Wednesday, April 29, 2009

1956: Civic Dialog (Diálogo Cívico) Talks

Cuba History Timeline Events
March 1, 1956
SAR (Sociedad de Amigos de la República) and Batista government representatives begin a series of meetings, ostensibly to negotiate a political compromise. The talks were called the Diálogo Cívico [Civic Dialogue]. SAR publicly professed it sought a peaceful resolution through political compromise. However, this is belied by their exclusion of Carlos Márquez-Sterling from the discussions. SAR secretly informed the government that if they invited Márquez-Sterling to the sessions SAR would withdraw from participation. Márquez-Sterling accepted the exclusion not wishing to be the cause of a breakdown in the talks. While SAR kept insisting on formulas already rejected by the government, Márquez-Sterling was ready to propose viable alternative solutions that would engage government and opposition in negotiating a political compromise.

It appears, as some impartial observers have pointed out, that SAR’s de facto goal was to make the Batista regime seem as intolerant and inflexible as possible, refusing any compromise with the regime, and ignoring its proposals it as if the coup had never occurred. At any rate, the talks ended in acrimonious tirades from both sides.

On March 11, in a speech broadcast over radio and television, Batista publicly responded to Diálogo Cívico demands, dismissing them out of hand as absurd and flatly declaring no elections would be held before June 1958. On March 12, SAR ended the talks.

based on Manuel Márquez-Sterling's Cuba 1952-1959 and
Cuba 1952-1959 Interactive Timeline

Monday, April 27, 2009

1956: Directorio Revolucionario existence revealed

Cuba History Timeline Events
February 24, 1956
FEU President José Antonio Echeverría publicly announces the creation of the Directorio Revolucionario (Revolutionary Directorate) to fight Batista. The DR had actually been founded by Echeverría and other student leaders in 1955 as an underground paramilitary organization with the aim of engaging in sabotage, terrorism and assassinations to overthrow the Batista government. The DR operated as the political violence arm of the FEU and the Auténticos.

Echeverria-FEU-HavanaU55José Antonio Echeverría (center, with outstretched hand)
and FEU members, University of Havana, 1955

based on Manuel Márquez-Sterling's Cuba 1952-1959 and
Cuba 1952-1959 Interactive Timeline

Saturday, April 25, 2009

1955: Castro holds anti-SAR Rally in Miami

Cuba History Timeline Events
November 20, 1955
In Miami on a trip from Mexico, Castro organizes an impromptu meeting to attack the turbulent SAR Muelle de Luz rally. He unleashes a torrent of insults against SAR and the participants of the rally. This vitriolic outburst is provoked by his fear that perhaps at last government and opposition might succeed in negotiating a political compromise leading to free and fair national elections, which he adamantly opposes. Then, as ever since, Castro would oppose any electoral solution fearing that it would impede his access to absolute power.

Castro Miami Anti-SAR Rally 1955Castro Miami Anti-SAR Rally 1955-2
Fidel Castro addresses Anti-SAR Rally, Miami 1955
(photo: Wilfredo Gort/Diario Las Americas)

based on Manuel Márquez-Sterling's Cuba 1952-1959 and
Cuba 1952-1959 Interactive Timeline

1955: SAR Muelle de Luz Rally

Cuba History Timeline Events
November 19, 1955
The Sociedad de Amigos de la República (SAR), holds a mass rally at the Plaza de los Desamparados in Muelle de Luz on Havana’s waterfront to demand new elections in 1956. The rally was sanctioned by Batista. All the political parties and groups comprising the opposition to Batista officially participated except Castro and the Communists. Operatives from these two non-participating factions attended as part of the crowd with the intention of provoking violence. At points in the rally they disrupted the proceedings. In fiery speeches most of the speakers demanded Batista's immediate resignation and the creation of an unequivocally neutral cabinet. This demand was rejected as infeasible, because the 1958 elections were already scheduled.

Rosenada_Marquez-SterlingCaption translation: -And, those legs?
-They must be Márquez Sterling's, because he's one of the
few opposition politicians with his feet on the ground...!

based on Manuel Márquez-Sterling's Cuba 1952-1959 and
Cuba 1952-1959 Interactive Timeline

Friday, April 24, 2009

1955: Carlos Prío returns to Cuba

Cuba History Timeline Events
August 11, 1955
Carlos Prío Socarrás returns to Cuba and announces that he had come back to engage in political activism leading to elections as a compromise solution. Prío and other prominent political figures held a few well-attended public rallies that were sanctioned by the government, including a large gathering later in the year at Plaza de los Desamparados of Havana's Muelle de Luz, which advocated political negotiation as the way to return Cuba to constitutional democratic rule.

From Mexico Castro lost no time in firing off a letter to one of his agents in Havana instructing his followers to obstruct these efforts and to disrupt any political rally in favor of elections and negotiation with the government. Also at this time Castro begins to infiltrate the Ortodoxo party with his followers. The Ortodoxo party will soon thereafter become subservient to Castro's leadership and provide him with a cadre of young fanatic followers.

Prío reschedules Cuba return, Aug 1955Prío in Miami, reschedules return to Havana, Aug 7 1955
(photo: Bettmann/CORBIS)

based on Manuel Márquez-Sterling's Cuba 1952-1959 and
Cuba 1952-1959 Interactive Timeline

Thursday, April 23, 2009

1955: Fidel Castro leaves for Mexico

Cuba History Timeline Events
July 7, 1955
Finding the Cuban political climate inhospitable, Castro departs for Mexico in a self-imposed exile. Within three weeks he meets Ernesto “Ché” Guevara (date of meeting remains uncertain). Castro also meets with Alberto Bayo y Giroud, and in August makes arrangements with Bayo to train M-26-7 guerrilla forces. Cuban-born Bayo was a veteran of the Spanish Civil War (on the Soviet-backed Republican side) who fled to Mexico after the defeat of the Republicans by the Falange lead by Francisco Franco. Mexico had been allied with the Republicans during the Spanish Civil War. Like Castro, Bayo is the son of a Spaniard who fought for the side of Spain in Cuba's War of Independence, and was virulently anti-American.

Alberto Bayo Giraud 1959Alberto Bayo, 1959 (Charlie Seiglie/Bohemia)

based on Manuel Márquez-Sterling's Cuba 1952-1959 and
Cuba 1952-1959 Interactive Timeline

1955: Raúl Castro flees to Mexico

Cuba History Timeline Events
June 24, 1955
Raúl Castro leaves for Mexico after receiving political asylum in Mexican embassy. He had been charged by the authorities with terrorist conspiracy planting a bomb in the La Tosca theater.

based on Manuel Márquez-Sterling's Cuba 1952-1959 and
Cuba 1952-1959 Interactive Timeline

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

1955: SAR Manifesto

Cuba History Timeline Events
June 3, 1955
From 14 November 1954, under the leadership of the distinguished and admired Revolutionary War veteran Cosme de la Torriente and attorney José Miró Cardona, SAR (Sociedad Amigos de la República, Society of Friends of the Republic) forged broad support for opposition to the Batista Regime through constitutional means and political negotiation.

On 3 June 1955 the organization published the SAR Manifesto (Manifiesto de la Sociedad Amigos de la República) rejecting revolutionary violence to resolve the political crisis. This was signed by representatives of the two major parties: Auténticos (also known as Partido Revolucionario Cubano, PRC) and Ortodoxos (also known as Partido del Pueblo Cubano, PPC), and by three other parties (Jorge Mañach’s Movimiento de la Nación, Partido Demócrata, and Amalio Fiallo’s Catholic Youth Movimiento de Liberación Radical).

Batista and Don CosmeBatista and Don Cosme de la Torriente

based on Manuel Márquez-Sterling's Cuba 1952-1959 and
Cuba 1952-1959 Interactive Timeline

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Historical and Current News Timelines

Over the last week two timeline services have been announced which generate graphical timeline displays for historical and current news.

The first was last week’s announcement of a new “Timeline of articles" feature for Google News which provides a chronological view of the threaded chain of events that generate a story as it develops. This builds on the Google News "all news articles" functionality which lets you easily see multiple perspectives on a given event. The announcement post describes the feature and contains examples.

