Dr iwan suwandy,MHA
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Cuban Military and Diplomatic Issues
Cuban Air Force Planes; Information
Air and Air Defense Force (DAAFAR) are the primary agency handling planes and its flying and maintenance. Cuban air force owns many planes designed and manufactured by erstwhile Soviet Union and then Latin American countries. During 1980s, Cuba showed the air powers to countries in Africa with the help of Soviet Union. During this period Cuba dispatched many fighter planes to African countries such as Angola and Ethiopia to execute many aerial attacks on South Africa and Somalia respectively.
There are many aircrafts meant for attacking the enemies. These are L-39 and Mi-24. The Cuban air force has fighter planes such as MiG-21, MiG-23 and MiG-29, all of which are imported from Soviet Union. The Cuban air defense force has trainer planes such as L-39, which are being used extensively to train pilots of DAAFAR. The transport aircrafts the Cuban air force own include Mi-8, An-24 and MI-17.
Cuban Air force fighter planes which are in use include MiG-29UB. They had owned the Hawker Sea Fury, MiG-15, MiG-17, MiG-19, North American P-51 Mustang and North American B-25 Mitchell. It is estimated that at present Cuban air force has about 230 fixed wing aircrafts. There are thirteen military bases in Cuba. The Cuban air force planes are distributed and stationed at these stations. The exact picture of Cuban air force assets are not known to the open world.
A recent assessment in 2007 states that Cuban air force has 8000 personnel, 31 combat airplanes, and other 179 aircrafts. The 31 combat consist of 4 MiG-21s, 24 MiG-23s and 3 MiG-29s. Cuban air force planes also include transport aircrafts and helicopters for surveillance.
Defense specialists have different opinions on the strength and weakness of the Cuban air force and Cuban air force planes. Some believe that Cuban air force just possess bare minimum planes just enough to run the defense internally. The training facilities are also bare minimum. But some experts differ in this and believe that they have enough Cuban air force planes to tackle any internal and external threats.
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Birth of Air Transport in Cuba
On 17 May 1913, Domingo Rosillo piloted an airplane from Key West, Florida to Cuba securing the $10,000 award for being the first to accomplish the feat. This 90-mile crossing came just ten years after the Wright brothers’ historic and four years after Blériot’s famous English-Channel crossing of twenty-one miles. Cubans rallied behind the achievement. As the stamps in fig. 1 depict, however, Agustín Parlá, a Cuban-born pilot who crossed the Straits two days after Rosillo with just a simple compass (Rosillo preferred a naval escort) acquired the more lasting recognition.
In October 1919, the Compañía Aérea Cubana (C.A.C) was founded by Hannibal J. de Mesa. He purchased six Farman aircraft, which a French team brought to Cuba by ship. C.A.C. began a flying school with Farman F-40s; it did some sightseeing around Havana; carried out surveying and aerial photography; and started a small . The General Manager was Agustin Parlá.
The first Cuban service started in October 1920 and although this enterprise survived for only a few months, it opened the first regular schedule in the whole of Latin America. Two weeks earlier, a United States company had opened an air link between Havana and the United States. These were bold experiments in the embryo stage of an industry that had yet to identify its role in society.
Meanwhile, in 1920, the Cuban aviator, Jaime González, was to make the first air mail in Cuba (fig. 2a), and on 15 October 1920, in the United States, Florida West Indies Airways (F.W.I.A.) received the first Foreign Air Mail contract from the U.S. Post Office (fig 3, fig 4, fig 5). One month later, Aeromarine, which had purchased F.W.I.A., began regular service from Key West to Havana using Curtiss Type F5L flying boats.
On 30 October 1920, C.A.C. had started Cuban domestic services, with Farman F-60 Goliaths on a new route from Havana to Santiago de Cuba, via Cienfuegos/Santa Clara and Camagüey. But on January 1921, this service ended, because of economic in Cuba, caused by big sugar beet harvests in Europe. By 1 Nov. 1921, Aeromarine was operating two daily Curtiss F5L services from Key West to Havana. But after about two years, Aeromarine also ceased operations, because of financial losses.
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AKA Agustin Parlá Orduña
|THE COUNTY OF MONROE, STATE OF FLORIDA,
RENDERS THIS TRIBUTE TO
AGUSTIN PARLA ORDUÑA
BORN IN KEY WEST ON OCTOBER 11, 1887,
OF CUBAN PARENTS EXILED DURING THE STRUGGLE
FOR THEIR COUNTRY’S INDEPENDENCE,
WHO WAS THE FIRST MAN TO FLY THE 119 MILES OVER THE SEA FROM KEY WEST, FLORIDA,
TO EL MARIEL, CUBA, ON MAY 19, 1913
HONOR TO HIS MEMORY
JULY 4, 1957.
FUNDIDO EN LOS TALLERES DEL
INSTITUTO CIVICO MILITAR
CIUDAD ESCOLAR, CEIBA DEL AGUA
|FIRST DAY COVER|
Born October 10, 1887 – Died July 31, 1946
|PARLA FAMILY HISTORY
Furnished by Arely Guccione
Via Email, August 16, 2002 My name is Arely Guccione and Agustin Parla was my paternal grandfather. I am 37 years old and reside in West Palm Beach, Florida. I have a sister named Gracie and a twin brother named Jorge Parla. Jorge has two children named Jose Parla and Karina Parla. The last name Parla continues…..
I think Agustin Parla had two or three wives. Agustine’s wife (My dad’s mom) died of leukemia, so my dad ended up being taken care of by his aunt. I remember my dad telling me that he was only 5 or 6 when this happened. My dad because of this, I think, had a hard life. He was the nicest most easy going person you would ever want to meet. He married my mom Herminia and had us three kids.
In 1965 my mom and we came to the US. We were only 11 and 12 months old and my dad didn’t get to come with us because of Fidel Castro. We didn’t see our Dad until we were 5 years old and by then we had a stepdad. My dad went to Georgia and studied, got a degree and became a salesman.
He died in April of 1998 of a heart attack.
It was the best of times; Mid-century ,1950s…Your aunt, Miss Margarita Parla was a touring ballerina, she also came up with the idea of speaking or singing while dancing ballet .. The idea , then, was not well taken by the general public.(STILL ISN’T )
During a performance at the magnificent “Teatro del Sauto” in sophisticated Matanzas, Cuba ”Miss Parla was dancing Swan Lake and on the final scenes she loudly said :” I am like the Swan, when I sing, I die”…most of the audience rose to their feet and said: “let her sing , let her sing.” ( Que cante , que cante)
After the above, it was impossible to continue with the ballet because the audience had turned the affair into a circus type comedy and Miss Parla would have none of it…she exited furiously, but most of us went home laughing and felt highly entertained.
I do not know if Margarita Parla ever performed in Matanzas again; pity ,it would have been a sold out performance.
|AGUSTIN PARLA MEMORABILIA
Thank you for your attention to my grandfather’s history on your website. I am Jose Antonio Parla. Son of Jose Agustin Parla. I was born in Miami Florida in 1973 and now live in Brooklyn, NY. All my life my biggest dream was to visit Cuba and I finally went this Jaunary for the first time. There I met family I did not know existed on both sides of my family.
I visited the aeronatic museum where my grandfather Agustin Parla’s history is on display. Both of the award cups for his flight from Key West to Mariel and his Niagara cups are there. As well as his pilot belt and wallet. There are a few photos of him and all of his medals awarded to him are there as well. These were awarded by the Cuban goverment and the Gallego society and there are metals given to him as sponsorship from Bacardi when it was still in Santiago de Cuba.
On my trip to Habana I met an uncle by the name of Cecilio Martinez. My father and him were raised together. Martinez is the maiden name of my grandmother who was the wife of Agustin Parla the pilot. Cecilio handed me down letters , photos, albums, newspaper articles of Parla the pilot. At the museum in Habana there were letters written by Jose Marti adressed to my great grandparents who were exiled in Key West FL, and helped to raise money from their Tabacco, Cuban independence struggle.
Along in this email I send you a picture of an original commemorative document made in behalf of my grandfather. You are welcome to post it.
All my best,
|ONLINE RESOURCES – 1 If you search for “Agustin Parla” using the Google search engine, (9-24-03), you will find about 23 links.|
|Agustin Parlá Orduña
Cuban Aviation Pioneer, and First Cuban Pilot This page on Rubén Urribarres’ Cuban Aviation ,Aviación Cubana website offers some 14 biographies of important Cuban pioneer aviators, including Agustin Parlá Orduña, in English. To go directly to his story, click on the title above.
If time permits, and you want to know more about Cuban Aviation, you will be amply rewarded by going to the homepage and selecting several of the many sections such as: People, Articles etc.
Of special interest is a very nice article written by Rubén Urribarres entitled the Audacious Flight of Rosillo and Parlá. This version is in Spanish, but I will post a machine-translated article in English below for your convenience.
PARLA and ROSILLO MAKE the FLIGHT
Agustin Parlá has arrived at Key West with his hydroplane
and hopes to make the passage at the same time as Rosillo.
El Mundo Newspaper
11 of May of 1913 May 17, 1913, Domingo Rosillo and Agustin Parlá, pioneers of Cuban aviation, added their names to the history of aviation, by making the first international flight of aviation in Latin America. They established a world-wide distance record by flying their airplanes the 90 miles from Key West to Havana in 2 hours and 40 minutes. This record was snatched from nobody less than the famous French pilot and aeronautical designer, Luis Bleriot.
The aerial trip between Key West in the U.S.A. and Havana was considered to be extremely dangerous. North American aviator McCurdy had tried it without success in 1913 and the two Cubans would repeat his attempt in the hope of better luck.
The City Council of Havana decided to reward the feat: “Ten thousand pesos for whoever arrives first and five thousand for the second.”
The flight would depend on the support of three ships of the Cuban Navy: the “Patria”, which would be stationed at 45 miles from Havana, the “Hatuey” at 30 miles, and the “24 de Febrero” at 15 miles from the finish. A North American ship: the Auxiliary Gunboat “Peoria” also would cooperate to insure the security of the intrepid pilots.
When the first airplane took off from Havana, the battery of La Cabaña would fire two cannon shots to announce the start of the passage.
Nevertheless, the day of departure had not yet arrived. Rosillo had gone to Key West before Parlá and had it not been that the propeller of his Bleriot-XI monoplane had been broken during a test flight, one he made to please the Cuban immigrants who longed for a triumph, the flight would already have been attempted. He had to wait until a replacement propeller could arrive from Cuba. Parlá arrived in Key West in his Curtiss hydroplane, which was powered by an engine of 80 horsepower.
Parlá, in spite of his lack of experience, had the superiority of his apparatus to make a flight over the water in his favor. If it had to land unexpectedly on the ocean, at least it would be able to float. Anyway, Rosillo’s propeller was delayed even longer and although Parlá was ready for the flight, the conditions at the time were not favorable. It was known that Rosillo would bring a letter valise with him and an order to buy tobacco at the Gato factory. The tobacco industry would thus use aviation for its commercial operations for the first time. Finally, the long awaited propeller for the Bleriot monoplane arrived. Everything was ready for the 17th.
At the first light of dawn of that day, on the smallest of three signal masts of the Morro de La Habana, a red flag appeared: the public knew that it was the great day.
At 5:10 a.m., Rosillo departed. His airplane was baptized with the name of Habana and on the rudder was written, “Cuba.”
He flew for 2 hours, 30 minutes and 40 seconds. At that point, he ran out of gas. A strong crosswind had made him consume more fuel than he had anticipated.
After the trip was completed, he declared:
– My impressions of today? You have heard me speak of the storm under the skull?
“I began to see that the gasoline level was dropping in the indicating tube, at a rate faster than had been calculated. All around I could only see sea and sky. The machine performed perfectly; I saw the “Hatuey”, and passed it. The tank was almost empty, but finally I saw Cuba. I had arrived without a drop of gasoline in the tank. I couldn’t even make it to where I had planned to land, in the Polígono de Columbia. I had to land instead in el campo de tiro. The wind had made me use more fuel than I had planned. I had filled the tank with 50 liters, and on a lucky hunch, I had added 10 ounces more… “
Parlá, on the other hand, had left at 5:57 and by 6:01 he had to return: “I began the flight, but the apparatus did not respond properly. It would not let me compensate for the wind that blew. When I returned and inspected it, I found that two tension wires of the elevator were broken.” Rosillo was, without a doubt, the winner.
On the 19th, at 2:00 in the afternoon and without previous notification of his intentions, Parlá again went in search of his goal. He did not have support from the Navy. Unlike Rosillo, who preferred to fly escorted by ships, Parlá flew on his own. The news came as a surprise in Havana and the public prepared to receive the resolute aviatior. More than two hours had passed, still the Curtiss was not seen from el Morro. Had he perished? Was he floating somewhere of the Caribbean? Had he been blown off course by the wind, to who knows what place, and now he would fly without directions? everyone asked.
Soon the answer arrived: “aviator Agustin Parlá landed on the water in the bay of Mariel, at the risk of his life, at 4:30 today, May 19, 1913. Motor failure had prevented him from reaching Havana, but he is well and already has started off by automobile for the capital “.
Of the flight from Key West a reporter wrote, “… filled with limitless patriotism and a tenacious resolution, he embarked on the trial flight. As the town had followed it from start to finish, they finally learned that the aviator had moved steadily along the ideal course, the one that led to Cuba “.
The City Council of Havana awarded the second prize to Parlá, although, in truth, it was Cuba who won, as was affirmed: “its name is registered in the history of aviation and will be placed among the advanced countries due to their persistence to advance aviation up to the maximum limit”.
Revista Sendas. Year 2, number 10, 1998.
|AGUSTIN PARLA – CUBA This webpage on the Smithsonian Institution website offers a nice portrait, which can be enlarged, of Agustin Parla as a young man. You can access the site by clicking on the title above.|
|AIRPORT HISTORY FOR MONROE COUNTY, FL You will find a brief mention of his flight in 1913 in the “The Florida Keys Cybermuseum Transportation Room” page of the “-KEYS HISTOREUM-” website, Presented by the Historical Preservation Society of the Upper Keys. You may access the entry itself by clicking on the title above.
If time permits, you will want to enjoy the many other features which are available from the homepage. You can access it by clicking on the website title immediately above.
|JOHNNY GREEN AND SUNSHINE Johnny Green and the Curtiss flying boat “Sunshine”, which Cuban aviator Agustin Parla used, on May 29, 1919, to make the first commercial flight from Cuba to the United States of America. I do not know who the other person is, in the photo, but it appears that they are named in the description on its back,
“March 14, 1921, Seaplane “Sunshine”, Johnny Green, Aviator, From St. Petersburgh, Florida, Alida Blume”
|ONLINE RESOURCES – 2 On September 17, 2005, Rubén Urribarres alerted me to a very informative new website which offers some additional insight into Parla’s life and death. The article is in Spanish, but you can obtain an English translation by copying the URL and pasting it into the Babelfish program which is available from the Alta Vista website. The translation is a bit awkward, but I think you can make sense out of it and it does offer some information which is otherwise unavailable.|
EL PRIMER AVIADOR CUBANO
Josefina Ortega | La Habana If you read Spanish, you will enjoy this illustrated article to the fullest extent. If not, I suggest that you look at the photographs first and then obtain the machine-translation using Babelfish. You can access the page by clicking on the title above.
|Agustin Parla Agustin Parla, October 10, 1887-July 31, 1946, Cuban pioneer aviator, came to Curtiss at Hammondsport in 1911 to learn to fly. He learned and soloed at Miami in March of 1912.
Returning to the States the following year he purchased a Curtiss seaplane and planned to make the first flight between the United States and Cuba but Domingo Rosillo was two days ahead of him.
Parla took off from Key West and flew to Mariel Bay, near Havana, on May 19, 1913, but cracked up in alighting. The distance was approximately 90 miles and the time 2:55:00 but he received $5000 as a second prize.
He did not keep up his flying career but did continue to participate in aeronautic events. He represented Cuba at the Miami races in 1935 and spoke on behalf of the Cuban Senate in acknowledging greetings from the U. S. Secretary of State on the occasion of the 1936 Miami-Havana good will flight. State Secretary R. Walton Moore had commented on the Parla flight of 23 years before. Parla was then, 1936, Inspector General of Airports of Cuba, which post he held until recently. Parla was accepted for membership in the EBs in 1935.
Winston Churchill in Cuba
One of the most curious events in the Spanish-Cuban-American war was the presence of Winston Churchill (1895) much before the U.S. entry into the war. Churchill was gathering information as a military observer. There are even some who infer that the information on tactics and methods used by the Spanish was put to work in subsequent Boer War, and led to the eventual victory of the British forces in that South African War.
