos to central Cuba to coordinate activities with guerrillas independent of Castro’s organization. In December of 1958 the only pitched battle of the war took place for control of the city of Santa Clara in central Cuba. Following the battle, Batista’s army retreated and disintegrated, and Batista’s regime collapsed. In the early morning hours of January 1, 1959, Batista fled the country.
|BREAK WITH THE UNITED STATES|
Victorious revolutionary forces established a new government, which disbanded Batista’s army, prohibited political parties, and deferred elections. As the leader of the best-known and most powerful revolutionary group, Castro exercised the greatest influence on government policies, and he became prime minister in February. Castro visited the United States in April, where the U.S. government offered him assistance as well as criticism. In May the new Cuban government enacted a major land reform law that nationalized most farms larger than about 400 hectares (about 1000 acres). This action appropriated much of the Cuban property held by large U.S. agricultural firms.Seeking to break the hold that the United States had on Cuba, Castro sought foreign support to counter the traditional influence of the United States. In late 1959 Castro approached the USSR, the leader of the world’s Communist nations, for support. Although Cuba’s Communist Party had joined the insurgency against Batista quite late, its leaders had increasingly assumed key roles in the new order. In May 1960 Castro reestablished diplomatic ties with the USSR, which had been severed under Batista’s regime, and made an agreement to import Soviet oil. In June the Cuban government took over foreign-owned petroleum refineries that refused to process Soviet oil. Within days the U.S. government outlawed the purchase of Cuban sugar, the mainstay of Cuba’s economy. Cuba then assumed control of all U.S. property on the island and established a military alliance with the USSR. In January 1961 the United States broke diplomatic relations with Cuba. As Cuban policy shifted to the left, many moderate leaders resigned from the government or were forced out of office.
To rally support, Castro appealed to Cuban patriotism and promised a better life for the poor. A spellbinding public speaker, he spoke for hours at a time several times a week, seeking and obtaining broad popular support. He traveled frequently throughout Cuba in a campaign to meet people, find out about their problems, and elicit their backing.Castro’s government launched a number of programs aimed at improving social conditions among poor and uneducated Cubans. In 1961 the government temporarily closed schools and sent about 270,000 students and teachers to the countryside to teach illiterate citizens how to read and write. This crash program to increase literacy, and follow-up efforts in subsequent years, taught almost everyone to read and write. Before the revolution about a quarter of all Cubans were illiterate, with a median schooling level of third grade. In the mid-1990s the literacy rate approached 95 percent, and the typical Cuban had a middle school education.Also in 1961 the government decreed that all health care would be paid for by the state. The government built clinics in rural areas that had no medical facilities, and it required graduates of medical schools to provide two years of health care service in these areas.Seeking to shape a new society, the government strongly fostered cooperative activities in neighborhoods and in the work place. Neighbors cleaned up streets and parks, encouraged recycling of materials, and helped in mass vaccination campaigns. Workers built housing units next to their work places.
In 1960 and 1961 the Cuban government took control of all private firms except small agricultural plots belonging to individual Cubans. The government believed that it could organize the Cuban economy more effectively than private firms; socialism, its leaders believed, was more rational than the market.Following the break with the United States in the early 1960s Cuba’s economy suffered a number of setbacks. The United States organized a partial embargo on trade with Cuba in late 1960 and expanded it to a full embargo in early 1962. The embargo made it illegal to import goods from Cuba to the United States, or to export to Cuba any products that were manufactured or had parts that were manufactured in the United States. The result was severe shortages of consumer goods in Cuba within a few years.The Cuban government faced a further economic setback when it attempted to decrease Cuba’s dependence on sugar by diversifying the economy. Efforts were made to encourage industrialization, including the manufacture of light consumer goods, as well as machinery and equipment. The government also tried to increase the variety of agricultural crops grown by Cuban farmers. These efforts failed, partly because of poor planning, organization, and incentives by the government; partly because of lack of incentives; and partly because many of Cuba’s most qualified businessmen and technicians fled the country when Castro began nationalizing businesses in the early 1960s. The Cuban economy declined drastically in the years that followed and the government began rationing food, clothing, and most goods and services.Cuba abandoned its diversification policy in the mid-1960s and again focused on sugar production. In 1970 the government mobilized the country’s workers in an unsuccessful effort to produce a record annual total of 10 million tons of sugar. The overemphasis on sugar production drained workers from other sectors of the economy and led to increased shortages of already scarce consumer goods. With substantial Soviet assistance, the Cuban economy recovered and grew rapidly in the 1970s, although it still specialized on sugar production. Dependent on Soviet assistance, Cuba integrated its trade and investments with the USSR and the Communist countries of Europe.
|LEGACY OF THE CUBAN REVOLUTION|
At home the Cuban government made major strides in improving social conditions. By the 1980s Cuba’s health care system was the best in Latin America, and its infant mortality rate ranked among the lowest in the world, dropping to 9.4 per 1000 live births in 1995. Between 1958 and 1995, Cuban life expectancy rose to 76 years, matching that of the United States.The policies implemented by the Castro government caused a radical realignment of power in Cuba. The private owners of the nation’s wealth lost their property and the government came to own and operate nearly all aspects of economic life. The small wealthy class that had ruled Cuba was replaced with a new elite of government officials and educated professional workers.But Castro’s domestic policies have encountered opposition, both from dissidents inside Cuba and from the Cubans who left the island for exile. Castro’s economic policies have alienated many Cubans who found their prospects for economic betterment blocked by a government that restricts the ownership of property and regulates the earnings that individuals make in their work. Castro’s political policies also cost him the support of many Cubans who opposed the suspension of the Cuban constitution of 1940, the refusal to allow open elections for the nation’s political offices, the repression of political dissidents, the imprisonment of tens of thousands of political prisoners, and the instances of torture. Others objected strongly to the sharp constraints on freedom of religion and the deportation of hundreds of members of the clergy.
|Foreign Affairs Legacy|
Cuba’s break with the United States and its alliance with the USSR enmeshed Cuba in the Cold War, an ideological and political struggle between the nations allied with the United States and those allied with the USSR. The United States consistently opposed Castro’s regime, and in 1961 it backed a group of Cuban exiles who landed at the Bay of Pigs on the southern coast of Cuba in an attempt to overthrow Castro’s government. The attempt was defeated, but the invasion widened the gulf between the United States and Cuba.Cuba then became a key player in the Cold War. In mid-1962 Castro welcomed the secret deployment of Soviet ballistic missiles and nuclear warheads on Cuban soil. This led to a major confrontation, known as the Cuban Missile Crisis, at the end of which the Soviets agreed to remove the missiles and warheads in exchange for a U.S. pledge not to invade Cuba.With the U.S. government committed to overthrowing Cuba’s government, Cuban leaders established a wide-ranging alliance with the USSR and with revolutionary movements and governments throughout the world that were opposed to the United States. From the 1960s to the 1980s Cuba covertly supported revolutionary movements in many countries in Latin America, Africa, and Asia. Altogether more than 300,000 Cuban troops served overseas. Many Cubans posted abroad believed that these war efforts defended the homeland and its revolution; for other Cubans, the war efforts were difficult to justify and deflected efforts from pressing economic and social tasks in Cuba.When the USSR collapsed in 1991, Cuba lost its principal ally, and the United States tried to undermine the Cuban government. In 1992 the U.S. government prohibited trading with Cuba for subsidiaries of U.S. firms located in foreign countries. In 1996 the Congress of the United States passed the Helms-Burton Act, which attempted to discourage foreign investments in Cuba. These attempts failed, however, as Castro obtained other trading partners and foreign investors. In the late 1990s, Cuba remained the only Communist regime in the world outside East Asia. Although domestic opposition grew, government leaders insisted that Cuba would remain a one-party political system.
search by prakash “History Will Absolve Me”On July 26, 1953, Cuban revolutionary Fidel Castro led approximately 180 young men in an attack on the Moncada military fortress in Santiago de Cuba. This assault on the political leadership of dictator Fulgencio Batista ended in Castro’s capture and imprisonment. At his trial Castro acted as his own attorney and gave the following speech in his defense. Batista granted him amnesty in 1955, and Castro went into exile in Mexico. In 1956 he returned to Cuba with a small group of guerrillas, calling themselves the 26th of July Movement. Their revolution eventually triumphed in 1959.From “History Will Absolve Me”By Fidel Castro
Never has a lawyer had to practice his profession under such difficult conditions; never has such a number of overwhelming irregularities been committed against an accused man. In this case, counsel and defendant are one and the same. As attorney he has not even been able to take a look at the indictment. As accused, for the past seventy-six days he has been locked away in solitary confinement, held totally and absolutely incommunicado, in violation of every human and legal right.
He who speaks to you hates vanity with all his being, nor are his temperament or frame of mind inclined towards courtroom poses or sensationalism of any kind. If I have had to assume my own defense before this Court it is for two reasons. First: because I have been denied legal aid almost entirely, and second: only one who has been so deeply wounded, who has seen his country so forsaken and its justice trampled so, can speak at a moment like this with words that spring from the blood of his heart and the truth of his very gut.…
From a shack in the mountains on Monday, July 27th, I listened to the dictator’s voice on the air while there were still 18 of our men in arms against the government. Those who have never experienced similar moments will never know that kind of bitterness and indignation. While the long-cherished hopes of freeing our people lay in ruins about us we heard those crushed hopes gloated over by a tyrant more vicious, more arrogant than ever. The endless stream of lies and slanders, poured forth in his crude, odious, repulsive language, may only be compared to the endless stream of clean young blood which had flowed since the previous night—with his knowledge, consent, complicity and approval—being spilled by the most inhuman gang of assassins it is possible to imagine. To have believed him for a single moment would have sufficed to fill a man of conscience with remorse and shame for the rest of his life. At that time I could not even hope to brand his miserable forehead with the mark of truth which condemns him for the rest of his days and for all time to come. Already a circle of more than a thousand men, armed with weapons more powerful than ours and with peremptory orders to bring in our bodies, was closing in around us. Now that the truth is coming out, now that speaking before you I am carrying out the mission I set for myself, I may die peacefully and content. So I shall not mince my words about those savage murderers.
I must pause to consider the facts for a moment. The government itself said the attack showed such precision and perfection that it must have been planned by military strategists. Nothing could have been farther from the truth! The plan was drawn up by a group of young men, none of whom had any military experience at all. I will reveal their names, omitting two who are neither dead nor in prison: Abel Santamaría, José Luis Tasende, Renato Guitart Rosell, Pedro Miret, Jesús Montané and myself. Half of them are dead, and in tribute to their memory I can say that although they were not military experts they had enough patriotism to have given, had we not been at such a great disadvantage, a good beating to that entire lot of generals together, those generals of the 10th of March who are neither soldiers nor patriots. Much more difficult than the planning of the attack was our organizing, training, mobilizing and arming men under this repressive regime with its millions of dollars spent on espionage, bribery and information services. Nevertheless, all this was carried out by those men and many others like them with incredible seriousness, discretion and discipline. Still more praiseworthy is the fact that they gave this task everything they had; ultimately, their very lives.
The final mobilization of men who came to this province from the most remote towns of the entire island was accomplished with admirable precision and in absolute secrecy. It is equally true that the attack was carried out with magnificent coordination. It began simultaneously at 5:15 a.m. in both Bayamo and Santiago de Cuba; and one by one, with an exactitude of minutes and seconds prepared in advance, the buildings surrounding the barracks fell to our forces. Nevertheless, in the interest of truth and even though it may detract from our merit, I am also going to reveal for the first time a fact that was fatal: due to a most unfortunate error, half of our forces, and the better armed half at that, went astray at the entrance to the city and were not on hand to help us at the decisive moment. Abel Santamaría, with 21 men, had occupied the Civilian Hospital; with him went a doctor and two of our women comrades to attend to the wounded. Raúl Castro, with ten men, occupied the Palace of Justice, and it was my responsibility to attack the barracks with the rest, 95 men. Preceded by an advance group of eight who had forced Gate Three, I arrived with the first group of 45 men. It was precisely here that the battle began, when my car ran into an outside patrol armed with machine guns. The reserve group which had almost all the heavy weapons (the light arms were with the advance group), turned up the wrong street and lost its way in an unfamiliar city. I must clarify the fact that I do not for a moment doubt the courage of those men; they experienced great anguish and desperation when they realized they were lost. Because of the type of action it was and because the contending forces were wearing identically colored uniforms, it was not easy for these men to re-establish contact with us. Many of them, captured later on, met death with true heroism.
Everyone had instructions, first of all, to be humane in the struggle. Never was a group of armed men more generous to the adversary. From the beginning we took numerous prisoners—nearly twenty—and there was one moment when three of our men—Ramiro Valdés, José Suárez and Jesús Montané—managed to enter a barrack and hold nearly fifty soldiers prisoners for a short time. Those soldiers testified before the Court, and without exception they all acknowledged that we treated them with absolute respect, that we didn’t even subject them to one scoffing remark. In line with this, I want to give my heartfelt thanks to the Prosecutor for one thing in the trial of my comrades: when he made his report he was fair enough to acknowledge as an incontestable fact that we maintained a high spirit of chivalry throughout the struggle.
Discipline among the soldiers was very poor. They finally defeated us because of their superior numbers—fifteen to one—and because of the protection afforded them by the defenses of the fortress. Our men were much better marksmen, as our enemies themselves conceded. There was a high degree of courage on both sides.
In analyzing the reasons for our tactical failure, apart from the regrettable error already mentioned, I believe we made a mistake by dividing the commando unit we had so carefully trained. Of our best trained men and boldest leaders, there were 27 in Bayamo, 21 at the Civilian Hospital and 10 at the Palace of Justice. If our forces had been distributed differently the outcome of the battle might have been different. The clash with the patrol (purely accidental, since the unit might have been at that point twenty seconds earlier or twenty seconds later) alerted the camp, and gave it time to mobilize. Otherwise it would have fallen into our hands without a shot fired, since we already controlled the guard post. On the other hand, except for the .22 caliber rifles, for which there were plenty of bullets, our side was very short of ammunition. Had we had hand grenades, the Army would not have been able to resist us for fifteen minutes.
When I became convinced that all efforts to take the barracks were now useless, I began to withdraw our men in groups of eight and ten. Our retreat was covered by six expert marksmen under the command of Pedro Miret and Fidel Labrador; heroically they held off the Army’s advance. Our losses in the battle had been insignificant; 95% of our casualties came from the Army’s inhumanity after the struggle. The group at the Civilian Hospital only had one casualty; the rest of that group was trapped when the troops blocked the only exit; but our youths did not lay down their arms until their very last bullet was gone. With them was Abel Santamaría, the most generous, beloved and intrepid of our young men, whose glorious resistance immortalizes him in Cuban history. We shall see the fate they met and how Batista sought to punish the heroism of our youth.
We planned to continue the struggle in the mountains in case the attack on the regiment failed. In Siboney I was able to gather a third of our forces; but many of these men were now discouraged. About twenty of them decided to surrender; later we shall see what became of them. The rest, 18 men, with what arms and ammunition were left, followed me into the mountains. The terrain was completely unknown to us. For a week we held the heights of the Gran Piedra range and the Army occupied the foothills. We could not come down; they didn’t risk coming up. It was not force of arms, but hunger and thirst that ultimately overcame our resistance. I had to divide the men into smaller groups. Some of them managed to slip through the Army lines; others were surrendered by Monsignor Pérez Serantes. Finally only two comrades remained with me—José Suárez and Oscar Alcalde. While the three of us were totally exhausted, a force led by Lieutenant Sarría surprised us in our sleep at dawn. This was Saturday, August 1st. By that time the slaughter of prisoners had ceased as a result of the people’s protest. This officer, a man of honor, saved us from being murdered on the spot with our hands tied behind us.
I need not deny here the stupid statements by Ugalde Carrillo and company, who tried to stain my name in an effort to mask their own cowardice, incompetence, and criminality. The facts are clear enough.
My purpose is not to bore the court with epic narratives. All that I have said is essential for a more precise understanding of what is yet to come.…
I stated that the second consideration on which we based our chances for success was one of social order. Why were we sure of the people’s support? When we speak of the people we are not talking about those who live in comfort, the conservative elements of the nation, who welcome any repressive regime, any dictatorship, any despotism, prostrating themselves before the masters of the moment until they grind their foreheads into the ground. When we speak of struggle and we mention the people we mean the vast unredeemed masses, those to whom everyone makes promises and who are deceived by all; we mean the people who yearn for a better, more dignified and more just nation; who are moved by ancestral aspirations to justice, for they have suffered injustice and mockery generation after generation; those who long for great and wise changes in all aspects of their life; people who, to attain those changes, are ready to give even the very last breath they have when they believe in something or in someone, especially when they believe in themselves. The first condition of sincerity and good faith in any endeavor is to do precisely what nobody else ever does, that is, to speak with absolute clarity, without fear. The demagogues and professional politicians who manage to perform the miracle of being right about everything and of pleasing everyone are, necessarily, deceiving everyone about everything. The revolutionaries must proclaim their ideas courageously, define their principles and express their intentions so that no one is deceived, neither friend nor foe.