Yesterday came the Google Labs announcement of Google News Timeline. This experimental web application organizes search results from multiple sources on a graphical timeline. The choice of sources is wide ranging and includes headline news, archival newspapers and magazines, blogs, books, photos/images, and YouTube videos. The resulting graphical timeline scale is zoomable to days, weeks, months, years, or decades. The interface also allows you to narrow results to a specific date, a general date (e.g. 1952, Apr 1955), or relative date (e.g. today, this week, last month). The announcement post describes the Google News Timeline application and provides examples.

Google News Timeline Screenshot- CubaGoogle News Timeline Screenshot- Cuba Search

1955: Castro released from prison

Cuba History Timeline Events
May 15, 1955
Fidel Castro and his brother Raúl together with 18 followers are released from the Isle of Pines prison under the new General Amnesty law. Well treated while in prison, he only served 21 months and 15 days of his 15 year sentence.

extract from the graphical version of the Cuba 1952-1959 History Timeline
by Manuel Márquez-Sterling

1955: Castro pardoned under General Amnesty law

Cuba History Timeline Events
May 6, 1955
Batista signs General Amnesty Bill passed by congress, Castro is pardoned. The amnesty law was approved by the Chamber of Representatives on May 2, 1955, ratified by the Senate May 3, and signed by Batista on May 6.

based on Manuel Márquez-Sterling's Cuba 1952-1959 and
Cuba 1952-1959 Interactive Timeline

Monday, April 20, 2009

1955: Batista begins second Presidential term

Cuba History Timeline Events
February 24, 1955
Fulgencio Batista is again sworn in as President of Cuba, for the last time.
Batista's first and second presidential terms, his two coups, and his role in Cuban history are discussed in Manuel Márquez-Sterling's Cuban Photo Reflection The Batista Paradox.

Batista Inaugural 1955Batista greets Mexico envoy at Inaugural, 1955 (Bettman/CORBIS)

based on Manuel Márquez-Sterling's Cuba 1952-1959 and
Cuba 1952-1959 Interactive Timeline

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Cuba History Timeline 1954 (Text version)

29 Mar 1954
Failed negotiations for 1954 Electoral Guarantees
1 Nov 1954
Elections, Batista elected (unopposed)

Cuba 1954 Congressional Election Posters U1063263 1954 Congressional Election Posters, Havana (Bettmann/CORBIS)
1954 Election Billboard (Bohemia)
Batista Press Conference 1954 Elections 31-Oct-1954 Batista at Press Conference on Grau's withdrawal 31-Oct-1954 (Bettmann/CORBIS)
Prio-Grau-Hevia Carlos Prío Socarrás, Ramon Grau San Martin and Carlos Hevia. Hevia was the Autentico presidential candidate for the 1952 elections. He was a surgeon with the distinction of being the first Cuban graduate of the US Naval Academy at Annapolis (Class of 1919). (Collection of Latin American Studies)

based on Manuel Márquez-Sterling's Cuba 1952-1959 and
Cuba 1952-1959 Interactive Timeline

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

1954: Grau withdraws, Batista elected (unopposed)

Cuba History Timeline Events
November 1, 1954
After deciding to run against Batista, breaking with other candidates who insisted on electoral process guarantees before participating in the 1954 election, Ramón Grau San Martín announced on October 30 (just two days before Election Day) that he was withdrawing his name from the ballot because the process guarantees for fair elections were inadequate. Neutral observers said he had realized his Auténtico faction did not have enough votes to overcome Batista’s coalition.

Grau’s abrupt decision left Fulgencio Batista as an unopposed candidate in the 1954 election.
Batista was again sworn in as President of Cuba, for the last time, on February 24, 1955.

based on Manuel Márquez-Sterling's Cuba 1952-1959 and
Cuba 1952-1959 Interactive Timeline

Cuba 1954: Ortodoxos fail to negotiate Electoral Guarantees

Cuba History Timeline Events
March 29, 1954
Trying to bring the Ortodoxo party over to challenge the government in the national elections slated for November 1st, Carlos Márquez-Sterling and a group of Ortodoxos agreed to hold conversations with representatives of the Batista regime. Márquez-Sterling laid down five sine qua non conditions under which he would recommend and urge the Ortodoxos to participate. Batista’s representatives agreed to all but that of permitting split ticket voting (voto libre y directo) claiming that was a question of electoral principles.

Márquez-Sterling’s position was quickly undermined and made untenable by a declaration from the Ortodoxo Party leaders that they would not participate in the elections even if the split ticket voting were agreed, and by Ramón Grau San Martín and his Auténtico party faction’s public declaration that they were ready to join in the electoral process without any preconditions. A few days later the Ortodoxo leadership officially reiterated that their party would not join in the November elections under any conditions.

based on Manuel Márquez-Sterling's Cuba 1952-1959 and
Cuba 1952-1959 Interactive Timeline

Friday, April 10, 2009

The Batista Paradox

Cuba Photo Reflections

Fulgencio Batista in his office at the Presidential Palace,
Havana, Cuba March 1957
. LIFE photo by Grey Villet

The man in the picture, Fulgencio Batista, is usually known to American readers as a caricature: “the US-backed dictator” overthrown by Castro, an “oppressive brutal tyrant” who could be removed only by violent revolution. But it is an open secret among competent historians that such simplistic characterizations of the man are a grotesque distortion, serving primarily as a cornerstone in furtherance of the Castro Revolutionary Myth. These cartoonish portrayals were originally penned by revolutionary student radicals as part of an amoral agenda that embraced deception and terrorism as political tools. They have been repeated incessantly and uncritically by the press (even within 50s Cuba as they accused him of censorship), and for over 50 years have been amplified by the Castro regime. The reality of Batista’s role in Cuban history is much more complicated than that.

If Cuban history has a tragic figure in the classic sense, it is without doubt Fulgencio Batista. He almost seems a Shakespearean character, perhaps one reminiscent of Coriolanus. This picture, taken in March 1957 by Grey Villet, speaks thousands of words. It captures a man deep in thought reflecting upon his past. A past summoned by pictures of his forebears on the table and his wife’s portrait on the wall. A past considered in a present just after revolutionary student radicals had made a daring attempt on his life in the very place where this picture was taken. Since that building (the Presidential Palace) also served as the presidential residence, the armed assault and ensuing gun battle had imperiled the lives of his wife and children. Among the casualties of the attack were an American tourist two blocks away killed by a stray bullet. Had Batista not broken with his normal schedule to check in on his sick son upstairs, the assassins would have found and killed him at his desk that afternoon.

There are thousands of pictures of Batista. None, however, shows so harsh a facial expression as this one. His severe expression betrays turmoil deep within his soul (click here for detail). Even a casual observer cannot help but wonder what current deep in his stream of consciousness was powerful enough to disturb for an instant the disciplined face of a skillful politician practiced at being pleasant and even charming. Unquestionably the camera captured an unguarded moment allowing a fleeting glimpse into Batista’s thoughts. Thoughts that it will take future historians much reflection and many volumes to rediscover.

What do you read in that powerful expression? Dejection, futility, anger, despair, arrogance, rejection, defeat? or anguish for a momentous decision to make concerning the future of his country? Perhaps a brief account of Batista’s public life will help you deliberate.

Batista entered this world in 1901, a year before Cuban independence. His father was a veteran of the revolutionary war against Spain. Turn of the century Cuba was a poor country, its primitive economy decimated by the War of Independence. Its first thirty years would be economically trying and politically turbulent. Political changes (in which Batista figured prominently) beginning in 1933 would bring about an extraordinary national success story: in a little over 50 years after independence Cuba would overtake most of its regional neighbors and its colonial master Spain in the health, wealth, education and standard of living enjoyed by its citizens.

Batista was born in the town of Banes, Oriente province, to a poor rural family, some say of mixed racial background. His childhood home was a dirt floor bohío, a primitive rustic dwelling, Cuba’s equivalent of a log cabin. He admired Abraham Lincoln and like him was an avid reader, almost fanatical about self-improvement, enrolling in night school and correspondence courses while working days as a cane cutter. In 1921, after obtaining a teaching degree he joined the Cuban army. He entered the pages of history in 1933 when he was involved in overthrowing Cuba’s first dictator, Gerardo Machado. Soon thereafter he rose to become the leader of that army, and a hero to its junior officers. While the younger officers and non-commissioned officers worshipped him, the senior officers despised him.

