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

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

1958: Judiciary challenges to Batista

Cuba History Timeline Events
March 11, 1958
In March Batista faced judiciary affronts. As part of Castro’s subversive campaign, M-26-7 had been endeavoring to enlist judges to make pronouncements from the bench against the regime. These efforts targeted judges who were anti-Batista and inclined to judicial activism, such as Enrique Hart Ramirez, father of two sons actively involved in Castro terrorist activities (Armando Hart Dávalos, then in jail, and Enrique Hart Dávalos, the M-26-7 Chief of Terrorist Operations [Jefe de Acción y Sabotaje] for Matanzas province–who died a month later when a bomb he was making exploded). Armando Hart came out of the Communist closet in 1959 to join Castro’s first Council of Ministers, and subsequently held several high ranking positions including Politburo and Communist Party leadership posts.

A group of judges made public a March 6 letter criticizing the state of Cuban justice which accused the Batista government of at once of interfering with judges carrying out their duties (particularly in unresponsiveness to habeas corpus), and failing to prevent or capture the rebel terrorists planting bombs and perpetrating other violence in courtrooms and against judges. Enrique Hart Ramirez was one of the signers.

In early March a special judge, José Francisco Alabau Trelles, exasperated with the unresponsiveness to his order to release a terror suspect, petitioned the Supreme Court to file criminal charges against Rear Admiral José Manuel Rodriguez Hernández, Chief of Staff of the Cuban Navy, for torture (by Julio Laurent Rodriguez, Chief of Naval Intelligence) of Dionisio San Román and other conspirators in the Cienfuegos Cayo Loco uprising. At the same time, Alabau instituted proceedings against police Colonel Esteban Ventura Novo, infamous for his brutal treatment and use of torture in interrogation of terrorist suspects. Alabau went further on 11 March, indicting Ventura Novo and Laurent for murder of revolutionary terror suspects, and ordering that the two officials be held without bail. The Minister of Justice quashed Alabau's indictments before referring the charges to military courts, but the political damage to Batista of having two of his officials branded as murderers by a sitting judge was very great.

Alabau was a tragic figure, sorely wanting in judicial temperament. Castro rewarded him with an appointment to the Supreme Court of his revolutionary government in 1959, but he soon fell out of favor and had to flee into exile. There he attempted to foist an extraordinary hoax, claiming he had led military forces of the "Unitary Invasion Movement" that landed in Cuba and fought a battle against Castro forces in Guayabal (Camagüey province) that had inflicted dozens of casualties on Castro’s armed forces. It was soon apparent that there was no truth to his fantastic claims and that the photographs Alabau provided as evidence were fraudulent.

It is ironic, in considering the judges’ letter highlighting grievance over habeas corpus responsiveness, that one of Castro’s first acts on establishing his revolutionary government in January 1959 was to abolish
habeas corpus, as his revolutionary tribunals went into high gear.

With hindsight, we see the judiciary affronts to Batista reveal that in pre-Castro Cuba there was an independent judicial branch, whose members represented a diversity of political opinion including Batista opponents—even some who succumbed to judicial activism and overt political public statements and actions. And that in those days there was a free press to report such events. Within two years of Castro’s rise to power and the revolutionary change his advocates urged, an independent judiciary, diversity of political views and a free press were but a memory of Cuba’s republican past.

Enrique Hart Dávalos c1958Esteban Ventura Novo 1958
Enrique Hart Dávalos(second from right) Col. Esteban Ventura Novo 1958 (photo: Joseph Scherschel/LIFE)

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

Monday, September 28, 2009

1958: Bishops’ Harmony Commission

Cuba History Timeline Events
February 28, 1958
On 28-Feb The Cuban National Episcopate of the Catholic Church undertaking a peace initiative, issued an exhortation for a peaceful resolution of the national crisis: "Pro Peace" (En favor de la paz). As coverage in the New York Times acknowledged, at that time 1958 election plans were still progressing despite concerted efforts by Castro to derail them, including intimidation of candidates and potential candidates.