It is interesting to speculate that a much more complete military style copy of Churchill’s reports may exist somewhere in the vast archives of the British Empire, or in the private papers of his son
In support of this, one can infer tantalizing hints by Randolph, when he refers to his father Winston Churchill’s advice to him at the time of the Spanish Civil War so as not to appear to be a spy. In addition, it is noted below Winston Churchill at the time of his visit to Cuba was on a leave of absence from his regiment.
However, one should bear in mind what a knowledgeable source points out (for further details see Davis 1906): “Churchill’s visit to the front was typical of ambitious British (and German, Japanese, Russian, Turkish, and even American) military officers of the day. They got experience in seeing combat, and the resulting reports filed at home could help boost one’s chances of promotion. In many cases it was also lucrative in that the observers would also write articles for popular magazines. The American and Spanish armies were loaded with observers. At times, however, the observers were not necessarily welcomed by their own units, who had to stand the boring times (with the lack of promotion) at home, while the officers of means could get a leave of absence and go gallivanting.”
What we see below are accounts by a brilliant, but still very young, man who just turning twenty-one as yet does not fully understand the complexities of irregular war, nor the subtleties of Cuban politics and racial relations. For instance Churchill accepts the Spanish propaganda point that Antonio Maceo was a Black separatist, a while it is now clear that Maceo, not only was not completely black (he was mulatto), but was an avowed integrationist. The Spanish (e.g. Antonio Serra Ortiz, 1906) view of the war was of course quite different from the Cuban perspective (Jose Miro Argenter 1909). Whatever, South Africa, the Sudan, Gallapoli etc, will teach Churchill other lessons, and a great man will be forged.
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Timeline in Cuba History (1868-1961)
First war of Cuban independence. Also known as the Ten Years’ War.
and Valeriano Weyler
General Martínez Campos (left)
Usually credited with negotiating the Spanish “victory” over the mambises in the Ten-Year War (1868-78), Campos resigned his post as Captain General of Cuba after the rebel invasion of the western provinces in January 1896. He was replaced by General Valeriano Weyler y Nicolau.
General Valeriano Weyler y Nicolau (right)
Also known as “the butcher,” Weyler took over as Captain General of Cuba when General Campos resigned in early 1896. The Cuban war of independence was not going well for Spain, the rebels had just invaded Havana, and Antonio Maceo had made his way clear to Mantua, the westernmost point on the island.
Upon arriving in Havana on February 11 1896, Weyler’s first priority was the death of Maceo.
Unable to control the population’s support for the rebel forces, he instituted a policy of “re-concentration” in which Cubans were forced to move away from the country into fortified “towns.” This would prevent the rebels from receiving aide from the peasants
1868 October 10 ,
Revolutionaries under the leadership of Carlos Manuel de Céspedes proclaims Cuban independence.
Since 1980, Cubans have celebrated 20 October as National Culture Day, in evocation of a local date of warrior exaltation, the triumphal entry of the small Bayamo Liberation Army, centered around the planter Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, who on 10 October 1868 gave freedom to the slaves of his sugar mill and proclaimed the beginning of the struggle for the independence of Cuba.
As the colonial regiment commanded by Julian Udaeta surrendered before the cheering citizens, supporters of independence, Céspedes and his followers celebrated the victory in the Plaza of the Parish Church with a ceremony and a festive conga for the people.
At that time, Pedro Figueredo Cisneros distributed the verses of The Bayamesa, whose music and lyrics he had composed in the previous year with the help of his wife, the poet Isabel Vazquez, upon request of the illustrious Francisco Maceo Osorio, who later was the assistant Carlos Manuel de Cespedes along with Figueredo.
It has been said that amid the euphoria, the creator and Bayamese patriot improvised lyrics about his horse to sing in chorus for the first time, but the testimonies of his contemporaries reveal that music and the verses were known by many conspirators who had kept silent for their own safety. Perucho, they called Peter Figueredo, played the score at home to dozens of trusted friends and entrusted the orchestration of the piece to the maestro Manuel Muñoz Cedeño, who first performed it publicly in the main parish on the occasion of Corpus Christi, in the presence of the priest Diego José Baptista and the aforementioned Julian Udaeta, military governor of Bayamo, which faulted the instrumentalists for the subversive nature of the march.
The Bayamo Anthem, played on 20 October 1868 and published on 22 and 27 of that month and year in The Free Cuban, embedded itself in the minds of the independence fighters, who often sang it in combat or to start sessions of the House of Representatives, a sort of parliament in the jungle.
Although José Martí praised what happened on that October 20, 1868 and reproduced in Patria the stanzas of the Bayamo Anthem, in June 1892, and on January 21 and October 4, 1893, it was the Constituent Assembly in November 1900 which declared it a national symbol.
In October we commemorate other historic ephemera, such as the discovery of America – 12 October 1492 – and the arrival of Christopher Columbus on our shores days later, an event of great significance for the encounters of peoples and cultures, and international mobility that erupted between Europe and the so-called West Indies.
More than a fact of cultural consequence, the evocations of October 10 and 20, 1868, signals the warrior affinity of those who rule the island like those Captain Generals appointed by the Spanish overlords until 1898.
The story gallops in the memory of the people, but does not model the culture, it complements it. We will have to rewrite the story of war, unilateral and simplistic, that creates myths and masks the oppression. Today, as in 1868, the stanzas of the Bayamo Anthem, turned into the National Anthem, represent a dilemma of our reality, but no one calls to combat nor thinks about guns. Is it that we fear a “glorious death” or that we have gotten used to “living with shame and ignominy”?
1878 February 8,
Pact of Zanjón ends Ten Years’ War and ends uprising.
The Ten years war,
The First Conflict in a history of war’s that would lead to Spain giving up it’s rights in the America’s and else where.
It all started on October 10th, 1868 by a man named Carlos Manuel de Céspedes.
On that day he declared Cuban Independence from the Spanish empire with Grito de Yara. Picking up his rifle this small planter freed his slaves and set off to war. In the weeks to come he would lead thousands of men, badly armed in to battles with Spanish Forces.
Arsenio Martínez Campos with over 100,000 Spainish Soldiers, fought back against the Rebels. Leading his men in a series of battles that would define path of this war.
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During the first few days, the uprising almost failed. Céspedes intended to occupy the nearby town of Yara on October 11, from which this revolution is commemorated in Cuba as a national holiday under the name Grito de Yara (“Cry of Yara”). In spite of this defeat, the uprising of Yara was supported in various regions on Oriente and continued to spread throughout the eastern region of Cuba. On October 13, the rebels took eight towns in the province favouring enrolment and acquisition of arms. By the end of October, the insurrection had some 12,000 volunteers.
Máximo Gómez A Cuban Rebel Commander would teach them how to fight. Including teaching them there most lethal tactic the machete charge.
The machete charge was particularly lethal because it involved firearms as well. If the Spanish were caught on the march, the machetes would cut through their ranks. When the Spaniards (following then-standard tactics) formed a square, rifle fire from infantry under cover and pistol and carbine fire from charging cavalry would cause many losses
After a Series of bloody battles, The Spanish Army would put in to use a series of brutal Tactics. Including the Execution of Cuban Rebels and there supporters.
After 3 days of Combat in in October the city of Bayamo finally fell to rebel forces. 3 months later Spanish Forces would retake it.
On November 4, 1868, Camagüey rose up in arms and, in early February1869, Las Villas followed
After Series of Defeats
Gomez was replace by Former Confederate general Thomas Jordan.
General Jordan’s regular tactics, although initially effective, left the families of Cuban rebels far too vulnerable to the “ethnic cleansing” tactics of the ruthless Blas Villate.
|Soon After Thomas Jordan would leave and Gomez will come back to leading the Cuban Rebels.
On April 10, 1869, a constitutional assembly took place in the town of Guáimaro (Camagüey), with the purpose of providing the revolution with greater organizational and juridical unity and with representatives from the areas that had joined the uprising.
Céspedes was then elected, on April 12, 1869, as the first president of the Republic in Arms and General Manuel de Quesada (who had fought in Mexico under Benito Juárez during the French invasion of that country), as Chief of the Armed Forces.
After failing to reach an agreement with the insurrection forces in early 1869, the Spanish responded by unleashing a war of extermination. The colonial government passed several laws: all arrested leaders and collaborators would be executed on the spot, ships carrying weapons would be seized and all onboard immediately executed, males 15 and older caught outside of their plantations or places of residence without justification would be summarily executed, all towns were ordered to raise the white flag, otherwise burnt to the ground, any woman caught away from her farm or place of residence would be concentrated in cities.
October 31, 1873 the steamship Virginius was seize by the Spanish Military. Later known as the Virginius Affair
The serial executions were only stopped by the intervention of a British man-of-war under the command of Sir Lambton Lorraine.
Creciente de Valmaseda”, farmers (Guajiros), and the families of Mambises were killed or captured en masse and sent to concentration camps.
Activities in the Ten Years War peaked in the years 1872 and 1873, but after the death of Agramonte and destitution of Céspedes, Cuban operations were limited to the regions of Camagüey and Oriente. Gómez began an invasion of Western Cuba in 1875, but the vast majority of slaves and wealthy sugar producers in the region did not join the revolt. After his most trusted general, the American Henry Reeve, was killed in 1876, the invasion was over.
Spain’s efforts to fight were hindered by the civil war (Third Carlist War),that broke out in Spain in 1872. When the civil war ended in 1876, more Spanish troops were sent to Cuba until they numbered more than 250,000. The impact of the Spanish measures on the liberation forces was severe. Neither side in the war was able to win a single concrete victory, let alone crush the opposing side to win the war, but in the long run Spain gained the upper hand
Estrada Palma was captured by Spanish troops on October 19, 1877. As a result of successive misfortunes, on February 8, 1878, the constitutional organs of the Cuban government were dissolved and negotiations for peace were started in Zanjón, Puerto Príncipe.
General Arsenio Martínez Campos, in charge of applying the new policy, arrived in Cuba, but it took him almost two years to convince most of the rebels to accept the Pact of Zanjón on February 10, 1878, signed by a negotiating committee. The document contained most of the promises made by Spain. The Ten Years’ War came to an end
a ‘machete charge’
A second uprising (“The Little War”), engineered by Antonio Maceo and Calixto García, begins but is quelled by superior Spanish forces in autumn 1880.
1886 Slavery abolished
The Little War
This Little Conflict Rose out of the Ten Year War and would Bleed in to the The next war. Lead By Calixto Garcia, one of the few revolutionary leaders who did not sign the Pact of Zanjón.
With Little Battle test leaders and a lack of Ammonation and weapon and no Major Powers to support the cause. The War was quick and brutal with most of the revolutionary leaders were arrested. The rest of the leaders were forced to capitulate throughout 1879 and 1880, and by September 1880, the rebels had been completely defeated
1890 February, José Sánchez Gómez becomes provisional Governor of Cuba.
1895 23 February Mounting discontent culminated in a resumption of the Cuban revolution, under the leadership of the writer and patriot José Martí and General Máximo Gómez y Báez.
1895 May 19 José Martí killed in battle with Spanish troops at the Battle of Dos Ríos.
1895 September, Arsenio Martínez Campos is defeated at Peralejo and leaves Cuba in January next year.
1896 Successful invasion campaign along the length of the island by Cuban rebels led by Antonio Maceo, and Maximo Gomez; Winston Churchill fights on Spanish side at battle of Iguara ; Maceo is killed on return east 
1897 Calixto Garcia takes a series of strategic fort complexes in the East and the Spanish are essentially confined to coastal cities there.
1898 June 6–10th Invasion of Guantánamo Bay American and Cuban forces invade the strategically and commercially important area of Guantanamo Bay during the Spanish-American war.
1898 March 17, U.S. Senator, and former War Secretary Redfield Proctor protests against Spanish controlled concentration camps
1898 December 10, Treaty of Peace in Paris ends the Spanish-American War by which Spain relinquished sovereignty over Cuba.
1899 January 1, The Spanish colonial government withdraws and the last captain General Alfonso Jimenez Castellano hands over power to the North American Military Governor, General John Ruller Brooke.
1899 December 23 Leonard Wood becomes US Provisional Governor of Cuba
The Spainish American war
The eruption of Cuban revolt, Weyler’s disliked measures, and the popular fury these events whipped up proved to be a boon to the newspaper industry in New York City, where Joseph Pulitzer of the New York World and William Randolph Hearst of the New York Journal recognized the potential for great headlines and stories that would sell copies. Both covered Spain’s actions and Weyler’s tactics in a way that confirmed the extant popular disparaging attitude toward Spain in the U.S. In the minds, schoolbooks, and scholarship of the mostly Protestant U.S. public, the Catholic Spanish Empire was a backward, immoral union built on the backs of enslaved natives and funded with stolen gold.
The indignation — stirred up by feuding newspapers and predicated on a popular prejudice against Spain — did not alone move the U.S. closer to war. Seen from the western seaboard of the U.S., however, the view of the American Pacific was quite different. Nineteenth century American historiography was dominated by the notion of Manifest Destiny, the belief popularised by John O’Sullivan that the USA was destined to ‘overspread and to possess the whole of the continent’. The U.S. had important economic interests that were being harmed by the prolonged conflict. Shipping firms that relied heavily on trade with Cuba suffered huge losses as the conflict continued unresolved. These firms pressed Congress and McKinley to seek an end to the revolt. Other U.S. business concerns, specifically those who had invested in Cuban sugar, looked to the Spanish to restore order to the situation. Stability, not war, was the ultimate goal of both interests. How stability would be achieved would depend largely on the ability of Spain and the U.S. to work out their issues diplomatically.
President William McKinley, well aware of the political complexity surrounding the conflict, was predisposed to end the revolt peacefully. Threatening to consider recognizing Cuba’s belligerent status, and thus allowing the legal rearming of Cuban insurgents by U.S. firms, he sent Stewart L. Woodford to Madrid to negotiate an end to the conflict. With Práxedes Sagasta, an open advocate of Cuban autonomy, now Prime Minister of Spain (the more hard-line Cánovas del Castillo having been assassinated before Woodford arrived), negotiations went fairly smoothly. Cuban autonomy was set to begin on January 1, 1898
Eleven days after the Cuban autonomous government took power, a small riot erupted in Havana. The riot was thought to be ignited by Spanish officers who were offended by the persistent newspaper criticism of General Valeriano Weyler’s policies. McKinley sent the USS Maine to Havana
The need for the U.S. to send Maine to Havana had been anticipated for months, but the Spanish government was notified just 18 hours before its arrival, which was contrary to diplomatic convention. Preparations for the possible conflict started in October 1897, when President McKinley made arrangements for Maine to be deployed to Key West, Florida, as a part of a larger, global deployment of U.S. naval power to be able to attack simultaneously on several fronts if the war was not avoided. As Maine left Florida, a large part of the North Atlantic Squadron was moved to Key West and the Gulf of Mexico. Additionally, others were moved just off shore of Lisbon. And still others were moved to Hong Kong.
The Sinking of the USS MAINE
At 9:40 pm on February 15, Maine sank in the harbor after suffering a massive explosion. While McKinley preached patience, the news of the explosion and the death of 266 sailors stirred popular American opinion into demanding a swift belligerent response. McKinley requested that Congress appropriate 50 million dollars for defense, and Congress unanimously obliged. Most American leaders took the position that the cause of the explosion was unknown, but public attention was now riveted on the situation and Spain was unable to find a diplomatic solution to avoid war. It appealed to the European powers; all of whom advised Spain to back down and avoid war.
|War Declared and build up
Senator Redfield Proctor’s speech — delivered on March 17, 1898 — thoroughly analyzed the situation, concluding that war was the only answer. The speech helped provide one final push for the United States to declare war. Many in the business and religious communities, which had heretofore opposed war, switched sides, leaving McKinley and Speaker Reed almost alone in their resistance to a war. On April 11, McKinley ended his resistance and asked Congress for authority to send American troops to Cuba to end the civil war there, knowing that Congress would force a war.
President McKinley signed the joint resolution on April 20, 1898, and the ultimatum was forwarded to Spain. In response, Spain broke off diplomatic relations with the United States on April 21. On the same day, the U.S. navy began a blockade of Cuba. Spain declared war on April 23. On April 25, Congress declared that a state of war between the U.S. and Spain had existed since April 21, the day the blockade of Cuba had begun.
The Navy was ready, but the Army was not well-prepared for the war and made radical changes in plans and hurried purchases of supplies. In the spring of 1898, the strength of the U.S. Army was just 28,000 men. The Army wanted 50,000 new men but received over 220,000, through volunteers and the mobilization of state National Guard units.
A second uprising (“The Little War”), engineered by Antonio Maceo and Calixto García, begins but is quelled by superior Spanish forces in autumn 1880.