In terms of struggle, when we talk about people we’re talking about the six hundred thousand Cubans without work, who want to earn their daily bread honestly without having to emigrate from their homeland in search of a livelihood; the five hundred thousand farm laborers who live in miserable shacks, who work four months of the year and starve the rest, sharing their misery with their children, who don’t have an inch of land to till and whose existence would move any heart not made of stone; the four hundred thousand industrial workers and laborers whose retirement funds have been embezzled, whose benefits are being taken away, whose homes are wretched quarters, whose salaries pass from the hands of the boss to those of the moneylender, whose future is a pay reduction and dismissal, whose life is endless work and whose only rest is the tomb; the one hundred thousand small farmers who live and die working land that is not theirs, looking at it with the sadness of Moses gazing at the promised land, to die without ever owning it, who like feudal serfs have to pay for the use of their parcel of land by giving up a portion of its produce, who cannot love it, improve it, beautify it nor plant a cedar or an orange tree on it because they never know when a sheriff will come with the rural guard to evict them from it; the thirty thousand teachers and professors who are so devoted, dedicated and so necessary to the better destiny of future generations and who are so badly treated and paid; the twenty thousand small business men weighed down by debts, ruined by the crisis and harangued by a plague of grafting and venal officials; the ten thousand young professional people: doctors, engineers, lawyers, veterinarians, school teachers, dentists, pharmacists, newspapermen, painters, sculptors, etc., who finish school with their degrees anxious to work and full of hope, only to find themselves at a dead end, all doors closed to them, and where no ears hear their clamor or supplication. These are the people, the ones who know misfortune and, therefore, are capable of fighting with limitless courage! To these people whose desperate roads through life have been paved with the bricks of betrayal and false promises, we were not going to say: ‘We will give you…’ but rather: ‘Here it is, now fight for it with everything you have, so that liberty and happiness may be yours!’
The five revolutionary laws that would have been proclaimed immediately after the capture of the Moncada Barracks and would have been broadcast to the nation by radio must be included in the indictment. It is possible that Colonel Chaviano may deliberately have destroyed these documents, but even if he has I remember them.
The first revolutionary law would have returned power to the people and proclaimed the 1940 Constitution the Supreme Law of the State until such time as the people should decide to modify or change it. And in order to effect its implementation and punish those who violated it—there being no electoral organization to carry this out—the revolutionary movement, as the circumstantial incarnation of this sovereignty, the only source of legitimate power, would have assumed all the faculties inherent therein, except that of modifying the Constitution itself: in other words, it would have assumed the legislative, executive and judicial powers.
This attitude could not be clearer nor more free of vacillation and sterile charlatanry. A government acclaimed by the mass of rebel people would be vested with every power, everything necessary in order to proceed with the effective implementation of popular will and real justice. From that moment, the Judicial Power—which since March 10th had placed itself against and outside the Constitution—would cease to exist and we would proceed to its immediate and total reform before it would once again assume the power granted it by the Supreme Law of the Republic. Without these previous measures, a return to legality by putting its custody back into the hands that have crippled the system so dishonorably would constitute a fraud, a deceit, one more betrayal.
The second revolutionary law would give non-mortgageable and non-transferable ownership of the land to all tenant and subtenant farmers, lessees, share croppers and squatters who hold parcels of five caballerías of land or less, and the State would indemnify the former owners on the basis of the rental which they would have received for these parcels over a period of ten years.
The third revolutionary law would have granted workers and employees the right to share 30% of the profits of all the large industrial, mercantile and mining enterprises, including the sugar mills. The strictly agricultural enterprises would be exempt in consideration of other agrarian laws which would be put into effect.
The fourth revolutionary law would have granted all sugar planters the right to share 55% of sugar production and a minimum quota of forty thousand arrobas for all small tenant farmers who have been established for three years or more.
The fifth revolutionary law would have ordered the confiscation of all holdings and ill-gotten gains of those who had committed frauds during previous regimes, as well as the holdings and ill-gotten gains of all their legates and heirs. To implement this, special courts with full powers would gain access to all records of all corporations registered or operating in this country, in order to investigate concealed funds of illegal origin, and to request that foreign governments extradite persons and attach holdings rightfully belonging to the Cuban people. Half of the property recovered would be used to subsidize retirement funds for workers and the other half would be used for hospitals, asylums and charitable organizations.
Furthermore, it was declared that the Cuban policy in the Americas would be one of close solidarity with the democratic peoples of this continent, and that all those politically persecuted by bloody tyrannies oppressing our sister nations would find generous asylum, brotherhood and bread in the land of Martí; not the persecution, hunger and treason they find today. Cuba should be the bulwark of liberty and not a shameful link in the chain of despotism.
These laws would have been proclaimed immediately. As soon as the upheaval ended and prior to a detailed and far reaching study, they would have been followed by another series of laws and fundamental measures, such as the Agrarian Reform, the Integral Educational Reform, nationalization of the electric power trust and the telephone trust, refund to the people of the illegal and repressive rates these companies have charged, and payment to the treasury of all taxes brazenly evaded in the past.
All these laws and others would be based on the exact compliance of two essential articles of our Constitution: one of them orders the outlawing of large estates, indicating the maximum area of land any one person or entity may own for each type of agricultural enterprise, by adopting measures which would tend to revert the land to the Cubans. The other categorically orders the State to use all means at its disposal to provide employment to all those who lack it and to ensure a decent livelihood to each manual or intellectual laborer. None of these laws can be called unconstitutional. The first popularly elected government would have to respect them, not only because of moral obligations to the nation, but because when people achieve something they have yearned for throughout generations, no force in the world is capable of taking it away again.
The problem of the land, the problem of industrialization, the problem of housing, the problem of unemployment, the problem of education and the problem of the people’s health: these are the six problems we would take immediate steps to solve, along with restoration of civil liberties and political democracy.
This exposition may seem cold and theoretical if one does not know the shocking and tragic conditions of the country with regard to these six problems, along with the most humiliating political oppression.
Eighty-five per cent of the small farmers in Cuba pay rent and live under constant threat of being evicted from the land they till. More than half of our most productive land is in the hands of foreigners. In Oriente, the largest province, the lands of the United Fruit Company and the West Indian Company link the northern and southern coasts. There are two hundred thousand peasant families who do not have a single acre of land to till to provide food for their starving children. On the other hand, nearly three hundred thousand caballerías of cultivable land owned by powerful interests remain uncultivated. If Cuba is above all an agricultural State, if its population is largely rural, if the city depends on these rural areas, if the people from our countryside won our war of independence, if our nation’s greatness and prosperity depend on a healthy and vigorous rural population that loves the land and knows how to work it, if this population depends on a State that protects and guides it, then how can the present state of affairs be allowed to continue?
Except for a few food, lumber and textile industries, Cuba continues to be primarily a producer of raw materials. We export sugar to import candy, we export hides to import shoes, we export iron to import plows.… Everyone agrees with the urgent need to industrialize the nation, that we need steel industries, paper and chemical industries, that we must improve our cattle and grain production, the technology and processing in our food industry in order to defend ourselves against the ruinous competition from Europe in cheese products, condensed milk, liquors and edible oils, and the United States in canned goods; that we need cargo ships; that tourism should be an enormous source of revenue. But the capitalists insist that the workers remain under the yoke. The State sits back with its arms crossed and industrialization can wait forever.
Just as serious or even worse is the housing problem. There are two hundred thousand huts and hovels in Cuba; four hundred thousand families in the countryside and in the cities live cramped in huts and tenements without even the minimum sanitary requirements; two million two hundred thousand of our urban population pay rents which absorb between one fifth and one third of their incomes; and two million eight hundred thousand of our rural and suburban population lack electricity. We have the same situation here: if the State proposes the lowering of rents, landlords threaten to freeze all construction; if the State does not interfere, construction goes on so long as landlords get high rents; otherwise they would not lay a single brick even though the rest of the population had to live totally exposed to the elements. The utilities monopoly is no better; they extend lines as far as it is profitable and beyond that point they don’t care if people have to live in darkness for the rest of their lives. The State sits back with its arms crossed and the people have neither homes nor electricity.
Our educational system is perfectly compatible with everything I’ve just mentioned. Where the peasant doesn’t own the land, what need is there for agricultural schools? Where there is no industry, what need is there for technical or vocational schools? Everything follows the same absurd logic; if we don’t have one thing we can’t have the other. In any small European country there are more than 200 technological and vocational schools; in Cuba only six such schools exist, and their graduates have no jobs for their skills. The little rural schoolhouses are attended by a mere half of the school age children—barefooted, half-naked and undernourished—and frequently the teacher must buy necessary school materials from his own salary. Is this the way to make a nation great?
Only death can liberate one from so much misery. In this respect, however, the State is most helpful—in providing early death for the people. Ninety per cent of the children in the countryside are consumed by parasites which filter through their bare feet from the ground they walk on. Society is moved to compassion when it hears of the kidnapping or murder of one child, but it is indifferent to the mass murder of so many thousands of children who die every year from lack of facilities, agonizing with pain. Their innocent eyes, death already shining in them, seem to look into some vague infinity as if entreating forgiveness for human selfishness, as if asking God to stay His wrath. And when the head of a family works only four months a year, with what can he purchase clothing and medicine for his children? They will grow up with rickets, with not a single good tooth in their mouths by the time they reach thirty; they will have heard ten million speeches and will finally die of misery and deception. Public hospitals, which are always full, accept only patients recommended by some powerful politician who, in return, demands the votes of the unfortunate one and his family so that Cuba may continue forever in the same or worse condition.
With this background, is it not understandable that from May to December over a million persons are jobless and that Cuba, with a population of five and a half million, has a greater number of unemployed than France or Italy with a population of forty million each?
When you try a defendant for robbery, Honorable Judges, do you ask him how long he has been unemployed? Do you ask him how many children he has, which days of the week he ate and which he didn’t, do you investigate his social context at all? You just send him to jail without further thought. But those who burn warehouses and stores to collect insurance do not go to jail, even though a few human beings may have gone up in flames. The insured have money to hire lawyers and bribe judges. You imprison the poor wretch who steals because he is hungry; but none of the hundreds who steal millions from the Government has ever spent a night in jail. You dine with them at the end of the year in some elegant club and they enjoy your respect. In Cuba, when a government official becomes a millionaire overnight and enters the fraternity of the rich, he could very well be greeted with the words of that opulent character out of Balzac—Taillefer—who in his toast to the young heir to an enormous fortune, said: ‘Gentlemen, let us drink to the power of gold! Mr. Valentine, a millionaire six times over, has just ascended the throne. He is king, can do everything, is above everyone, as all the rich are. Henceforth, equality before the law, established by the Constitution, will be a myth for him; for he will not be subject to laws: the laws will be subject to him. There are no courts nor are there sentences for millionaires.’
The nation’s future, the solutions to its problems, cannot continue to depend on the selfish interests of a dozen big businessmen nor on the cold calculations of profits that ten or twelve magnates draw up in their air-conditioned offices. The country cannot continue begging on its knees for miracles from a few golden calves, like the Biblical one destroyed by the prophet’s fury. Golden calves cannot perform miracles of any kind. The problems of the Republic can be solved only if we dedicate ourselves to fight for it with the same energy, honesty and patriotism our liberators had when they founded it. Statesmen like Carlos Saladrigas, whose statesmanship consists of preserving the status quo and mouthing phrases like ‘absolute freedom of enterprise,’ ‘guarantees to investment capital’ and ‘law of supply and demand,’ will not solve these problems. Those ministers can chat away in a Fifth Avenue mansion until not even the dust of the bones of those whose problems require immediate solution remains. In this present-day world, social problems are not solved by spontaneous generation.
A revolutionary government backed by the people and with the respect of the nation, after cleansing the different institutions of all venal and corrupt officials, would proceed immediately to the country’s industrialization, mobilizing all inactive capital, currently estimated at about 1.5 billion pesos, through the National Bank and the Agricultural and Industrial Development Bank, and submitting this mammoth task to experts and men of absolute competence totally removed from all political machines for study, direction, planning and realization.
After settling the one hundred thousand small farmers as owners on the land which they previously rented, a revolutionary government would immediately proceed to settle the land problem. First, as set forth in the Constitution, it would establish the maximum amount of land to be held by each type of agricultural enterprise and would acquire the excess acreage by expropriation, recovery of swampland, planting of large nurseries, and reserving of zones for reforestation. Secondly, it would distribute the remaining land among peasant families with priority given to the larger ones, and would promote agricultural cooperatives for communal use of expensive equipment, freezing plants and unified professional technical management of farming and cattle raising. Finally, it would provide resources, equipment, protection and useful guidance to the peasants.
A revolutionary government would solve the housing problem by cutting all rents in half, by providing tax exemptions on homes inhabited by the owners; by tripling taxes on rented homes; by tearing down hovels and replacing them with modern apartment buildings; and by financing housing all over the island on a scale heretofore unheard of, with the criterion that, just as each rural family should possess its own tract of land, each city family should own its own house or apartment. There is plenty of building material and more than enough manpower to make a decent home for every Cuban. But if we continue to wait for the golden calf, a thousand years will have gone by and the problem will remain the same. On the other hand, today possibilities of taking electricity to the most isolated areas on the island are greater than ever. The use of nuclear energy in this field is now a reality and will greatly reduce the cost of producing electricity.
With these three projects and reforms, the problem of unemployment would automatically disappear and the task of improving public health and fighting against disease would become much less difficult.
Finally, a revolutionary government would undertake the integral reform of the educational system, bringing it into line with the projects just mentioned with the idea of educating those generations which will have the privilege of living in a happier land. Do not forget the words of the Apostle: ‘A grave mistake is being made in Latin America: in countries that live almost completely from the produce of the land, men are being educated exclusively for urban life and are not trained for farm life.’ ‘The happiest country is the one which has best educated its sons, both in the instruction of thought and the direction of their feelings.’ ‘An educated country will always be strong and free.’
The soul of education, however, is the teacher, and in Cuba the teaching profession is miserably underpaid. Despite this, no one is more dedicated than the Cuban teacher. Who among us has not learned his three Rs in the little public schoolhouse? It is time we stopped paying pittances to these young men and women who are entrusted with the sacred task of teaching our youth. No teacher should earn less than 200 pesos, no secondary teacher should make less than 350 pesos, if they are to devote themselves exclusively to their high calling without suffering want. What is more, all rural teachers should have free use of the various systems of transportation; and, at least once every five years, all teachers should enjoy a sabbatical leave of six months with pay so they may attend special refresher courses at home or abroad to keep abreast of the latest developments in their field. In this way, the curriculum and the teaching system can be easily improved. Where will the money be found for all this? When there is an end to the embezzlement of government funds, when public officials stop taking graft from the large companies that owe taxes to the State, when the enormous resources of the country are brought into full use, when we no longer buy tanks, bombers and guns for this country (which has no frontiers to defend and where these instruments of war, now being purchased, are used against the people), when there is more interest in educating the people than in killing them there will be more than enough money.
Cuba could easily provide for a population three times as great as it has now, so there is no excuse for the abject poverty of a single one of its present inhabitants. The markets should be overflowing with produce, pantries should be full, all hands should be working. This is not an inconceivable thought. What is inconceivable is that anyone should go to bed hungry while there is a single inch of unproductive land; that children should die for lack of medical attention; what is inconceivable is that 30% of our farm people cannot write their names and that 99% of them know nothing of Cuba’s history. What is inconceivable is that the majority of our rural people are now living in worse circumstances than the Indians Columbus discovered in the fairest land that human eyes had ever seen.
To those who would call me a dreamer, I quote the words of Martí: ‘A true man does not seek the path where advantage lies, but rather the path where duty lies, and this is the only practical man, whose dream of today will be the law of tomorrow, because he who has looked back on the essential course of history and has seen flaming and bleeding peoples seethe in the cauldron of the ages knows that, without a single exception, the future lies on the side of duty.’
…The right of rebellion against tyranny, Honorable Judges, has been recognized from the most ancient times to the present day by men of all creeds, ideas and doctrines.
It was so in the theocratic monarchies of remote antiquity. In China it was almost a constitutional principle that when a king governed rudely and despotically he should be deposed and replaced by a virtuous prince.
The philosophers of ancient India upheld the principle of active resistance to arbitrary authority. They justified revolution and very often put their theories into practice. One of their spiritual leaders used to say that ‘an opinion held by the majority is stronger than the king himself. A rope woven of many strands is strong enough to hold a lion.’
The city states of Greece and republican Rome not only admitted, but defended the meting-out of violent death to tyrants.
In the Middle Ages, John Salisbury in his Book of the Statesman says that when a prince does not govern according to law and degenerates into a tyrant, violent overthrow is legitimate and justifiable. He recommends for tyrants the dagger rather than poison.
Saint Thomas Aquinas, in the Summa Theologica, rejects the doctrine of tyrannicide, and yet upholds the thesis that tyrants should be overthrown by the people.
Martin Luther proclaimed that when a government degenerates into a tyranny that violates the laws, its subjects are released from their obligations to obey. His disciple, Philippe Melanchton, upholds the right of resistance when governments become despotic. Calvin, the outstanding thinker of the Reformation with regard to political ideas, postulates that people are entitled to take up arms to oppose any usurpation.
