Sunday, May 31, 2009

Web search timeline view

Earlier this month Google unveiled search options providing new filters and displays for web search results, these include timeline and wonder wheel. Wonder wheel is a mindmap-like graphical cluster view. Timeline clusters results (based on dates in the results text) on a timeline, and allows narrowing or broadening the search time frame. There is also an option to show related searches.

To access the new features click on "Show options..." at the top of a Google search results page (line where number of results is shown). This opens a panel with controls for the new options, clicking on "Hide options..." sets you back to traditional view.

The announcement post at the official Google blog has a short video tour of the new search options features.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

1956: University of Havana closed

Cuba History Timeline Events
November 30, 1956
Student militant organizations Federación Estudiantil Universitaria (FEU) and DR (Directorio Revolucionario) pressured the University Council (Consejo Universitario) to close the University of Havana as a protest against Batista. The students claimed that under dictatorship no classes should be held at all.

The university closure was imposed by a militant minority of radical students and professors—not by Batista. Since the university was an autonomous and self-governing institution the University Council—not the government—had sole authority to close the university.

The action was a propaganda coup—the foreign press didn’t realize it was the tyrannical dictatorship of revolutionary students allied with radical faculty that shut the university. As the militants hoped, the international press blamed Batista’s "tyrannical dictatorship" for the closure. The closure left more than ten thousand students idle, further increasing pressure on the government. Batista’s regime, however, continued paying faculty and staff emoluments and salaries during the closure (which lasted until 1959). This demonstrates that the Batista regime which the revolutionaries claimed could not be negotiated with, in fact was able and willing to make and honor agreements, even after they proved disadvantageous.

Student revolutionaries acting in solidarity similarly closed down the other two Cuban state universities (Oriente and Santa Clara) by year end, leaving only the three private universities open. This, of course, had a particularly adverse impact on less-affluent students for whom attending university represented a financial sacrifice and a path to gainful employment.

Paradoxically, the University autonomy used so dictatorially by anti-Batista university radicals had been promulgated and codified by the government Batista’s first coup established. One of Machado’s dictatorial acts in 1930 had been to close the University as reaction to political opposition. Largely in response to that, university autonomy was granted through a presidential decree by Ramón Grau San Martín's provisional government on October 6, 1933, and affirmed by a later official Presidential decree on February 22, 1937. University autonomy was enacted into statutory law on January 8, 1937 through the Education Law (Ley Docente) of 1937.

In retrospect it is clear that the revolutionary students and their radical faculty allies were advocates of academic freedom only so long as it furthered their agenda. Among Castro’s earliest acts were closing private universities and schools, ending university autonomy and tenure, giving the government absolute control over university administration including faculty appointments and admissions. This brought to an end the era of university radicals (and academic freedom), since universities no longer had room for faculty and students not in complete agreement with the government.

Havana University, March 1957Havana University, April 1958
Havana University, March 1957 (photo: Grey Villet/LIFE)Havana University, April 1958 (photo: Joseph Scherschel/LIFE)

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

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

1956: M-26-7 Granma Invasion plans go awry

Cuba History Timeline Events
November 30, 1956
Unaware that Granma expeditionaries had encountered major problems and landing would not take place on schedule, organizer Frank País and other members of the 26th of July Movement (M-26-7) staged a daring uprising in Santiago de Cuba and stormed several public buildings, police headquarters, and the Customs House. The M-26-7 plan was for this attack to be synchronized with the Granma landing, creating a diversion from the invasion force.

The people of Santiago de Cuba did not join in the uprising, and the rebels are beaten after almost taking over the city. In the midst of savage reprisals by the government País managed to escape and go underground.

A contemporaneous news story in Time reported:
Even for hot-tempered Cuba, 1956 has been a violent year. In October the two top policemen of the country were shot dead (and ten suspects mowed down by the cops). Earlier, a plan to assassinate President Fulgencio Batista was nipped, a provincial garrison was assaulted (eleven dead), an army plot was unmasked and 13 officers jailed. But what was supposed to be the main uprising was still to come. Last week it began. [...]