1886 Slavery abolished
1890 February, José Sánchez Gómez becomes provisional Governor of Cuba.
1895 23 February Mounting discontent culminated in a resumption of the Cuban revolution, under the leadership of the writer and patriot José Martí and General Máximo Gómez y Báez.
1895 May 19 José Martí killed in battle with Spanish troops at the Battle of Dos Ríos.
1895 September, Arsenio Martínez Campos is defeated at Peralejo and leaves Cuba in January next year.
1896 Successful invasion campaign along the length of the island by Cuban rebels led by Antonio Maceo, and Maximo Gomez; Winston Churchill fights on Spanish side at battle of Iguara ; Maceo is killed on return east 
1897 Calixto Garcia takes a series of strategic fort complexes in the East and the Spanish are essentially confined to coastal cities there.
1898 June 6–10th Invasion of Guantánamo Bay American and Cuban forces invade the strategically and commercially important area of Guantanamo Bay during the Spanish-American war.
1898 March 17, U.S. Senator, and former War Secretary Redfield Proctor protests against Spanish controlled concentration camps
1898 December 10, Treaty of Peace in Paris ends the Spanish-American War by which Spain relinquished sovereignty over Cuba.
1899 January 1, The Spanish colonial government withdraws and the last captain General Alfonso Jimenez Castellano hands over power to the North American Military Governor, General John Ruller Brooke.
1899 December 23 Leonard Wood becomes US Provisional Governor of Cuba
1901 March 2, Platt Amendment passed in the U.S. stipulating the conditions for the withdrawal of United States troops, assuring U.S. control over Cuban affairs.
1902 May 20 The Cuban republic is instituted under the presidency of Tomás Estrada Palma.
1906 September 29 Revolt against Tomás Estrada Palma successful. Peace negotiated by Frederick N. Funston, U.S. troops reoccupy Cuba under William Howard Taft.
1906 October 13 Charles Magoon becomes U.S. governor of Cuba
1909 January 28 Cuba returns to homerule. José Miguel Gómez of the Liberal Party becomes president.
1912 Separatist Black revolt is defeated in bloody campaign
1913 May 20 Mario García Menocal presidency begins.
1917 April 7 Cuba enters World War I on the side of the Allies. In Chambelona War Liberal Revolt is suppressed by Conservadores of Menocal
1921 May 20 Alfredo Zayas becomes president.
1925 May 20 Gerardo Machado becomes president. At uncertain date Fabio Grobart, a stalinist communist leader enters Cuba
1926 August 13 Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz born in the province of Holguín.
1928 June 14 Ernesto Guevara de la Serna (Che Guevara) born in Rosario, Argentina.
1928 January 10 Julio Antonio Mella a founder of the Stalinist Communist Party in Cuba is murdered in Mexico. Details are murky; Gerardo Machado agents blamed by some, Tina Modotti and Vittorio Vidale communist assassins blamed by others.
1931 August 10–14 Old Mambi warriors Carlos Mendieta and Mario García Menocal land forces at Rio Verde attempting to overthrow the now clearly dictatorial Gerardo Machado. They are defeated in actions that include first military aviation use in Cuba.
1933 August 12 Gerardo Machado, despite last minute support from the Communist Party, is forced to leave Cuba, by ABC and Antonio Guiteras Holmes resistance actions, a general strike, pressure from senior officers of Cuban Armed Forces and U.S. Ambassador Sumner Welles. Communist activity high and extends through rest of summer with establishment of ephemeral soviets in eastern provinces.
1933 September 4 “Sergeants’ Revolt” organized by a group including Fulgencio Batista topples provisional government.
1933 October 2 Batista loyal enlisted men and sergeants, plus radical elements, force Army Officers out of Hotel Nacional in heavy fighting. Some are murdered after surrender.
1933 November 9 Blas Hernández his followers and some ABC members make a stand in old Atarés Castle they are defeated by Batista loyalists in bloody battle and Blas Hernández is murdered on surrender.
1934 June 16, 17 1934 ABC demonstration Havana festival and march attacked by radical gunners including those of Antonio Guiteras with bombs and machine guns, numerous dead.
1935 May 8 Leading radical Antonio Guiteras is betrayed and dies fighting Batista forces.
1938 September Communist party legalized again.
1939 after August 23 Fabio Grobart publicly justifies Ribbentrop-Molotov pact.
1941 May 8, 1941 Sandalio Junco, a Communist labor leader who defected to Trotskyism, is murdered by Stalin Loyalists.
1941 December Cuban government declares war on Germany, Japan, and Italy.
1943 Soviet embassy opened in Havana.
Revolution and Socialist Cuba
1951 May 15 Eduardo Chibás, leader of the Ortodoxo party and mentor of Fidel Castro commits suicide on live radio.
1952 March Former president Batista, supported by the army, seizes power.
1953 July 26 Some 160 revolutionaries under the command of Fidel Castro launch an attack on the Moncada barracks in Santiago de Cuba. Communists at meeting in Santiago arrested, Fabio Grobart said to have attended, but not listed in arrest records,
1953 October 16 Fidel Castro makes “History Will Absolve Me” speech in his own defense against the charges brought on him after the attack on the Moncada Barracks.
1954 September Che Guevara arrives in Mexico City.
1954 November Batista dissolves parliament and is elected constitutional president without opposition.
1955 May Fidel and surviving members of his movement are released from prison under an amnesty from Batista.
1955 June Brothers Fidel and Raúl Castro are introduced to Che Guevara in Mexico City.
1956 April 29 Autentico Assault on Goicuria Barracks, in Matanzas attackers are ts including Raúl Castro, Che Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos, executes informers and sets sail from Mexico for Cuba on the yacht Granma.
1956 December 2 Granma lands in Oriente Province.
1957 January 17, Castro’s guerrillas score their first success by sacking an army outpost on the south coast, and start gaining followers in both Cuba and abroad.
1957 March 13, University students mount an attack on the Presidential Palace in Havana. Batista forewarned. Attackers mostly killed, others flee and are betrayed.
1957 May 28 1957, Castro’s 26 July movement, heavily reinforced by Frank Pais Militia, overwhelm an army post in El Uvero.
1957 July 19 Autentico landing in the “Corynthia,” led by Calixto Sánchez White in north Oriente, at Cabonico Batista is forewarned and then guided by agents, almost all 27 killed.
1957 July 30 Cuban revolutionary Frank País is killed in the streets of Santiago de Cuba by police while campaigning for the overthrow of Batista government.
1957 September 5 Naval revolt at Cienfuegos is crushed by forces loyal to Batista.
1958 February Raúl Castro takes leadership of about 500 pre-existing Escopeteros guerrillas and opens a front in the Sierra de Cristal on Oriente’s north coast.
1958 March 13 U.S. suspends shipments of arms to Batista’s forces.
1958 March 17 Castro calls for a general revolt.
1958 April 9 A general strike, organized by the 26th of July movement, is partially observed.
1958 May Batista sends an army of 10,000 into the Sierra Maestra to destroy Castro’s 300 armed guerrillas (supported by uncounted escopeteros). By August, the rebels had defeated the army’s advance and captured a huge amount of arms.
1958 November 1 A Cubana aircraft en route from Miami to Havana is hijacked by militants but crashes. The hijackers were trying to land at Sierra Cristal in Eastern Cuba to deliver weapons to Raúl Castro’s rebels. It is the first of what was to become many Cuba-U.S. hijackings.
1958 November 20 to November 30 Key position at Guisa is taken, and in the following month most cities in Oriente fall to Rebel Hands.
1958 December Guevara, William Alexander Morgan and non-communist Directorio Forces attack Santa Clara.
1958 December 28 Rebels seize Santa Clara.
1958 December 31 Camilo Cienfuegos leads revolutionary guerrillas to victory in Yaguajay, Huber Matos Enters Santiago.
1959 January 1 President Batista resigns and flees the country. Fidel Castro’s column enters Santiago de Cuba. Raul Castro starts mass executions of captured military. Diverse urban rebels, mainly Directorio, seize Havana
1959 January 2 Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos arrive in Havana.
1959 January 5 Manuel Urrutia named President of Cuba
1959 January 8 Fidel Castro arrives at Havana, speaks to crowds at Camp Columbia.
1959 February 16 Fidel Castro becomes Premier of Cuba.
1959 March Fabio Grobart is present at a series of meetings with Castro brothers, Guevara and Valdes at Cojimar
1959 April 20 Fidel Castro speaks at Princeton University, New Jersey.
1959 May 17 The Cuban government enacts the Agrarian Reform Law which limits land 1,000 acres (4.0 km2) ranches or less if other agricultural land, no payment is made.
1959 July 17 Osvaldo Dorticós Torrado becomes President of Cuba, replacing Manuel Urrutia forced to resign by Fidel Castro. Dorticós serves until 2 December 1976
1959 October 28 Plane carrying Camilo Cienfuegos disappears during a night from Camagüey to Havana. He is presumed dead.
1959 December 11, Trial of revolutionary Huber Matos begins. Matos is found guilty of “treason and sedition”.
1960 March 4, the freighter La Coubre a 4,310-ton French vessel carrying 76 tons of Belgian munitions explodes while it began unloading in Havana harbor.
1960 March 17, U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower orders CIA director Allen Dulles to train Cuban exiles for a covert invasion of Cuba.
1960 July 5 All U.S. businesses and commercial property in Cuba is nationalized at the direction of the Cuban government.
1960 October 19, U.S. imposes embargo prohibiting all exports to Cuba except foodstuffs and medical supplies.
1960 October 31, nationalization of all U.S. property is completed.
1960 December 26, Operation Peter Pan (Operación Pedro Pan) begins, an operation transporting 14,000 children of parents opposed to the new government. The scheme continues until U.S. airports are closed to Cuban during 1962.
1961 January 1, Cuban government initiates national literacy scheme.
1961 “March” former rebel comandante Humberto Sorí Marin and Catholic leaders shot.
1961 April 15, Bay of Pigs invasion.
1961 US Trade embargo on Cuba.
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Spanish-American War in Cuba
Cuba Struggle for Independence (1868-1898)
and then (Washington Post published), starts the “Splendid Little” War . What follows are some benchmarks along the way:
Jan. 1, 1898 — In an effort to defuse the insurrection, Spain gives Cubans limited political autonomy.
Jan. 12 — Spaniards in Cuba riot against autonomy given to Cubans.
Jan. 25 — USS Maine arrives in Havana Harbor to protect American interests.
March 28 — Naval Court of Inquiry says Maine destroyed by a mine.
April 11 — President William McKinley asks Congress for declaration of war.
April 25 — State of war exists between United States and Spain.
June 10 — U.S. Marines land at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
July 1 — Battles of El Caney and San Juan Hill in Cuba result in American victories and instant national acclaim for Lt. Col. Theodore Roosevelt, the former Navy Department official and future president who leads the Rough Riders at San Juan Heights.
July 3 — Spain’s Atlantic fleet, having sought refuge in the harbor of Santiago, Cuba, attempts to escape and is destroyed by American naval forces.
July 6 — Congress, caught up in expansionist fever fed by the war, votes to annex Hawaii, which has nothing to do with Spain.
July 14 — Santiago surrenders. Yellow fever breaks out among American troops the next day.
July 25 — U.S. Army invades Puerto Rico.
July 26 — Spain asks for peace.
Aug. 6 — Spain accepts American terms for peace.
Aug. 12 — Truce is signed with Spain.
Oct. 1 — Peace negotiations with Spain commence in Paris.
Dec. 10, 1898 — War ends, officially, with signing of the Treaty of Paris (With no Cuban Representative present). United States pays Spain $20 million for Philippines. Spain also cedes Puerto Rico and Guam and agrees to renounce sovereignty over Cuba.
In 1902, the U.S. declares Cuba independent, keeps naval base and the right to intervene in internal and foreign affairs (EmmPlatt).
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Bernabe Varona y Borrero
Cuban patriot. Born in 1845 in Camagüey and died in 1873 in Santiago de Cuba.
In his hometown took part in the work that gave rise to conspiracy in the region uprising against the colonial power in November 1868 and was one of the first to take up arms to join the patriots of Bayamo. Noted for his courage and determination, he was appointed chief of the bodyguard of President Carlos Manuel de Cespedes.
In May 1869 he was responsible for the burning of Guaimaro city where a month earlier had been agreed the first Constitution of the Republic in arms, and whose defense was impossible because of powerful siege to the Spanish forces. In June of that year he participated in the attack on Las Tunas. He fought in Las Minas and mares, and was among the attackers of Fort St. Joseph. In 1869 he rescued, head of fourteen men, a Cuban family that was driven toward prisoner Camaguey, a Spanish column of more than three hundred members.
In April 1871 he was sent abroad with a mission to organize expeditions to support the insurrection.
On 23 October 1873, the Virginius sailed from Kingston, Jamaica with a large number of Cuban insurgents (102 according to our count). The ship sailed to Jeremie on the island of Haiti and from there to Port-au-Prince, where 300 Remingtons and 300,000 cartridges were loaded on-board. From Port-au-Prince the Virginius went to Comito, where 800 daggers, 800 machetes, a barrel of powder and a case of was loaded. The steamer, which at this time was leaking, headed for Cuba, but never reached shore. About six miles from land, with the hills of Guantanamo in sight, the Virginius was intercepted by the Spanish warship Tornado, under the command of Captain Dionisio Costilla (the Tornado, coincidentally had been built at the same Scottish shipyard for the Chilean navy and had been captured by a Spanish frigate during the Pacific War between Chile and Peru and incoporated into the Spanish Armada under the same name) .
The Virginius then turned course to Jamaica and an 8-hour sea chase ensued. During this chase, guns and equipment were dumped overboard to lighten ship, but the poor physical condition of the ship and engines caused Captain Fry to stop and surrender the ship barely 6 miles from the Jamaican coast on 31 October 1873 (some reports indicate that the ship was already within British territorial waters).
The Virginius was towed by the Tornado to Santiago de Cuba harbor and arrived on 1 November 1873. On board were a total of 165 persons (154 according to our count), including the ship’s crew and an expeditionary force intending to aid the Cuban revolutionary cause. In charge of the expedition was the General Bernabe Varona y Borrero, seized by the colonial authorities, was one of the fifty-three men were shot on that occasion.
In the Santa Efigenia cemetery of Santiago de Cuba there is a small rectangular pantheon, with a royal palm in each of its corners, where the victims of the Virginius are buried. There is a plaque in memory of the victims.
Marti made reference to his heroism in the note “Bernabe Varona’s mother,” published in Patria , on January 26, 1895.
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The CIA’s Man at the Bay of Pigs.
The three days of futile bloodshed haunted the both of them — the CIA spook and the commander in chief he despised, John F. Kennedy.
”We both had scores to settle with Castro,” the old, bullet-scarred commando recalls from his home in Tampa. ”But I wasn’t haunted in the same way that Kennedy was. I had nothing to feel guilty about.”
Such is Grayston L. Lynch’s way of explaining his long, strange bond to a flawed president and a lost cause that began 37 years ago with the bloody, tragic, history-altering Bay of Pigs invasion and continued until 1967 in more than 2,000 secret CIA raids on Cuba from Miami.
Lynch was our man on Cuba’s Playa Giron beach on April 16, 1961 — the white, ”Tex-Mex”-speaking CIA agent who fired the first shot of the Bay of Pigs assault and then took desperate, unofficial command of the doomed force of 1,500 Cuban volunteers, most of them Miami exiles, recruited and trained — then disavowed — by the Kennedy administration.
Sunday, at age 75, Lynch returns to Miami with a new book that vents bitterness and disillusionment, but celebrates the bravery of his comrades in arms, about 75 of whom died, and 1,250 of whom were captured and imprisoned.
Many of them are now prominent and successful Americans — including Miami’s former state Rep. Luis Morse, House Speaker pro tempore, then in command of the supply ship Houston. Lynch describes Morse’s desperate beaching of the Houston in the Bay of Pigs after Cuban warplanes blew a 10-foot hole in its stern.
Lynch hasn’t seen any of the survivors of the 2506 Assault Brigade in years, but the Cuban volunteers who made up the force regard him as ”one of the big warriors of this country,” says Jose Dausa of the 2506 Brigade Association in Miami.
In his book, Decision for Disaster: Betrayal at the Bay of Pigs (Brassey’s, $24.95), Lynch returns the compliment: ”The only heartening observation . . . was that the brigade had fought magnificently. Outnumbered in every battle by at least twenty to one, it had inflicted heavy casualties on Castro’s forces at a rate of fifty to one.”
Much about the Bay of Pigs debacle — a three-day battle that failed after President Kennedy canceled air support and disavowed American involvement — already has been told in other books.