No less a man than Juan Mariana, a Spanish Jesuit during the reign of Philip II, asserts in his book, De Rege et Regis Institutione, that when a governor usurps power, or even if he were elected, when he governs in a tyrannical manner it is licit for a private citizen to exercise tyrannicide, either directly or through subterfuge with the least possible disturbance.
The French writer, François Hotman, maintained that between the government and its subjects there is a bond or contract, and that the people may rise in rebellion against the tyranny of government when the latter violates that pact.
About the same time, a booklet—which came to be widely read—appeared under the title Vindiciae Contra Tyrannos, and it was signed with the pseudonym Stephanus Junius Brutus. It openly declared that resistance to governments is legitimate when rulers oppress the people and that it is the duty of Honorable Judges to lead the struggle.
The Scottish reformers John Knox and John Poynet upheld the same points of view. And, in the most important book of that movement, George Buchanan stated that if a government achieved power without taking into account the consent of the people, or if a government rules their destiny in an unjust or arbitrary fashion, then that government becomes a tyranny and can be divested of power or, in a final recourse, its leaders can be put to death.
John Althus, a German jurist of the early 17th century, stated in his Treatise on Politics that sovereignty as the supreme authority of the State is born from the voluntary concourse of all its members; that governmental authority stems from the people and that its unjust, illegal or tyrannical function exempts them from the duty of obedience and justifies resistance or rebellion.
Thus far, Honorable Judges, I have mentioned examples from antiquity, from the Middle Ages, and from the beginnings of our times. I selected these examples from writers of all creeds. What is more, you can see that the right to rebellion is at the very root of Cuba’s existence as a nation. By virtue of it you are today able to appear in the robes of Cuban Judges. Would it be that those garments really served the cause of justice!
It is well known that in England during the 17th century two kings, Charles I and James II, were dethroned for despotism. These actions coincided with the birth of liberal political philosophy and provided the ideological base for a new social class, which was then struggling to break the bonds of feudalism. Against divine right autocracies, this new philosophy upheld the principle of the social contract and of the consent of the governed, and constituted the foundation of the English Revolution of 1688, the American Revolution of 1775 and the French Revolution of 1789. These great revolutionary events ushered in the liberation of the Spanish colonies in the New World—the final link in that chain being broken by Cuba. The new philosophy nurtured our own political ideas and helped us to evolve our Constitutions, from the Constitution of Guáimaro up to the Constitution of 1940. The latter was influenced by the socialist currents of our time; the principle of the social function of property and of man’s inalienable right to a decent living were built into it, although large vested interests have prevented fully enforcing those rights.
The right of insurrection against tyranny then underwent its final consecration and became a fundamental tenet of political liberty.
As far back as 1649, John Milton wrote that political power lies with the people, who can enthrone and dethrone kings and have the duty of overthrowing tyrants.
John Locke, in his essay on government, maintained that when the natural rights of man are violated, the people have the right and the duty to alter or abolish the government. ‘The only remedy against unauthorized force is opposition to it by force.’
Jean-Jaques Rousseau said with great eloquence in his Social Contract: ‘While a people sees itself forced to obey and obeys, it does well; but as soon as it can shake off the yoke and shakes it off, it does better, recovering its liberty through the use of the very right that has been taken away from it.’ ‘The strongest man is never strong enough to be master forever, unless he converts force into right and obedience into duty. Force is a physical power; I do not see what morality one may derive from its use. To yield to force is an act of necessity, not of will; at the very least, it is an act of prudence. In what sense should this be called a duty?’ ‘To renounce freedom is to renounce one’s status as a man, to renounce one’s human rights, including one’s duties. There is no possible compensation for renouncing everything. Total renunciation is incompatible with the nature of man and to take away all free will is to take away all morality of conduct. In short, it is vain and contradictory to stipulate on the one hand an absolute authority and on the other an unlimited obedience…’
Thomas Paine said that ‘one just man deserves more respect than a rogue with a crown.’
The people’s right to rebel has been opposed only by reactionaries like that clergyman of Virginia, Jonathan Boucher, who said: ‘The right to rebel is a censurable doctrine derived from Lucifer, the father of rebellions.’
The Declaration of Independence of the Congress of Philadelphia, on July 4th, 1776, consecrated this right in a beautiful paragraph which reads: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness; That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it and to institute a new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.’
The famous French Declaration of the Rights of Man willed this principle to the coming generations: ‘When the government violates the rights of the people, insurrection is for them the most sacred of rights and the most imperative of duties.’ ‘When a person seizes sovereignty, he should be condemned to death by free men.’
…I believe I have sufficiently justified my point of view. I have called forth more reasons than the Honorable Prosecutor called forth to ask that I be condemned to 26 years in prison. All these reasons support men who struggle for the freedom and happiness of the people. None support those who oppress the people, revile them, and rob them heartlessly. Therefore I have been able to call forth many reasons and he could not adduce even one. How can Batista’s presence in power be justified when he gained it against the will of the people and by violating the laws of the Republic through the use of treachery and force? How could anyone call legitimate a regime of blood, oppression and ignominy? How could anyone call revolutionary a regime which has gathered the most backward men, methods and ideas of public life around it? How can anyone consider legally valid the high treason of a Court whose duty was to defend the Constitution? With what right do the Courts send to prison citizens who have tried to redeem their country by giving their own blood, their own lives? All this is monstrous to the eyes of the nation and to the principles of true justice!
Still there is one argument more powerful than all the others. We are Cubans and to be Cuban implies a duty; not to fulfill that duty is a crime, is treason. We are proud of the history of our country; we learned it in school and have grown up hearing of freedom, justice and human rights. We were taught to venerate the glorious example of our heroes and martyrs. Céspedes, Agramonte, Maceo, Gómez and Martí were the first names engraved in our minds. We were taught that the Titan once said that liberty is not begged for but won with the blade of a machete. We were taught that for the guidance of Cuba’s free citizens, the Apostle wrote in his book The Golden Age: ‘The man who abides by unjust laws and permits any man to trample and mistreat the country in which he was born is not an honorable man.… In the world there must be a certain degree of honor just as there must be a certain amount of light. When there are many men without honor, there are always others who bear in themselves the honor of many men. These are the men who rebel with great force against those who steal the people’s freedom, that is to say, against those who steal honor itself. In those men thousands more are contained, an entire people is contained, human dignity is contained.…’ We were taught that the 10th of October and the 24th of February are glorious anniversaries of national rejoicing because they mark days on which Cubans rebelled against the yoke of infamous tyranny. We were taught to cherish and defend the beloved flag of the lone star, and to sing every afternoon the verses of our National Anthem: ‘To live in chains is to live in disgrace and in opprobrium,’ and ‘to die for one’s homeland is to live forever!’ All this we learned and will never forget, even though today in our land there is murder and prison for the men who practice the ideas taught to them since the cradle. We were born in a free country that our parents bequeathed to us, and the Island will first sink into the sea before we shall consent to be the slaves of anyone.
It seemed that the Apostle would die during his Centennial. It seemed that his memory would be extinguished forever. So great was the affront! But he is alive; he has not died. His people are rebellious. His people are worthy. His people are faithful to his memory. There are Cubans who have fallen defending his doctrines. There are young men who in magnificent selflessness came to die beside his tomb, giving their blood and their lives so that he could keep on living in the heart of his nation. Cuba, what would have become of you had you let your Apostle die?
I come to the close of my defense plea but I will not end it as lawyers usually do, asking that the accused be freed. I cannot ask freedom for myself while my comrades are already suffering in the ignominious prison of the Isle of Pines. Send me there to join them and to share their fate. It is understandable that honest men should be dead or in prison in a Republic where the President is a criminal and a thief.
To you, Honorable Judges, my sincere gratitude for having allowed me to express myself free from contemptible restrictions. I hold no bitterness towards you, I recognize that in certain aspects you have been humane, and I know that the Chief Judge of this Court, a man of impeccable private life, cannot disguise his repugnance at the current state of affairs that compels him to dictate unjust decisions. Still, a more serious problem remains for the Court of Appeals: the indictments arising from the murders of seventy men, that is to say, the greatest massacre we have ever known. The guilty continue at liberty and with weapons in their hands—weapons which continually threaten the lives of all citizens. If all the weight of the law does not fall upon the guilty because of cowardice or because of domination of the courts, and if then all the judges do not resign, I pity your honor. And I regret the unprecedented shame that will fall upon the Judicial Power.
I know that imprisonment will be harder for me than it has ever been for anyone, filled with cowardly threats and hideous cruelty. But I do not fear prison, as I do not fear the fury of the miserable tyrant who took the lives of 70 of my comrades. Condemn me. It does not matter. History will absolve me.
Microsoft ® Encarta ® 2006. © 1993-2005 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved. Fidel Castro
Fidel Castro (1926?- ), Cuba’s leader since 1959. Fidel Castro claimed power in 1959 following the Cuban Revolution, an armed revolt that overthrew the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista. He became prime minister of Cuba in 1961 and shortly thereafter cancelled elections and suspended Cuba’s constitution. Castro ruled without regard for the 1940 constitution until 1976, when the nation enacted a new constitution that allowed limited electoral participation by Cuban voters. Cuba’s National Assembly elected Castro president of the country in 1976.Castro transformed Cuba into a socialist nation, inaugurating wide-ranging changes in the country’s social and economic systems. He instituted programs that dramatically increased the nation’s literacy rate and provided quality health care to almost all Cubans.The socialist nature of Castro’s government sent many members of the elite and professional classes into exile. Government seizures of properties and business holdings, the suspension of elections, the militarization of society, control of the media, and the politicization of education convinced conservatives and moderates to seek exile in Spain, Mexico, France, and, primarily, in the United States.During the 1960s through the 1980s, Castro allied himself with the communist Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR); in addition, he supported revolutions of national liberation in Latin America, Africa, and Asia and became a leader among heads of state in nations that had recently won their freedom from colonial powers. Castro and his socialist government faced strong opposition from the United States, which formerly had been Cuba’s ally and main trading partner. United States businesses with holdings in Cuba opposed Castro’s seizure of their property and many U.S. politicians saw Castro’s socialist policies and alliance with the USSR as a threat to the security of the United States.
|CHILDHOOD AND EDUCATION|
Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz was born on a sizable estate near Birán in Oriente Province. He was the third of seven children born to Angel Castro y Argiz, a Spanish immigrant, and Lina Ruz González, a household servant who later married Angel. Angel Castro was a self-made man whose fortune came from laying track for the sugar railway and transporting cane in oxcarts. He transported cane by oxcart from sugar fields to nearby processing mills, where it was converted into refined sugar. The railroad tracks he helped construct connected the sugar refineries to other rail lines in Cuba. Angel valued hard work and insisted that his sons demonstrate thrift and persistence.Castro’s education began in the local public schools near the neighboring town of Mayarí, where his classmates were the children of laborers. Recognized for his scholastic talents, Castro was tutored and then enrolled in Santiago de Cuba’s La Salle School, which was run by French priests. At school, Castro was unruly and a fighter. He challenged the authority of the priests and vied for leadership among the students. Because of this behavior, his father sent him to the Dolores Colegio, a Catholic private school known for its tough discipline and high academic standards. There Castro learned the value of discipline and authority. While attending school in Santiago de Cubas, Castro witnessed U.S. soldiers’ behavior toward Cuban citizens, whom the Americans treated as inferiors, and he developed a strong aversion to U.S. influence in Cuban politics.In 1940 Castro enrolled in the prestigious Belen Secondary School in Havana, where he competed with the children of Cuba’s elite for academic and social recognition. At Belen, Castro learned Cuban history and took as his hero José Martí, the father of Cuban independence from Spain. Castro also developed his athletic and oratory skills during his time at Belen.
|EARLY POLITICAL CAREER|
In 1945 Castro entered the University of Havana Law School, where he became involved in politics. At the university, politics centered around student political gangs, and Castro took part in the often violent confrontations among these gangs.Castro’s political ideals matured as he committed himself to overthrowing President Ramón Grau San Martín, of the Auténtico Party, who had allowed corruption to grow in business and politics. Tired of university politics, Castro joined the Party of the Cuban People (the Ortodoxo Party), founded by Eduardo (Eddy) Chibás. The Ortodoxos publicly exposed government corruption and demanded reform. The party’s founding principles included building a strong sense of national identity among Cubans, opposing the influence of powerful foreign nations in Cuba’s affairs, supporting social justice, establishing economic independence for Cuba, and evenly distributing the nation’s wealth through government control of natural and economic resources.Inspired by these values, Castro involved himself in three important activities. First, in 1947 he joined the Caribbean Legion, a group of political exiles from other Caribbean nations based in Cuba. With them, he took part in a failed effort to overthrow Rafael Trujillo, the dictator of the Dominican Republic, by launching an invasion from Cuba.When the Dominican coup attempt failed, Castro returned to Cuba to focus on his second crusade, the electoral defeat of the candidates of the Auténtico Party. Campaign activities were punctuated with violence, and amidst the furor, Castro’s firebrand speeches and effective political organization brought him early recognition, if not power, in the Ortodoxo Party.In April 1948 Castro undertook the third formative activity in his early political career. He attended the Ninth Pan American Union conference, a student conference held in Bogotá, Colombia. The conference was organized by Argentine president Juan Perón to protest U.S. domination of the western hemisphere. Upon arriving in Bogotá, Castro and a friend, Rafael del Pino, disrupted the conference by showering astonished delegates with pamphlets condemning U.S. influence in Latin America. A few days later, Alfredo Gaitán, leader of the Colombian Liberal Party, and a man from whom the student rebels took council, was assassinated. The news of Gaitán’s death rocked Bogotá, and outraged students rioted in the streets.Castro was later blamed for instigating the uprising, known as the Bogotazo, but he was little more than a spectator. His pamphleteering of the Pan American Union meeting has been cited as evidence that he was a Communist at that time. In truth, the Bogotazo proved a turning point in the development of Castro’s political thought. Because Gaitán’s commitment to reforming the political system through democratic means resulted in his death, Castro concluded that making changes through the electoral process could not succeed.When Castro returned to Cuba, he threw himself into the presidential campaign of 1948, which pitted Carlos Prio Socarrás, a seasoned politician and member of the Auténtico Party, against Eddy Chibás, the leader of the Party of the Cuban People (called the Ortodoxo Party). Castro was cynical about Cuban electoral politics. He believed that elections were often rigged and that the United States controlled Cuban politicians, regardless of whether they were elected officials or dictators. As a result, Castro formed a radical branch of the Ortodoxo Party called the Radical Action Orthodox wing. This organization supported Chibás in the 1948 election. Prio Socarrás won the election, despite Castro’s efforts.After Chibás committed suicide in 1951, Castro believed he should become the leader of the Ortodoxo Party and ran for a seat in the Cuban House of Representatives in the 1952 election. Before that election could occur, however, General Fulgencio Batista staged a bloodless coup d’etat and established a dictatorship that ended Castro’s chance to attain office legally. Castro’s cynicism hardened into rejection of electoral democracy, and he declared himself in favor of armed revolution.
As dissatisfaction with Batista’s coup spread, Castro formed one of several underground organizations that plotted to overthrow Batista. Among the anti-Batista groups contributing to political destabilization were the Auténtico Party’s radical wing; Civic Resistance, a coalition of urban resistance groups that carried out acts of sabotage in the cities; and the National Revolutionary Movement, an anticommunist group that formed within the military. To stop the wave of popular rebellion, President Fulgencio Batista placed the armed forces on alert and dispatched secret police and informants to identify, torture, and kill organized dissidents.On July 26, 1953, Castro and his supporters attacked Cuba’s second largest military base—the Moncada Barracks in Santiago de Cuba. Castro, his brother Raúl, and approximately 150 revolutionaries plotted to overrun the base, which was manned by 1000 trained soldiers. The rebels planned to seize the radio station at the base and announce the beginning of a guerrilla movement. They also intended to take weapons from the fort to use in their military campaign. Their mission failed badly. Over half of Castro’s band was captured, tortured, or killed. The martyrdom of the youthful revolutionaries had the unexpected effect of drawing attention to their heroism and generating sympathy for their cause. Castro’s guerrilla movement would be called the 26th of July Movement after the date of the assault on the barracks.Castro and other conspirators survived the attack, but were captured. The prisoners went on trial from August to October of 1953 for conspiracy to overthrow the Cuban government. At his trial Castro countered the charge by attacking Batista’s illegitimate coup in what has become known as his “History Will Absolve Me” speech. He accused Batista of violating the democratic 1940 Constitution, of using terror and torture to suppress popular will, and of rejecting universal human rights guarantees. Castro declared that the young rebels stood for a return to democracy as established in the suspended 1940 Constitution, agrarian reform, the recovery of resources stolen by government officials and their friends, educational reform, profit sharing with laborers, and public housing provisions.The court’s verdict was a foregone conclusion. Castro was found guilty of conspiring to overthrow the Batista government and was sentenced to 15 years in prison. Castro served less than two years of his sentence. Prison afforded him time to read political philosophy, classical literature, history, and military strategy. His time in jail strengthened his will to change Cuba and shaped his ideas about the means of resistance.In the 1954 national election, Batista ran unopposed because all major parties withdrew their candidates to protest his regime. While Castro was in jail, new militant operations formed: the Revolutionary Directorate, composed of university students, and the Second National Front of Escambray, composed of militant rural laborers. Both groups engaged in acts of sabotage, which Batista met with increasing violence. By 1955 Batista felt confident enough of his hold on power to grant a general amnesty for all political prisoners, including Castro.In May 1955 Castro left prison. He soon departed for Mexico, where he trained and indoctrinated recruits in the ideals of social revolution. Ernesto “Che” Guevara, an Argentine Marxist, joined Castro’s guerrilla band and added his ideals of an armed struggle based on the support of rural peasants to the movement’s ideological mix. After a year of preparation, Castro decided to take his guerrilla squadron to Cuba to begin a military campaign against Batista. In November 1956, Castro and 81 other men boarded the ship Granma and set sail for the southeastern coast of Cuba. Their plan was to form a revolutionary force in the Sierra Maestra, and to encourage a popular revolt. Batista’s army met them at their landing at Playa Colorado, and only around a dozen men, including Castro, escaped arrest, torture, or prison.In the Sierra Maestra, Castro established his military and political leadership. His tactics consisted of attacking small military units in order to capture weapons, gain territory, and impress the people with the strength of his revolutionary group. The rebels lived among Cuba’s rural peasantry who supported them with food, information, and sometimes shelter. Castro thus learned of the difficulties they faced. He promised that if he were successful, he would redistribute land to those who worked it, as well as provide free education and decent health care. While fighting in the mountains, the 26th of July Movement was bombed by U.S. planes. Castro’s troops escaped unharmed, but the peasants suffered serious casualties. Castro’s resolve to confront U.S. influence in Cuba hardened, and he pledged himself to support others around the world who were opposed to U.S. influence in their internal affairs.During this time, Castro was only one of many leaders of the anti-Batista movement, and he was forced to compromise with other rebel leaders. However, he had one advantage—he had developed a clear ideological position, while other groups focused only on removing Batista.By mid-1958 Batista’s government had lost most of its support in Cuba and abroad. The United States stopped the shipments of arms to the Cuban military, and Castro’s troops fanned out over the island. When Guerrilla units led by the 26th of July Movement’s Che Guevara attacked the city of Santa Clara in December 1958, Batista’s forces crumbled. On January 1, 1959, Batista fled to the Dominican Republic, leaving Cuba without a leader or a consensus on governing principles.