Just before dawn one day last week, the revolt got under way—again in Santiago. Machine gunners, in olive-drab uniforms with black-and-red armbands marked "26 de Julio," fired on police headquarters. At the same time they tossed grenades and gasoline bombs on the building from a nearby rooftop and burned it down, while ammunition popped inside. For a time the attackers roamed the area freely, looting a hardware store for weapons. At other towns—Holguin, Guantánamo, Cienfuegos, Santa Clara—other Castro-men rebelled.

Troops from Santiago's Moncada barracks quickly regained control of the deserted streets for the government as the rebels melted away without a stand. Next day they were back, sharpshooting from rooftops. Batista sent planes and 400 more troops, and arrested known opponents of his government by the hundreds.

By early this week most of the shooting had died down (dead so far: 13). But the government believed that Castro was somewhere on the island[...]

Frank PaísFrank País

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

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

1956: M-26-7 Granma Expedition leaves Mexico

Cuba History Timeline Events
November 25, 1956
On the 25th of November, Granma, a 60-foot (18-meter) diesel-powered yacht in poor repair, designed to accommodate 10-12 people, leaves Mexico carrying 82 M-26-7 (26th of July Movement) insurgents including Fidel and Raúl Castro, Ché Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos, with a scheduled landing in Cuba on November 30.

The vessel sails down the Tuxpan River into the Gulf of Mexico. The trip took longer than planned, most of the men suffered severe seasickness, and encountered severe engine problems (due to overloading), they had no radio transmitter to communicate their problems and delay. This caused logistics problems with M-26-7 activities coordinated to the arrival.

Granma expedition route 1956Granma yacht
Route of Granma M-26-7 Expedition 1956Granma yacht

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

Monday, May 25, 2009

Oremus: Remembering on Memorial Day

The US Memorial Day organization has a page that deserves reading and consideration on the meaning and observance of Memorial Day.

One of America's greatest, Gen. George S. Patton Jr., said these words in a 1943 speech at an Allied cemetery in Italy:

In my mind we came here to thank God
that men like these have lived
rather than to regret that they have died.

Much of the fiercest fighting of WWII took place in the Pacific Theater, many of those we remember today lost their lives there. Jose Reyes has a post today with links to the history of one of its great battles: Iwo Jima. Humberto Fontova has a post at Babalú honoring Cuban-born Manuel Pérez García, who distinguished himself in the Pacific Theater.

Manuel Pérez García and his family know the price of those freedoms better than most. In addition to serving in some of the bloodiest engagements in WWII, his son gave his life in the Korean War. Below is a tribute to him (from the Organización Auténtica site) written by José Juara Silverio, veteran of Bay of Pigs, another battleground where many to be remembered gave their lives defending freedom.

Silverio's tribute mentions that Japanese General Yamashita surrendered to Pérez García on Luzon. As Hugo Byrne pointed out in a 2005 (Spanish-language) article, it was hardly an accident that Pérez García was the one to capture the Japanese commander. His record demonstrates he was always at the leading edge of advanced front lines where his blood earned him numerous combat decorations and citations.

Honoring A Hero
By José Juara Silverio

In a radio appearance with Dr. Luis Fernández Caubi in his program, the newspaper reporter asked me who was the outstanding member of Brigade 2506 according to his comrades-in-arms.

I told Dr. Fernández that many men had distinguished themselves in the Brigade and that therefore it would be very difficult to choose among the various corps that maid up the Brigade but that without a doubt, among the members of the paratrooper’s battalion, the outstanding member was Manuel Pérez García and at that point I proceeded to describe for him the following account:

Pérez García was born on July 23, 1909 in the Cuban province of Camagüey and although still very young he enlisted in the Cuban National Army.

After several years of service he was honorably discharged and he immigrated to the United States where he offered himself as a volunteer for the U.S.Army immediately after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

The story written by this native "camagüeyano" during MacArthur’s campaign in the Pacific is truly an epic. In three years of war, fighting against the Japanese, Pérez García earned many awards and decorations including, among them, three Purple Hearts, three Silver Stars and three Bronze Stars, all awarded for his courageous actions in battle.[1] Among his deeds, in the Philippine Campaign, against the Japanese forces of General Yamashita, nicknamed "the Tiger of Malaya."[2] Pérez García captured General Yamashita himself and took the flag hoisted over his headquarters as a war trophy.

After Audie Murphy (who fought in the European theater) Pérez García was the infantry soldier who slew the most enemies, achieving the surprising total of 83 Japanese soldiers killed in combat. The 82nd Airborne Division him a trophy in recognition of this feat. At the end of the Second World War and after serving three additional years, Pérez García once again retired to civilian life.

The North Korean communists were about to deliver him a severe blow with the death of his son, Sergeant Jorge Pérez Crespo during the Korean conflict. Once again, Pérez García volunteered himself for duty in the U.S. Army. However, this time he was officially rejected by President Harry S. Truman himself who wrote him an affectionate letter on June 9, 1952 in which the President explained that he was rejected for service due to being beyond the age allow by law to anyone who desires to enlist. The President also said: "You have gone far beyond the call of duty with the United States, just as your military record shows."

And once again the communists, this time the Cuban communists, pushed him to volunteer again to fight in a new war against a dictatorship and a totalitarian regime, enlisting as a member of Brigade 2506. Pérez García arrives in Guatemala to train as a buck private to fight for freedom and joins the paratrooper battalion voluntarily where I had the honor to meet him.

He was 51 years old and always first in training among those of us lads who were hardly 18. He was gray-haired yet he was the best among the best in the rough training we were subjected to. Discipline was his religion which he practice and demanded from everyone. He reprimanded me once for one of those pranks that we sometimes thought of to do to break the boredom of tedious training. I remember that for me it was as if my grandfather José was reprimanding me, with severity but in a constructive way.

During the battle for Girón Beach,[3] those who fought with the same group tell me that, Manuel not only demonstrated courage and experience but also "that natural soldier’s instinct" who makes correct and instantaneous decisions and exercises command in the midst of battle without hesitation.

After so many years, it is another "camagüeyano" and fellow brigade member, Jose "Gene" Miranda y Agramonte who informs me that Perez Garcia has donated part of his decorations and documents to Brigade 2506 Museum in Miami, Florida. Among the awards and medals are the letter from President Truman, the trophy for the Japanese killed in combat, General Yamashita’s flag and many more.

Through this article I want to honor my friend, the hero Manuel Pérez García and invite the readers to visit the Brigade Museum and gaze at this exhibition of Cuban-American history.

Jose Juara Silverio

Translated from the Spanish and notes added by Jorge A. Maspóns 

[1] Manuel Pérez García was nominated for the Congressional Medal of Honor

[2] General Tomoyuki Yamashita, (1885-1946), was executed by hanging for war crimes, February 23, 1946

[3] Girón Beach (Playa Girón) is known by many people as the Bay of Pigs

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Rivero's Biography of a Crime

Cuba History Book Reviews
Biografía de un crimen
Forty-nine years ago, on a day that the old Republic of Cuba celebrated Independence Day (20 de Mayo, Día de la Independencía) and its freedoms, Cubans found themselves without a free press. The week before the last two independent newspapers were closed down by the Castro regime as it tightened its grip of tyranny.

Manuel Márquez-Sterling’s column in Diario Las Américas this week Biografía de un crimen (Biography of a Crime) reviews the new book with that title by José Ignacio Rivero, publisher of Havana’s legendary Diario de la Marina from 1944 to 1960. He is the son of Pepín Rivero its publisher from 1919-1944, and the grandson of its founder Nicolás Rivero.

Diario de la Marina was Cuba’s longest-running newspaper and the one with the highest circulation. Its roots went back to 1813 with El Lucero de la Habana (The Havana Star) and the Noticioso Mercantil (The Mercantile Seer) whose 1832 merger established El Noticioso y Lucero de la Habana, which was renamed Diario de la Marina in 1844. Though a conservative publication, its pages gave voice to a wide range of opinion, including those of avowed communists. It gave a platform to essayist Jorge Mañach and many other distinguished Cuban intellectuals.

Over its long history La Marina kept faith with a conservative philosophy that from 1902 to 1959 always defended the best interests of the country, its pages opposing the dictatorships of Gerardo Machado in the 30s and Fulgencio Batista in the 50s. Its valiant attempt to maintain that tradition of opposition to despotic government under Castro was doomed. Its heroic coverage included being the only newspaper that published the letters denouncing the Castro regime written by Revolutionary Commander Huber Matos from prison after his October 1959 arrest for “counter-revolutionary treason”.

