Wednesday, September 30, 2009

1958: Total War Manifesto, Rights Suspended

Cuba History Timeline Events
March 12, 1958
Since the restoration of constitutional rights in January, the Batista government had faced a difficult challenge in trading off the political costs of restricting civil rights against the ability to maintain order in the face of rapidly increasing terrorist activity. As one NY Times story reported, the aim of the ever-emboldening rebel guerrilla raids and urban terror campaigns was to force Batista to suspend the Bill of Rights and prevent the scheduled elections from taking place:

[...] the sabotage and terroristic campaign of revolutionary elements that seek to prevent elections set for June 1.

The rebels apparently hope to create such chaos that the Government will be forced to suspend constitutional guarantees, thus making the elections impossible

Batista's balancing challenge greatly increased in March, when Castro’s revolutionaries went all out in their terror campaigns, believing that their victory was imminent and prepared to deliver what they believed would be the fatal blow to the regime: a national strike. Castro published a Total War on Tyranny Manifesto with a call to strike and announcing that he would triumph in April. This Manifesto repeated the false claims of military attacks against rural civilians.

The manifesto called all of the labor force and students throughout the island to a general strike, which would be backed my military support from Castro’s rebel army. The manifesto forbade travel of any type in Oriente province from April 1, and announced that rebels would fire without warning on any vehicles that violated Castro’s no traffic order. It also decreed that all payments to the government must cease, and that anyone who made any payments to the government including taxes or fees would be considered an unpatriotic traitor guilty of a counter-revolutionary act. Those working in government administrative positions or in the courts were ordered to resign. And those in the military were warned that they would be judged as criminals, unless they deserted and/or joined the rebel army. The manifesto ended by calling for the people to support Castro’s “campaign of extermination against all those who serve the tyranny with weapons”, declaring that from April 5 in a Total War “The people will find it necessary to annihilate them wherever they may be, as the worst enemies of their freedom and happiness.”

The nefarious Herbert Matthews of the NY Times lobbied Cuban leaders to support Castro's Total War Manifesto (also called the 22-point Manifesto). In that lobbying Matthews solicited labor leader Eusebio Mujal, Secretary General of CTC to support Castro’s strike call. Matthews solicitation calls for Castro also included an uninvited visit to Carlos Márquez-Sterling.

On March 12, Batista suspended constitutionally guaranteed civil liberties again, and named Army Colonel Pilar García the new Chief of Police.

Col. Pilar Garcia c1958Rebel bombing of gas main, Havana 1958
Col. Pilar Garcia c1958Rebel bombing of gas main, Havana 1958 (photo: Joseph Scherschel/LIFE)

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

No comments: