Cuban Revolution - Cold War DOCUMENTARY
For anybody who has watched The Godfather Part II, one of the pivotal scenes in the movie takes place in Havana on New Years Eve, 1958. The movie uses the overthrow of Fulgencio Batista as a backdrop for what is just a phenomenal film. If you haven’t seen it, go fix that. Right AFTER watching his video. The Cuban Revolution in Cold War terms is one of the watershed moments of the time period, setting the stage for a failed invasion and a missile crisis and just a constant thorn in the side of the United States. I’m your host David and today, we are going to pick up where we left our Cuba story from previous episodes by looking at the Cuban Revolution. This is...The Cold War.
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the vital sugar cane industry, were content to support a leader who kept not only the peace, but security to ensure the dollars kept flowing. Now keep in mind, this open support for a military dictator did little to win the hearts and minds of Cubans and others across Latin America and in fact really only served to alienate them from the Americans, who were seen as an imperialist power. And like any good coup, resistance formed among progressive opposition forces. At the forefront of this emerging movement was a young lawyer who had been born into a well-off Cuban family. You may have heard of him, his name was Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz. Even before the coup, Castro had been
politically minded and politically active and had been running as a candidate in the cancelled 1952 elections. A member of the left-wing populist Partido Ortodoxo since the late 1940s, the establishment of Batista’s dictatorship created a feeling of disillusionment with traditional politics among Fidel and others on the left. They came to the conclusion that the only way to remove the military dictatorship in Cuba was by means of revolution. Castro began to organise. Any successful revolution needs people to lead it and guide it. As such, Fidel began to recruit people who could and would conduct a guerilla warfare campaign against the Batista regime. This process included the publication and circulation
of a newsletter, El Acusador, The Accuser. He found support among other disillusioned members of the Partido Ortodoxo and it did not take him long to gather as many as 1,500 activists around him. He also found support among student leaders at the universities in Cuba as well and convinced his followers to procure and donate guns and other weapons necessary for a revolution. The plan that Castro and his group developed was centered on an attack on the Moncada Barracks in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba’s second city located in the southeast of the island.
The Moncada Barracks was the primary provincial garrison in the region and were adjacent to the Palace of Justice. By capturing the Barracks and the Palace of justice, as well as a hospital and radio station that were nearby, the movement could broadcast their manifesto calling for a return to democracy for Cuba. Fidel figured this would be enough to ignite the Cuban people to rebel against the Batista regime.
Training for the attack took place over several months and the would-be insurgents had to disguise themselves as private businessmen with an interest in trap shooting and hunting in order to practice with the motley assortment of weapons they had collected. The plan was that by capturing the Barracks by surprise, they could augment their own weapons with those they would seize from the garrison. At 5am on the 23rd of July, 1953, the plan was launched. 119 rebels in 16 cars, assembled to look like a convoy of government officials, began their assault on the Moncada Barracks. The attack went...poorly. Many men had to be left behind due to a lack of weapons and of those that did participate, some became separated from the main group, including the men equipped with the heavy weapons. At the barracks themselves, the attack failed to penetrate the main gate and the
assault fell apart. In total, 19 Cuban soldiers were killed for only 8 rebels, but more than 70 more rebels were taken prisoner. Of these, many were executed either on the spot or after being tortured in prison. Fidel and a small group did manage to escape into the surrounding countryside.