In his new (Spanish language) book Biografia de un Crimen, Rivero examines the critical time period that is the focus of this blog: 1952-1959, continuing through May 12, 1960—the grim day when his newspaper was closed, a day after he took refuge in the Peruvian Embassy in Havana. The day following closure of La Marina, Cuba's last remaining privately-owned newspaper (Prensa Libre) was attacked by a mob and shut down. La Marina premises and equipment were confiscated by the Castro regime and used to publish its government-controlled newspapers.

In this new book Rivero draws on the rich perspective afforded him as La Marina's publisher to offer valuable insights into Castro’s rise and the establishment of his tyranny. [The book is available from Relampagos Editorial at 7741 SW 93th Avenue Miami FL 33173]

The University of Florida Digital Library of the Caribbean maintains a Diario de la Marina digital archive containing 306 issues from 1947-1960 as facsimiles. That collection also includes nineteen issues (1960-1961) of Rivero's exile publication: 7 Días del Diario de la Marina en el exilio digital archive.

Castro Mobs attack Diario de la Marina 1960Mob damages Diario de la Marina
Mob attack on Diario de la Marina Havana, Cuba. May 1960 (photo: Contra Viento y Marea by JA Rivero)Damages caused by mob attack on Diario de la Marina, Havana, Cuba. May 1960 (photos: Biografía de un crimen by JA Rivero)

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

1956: Haiti Embassy shootout, Police Chief Killed

Cuba History Timeline Events
October 29, 1956
Rafael Salas Cañizares, Chief of the National Police, is mortally wounded in a shootout with Castro rebels at the Embassy of Haiti on 29 October. He dies two days later. The ten rebels seeking refuge in the embassy, some associated with the FEU/DR, were all killed in the exchange. The rebels were sought by police for the murder of Secret Service Chief Blanco Rico.

A series of now declassified US diplomatic messages beginning on November 2, commented extensively on the embassy shootout and related events: US Foreign Service Cuba Dispatch 11/2/56 (facsimile).

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

1956: DR assassinates Secret Service Chief

Cuba History Timeline Events
October 28, 1956
Directorio Revolucionario (DR) members assassinate Col. Antonio Blanco Rico, Chief of Batista's secret service (the Servicio de Inteligencia Militar, SIM) at the Monmartre night club in Havana. Despite the DR/M-26-7 alliance recently announced as the Mexico Pact, Castro publicly condemned the assasination and the DR as well. Even as Castro directed other terror and murder plots, he publicly declared: “Such acts must not be indiscriminate" and added "From a political revolutionary standpoint, his assassination was not justified. Blanco Rico was not a Fascist executioner.”

A series of now declassified US diplomatic messages beginning on November 2, 1956 commented extensively on the assasination and related events: US Foreign Service Cuba Dispatch 11/2/56 (facsimile).

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

Monday, May 18, 2009

1956: Prio Funds Castro’s Granma Expedition

Cuba History Timeline Events
September 1, 1956
Trying to regroup after the loss of all weapons and cash to the Mexican Police raids, the desperate and penniless Castro turns to the exiled Carlos Prío Socarrás to fund the preparation and execution of a 26th of July Movement (M-26-7) invasion of Cuba.

In September Prío Socarrás and Castro meet clandestinely at the Casa de Palmas Hotel in McAllen, Texas, after Castro illegally enters the US by swimming across the Rio Grande near Reynosa. Prío agrees to provide Castro the necessary funds for the planned invasion. The amount remains uncertain, estimates range from $50,000 to $500,000. Prío imposes the condition that some of his men go with Castro’s expeditionary force. Castro agrees and on his return to Mexico exulted: “I conned him!” After this meeting Prío will have one more phone conversation with Castro about the expedition, and then never hear from him again. Castro’s purchase of the yacht Granma ($18,000) and other costs of the expedition were covered with the $50,000 or more provided by Prío.

Casa de Palmas Hotel, McAllen TXCasa de Palmas Hotel, McAllen TX. Site of Prio-Castro 1956 meeting.