But the mere fact that Lynch is alive and intact to tell his bullet-whizzing, ground-zero tale, which he wrote more than 20 years ago and only now has published, seems miraculous.
He carries wounds from World War II’s D-Day Normandy invasion, from the Battle of the Bulge, and from Heartbreak Ridge in Korea. He served with the Special Forces in Laos. After the Bay of Pigs disaster until 1967, Lynch directed 2,126 clandestine CIA assaults on Cuba out of Miami, directly participating in 113 of them.
This week, Lynch said he never worked with Luis Posada Carriles, whom The New York Times recently identified as a Miami-based bomber financed by the late to conduct raids against Cuba in the mid-1960s.
But Lynch himself ducked ”a thousand” Cuban bullets from 1960 to 1967, and eventually adopted a custom of the Cuban exiles he commanded — he wore a Catholic Virgin de Cobre medallion around his neck to keep him from harm. ”There must have been something to it,” he now laughs.
Must have been. In his 1979 book, Bay of Pigs, author Peter Wyden describes Lynch as a real-life lethal weapon who ”moved well and cursed sparingly . . . Hollywood could not have cast a better personality. [Lynch] suggested what the operation needed most: indestructibility.”
Lynch is the surviving half of a two-man, non-Cuban CIA team which the Kennedy administration attached to the Brigade. The other agent, William ”Rip” Robertson, died in 1973 of malaria in Laos.
Both agents, vaguely assigned to the 2506 Brigade as ”troubleshooters,” ended up going ashore and fighting. Gray accompanied a night team of frogmen to Playa Giron and actually started the battle by firing on a Cuban jeep that directed its headlights at the frogmen as they rafted in. (They learned later that the militia members in the jeep thought they were lost fishermen.)
After returning to his supply ship, the Blagar, Gray later shot down two Cuban warplanes and, in Wyden’s words, ”became the closest thing to an on-the-spot military commander that the Cuban operation ever had.”
So chaotic was the battle that at one point, when one of the Brigade’s supply ships was destroyed by Cuban attack planes, some believed that Armageddon itself beckoned.
”The Rio Escondido exploded in a huge, mushroom-shaped fireball. . . . At this moment, I received an urgent call from Rip up at Red Beach. . . . ”Gray!” Rip said. ”What the hell was that?” I told him that the Rio Escondido had been hit and had exploded. ”My God, Gray! For a moment, I thought Fidel had the A-bomb!”
Lynch asserts that Cuban ground defenses ”were kind of like a mob, coming at us in open trucks while we blasted away,” and the invasion would have wildly succeeded if not for the aerial bombardment.
The bombings caused panic aboard the remaining supply ships, mostly operated by civilian crews, which fled to sea, and left the Brigade without ammunition.
Lynch includes this last dispatch from Brigade commander Jose ”Pepe” San Ramon:
”Tanks closing in on Blue Beach from north and east. They are firing directly at our headquarters. Fighting on beach. Send all available aircraft now!”
”I can’t wait any longer. I am destroying my radio now.”
All of this tragedy Lynch attributes to Kennedy’s last-minute decision to cancel air strikes, fearful of widening U.S. involvement.
”This may have been the politically proper way to fight a war, according to the rules laid down by the ‘armchair generals’ of Camelot,” Lynch writes, ”but we called it murder.”
The one honorable U.S. aspect of the failed invasion, he says, was the Navy’s full-scale effort afterward to rescue survivors.
He describes this scene:
”The search planes reported a survivor sitting under a mangrove tree, slowly waving a white cloth on the end of stick . . . He’d been drinking salt water and could neither stand nor talk . . .
”Slowly, drop by drop, we were trying to get water into him . . . Finally, he was able to form a few words.
”I asked what the man had said. Turning to me with tears in his eyes, [frogman Amado] Cantillo said, ‘He wants to know if we won.’ ”
Despite Lynch’s contempt for Kennedy, the agent believes Kennedy’s subsequent secret campaign against Castro — which brought to Miami the largest CIA contingent outside of Langley, Md. — was devastatingly successful and would have toppled Castro if not for Kennedy’s assassination in 1963. He plans to publish a second book about those Miami years, tentatively titled The CIA’s Secret War on Cuba.
Sunday he’s looking forward to signing books for any Brigade veterans who come to his reading — men he last knew only as ”brave boys who had never before fired a shot in anger.”
But Miami, he says, is as close to Cuba as he ever wants to get — even if he outlives Castro, which he’s not betting on. ”I’ve already seen Cuba,” he says.
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Searching for “Che” Guevara ‘Dead or Alive’ (1 of 3)
In early 1965, the CIA began to hear whisperings of Che’s plan to export the Castro Revolution — he considered it Cuba’s duty to encourage other “national liberation movements” around the world. CIA officials immediately put Gustavo Villoldo and other Cuban Americans on the scent.
This is the CIA agent who hunted Che.
It was Villoldo who hounded him from the Caribbean to Africa to Latin America to avenge his father’s death and fight Castro’s brand of communism.
Villoldo crossed a river in the dead of night to infiltrate the leftist side of a bloody civil war in the Dominican Republic to check out rumors that Che was there. The Argentine was nowhere to be found.
He led a group of Cuban-American CIA agents into the Congo later that year, just missing Che as he escaped to neighboring Tanzania with 120 other Cubans after the government squashed rebel forces.
“We had him identified there and were there for 28 days, but all was lost for Che already, and he escaped,” said Villoldo. “A few more days and we might have closed in on him.”
His CIA orders were to locate Che, Villoldo recalled, “but my intention was to get him, dead or alive.”
Che went into hiding for months after the Congo, licking the wounds to his fighting psyche and searching for another country where he could try his hand at subversion. After discussions with Castro, he settled on Bolivia.
Che lasted barely 12 months in the jungles of Bolivia, the first eight in hiding while preparing his guerrilla campaign, the last four running from a battalion of Bolivian Army Rangers, trained by U.S. Army Green Berets and advised by a team of three Cuban exiles working for the CIA. A CIA official who directed the Bolivia mission has confirmed that Villoldo was the “lead agent in the field.”
Two of the three CIA men, radio operator Felix Rodriguez and urban police adviser Julio Garcia, later were featured in books that gave their own, sometimes embellished stories on the hunt for Che.
But the team’s leader, Villoldo, has kept his version of events to himself, until now.
Villoldo carried Bolivian army credentials identifying him as Capt. Eduardo Gonzalez. He wore Bolivian army fatigues and was so discreet that several Bolivian officers who worked with him for several weeks never realized he was a CIA man.
Among his tasks: evaluating information from the interrogation of French socialist Regis Debray, who had written a glowing book on the Castro guerrillas’ ideology. Debray had been captured after visiting Che in the Bolivian jungles.
In an ugly dispute that continues to this day, Che’s family has accused Debray of betraying him. Debray denies it. Said Villoldo, using Cuban slang for someone who confesses all: “He talked through his elbows.”
Che, 39, was wounded and captured during a jungle firefight on Oct. 8, 1967. He was executed by two Bolivian Rangers the next day in the mud-brick schoolhouse in the village of La Higuera, on orders from Bolivia’s military dictator, Rene Barrientos.
Che’s corpse was strapped to the skids of an army helicopter on Oct. 9 and flown to the nearby farm town of Vallegrande, where the Rangers tracking Che had set up a base near an airstrip. The body was displayed for peasants and journalists for the next 24 hours, on a stretcher placed atop a cement washstand in the laundry room of Our Lord of Malta Hospital, really a lean-to attached to the back of the hospital. And then it disappeared for 30 years.
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Searching for “Che” Guevara ‘Dead or Alive’ (2 of 3)
Gary Prado, the captain who commanded the Ranger company that captured Che, and who later rose to the rank of general, insisted for years that the body had been cremated and the ashes scattered. Others whispered that it was thrown from a helicopter into the deepest jungle, or fed to wild dogs.
But then in late 1995, retired Bolivian Gen. Mario Vargas told American author John Lee Anderson, who was writing a Che biography, that the body had been buried near the Vallegrande airstrip. Vargas later admitted he had based his story on hearsay — which happened, ironically, to be correct.
Suddenly, the little town of 8,000 people was awash in Cuban forensic anthropologists and geologists. They managed to locate five remains, only a fraction of the 32 guerrillas, including Bolivian and Peruvian leftists and Cuban Sierra Maestra veterans, killed in the area in 1967 and buried in unmarked graves.
But for the next 16 months there was no sign of Che’s body. And Che, for all the Cubans’ talk of the importance of giving proper funerals to all of the dead guerrillas, was the real prize.
And then this spring, Gustavo Villoldo surfaced and made a bombshell offer.
In an April 23 message clandestinely delivered to Che’s daughter Aleida, a Castro supporter living in Havana, Villoldo offered to personally dig up Che’s remains and turn them over to her for humanitarian reasons.
Villoldo wrote that only two years earlier, he had believed that Che’s body should remain hidden. But several factors, he added, had led him to “a profound reconsideration.”
“I have not renounced the personal, ideological and political principles that drove me to fight against Ernesto `Che’ Guevara,” he wrote Aleida. “But in the same way the United States wants back its dead in Korea and Vietnam, Guevara’s widow and children have the right to demand his body.”
He set two conditions:
No politics or propaganda, because he did not want to expose himself to attacks by exiles in Miami who might begrudge his decision to cooperate. “I am a political exile and live in a very difficult society of exiles, loaded with multiple pressures.”
And he wanted sole control over all publicity proceeds. Any profits derived from the fanfare almost certain to erupt, he said, should be donated to scholarships for Bolivian medical students.
Villoldo now acknowledges he had another concern in mind: Since it was likely that Che’s bones would eventually be recovered — after all, the Cubans were digging in the correct area — injecting himself into the excavations would take the edge off Castro’s likely triumph. “There were still politics and propaganda involved, and I still did not want Castro to capitalize completely on this,” he said.
Cuban officials would later charge that Villoldo was only trying to throw the search off-track, and would attack his demand to control all publicity as a crass effort to capture the limelight and cash in on Che’s bones.
But Villoldo’s offer in fact unleashed a race for the remains between the Cubans, Villoldo and even Bolivians who wanted to keep Che’s grave in Vallegrande as a tourism draw and political memorial.
“I was told Fidel pitched a fit because he could not allow the gusano [exile worm] who advised the Bolivian army in the hunt for Che, and the man who he knew had buried Che, to be the man who returned him to Cuba.”
Meanwhile, Vallegrande municipal officials declared Che’s remains a “national patrimony” and slapped a moratorium on digging until mid-June. Then the town started promoting a “Che’s Route” walking tour at $70 per day and planning a museum.
Loyola Guzman, who as a young woman was treasurer of the Bolivian Marxist faction that followed Che into the jungles, argued that if Che gave his life for Bolivia, his remains rightly belonged under Bolivian soil. “His life was an example of heroic internationalism that no single country should monopolize,” said Guzman, now a human-rights campaigner.
Villoldo meanwhile had hired a South Florida firm whose ground-search radar could locate Che’s burial site in case Villoldo’s memory failed him, contacted a book agent and negotiated with a three-man TV crew in Miami to record his search.
He denies that he wanted publicity for himself. “I wanted history to know exactly how things happened,” he said.
Villoldo had made reservations on a June 26 from Miami to Bolivia, and after much lobbying, won permission to search from Bolivian Human Resources Minister Franklin Anaya, a former ambassador in Havana and author of a sympathetic book on Cuba who was acting as the Bolivian liaison with the Cuban anthropologists. “I had my bags packed,” said Villoldo.
Media accounts later alleged that Anaya and Bolivian President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada had made a deal with Castro to favor the Cuban team.
The accounts could not be confirmed, but Anaya suddenly canceled Villoldo’s plane reservations. Villoldo appealed to President Sanchez de Lozada and was again cleared to fly to Bolivia. But Bolivian friends counseled him to stay in Miami, Villoldo said.
“My friends told me that Castro knew of my planned arrival, and that there was some possibility the Cubans would take some action against me,” Villoldo said. “Based on the warning . . . I decided to wait and see what happened.”
What happened was a Cuban dash to find the body.
Just 18 days after Villoldo’s letter reached Aleida Guevara, and one day after the municipal ban on digging ended, the Cubans launched a search for Che’s remains with an intensity unseen in the previous 16 months of digging. They worked from sunup to sundown, virtually nonstop. They were in such a hurry, they used the one excavation tool considered anathema by all experts in their field — a bulldozer.
By June 27, a Cuban team led by Jorge Gonzalez, head of the Havana Institute of Legal Medicine, had dug several test trenches and pits in the area described by Gen. Vargas, but came up empty-handed. Time was running out.
President Sanchez de Lozada’s government had ordered all digging stopped on June 28, apparently because of the June 2 election of a new Bolivian president, Hugo Banzer. A former military dictator in the 1970s, Banzer is known to have little liking for Che, Castro or Cuba. Sanchez de Lozada might have correctly presumed his actions might come under unsympathetic examination by his successor.
Indeed, Banzer, sworn into office in August, has vowed to investigate his predecessor’s role in helping Cuba dig up Che’s remains, and to investigate press reports that Anaya might personally profit from the publicity rights to the excavation story.
The Cuban diggers met until 4 o’clock the morning of June 28 to decide where to focus their last day of digging, recalled Alejandro Inchaurregui, one of a team of Argentine Forensic Anthropologists called in to help the Cubans.
What are believed to be the long-lost bones of Che rest on an examining table at a small hospital in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, on July 8 of this year.
Ground radar surveys conducted by the Cuban-Argentine search team in early 1997 had revealed a dozen spots of disturbed earth that could be secret grave sites — or maybe displaced rocks or fallen trees. Of these, three in particular had all the characteristics of being man-made. This is where they set to work. With a bulldozer.
In the first spot, they set the bulldozer blade to scrape away four inches of dirt with each pass. Nearly two hours later, they hit rock and no sign of any bones. They moved on to spot No. 2.
Eighteen scrapes of the bulldozer later, almost exactly six feet down, the blade uncovered and broke parts of a human skeleton.
What the Cubans had found were seven bodies, in two groups of three and four, separated by 2 1/2 feet, buried in a pit wedged between Vallegrande’s old dirt airstrip to the north and the nearby cemetery to the south.
Jubilation erupted when the second body was uncovered, the middle one in the group of three, and was found to have no hands. Che’s hands were amputated after his death as proof of his demise.
But Che’s remains still had to be officially identified by Bolivian government officials so that they could be released and flown to Cuba.
“Ministry of Interior people were telling us to move fast. As the inauguration of Banzer approached, the screws tightened,” said Inchaurregui.
And so in the dead of night on July 5, a convoy of 10 vehicles made a five-hour, 150-mile dash at breakneck speeds along treacherous mountain roads to transfer the remains to the provincial capital of Santa Cruz.
There, the handless remains were quickly identified. The excavated teeth perfectly matched a plaster mold of Che’s teeth made in Havana before he left for the Congo so that he could be identified if he died in combat.
And there was a clincher, revealed to Tropic by Jaime Nino de Guzman, who had been a Bolivian army major and helicopter pilot in 1967, and who had seen Che alive as a captive in La Higuera as he flew officers and supplies in and out.
Che looked dreadful, Nino de Guzman recalled last month from his home in La Paz. He was shot through the right calf, his hair was matted with dirt, his were shredded, and his feet were covered in rough leather sheaths. But Che held his head high, looked everyone straight in the eyes and asked only for something to smoke. Seldom seen without a Cuban cigar in hand after Castro triumphed, Che had switched to a pipe for the guerrilla war.
“I took pity, he looked so terrible, and gave him my small bag of imported tobacco for his pipe. He smiled and thanked me,” the pilot recalled in a telephone interview.
Thirty years later, Inchaurregui said, he was inspecting a blue jacket dug up next to the handless remains when he found a tiny inside pocket, almost hidden and apparently missed by the soldiers who searched Che’s body. Tucked away inside was a small bag of pipe tobacco.
“I must tell you I had serious doubts at the beginning. I thought the Cubans would just find any old bones and call it Che,” said Nino de Guzman. “But after hearing about the tobacco pouch, I have no doubts.”
Neither do most others familiar with the search.
“Just seeing the genuine excitement, the genuine euphoria on the face of the Cubans there makes me certain this was Che’s remains,” said John Lee Anderson, the American author. Anderson witnessed the final stages of the dig. “They were simply overcome, crying and hugging each other.”
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Searching for “Che” Guevara ‘Dead or Alive’ (3 of 3)
Recovering Che’s remains was a propaganda triumph for Castro, whose ideology has all but keeled over since the collapse of the Soviet Bloc.