Castro stepped into this vacuum, claiming total authority for himself and his movement. His political ideals set out in his “History Will Absolve Me” speech, and his dominant personal charisma overpowered other rebel groups. His rhetoric and youth promised a break with the corrupt past. Millions of Cubans pledged themselves to a revolutionary process without knowing what exactly that process entailed.
Castro did not assume the office of president at first, but instead became the head of the Cuban Armed Forces. Yet he brought before the politically moderate cabinet sweeping reforms. During Castro’s first nine months in office, approximately 1500 decrees, laws, and edicts were passed, some of which appropriated business interests and private properties owned by U.S. citizens and corporations. Among the most important acts were the Agrarian Reform Law and the Urban Reform Law, both passed in 1959. These laws broke up large property holdings and redistributed them to the poor. Castro became prime minister in February 1959, following the resignation of Prime Minister Miró Cardona. At this point moderate cabinet ministers and officials began leaving the government. In May 1961 Castro canceled promised elections and declared the Constitution of 1940 outdated. In December he announced that Cuba would become a socialist nation.Transforming Cuba into a socialist nation required a reorientation of values. To address this need, Castro and Che Guevara developed the New Man theory, which called for the development of a new type of citizen who would regard work not as a means of personal enrichment, but as a commitment to social change. This theory held that Cubans would no longer work for personal profit, but for the good of all people. Income and benefits, such as education and medical services, were to be evenly distributed. Under the new political structure, government agencies represented people, and political parties were dissolved. The state controlled the press, and neighborhood watch groups checked for ideological purity. People advanced at work and in government according to their loyalty to Castro. Castro and Guevara also drew up a plan to export revolution around the world.Although Castro advanced his political agenda, his economic plans failed. He wanted to diversify the economy, which had been heavily dependent on agricultural production. Castro devoted the first four years of the revolution to promoting the growth of Cuban industry that produced previously imported goods. However, Cuban products were impractical and of poor quality. At the same time, traditional agricultural production declined, and sugar output, upon which the economy depended, fell nearly 50 percent.In 1965 Castro reversed the economic plan and focused the economy again on agricultural production and the export of a few primary products. The focus on sugar production took on monumental proportions in 1969 and 1970, when Castro announced the goal of a 10-million ton sugar harvest. Like the earlier industrial plan, the sugar harvest of 1970 failed to reach its target, drawing in only 8.5 million tons. This failure cost Cuba’s ally, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), billions of dollars in financial aid. After 1970 the Soviets required Cuba to develop five-year and ten-year economic plans and to introduce a professional bureaucracy. The influx of Soviet financial aid helped the Cuba economy to recover during the 1970s, but it also made Cuba economically dependent on the USSR.Although Castro had to agree to the USSR’s demands for economic planning, he insisted on charting his own course for political developments in Cuba. He deviated from the centrally controlled Soviet model by allowing some democratic participation in government through the Popular People’s Power movement inaugurated in 1976. This movement allowed voters to elect candidates approved by the Communist Party to serve in local government posts. These local party members in turn elected representatives to provincial and national assemblies, which would supervise government activities at the regional and national levels. Also in 1976, the newly elected National Assembly of People’s Power created the president of the State Council, which combined the functions of head of government, head of state, and commander of the armed forces. The assembly elected Castro to fill the post.From 1975 to 1985, Castro allowed small-scale and individual capitalist enterprise by permitting private farmers to market their excess agricultural produce. In 1986, however, he reversed himself and again prohibited private sales, on the grounds that such capitalist policies disturbed the even distribution of wealth. Individuals and government officials who had profited too much from private trade were arrested and fined. Policy reversals such as these sent ripples of discontent throughout the island.
Castro’s opposition to U.S. influence in Cuba and other parts of the world made conflict between the two nations inevitable. In 1959 American business interests joined disaffected Cubans in sounding the alarm that Castro was a Communist. Whether Castro was a Marxist-Leninist at this time or before is hard to know, but he did associate with the People’s Socialist Party (PSP) because it offered support and a solid political organization. The PSP also helped Castro establish links with the USSR, which provided Cuba with a new international ally to counter growing opposition from the United States. Tensions escalated between the United States and Cuba as Castro began seizing U.S. businesses in Cuba. In 1960 the United States placed a partial trade embargo on Cuba, prohibiting the importation of all items except food and medical supplies. The United States also recalled its ambassador, broke formal relations, and began arming and training Cuban exiles for an invasion of Cuba.On April 17, 1961, approximately 1500 Cuban exiles landed at the Bay of Pigs on the southern coast of Cuba. These exiles, who were backed by the United States and trained by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), intended to raise a counterrevolution. The invasion failed, and most Cubans rallied behind Castro. The Bay of Pigs invasion silenced dissenting voices within the island and consolidated Castro’s power. It also removed any doubt about the socialist direction of Castro’s revolution.In May 1961 Castro publicly rejected Cuba’s 1940 Constitution and its democratic tenets. In November 1961 he declared himself a Marxist-Leninist and made Cuba a major participant in the Cold War struggle between the United States and its allies and the group of nations led by the USSR. Between 1959 and 1962, approximately 200,000 people who opposed Castro’s political leadership emigrated to the United States, Spain, and Mexico; over 80 percent of this first wave of refugees were well-educated professionals (see Cuban Americans).Stunned by the defeat at the Bay of Pigs, the United States deployed Operation Mongoose, an effort to destroy Castro from within Cuba and through military invasion. Agents working for the U.S. government made a number of unsuccessful attempts to assassinate or discredit Castro. A U.S. invasion of Cuba never materialized, largely because of the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. This crisis developed after Castro secretly accepted Soviet intercontinental ballistic missiles with the capacity to destroy most of the United States. The result was the Cuban Missile Crisis, in which the U.S. and Soviet governments nearly went to war over the deployment of nuclear warheads in Cuba. After three tense weeks of negotiation, the superpowers agreed that the USSR would remove the missiles, while the United States promised never to invade Cuba. Castro was not consulted about the agreement, which infuriated him, but it did free Cuba from the threat of U.S. military intervention. As a result, Castro was able to develop the economic and social policies promised by his revolution.Castro chose international confrontation with the United States as his defining international principle. Confident of Soviet support, Castro allied himself with revolutionary groups throughout the world. In Africa he sent aid and later soldiers to various nations, beginning with Ghana in 1961, Algeria in 1962, and Angola in 1965. What began as small military missions to support the socialist Popular Movement of Liberation in Angola (MPLA) escalated into a full-fledged war that the rebels eventually won. Winning the Angolan conflict resulted in the world’s recognition of Cuba as a significant international military power.Castro also involved Cuba in revolution in the western hemisphere. In 1967, Che Guevara went to Bolivia to initiate another revolution, but the Bolivian army captured and executed him within the year. In Nicaragua, Castro committed as many as 5000 military advisors, medical technicians, teachers, and agricultural experts to aid the victorious Sandinista Liberation Front (FSLN) in 1979 (see Nicaraguan Revolution). It is significant that Castro advised the Sandinistas not to follow his example of antagonizing the United States, and he supported their policies of a mixed economy, democratic government, and international nonalignment. When insurrection began in El Salvador in 1979, Castro advised the combatants that he would have nothing to do with the struggle unless the militant factions united under a single ideological front. When that was completed in 1981, Cuba and the USSR shipped some arms to El Salvador’s Faribundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN), and Castro provided a haven for revolutionary planners.Throughout the 1970s and 1980s Castro saw himself as an important leader of nations seeking independence from the domination of the world’s wealthier and more powerful nations. In 1980 he was the president of the Non-Aligned Nations Association, and he made Cuba the focus of international youth conferences.
|The Post-Cold War Years|
In 1989 two events shook the island and threatened Castro’s control. General Ochoa Sánchez, a decorated hero of the Bay of Pigs invasion and the mastermind behind Cuba’s victory in the Angolan civil war, was arrested, convicted, and executed for drug smuggling. Some Cubans believed that Ochoa Sánchez’ real crime was his popularity, his ability to lead a military coup, and his rather moderate criticism of Cuba’s economic and political paralysis.A far more important development was the collapse of the USSR, which left Cuba without its major economic ally. With the United States still enforcing a blockade on trade with Cuba, the loss of Soviet financial aid and trade spelled certain economic collapse unless capitalist economic reforms occurred. Castro declared a “Special Period in a Time of Peace,” which meant strict rationing, shortages, and required “voluntary” labor. Castro told Cubans that he had no solution for the crisis, but vowed that he would never surrender to American capitalism.As the economic crisis deepened in 1992-1993, Castro reluctantly surrendered by allowing foreign investments in specific economic sectors, such as tourism, biotechnology, and telecommunications. While the economy appeared to diversify, domestic economic scarcity led to an active black market, through which international products, including American goods, flowed. In 1993 the price of goods increased, and the Cuban peso, which in 1989 had been worth $1.18, fell in value to less than a penny. To stop spiraling inflation, Castro allowed Cubans to use foreign currency—including U.S. dollars—that could be exchanged on global markets. These decisions destroyed the social and economic equality that the revolution had established. Cubans with access to U.S. currency—obtained through jobs in the tourism industry or gifts from relatives overseas—attained a higher standard of living than other Cubans. Between 1989 and 1994 the economy declined by 40 percent, and some Cubans set out for the United States in rafts, preferring to risk their lives at sea rather than suffer economic misery.A 1994 outburst in old Havana, the result of frustration, hunger, electrical blackouts, poor transportation, and unemployment, was the only challenge to Castro’s hold on power. The old rebel met the crowd face-to-face and convinced protestors to disband. He told them they could leave Cuba if they wished, and tens of thousands accepted his offer.Castro held tenaciously to power in the late 1990s. Ironically, his best ally may have been U.S. laws sponsored by U.S. Senators Robert Toricelli and Jesse Helms and U.S. Representative Dan Burton. These laws were designed to discourage international trade with Cuba in hopes of bringing down Castro’s government. This pressure caused would-be Cuban dissidents to stand behind a leader whose failures they found less distasteful than the tactics of the United States. As a precaution, however, Castro amassed rapid deployment troops intended to suppress a popular revolt. Castro’s age and health are the only indicators of his departure from Cuba’s highest office.“I love power, and I am the revolution,” said Castro in 1987. The sentiment of that statement was echoed in Castro’s unwillingness to plan for his departure from office. Cuba’s constitution provides for an orderly transfer of power following Castro’s death or resignation. Whether Cubans will follow this procedure is questionable. Traditionally, Cuba’s leaders have attained office not through constitutional methods, but by exercising personal power and influence. Castro discouraged others from cultivating this kind of power, yet he trained no obvious contenders for constitutional leadership among future generations of Cubans.In January 1998, Pope John Paul II visited Cuba. His trip drew enthusiastic crowds, even though Cuba is officially an atheistic nation. As the Pope called for faith, tolerance, peace, and justice, people chanted “We are not afraid” and “Liberty.” Castro affirmed his commitment to peace and justice, and mostly ignored demands for faith and tolerance. His respect for the Pope and his humility at Mass prompted some to see him as an aging man contemplating his mortality. Others, however, saw him as a shrewd strategist who benefited from the Pope’s condemnation of the U.S. embargo as a violation of human rights.
K. Lynn Stoner
Microsoft ® Encarta ® 2006. © 1993-2005 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved. Castro Rebels Enter HavanaCastro Rebels Enter HavanaAssociated PressJanuary 3, 1959After waging a guerrilla war and then calling for a general strike against the Cuban government in March 1958, Cuban rebel leader Fidel Castro finally drove military dictator Fulgencio Batista from power on January 1, 1959. Castro and his forces then began a triumphant march to Havana. In February 1959 Castro became premier of Cuba.By Larry Allen
Havana, Jan. 3 (AP)—Thousands of bearded guerrillas marched into Havana today ahead of the imminent arrival of rebel leader Fidel Castro.
Wild victory celebrations began in the streets. Streams of men, women and children began joyful demonstrations, shouting, “Long live Fidel Castro.”
Castro and his designated temporary president, Judge Manuel Urrutia, were reported flying from the provisional capital of Santiago in eastern Cuba. They were expected at any moment.
Between dawn and noon it was estimated that more than 6000 of Castro’s fighting men from eastern provinces had reached Havana in jeeps and trucks. More were on the way.
The Cuban people everywhere and all the nation’s radio and television systems and newspapers hailed Urrutia as a new temporary chief executive.
Apparently the rebel movement intended to pin down security before either Castro or Urrutia entered the city.
Thousands of troops, police and civilian militia took up strategic positions around the capital to guard against the remnants of supporters of Fulgencio Batista, the fallen president.
Thousands of Cubans who had stayed behind locked doors after long hours of rioting, shooting and other disorders came out into the bright sunshine cheering Castro’s men wherever they appeared.
The general revolutionary strike was still on but some stores were furtively passing out food supplies to customers.
The Castro forces, seeking to avoid any further disorders, proclaimed they had cut off all supplies of hard liquor both to soldiers and the population.
Castro’s forces are firmly in control of the whole island but they still face the prospect of cleaning up diehard remnants of the Batista regime hiding out in Havana.
Maj. Gen. Eulogio Cantillo, chief of the armed forces under the short-lived military junta that took over after Batista fled to the Dominican Republic, was arrested.
Castro had accused Cantillo of betraying him after making a deal to hand over Batista and stops aids along with reins of the Cuban government.
The Cuban Supreme Court refused to swear in Batista’s choice for his successor, Carlos Manuel Piedra. Since then Cuba has been without a government.
The rebels completed their takeover of the country last night when their forces came out of the hills and assumed control of all army garrisons, government buildings and police stations in westernmost Pinar del Rio province.
A bloody battle between rebel tanks and diehard Batista followers accompanied the occupation of Havana by Castro followers yesterday. Forty to 50 men were believed to have been killed. Estimates of the wounded ran to 450.
Gunfire was heard in various sections of Havana during the night. Bands of armed rebel youths roamed the capital hunting enemies of Castro and claiming control of sections of this city of 1,250,000 persons.
A band of 600 of Castro’s top fighting men arrived in Havana before dawn from Las Villas province. They were led by Ernesto Guervara, an Argentine medical doctor who as one of Castro’s top lieutenants was a commander in the crucial battle of Santa Clara.
Although a general strike called by the rebels until Urrutia takes over is only 48 hours old, food supplies already are low. Some groceries were broken into and looted during the night in central Havana. Police were rushed to the scenes to break up raids.
Unless the strike ends and there is a halt to the violence arising out of the political situation, bloody riots may develop.
Two rebels were shot and killed last night near the Hilton Hotel and another near the University of Havana.
Some areas of the fashionable western part of the city were blocked off and barricaded. Most foreigners stayed inside hotels, where the food supplies began to run low.
The strike shut down transportation except for a few taxicabs. Stores were closed, and it was impossible to buy many necessities.
Havana’s radio warned partisans against unnecessary shooting, and the rebels declared looters would be dealt with severely. Rebel patrols tried to keep order in the streets.
Rebels kept pedestrians and automobiles from the Hotel Nacional, where many Americans were waiting for transportation home.