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

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

1956: Carta de Mexico (Pacto de Mexico)

Cuba History Timeline Events
August 29, 1956
On August 28, FEU President José Antonio Echeverría and another student leader, René Anillo, meet in Mexico with Fidel Castro to form an alliance joining the Directorio Revolucionario (DR, Revolutionary Directorate) and Castro's 26th of July Movement (M-26-7) in a united revolutionary resistance to Batista. They finalize the pact in the early hours of August 29, and agree to publicly announce it on September 1, giving Anillo time to return to Cuba and Echeverría time to travel to a student congress in Sri Lanka. UPI accepted it on the 29th for publication on September 1, when it put it on its newswire.

The pact document, titled Letter from Mexico (Carta de Mexico) affirmed that M-26-7 and the FEU’s DR had joined forces to overthrow the Batista regime through revolutionary force and called on all students, workers, and “worthy Cubans” to join an armed struggle which would end only by victory or death. The document also called for upon victory embracing programs of social justice, liberty and democracy and the avoidance hate and vindictiveness towards anyone.

One of the points in the letter was naming Coronel Barquín, Major Borbonet, and other court-martialed military officers as the leaders of the armed forces upon revolutionary victory.

DR leaders and their followers, perhaps carried away by untempered youthful passions, fell into the trap (with many others in Batista’s opposition) of adopting “the end justifies the means” as their working principle and on that basis choosing violent means over political compromise and negotiation to remove Batista. In a 2007 interview1 Echeverría’s sister Lucy described her shock and dismay that Echevarria had entered into an agreement with Castro:

"My brother knew Castro was a disreputable loser that couldn’t even get elected to minor student government office. When he returned from Mexico I asked him ‘What have you done, my brother?’ He replied that he’d made deals with God and now now he’d made a deal with the Devil, but that I shouldn’t worry because when the student revolutionary movement triumphed it would be the time to bring Fidel Castro down from the hills with gunfire.”

René Anillo proved to be a crypto-Communist, he came out of the Communist closet shortly after Castro’s triumph. Anillo worked with Ché Guevara in 1959 and quickly rose through official ranks to become a Provincial Secretary of the Communist Party. At Castro’s Tricontinental Solidarity Conference (a premier international gathering of terrorist and violent revolutionary movements) Anillo, along with Patrice Lumumba, was granted the honor of receiving Cuba’s Solidarity Order. That award cited his ties “to OSPAAAL’s work during its first decades and made valuable contributions to the anti-imperialist causes of Africa, Asia and Latin America.”

Echeverria-Castro-Anillo Mexico 1956Fidel Castro [CENTER] with FEU/DR Student Leaders
José A Echeverría [L] and René Anillo Capote [R]
México, 29-Aug 1956.(photo: Liborio Noval)

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

1 The Spanish-language interview was published as “El Dia Que Cuba Perdio El Futuro” ("The Day Cuba’s Future Was Lost”) by Wilfredo Cancio Isla, El Nuevo Herald (Miami), March 11, 2007.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

1956: Castro Communist ties revealed & denied

Cuba History Timeline Events
July 22, 1956
Castro’s involvement with the Communist International Movement is revealed in the national press by Batista’s Bureau of Anti Communist Repression, Military Intelligence Services, and Bureau of Subversive Activities. Batista publicly denounces the communist connections in his address at the Conference of Presidents (Conmemoración del 130 Aniversario del Congreso Anfictiónico de 1826) held in Panama 21-22 July 1956.

Revolutionary and abstencionista leaders dismissed it as a paquete [pack of lies] and rallied to publicly defend Castro.

Salvador Diaz-Versón paints a comprehensive picture of Communist operations in Cuba before 1959, including Soviet involvement in his One Man, One Battle. A summary account is also available in:

Salvador Díaz-Versón (1997): When Castro Became A Communist: The Impact on U.S.-Cuba Policy; Occasional Paper Series, Vol.1, No.1, November 3, 1997 (Washington, DC.: The Selous Foundation's Institute for U.S. Cuba Relations).