In the 1930s many of Cuba’s senior Army officers were 1895 War of Independence veterans, who along with other high ranking officers (mostly graduates of military colleges) formed a closed hierarchy that regarded the Army’s upper ranks as an entitlement reserved for their families. In many ways they were 19th century men unable and unwilling to adapt to the new ways and ideas of the 20th century, especially the idea of judging men by individual merits and achievements rather than lineage. During the chaotic days of 1933-34 hundreds of these officers holed up in the Hotel Nacional, pitting senior officers against the non-commissioned officers and younger officers who supported Batista. After a siege of several weeks, they surrendered and shortly thereafter many of these senior officers retired, henceforth hating Batista for the "democratization" of Cuba’s armed forces. Batista gained in stature by his handling of this and subsequent insurrectional acts, successfully restoring civil order and governmental stability after Machado was overthrown.

By 1934 Batista was a force to be reckoned with, from his military headquarters exercising the powers of a maker and breaker of Presidents. During Cuba’s chaotic 1930s Batista had restored order by leading a coup that brought down a tyrannical dictator, but instead of becoming another Latin American dictator, as many encouraged him to do, he chose the high road. Following in the footsteps of Nicaragua’s Somoza, he could have become President Roosevelt’s new own “son of a bitch.” But Batista chose to follow a different course, recognizing there were strong civil society and political forces to contend with, he embraced the political compromise of 1939 which culminated in the restoration of full democracy in Cuba and in the farsighted Constitution of 1940. He was then elected president. After serving his full term he retired to Florida in 1944, honoring Constitutional term limits and the electoral results that defeated his favored successor.

He had established the kind of legacy that earns leaders the gratitude of a people served well, and in time is expressed by naming monuments and streets to memorialize them. However, Batista foreclosed such honors and eclipsed his previous glory by overthrowing the constitutionally elected President Carlos Prío in 1952. Though he was again the master of Cuba, the 1952 coup overshadowed his earlier patriotic service. He had been one of the founding fathers of the new republic in 1940, but now like a flawed hero of ancient myths he succumbed to, and would ultimately be brought down by, his tragic flaw—perhaps a raw ambition for power.

Opposition to Batista’s regime in the fifties soon split into two wings: the Revolutionaries (of which Castro’s movement was a part) and the Electoralists-Constitutionalists. The Revolutionaries gave him no quarter in their efforts to overthrow him by violent means, come what may. The Electoralists-Constitutionalists recognized Batista's ability and willingness to negotiate an end to his regime, and endeavored to engage him in order to end his rule through free and fair elections that would safeguard Cuba’s democratic institutions and quick return to constitutional rule, avoiding a revolutionary holocaust. Surmounting extraordinary obstacles, Batista and his major opponents agreed to hold elections in November of 1958.

The greatest irony in Batista’s political career is that the 1958 elections—in which he was not a candidate—cast him as the arbiter of Cuba’s destiny. The disjunctive at that time was clear to everyone. Either, as the electoralist-constitutionalist opposition anticipated, Batista held honest elections and saved Cuba from Castro’s revolution, or as Castro hoped, he rigged them and handed Cuba over to the totalitarian hordes of Fidel Castro and the Communists. Batista still had a chance to secure a milder judgment from history for his legacy. History, as it is well known, has recorded that he inexplicably chose the second alternative, thereby relinquishing his former place of honor in Cuban history. By rigging the 1958 elections Batista denied the Cuban people an alternative to the horrors of Castro's brutal tyranny. His puzzling choice remains the greatest paradox of this paradoxical man, who entitled his memoirs Paradoxes (Paradojas).

The end of Batista’s dictatorship was precipitated by the US ambassador telling him in December of 1958 that its dwindling support was about to end and that he should resign. This put Batista in the situation faced in 1933 by Machado, the dictator whose overthrow launched his political life. As in 1933, the US State Department simultaneously conveyed increasing support to Castro’s forces, communicating their intentions to quickly recognize a Castro government if it seized power.

Batista had admired and supported the US, a country that supported his generation in overthrowing the dictatorship of Machado, and supported his father’s generation in gaining independence from Spain. But in 1959 he was denied admission to the US, forcing him to take refuge in Spain, the country he and his father had been at war with as allies of the US. He spent the remaining years of his life in Spain, where he died scorned and ostracized in 1973.