On 6 March Church bishops appointed a Concord Commission (Comision de la Concordia) popularly known as the Harmony Commission, and visited Batista advocating the formation of an “Unity Government”. The commission was composed of former President Grau San Martín, Raúl de Cárdenas (former Vice President), Gustavo Cuervo Rubio (former Vice President), Víctor Pedroso (President of the National Association of Cuban Banks), and Pastor González (a priest).

The church put its full weight behind this initiative, through its highest officials, the signers of the exhortation: Cardinal Manuel Arteaga, (Archbishop of Havana); Enrique Pérez Serantes (Archbishop of Santiago de Cuba); Eduardo Martínez y Dalmau (Bishop of Cienfuegos); Alberto Martín Villaverde (Bishop of Matanzas); Evelio Díaz Cía (Bishop of Pinar del Rio); Carlos Riu Anglés (Bishop of Camagüey); and Alfredo Müller y San Martín (Auxiliary Bishop of Havana).

In response to the requests of the Commission, Batista agreed to reorganize his cabinet with elements favorable to negotiating a political compromise, and appointed Dr. Emilio Núñez-Portuondo (his ambassador to the United Nations) as Prime Minister to preside over future negotiations. Batista also granted the commission permission to visit Castro in the Sierra.

Castro categorically rejected the bishops’ proposal, and refused to receive their designated representatives declaring he would execute on the spot any of them who traveled to the Sierra. The commission disbanded shortly thereafter.

The bishops were nonplussed at Castro’s response, believing their proposals had been helpful to him. They did not grasp that Castro was not interested in negotiated compromise or elections–that in fact it was his goal to prevent elections at any cost. A consular cable to the US State Department summarizing discussion of Amb. Smith with Batista about the failure of the Harmony Commission includes Batista’s continuing willingness to have US, UN or OAS observers to monitor the elections.

The commission’s work was lampooned by an editorial in the satirical weekly Zig-Zag for failing to engage “the most decisive elements–the insurgents: the FEU, M-26-7 and the Auténtico abstentionistas." That editorial was accompanied by this cartoon:

Castro and M-26-7 rebels at camp 1958 En El Patio De La Cubanidad (Valdés Díaz/Zig-Zag)

The cartoon, titled "In the Garden of Cubanness" (En El Patio De La Cubanidad), has Ramón Grau San Martín saying "We are all friends, why not say it? Cubanness is Love!" (Amigos todos, por qué no decirlo, la Cubanidad es amor).

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

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Cuba 1950s LIFE on Google Books

1950s Cuba LIFE Magazine coverage on Google Books

Google announced this week that LIFE Magazine is now available on Google Books. Google Books has partnered with Life Inc. to digitize LIFE Magazine's entire run as a weekly: over 1,860 issues, covering the years from 1936 to 1972. Readers of this blog and others interested in Cuba history 1952-1959 will find this a useful resource, particularly for photographs of the period.

Castro on LIFE Cover Jan 1959DR attack damage Radio Reloj CMQ
Fidel Castro on LIFE Cover, Havana, Cuba. January 1959 (photo: Andrew St. George/LIFE)Damages caused by DR attack on CMQ Radio Reloj, Havana, Cuba. March 1957 (photo: Grey Villet/LIFE)

These new capabilities build on Google work to publish the LIFE magazine photo archives on the web mentioned in earlier post. Visit Google Books to browse through all available issues of LIFE. Check out the new Thumbnail View to see the layout of all the pages in the magazine.

Links below retrieve 1950’s Cuba LIFE articles of special interest to Cuba 1952-1959 history.

The announcement from Google Boksearch has some directions and search tips.

Related Cuba 1952-1959 posts:

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

1958: Raúl Castro Opens Sierra Cristal Front

Cuba History Timeline Events
February 27, 1958
At the end of February, Fidel Castro commissioned his brother Raúl to open up a second Oriente front (“Frank Paîs Front”) in northeastern Cuba’s Sierra Cristal, promoting him (along with Juan Almeida and Camilo Cienfuegos) to the rank of Commander. Raúl arrived in the Sierra Cristal on 11 March with 50-80 men (“Column 6”), establishing his headquarters in Mayarí Arriba. The area covered by this front was substantial, initially stretching from Mayarí to Baracoa but soon extending to cover a triangle between Guantanamo, Baracoa and Mayari. Initially burning sugar cane fields was his main activity, but by the summer the front's efforts included attacks on the US naval base at Guantanamo and Americans in Cuba.

Raul Castro 1958Raul Castro & Che, Sierra Cristal 1958
Raul Castro in Sierra, April 1958. (photo: Andrew St. George/AP/AFP/Getty Images-LIFE archive) Raúl Castro (L) and Che Guevara, Sierra de Cristal, Cuba 1958 (photo: Andrew St. George/AP)

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

Monday, September 21, 2009

1958: Radio Rebelde broadcasts begin

Cuba History Timeline Events
February 24, 1958
Exploiting constitutional guarantees of the restored Bill of Rights, M-26-7 rebels begin pirate radio broadcasts from mobile transmitters in the Sierra and supporters’ homes. In the time search warrants can be obtained, the rebels could move transmitters and evade capture.

Angel Pérez Vidal announced the start of Radio Rebelde broadcasts in an M-26-7 press conference primarily focussed on lobbying for a US Cuban embargo on Batista, and publicizing claims that Castro’s campaign to destroy the sugar crop was a great success that had already destroyed two million tons of sugar (almost a third of annual production). These claims were disputed by industry sources, who said rebel claims of damages were about ten times larger than actual damages.

The first Radio Rebelde broadcast (20 minutes) aired on February 24, 1958 from Alto de Conrado in the Sierra, powered by a portable electric generator. It featured Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara. Subsequent broadcasts began with what would become its signature station identification: “Radio Rebelde here, the voice of the Sierra Maestra, transmitting throughout all Cuba on the 20 meter band at 5 and 9 pm daily…” It also broadcast at 8 and 10 pm on the 40 meter band.

Luis Orlando Rodríguez initially served as Radio Rebelde director of broadcasting, but in a few months those duties were taken over by newspaperman Carlos Franqui, along with other propaganda and public relations responsibilities. Programming included news, revolutionary speeches, anti-Batista rants, musical interludes, and messages from rebels in the mountains to their families. Radio Rebelde also served as a military communication channel, mostly using coded messages, but occasionally transmitting in the clear to engage audiences in the excitement of the revolution through a vicarious sense of participation.

The technical director and founder of Radio Rebelde was Cuban ham (amateur) radio operator Eduardo Fernández. In addition to obtaining and maintaining the equipment, he also selected an initial Alto de Conrado site suitable for broadcasting on the 20 meter band. Fernández would later aid the revolutionary government to bring Cuban amateur radio under state control, precluding future rebel radio stations. Luis Orlando Rodríguez also came out of the Communist closet after 1959, and was appointed to the Council of Ministers.

The Radio Rebelde network eventually grew to 32 satellite stations dispersed throughout Cuba. Satellite stations produced feeds for the main station where daily broadcasts were assembled and transmitted from hub station and relayed satellite relays. The development, growth and sophistication of the network was aided by the US Consul in Santiago de Cuba, Park F. Wollam, one of Castro’s staunchest advocates in the US State Department. Through the efforts of Wollam and others at the consulate, parts and equipment for Radio Rebelde were secretly brought into Cuba and delivered to the rebels in the Sierra.

The viability and success of Radio Rebelde was made possible by the advanced and widespread use of telecommunications in Cuba in 1958. This provided an ample supply of radio equipment and operators, and a population where everyone had a radio. Contrary to Castro’s claims of pre-revolutionary backwardness, 1950s Cuba was far ahead of the region in technology adoption, including telecommunications.

Radio broadcasts on the island started in 1922 and expanded rapidly. By 1957 Cuba had 169 radios per 1,000 people–more than Japan and more than all Latin American countries except Uruguay. In 1957 Cuba had 160 radio stations–more than any other country in Latin America– ranking eighth in the world in number of radio stations, far ahead of all Latin American countries and more than double the number in Austria, France and the United Kingdom.

Barry Mishkind’s Broadcast Archive has a brief article on the History of Cuban Broadcasting by Manuel Alvarez.

Raul Castro Radio Rebelde 1958Radio Rebelde Station 1958
Raúl Castro broadcasting on Radio Rebelde, 1958. (photo: Latin American Studies collection)A Radio Rebelde station in 1958, Oriente Province, Cuba (photo: Latin American Studies collection)

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

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

1958: DR Opens Escambray Second Front

Cuba History Timeline Events
February 13, 1958
The DR (Directorio Revolucionario, Revolutionary Directorate) sketched out plans over the fall-winter of 1957 to expand its urban terror thrust by opening a guerrilla front in in the mountains of central Cuba (Las Villas province). In November, Eloy Gutiérrez Menoyo scouted out an area in the Escambray mountains that he declared the home of the new "Second Front" (13th of March Movement).

On 31 January an expeditionary force of 16 (including Faure Chomón) with a large quantity of arms for DR mountain and urban operations, left Miami in a small US-registered yacht, the Thor II. This vessel took them to Racoon Key off Cuba’s north coast, from where in smaller boats they landed near Nuevitas (Camagüey province) on 8 February. They broke up into small groups to reach the Escambray mountains (about 120 miles) with the aid of cadre supporters and new recruits.

On or about 13 February, the expeditionaries reached a camp in the Trinidad-Sancti Spíritus mountains, where a rendezvous had been arranged with their commanders Eloy Gutiérrez Menoyo and William Morgan (an American soldier of fortune) and their local guerrillas. Their first engagement was a few days later when they ambushed army troops they spotted. On 27 February they reached their new base of operations in the mountains. At the end of February they published their Escambray Manifesto.

The Escambray revolutionaries in the photo below included some of the early casualties of the revolution. William Morgan was executed by firing squad for treason in March 1961. Eloy Gutiérrez Menoyo went into exile and participated in anti-Castro operations, he was captured and imprisoned for treason and counter-revolution by Castro 1965-1986.

Escambray Guerillas 1958 Escambray guerrillas in 1958. (L to R) Nene Français, Eloy Gutiérrez Menoyo,
José García, Henry Fuerte, William Morgan (photo: Latin American Studies collection)

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

Monday, September 14, 2009

1958: Presidential candidate nominations

Cuba History Timeline Events
February 2, 1958
The nomination of Presidential candidates for the 1958 elections (then scheduled for June 1) took place over the weeks from the end of January through middle of February. On January 24, the Socialist-Democratic Coalition (Coalición Socialista-Democrática), an alliance joining four pro-Batista parties, announced it had begun a nominating process for the 1958 elections. Its constituent founders were the Progressive Action, Democratic, Liberal and Union Radical parties. Batista was named chairman of the coalition.

In mid-February the coalition nominated Andres Rivero Agüero as its presidential candidate. Guas Inclan (Batista’s VP) was initially nominated as Rivero Agüero’s running mate, but two days later he was replaced on the ticket by Gastón Godoy y Loret de Mola (Speaker of the House) when Inclan announced his candidacy for the mayoralty of Havana. On 25 January, the Auténtico party nominated Ramón Grau San Martín as its presidential candidate, and Antonio Lancis as his running mate.

On the 2nd of February, the new Free People's Party (Partido del Pueblo Libre) nominated Carlos Márquez-Sterling as its presidential candidate and Rodolfo Méndez Peñate as his running mate. During the nomination speech a pack of Castro hoodlums screaming “Death to the Elections!” launched a violent attack on the candidate and audience in the hall.

In its reporting of M-26-7 anti-election and industrial terror initiatives, the New York Times devoted a few lines to the Marquez-Sterling nomination and the attack by Castro’s thugs:
A group of youths invaded the national assembly of the Opposition Free People’s party today as it was preparing to nominate Dr. Carlos Marquez Sterling as Presidential candidate in the election scheduled June 1. Shouting “Viva Fidel Castro!” the youths threw the meeting into an uproar for fifteen minutes and then withdrew.

Señor Castro has repudiated any elections held under the Administration of President Batista.

From the Times report one is almost left with the impression of a small disturbance that was no more than a few nice college kids carried away by their exuberance, gate crashers impolitely shouting Fidel praises at meeting of his opponents, who voluntarily left after a few minutes. Reality was quite different. The nominee’s son, Manuel Marquez-Sterling (who was at the meeting) observed:
“Let me tell you it was scary. The gang Castro sent to show the seriousness of his death threats against those who participated in the elections were a menacing lot. Believe me, 50 years later I still shudder when I remember their faces. Their prison yard looks and demeanor were quite a contrast to the crowd in the convention hall. Throughout their rampage they kept screaming Death to the elections!, Death to Márquez-Sterling! (Mueran las elecciones, Muera Márquez-Sterling). A few times they shouted Viva Fidel Castro!

The marauding thugs left no doubt of their determination to draw Márquez-Sterling blood that day, if not from my father at least from my brother or me. My brother was in the middle of the maelstrom, I was shielded by one of my dad's friends, who dragged me to the periphery. The ruffians were relentless and could not be ejected. They were finally beaten back by the police who had to be called to stop their assault. Before they were forcibly removed. the police sergeant brought a few of them to my dad. He said they were known to the police for long criminal records. When the police searched them they found knives, brass knuckles and cachiporras (blackjacks). The sergeant insisted he knew them well and asked Dad if he would press charges. With his usual kindness my father declined to do so.

It was one of the worst moments of my life. From where I was I could not tell if they had murdered my father. When we got home that night we realized death had been closer than we knew, as we discovered knife marks left by the assailants all over the back of my father's jacket. All these years later, my stomach ties in knots remembering this. But we forge ahead.

With the typical brashness of youth I appointed myself to the advance team that pre-screened campaign appearance sites to check under the seats, and in nooks and cranies to make sure there were no bombs or other nasty surprises. Remember, these gangsters a few months later murdered Victor Vega's brother and several other candidates in cold blood. So you see, they gave us a preview of what was to come for Cuba.

This horrible experience deepened my compassion for the candidates and supporters that a few months later would withdraw from campaigning, when Castro gangs and enforcers came to their homes to threaten them and their families. And it deepened my admiration for those candidates and supporters who patriotically persevered, undeterred by Castro’s thugs.”

Once order was restored, Márquez-Sterling in his acceptance speech prophesied “the death of Cuba’s democracy if Fidel Castro takes over.” Márquez-Sterling also demanded that the government request UN-appointed poll observers for the 1958 elections. Batista acceded to the demands. Castro, in the mountains, declared his opposition to the UN or OAS observers because it was a foreign “intrusion” in Cuba’s internal affairs. The hypocrisy of Castro's posture was evident to all who realized at the same time he was aggressively lobbying (through Urrutia) to have the UN take action against the Batista government for human rights abuses.

While increasing attacks on the constitutionalists and their negotiations for electoral safeguards, Castro intensified and broadened his terrorist campaigns against economic interests. As the New York Times reported, in addition to the sugar crop he targeted disruption of tobacco factories and fields, public utilities, railroads and refineries. M-26-7 launched this new phase of its terror operations by burning down a Standard Oil (then Esso, now Exxon) refinery gasoline storage depot near Havana. The rebels boasted that “A month from today all Cuba will be in flames,” and announced their campaign would culminate in a general strike paralyzing the island.

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

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

1958: Castro Pledges Destruction of Sugar Crop

Cuba History Timeline Events
January 30, 1958
Cuba began the year with bright prospects economically and politically. A peaceful resolution of the political crisis was on the horizon with the coalescing of the electoralist opposition in the Manifesto of the Five, and Batista agreeing to step down and hold elections meeting the conditions demanded by the constitutionalist opposition. The economic prospects were exceptionally bright. As the New York Times reported, the economy was not significantly affected by the revolutionary violence, in fact national income rose by about 50% with solid indications of strong continued growth. Salaries and wages rose more than 10% in the first eight months of the year. Sugar was the core of that economic prosperity.

To Castro those good news were troubling. A political resolution and economic prosperity would put an end to his plans to establish a totalitarian regime. He responded by a two-pronged strategy: derailing the political compromise underway; and destroying the economy—ensuring the political crisis intensified and a new economic crisis was put in motion. To achieve the latter, he launched a campaign to destroy the sugar crop.

At the height of the sugar harvesting season Castro pledged to incinerate the entire crop. On 30 January, M-26-7 light single-engine aircraft dropped phosphorus bombs setting fire to cane fields of five large sugar mills in Camagüey Province. Those fires alone consumed on the order of 150 million punds of sugar. On 3 February, another aerial fire bombing targeted cane plantations of the Resuelta sugar mill at Sagua la Grande in Las Villas Province. The greatest number of attacks were in Oriente province.

In a LOOK magazine interview with Castro, Andrew St. George asked “You say you will burn Cuba's entire sugar crop. The island's economic life depends on it. What can you gain by this?” Castro replied: “Our intent is to burn the harvest to the last stalk, including my own family's large sugar-cane farm here in Oriente Province. It is a hard step. But it is a legitimate act of war. From sugar taxes, Batista buys bombs and arms, pays his newly doubled army. Only their bayonets now keep him in power.”

With the benefit of 50 years of hindsight, the St. George 1958 interview is enlightening reading, a clear record of the difference between the change that Castro promised and that he delivered in his first few months in power. This is even more so of the “first-person account” that St. George brought back by Fidel Castro “to state our aims and to correct the many errors and distortions circulating about our revolutionary struggle.” That story, titled Why We Fight, was published in the February 1958 issue of Coronet.

Castro and M-26-7 rebels at camp 1958 Castro and M-26-7 rebels at camp 1958 (photos: Andrew St. George/AP)

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

Monday, September 7, 2009

1958: Constitutional Rights restored

Cuba History Timeline Events
January 25, 1958
Coincident with the Granma invasion landing, the Batista government suspended constitutional rights on December 2, 1956 in four provinces: Oriente, Pinar del Río, Camagüey and Las Villas. The 1940 Constitution provided for such suspensions of rights by presidential decree, for a maximum of 45 days. Responding to a wave of terrorist incidents (resulting in 60 deaths in the preceding six weeks), on January 15, 1957 a suspension was announced for Havana and Matanzas the two provinces not covered by the earlier decree. These suspensions were rescinded on 25 February 1957, shortly before lapsing as 45 days expired.

Late in December 1957 another suspension was imposed (including press/media curbs), in response to increasing frequency and scale of terrorist acts. As the year before, revolutionary terrorists targeted celebrations as a time to stage multiple New Year’s Eve bombings in Havana. January terror included bombing of the Havana Aqueduct.

The suspension of constitutional rights (suspensión de garantias constitucionales) meant restrictions limiting protections afforded by enumerated articles in the constitutional Bill of Rights such as habeas corpus, freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures, free assembly and free speech.

Under pressure from the US (through Ambassador Smith) and domestic opposition parties, Batista restored the constitutional Bill of Rights on January 25, 1958. As the Times reported, this immediately took effect in all provinces except Oriente, where rights were restored on February 4.

The Batista regime faced a major challenge. Choosing to restrict civil liberties to exercise more aggressive surveillance, interrogation and detainment of revolutionary terrorists, allowed more control of the rising terrorism—but at great political expense. Alternatively, restoration of full constitutional rights invariably resulted in dramatic increase in revolutionary terrorist operations and strength. This can be glimpsed from the news coverage earlier mentioned New York Times coverage and in Time reporting on the rights restoration.

Another suspension was declared in March as the terrorist campaign to derail the elections intensified. Throughout 1958 Batista increasingly moved towards use of suspensions, culminating in a special decree in mid-May declaring a national state of emergency. Subsequent extensions of suspension of rights in 1958 were passed on 23 July (Decree 2418), 7 September (Decree 3023), and 22 October (Decree 3548). These decrees were published in Gaceta Oficial de la República de Cuba.

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

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Cuba History Timeline 1957 Events

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

For index of other Timeline Events click on the Timeline Events by Year link in the sidebar Timelines section.