Monday, May 4, 2009

1956: Barquin Puros-Montecristi Conspiracy

Cuba History Timeline Events
April 4, 1956
An overthrow Conspiracy by military officers is uncovered and smashed by Batista's secret service.

Colonel Ramón Barquín López led the failed conspiracy, which also included Major Enrique Borbonet and Lt. Colonel Manuel Varela Castro (a tank regiment commander, no relation to Fidel) as Barquin’s right-hand men in the plot. Col. Barquín had served as Cuba’s Military Attaché in Washington in the Prio administration, and had been re­cently promoted to the rank of Colonel by Presidential decree. By Barquin’s account the conspiracy had been underway since Batista’s coup four years before. The conspiracy is sometimes called the Barquínazo, La Conspiración de los Puros de 1956 (1956 Pure Ones Conspiracy) or Agrupación Montecristi conspiracy.

José Miró Cardona defended Barquín at his court-martial where he was sentenced to six years in prison on the Isle of Pines. At the behest of the US he was freed early on January 1, 1959, and in the wake of Batista fleeing was installed by the Cuban Supreme Court as head of the Army. As army chief, Col. Barquín ordered an immediate cease fire and surrendered (the week before Castro’s arrival in Havana) to Ché Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos hailing them as representatives of what he saluted as the "Liberating Army." Despite his support for Castro’s revolutionary reforms, Barquín soon fell out of grace with the regime, seeking exile in the US in 1960 and settling in Puerto Rico.

Jules Dubois provided these details about Barquín’s release from prison in his 1959 book Fidel Castro: rebel—liberator or dictator?:

In the Isle of Pines prison, a vest-pocket transistor radio smuggled into Cell Block 4 brought the news of Batista's flight to 400 political prisoners. Colonels Barquin and Borbonnet and Armando Hart, of the 26th of July Movement, tried futilely to persuade the prison commander to release them.

When majors Carlos Carrillo and Montero Duque arrived from Havana to confer with Barquin and escort him to Camp Columbia to assume command of the army, Barquin demanded the release of all army, navy and air force officers and all political prisoners, in accordance with an agreement with the 26th of July Movement. He wanted Armando Hart, Quintin Pino Machado and Mario Hidalgo to accompany him. He also wanted the military command of the Isle of Pines delivered to Lieutenant Fernandez Alvarez and the governorship to Jesus Montane.

"I have come to receive orders, not to give them," Major Carrillo told Barquin.

All the prisoners were released and the troops were assembled. Barquin handed the command of the island to Alvarez. The transport plane in which the two majors had arrived— without approval from their superiors— returned to Camp Columbia with Barquin, Borbonnet, Hart, Pino and Hidalgo still in prison garb.

Col Barquín 1955Col. Barquín, 1955 (photo: AP)

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

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