In reflecting upon Batista’s complex role in Cuban history, it is imperative to consider that most of the accounts published about him are demonization screeds produced to serve as the cornerstone of the Castro Revolutionary Myth. They were ably crafted to serve this purpose in three ways. First, they obscure that vast majority of the opposition to Batista was not the violent revolutionaries but the electoralists seeking a political solution—which Batista was willing and able to negotiate. Castro and the revolutionaries early showed their anti-democratic intentions by unleashing savage attacks rhetorical and physical against all engaged in seeking political solutions that would end the Batista regime while preserving democracy and returning to constitutional rule. These concerted attacks by Castro and the revolutionaries effectively subverted and sabotaged electoralist initiatives, and were the main reason for their failure.

Second, by demonizing Batista into a brutal oppressor that had to be violently overthrown it becomes justifiable—even admirable—to have used guerrilla insurgency and terrorism to defeat him—and this transmutes Castro’s ragtag gang of thugs, criminals, misfits, and misguided young idealists into heroic figures. This also foists the illusion that there were only two actors in 50s Cuba: Batista and Castro. Third, they obscure the reality that under Batista’s regime Cubans were healthier, wealthier and freer than they have ever been under Castro’s tyranny.

It is fitting that Batista be remembered as a dark figure, the man who dealt a fatal blow to the Old Republic of Cuba directly causing its collapse. But this doesn’t require denying the truth that this was a complex man who earlier accomplished much that was good for Cuba and Cubans, or the incontrovertible truth that his dictatorship was a far lesser evil than Castro’s with respect to Cuba’s economy or the standard of living and civil liberties of its citizens.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Cuba History Timeline 1953 (Text version)

based on Manuel Márquez-Sterling's Cuba 1952-1959 and
Cuba 1952-1959 Interactive Timeline

Cuba 1953: Elections (1954) Slated

Cuba History Timeline Events
November 11, 1953
The Batista government made public a new electoral code under which the 1953 elections would be held. The President elected in those elections was to be sworn in May 20th 1954. In the face of the opposition’s rejection of such elections, they were postponed to November 1st 1954.

based on Manuel Márquez-Sterling's Cuba 1952-1959 and
Cuba 1952-1959 Interactive Timeline

Friday, April 3, 2009

Cuba 1953: Moncada Trial, Castro imprisoned

Cuba History Timeline Events
October 16, 1953

The Moncada attack trial runs September 21 to October 16, 1953. Fifty-one of the surviving Moncada attackers were tried. Most defendants were found guilty and sentenced to prison terms of 10-13 years. A few men drew shorter sentences, three years for a few of the men, seven months for the two women charged (19 defendants were acquitted).

Castro demanded and received a separate trial at which he acted as attorney pro se. At the end of the proceedings Castro delivered a famous defense speech, which purportedly ended with the phrase, “History will Absolve Me.” There is no official transcript of the speech. Whatever he actually said, there are now a handful of versions. Reportedly, a distinguished Ortodoxo intellectual (Harvard-trained Jorge Mañach) was willing to work on its first published version because it would be good anti-Batista propaganda. Over the years the speech has been frequently modified to adapt it to the regime’s propaganda needs.

Castro was found guilty and sentenced to 15 years in prison on the Isle of Pines, but served only 22 months as the result of an amnesty law approved by the national legislature and signed by Batista in May 1955.

based on Manuel Márquez-Sterling's Cuba 1952-1959 and
Cuba 1952-1959 Interactive Timeline

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Cuba 1953: Moncada Attack

Cuba History Timeline Events
July 26, 1953
Failed assault by a motley group of Auténtico, Ortodoxo, and Communist youths led by Fidel Castro against the Moncada Military headquarters in Santiago de Cuba. Half of the attackers were killed in the attack and a third captured including Raúl Castro. Fidel Castro who did not actively participate in the attack went into hiding. He surrendered a week later, under the protection of Santiago’s Archbishop, Mons. Enrique Pérez-Serantes. Fifty-one of the 99 rebel survivors were indicted and tried. Most were found guilty and imprisoned.