Batista’s reaction to the failed attack was the declare martial law across all of Cuba. Within a few days, Fidel had received guarantees from the authorities that he would not be killed or tortured and he surrendered. He was subsequently put on trial, and as a lawyer, represented himself, which incidentally, I have been told by several lawyers, is usually a TERRIBLE idea. But Castro didn’t use the opportunity to absolve himself of responsibility or to try and win his own freedom. He instead used the trial as a platform
to denounce Batista and promote his own platform to Cubans. He took ownership of his position as a leader in the attack, even stating “You may condemn me. History will absolve me”. And he was condemned. The court sentenced him to 15 years in prison. Other rebels who were also being tried, including Fidel’s brother Raul, received sentences between 7 and 13 years. Although Castro was in prison, he had gained a platform and recognition across Cuba. Although the putsch had been easily put down by Batista’s military, sympathy for the rebellion and the imprisoned rebels grew, especially as opposition to military rule increased across the island. After two years in prison, a letter-writing campaign was started by the mothers
of the political prisoners, seeking their release. This was followed by a public appeal endorsed by intellectuals, academics, editors and politicians also looking to have the prisoners released. And how did Batista receive this campaign? Well, quite favourably actually. By this point, Batista
was well entrenched as leader and well supported by the Americans. As such, he not only felt that Castro couldn’t pose any threat to him but that it would actually serve a good will gesture and positive publicity for his regime. The Cuban Congress passed a bill of amnesty for the rebels which Batista then signed. Having served 22 months in jail, Fidel and his group were released. Castro returned this favour by returning to political activism almost immediately. Fidel and his fellow prisoners had used their time reading and studying the philosophy and history, largely, but not exclusively, of the left. Upon his release, he gave interviews, conducted press conferences and founded a new organization dedicated to toppeling the Batista regime.
It was called, fittingly, the Movimiento 26 de Julio, or the 26th of July Movement, dedicated to the attack on the Moncada Barracks. But, Batista was not a stupid man. Fidel may have been free, but he was under constant government surveillance. When unrest and violence broke out on the island in 1955, both Raul and Fidel as well as several close comrades fled to Mexico to escape the inevitable repressions that would follow. Once in Mexico, Castro wasted no time in beginning to prepare for a return to Cuba, with the intent of waging guerilla war.
So a word or two about Fidel and his ideological beliefs. At the time of Casto’s flight to Mexico, he had no known ideological affiliations. He was clearly a believer in left-wing ideals from his membership in the Partido Ortodoxo, but unlike his brother Raul, he was not a communist. Fidel, in fact, actively avoided any links to the Cuban Communist Party. He did this in order to avoid The Movement being labeled a Communist organization. He wanted to ensure that other groups and
individuals would remain sympathetic to their cause and would not become alienated from it. Mexico in the late 1950s was a hotbed of revolutionaries-in-exile, gathered there from all across Latin America, many of them interacting with each other and sharing ideas and thoughts. Some of these people were Marxists and interactions with them certainly helped to shape and form Fidel’s ideological beliefs. Prominent among these revolutionaries was a trained doctor and journalist from Argentina, and future capitalist t-shirt model I might add, Ernesto Che Guevara. It was during this time in Mexico that Che joined the 26th of July Movement. Now, Fidel had no intention of remaining for long in Mexico and used the time there to train his fellow rebels as well as to raise financial support for the movement. After all, the first
rule of war is that it isn’t free and needs to be paid for. It was at this time that Fidel visited the United States, raising funds from supporters, including Carlos Prio Socarras, the former President of Cuba, the one Batista had overthrown in 1952. Using the money raised, The Movement took $15,000 of the money raised and bought a small yacht which was to be used to transport the rebels from Mexico back to Cuba. The Granma was a 60-foot cabin cruiser that had begun its life in 1943, built as a lightly armoured target practice craft for the US Navy. It had been converted at
some point into a civilian yacht, designed for 12 people. Just after midnight on November 25, 1956, Fidel and Raul Castro, Che Guevara, and 79 other revolutionaries boarded the craft. The original plan had been for up to 140 rebels to be transported, but the Granma was just unable to accommodate that many people. At about 2am, she left the port of Tuxpan in Mexico, destined
for Oriente Province in the Southeast of Cuba. The region for the landing was selected with symbolic purpose in mind. This was the same area of the island that the Cuban poet and revolutionary hero of the Cuban War of Independence, Jose Marti had landed in in 1895 to fight the Spanish. The crossing was...inauspicious. Leaving in a storm, the seas were very rough and the Granma
was not equipped or prepared for the crossing. To quote from John Thorndike’s book on Camilo Cienfeguos, A Hundred Fires in Cuba: “Camilo… remembered how seasick he had been on the first day of the voyage. Almost everyone got sick. Only an hour out of Tuxpán, soon after the swells rose up beneath them, the men started vomiting. Some threw up overboard, some into buckets, some were
packed so tightly they couldn’t move and puked where they sat, spattering those around them. The stench enveloped them all. Camilo himself sat wedged between two men, unable to lie down, feeling like death. For two days no one ate. There were men who shit in their pants and sat in it.”. Although the sea conditions mellowed by the third day, mechanical issues plagued the Granma and the crossing to Cuba took 8 days, making landfall at Playa las Colorados on December 2.