Four Americans, William L. Ryan, Bob Clark and James Kerlin of the Associated Press, and Robert Perez of New York, were seized by a rebel patrol while walking from the A.P. office to the Nacional.
A rebel leader told them they could not be allowed to continue to the hotel because they were in danger of being shot by patrols from another rebel faction. The rebel promised escort to a nearby hotel for the night.
Three A.P. staff members, Larry Allen, George Kaufman and Harold Valentine, were taken from their office at gunpoint yesterday. Driven to a police station, they were later released.
Yesterday’s battle erupted as Castro followers streamed into the city from all directions. Now in control of the army, the rebels poured its tanks and guns into the three-hour fight within sight of the presidential palace.
Several hundred followers of Batista were apparently defeated, but there could be more fighting to come.
The shooting around a business block lasted from shortly before noon until around 3 p.m. Informed sources emphasized no accurate count of casualties was possible because of the unsettled conditions.
The Batista followers were a group of perhaps 200 to 300 men called the Tigers. They were a private army which followed Senator Rolando Masferrer, a pro Batista publisher who has fled on his yacht. The Tigers specialized in killing enemies of the Batista regime and plundering rebel sympathizers.
Elsewhere in Cuba, the rebels said in a broadcast from Santa Clara that they lost only five killed in the savage fighting for that capital of Las Villas province last week. The broadcast said 13 civilians were killed and 39 wounded.
The Batista government said in a communique New Year’s eve, before Batista fled, that rebel casualties were 3000. A government source said 1000 or more army men had fallen.
The army losses are believed to have caused Batista to fear his troops would turn against him rather than continue the 25-month-old fight against Castro’s guerrilla warriors. This fear presumably led to the dictator’s flight.
The rebel broadcast did not give government losses but said the commander of the Batista forces, Brig. Gen. Joaquin Casilla, and three of his staff officers were captured and executed.
Another rebel broadcast said Maj. William Morgan, identified only as a North American, has been named military commander of the southern Las Villas port of Cienfuegos.
In Buenos Aires, Argentina, informed sources said that several prominent members of Batista’s government have taken refuge in the Argentine embassy in Havana. Hundreds of top Batista men fled abroad when the dictator left. U.S. Cuts Off Relations with CubaU.S. Cuts off Relations with CubaThe Associated PressJanuary 4, 1961In 1961 Cuban revolutionary Fidel Castro and his followers overthrew the regime of dictator Fulgencio Batista y Zaldívar. The new government seized an estimated $1 billion in land and assets owned by United States companies, much of it related to Cuba’s sugarcane industry. This move, along with Castro’s support for socialist economic programs, led U.S. president Dwight D. Eisenhower to break off formal relations with Cuba. On April 17, 1961, after President John F. Kennedy took office, exiles trained and supported by the United States unsuccessfully tried to oust the Castro government in the Bay of Pigs Invasion.
Washington, Jan. 4 (AP)—President Eisenhower has broken United States diplomatic relations with Fidel Castro’s Cuban regime, declaring “the limit has now been reached … to what the United States in self respect can endure.”
The President said “our sympathy goes out to the people of Cuba now suffering under the yoke of a dictator.”
The White House announcement of the break-off last night marked rock bottom in a downward plunge of United States-Cuban relations that started soon after Castro’s capture of power two years ago. Castro’s anti-United States attacks and his shift toward the Communist camp have mounted over the months.…
The bearded Cuban leader reacted to Mr. Eisenhower’s statement by saying. “We are alert.” He called his Cabinet into emergency session, then sent a note to the United States Embassy guaranteeing safety of all remaining Americans.
The official Soviet news agency Tass called the United States action “a new step toward aggression.”
The newspaper Soviet Russia said the United States “is preparing for open attack on Cuba, is organizing a conspiracy against the lawful government of Laos, and is interfering in the internal affairs of The Congo.”
The diplomatic break seemingly did little more than recognize an existing situation. For a year relations between the two governments had been virtually nominal. Cuba already has seized most American businesses on the island.
Actually, the two governments involved in a break normally set up arrangements to carry on emergency diplomatic and consular activity. This has been done in the present case.
The break could, however, prove to be a powerful psychological blow at the Castro regime.…
President-elect John F. Kennedy declined to comment last night at Palm Beach, Fla., on the diplomatic break. He was given advance word on the President’s action.
The New York Times said Secretary of State Christian A. Herter asked Dean Rusk, Kennedy’s choice for Secretary of State, in advance whether the incoming Democratic Administration wished to associate itself with the break.
Rusk replied after consultation with Kennedy that in the absence of complete information on all the relevant factors the new Administration did not feel that it could participate in the decision, a Washington dispatch to the Times added…
The story said that Herter, while informing Rusk of Mr. Eisenhower’s decision, did not seek the advice of the leaders of the incoming administration on what should be done.…
The end to United States-Cuban relations, though long expected, was dramatic. The break cut Washington-Havana ties for the first time since America’s fighting men had helped free Cuba from Spain at the turn of the century.
The last straw breaking Washington’s forebearance policy was Castro’s demand, delivered to the United States Embassy in Havana early yesterday morning, that all but 11 of the United States diplomats get out of Cuba within 48 hours.
American authorities from Mr. Eisenhower down saw this as a calculated insult. They figured the United States Embassy could hardly operate with only 11 men—fewer than the number of guards alone needed for the 10-story embassy building.
Castro has had no ambassador here since December 1959. United States Ambassador Philip W. Bonsal left Havana last October. Most dependents of United States officials in Cuba have already departed under pressure of worsening relations.
In Havana the ranking United States diplomat, charge d’affaires Daniel J. Braddock, and 10 of his top aids planned to remain a few days to take care of pending matters and transfer the care of United States relations to Swiss ambassador Walter Rossi. Other members of Braddock’s staff were boarding a ferry sailing today for West Palm Beach, Fla.
Cuban diplomats in this country likewise were under expulsion because of the break. State Department officials said these totaled about 100, including about 10 at the Cuban embassy in Washington and 90 at 13 Cuban consulates in other cities throughout the United States.…
(The Cuban Consular office in St. Louis, which was in the Fullerton Building, was closed about two months ago, officials of other foreign consular offices in the city said today. Enrique Pujals, the consul, was reported transferred to Chicago. There has been no notice of a temporary Cuban appointment, other consular officials added.)
Castro named the Communist Czechoslovak embassy to handle future Cuban dealings in Washington.
The State Department urged American civilians in Cuba to leave even though they have not been ordered out by Castro. The department estimated there are from 5000 to 2500 Americans in Cuba. United States airlines still were flying into Havana.
Is the newly convened Congress, key lawmakers generally indicated they regarded the break as inevitable.
United States officials did not expect any immediate chain reaction by other countries. Six of the other 19 Latin American countries have already severed diplomatic ties with Cuba. Others are considering the step. Canada said it would continue relations.
Washington’s hope is that the rest of the hemisphere will eventually join in a concerted action quarantining Castro, and that this and pressure from oppressed Cubans inside the country will oust his dictatorship.…
Castro’s two years of anti-American activity had been marked by accusations, growing intimacy with the Communist bloc, including acceptance of arms aid, and seizure of about a billion dollars worth of United States-owned property in Cuba.
Washington has reacted slowly. It repeatedly denied Castro’s charges, protested his growing involvement with the Reds, withdrew economic aid, and finally ended United States purchases of Cuban sugar and barred shipment of American goods to Cuba.
The American embassy staff had been kept on in Havana to hold open a channel of communication with the Castro regime, to report to Washington on Cuban developments and to grant visas to Cubans wanting to come to the United States.
United States officials believe Castro was angered by the United States reporting and by the heavy flight of Cubans to the United States.
The United States embassy had been granting about 1500 visas a month. The waiting list of Cubans seeking to leave for America extended into 1962 at the time of the break. About 50,000 were said to have applications on file. Suspension of the visa service yesterday caused hysteria among several hundred Cubans waiting at the embassy.
United States authorities were considering a means of treating future Cuban arrivals in the United States as refugees, processing them for temporary admission after they get here.…
Representative Armistead Selden Jr. (Dem.), Alabama, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Latin America, applauded Mr. Eisenhower’s action. He said it has been ridiculous to maintain diplomatic relations with “an irresponsible government which continues to mistreat our citizens and which insults our government.”
Senator Mike Mansfield (Dem.). Montana, the new majority leader, said Cuba now stands as “another sore spot that President Kennedy will have to contend with.” Manslield advocated promoting conditions cooperation with other Latin American countries which will make impossible the spread of Castroism there.
Adlai E. Stevenson, Kennedy’s choice for ambassador to the U.N. said he regrets the “deterioration of relations that has resulted in this decision being forced by the Cubans.”
Senator J. William Fulbright (Dem.), Arkansas, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said “we certainly had sufficient provocation.”
Fulbright said Herter will be invited to review the Cuban situation for the committee, probably on Friday.
Source: Associated Press, January 4, 1961.
Microsoft ® Encarta ® 2006. © 1993-2005 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved. CIA Report on Bay of Pigs InvasionOn April 17, 1961, the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) sponsored an incursion into Cuba in an effort to incite Cubans to overthrow the government. Behind the botched action lay tension on an international scale: After Cuban leader Fidel Castro had ousted the previous regime on the island in 1959, Castro’s government had turned increasingly leftist and relations with the United States had chilled. The following internal CIA document, entitled “Inspector General’s Survey of the Cuban Operation,” analyzed the CIA’s performance and concluded that the agency had made “grave mistakes” in planning and judgement. It was written in October 1961 and released in 1998 in response to a request filed under the Freedom of Information Act. Some parts of the document were excised by the CIA.CIA Report on the Bay of Pigs InvasionIntroduction
This is the Inspector General’s report on the Central Intelligence Agency’s ill-fated attempt to implement national policy by overthrowing the Fidel Castro regime in Cuba by means of a covert paramilitary operation.
The purpose of the report is to evaluate selected aspects of the Agency’s performance of this task, to describe weaknesses and failures disclosed by the study, and to make recommendations for their correction and avoidance in the future.
The report concentrates on the organization, staffing and planning of the project and on the conduct of the covert paramilitary phase of the operation, including comments on intelligence support, training, and security. It does not describe or analyze in detail the purely military phase of the effort.…
In preparing the survey the Inspector General and his representatives interviewed about 125 Agency employees of all levels and studied a large quantity of documentary material.
History of the Project
The history of the Cuban project begins in 1959 and for the purposes of the survey ends with the invasion of Cuba by the Agency-supported Cuban brigade on 17 April 1961 and its defeat and capture by Castro’s forces in the next two days.
Formal U.S. Government adoption of the project occurred on 17 March 1960, when, after preliminary preparations by the Agency, President Eisenhower approved an Agency paper titled “A Program of Covert Action Against the Castro Regime” and thereby authorized the Agency to undertake this program:
a. Formation of a Cuban exile organization to attract Cuban loyalties, to direct opposition activities, and to provide cover for Agency operations.
b. A propaganda offensive in the name of the opposition.
c. Creation inside Cuba of a clandestine intelligence collection and action apparatus to be responsive to the direction of the exile organization.
d. Development outside Cuba of a small paramilitary force to be introduced into Cuba to organize, train and lead resistance groups.
The budget for this activity was estimated at $4,400,000. The breakdown was: Political action, $950,000; propaganda, $1,700,000; paramilitary, $1,500,000; intelligence collection, $250,000.
This document, providing for the nourishment of a powerful internal resistance program through clandestine external assistance, was the basic and indeed the only U.S. Government policy paper issued throughout the life of the project. The concept was classic. The Cuban exile council would serve as cover for action which became publicly known. Agency personnel in contact with Cuban exiles would be documented as representatives of a group of private American businessmen. The hand of the U.S. Government would not appear.…
Organization of Branch
On 18 January 1960 the W[estern] H[emisphere] Division organized Branch 4 (WH/4) as an expandable task force to run the proposed Cuban operation.…
At the same time Headquarters and the Havana Station were conducting a study of Cuban opposition leaders to prepare for the formation of a unified political front to serve as the cover instrument for clandestine operations and as a rallying point for anti-Castro Cubans. They were also making a map reconnaissance of the Caribbean, seeking a site for a powerful medium-wave and short-wave radio station.
As a result of this intensive activity over a relatively brief period, the Agency was able to report considerable preliminary progress and to predict early performance in a number or respects, when it carried its request for policy approval to … President [Eisenhower] in mid-March of 1960.
Among the facts so reported were: That the Agency was in close touch with leaders of three major and reputable anti-Castro groups of Cubans whose representatives, possibly together with others, would form a unified opposition council within 30 days; that the Agency was already supporting opposition broadcasts from Miami, had arranged for additional radio outlets in Massachusetts, [excised] and [excised], and that a powerful “gray” station [a station whose owner or source is not identified], probably on Swan Island, could be made ready in two months; that publication of an exile edition of a confiscated Cuban newspaper had been arranged; that a controlled action group was distributing propaganda outside Cuba, and that anti-Castro lecturers were being sent on Latin American tours.
The President was further informed that an effective intelligence and action organization inside Cuba, responsive to direction by the exile opposition, could probably be created within 60 days and that preparations for the development of an adequate paramilitary force would require “a minimum of six months and probably closer to eight.”
…The project to unseat Castro had thus become a major Agency activity with the highest policy sanction, engaging the full-time activity of the personnel of a rapidly expanding operating branch, requiring a great amount of detailed day-to-day attention in higher Agency echelons and entailing frequent liaison with other agencies and departments of the Government.…
…In the early months of the project there were intensive efforts to organize an exile front group, to get a broad and varied propaganda program under way, to begin a paramilitary program, and to acquire sites in Florida and elsewhere for training and recruiting activities and for office space.
The so-called “Bender Group” composed of project political action officers, was set up as a national organization of American businessmen to provide cover for dealing with the Cubans. After a series of meetings in New York and Miami a nominally unified Frente Revoluionario Democratico (FRD), composed of several Cuban factions, was agreed upon on 11 May 1960.…
Although Cuban leaders had formed a “front” at Agency urging, it was an uneasy one. They w[e]re by no means in agreement, either among themselves or with Agency case officers, on politics or on operations.…
By June the American press was beginning to nibble at the operation, principally at Radio Swan, some of the stories implying that it was not a completely legitimate commercial venture.
Another indication that operational security was less than perfect was a statement by a defected Cuban naval attache that it was common knowledge among exiles in Miami that a certain Cuban leader was backed by the Agency and that “there were entirely too many Americans running around the area waving money.”
On 22 June the Deputy Director of Central Intelligence briefed the National Security Council on the project. Ultimate objective of the training program, according to the paper prepared for this briefing, was a minimum force of 500 men split into approximately 25 teams skilled in organizing, training and leading indigenous dissident groups, each team to be provided with a radio operator. Preparations were under way for creating an exile Cuban air force, and attempts ware being made to develop maritime capabilities for support of paramilitary groups.
This briefing contained an expression of doubt that a purely clandestine effort would be able to cope with Castro’s increasing military capability, pointing out that implementation of the paramilitary phase of operations would be contingent upon the existence of dissident forces who were willing to resist and that such groups had not as yet emerged in strength.…
Emphasis on Resistance
In August WH/4 Branch prepared papers for use in briefing the President and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, respectively. By about 1 November it was expected to have 500 paramilitary trainees and 37 radio operators ready for action. It was stated that this group would be available for use as infiltration teams or as an invasion force. The briefing paper for the Joint Chiefs made the point that “obviously the successful implementation of any large-scale paramilitary operations is dependent upon widespread guerrilla resistance throughout the area.”…
The terms “invasion”, “strike”, and “assault” were used in these documents although the strike force concept does not seem to have been given any sort of policy sanction until the Special Group meeting which took place toward the end of 1960.
Plan of Operations
The Presidential briefing paper of August 1960 outlined the plan of operations as follows:
“The initial phase of paramilitary operations envisages the development, support and guidance of dissident groups in three areas of Cuba: Pinar del Rio, Escambray and Sierra Maestra. These groups will be organized for concerted guerrilla action against the regime.
“The second phase will be initiated by a combined sea-air assault by FRD forces on the Isle of Pines coordinated with general guerrilla activity on the main island of Cuba. This will establish a close-in staging base for future operations.
“The last phase will be air assault on the Havana area with the guerrilla forces in Cuba moving on the ground from these arena[s] into the Havana area also.”…
Late September 1960 saw the almost simultaneous occurrence of the first maritime operation and the first air drop over Cuba. The former was successful. The latter, the first of a series of failures, resulted in the capture and execution of a paramilitary agent on whom the project had set great store.…
Switch in Concept
On 4 November 1960 WE/4 took formal action to change the course of the project by greatly expanding the size of the Cuban paramilitary unit and redirecting its training along more conventional military lines. Appropriate orders were sent to the Guatemala Base, which had 475 air and ground trainees on 10 November, and to Miami where recruiting efforts were increased.…
…President Eisenhower had given a general go-ahead signal on 29 November and had reaffirmed it on 3 January 1961, but the impending change in administration was slowing matters down. … [O]n 19 January, at the Special Group’s last meeting before the inauguration, it was agreed that a high-level meeting, to include the new Secretaries of State and Defense, should be set up as soon as possible to reaffirm the basic concepts of the project.