Che was, literally, the poster boy for the Cuban Revolution. He was an asthmatic, Argentine-born physician who joined Castro in the war against the Batista dictatorship, then rejected Soviet orthodoxy, and gave his life trying to export an ideology that he regarded as more humanitarian than communist. A 17-ton, five-story steel profile of Che covers the facade of the Interior Ministry headquarters in Havana’s Revolution Plaza. It is a frequent backdrop to Fidel’s most important speeches, a virtual logo of the Cuban capital.
To this day Che remains a worldwide icon for radical change, his many political and economic blunders and guerrilla defeats mostly forgotten and largely overshadowed by his huge cultural impact. His romantic image, amplified by his early death and unorthodox communism, allowed his appeal to transcend ideological lines.
A 17-ton, five-story steel profile of Che covers the facade of the Interior Ministry headquarters in Havana’s Revolution Plaza. It is a frequent backdrop to Fidel’s most important speeches, a virtual logo of the Cuban capital.
“Che has become a universal, multigenerational symbol of the ’60s, like the Beatles, a man sufficiently political to capture the politics of the times in a broad sense without getting bogged down in the whole Cold War issue,” said Jorge Castaneda, a Mexican who authored one of three Che biographies published this year. But Che’s story is all about money, too. Cuba bought 10,000 Swiss-made Swatch watches carrying Che’s beret-clad and bearded visage and sold them in Havana boutiques. Former Culture Minister Armando Hart authored a multimedia CD-ROM on Che, priced at $60.
Havana music historian Santiago Felu has put together an anthology of 135 songs about Che, to go on sale in October. Felu said the songs will include traditional Cuban rhythms as well as rock and blues, and some whose lyrics are “critical of those who have misused and vulgarized Che’s image.”
Perhaps he means the Cuban street peddlers who offer tourists Che’s image on everything from wood carvings to hammered leather, and even dried sea grape leaves inscribed with some of his famous sayings.
It’s doubtful he means the key chains, posters and T-shirts with Che’s image always sold in Cuban government shops at $6 to $10 a pop.
Cuba drew the line on commercializing Che’s image last year, going after a British brewer that briefly manufactured a “Che” beer carrying his image and the captivating slogan, “Banned in the U.S. It must be good.”
Of course certain Che artifacts — the authentic ones, like rusty old rifles, rucksacks and yellowed photographs found in Bolivia and quietly brought back to Cuba by Cuban agents for years — cannot be mass produced. But they can still be exploited.
That applies especially to the ultimate Che artifact: his long-lost bones.
A Final Enigma
Even Gustavo Villoldo, who hunted Guevara all over the world, now acknowledges that these are probably Che’s remains. “Although I initially doubted it, all the evidence points to that,” he said after reviewing the evidence.
Yet another mystery remains, for the grave where the Cubans found seven remains does not match in significant details the grave where Villoldo says he buried Che and two other guerrillas.
“I cannot explain that at all,” he said. “That was the single most important moment in my life, and I can remember the details as though they are happening right now, right here. And they just don’t match.”
Villoldo heard of Che’s capture while he was in the Ranger’s advance command post in a nearby town. Villoldo rushed to Vallegrande, arriving on Oct. 9, just two hours before the helicopter with Che’s body landed at a dirt airstrip jammed with hundreds of journalists and curious townspeople.
“I never saw him alive, but I had no interest in that or in talking to him,” he said. “It was never personal to me, even though the fact that Che had contributed to my dad’s death was always in the back of my mind. It was just a job.”
The following day, Oct. 10, the top Bolivian military commanders and Villoldo gathered in the restaurant of Vallegrande’s lone hotel, the two-story Hotel Teresita, to discuss how to dispose of Che’s body, he recalled.
As in Che’s exhumation 30 years later, it was a race against the clock: The army officials had received word that some of Che’s relatives were on their way to Vallegrande to claim the body.
But both the Bolivians and Villoldo wanted to “disappear” it.
“We thought it was important to dispose of it in utmost security to deny Castro the bones and the possibility of building some sort of monument that he could exploit both ideologically and commercially,” recalled Villoldo.
Someone suggested cremating it, Villoldo said, but he argued that in the absence of a true crematorium in Vallegrande, “all we would be doing would be holding a barbecue. I told them that they had written a pretty page in the history of the Bolivian army, and that they should not end that way.”
Army commanders eventually settled on amputating the hands for future identification and then burying the body in secret. Army Chief Gen. Alfredo Ovando assigned Villoldo to carry out the decisions. Villoldo was photographed by Bolivian journalists looking over the shoulders of the two doctors who performed a quick autopsy of the corpse and later — after the journalists were gone — amputated its hands.
That’s when Villoldo clipped a lock of Che’s scraggly hair, at least initially for a U.S. Green Beret who had asked him for a keepsake. But, he ruefully acknowledged, he did keep a few strands.
“I don’t even recall if I cut it with a knife or scissors. I was not interested and I had no intention to keep it. I am not that kind of person. But in time, I figured, well . . .” He still has it, though he has never shown it in public.
Villoldo said he was provided with a security guard, a driver for a truck to transport the body and a second driver for the bulldozer that would bury it.
He took a nap, awoke at about 1:45 a.m., and went to the hospital laundry room. Che’s body was laid atop a laundry basin. On the dirt floor, a couple of feet away, were the rapidly decomposing corpses of two other rebels.
It’s the same scene described by helicopter pilot Nino de Guzman and by Alberto Suazo, who in 1967, as a young reporter for United Press International, saw Che’s corpse in the hospital. But Suazo recalled seeing “another three or four guerrilla corpses” laid out somewhere in the patio behind the hospital, which is consistent with Guzman’s account of flying in seven corpses.
Villoldo insists he saw only Che’s and two other bodies.
He ordered his helpers to load the three corpses on the truck. They drove to the airstrip in total darkness until he saw a likely spot near the walled Vallegrande cemetery, Villoldo recalled. He told the driver to stop.
The spot was south of the airstrip and west of the cemetery, in an area where a bulldozer had already been working nearby so that a fresh grave would not be apparent, Villoldo says.
But the mass grave dug up by the Cubans was north of the cemetery.
Villoldo says that while he sent one of his men to get the bulldozer, he took compass readings and paced off distances from four points that would allow him to find the exact spot again. He wrote nothing down, he says, but committed the measurements to memory.
Then they backed the truck to the edge of a natural in the ground and unloaded the three corpses. Villoldo ordered the bulldozer driver to cover them up.
Both Villoldo and the bulldozer driver, who still lives in Vallegrande and was interviewed by Inchaurregui, recall that it began to rain toward the end of the burial.
The bulldozer driver said he did not remember exactly how many bodies he buried or whether the site was north or west of the cemetery. He cannot even say for certain that Che was among the bodies, Inchaurregui told Tropic.
Inchaurregui said he believes Villoldo is lying or mistaken about burying only three bodies. “He obviously has political considerations for saying what he says. I am not surprised that after 30 years he would still be trying to lead everyone astray,” the Argentine said.
Villoldo’s CIA supervisor for the Bolivia mission, now retired in North Florida but still speaking only on condition of anonymity, said this: “Gus does not exaggerate. I would believe him if he says he buried three.”
So how about those seven remains? Who were ‘Willy’ Simon Cuba Sarabia who helped Che when he was wounded in the Quebrada de Yuro. Others were Orlando Tamayo “Antonio’; Aniceto Reynago Gordillo “Aniceto”; Rene Martinez Tamayo; Alberto Fernández Moises de Oca “Pacho” and Juan Pablo Chang Navarro.
Could the truck or bulldozer drivers have buried the other four guerrillas earlier in the day and then led an unwitting Villoldo to the same spot to bury Che and the two others?
“No way. I told them where to go, where to stop. I picked the spot all by myself,” Villoldo said.
Could the drivers have buried the other four bodies in the same spot as Che and the two others the next day, perhaps returning to where they had left the bulldozer after the rains came?
Not likely, said Inchaurregui. The pattern of digging marks in the pit from which the seven bodies were excavated indicated that a bulldozer had dug it with back-and-forth passes — not simply moved dirt atop bodies in a natural as Villoldo described.
Analysis of dirt hardness also showed the grave had one common floor of hard-packed dirt under all the bodies, and that all the seven bodies had been covered with the same dirt at the same time, Inchaurregui added.
“It looks to me like one opening and one closing of the grave. It’s seven bodies, not three. That’s the empirical evidence,” the anthropologist concluded.
Could Villoldo, by a zillion-to-one coincidence, have buried the three bodies in the same natural where some Bolivian army officer had earlier simply dumped four unburied corpses?
“I looked down into that and saw nothing,” said Villoldo. “I buried and covered three bodies. I know that for sure. I never saw seven bodies, I never even knew of seven bodies until much later.”
Today, a reduced team of Cubans working at a slower pace remains in Vallegrande, looking for some 23 more guerrilla corpses believed buried in unmarked graves around the region.
Still missing is the body of the second most notorious guerrilla: Tamara Bunker, a pretty, young Argentine of German descent code-named Tanya, a reputed KGB agent.
Villoldo remains determined to fly to Bolivia to visit the site where the handless remains were dug up and compare it to the compass bearings and distances he recorded the night he buried Che.
In the meantime, Villoldo tends his farm, pores over large scale maps of Vallegrande, re-reads his books on Che and tries to figure out how it’s possible to bury three bodies and dig up seven.
“Maybe you can headline this story Che: The End of the Myth,” he suggested.
But perhaps it is only the beginning of another.
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First US Intervention in Cuba
During the War in 1897, the Cuban Liberation Army maintained a privileged position in Camagüey and Oriente, where the Spanish only controlled a few cities. Spanish liberal leader Praxedes Sagasta admitted in May 1897: “After having sent 200,000 men and shed so much blood, we don’t own more land on the island than what our soldiers are stepping on”. The rebel force of 3,000 defeated the Spanish in various encounters, such as the battle of La Reforma and the surrender of Las Tunas on 30 August, and the Spaniards were kept on the defensive. Las Tunas had been guarded by over 1,000 well-armed and well-supplied men.
As stipulated at the Jimaguayú Assembly two years earlier, a second Constituent Assembly met in La Yaya, Camagüey, on 10 October 1897. The newly-adopted constitution decreed that a military command be subordinated to civilian rule. The government was confirmed, naming Bartolomé Masó as president and Dr. Domingo Méndez Capote vice as president.
Madrid decided to change its policy toward Cuba, replacing Weyler, drawing up a colonial constitution for Cuba and Puerto Rico, and installing a new government in Havana. But with half the country out of its control, and the other half in arms, the new government was powerless and rejected by the rebels.
The Maine incident
The Cuban struggle for independence had captured the American imagination for years and newspapers had been agitating for intervention with sensational stories of Spanish atrocities against the native Cuban population, intentionally sensationalized and exaggerated. Americans believed that Cuba’s battle with Spain resembled America’s Revolutionary War. This continued even after Spain replaced Weyler and changed its policies and American public opinion was very much in favour of intervening in favour of the Cubans.
In January 1898, a riot by Cuban Spanish loyalists against the new autonomous government broke out in Havana leading to the destruction of the printing presses of four local newspapers for publishing articles critical of Spanish Army atrocities. The US Consul-General cabled Washington with fears for the lives of Americans living in Havana. In response the battleship USS Maine was sent to Havana in the last week of January. On 15 February 1898 the Maine was rocked by an explosion, killing 268 of the crew and sinking the ship in the harbour. The cause of the explosion has not been clearly established to this day. In an attempt to appease the US the colonial government took two steps that had been demanded by President William McKinley: it ended the forced relocation and offered negotiations with the independence fighters. But the truce was rejected by the rebels.
The Spanish-American War – the Cuban theatre
The explosion of the Maine sparked a wave of indignation in the US. Newspaper owners such as William R. Hearst leapt to the conclusion that Spanish officials in Cuba were to blame, and they widely publicized the conspiracy although Spain could have had no interest in getting the US involved in the conflict. Yellow journalism fuelled American anger by publishing “atrocities” committed by Spain in Cuba. Hearst, when informed by Frederic Remington, whom he had hired to furnish illustrations for his newspaper, that conditions in Cuba were not bad enough to warrant hostilities, allegedly replied, “You furnish the pictures and I’ll furnish the war.” McKinley, Speaker of the House Thomas Brackett Reed, and the business community opposed the growing public demand for war, which was lashed to fury by yellow journalism. The American cry of the hour became, Remember the Maine, To Hell with Spain!
The decisive event was probably the speech of Senator Redfield Proctor delivered on 17 March, analyzing the situation and concluding that war was the only answer. The business and religious communities switched sides, leaving McKinley and Reed almost alone in their opposition to the war. “Faced with a revved up, war-ready population, and all the editorial encouragement the two competitors could muster, the US jumped at the opportunity to get involved and showcase its new steam-powered Navy”. On 11 April McKinley asked Congress for authority to send American troops to Cuba for the purpose of ending the civil war there. On 19 April Congress passed joint resolutions (by a vote of 311 to 6 in the House and 42 to 35 in the Senate) supporting Cuban independence and disclaiming any intention to annex Cuba, demanding Spanish withdrawal, and authorizing the president to use as much military force as he thought necessary to help Cuban patriots gain independence from Spain. This was adopted by resolution of Congress and included from Senator Henry Teller the Teller Amendment, which passed unanimously, stipulating that “the island of Cuba is, and by right should be, free and independent”. The amendment disclaimed any intention on the part of the US to exercise jurisdiction or control over Cuba for other than pacification reasons, and confirmed that the armed forces would be removed once the war is over. Senate and Congress passed the amendment on 19 April, McKinley signed the joint resolution on 20 April and the ultimatum was forwarded to Spain. War was declared on 20/21 April 1898.
“It’s been suggested that a major reason for the US war against Spain was the fierce competition emerging between Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World and William Randolph Hearst’s New York Journal.” Joseph E. Wisan wrote in an essay titled “The Cuban Crisis As Reflected In The New York Press”, published in “American Imperialism” in 1898: “In the opinion of the writer, the Spanish-American War would not have occurred had not the appearance of Hearst in New York journalism precipitated a bitter battle for newspaper circulation.” It has also been argued that the main reason the U.S. entered the war was the failed secret attempt, in 1896, to purchase Cuba from a weaker, war-depleted Spain.
Propaganda of the Spanish American War
Hostilities started hours after the declaration of war when a US contingent under Admiral William T. Sampson blockaded several Cuban ports. The Americans decided to invade Cuba and to start in Oriente where the Cubans had almost absolute control and were able to co-operate, for example, by establishing a beachhead and protecting the US landing in Daiquiri. The first US objective was to capture the city of Santiago de Cuba in order to destroy Linares’ army and Cervera’s fleet. To reach Santiago they had to pass through concentrated Spanish defences in the San Juan Hills and a small town in El Caney. Between 22 and 24 June the Americans landed under General William R. Shafter at Daiquirí and Siboney, east of Santiago, and established a base. The port of Santiago became the main target of naval operations. The US fleet attacking Santiago needed shelter from the summer hurricane season. Thus nearby Guantánamo Bay with its excellent harbour was chosen for this purpose and attacked on 6 June (1898 invasion of Guantánamo Bay). The Battle of Santiago de Cuba, on 3 July 1898, was the largest naval engagement during the Spanish-American War resulting in the destruction of the Spanish Caribbean Squadron (Flota de Ultramar).
Resistance in Santiago consolidated around Fort Canosa, all the while major battles between Spaniards and Americans took place at Las Guasimas (Battle of Las Guasimas) on 24 June El Caney Battle of El Caney and San Juan Hill Battle of San Juan Hill on 1 July 1898 outside of Santiago  after which the American advance ground to a halt. Spanish troops successfully defended Fort Canosa, allowing them to stabilize their line and bar the entry to Santiago. The Americans and Cubans forcibly began a bloody, strangling siege of the city which eventually surrendered on 16 July after the defeat of the Spanish Caribbean Squadron. Thus, Oriente was under control of Americans and the Cubans, but US General Nelson A. Miles would not allow Cuban troops to enter Santiago, claiming that he wanted to prevent clashes between Cubans and Spaniards. Thus, Cuban General Calixto Carcía, head of the mambi forces in the Eastern department, ordered his troops to hold their respective areas and resigned, writing a letter of protest to General Shafter.
After losing the Philippines and Puerto Rico, which had also been invaded by the US, and with no hope of holding on to Cuba, Spain sued for peace on 17 July 1898. On 12 August the US and Spain signed a protocol of Peace in which Spain agreed to relinquish all claim of sovereignty over and title of Cuba. On 10 December 1898 the US and Spain signed the Treaty of Paris, recognizing Cuban independence Although the Cubans had participated in the liberation efforts, the US prevented Cuba from participating in the Paris peace talks and signing the treaty. The treaty set no time limit for US occupation and the Isle of Pines was excluded from Cuba. Although the treaty officially granted Cuba’s independence, US General William R. Shafter refused to allow Cuban General Calixto García and his rebel forces to participate in the surrender ceremonies in Santiago de Cuba.