Now, the crossing had been planned to take six days. A two day delay might not have seemed significant at any other time, but in this instance, it proved fatal for many. This was because the plan was that Fidel and his rebels would land to help support an uprising in Oriente, led by Frank Pais, a member and organizer of The Movement that had remained in Cuba when Fidel and Raul had fled to Mexico. Pais had begun the uprising on time, but by the time the Granma landed, the uprising had already been suppressed by Batista’s forces. A grueling march into the swamps of Oriente began but Batista and his army knew Castro and The Movement had landed as well as where they had landed and an assault was begun. With poor cover and outnumbered and outgunned, only 19 of the men who disembarked from the Granma survived, fleeing into the Sierra Maestra mountains. Among the survivors was Che Guevera, Camile Cienfuegos, Raul
Castro, and Fidel. Once sheltered in the Sierra Maestra and with the help and support of local peasants, a guerilla war began to be organized, dedicated towards the removal of Batista. The next step of the Revolution occurred on March 13, 1957 when an attack on the Presidential Palace was launched, aimed at killing el Presidente. Except, this attack WASN’T carried out by Fidel and The Movement but rather by a group largely made up of students who organized themselves under the name Directorio Revolucionario Estudiantil, the DRE or Student Revolutionary Directorate. The attack, meant to capture and kill Batista as well as the radio station so the DRE could announce this to the Cuban people and initiate a general strike, was carried out by 50 men. But the attack was NOT successful, with 30 of the 50 DRE attackers being killed.
What followed were disturbances across the island, especially in Havana and Santiago, as attempts to launch a general strike were launched. But these protests were met with pro-Batista demonstrations, including one in Havana on April 10, 1957 in which participants numbered in the tens of thousands. How many of these people were there of their own volition instead of having been coerced by the government is unclear, but it is highly unlikely that all were voluntary participants. Protests and disruption continued across the island until on August 1, 1957 Batista suspended freedom of assembly and freedom of expression. This was done in preparation for elections, scheduled to be held in 1958.
At this point, we need to talk a bit about the American reaction to all of this. Washington, which had long been a supporter of various Cuban governments, was starting to grow tired of Batista and his violent and repressive reactions to events on the island. There had been a growing outcry of protest from the larger international community and the US was beginning to see Batista as more of a liability, with this legitimacy weakened. Washington was nervous about the reactions of other countries in Latin America, themselves cautious of the Americans following recent US involvement in places like Guatemala. Of course, on the flip side, Batista was a staunch ally to the Americans, not only providing reliable political support but also purchasing significant amounts of military supplies at favourable rates. With no back left unscratched, Batista continued to let American business interests flourish on the island. The Americans
saw their option as being continued support for Batista or providing support to Castro. This wasn’t a difficult choice, at the end of the day as Fidel was strongly suspected of being a communist with an anti-American agenda. This was despite Castro’s continuous public assurances that he was NOT a communist. At the end of the day, Washington stuck with the dictator they knew. Now, as we’ve alluded to, Fidel and The Movement were not the only anti-Batista organizations acting in Cuba. With a fractured field, Casto went about the process of creating a unified front against the military dictatorship while ensuring the United States remained relatively neutral in the Cuban Conflict. And we would be remiss to not point out that by doing this,
Fidel was strengthening his own legitimacy as a leader of the Cuban Revolutionary movement. To this end, on July 12, 1957 the Sierra Maestra Manifesto was signed by Fidel Castro, Felipe Pazos and Raul Chibas. Pazos was the recognized leader of the Cuban emigre community while Pazos was the head of the Partido Ortodoxo. The Sierra Maestra Manifesto called for
the creation of the Revolutionary Citizens Front, whose main aim to coordinate the fight against Batista. It also pledged to conduct free elections as well as agrarian reform once Batista had been removed from power. The Manifesto even selected an interim President who would oversee the transition period between the overthrow and elections being held...they selected a former judge, Manuel Urritia, who at the time was a key anti-Batista lobbyist in the United States. 1958 was a year of grinding action against the regime, with hit-and-run attacks designed to weaken the abilities of the regime.