Such a meeting was held 22 January, and the project and current preparations were generally endorsed. At a meeting with the new President [John F. Kennedy] on 28 January the Agency was authorized to continue present activities…. By 6 February the Joint Chiefs had returned a favorable evaluation of the strike plan, together with a number of suggestions.
On 17 February the Agency presented a paper to the President which outlined three possible courses of action against Castro.
Noting plans for early formation of a government in exile, the paper described the growing strength of the Castro regime under [Soviet] Bloc support and observed: “Therefore, after some date probably no more than six months away it will become militarily infeasible to overthrow the Castro regime except by the commitment to combat of a sizeable organized military force. The option of action by the Cuban opposition will no longer be open.
This paper found the use of small-scale guerrilla groups not feasible and advocated a surprise landing of a military force, concluding that the brigade had a good chance of overthrowing Castro “or at the very least causing a damaging civil [w]ar without requiring the U.S. to commit itself to overt action against Cuba.”
Following presentation of this paper to the President, the project leaders were given to understand that it would be at least two weeks before a decision would be made as to use of the invasion force. They thereupon withheld action to expand the force up to 1,000 for the time being.…
…Successive changes in the operational plan and postponements of the strike date are discussed later in this report…. Detailed policy authorization for some specific actions was either never fully clarified or only resolved at the eleventh hour, and even the central decision as to whether to employ the strike force was still somewhat in doubt up to the very moment of embarkation.…
Cuban overflights were suspended on 28 March.…
For a White House meeting on 29 March papers were prepared on these subjects: (a) The status of the defection program; (b) Internal Cuban support which could be expected for the landing operation.
On 5 April the B-26 “defection” plan was prepared in an effort to knock out some of Castro’s air force before D-Day in a manner which would satisfy State Department objections. Project chiefs agreed that in event of a policy decision to call off the invasion they would move the troops to sea, tell them that new intelligence made the invasion inadvisable, and divert the force to Vieques Island [off Puerto Rico] for demobilization.
On 12 April at a meeting with the President it was decided … [to] tell Miro Cardona [chairman of the Revolutionary Council] there would be no overt U.S. support of the invasion. The President publicly announced there would be no U.S. support.…
The raids on three Cuban airfields were carried out by eight B-26s on 15 April, and destruction of half of Castro’s air force was estimated on the basis of good post-strike photography. Afterward, according to plan, one of the pilots landed in Florida had announced that the raids had been carried out by defectors from Castro’s own air force. The Council was briefed on the air strike. The diversionary expedition by the force which had been trained in New Orleans failed to make a landing on two successive nights preceding the strike.…
Late on 16 April, the eve of D-Day, the air strikes designed to knock out the rest of Castro’s air force on the following morning were called off. The message reached the field too late to halt the landing operation, as the decision to cancel the air strike was made after the landing force had been committed.
The invasion fleet which had assembled off the south coast of Cuba on the night of 16 April included two LCIs [landing craft, infantry] owned by the Agency, a U.S. Navy LSD [landing ship, dock] carrying three LCUs [landing craft, utility] and four LCVPs [landing craft, vehicle personnel], all of them pre-loaded with supplies, and seven chartered commercial freighters. All these craft participated in the assault phase, except for three freighters which were loaded with follow-up supplies for ground and air forces. These vessels were armed with 50-caliber machine guns. In addition, each LCI mounted two 75-mm recoilless rifles.…
The invasion brigade comprised 1,511 men, all of them on the invasion ships excepting one airborne infantry company of 177 men. The brigade included five infantry companies, a heavy weapons company, an intelligence-reconnaissance company, and a tank platoon.…
…Altogether there were arms and equipment available to furnish 30,000 dissidents expected to rally to the invasion force.
The landing was to be carried out at three beaches about 18 miles from each other on the Zapata Peninsula. The left flank of the beachhead was Red Beach at the head of Cochinos Bay; Green Beach was at the right flank, with Blue Beach at the center. The lodgment to be seized was thus a coastal strip about 40 miles long, separated from the interior by a sizeable swamp penetrated only by three roads from the north and flanked by a coastal road from the east.
In the early hours of 17 April, Cuban underwater demolition teams, each led by an American contract employee, went ashore to mark Red and Blue Beaches. Each of those parties engaged in fire fights with small enemy forces but accomplished their tasks, and the troops began moving ashore in small aluminum boats and LCUs. Before daylight, small militia forces were encountered at both beaches. Those offered little opposition, and…the militiamen were quickly captured.
Not long after daylight the airborne infantry company was successfully parachuted from C-46 aircraft to four of the five scheduled drop zones where its elements were given the mission of sealing off approach roads.
At dawn began the enemy attacks which the project chiefs had aimed to pre[v]ent by the planned dawn strikes with Nicaragua-based aircraft against Castro’s fields. Action by Castro’s B-26s, Sea Furies, and jet T-33s resulted in the sinking of a supply ship, the beaching of a transport, and damage to an LCI. The plan for a landing at Green Beach was thereupon abandoned, and these troops, with their tanks and vehicles, were put ashore at Blue Beach. Shipping withdrew to the south under continuous air attack.
The air attacks continued throughout the day. The 11 B-26s of the Cuban exile force, which were available for close support and interdiction, were no match for the T-33 jets. However, at least four of Castro’s other aircraft were shot down by machine gun fire from maritime craft, assisted by friendly air support.
The first ground attacks by Castro’s forces occurred at Red Beach, which was hit by successive waves of militia in the morning, afternoon and evening of 17 April. While ammunition lasted those attacks were beaten off with heavy enemy casualties and several of Castro’s tanks were halted or destroyed by ground or friendly air action. On the morning of 18 April, the Red Beach Force, nearly out of ammunition, retired in good order to Blue Beach without being pressed by the enemy.
In addition to supporting the ground forces and protecting shipping on 17 April, the friendly B-26s also sank a Castro patrol escort ship and attacked the Cienfuegos airfield. Four of the friendly B-26s were shot down, while three returned safely to Nicaragua, and four landed at other friendly bases.
Attempts were made to resupply the brigade with ammunition by air drops. On the night of 17-18 April one C-54 drop was made at Red Beach and three at Blue Beach, and on the following night Blue Beach received two drops. Preparations for resupply by sea had to be canceled due to enemy air action.
At Blue Beach the enemy ground attacks, supported by aircraft, began from three directions on the afternoon of 18 April. Six friendly B-26s, two of them flown by Americans, inflicted heavy damage on the Castro column moving up from the west, using napalm, bombs, rockets, and machine gun fire to destroy several tanks and about 20 troop-laden trucks. Air support to the Blue Beach troops was continued on the morning of 19 April, when three friendly B-26s, including two piloted by Americans, were shot down by Castro T-33s. Jet cover from the Navy aircraft carrier “Essex” had been expected to protect the 19 April sorties but a misunderstanding over timing hampered its effectiveness.
In spite of this air action, however, and in spite of a reported 1,800 casualties suffered by the Castro forces, the brigade’s ability to resist depended in the last resort on resupply of ammunition, which had now become impossible. On the night of 18 April, when failure appeared inevitable, the Cuban brigade commander refused an offer to evacuate his troops. And on the morning of 19 April, with ammunition rapidly running out, the brigade was still able to launch a futile counterattack against the forces relentlessly moving in from the west.
In the last hours o[f] resistance the brigade commander sent a series of terse and desperate messages to the task force command ship pleading for help.
“We are out of ammo and fighting on the beach. Please send help. We cannot hold.”
“In water. Out of ammo. Enemy closing in. Help must arrive in next hour.”
“When your help will be here and with what?”
“Why your help has not come?”
The last message was as follows: “Am destroying all equipment and communications. Tanks are in sight. I have nothing to fight with. Am taking to woods. I cannot repeat cannot wait for you.”
An evacuation convoy was headed for the beach on the afternoon of 19 April. When it became known that beachhead had collapsed the convoy reversed course.
During the next few days two Americans and a crew of Cuban frogmen succeeded in rescuing 26 survivors from the beach and coastal islands.
Summary of Evaluation
In evaluating the Agency’s performance it is essential to avoid grasping immediately, as many persons have done, at the explanation that the President’s order canceling the D-Day air strikes was the chief cause of failure.
Discussion of that one decision would merely raise this underlying question: If the project had been better conceived, better organized, better staffed and better managed, would that precise issue ever have had to be presented for Presidential decision at all? And would it have been presented under the same ill-prepared, inadequately briefed circumstances?
Furthermore, it is essential to keep in mind the possibility that the invasion was doomed in advance, that an initially successful landing by 1,500 men would eventually have been crushed by Castro’s combined military resources strengthened by Soviet Bloc-supplied military materiel.
The fundamental cause of the disaster was the Agency’s failure to give the project, notwithstanding its importance and its immense potentiality for damage to the United States, the top-flight handling which it required—appropriate organization, staffing throughout by highly qualified personnel, and full-time direction and control of the highest quality.
Insufficiencies in these vital areas resulted in pressures and distortions, which in turn produced numerous serious operational mistakes and omissions, and in lack of awareness of developing dangers, in failure to take action to counter them, and in grave mistakes of judgment. There was failure at high levels to concentrate informed, unwavering scrutiny on the project and to apply experienced, unbiased judgment to the menacing situations that developed.
Evaluation of Organization and Command Structure
The project was organized at the level of an operating branch, the fourth echelon in the organization of the Agency, in the Western Hemisphere Division. Its chief, a GS-15, was not given the independence and the broad, extensive powers of a task force commander. Instead, he had to apply constantly for the decision of policy questions and important operational problems to the Deputy Director (plans) (DD/P), who was in fact directing the project, although this was only one of his many responsibilities. The DD/P delegated much of his responsibility to his Deputy for Covert Action, especially the handling of policy matters involving contact with non-Agency officials. The office of the DD/P and the offices of the project were in different buildings. Consideration was given by the DD/P in late 1960 to raising the project out of WH Division and placing it directly under his Deputy for Covert Action, but this was not done.…
Fragmentation of Authority
Thus, the project lacked a single, high-level full time commander possessing stated broad powers and abilities sufficient for the carrying out of this large, enormously difficult mission.…
Failure of Integration Effort
…The upshot of this complex and bizarre organizational situation was that in this tremendously difficult task the Agency failed to marshal its forces properly and to apply them effectively.
Evaluation of Staffing
…The basic mistake was made of filling the key spots early, without realizing how much the project would grow and that it should be staffed for a major effort. In s[o]me cases, officers originally selected to supervise five persons ultimately had to supervise 15 or 20 times as many. Of the three GS-16 officers assigned to the project, none was given top-level managerial responsibilities. The result of all those factors was that none of the most experienced senior operating officers of the Agency participated full time in the project.
An Indication of Quality
…It is apparent from [quality] ratings that the other [CIA] units had not detailed their best people to WH/4 but had in some instances given the project their disposal cases.…
There were in fact insufficient people to do the job during the latter stages of the project. Personnel worked such long hours and so intensively that their efficiency was affected. Personnel shortages were one of the reasons why much of the work of the project was performed on a “crash” basis.
Scarcity of Linguists
Very few project personnel spoke Spanish or had Latin American background knowledge. In a number of instances those senior operating personnel in the field stations that did speak Spanish had to be interrupted in their regular duties merely in order to act as interpreters.…
In spite of the foregoing, there were a great many excellent people in the project who worked effectively and who developed considerably in the course of their work. It should also be emphasized that, almost without exception, personnel worked extremely long hours for months on end without complaint and otherwise manifested high motivation, together with great perseverance and ingenuity in solving the manifold problems that the project constantly raised. It should be stated that in general the support people sent to the project by the support component were of excellent quality and effective performance.…
Evaluation of Planning
…Between the plan approved by President Eisenhower on 17 March 1960…and the invasion plan actually carried out on 17 April 1961…there was a radical change in concept. Originally the heart of the plan was a long, slow, clandestine build-up of guerrilla forces, to be trained and developed in Cuba by a cadre of Cubans whom the Agency would recruit, train and infiltrate into Cuba.
But thirteen months later the Agency sponsored an overt assault-type amphibious landing of 1,500 combat-trained and heavily armed soldiers. Most of them were unversed in guerrilla warfare. They were expected to maintain themselves for a period of time (some said a week) sufficient to administer a “shock” and thereby, it was hoped, to trigger an uprising.…
Close reading of the three papers [prepared by the CIA in March and April before the incursion] also discloses that the invasion was no longer conceived as an effort to assist Cuban guerrilla forces in a coordinated attack. The papers make no claim that significant guerrilla forces existed with whom—after evaluative reports from our own trained agents, confirming their strength, efficiency of arms and ammunition, and their readiness—we had worked out plans for a coordinated, combined insurrection and attack against Castro. As the 12 April 1961 paper expressly states, the concept was that the operation should have the appearance of an internal resistance.
With reference to the strength of the resistance in Cuba, the 11 March 1961 paper refers to an estimated 1,200 guerrillas and 1,000 other individuals engaging in acts of conspiracy and sabotage, but it makes no claim of any control exercised by the Agency or even that coordinated plans had been made and firm radio communications established.
The 12 April 1961 paper states the estimate at “nearly 7,000 insurgents” (without specifying the number of guerrillas included therein), who were “responsible to some degree of control through agents with whom communications are currently active.” It locates these in three widely separate regions of the island and states that the individual groups are small and very inadequately armed and that it was planned to supply them by air drops after D-Day, with the objective of creating a revolutionary situation.
The foregoing language suggests existence of 7,000 insurgents but refrains from claiming any prospect of immediate help from trained guerrilla forces in being. The term “insurgents” seems to have been used in the sense of “potential” insurgents or mere civilian opponents of Castro. A statement about military and police defectors was similarly vague; the Agency was in touch with 31 such persons whom it hoped to induce to defect after D-Day.
Arrests of Agents
These tacit admissions of the non-existence of effective, controlled resistance in Cuba correspond to the intelligence reports which clearly showed the unfavorable situation resulting from the failure of our air supply operations and the success of the Castro security forces in arresting our agents, rolling up the few existing nets, and reducing guerrilla groups to ineffectiveness.
It is clear that the invasion operation was based on the hope that the brigade would be able to maintain itself in Cuba long enough to prevail by attracting insurgents and defectors from the Castro armed services, but without having in advance any assurance of assistance from identified, known, controlled, trained, and organized guerrillas. The Agency hoped the invasion would, like a deus ex machine, produce a “shock,” which would cause those defections. In other words, under the final plan the invasion was to take the place of an organized resistance which did not exist and was to generate organized resistance by providing the focus and acting as a catalyst.
The Agency was matching the 1,500-man brigade, after an amphibious landing, against Castro’s combined military forces, which the highest-level U.S. intelligence…estimated as follows: The Revolutionary Army—32,000 men; the militia—200,000 men; employing more then 30 to 40 thousand tons of Bloc-furnished arms and heavy materiel of the value of $30,000,000.
It is difficult to understand how the decision to proceed with the invasion could have been justified in the latter stages of the operation.… The lack of contingency planning for either survival or rescue of the brigade has never been satisfactorily explained.
The argument has been made that the Agency’s theory of an uprising to be set off by a successful invasion and the maintenance of the battalion for a period of a week or so has not been disproved. It was not put to the test, this argument goes, because the canceled D-Day air strikes were essential to the invasion’s success. Such an argument fails in the face of Castro’s demonstrated power to arrest tens of thousands of suspected persons immediately after the D-Day-minus-2 air strikes and the effectiveness of the Castro security forces in arresting agents, as demonstrated by unimpeachable intelligence received.…
…The Agency committed at least four extremely serious mistakes in planning:
a. Failure to subject the project, especially in its latter frenzied stages, to a cold and objective appraisal by the best operating talent available, particularly by those not involved in the operation, such as the Chief of Operations and the chiefs of the Senior Staff. Had this been done, the two following mistakes (b and c, below) might have been avoided.
b. Failure to advise the President, at an appropriate time, that success had become dubious and to recommend that the operation be therefore cancelled and that the problem of unseating Castro be restudied.
c. Failure to recognize that the project had become overt and that the military effort had become too large to be handled by the Agency alone.
d. Failure to reduce successive project plans to formal papers and to leave copies of them with the President and his advisors and to request specific written approval and confirmation thereof.
Timely and objective scrutiny of the operation in the months before the invasion, including study of all available intelligence, would have demonstrated to Agency officials that the clandestine paramilitary operations had almost totally failed, that there was no controlled and responsive underground movement ready to rally to the invasion force, and that Castro’s ability both to fight back and to roll up the internal opposition must be very considerably upgraded.
It would also have raised the question of why the United States should contemplate pitting 1,900 soldiers, however well trained and armed, against an enemy vastly superior in number and armament on a terrain which offered nothing but vague hope of significant local support. It might also have suggested that the Agency’s responsibility in the operation should be drastically revised and would certainly have revealed that there was no real plan for the post-invasion period, whether for success or failure.
Existence of Warnings
The latest United States Intelligence Board, Office of National Estimates, and Office of Current Intelligence studies on Cuba available at that time provided clear warning that a calm reappraisal was necessary.