The first US occupation and the Platt amendment
After the Spanish troops left the island in December 1898, the government of Cuba was handed over to the United States on 1 January 1899. The first governor was General John R. Brooke. Unlike Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines, the United States did not annex Cuba because of the restrictions imposed in the Teller Amendment. The US administration was undecided on Cuba’s future status. Once it had been pried away from the Spaniards it was to be assured that it moved and remained in the US sphere. How this was to be achieved was a matter of intense discussion and annexation was an option, not only on the mainland but also in Cuba. McKinley spoke about the links that should exist between the two nations.
Brooke set up a civilian government, placed US governors in seven newly created departments, and named civilian governors for the provinces as well as mayors and representatives for the municipalities. Many Spanish colonial government officials were kept in their posts. The population were ordered to disarm and, ignoring the Mambi Army, Brooke created the Rural Guard and municipal police corps at the service of the occupation forces. Cuba’s judicial powers and courts remained legally based on the codes of the Spanish government. Tomás Estrada Palma, Martí’s successor as delegate of the Cuban Revolutionary Party, dissolved the party a few days after the signing of the Paris Treaty in December 1898, claiming that the objectives of the party had been met. The revolutionary Assembly of Representatives was also dissolved. Thus, the three representative institutions of the national liberation movement disappeared.
Before the US officially took over the government, it had already begun cutting tariffs on US goods entering Cuba without granting the same rights to Cuban goods going to the US. Government payments had to be made in US dollars. In spite of the Foraker Amendment, prohibiting the US occupation government from granting privileges and concessions to US investors, the Cuban economy, facilitated by the occupation government, was soon dominated by US capital. The growth of US sugar estates was so quick that in 1905 nearly 10% of Cuba’s total land area belonged to US citizens. By 1902 US companies controlled 80% of Cuba’s ore exports and owned most of the sugar and cigarette factories.
The US Army also began a massive public health program to fight endemic diseases, mainly yellow fever, and an education system was organized at all levels, increasing the number of primary schools fourfold.
Elections and independence
Voices soon began to be heard, demanding a Constituent Assembly. In December 1899 the US War Secretary assured that the occupation was temporary, that municipal elections would be held, that a Constituent Assembly would be set up, followed by general elections and that sovereignty would be handed to Cubans. Brooke was replaced by General Leonard Wood to oversee the transition. Parties were created, including the Cuban National Party, the Federal Republican Party of Las Villas, the Republican Party of Havana and the Democratic Union Party. The first elections for mayors, treasurers and attorneys of the country’s 110 municipalities for a one-year-term took place on 16 June 1900 but balloting was limited to literate Cubans older than 21 and with properties worth more than 250 US dollars. Only members of the dissolved Liberation Army were exempt from these conditions. Thus, the number of about 418,000 male citizens over 21 was reduced to about 151,000. 360,000 women were totally excluded. The same elections were held one year later, again for a one-year-term.
Elections for 31 delegates to a Constituent Assembly were held on 15 September 1900 with the same balloting restrictions. In all three elections, pro-independence candidates, including a large number of mambi delegates, won overwhelming majorities. The Constitution was drawn up from November 1900 to February 1901 and then passed by the Assembly. It established a republican form of government, proclaimed internationally-recognized individual rights and liberties, freedom of religion, separation between church and state, and described the composition, structure and functions of state powers.
On 2 March 1901, the US Congress passed the Army Appropriations Act, stipulating the conditions for the withdrawal of United States troops remaining in Cuba following the Spanish-American War. As a rider, this act included the Platt Amendment, which defined the terms of Cuban-US relations until 1934. It replaced the earlier Teller Amendment. The amendment provided for a number of rules heavily infringing on Cuba’s sovereignty:
Cuba would not transfer Cuban land to any power other than the United States.
Cuba would contract no foreign debt without guarantees that the interest could be served from ordinary revenues.
The right to US intervention in Cuban affairs and military occupation when the US authorities considered that the life, properties and rights of US citizens were in danger.
Cuba was prohibited from negotiating treaties with any country other than the United States “which will impair or to impair the independence of Cuba”.
Cuba was prohibited to “permit any foreign power or powers to obtain … lodgement in or control over any portion” of Cuba.
The Isle of Pines (now called Isla de la Juventud) was deemed outside the boundaries of Cuba until the title to it was adjusted in a future treaty.
The sale or lease to the United States of “lands necessary for coaling or naval stations at certain specified points to be agreed upon.” The amendment ceded to the United States the naval base in Cuba (Guantánamo Bay) and granted the right to use a number of other naval bases as coal stations.
As a precondition to Cuba’s independence, the US demanded that this amendment be approved fully and without changes by the Constituent Assembly as an appendix to the new constitution. Faced with this alternative, the appendix was approved, after heated debate, by a margin of 4 votes. Governor Wood admitted: “Little or no independence had been left to Cuba with the Platt Amendment and the only thing appropriate was to seek annexation”.
In the presidential elections of 31 December 1901, Tomás Estrada Palma, a US citizen still living in the United States, was the only candidate. His adversary, General Bartolomé Masó, withdrew his candidacy in protest against US favoritism and the manipulation of the political machine by Palma’s followers. Palma was elected to be the Republic’s first President, although he only returned to Cuba four months after the election. The US occupation officially ended when Palma took office on 20 May 1902.
Cuba in the early 20th century
In 1902, the United States handed over control to a Cuban government that as a condition of the transfer had included in its constitution provisions implementing the requirements of the Platt Amendment, which among other things gave the United States the right to intervene militarily in Cuba. Havana and Varadero became popular tourist resorts. The Cuban population gradually enacted civil rights anti-discrimination legislation that ordered minimum employment quotas for Cubans.
President Tomás Estrada Palma was elected in 1902, and Cuba was declared independent, though Guantanamo Bay was leased to the United States as part of the Platt Amendment. The status of the Isle of Pines as Cuban territory was left undefined until 1925 when the United States finally recognized Cuban sovereignty over the island. Estrada Palma, a frugal man, governed successfully for his four year term; yet when he tried to extend his time in office, a revolt ensued. In 1906, the United States representative William Howard Taft, notably with the personal diplomacy of Frederick Funston, negotiated an end of the successful revolt led by able young general Enrique Loynaz del Castillo, who had served under Antonio Maceo in the final war of independence. Estrada Palma resigned. The United States Governor Charles Magoon assumed temporary control until 1909.
Source: Wiki/ USHispWAR/InternetPhotos/YouTube/TheCubanHistory.com
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First Hand Account of Bay of Pigs Invasion (US Records)
FIRST HAND ACCOUNT
[Reference: Dade County OCB file #153-D]
DATE: May 29, 1961
TO: THOMAS J. KELLY, Metropolitan Sheriff
FROM: LT. FRANK KAPPEL, Supervisor, Criminal Intelligence
SUBJECT: CUBAN COUNTER-REVOLUTIONARY ACTIVITIES –
Additional Information – ULISES CARBO
Reference is made to the report under the same case number dated May 21, 1961 in which the initial contact with the delegation of ten Cuban prisoners was related. The prisoners arrived in Miami on May 20, 1961 to negotiate an offer made by FIDEL CASTRO to exchange the captured invaders of Bahia de Cochinos for 500 tractors.
The leader of the group, ULISES CARBO, a personal acquaintance of the writer, related several episodes of the invasion in addition to information concerning the treatment of the captives by the Communist regime of Cuba.
ULISES CARBO was aboard the transport “Houston” when the invasion force sailed from Puerto Cabezas toward the Bahia de Cochinos landing beaches. Just prior to departure, the ranking officers aboard the transport had a strong argument with a C.I.A. agent known as “Jerry” about the feasibility and need for anti aircraft protection. As a result, eight .50 caliber machine guns were installed on the “Houston”. The “Houston” was the slowest vessel in the convoy, her speed being only eight knots. This caused an earlier departure from Puerto Cabezas and by consequence a longer stay at sea.
The “Houston” was carried two battalions plus fuel and ammunition. The troops were supposed to be transferred to waiting L.C.I.’s which, in turn, would land them to the selected beach.
When the transport reached the rendezvous point at the inner tip of the Bay of Cochinos, the L.C.I.’s failed to materialize and consequently t he troops had to be landed by outboard launches which were to be used only for beach patrol duty.
At approximately 2 a.m. when the “Houston” approached the objective, it became necessary to lower the patrol launches and lifeboats to land the troops. In contrast with orders of strict silence to be observed by the troops, the lowering of the boats was a noisy operation. It is the opinion of CARBO that the militiamen ashore were alerted by the noise of the steam operated davits when they put the small boats overboard. CARBO related an incident of a man who dropped a clip on deck and was immediately placed under arrest while almost immediately afterwards, the noisy davits were put in operation.
As a consequence of the lack of appropriate landing means, the disembarking of the personnel, which was originally planned to take only one and one and a half hours, took such a long time to accomplish, that at daylight only half of the personnel had reached shore.
With daylight the “Houston” came under constant attack by enemy aircraft. As a consequence all landing operations had to be halted after an attempt to land a party of eight men ended with the death of five as the strafing aircraft singled the small craft for target.
The “Houston” was escorted by the “Barbara J” which, according to CARBO, had four United States officers aboard. These officers were observed manning the anti aircraft guns of the vessel and drew the admiration of the Cubans for their courage.
At approximately 8:00 a.m., a Seafury launched two rockets against the “Houston” that completely disabled the transport which had already suffered damages in the ruder during a previous attack. Since there was no possibility of repairing the two large holes amidships produced by the rockets, Captain LUIS MORSE DELGADO decided to proceed toward land and beach the ship.
ULISES CARBO related an incident that left him and his companions astonished and bitter at the unaccountable behavior of the crew of the “Barbara J”
When the “Houston” was disabled by the direct hit several men jumped overboard an began swimming toward the “Barbara J” which was standing by.
For some unexplainable reason the “Barbara J” instead of picking up the survivors, revved up her engines and began moving toward the opposite direction. This action caused such a resentment among the men left on the “Houston” that they opened fire against the “Barbara J”.
CARBO added that when the transport ran around approximately 800 meters (½ mile) from shore, it had just reached the limit of its endurance because it sank with only a few feet of superstructure remaining above water. Through the hole on her side, the “Houston” lost a large quantity of oil which rendered more difficult the evacuation of the ship.
The two lifeboats, capable of carrying 30 men each, were used to land the non swimmers, while the personnel capable of swimming, covered the distance as best as it could under constant strafing by the CASTRO aircraft.
ULISES CARBO revealed that he had to shed his boots and pants to facilitate his movements and thus he reached shore in his underwear.
From the time he landed until captured ten days later, ULISES CARBO had very little to eat and drink with the exception of grub worms, crabs, and roots all eaten raw to prevent detention.
CARBO related that the morale of the invaders was very high and, contrary to CASTRO’S claims, several hundred militiamen surrendered during the initial phases of the invasion.
Episodes of heroism were common but in some instances, there were acts that were outstanding. According to CARBO, a tank manned by the invaders engaged in combat with a Stalin-type enemy tank. When its ammunition was exhausted, it charged against its opponent and pushed it out of the road into the swamp where it sank in the mud.
On another instance, 17 men with a few bazookas and two mortars placed on the highway linking San Blas to the interior held at bay an estimated five to six thousand militiamen for two days.
CARBO also related that one of the high ranking officers committed an act of cowardice that earned him the name of “Sabana blanca” (white sheet) because he was one of the first to surrender and used a white sheet to attract attention. CARBO did not reveal his name.
CARBO revealed that during the peak of the air attacks, he overheard the frantic appeals for air support by the Captain of the United States D.D. “Santiago”. In one of the verbal exchanges the Captain is desperation exclaimed, “The State Department is full of shit”. When the Captain of a nearby carrier replied that he could not order his plane to support the desperate invaders because of express orders from the Department of State.
CARBO added that United States planes were observed flying overhead at a high altitude towards the end of the first day and observed a delta wing-type aircraft peel off from a group of three and open fire on some distant objective. This is the only alleged intervention by a United States aircraft reported so far by participants in the invasion.
CARBO stated that the invaders managed to penetrate as far as 30 miles inland but after the second day the lack of ammunition and food became so acute that there was no other alternative but to surrender or try to escape towards the Escambray Mountains.
The CASTRO forces, which towards the end of the fighting had reached an estimated strength of 61,000, began gaining terrain only after the third day and after the ammunition had been exhausted.
The writer was able to establish, after a perusal of a Cuban magazine relating the CASTRO version of the operations, that only a dozen of mortar shells were captured with the equipment which appeared in photographs published by the magazine.
CARBO revealed that he received fair treatment at the hands of his captors and added that during his meanderings in the swamps, he and three companions came in contact with several patrols of militiamen. Although the enemy was superior in number and armament, it was also very restive in engaging the small haggard group armed with only a .30 caliber machine gun and three belts of ammunition.
The group of prisoners arrived in Miami related an episode of genocide perpetrated by the CASTRO forces that equals in cruelty similar acts performed by Nazi exterminators during World War II.
A group of the first prisoners to be captured, totaling 152 was packed in a refrigerator trailer for the trip to Havana. There was no ventilation in the insulated van and soon the heat and the lack of air rendered the situation unbearable. One of the prisoners managed to open a hole with the aid of a crucifix allowing thus a small group to take turns in breathing fresh air. No amount of pounding on the sides of the van resulted in improving the captive’s conditions since they were escorted by a hardened communist, Captain OSMANI CIENFUEGOS, Minister of Public Works and brother of CAMILO CIENFUEGOS who disappeared on October 28, 1959, allegedly killed on CASTRO’S orders.
At the end of the 90 mile trip, nine prisoners were found dead by asphyxiation. Five of them were identified as follows: RENE SILVA, PEPE MILLAN, PEPE VILLARELLO, CUCO CERVANTES, and JOSE IGNACIO MACIA. RENE SILVA is a cousin of ULISES CARBO who asked that this incident be kept from the press until the negotiations for the tractors were ended.
CARBO revealed that he underwent a 4 ½ hour interrogation by FIDEL CASTRO who was extremely polite and at one point revealed that his side had deployed no less than 49 battalions of an estimated strength of 50,000 men. According to CASTRO, 80,000 mortar and 50,000 cannon shells were expended during the battle. CASTRO called the invaders fools for opposing such a superior force as long as they did.
One of the prisoners in the group, a Negro named ELOY FELIX PEREZ TAMAYO, when told by CASTRO during a television interrogatory that Negroes in Cuba could swim in the same beaches with whites replied, “I did not come to fight in Cuba because I wanted to go swimming”.
CARBO revealed that just prior to departure, the group was taken to a 3 ½ hour tour of Havana and shown the accomplishments of the communist regime. At the end of the tour, CASTRO personally took the group into a restaurant an ordered that they be served food and beer without limitations. Obviously this was meant to convince the prisoners about to embark for Miami that there was no food shortage in Havana.
Many of the prisoners revealed that the women employs of the Social Welfare who came in contact with them slipped rosaries in their hands and expressed their sympathy. Many of the militia guards serve as contacts with the outside and CARBO revealed that he had means of communicating with Miami when necessary.
At approximately 7:25 a.m., May 27, 1961 the ten prisoners returned to Havana on P.A.A. 421. They expressed confidence that their negotiations would bring about the proposed exchange of prisoners.
LT. FRANK KAPPEL, Supervisor
Note: Cuban Prisoners were exchanged after negotiations.
Sources: US Records/CuInv/InternetPhotos/TheCubanHistory.com
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Morro Castle (Habana)
Morro Castle Spanish: Castillo de los Tres Reyes Magos del Morro is a picturesque fortress guarding the entrance to Havana bay in Havana, Cuba. Juan Bautista Antonelli, an Italian engineer, was commissioned to design the structure. When it was built in 1589, Cuba was under the control of Spain. The castle, named after the biblical Magi, was later captured by the British in 1762.
Morro Castle in Havana shares the name with other structures in Santiago de Cuba and the Castillo de San Felipe del Morro in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Perched on the promontory on the opposite side of the harbor from Old Havana it can be viewed from miles around as it dominates the port entrance.
Built initially in 1589 in response to raids on Havana harbor, el Morro protected the mouth of the harbor with a chain being strung out across the water to the fort at La Punta.