Targets naturally included both the military and the police but also property targets including sugar mills and sugar plantations. These were natural targets for the revolutionary groups as they were key drivers of the Cuban economy and therefore the source of the regime’s income. In the same vein, tourism also became a prominent target, with a bombing campaign in Havana, as well as general unrest, kept potential visitors to the island away. As instability grew, the United States made the decision to distance itself from the Batista regime, imposing an arms embargo in March of 1958. This move proved to be a significant nail in the coffin of the Cuban government as it removed one of the key advantages that Batista held over the resistance movements. Deprived of new weapons and supplies, the fight against the increasing power and popularity of the rebels became significantly more difficult. With unrest increasing, the June
elections that were to be held were rescheduled, but this only served to created a new wave of greater unrest, with the Communists, led by Juan Marinello, calling for a General Strike. Batista’s response to these escalations was to move to crush the rebel movements once and for all. On May 24, Operation Verano orSpring, was planned against the 26th of July Movement in the Sierra Maestra. Verano consisted of 6 batallions on the ground with support from both air and naval units. They aimed to block in the rebels and isolate them, preventing their resupply before moving in to finally destroy them. Which looked fine on paper except the bulk of the government forces was made up new recruits with little experience operating in the field. Fidel and his forces on the other
hand were not only combat tested but knew the terrain and how to use it to their advantage. On the 28th of June, the first engagement took place as Army units moved out from the Estrada Palma Suga Mill, located north of Santiago de Cuba. Rebel troops under the command of Che Guevara sprang an ambush on the government troops, killing 86 soldiers while only losing 3. Two weeks later, Battalion 18 was landed at the mouth of the Plata River, West of Santiago de Cuba. Their goal was to surround The Movement’s base just to the north but another ambush was triggered and a week of fighting ensued, resulting in 40 soldiers killed but 240 soldiers taken prisoner by the rebels. Many of these prisoners would not
only just lay down their arms but driven by low morale in the Army, joined the rebel movement. Now, during the Battle of La Plata, Battalion 17 had been blocked by rebel forces from supporting the ill-fated Batallion 18. But as Battalion 17 was pulled back, they planned an ambush of their own in the hopes that Castro would follow them. The rebels took the bait and in the Battle of
Las Mercedes, the rebel forces were surrounded by Battalion 17, which inflicted heavy damage. In a last-ditch effort to save the rebellion, Castro proposed a ceasefire to the Cuban commander, General Cantillo, who for reasons which remain unclear, accepted Castro’s offer. This allowed Castro, who had suffered 70 dead, to withdraw his rebels back into their safe areas to rearm and regroup. This ended Operation Verano, a victory for Castro, if only one of reputation. His forces had engaged the Cuban military, and not only just survived, but demonstrated the weakness of the government. By extension, he was now firmly seen as the main leader of the Cuban Revolution. The Summer of 1958 was also marked by the kidnapping of foreign civilians by the pro-Castro forces. These civilians were mostly American citizens and the goal was very much
to put pressure on the United States to end its support for the Batista regime. On June 26, 10 Americans and 2 Canadians were kidnapped from the Freeport Sulphur Company headquarters. The very next day, 28 American sailors were kidnapped from a bus traveling outside of the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base. This obviously sparked a massive outcry and Castro, looking to avoid a massive American backlash, ordered the release of the prisoners inside of the week. Kidnapping had been a favourite tactic of the rebels looking to bring attention to their cause. Although the release of the American sailors scaled down its use, it had been a successful tactic. It’s victims even included a five-time Formula One champion driver,
Juan Manuel Fangio, who was kidnapped on the eve of the 1958 Cuban Grand Prix race but released after 29 hours to the care of the Argentinian Embassy. These kidnappings, while certainly high profile, did nothing to win the love of the Castro rebels in the eyes of the West. Incidentally, the Grand Prix went ahead and was won by Stirling Moss. But, back to Operation Verano. The failure of the Operation to break the rising tide of the Revolution was not just a standalone failure: it had consequences. The Batista
regime lost any momentum it had, handing over the initiative to the rebels. Bolstered by the weapons that they had captured during Operation Verano, in October of 1958, Castro, along with other rebel groups, went on the offensive. Coming down from the Sierra Maestra mountains, Castro attacked into Oriente Province, capturing the towns of Maffo, Contramaestra, and Central Oriente. By December, the towns of Fomento, Cabaiguan, and Placetas had all been captured by other rebel groups. These three towns, were