But the atmosphere was not conducive to it. The chief of the project and his subordinates had been subjected to such grueling pressures of haste and overwork for so long that their impetus and drive would have been difficult to curb for such a purpose. The strike preparations, under the powerful influence of the project’s paramilitary chief, to which there was no effective counterbalance, had gained such momentum that the operation had surged far ahead of policy. The Cuban volunteers were getting seriously restive and threatening to get out of hand before they could be committed. The Guatemalan Government was urging the Agency to take away its Cubans. The rainy season was hard upon the Caribbean. The reappraisal never happened, though these very factors which helped prevent it should have warned the Agency of its necessity.
These adverse factors were compounded and exacerbated by policy restrictions that kept coming one upon another throughout a period of weeks and right up until the point of no return. These caused successive planning changes and piled up more confusion. Rapidly accumulating stresses, in our opinion, caused the Agency operators to lose sight of the fact that the margin of error was swiftly narrowing and had even vanished before the force was committed. At some point in this degenerative cycle they should have gone to the President and said frankly: “Here are the facts. The operation should be halted. We request further instructions.”
Consequences of Cancellation
Cancellation would have been embarrassing. The brigade could not have been held any longer in a ready status, probably could not have been held at all. Its members would have spread their disappointment far and wide. Because of multiple security leaks in this huge operation, the world already knew about the preparations, and the Government’s and the Agency’s embarrassment would have been public.
However, cancellation would have averted failure, which brought even more embarrassment, carried death and misery to hundreds, destroyed millions of dollars worth of U.S. property, and seriously damaged U.S. prestige.…
It is beyond the scope of this report to suggest what U.S. action might have been taken to consolidate victory, but we can confidently assert that the Agency had no intelligence evidence that Cubans in significant numbers could or would join the invaders or that there was any kind of an effective and cohesive resistance movement under anybody’s control, let alone the Agency’s, that could have furnished internal leadership for an uprising in support of the invasion. The consequences of a successful lodgment, unless overtly supported by U.S. armed forces, were dubious.
The choice was between retreat without honor and a gamble between ignominious defeat and dubious victory. The Agency chose to gamble, at rapidly decreasing odds.
The project had lost its covert nature by November 1960. As it continued to grow, operational security became more and more diluted. For more than three months before the invasion the American press was reporting, often with some accuracy, on the recruiting and training of Cubans. Such massive preparations could only be laid to the U.S. The Agency’s name was freely linked with these activities. Plausible denial was a pathetic illusion.
Insistence on adhering to the formalities imposed by a non-attributability which no longer existed produced absurdities and created obstacles and delays. For example, the use of obsolete and indequate B-26 aircraft, instead of the more efficient A-5s originally requested, was a concession to [non]attributability which hampered the operation severely. A certain type of surgical tent requested for the landing beach was not supplied because it could be traced to the U.S. A certain modern rifle was not supplied, for the same reason, although several thousand of them had recently been declared surplus. In the end, as could have been foreseen, everything was traced to the U.S.
U.S. policy called for a covert operation and assigned it to the agency chartered to handle such things. When the project became blown to every newspaper reader the Agency should have informed higher authority that it was no longer operating within its charter. Had national policy then called for continuation of the overt effort under a joint national task force, vastly greater manpower resources would have been available for the invasion and the Agency could have performed an effective supporting role. The costly delays experienced by the Agency in negotiating for support from the armed services would have been avoided.
In the hectic meets before the strife, policy was being formed piecemeal and the imposition of successive restrictions was contracting the margin of error. The last of those restrictive decisions came from the President when the brigade was already in small boats moving toward the Cuban shore. Had it come a few hours earlier the invasion might have been averted and loss of life and prestige avoided.
If formal papers outlining the final strike plan in detail and emphasizing the vital necessity of the D-Day air strikes had been prepared and left with the President and his advisors, including the Joint Chiefs, with a request for written confirmation that the plan had received full comprehension and approval, the culminating incident which preceded the loss of the Cuban brigade might never have happened.
We are informed that this took place as follows: On the evening of 16 April the President instructed the Secretary of State that the D-Day strikes set for the following morning should be cancelled, unless there were overriding considerations to advise him of. The Secretary then informed the Deputy Director of Central Intelligence, the Director being absent from Washington, and the Deputy Director (Plans) of this decision, offering to let them call the President at Glen Ora if they wished. They preferred not to do so, and the Secretary concluded from this that they did not believe the strikes to be vital to success.
Earlier that evening the project chief and his paramilitary chief had emphatically warned the DD/P to insist that cancellation of the strikes would produce disaster. Thus the DD/P, a civilian without military experience, and the DDCI, an Air Force general, did not follow the advice of the project’s paramilitary chief, a specialist in amphibious operations. And the President made this vital, last-minute decision without direct contact with the military chiefs of the invasion operation.
The President may never have been clearly advised of the need for command of the air in an amphibious operation like this one. The DD/P was aware that at least two of the President’s military advisors, both members of the Joint Chiefs, did not understand this principle. This might well have served to warn the DD/P that the President needed to be impressed most strongly with this principle, by means of a formal written communication, and also have alerted him to the advisability of accepting the Secretary’s invitation to call the President directly.
If the project’s paramilitary chief, as leader of the overt military effort, had accompanied the DDCI and the DD/P to the meeting with the Secretary he might have brought strong persuasion to bear on the decision.
This fateful incident, in our opinion, resulted in part from failure to circulate formal planning papers together with requests for specific confirmation.
Shifts in Scope
…When the project started, it was not realized that bases would be needed at Useppa Island, Key West, Miami, and Opalocka, Florida; New Orleans, Puerto Rico, Panama, Guatemala, and Nicaragua, as well as innumerable safe houses and other facilities. Consequently, the Project suffered, because many of the facilities were not ready when needed. The WH Division launched into a large paramilitary project without the bases, the boats, the experienced paramilitary personnel, or a complete and sufficient plan, and never really caught up.
Source: Bay of Pigs Declassified: The Secret CIA Report on the Cuba Invasion. Kornbluh, Peter, ed. New York: The New Press, 1998.
Microsoft ® Encarta ® 2006. © 1993-2005 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved. Che GuevaraChe Guevara, real name Ernesto Guevara (1928-1967), Latin American guerrilla leader and revolutionary theorist, who became a hero to the New Left radicals of the 1960s. Born into a middle-class family in Rosario, Argentina, Guevara received a medical degree from the University of Buenos Aires in 1953. Convinced that revolution was the only remedy for Latin America’s social inequities, in 1954 he went to Mexico, where he joined exiled Cuban revolutionaries under Fidel Castro. In the late 1950s, he played an important role in Castro’s guerrilla war against Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista, and when Castro came to power, he served as Cuba’s minister of industry (1961-1965). A strong opponent of U.S. influence in the Third World, he helped guide the Castro regime on its leftward and pro-Communist path. The author of two books on guerrilla warfare, Guevara advocated peasant-based revolutionary movements in the developing countries. He disappeared from Cuba in 1965, reappearing the following year as an insurgent leader in Bolivia. He was captured by the Bolivian army and executed near Vallegrande on October 8, 1967.Che Guevara’s Remains Returned to CubaThe following report is from a July 1997 article in the Encarta Yearbook.Che Guevara’s Remains Returned to Cuba
The remains of legendary revolutionary Ernesto “Che” Guevara, buried for almost three decades at the edge of a remote Bolivian airstrip, were returned to Cuba on July 12, 1997, in a ceremony near Havana, Cuba’s capital.
Earlier in the day officials of Bolivia’s government confirmed that a common grave found on June 28 held the remains of Guevara and three other Cuban revolutionaries. The men were killed in Bolivia in 1967 during an unsuccessful attempt to spark a peasant uprising.
A team of forensic anthropologists, trained to determine the identity of deceased persons from incomplete human remains, made the positive identification after examining teeth and bones exhumed from the grave site. The skeleton in question did not have hands, a key indication that it was Guevara’s. Following his execution by Bolivian troops, Guevara’s severed hands were sent to Cuba as evidence of his death.
Clyde Snow, a forensic anthropologist from Norman, Oklahoma, said that taken as a whole, the evidence clearly indicated the remains were Guevara’s. But other observers expressed doubts about the authenticity of the remains. Retired Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) operative Felix Rodriguez, who reportedly spoke with Guevara shortly before his death, portrayed the latest discovery as “propaganda” designed “to distract the Cuban people.”
The remains of the men were loaded onto a Cuban plane in the central Bolivian city of Santa Cruz, in a ceremony attended by Bolivian and Cuban government officials. “We have fulfilled our promise of finding, identifying, and turning over the remains of guerrillas to their family members for humanitarian reasons. We hope this will bring to an end the historical period marked by the guerrilla movement led by Guevara,” said Franklin Anaya, Bolivia’s minister of human development.
Guevara was born in Argentina and fought in the Cuban revolution that brought Fidel Castro to power in 1959. He emerged from the revolution as Cuba’s second most powerful leader. In 1965 Guevara left Cuba hoping to initiate peasant-based revolutions in other developing countries.
The recent effort to locate Guevara’s remains began in 1995 when a retired Bolivian military officer broke decades of official silence to announce that Guevara and the other guerrillas were buried at the Vallegrande airport, about 250 km (about 150 mi) west of Santa Cruz. Guevara’s remains were expected to be reburied in a special mausoleum in the central Cuban city of Santa Clara on October 8, the 30th anniversary of his death. Santa Clara was the site of a key battle led by Guevara in the rebellion against former Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista.
Source: Encarta Yearbook, July 1997.
South America’s Great LiberatorSouth American revolutionary Simón Bolívar was hailed as a hero for his role in helping South American countries gain independence from Spain during the 19th century. But he died a broken man. He became an unpopular figure because of his attempts to create strong central governments in the nations he helped liberate. In this article from National Geographic, senior writer Bryan Hodgson chronicles Bolívar’s military exploits during his long quest for independence. Hodgson includes eyewitness accounts and Bolívar’s own writings to enhance and humanize the portrait of South America’s liberator.South America’s Great LiberatorBy Bryan Hodgson
“I make Bolívar naked to protest the sainthood that has been thrust on him.” Colombian sculptor Arenas Betancourt shapes the thought with powerful hands, telling me why he has portrayed Simón Bolívar, South America’s greatest hero, as a naked man on muleback. “His custodians have transferred him to museums. They are afraid to humanize him. Bolívar makes sense today! He points out the social problems of South America. He understands the continent must be united. He imagines a world and makes us hope for it. That is his banner, his anthem.”
I had been following Bolívar’s banner for months, fascinated by this young Venezuelan aristocrat who burst onto the battlefield in 1811 to lead ragged armies of colonists and cowboys in a 14-year revolution that broke Spain’s colonial stranglehold on today’s republics of Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia.
I’d found his memorials everywhere, in statues and portraits dominating town squares and official walls. I’d also heard him quoted by conservatives and liberals, Marxists and Christians, dictators and democrats, all claiming vindication in his name.
But I was seeking the man who had written his own memorial with a caustic brilliance that put all his aficionados to shame. In a torrent of letters, declarations, and denunciations, he had described his dream of a peaceful confederation of independent Spanish American nations. Bitterly, he had watched the new republics disintegrate into chaos and civil war. At the end, stripped of power and honor by those he had led to victory, he described a nightmare:
“There is no good faith in America, nor among the nations of America,” he wrote just before his death in 1830. “Treaties are scraps of paper; constitutions, printed matter; elections, battles; freedom, anarchy; and life, a torment.” Here was the naked rider of an apocalypse that still convulses South America, saying what seems unsayable today.
How would he describe Venezuelan rebels who swear in his name to crush an elected government, I wondered. Would he approve of Marxist guerrillas of the Bolívar Coordinating Group, who commit thousands of assassinations and bombings a year? Would it surprise him that Maoist guerrillas stage public mass executions of villagers in the Peruvian Andes, and government forces respond with ruthless blood-baths of their own?
And what business was it of mine? I had discovered Bolívar’s writings while traveling on assignment in Argentina, haunted by the fate of more than 9,000 Desaparecidos—”disappeared ones”— who had been accused of subversion, kidnapped and murdered on the orders of military dictators, and buried in unmarked graves.
Bolívar gave me no answers but a requiem: “Your brothers, and not the Spaniards, have torn your breasts, spilt your blood,” he wrote to his fellow Venezuelans as the revolution turned into a civil war of pillage, rape, and revenge.
For me, he had also etched South America’s timeless contradiction—and his own: “We are not Europeans; we are not Indians; we are but a mixed species of aborigines and Spaniards,” he wrote in 1819. “Americans by birth and Europeans by law, we … are disputing with the natives for titles of ownership.”
Five centuries after Columbus, 180 years after his war of liberation began, Bolívar’s words clearly matter. More than any leader of today, his words and works could still define a revolution not yet won.
In Caracas, Venezuela’s capital, where Bolívar was born in 1783, street merchants near his childhood home murmur his name like a litany: “Bolívares … bolívares …bolívares,” they say, telling the prices of their trinkets in Venezuela’s currency. Not far away, on the altar of a deconsecrated church, a marble Bolívar gazes over his own bronze sarcophagus, impassive and remote. This saintly personage looks little like the portrait drawn from life by Gen. Daniel O’Leary, an Irish soldier who became his aide and friend:
“His chest was narrow, his figure slender, his legs particularly thin. His skin was swarthy and rather coarse. His hands and feet were small …a woman might have envied them. His expression, when he was in good humor, was pleasant, but it became terrible when he was aroused. The change was unbelievable.”
Bolívar was one of four children born into a wealthy family of cacao and sugar planters. He lost his father by the age of three, his mother by nine, and lived unhappily with relatives until he was sent to Spain as a teenager to gain European polish. In 1802 he gained a charming bride named María Teresa Rodríguez del Toro y Alaysa, brought her home to San Mateo, and watched her die of tropical fever within eight months.
Of these early years Bolívar left few signs of genuine emotion. One was a tribute to his black childhood nurse, Hipólita: “Her milk has fed my life, and I have never known another father than her.” Another was only a hint that grief drove him back to Spain in late 1803. There he plunged into the international ferment created by Napoleon Bonaparte, whose armies were rearranging Europe into a “continental system” of his own design. Bolívar’s grand tour included Paris, Geneva, and Rome, often with a boyhood mentor named Simón Rodríguez, who filled the young man’s ears with the heady rhetoric of philosophers like Voltaire and Rousseau, who believed that monarchs had a sacred obligation to guarantee the citizen’s right to equality before the law. When Napoleon crowned himself emperor for life in 1804 and set about modernizing French law, the young Venezuelan was mightily impressed: “I confess this made me think of my unhappy country and the glory which he would win who should liberate it.”
Bolívar left few impressions of his journeys, but their impact was clear. Returning to Caracas in 1807, the 24-year-old squire joined a clandestine movement advocating independence from Spain.
It seemed a quixotic dream. The Spanish colonial empire stretched from California to Tierra del Fuego, its cities rich with three centuries of culture, its mines transfusing a remote monarchy with a lifeblood of gold and silver and emeralds. But beneath the opulence lay mother lodes of unrest. In Spanish America some three million American-born colonists known as Creoles chafed under political discrimination, royal taxes, and restrictions on lucrative foreign trade with Europe. Beneath them toiled a volatile mixture of Indians, black slaves, and a palette of ethnic blends … some 14 million strong.
When Napoleon dethroned the Spanish king, Ferdinand VII, he unwittingly gave the would-be revolutionaries their chance. Creoles quickly formed juntas, ostensibly loyal to the deposed king but intent on displacing the royal bureaucracy. By 1810 ardent separatists took control in many regions of South America. The Republic of Venezuela was officially born on July 5, 1811, and later adopted a constitution largely based on that of the United States. Soon after, as royalist forces and loyalist Creoles organized resistance, the new republic went to war.
The revolution began in a blaze of ignominy. Poorly trained Venezuelan militiamen were defeated by a small Spanish force. Bolívar, now a militia colonel placed in charge of the coastal town of Puerto Cabello, was forced to flee when turncoat rebels released the imprisoned royal garrison. After the Venezuelan commander, Gen. Francisco de Miranda, surrendered, he secretly tried to leave the country. The furious Bolívar accused him of treason and allowed him to fall into the hands of the Spanish commander. Bolívar later received amnesty and a passport to leave Venezuela.
It was the first expression of the imperious will that would soon catapult him to fame. Escaping to nearby Cartagena, the old coastal fortress then in rebel hands, he poured out his fury in a manifesto that excoriated the Venezuelan government’s failures.
“Forgive me if I …sketch briefly the causes that brought Venezuela to its destruction,” he wrote in December 1812. Among its principal failures, the government had refused to create a professional army. By printing paper money to support a huge bureaucracy, it had fueled inflation, alienating the powerful Creole agriculturists.
“But what weakened the Venezuelan government most was the federal form it adopted in keeping with the exaggerated precepts of the rights of man. …The popular elections held by the simple people of the country and by the scheming inhabitants of the city added a further obstacle …the former are so ignorant that they cast their votes mechanically and the latter so ambitious that they convert everything into factions. As a result …the government was placed in the hands of men who were either inept, immoral, or opposed to the cause of independence. …Our division, not Spanish arms, returned us to slavery.” It was a theme he would return to again and again: With no tradition of local government, South America was not ready for North American-style democracy, which he would dismiss as “a government so sublime …that it might more nearly befit a republic of saints.”