There are indications that the Communists had also been involved in the planning of the Moncada attack. A month before the attack the government’s Servicio de Inteligencia Militar [SIM] had uncovered documents implicating the Communists in a conspiracy to take over the country. Under the heading of El Pais XXVI, the documents indicated that Cuba had been singled out to fall under the domination of the Soviet Union. The police reports also indicated that the Communist leaders Joaquín Ordoquí and Lázaro Peña were involved. However, these reports were successfully denounced by all non-Communist revolutionaries as paquetes [packs of lies] and fear-mongering by the regime in an effort to shape public opinion.

Salvador Diaz-Versón published a comprehensive picture of Communist operations in Cuba before 1959, including Soviet involvement. A summary of his findings is available in his paper When Castro Became a Communist.

Antonio de la Cova has written a book with extensive detail about this event, The Moncada Attack: Birth of the Cuban Revolution, and has made available some of his research (including photographs) on the web at: The Attack on the Moncada & Bayamo Garrisons.

Moncada defending troopstCastro and Followers at arrest 1953
Cuban Army troops defend Moncada 7/26/53 (photo: AFP) Fidel Castro (far Right) and followers arrested after Moncada attack 8/1/53 (photo: AFP)

based on Manuel Márquez-Sterling's Cuba 1952-1959 and
Cuba 1952-1959 Interactive Timeline

Cuba 1953: Montreal Pact

Cuba History Timeline Events
June 2, 1953
Late in May the revolutionary factions of the Autenticos led by Carlos Prío, and a gathering of Ortodoxo leaders and other political activists convened in Montreal, Canada. On the 2nd of June they solemnly signed the Pact of Montreal to coordinate their efforts to overthrow the Batista regime.

Uninvited, Fidel Castro attempted to participate in the conference and also lobbied for the Communists to participate. Both requests are categorically rejected by the conferees. Irate, Castro declares he doesn’t need them, and that he will wage his own war against Batista.

Major declarations agreed by the pact signatories were
  1. Resolution of the crisis required restoring the 1940 Constitution.
  2. The Batista regime because of its illegitimate origins was unqualified to restore political institutions to the people and bring about elections, and so must be removed unconditionally.
  3. Upon removal of Batista, a provisional government would restore the Electoral Code of 1943 and guarantee free and fair elections.
After the sessions were over almost all of participants returned to Cuba. Their travel to and from Cuba encountered no interference or harassment from the regime’s secret services or the police.

based on Manuel Márquez-Sterling's Cuba 1952-1959 and
Cuba 1952-1959 Interactive Timeline

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Cuba 50s Life Photos

LIFE magazine has been brought back to life as a just launched partnership of Getty images and Time Inc. This new site offers access to the LIFE photo archives. As our earlier post on Cuba 1950s LIFE photos indicated, those archival photos are also accessible via Google LIFE Image Search capabilities launched last year.

The following link retrieves Cuba photos from the new site:
Cuba 1952-1959 LIFE photos

Cuba 1953: Anti-Batista Plot Discovered

Cuba History Timeline Events
April 5, 1953
A plot to overthrow Batista is uncovered and smashed by the Secret Service. The leader was philosophy professor Rafael García Bárcena who was represented at trial by Armando Hart, both would later join Castro’s 26th of July Movement and the Communist Party. The conspirators were planning—so said the investigators—to attack Columbia Military headquarters. Some of the detainees including Bárcenas were tortured. Bárcena is found guilty and sentenced to two years in prison, but is released June 5, 1954. He is arrested and imprisoned thrice after this for violent overthrow conspiracies.

based on Manuel Márquez-Sterling's Cuba 1952-1959 and
Cuba 1952-1959 Interactive Timeline

Cuba 1953: Violent Student Demonstrations

Cuba History Timeline Events
January 15, 1953
Students at the University of Havana extend their anti-Batista protests to the streets. Earlier student protests had been on campus where the police could not lawfully enter, but on moving onto the streets they provoke a confrontation with the police. In the ensuing mêlée, Rubén Batista (a student unrelated to Fulgencio Batista) is mortally wounded and dies a month later.

based on Manuel Márquez-Sterling's Cuba 1952-1959 and
Cuba 1952-1959 Interactive Timeline