not located in the south of the island but were south-east of Santa Clara, in central Cuba. The rebellion and its action was spreading. By late December, Che Guevara and his forces had joined up with the rebels of the Revolutinary Directorate in the Escambray region south of Santa Clara while on December 30, a column of rebels led by Camilo Cienfuegos defeated government forces in Yaguajay, northeast of Santa Clara. This combined action opened the road to the main city of central Cuba. Forces led by Che Guevara moved on Santa Clara, occupying the city. Batista launched a counterattack to dislodge the rebels and recapture the city, but government troops, under the command of Colonel Casillas Lumpuy were unable to get past the defences that Che and his troops had established. In a final attempt to dislodge the rebels from the city,
Batista dispatched a train to his forces in the region loaded with mean, weapons and ammunition. The train however proved to be the final straw for the government as it was captured by Guevara and his men, with 350 government soldiers and officers laying down their arms and surrendering without putting up any resistance. Santa Clara was captured and held by December 30, 1958, effectively cutting the island in two. The rebels were now well armed, well motivated and were ready to move on the key prize, Havana. The day after Santa Clara fell was a momentous one.
A general strike was begun, aimed at bringing the government to a standstill. But more importantly, January 1, 1959 was the day the Batista not only stepped down from power, but gave up power, handing control over to the Commander of the Cuban Army, General Eulogio Cantillo. And with that, the bloody Batista regime was done. Thousands of Cubans had lost their lives under the regime and wealth and racial inequality had grown wider between those few at the top and those not born to privilege. The close association of the United STates to the Cuban government
had furthered the already tainted reputation of the United States not only in Cuba itself but across Latin America. A new era in Cuba was very clearly dawning and it was evident that Fidel Castro was going to be the face of a new Cuba. Castro, still in the south of the island, began talks to assume control of Santiago de Cuba, which he did on January 2, 1959. Once in the city, he spoke from the balcony of the City Hall, proclaiming the victory of the Revolution, refusing to recognise the authority of Cantillo. Cienfuegos and Guevara meanwhile, had quickly moved their troops towards Havana, entering the city at around the same time that Fidel was entering Santiago. With the capital now occupied, the Cantillo Presidency collapsed and Manuel Urrutia Lleo, a leftist lawyer who had opposed Batista was named as the new President with a Cabinet largely made up of Castro supporters. Urrutia’s selection as President is often attributed to him being both
educated and Christian, making him a more moderate candidate that the United States could accept. But despite Urrutia’s being the nominal new leader of Cuba, the real power still lay with the rebels who retained their weapons. Political power through the barrel of a gun and all that! Castro entered the capital on January 8 and took up residence in the penthouse of the Havana Hilton Hotel and proclaimed himself the Representative of the Rebel Armed Forces of the Presidency. Although he wasn’t officially in power, he began to exert his influence to influence both corruption and illiteracy across the island. At the same time, he began a campaign to punish supporters of the Batista regime, especially those who had participated in repressions.
Now, this is al so when political parties were outlawed, although it was promised at the time that the ban was only a temporary measure while the situation on the island was stabilized. T-shirt icon Che Guevera at this point was granted Cuban citizenship and put in charge of La Cabaña, the 18th-century fortress complex that was to be used as a prison. It was at La Cabaña that representatives of the Batista government were taken and put on trial. These trials however,
fell well short of any requirements for due process and impartiality and hundreds of people were executed. Despite the lack of proper due process, the majority of the Cuban population was in favour of the drastic actions carried out by Guevera at La Cabaña and Fidel rejected any criticism by calling the executions acts of revolutionary justice. On February 16, 1959, Fidel became the Prime Minister of Cuba. He replaced Jose
Miro Cardona who had been appointed to the office by Urrutia only 6 weeks prior. Cardona had made a decision to close down all the brothels and casinos on the island, which Castro feared would cause mass unemployment and destabilize the country. Castro still wanted to close the casinos and brothels but he wanted it postponed until other employment opportunities for the Cuban people had been developed. In April of 1959, Prime Minister Castro made a trip to the United States at the invitation of the American Society of Newspaper Editors. The Americans in general were very suspicious of Castro’s motives on the island and although Castro didn’t refer to himself as a socialist, he was in favour of nationalizing American business in Cuba as well as radical agrarian reform.