His view was not so different from that of Thomas Jefferson, who in 1811 wrote to the Polish patriot Tadeusz Kosciuszko that “Spanish America is all in revolt. The insurgents are triumphant in many of the States, and will be so in all. But there the danger is that the cruel arts of their oppressors have enchained their minds, have kept them …as incapable of self-government as children.”
Venezuela was not alone in disarray. Cities like Bogotá and Cartagena had declared independence from Spain and each other, threatening civil war. Other Colombian cities, like Santa Marta and Pasto, remained fiercely royalist. Sensing Bolívar’s charismatic leadership, Cartagena’s rulers assigned him to hold off royalist forces east of the city. For Bolívar this was not enough. Recruiting more troops, he staged a lightning campaign that routed Spanish garrisons all the way from Cartagena to Caracas, where in 1813 he was greeted by ecstatic crowds and given the formal title of El Libertador, becoming absolute dictator of Venezuela.
Triumph was brief. Spanish cavalry commanders had enlisted the llaneros, half-wild horsemen and cattle drovers of the plains, and turned them against their Creole masters. Joined by black slaves, they ranged the land with unmatched ferocity, routing Bolívar’s troops and subjecting civilians to looting, rape, and execution.
Bolívar had declared “war to the death” and now ordered the execution of 800 Spanish prisoners. Twice he was driven from Venezuela, and twice he returned with fresh troops along with armaments and funds provided by British merchants and Haitian President Alexandre Pétion.
The war took a new turn in early 1817 with the capture of the city of Angostura, on the Orinoco River, by a young mulatto rebel general named Manuel Piar. Bolivar praised him for a “most brilliant” victory, which for the first time gave him a secure headquarters in Venezuela’s heartland, reachable by seagoing vessels. But Piar had an ambition to be a liberator himself. Appealing to other pardos [an ethnic group], he planned an insurrection in the easternmost province. As a lesson to other would-be rivals, Bolívar had him shot against the wall of the Angostura cathedral on October 16, 1817.
“Never was there a death more useful, more politic and …more deserved,” he wrote.
In Angostura fortune began to favor the revolution. Napoleon’s downfall at the Battle of Waterloo released huge stocks of surplus armaments and unemployed soldiers, which Bolívar acquired with borrowed British funds. Meanwhile, the llaneros had switched sides behind one of their own, Gen. José Antonio Páez, who rallied them to the republican cause.
Bolívar used the opportunity to further his own ambitions. In February 1819 he convened the Congress of Angostura, which would proclaim the unification of the territories of present-day Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, and Panama into a vast republic that became known as Gran Colombia and make him president with dictatorial powers.
That summer he staged a military masterpiece. Riding with his forces some 300 miles over flooded plains, he led them across the Andes into Colombia in weather so harsh that one-third of his troops and most of their mules and horses died on the way. Such feats of endurance would earn him the honorific title “culo de hierro” from his men—meaning, roughly, “iron bottom.”
The 1,500 survivors were fed, clothed, and provided mounts by villagers, and a few days later the llaneros annihilated royalist cavalry at Pantano de Vargas. On August 7, at Boyacá, the main force of Spaniards was routed in only two hours by a mixed army of South Americans and British mercenaries.
Bolívar was euphoric: “The triumphal arches, the flowers, the hymns, the acclamations, the wreaths offered and placed upon my head by the hands of lovely maidens, the fiestas, the thousand demonstrations of joy are the least of the gifts that I have received,” he wrote. “The greatest and dearest to my heart are the tears, mingled with the rapture of happiness, in which I have been bathed and the embraces with which the multitude have all but crushed me.”
Success begat success. In June 1821 the llaneros of Páez and the British legion ended the major Spanish threat in Venezuela at the Battle of Carabobo. That left the formidable task of dealing with Peru, heart of Spain’s South American empire, where a 20,000-man royalist army waited in the Andean highlands. Leaving the new vice president of Gran Colombia, Francisco de Paula Santander, in charge, Bolívar headed south, where his troops first captured Quito, capital of modern-day Ecuador.
There he was conquered himself, by a beautiful and tough-minded 24-year-old Quiteña named Manuela Sáenz. Unlike a multitude of previous lovers, she became his indefatigable companion, often following astride a cavalry charger in colonel’s regalia, fiercely hostile to his enemies, fiercely loyal to his cause.
Bogotá’s haughty matrons would view her as a harlot, but Bolívar had the last word: “The memory of your enchantments dissolves the frost of my years,” he told her, in one of the many love letters he wrote.
Lima, Peru’s capital, had been occupied peacefully by Argentine Gen. José de San Martín, who had sailed north after staging a masterful march across the Andes to conquer Spanish forces in Chile. In July 1822 the two liberators met in private at the Ecuadorian port of Guayaquil. What transpired between them is the subject of a never ending and frequently rageful debate between Argentines, who consider San Martín the real liberator of South America, and their bolivarian cousins, who believe that the Argentine had lost control of the situation in Peru. But within two months San Martín gave up his title of Protector of Peru and sailed home to Argentina, leaving his troops to fend for themselves. They rebelled, turning the coastal fortress of Callao over to Spanish forces in 1824. Lima’s aristocracy followed suit, surrendering the city. Meanwhile republican leaders had persuaded Bolívar to take over as dictator.
“Peru is a chamber of horrors.…Corruption …envelops me on all sides. …Every ally is guilty of defection or of treachery,” Bolívar wrote to Vice President Santander. Nevertheless he marshaled his formidable military skills, molding Peruvian villagers and Colombian troops into an efficient army, demanding funds and churchly treasures to pay for the final stage of the revolution.
Visiting Bolívar at the time, U. S. Navy officer Hiram Paulding left a vivid picture of the leader joining his officers at dinner after a melancholy day of brooding.
“The settled gloom passed from his careworn features,” Paulding reported, “his eyes sparkled with animation, and with a flow of eloquent raillery or good-natured sarcasm …he threw such a charm round the social board that all eyes were fixed upon him with gratification and delight.”
Inspired by his leadership, the new army gave him victory over the Spanish cavalry at Junín on August 6, 1824. A few months later, on December 9, 1824, Gen. Antonio José de Sucre inflicted a final defeat on Spain at Ayacucho.…
Throughout his military campaigns Bolívar had written extensively on the future.
“I shall tell you with what we must provide ourselves in order to expel the Spaniards and to found a free government,” he wrote in exile in 1815. “It is union, obviously; but such union will come about through sensible planning and well-directed actions rather than by divine magic.”
Bolívar had no illusions that it would be easy. In 1821 he described Gran Colombia as “this amazing chaos of patriots, godos [pejorative term for Spaniards], self-seekers, blancos, pardos …federalists, centralists, republicans, aristocrats, the good and the bad, and the swarm of hierarchies which divide each of these groups.” Mindful of racial and regional divisions that had plagued him in war, he wrote this prophetic letter to Pedro Gual, his minister of foreign affairs:
“You can be sure, Gual, that we are over an abyss, or, rather, over a volcano that is about to erupt. I fear peace more than war.”
To counter the forces of division, Bolívar had a continental plan. While preparing for the final battles in Peru, he had invited the new republics to attend a congress in Panama to form a confederation “that should act as a council during periods of great conflicts, to be appealed to in the event of common danger, and to …conciliate all our differences.” Poignantly aware of these differences, he wrote, “It is my feeling that we will live on for centuries if we can only survive the first dozen years of childhood.”
Only four countries showed up, and the confederation died aborning.
The Liberator turned his thoughts and hopes toward the newly formed republic of Bolivia as his revolutionary promised land. Impressed by his ideas, leaders there asked him to write a constitution for the new country. He poured his dreams, his experience, and his heart into the document he submitted to them on May 25, 1826.
It abolished slavery, which he called “the negation of all law,” and stripped away governmental recognition of any one religion. Instead, public and governmental morality would be guarded by a house of censors, who, overseeing “the sciences, the arts, education and the press.…exercise the most fearful yet the most august authority.”
His most dramatic prescription was for a lifetime president, who “becomes the sun which, fixed in its orbit, imparts life to the universe. …Upon him rests our entire order, notwithstanding his lack of powers …a life term president, with the power to choose his successor, is the most sublime inspiration amongst republican regimes.”
In a letter to Santander written shortly after sending him a copy of the constitution, Bolívar emphasized his view: “I am convinced, to the very marrow of my bones, that our America can only be ruled through a well-managed, shrewd despotism.”
It was this almost napoleonic philosophy, articulated now with the full force of military glory and charismatic will, that created a political gulf between him and Santander and earned him scorn and denunciation from Americans north and south.
William Tudor, U. S. consul at Lima, wrote in 1826 of the “deep hypocrisy” of Bolívar, who allowed himself to be deceived by the “crawling, despicable flattery of those about him.”
Later, John Quincy Adams would define Bolívar’s mílitary career as “despotic and sanguinary” and state baldly that “he cannot disguise his hankering after a crown.” In Bogotá the U. S. minister and future president, Gen. William Henry Harrison, accused Bolívar of planning to turn Gran Colombia into a monarchy: “Under the mask of patriotism and attachment to liberty, he has really been preparing the means of investing himself with arbitrary power.”
Bolívar was intent on demonstrating just what enlightened despotism meant. Traveling the Bolivian highlands, he decreed new schools and highways, ordered judicial reforms, and relieved villagers of centuries-old taxes.
Meanwhile, the revolutionary edifice began to collapse at home. Venezuelan General Páez, rejecting the authority of Santander in Bogotá, was threatening to secede from Gran Colombia. Bolívar appeased Páez and in 1827 returned to Bogotá to resume control. But Santander had governed wisely in Bolívar’s absence, building a strong base of supporters who began to attack the Liberator’s increasingly imperial ways.
In early 1828 a convention was held at Ocaña, Colombia, to resolve differences between the factions and decide on a constitution. Brusquely Bolívar told representatives that they should undo “a swollen code of laws” that paralyzed government and adopt a more centralized rule. When his delegates saw his proposed constitution threatened, they paralyzed the convention by withdrawing. In what amounted to a coup, on June 13, 1828, he was proclaimed dictator by a partisan council meeting in Bogotá.
Santander’s supporters plotted revenge. On September 25, 1828, they entered the Palacio de San Carlos, where Bolívar was spending the night with Manuela Sáenz. Hearing a commotion, she commanded him to swallow his pride and escape through a window, then contemptuously stared down the would-be assassins when they burst into the room.
Fourteen conspirators were executed. Without any evidence of his involvement, Santander himself was sentenced to death. Bolívar granted clemency on the condition that Santander go into exile.
But the collapse of Bolívar’s empire became inevitable. He raced south to halt Peru’s threats to recapture Bolívia and Guayaquil. In his absence Venezuela seceded. Returning to Bogotá, Bolívar called a new congress to reorganize the republic.
When the liberator addressed the congress in January 1830, an eyewitness described a broken man, wasted by illness and adversity: “Pale, exhausted, his eyes …lightless; his deep voice, hardly audible.” He resigned his office, and his final words tolled like a funeral bell: “Fellow-Citizens, I am ashamed to say it, but independence is the sole benefit we have gained, at the sacrifice of all others.”
Bolívar left Bogotá for the last time in early 1830 and traveled down the Magdalena River toward Cartagena. It is a powerful current, the color of earth, that flows through Colombia’s central valley. Ostensibly he was going into exile in Europe. For a time he probably had hopes that he would be called once more to power.
But there was no more time. Tuberculosis devoured his body. Bitterness devoured his spirit. He died in a very small room at a ranch near Santa Marta, on the Colombian coast.
Today the room is a shrine, with yellow walls and a barred window that admits birdsong and the bright colors of flowering bushes. A stone tablet records the moment: December 17, 1830, at 1:03:55 p.m.
Outside, beneath a gigantic saman tree said to be as old as the ghosts of the conquistadores, stands a marble statue of Bolívar. A bird has nested in his hat. Nearby, in a modern art museum, I saw a painting by a Peruvian artist, José Carlos Ramos, which shows a quizzical Bolívar surrounded by forests, birds, and wraithlike white figures that symbolize justice, prosperity, joy.
There is no place here for the naked liberator, I thought. It seemed important to remember the searing words he wrote shortly before his death: “America is ungovernable for us.
“He who serves a revolution ploughs the sea.…”
Source: Hodgson, Bryan. “South America’s Great Liberator.” National Geographic, March 1994.
Guerrilla Warfare, military or paramilitary operations conducted in enemy-held territory by irregular forces, often groups indigenous to that territory.
Lacking the numerical strength and weapons to oppose a regular army in the field, guerrillas avoid pitched battles. Instead, they operate from bases established in remote and inaccessible terrain, such as forests, mountains, and jungles, and depend on the support of the local inhabitants for recruits, food, shelter, and information. The guerrillas may also receive assistance in the form of arms, medical supplies, and military advisers from their own or allied regular armies.The tactics of guerrillas are those of harassment. Striking swiftly and unexpectedly, they raid enemy supply depots and installations, ambush patrols and supply convoys, and cut communication lines, hoping thereby to disrupt enemy activities and to capture equipment and supplies for their own use. Because of their mobility, the dispersal of their forces into small groups, and their ability to disappear among the civilian population, guerrillas are extremely difficult to capture.
|ORIGIN OF GUERRILLA WARFARE|
The term guerrilla (Spanish, “little war”) originated in the early 19th century during the Peninsular War when, after the defeat of Spain’s regular forces, Spanish irregulars and civilians rose up against the French occupying forces. The practice of guerrilla warfare, however, dates from antiquity; for example, the Bible tells of the Israelite conquest of Canaan, led by Joshua, involving harassment and ambush of the enemy. Later Jewish resistance to foreign rule was expressed in the series of fierce guerrilla operations against the Romans in the 1st century ad; led by the Zealot sect, this revolt was climaxed by the seizure of Masada and the massacre of the Roman garrison there in ad66.
|GUERRILLA WARFARE IN THE WESTERN WORLD|
Guerrillalike warfare has figured in European history since the 12th century, when the Welsh, armed with longbows, fiercely defended their borders against Norman invaders. Through the centuries, peasant revolts against oppression were frequently characterized by guerrilla tactics. One of the bloodiest guerrilla actions was the peasant revolt of 1793-96 in the Vendée, in western France, against the revolutionary government and in support of the Roman Catholic church. Guerrilla actions played major roles in 19th-century nationalist uprisings, notably the Greek War of Independence (1821-29) and the efforts of the patriots Giuseppe Mazzini and Giuseppe Garibaldi to unify Italy in the 1830s and ’40s.Classic examples of guerrilla warfare include the attacks of more than 300 bands of French francs-tireurs, or snipers, on invading German troops during the Franco-Prussian War (1870-71); the Boer raids against British troops that were occupying the Transvaal and the Orange Free State during the Boer War (1899-1902); and, during World War II, the activities of the underground bands known as Maquis who fought German forces occupying France.
|THE NEW WORLD|
Guerrilla warfare has figured prominently in the history of North and South America, from the slave revolts against the Portuguese and Dutch in Brazil in the 17th century to the ranger raids behind Union lines led by the Confederate soldier John Singleton Mosby during the American Civil War. In early 19th-century Latin America, guerrilla actions such as those led by the South American patriot Simón Bolívar and the Mexican revolutionary Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla were instrumental in throwing off the Spanish yoke.
|THEORISTS AND PRACTITIONERS|
The German soldier and military theorist Karl von Clausewitz, in his treatise On War (1833; trans. 1873), pointed out certain conditions that he considered necessary for the successful pursuit of a “people’s war.” Such action must have popular support and must be carried on in the interior of a country, over a great extent of broken, inaccessible terrain. Clausewitz further argued that no single event will decide its outcome. Lenin made practical application of Clausewitz’s thinking in the successful engineering of the Russian Revolution; and his own theories have had a major impact on modern guerrilla strategies.As Lenin had applied Clausewitz’s theories in the political area, the British soldier T. E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) expanded them with respect to the desert skirmishes in which he led Arab bands against the Ottomans. In his book The Seven Pillars of Wisdom (1926) he emphasized the principles of mobility, speed, and surprise attack in guerrilla warfare.
|MODERN GUERRILLA WARFARE|
After World War II, the meaning of the word guerrilla was extended to include the guerrillalike tactics of any insurgency, rebellion, or uprising against an established government. The Hukbalahaps, or Huks, a Communist force that fought in the Philippines for several years, are an example of such an underground group. The armies led by Mao Zedong (Mao Tse-tung) were not guerrilla forces in the traditional sense, but they used guerrillalike tactics until they were strong enough to engage and defeat the Nationalist armies in pitched battles. In so-called wars of national liberation, stress is placed on armed insurgency, especially paramilitary and guerrilla tactics, sometimes at the expense of the political machinery.This strategy was adopted by the Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh in his fight against the French government in Indochina. The scheme was also advocated by the Cuban leader Fidel Castro, his military aide Che Guevara, and Jules Régis Debray, a French journalist and the author of Strategy for Revolution (1970), for the overthrow of existing governments in South and Central America. This strategy was initially followed in Vietnam by the pro-Communist Viet Cong guerrillas fighting against the Vietnamese government in the south. Guerrilla tactics have also been used against colonial and white-minority governments in Africa; against the Soviet-backed regime in Afghanistan; and, during the 1980s, against the Sandinista government in Nicaragua.
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