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Cuba and the MPLA before the Civil War
Cuba’s first informal contacts with the MPLA dated back to the late 1950s. MPLA guerrillas received their first training from Cubans in Algiers starting in 1963 and Guevara met MPLA-leader Agostinho Neto for the first high-level talks on 5 January 1965 in Brazzaville where Cuba was establishing a two-year military mission. This mission had the primary purpose to act as a strategic reserve for the Cuban operation in eastern Congo. It also was to provide assistance to the Alphonse Massemba-Débat government in Brazzaville and, at Neto’s request, to the MPLA with its operations against the Portuguese in Cabinda and in northern Angola where its major foe was the FNLA. This co-operation marked the beginning of the Cuban-Angolan alliance which was to last 26 years. The MPLA-Cuban operations in Cabinda and northern Angola were met with very little success and the Cubans ended the mission to Brazzaville as planned in July 1966. The MPLA moved its headquarters to Lusaka in early 1968. A few MPLA guerrillas continued to receive military training in Cuba but else contacts between Cuba and the MPLA cooled as Havana turned its attention to the liberation struggle in Guiné (Guinea-Bissau). Following Castro’s tour of African countries in May 1972 Cuba stepped up its internationalist operations in Africa starting a training mission in Sierra Leone and smaller technical missions in Equatorial Guinea, Somalia, Algeria and Tanzania.
In a memorandum of 22 November 1972 by Cuban Major Manuel Piñeiro Lozada to Major Raúl Castro it says: “For some time now we have discussed the possibility of entering Angola and Mozambique with the objective of getting to know the revolutionary movements in those countries. These movements have been a mystery even for those socialist countries that give them considerable aid. This research would help us give more focused aid to those movements. I don’t consider it necessary to delineate the strategic importance of these countries, it takes only pointing out that a change in the course of events of the wars that are developing in both countries could signify a change in all the forces in the African continent. For the first time two independent countries in Africa from which a bigger war could be waged would have common borders with the region with the principle investment and the strongest political-military knot of Imperialism in Africa exist: South Africa, Rhodesia, Zaire, and the Portuguese colonies.
Our comrades in the MPLA solicited us this May for the following:
a) That we train 10 men in Cuba in guerrilla warfare ….
b) That we send a crew to fly a DC-3 ….
c) They want to send a high level delegation to Cuba ….
… Both movements will coordinate with the governments of Tanzania and Zambia for safe passage of our comrades through their territories”.
These considerations in 1972 bore no fruit and Cuba’s attentions remained focused on Guinea-Bissau. It was only after the Portuguese Revolution that an MPLA delegation brought a request for economic aid, military training and arms to Cuba on 26 July 1974. In early October Cuba received another request, this time more urgent, for 5 Cuban military officers to help organize the MPLA army, FAPLA. In December 1974 / January 1975 Cuba sent Major Alfonso Perez Morales and Carlos Cadelo on a fact finding mission to Angola to assess the situation. In a letter of 26 January 1975, handed to Cadelo and Morales, Neto listed what the MPLA wanted from Cuba:
“1. The establishment, organization, and maintenance of a military school for cadres. We urgently need to create a company of security personnel, and we need to train military staff. 2. A ship to transport the war materiel that we have in Dar-es-Salaam to Angola. The delivery in Angola, if it were in a Cuban ship, could take place outside of territorial waters. 3. Weapons and transportation for the Rapid Deployment Unit (Brigada de Intervencion) that we are planning to organize, as well as light weapons for some infantry battalions. 4. Transmitters and receivers to resolve communication problems of widely dispersed military units. 5. Uniforms and military equipment for 10,000 men. 6. Two pilots and one mechanic. 7. Assistance in training trade union leaders. 8. Assistance in organizing schools to teach Marxism… 9. Publications dealing with political and military subjects, especially instruction manuals. 10. Financial assistance while we are establishing and organizing ourselves.”
Although Cuba was considering the establishment of a military mission (military training) in Angola, again there was no official response to this request. It was only reiterated by the MPLA in May 1975 when Cuban commander Flavio Bravo met Neto in Brazzaville while the Portuguese were preparing to withdraw from their African colonies. The MPLA’s hopes for aid were turned to the eastern Bloc countries from where not enough help materialised according to their wishes. Neto is quoted in a Cuban report complaining about Moscow’s lacklustre support. He also expressed hope that the war in Angola would become “a vital issue in the fight against imperialism and socialism”. But neither the USSR nor the MPLA itself expected a major war to break out before independence. In March 1975 the MPLA sent ca. 100 members for training in the Soviet Union and the requested financial assistance (100,000US$) it received from Yugoslavia.
In November 1975, on the eve of Angola’s independence, Cuba launched a large-scale military intervention in support of the leftist liberation movement MPLA against United States-backed invasions by South Africa and Zaire in support of two other liberation movements competing for power in the country, FNLA and UNITA.
Following the retreat of Zaire and South Africa, Cuban forces remained in Angola to support the Angolan government against the UNITA insurgency in the continuing Angolan Civil War.
In 1988, Cuban troops intervened a second time to avert a military disaster in a Soviet-led FAPLA offensive against UNITA which was supported by South Africa, leading to the Battle of Cuito Cuanavale. This turn of events is considered to have been the major impetus to the success of the ongoing peace talks leading to the New York Accords after which Cuban and South African forces withdrew from Angola while South West Africa gained its independence from South Africa. The War in Angola ended in 1991.
In addition to the Cuban military, from 1976 to 1991, 430,000 Cuban foreign aid volunteers served in Angola. At one point, two-thirds of all doctors in Angola were Cuban.
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PANAMA: End of an Invasion
On April 16, 1959, the newspaper La Estrella de Panama issued the alarm that an invasion was coming to Panama by Cubans, foreign mercenaries and some Panamanians who were in Cuba. Two hundred (200) men were trained in Pinar del Rio, led by guerrilla leader Dermidio Escalona. The armed expedition, consisting of about 82 Cubans, two Panamanian and an American, and was led by Cuban Cesar Vega, an old college friend of Castro and expeditionary of Cayo Confite fiasco.
On board the ship Mayarí Cuba, the group left from the anchorage in Batabano, south of Havana to Panama on April 19 and landed at a place known as Playa Colorada, to support an armed uprising that had originated in Cerro Tute. On day 22, the Panamanian guard made prisoners two members of the contingent, a Panamanian student named Picans and a Cuban named Gilberto Betancourt, who had been captain of the cells in action and sabotage the July 26 Movement in Havana, and which was subsequently was shot in Cuba by firing squad for opposing the Castro government. The girls of the village of Nombre de Dios (Name of God) strolled toward the azure Caribbean, arm in arm with the Cuban invaders who had come to Panama to overthrow the democratic government of President Ernesto de la Guardia. As the landing craft taking them off to jail in Panama City backed off the beach, Expedition Commander Cesar Vega and his 83 men (plus a 24-year-old Cuban girl) broke into a song that Castro’s rebels used to sing in Cuba’s Sierra Maestra. The girls of Nombre de Dios wept as the invaders sailed away.
Given the failure of the expedition, the Castro government was forced to cooperate with the Organization of American States to send two members of the military intelligence department, Captain Armando Torres and Lt.Fernando Ruiz, to urge the surrender of the expedition before the arrival of the OAS commission in the Canal Zone. The invasion was a failure from the first moment, to sink the boat in the marshes and cliffs of Nombre de Dios with only one casualty in the action. The invaders, on the other hand, chose a desolate area for the guerrilla warfare, and finally had to be rescued by Navy ships of the United States.
The first of May, Vega capitulated to an OAS commission. This intrusion to overthrow the democratic government of President Ernesto de la Guardia, was the result of a complex intrigue in Latin America, where several characters plotted, including the pro-Castro Rubén Miró, Dr. Roberto Arias,a Panamanian and a gigolo married to British dancer Margot Fonteyn.
At that time, Castro was on a trip to the United States and Canada, and this failure became a sticking point for the Cuban press and political circles in many countries. Raul Castro met him in Texas, so that it will notify the details of the fiasco; Panama was the first and last time the two brothers would find themselves out of the country simultaneously.
Cuban Prime Minister Fidel Castro, who had been telling U.S. audiences that he flatly opposed Caribbean filibusters, knew all about the Panamanian plot, but was caught aback as the Arias-Fonteyn flop placed Panama in a spotlight of world attention. He ordered his brother, Armed Forces Chief Raúl Castro, to come to Houston for a private talk. The Castros sent a pair of their bearded officers to Panama to persuade the invaders to withdraw.
In Washington the Organization of American States met, listened to a Panamanian plea for help against “international pirates,” sent an investigating team. While patrol boats and planes contributed by the U.S., Ecuador and Colombia scouted the Caribbean and the Panamanian coast for signs of a rumored reinforcement fleet, Invader Chief Cesar Vega met the Cuban officers and the OAS negotiators, and surrendered. Cuba was expected to ask Panama to give the invaders leniency.
Wiki/Alberto Baeza Flores/OAS/InterenetPhotos/TheCubanHistory.com
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Invasion of Cuba From Dominican Republic (US Records)
[Reference: RIF 124-10294-10051, FBI record 2-1423-9TH NR 36]
TO: A. H. Belmont
FROM: S. B. Donahoe
SUBJECT: ANTI-FIDEL CASTRO ACTIVITIES
During the past few days we have received information from three substantial sources that invasion of Cuba from Dominican Republic is imminent. The sources are: General Manuel Benitez, head of National Police of Cuba from 1940 to 1944 and member of Cuban Legislature from 1948 to 1958; Frank Perez Perez, a source of Miami Office who is aligned with General Benitez and , former Cuban Senator and newspaperman who maintained a private army of hoodlums while Batista was in power and who has been described as a bandit and gangster; I. Irving Davidson, registered agent of Israeli and Nicaraguan Governments who talked with Batista in the Dominican Republic on 4/29/59 and who quotes Batista as stating a group of Cuban riffraff is planning invasion of Cuba from the Dominican Republic with approval of Generalissimo Trujillo who feels Castro will attack if not attacked first.
General Benitez stated General Jose Pedraza Cabrera, who headed Batista’s final campaign against Castro, will be Commander-in-Chief of this new movement which has headquarters in Dominican Republic. Pedraza is in exile there at the present time. While in charge of Batista’s army, Pedraza was considered a very brave man and disciplinarian. He was part of three-man junta which ruled Cuba immediately following Batista’s downfall. Perez claims all other.
Latin-American countries have sanctioned this movement against Cuba and claims Dr. Emilio Nunez Portuondo, chief Cuban delegate to United Nations prior to Castro’s victory, will undoubtedly head the revolutionary junta which will control Cuba for six months until free elections can be held. Following were named as financial contributors to this new movement in addition to Batista who General Benitez claims contributed $2,000,000: Fernando de la Riva, Cuban mining executive; Marino Lopez Blanco, former Cuban Senator and consular official who was stationed in Florida until Castro assumed power; Amadeo Lopez Castro, close personal friend and economic advisor to Batista who was one of leading candidates to succeed Batista before revolution; Francisco Cajigas, former government official under Batista who was admitted to the United States immediately after Batista’s downfall; Roberto “Chili” Mendoza, wealthy sugar magnate who headed group which held gambling concession at Hotel Havana-Hilton prior to Castro’s victory; Garcia Montes, Minister of Education under Batista; Colonel Orlando Piedra, Chief of Cuban Bureau of Investigations under Batista. Our requests for investigations in Cuba by Cuban National Police were approved by Piedra and he assisted us in handling informal deportations from Cuba. We have sent numerous letters of thanks to Piedra. He fled to the Dominican Republic on 1/1/59 and later claimed INS refused him admittance tot he U. S. which INS denies. He owns considerable property in Miami and reportedly amassed a fortune from “take” on gambling activities while head of Bureau of Investigations; Carlos Govea, described as a wealthy Cuban. Bufiles do not definitely identify this individual. In the early 1940′s a Lieutenant Carlos Govea, member of a wealthy and influential family of engineers and contractors, was source of American Embassy and Legal Attache in Havana while serving on Havana Police Department. Carlos Govea y Araoz, born 3/20/18, Havana, was admitted to U. S. on ½/53 to attend the Institute of Sugar Stabilization.
General Benitez claims $25,000 has been delivered to William Alexander Morgan, the American who was a leader of the “Second Front” in Escambray Mountains during Cuban Revolution. Morgan supposedly is angry at Castro who did not give him or other “Second Front” leaders recognition in the new government. Morgan was born at Cleveland, Ohio, in 1928 and is U. S. citizen. He served in U. S. Army from 1946 until his dishonorable discharge on 4/11/50 which resulted from his conviction by a court-martial on escape from custody charges. In 1946 he was arrested on felony charge and he was also charged with armed robbery while in the Army. He reportedly is veteran of Korean War and is described as a judo expert. Recently Morgan’s father told Bureau Agents son is emotionally disturbed and in need of psychiatric help. He has deserted two or three wives, some with children, in the past several years. Eloy Menoyo was Commander-in-Chief of the “Second Front” during the Cuban Revolution and he originally was reported as in favor of a military junta taking over Cuba in preference to Castro. However, he came to the U. S. on a good-will trip in March, 1959, and, according to State Department, then indicated he had no ambitions of his own and was 100% in favor of Castro’s group. On 4/3/59 Andrew Szentgyorgyi (St. George), a free lance writer and photographer, advised he had just returned from a month’s visit to Cuba where he learned a new opposition group headed by Menoyo and Morgan was being formed in the Escambray region.
Other persons named by Benitez and Perez as potential leaders in new Cuban Government if Castro is overthrown were: Dr. Octavio Montero, described as a distinguished medical doctor and professor at University of Havana. Bufiles contain no information concerning Montero; Manuel Antonio Varona, prominent Cuban politician who was Prime Minister under former President Carlos Prio Socarras. Varona not in U. S. at present time but is registered as agent for Council for Cuban Liberation, on anti-Batista group; Emilio Ochoa, described as representative of Orthodox Party. Ochoa possibly is identical with Emilio Laureano Ochoa y Ochoa who was subject of Registration Act investigation by Miami in 1954. the latter reportedly was connected with Cuban Orthodox Party and was then living in exile in Miami. His registration was solicited by the Department on basis of our investigation which revealed he was involved in printing of anti-Batista propaganda for shipment from Miami to locations outside the U. S. He did register on 4/26/54 and CIA advised he returned to Cuba clandestinely in late 1954 to await revolution there but in January, 1955, went to Mexico. As of May, 1955, Ochoa was back in Miami and he terminated his registration with the Department on 10/26/55; Eusebio Mujal, Secretary General of largest labor group in Cuba, Cuba Confederation of Labor, until Batista’s overthrow. Benitez claims he is now in Mexico in exile and is cooperating with the new movement as are other anti-communist Cuban labor elements.
on 4/29/59 advised he has no doubt forces opposed to Castro will unite and that he will join the group if it looks good. He named Aureliano Sanchez Arango as another Cuban leader who is cooperating with the new movement. According to Masferrer, Sanchez leads revolutionary group known as “Triple A.” Sanchez was Minister of Education under President Prio at which time he was described as Prio’s closest friend. In recent years he has been jailed many times for political reasons and has been in exile in several countries, including the U. S. He has been engaged in plans to overthrow Batista for many years but was in Mexico in 1957 and it is not known if he played any part in assisting Castro.
U. S. residents, in addition to those previously named, who reportedly are assisting the new movement are: Daniel Vasquez, former close associate of ex-President Prio, who is presently under indictment with Prio and others for conspiring to violate the Neutrality Statute. Vasquez published a Spanish-language newspaper, “Tribuna,” which is definitely anti-Castro. He has been cooperating with Miami Office in recent past and claims his paper aims to fight communism and to show in U. S. and Cuban extent of communist entrenchment in Cuba; Richard Jaffe, Miami real estate man associated with Masferrer who told Miami several thousand copies of “Tribuna” were dropped on Cuba on 4/22 and 25/59.
General Benitez, our chief source of information concerning this group, frequently writes laudatory letters to Bureau and offers to assist us in any possible way. He is staunch anti-communist and has denounced communist influence in Castro’s regime. He reportedly acquired $4,000,000 or $5,000,000 while in charge of Cuba’s National Police from 1940 to 1944. When Batista was ousted in 1944, Benitez was jailed for short time and came to Miami upon release. He was involved in unsuccessful plot to overthrow Cuban Government in 1947. He returned to Cuba in 1948 after being elected to Cuban Legislature where he served until 1958. He told Legat, Havana, in 1958 he was Batista’s choice for Mayor of Havana in elections later that year and planned to steal more money as Mayor than he did as Chief of Police. Benitez was not elected Mayor and, according to Legat, His reputation in Cuba is very poor.