To help offset American distrust, Castro hired a PR firm to help improve his image. During his 11-day visit to the United STates, Castro toured New York and Washington and was generally seen as a media darling, but the trip had some stormy moments including when he abruptly left a talk to the Council on Foreign Relations after being asked some particularly difficult questions. The trip did not include a meeting with President Eisenhower, who pointedly made himself unavailable by going golfing, so instead Castro met with Vice-President Nixon, who concluded that Castro was “either incredibly naive about communism or under communist discipline — my guess is the former”.
Upon returning to Cuba, reforms began to be implemented. Some of the earliest of these included decreasing the salaries of judges and government officials while at the same time increasing the the wages paid to lower level bureucrats. The cost of rent, electricity, gas, and other utilities were decreased. But these were small compared to what came next: agrarian reform. On the 17th of May, Fidel appointed himself the head of the National Agrarian INstitute of Reform and proclaimed his first agrarian reform package. As part of the program, and piece of land or farm over 3,333 acres and any real estate over 1,000 acres was to be expropriated by the state and then either redistributed to farmers in strips of land no larger than 67 acres per household or be taken into the ownership of the state. In addition,fForeign ownership of sugar plantations was expressly forbidden. Owners were offered compensation by means of Cuban currency bonds.
The effect of this reform package ended the vast American ownership of Cuban land. 200,000 peasant households received land and 60% of land in Cuba was now owned by peasants and smallholders, with the rest being owned by the state. There was also the beginning of a program to encourage Cuban peasants to accept collectivization and begin to use the land owned by the state.
As you might expect, these reforms were not well received by everybody. Unsurprisingly, the American business elite reacted poorly to having their major interests stripped away from them. Additionaly though, Cuban liberals and anti-communists were also unhappy with the reforms, fearing that Cuba was becoming a Socialist state.
Against this background, the head of the Chief of the Revolutionary Air Force of Cuba, Pedro Luis Dias resigned his position and immediately left Cuba for the United States where he would become heavily involved in the anti-Castro movement, even being recruited by the CIA. Dias’s defection was denounced by President Urrutia but he himself began to express concern and criticism for the increasingly communist policies that Castro was implimenting. In response to this criticism, Fidel resigned as Prime Minister, which resulted in a huge crowd, maybe as many 500,000 people, all Castro’s supporters gathering at the Presidential Palace, calling for the resignation of President Urrutia.This
gathering was largely prompted by Castro making a television appearance that day, denouncing Urrutia as hindering the progress of the Revolution. Bowing to the clear will of the people, his resignation was tendered. Fidel then resumed his position as Prime Minister and appointed one of his loyalists, Osvaldo Dorticos Torrado as the new President. The consolidation of power had begun. Overall, 1959 and 1960 were years of massive socialist reforms. On August 6, 1960 for example, the Cuban Telephone COmpany, 3 oil refineries, and 21 sugar factories were nationaliszed. In
September 1960, Cuban banks as well as large trade and industrial companies which were owned by either foreigners or Batista supporters were also nationalised. October 1960 saw a housing reform go though which saw housing properties nationalized by the state and then redistributed among the people. All of these reforms resulted in huge losses for the Cuban upper-class as well as American businesses but resulted in gains for the poor of Cuba. Politically though,Castro continued to postpone political reformation while he also became increasingly reluctant to engage in any power-sharing deals with other factions. Che Guevara and Raul Castro were given ministerial positions which helped to solidify Fidel’s control but also sent a significant signal to Cuba and the world that the Cuban Revolution was turning into a Socialist Revolution.
By the Autumn of 1959, the independent press in Cuba had been all but banned and former revolutionary leaders, including Huber Matos and William Morgan had been arrested for their oppostion to the Marxist direction that Castro was leading the Revolution. The National Revolutionary Militia was established, a volunteer defence force committed to furthering the aims of the Revolution, as well as the Committees for the Defence of the Revolution, a wide network of citizens groups who acted as community watchdogs to observe people’s behaviour and conduct and ensure loyalty to the Revolution. The results of the creation of these two bodies the start of large scale arrests of those considered not-loyal to the emerging regime. In July of 1961, the Intigrated Revolutionary Organizations was formed by merging Fidel’s 26th of July movement together with the Popular Socialst Party and the Revolutionary Directorate.
The merged organization would later go on to become the Cuban Communist Party. Now, the revolution was having a considerable impact on Cuban society. Namely, as the Castro regime moved more and more to the left, a brain drain began to form. Qualified professionals from a wide variety of different spheres left Cuba, with many heading to the United States. These professionals and intellectuals were joined by those unhappy that their economic privileges were taken away. But not everyone who opposed Castro fled Cuba. Some anti-Castro groups even
took up arms and took to the hills, recreating the guerilla movement that had overthrown Batista. In fact, one of the main forces involved was the Second National Front of the Escambray, led by Eloy Guiterrez Menoyo, who had been involved in the March 1957 attack on Batista at the Presidential Palace and had then been a leader in the fight against Batista. And it wasn’t just the relationship between Castro and some Cubans that was becoming strained. The relationship between Cuba and the United States was also fraying rapidly. Washington was most upset with the expropriations of American-owned land, property, and other business assets. In response, Washington imposed a ban on the import of Cuba’s main export and currency generator, sugar. It also allowed for a much more streamlined immigration process
for anti-Castro Cubans and began supporting anti-Castro groups operating in Cuba. On the 4th of March, 1960 a French-flagged freighter, La Coubre, which was offloading Belgian-made munitions in Havana harbour exploded. Between 75 and 100 people were killed in two explosions. Castro, almost immediately and without any actual evidence, publicly blamed the United States for the explosion, ending his speech with by saying “Patria o Muerte”, Fatherland or Death. Not inflammatory at all, right? Incidentally, the explosion of La Coubre was likely caused by sabotage by an anti-Castro group working in the Port of Havana and not directly by the CIA as is often implied. In September of 1960, Castro returned to the United States, but this time he did not go to meet with US officials but rather to attend a General Assembly session of the United Nations.
During his time in New York, Fidel met instead with other leaders including Malcom X, the prominent spokesman for the Nation of Islam as well as the Corn Lord himself, Nikita Khrushchev. This meeting with the Soviet leader is interesting because up until that point, Cuba had had very few dealings with the USSR. in fact, Moscow had been rather standoffish, unsure of Fidel’s ideological leanings. But, as the US-Cuban relationship increasingly turned into a train wreck, the Soviets were happy to step in, eventually making Cuba Moscow’s most important ally in the Americas. Now, while Fidel was at the General Assembly, he got up and spoke, giving the longest speech in the GAs history, clocking in at an impressive four and a half hours, during which he largely criticized American imperialism in Latin America. Starting from the 2nd of January of 1961, US-Cuban relations collapsed. It began when Fidel ordered the US EMbassy in Havana to downsize
to no more than eleven people. The Americans responded the next day responding that the Cuban action was” designed to achieve an effective termination of diplomatic and consular relations between the Government of Cuba and the Government of the United States. Accordingly, the Government of the United States hereby formally notifies the Government of Cuba of the termination of such relations.” In short, the US response was to terminate diplomatic relations. This was the final blow for any hope of Castro steering away from the Socialist path as Cuba would begin to forge significantly deeper ties to Moscow and the socialist world. The United States now had to contend with a Socialist state, only 90 miles off the coast of Florida. Washington began preparation and planning for an ultimately
ill-fated operation to remove Castro from power before he could complete a total consolidation of power. But, the fisco that became the Bay of Pigs invasion will be the subject of a future video. We hope you’ve enjoyed today’s episode and to make sure you don’t miss all of our future episodes, please make sure you are subscribed to our channel and have led a multi-year guerilla campaign against General Campana. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of our supporters and If you aren’t a patron, please consider supporting us at www.patreon.com/thecoldwar or through YouTube membership. We can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. This is the Cold War Channel and as we think about the Cold War, I will leave you with the words of JFK “In the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet.
We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children's future. And we are all mortal.”