Batista-Eisenhower, Panama 1956Fulgencio Batista with President Dwight Eisehower at OAS meeting
in Panama. July 1956 (photo: Bettmann/CORBIS)

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

Monday, May 11, 2009

1956: Castro and M-26-7 followers arrested in Mexico

Cuba History Timeline Events
June 20, 1956
Over 20-24 June, under pressure from Batista, Mexican authorities arrested Fidel Castro and five of his 26th of July Movement (M-26-7) associates. They were charged with violations of immigration laws, illegal possession of military weapons, and conspiring to mount a revolution against a foreign government. During their interrogation they betray the existence of Bayo’s M-26-7 training camp, and the police then raid the rebel training camp (Santa Rosa Ranch, aka Las Rosas), arresting the other 45 Castro followers, and seizing the rebels' weapons, supplies, and cash.

During his interrogation Guevara confessed he was a Communist, that M-26-7 was preparing a revolutionary force to violently overthrow the Cuban government, and that he advocated of armed revolutionary struggle throughout Latin America.

Through the intervention of Mexico’s former president Lázaro Cárdenas all were released by the end of July, beginning on July 6. By July 10, only Fidel Castro, Ché Guevara and Calixto García Martínez remained in detention. On July 24 Castro was freed, Guevara and García were released a week later.

Enrique Ros provides a detailed view of the arrests, including the Mexican police record of admissions made by Guevara in his 2002 book Ernesto Che Guevara: Mito y Realidad (Miami:Ediciones Universal).

Castro praised the courteous treatment of the Mexican authorities during detention, and maintained a close relationship with the Mexican Secret Police chief who arrested him (Fernando Gutiérrez Barrios), and they both publicly acknowledged mutual admiration and friendship until Gutierrez’ death in 2009.

Castro Followers Arrested Mexico 1956Fidel-Che-Prison1956
Fidel Castro (arrow) and followers arrested in Mexico, 1956. Seated second from left is Ernesto "Ché" Guevara. (photo: AP)Fidel Castro (left) and "Ché" Guevara after one of their nights in Miguel Schultz prison, Mexico 1956. (photo: Rue des Archives/PVDE)

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

Friday, May 8, 2009

1956: Vento Plan (Plan de Vento)

Cuba History Timeline Events
June 4, 1956
As a response to the collapse of the Civic Dialog talks and the increasing political violence, Batista met with congressional leaders, his cabinet, other officials and political leaders at Vento from 4 June to 20 July. From Vento they announced a new plan for resolving the crisis. The “Vento Plan” (Plan de Vento) offered biennial elections (including provincial governors and municipal offices) within ten months (in 1957) and general elections a year later. Bolstering the Vento Plan, Batista announced he would be stepping down and would not be a presidential candidate in the 1958 elections.

Although initially well-received by the press, the public, and the electoralists, the plan ran aground in July as the revolutionary opposition rejected it, including Grau San Martin, Prío, the Ortodoxos and the student organizations.

Among the few opposition leaders supporting the plan were Emilio "Millo" Ochoa and Carlos Márquez-Sterling. Encouraged by the positive response from the national press these two leaders agreed to form a coalition of their forces. They hoped to convince the Ortodoxo party to accept the government’s offer. The Ortodoxos, however, rejected it declaring that “to parley with the spokesmen of Batista is tantamount to treason and dishonor.”

Millo Ochoa 1955Millo Ochoa (third from left) meeting with Ramon Grau (seated, middle) and
other Auténtico Party leaders. (Latin American collection)

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

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

1956: Goicuria garrison Attack; Prio exiled

Cuba History Timeline Events
April 29, 1956
A band of about 100 Castro rebels, acting in concert with Prio forces, attack the Goicuria garrison, the military headquarters in Matanzas, sixty miles east of Havana. The attackers are defeated in a bloody engagement. The operation had been directed by Reynol García, a Carlos Prío supporter who was killed in the attack.

When Batista’s secret services ascertain that the attack had been funded by Prío, they arrest the ex-president and put him on an airplane to Miami.

Castro rejoiced in Mexico over Prío’s exile writing: “With Prío out of Cuba, the revolutionary movement is in my hands.”

St Petersburg Times-Goicuria Attack 1956Carlos Prio Socarras press conference Miami 5-10-56
Story in St. Petersburg Times April 30 1956 Carlos Prio Socarras press conference Miami, May 1956 (photo: Bettmann/CORBIS)

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

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