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Cuban and US Invsion of Grenada
The codenamed Operation ‘Urgent Fury’, was a 1983 US-led, a Caribbean island nation with a population of just over 100,000 located 100 miles (160 km) north of Venezuela. It was triggered by a military coup which ousted a brief revolutionary government. The successful invasion led to a change of government but was controversial due to charges of American imperialism, Cold War politics, the involvement of Cuba, the unstable state of the Grenadian government, and Grenada’s status as a Commonwealth realm with Elizabeth II as the monarch. Grenada gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1974, and Leftist rebels seized power in a coup in 1979. After a 1983 internal power struggle ended with the deposition and murder of revolutionary Prime Minister Maurice Bishop, the invasion began on 25 October 1983. A combined force of about 7,600 troops from the United States, Jamaica, and members of the Regional Security System (RSS) defeated Grenadian resistance and the military government of Hudson Austin was deposed. Civilian deaths include all the residents of the island’s only Mental Hospital.
The Bishop government began constructing the Point Salines International Airport with the help of Britain, Cuba, Libya, Algeria, and other nations. The airport had been first proposed by the British government in 1954, when Grenada was still a British colony. It had been designed by Canadians, underwritten by the British government, and partly built by a London firm. The U.S. government accused Grenada of constructing facilities to aid a Soviet-Cuban military build-up in the Caribbean, and to assist the Soviet and Cuban transportation of weapons to Central American insurgents. Bishop’s government claimed that the airport was built to accommodate commercial aircraft carrying tourists, pointing out that such jets could not land at the existing airport on the island’s north. Neither could the existing airport, itself, be expanded as its runway abutted a mountain.
In March 1983, Ronald Reagan began issuing warnings about the threat posed to the United States and the Caribbean by the “Soviet-Cuban militarization” as evidenced by the excessively long airplane runway being built as well as intelligence sources. He said that the 9,000-foot (2,700 m) runway and the oil storage tanks were unnecessary for commercial , and that evidence pointed that the airport was to become a Cuban-Soviet military airbase.
The invasion, which commenced at 05:00 on 25 October 1983, was the first major operation conducted by the U.S. military since the Vietnam War. Vice Admiral Joseph Metcalf, III, Commander Second Fleet, was the overall commander of U.S. forces, designated Joint Task Force 120, which included elements of each military service and multiple special operations units. Fighting continued for several days and the total number of U.S. troops reached some 7,000 along with 300 troops from the OECS. The invading forces encountered about 1,500 Grenadian soldiers and about 700 Cubans. Also present were 60 advisors from the Soviet Union, North Korea, East Germany, Bulgaria, and Libya.According to journalist Bob Woodward in his book Veil, the supposed captured “military advisers” from the aforementioned countries were actually accredited diplomats and included their dependents. None took any actual part in the fighting. Some of the “construction workers” were actually a detachment of Cuban Military Special Forces and combat engineers.
Official U.S. sources state that the defenders were well-prepared, well-positioned and put up stubborn resistance, to the extent that the U.S. called in two battalions of reinforcements on the evening of 26 October. The total naval and air superiority of the coalition forces – including helicopter gunships and naval gunfire support – overwhelmed the local forces. Nearly eight thousand soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines had participated in URGENT FURY along with 353 Caribbean allies of the CPF. U.S. forces had sustained 19 killed and 116 wounded; Cuban forces sustained 25 killed, 59 wounded and 638 combatants captured. Grenadian forces casualties were 45 killed and 358 wounded; at least 24 civilians.
The Cuban government sent these troops there to support the leftist government of the country. In 2008 the government of Grenada announced a move to build a monument to honor the Cubans killed during the invasion. At the time of the announcement the Cuban and Grenadian government are still seeking to locate a suitable site for the monument.
While the invasion enjoyed broad public support in the United States,and received support from some sectors in Grenada from local groups who viewed the post-coup regime as illegitimate, it was criticized by the United Kingdom, Canada and the United Nations General Assembly, which condemned it as “a flagrant violation of international law”.25 October is a national holiday in Grenada, called Thanksgiving Day, to commemorate the invasion, and on 29 May 2009 the Point Salines International Airport was officially renamed in honor of the slain pre-coup leader Maurice Bishop by the Government of Grenada.
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CAYO CONFITES. PLOT TO INVADE THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
The Cayo Confites was a military plot against Rafael Leonidas Trujillo, originated in Cuba in 1947, which promoted an armed invasion to overthrow the regime. Its name comes from the island in the Camagüey archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean called Cayo Confites .
By early 1947, amid the democratic airs Post-War, Rafael Leonidas Trujillo was surrounded by governments opposed to his dictatorship , Romulo Betancourt in Venezuela , Juan Jose Arevalo in Guatemala , Ramón Grau San Martín in Cuba, and Elli Lescot in Haiti .
After a Dominican exile unifying congress held at the University of Havana, was composed of the united front of the Dominican Liberation, with Angel Morales as president of the doctors Ramon Lara and Juan Isidro Jimenez Grullon,secretaries,Leovigildo Neck, Plenipotentiaries and Juan Bosch special envoy to the Americas.
In January 1945, Juan Bosch travels to Mexico,to Venezuela in October, where he met with President Romulo Betancourt, and in November traveled to Haiti where President Lescot Ellie gave him the sum of 25,000 dollars as a contribution to the fight against Trujillo.
In January 1946, Johnny Rodriguez , a wealthy landowner of the La Vega , went into exile and took over the expedition plans that were in Havana .
José Manuel German , Minister of Education of the government of Grau San Martin, who as contact between the Dominican exiles and the Cuban government, while Manolo Castro, director of sports ministry itself, leader of the revolutionary socialist movement MSR took the lead in the work of Cuban volunteer recruitment for the expedition .
Based on operating the facilities of the Hotel San Luis in Havana, Dominicans, Cubans and other nationalities were able to form an army of more than 1000 men, including veterans of the Spanish Civil War and World War II.
Days after the expedition out of Havana to the Polytechnic Holguín in eastern Cuba where they receive military training under the direction of Manolo Bordas who held the rank of lieutenant U.S. Army, and who organized the expedition of four battalions;
Sandino Battalion , Commander, , a Cuban, a lawyer and veteran of the Spanish civil war
Guiteras Battalion , commander Eufemio Fernandez Cuban physician and veteran of the Spanish Civil War
Luperon Battalion , commander Jorge Rivas Monte , Honduran military career military school graduate in Guatemala
Battalion Maximo Gomez , commander Mederne Feliciano , career military leader of the expedition of Gibara
Polytechnic of Holguín the expedition were transferred Nipes Bay where they expected the ship and the schooner Aurora Berta much of the cargo for shipment, boarded the ships and headed for a cay in the Camagüey archipelago called cay candy.
The United States government to learn of the invasion plans began to pressure President Grau San Martin, to stop military action against Trujillo prepared, for this purpose its ambassador in Havana Henry Norweb in July 1947 the president visited twice Grau and twice Chancellor of his government.
Trujillo declares war
On July 22, 1947, Trujillo became aware of the invasion plans against him from Cuban territory, and began a series of protests through diplomatic channels against the government of Cuba. Weeks later, before the imminent departure of the expedition, Trujillo said: “Since the first step on Dominican land invasion, we will begin to bombard the city of Havana.”
In the midst of military exercises, practice landings and other maneuvers, the expedition of Key Confites expected more ships as well as completing a number of planes for a solid air support. Entering the month of September, the movement had four ships, 13 aircraft and 1,200 armed men. Among the expedition were:
José Horacio Rodríguez
Emilio Mejia Pichirilo
Carlos Gutierrez Menoyo
Francisco Alberto Horacio Vázquez
Federico Horacio Vázquez
Germain Martinez Reyna
Nicanor Saleta Arias
Arseno Feliu Miguel Angel
Horacio Julio Ornes Coiscou
Jose Rolando Martinez Bonilla
Dato Pagan Perdomo
Victor’s brothers, Rafael and Virgilio Mainardi Reyna.
While the expedition hoped the planes were equipped with weapons of combat to begin the invasion of Santo Domingo relying on air support, General Pérez Genovevo Damer , chief of the Cuban army traveled to Washington DC where he met with senior U.S. Army military and diplomats in the service of Trujillo .
Several days later, General Pérez Damera proceeded to confiscate a shipment of weapons from the estate of the Minister Jose Manuel Aleman intervene and the arms the expedition of Key Confites had in the hotel Sevilla. Parallel to the action of Perez Damera, the U.S. ambassador to Cuba, Henry Norweb , calls to airmen Rupert E. Waddell, Thomas Sawyer and Hollis Smith, the three Americans, engaged in Cayo Confites, to return to the United States and abandon the expedition , the pilots are welcome to call and return home.
After the defection of troops, ships confusion between expeditionary and skirmishes with the Cuban navy, the expedition members were forced to disembark at the port of West Indies, where they were captured, disarmed and taken to the Columbia military base in Havana.
Being imprisoned in Colombia, Juan Bosch declared a hunger strike until they were released every member of the expedition. After a general agreement between Perez Damera and Juan Bosch, the prisoners were released and the movement’s leaders began negotiations with the Cuban government to return their weapons that were confiscated.
Given the Cuban government’s refusal to return the arms to the president of Guatemala, Juan Jose Arevalo intervened claiming ownership of them.
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CAPTAIN NESTOR IZQUIERDO
Nestor ‘Tony’ Izquierdo was born in the Matanzas Province in Cuba in 1936. The son of Camilo Izquierdo and Josefina Diaz, he was a devoted Roman Catholic. As a young man, Nestor worked with his father in a construction business.
In 1959 Manuel Artime emerged as a leading anti-Communist. He worked closely with the Catholic University Association (CUA). Later that year he moved to the Manzanillo region where he joined up with Carlos Prio and Tony Varona. Along with Huber Matos they planned a counter-revolution. Izquierdo joined Artime’s Rural Commandos.
In 1960 Izquierdo left Cuba and entered the United States via Mexico. Along with Manuel Artime, Tony Varona, Rafael Quintero, Aureliano Arango and Jose Miro Cardona established the Movement for the Recovery of the Revolution (MRR Party).
Izquierdo took part in the Bay of Pigs as a member of Brigade 2506. In the early 1960′s, he worked closely with Rip Robertson and David Sanchez Morales in the many aggressive and successful raids against Castro. Izquierdo also worked under Frank Castro in the Halcones Dorados (Golden Hawks).
In 1963 Manuel Artime obtained funds from the CIA via Ted Shackley head of the JM/WAVE station in Florida. Artime moved to Nicaragua where he formed a 300 man army. Artime was joined by several other anti-Castro Cubans including Nestor Izquierdo, Frank Castro, Rafael Quintero and Felix Rodriguez.
It is believed that Nestor Izquierdo was involved in the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Independently of each other, James Richards and Gerry Hemming have claimed that Izquierdo was involved with the events in Dealey Plaza. Specifically, his role being the Dal-Tex spotter.
In April of 1977, Nestor Izquierdo, Rafael Quintero, Rafael Villaverde, Raul Villaverde, Jesus Lazo and Valentine Hernandez were the subjects of a U.S. Justice Department inquiry. In Izquierdo’s case, no identifiable information could be sourced.
Izquierdo, a devout anti-communist, fought the Sandinistas in Nicaragua. His CIA case officer was Harold Feeney.
Nestor Izquierdo was killed in Nicaragua in a plane crash in 1979. Because of Izquierdo’s constant fight against Communism and for his bravery, in 1992, Gilberto Casanova raised the necessary funds to construct a bronze statue of Nestor Izquierdo in Miami’s Little Havana. It was created by sculptor Tony Lopez.
Spartacus Educational (www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk)
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Rolando Masferrer Rojas
Born in Holguín, July 12, 1918,in Oriente province, better known simply as , was a Cuban guerrilla leader, lawyer, congressman, newspaper publisher, member of the Cuban Communist Party and political activist.
Joined the Cuban Communist Party in 1935 and worked for their newspaper Hoy. He later joined Joven Cuba revolutionary organization. Masferrer and three other Joven Cuba members were arrested on Nov. 9, 1936, for plotting to assassinate Col. José Pedraza, chief of the National Police. After his release, Masferrer enrolled in June 1937 in the International Brigades fighting for the Republic during the Spanish Civil War. He achieved the rank of major, in charge of the 401 Battalion, 101 Brigade, 46 Division, 5th Corps of the Ebro Army. Masferrer was wounded in action twice. After returning to Cuba in 1939, he became assistant editor of Hoy and graduated from the University of Havana Law School in 1945 with the Dolz Award, given to the most studious member of the class. Masferrer and a group of Cuban Communists who sided with Earl Browder during the Duclos incident were expelled from the party on Aug. 22, 1945 for advocating rapprochement with the U. S. He then founded the weekly magazine Tiempo en Cuba to combat the Stalinists. Masferrer married Lucila Montero, who gave birth to Alejandro and Liudmila. In 1946 he was an English teacher at Marianao High School. Masferrer was elected Republican Party Representative from Oriente province on June 1, 1948. He was elected in 1954 as Auténtico Party Senator from Oriente.
He was rival of Fidel Castro in the bloody feuds of the trigger happy action groups and subject of at least one failed attempt by Castro to kill him. Masferrer also participated, with Castro, in the Caribbean Legion plot Cayo Confites (See Ameringer, 1995) to overthrow Dominican Republic Dictator Rafael Trujillo. He was elected to the Cuban House of Representatives in 1949.
Masferrer was a staunch supporter of Cuban leader Fulgencio Batista. He was not only a Senator in the Batista government but more importantly the leading founder of Los Tigres de Masferrer, a guerrilla organization set up to protect Batista from other para-military groups and to support Batista militarily. In this period he published two papers Tiempo in Havana and Libertad in Santiago de Cuba which insulted Francisco Franco, but without positive reaction among other leftwing Spanish Civil war exiles.
During the final years of the last Batista regime to (the end of 1958), Masferrer and his tigres operated in Oriente province; often, it is said, out headquarters in Victoria de las Tunas, others say in Santiago, Manzanillo and Bayamo where he had an array of exotic weapons including very lethal large caliber “air rifles.” At times his followers penetrated the Sierra Maestra with stealthy silence, terrifying some local Escopeteros who without time to react or appropriated weapons to face him fled before his forces; then the “tigres” vanished. In this fashion the Tigres apparently too stealthy to be opposed raided and killed throughout the foot hills of the Sierra Maestra. He is known to have threatened Franciscan priests in Manzanillo. The present Cuban government accuses Masferrer of 2,000 killings, but also says that the Tigres were careful to remove all evidence.
A most ingenious and intelligent, if ruthless, man Masferrer, plotted to buy vast “La Hacienda Sevilla” and divide up the land so as to reward the local guajiros for informing on Fidel Castro in the first months of his operations in the Sierra Maestra. This connection may or may not explain the attempted betrayal of Castro by Agrarian Organizer Eutemio Guerra.
Regardless that Masferrer had been a Communist supporter, after Fidel Castro took over Cuba’s presidency on January 9, 1959, Masferrer had to abandon the island, because Castro accused him of stealing US $10 million. He left in a boat, landing in Miami.
US 1960s and 1970s
In the United States, he befriended Mafia bosses such as Santo Trafficante, as well union leader Jimmy Hoffa. In Miami he published ‘LIBERTAD’ newspaper (tabloid). The first Libertad newspaper was published in Santiago de Cuba in the 1950s under the direction of Carlos Zayas, a close associate of Masferrer.
Masferrer was also known for mistreating Cubans residing in Florida, extorting money from them for what he said was “to help Cuba”.
From Miami, according to some reports,he and Central Intelligence Agency member Richard Bissell planned an assassination attempt on Castro. But, seventy seven days after Castro had assumed power, the would-be assassins that had been sent to Cuba, were arrested by Cuban police, and the attempt failed.
Shortly after, Masferrer organized another group to try a second attempt on Cuba’s leader. Among them was the infamous Armentino Feria Perez.
September 26, 1960 Masferrer sent an expedition of four boats to Cuba. One boat reached Cuba, three Americans: Allan D. Thompson, Anthony Zarba and Robert O. Fuller were caught and eventually executed.
In December, 1960, the Miami Herald, reported that Masferrer was leading a small group of fifty three people who were polishing their killing skills at a ranch owned by multi-millionaire Howard Hughes. Masferrer might have intended to hire a few of them for his organization.
In the early 1960s, Masferrer was associated with El Tiempo, a Spanish-language newspaper, edited by S. Ross, in New York City.
In 1961, Masferrer met with President John F. Kennedy, presumably to talk about Castro and the situation in Cuba. But Kennedy disliked Masferrer’s radical and fanatical personality, and the two never established any publicly known conversation after that.
In the 1960s Masferrer plotted and accumulated weapons to invade Haiti so as to have a base, free of US law, to attack the Castro government of Cuba which had foiled direct attempts to land. Masferrer was killed by a car bomb in 1975.
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The True Story of the Armored Train of Santa Clara (1 of 4)
My name is Henry Louis Gomez and this site is my attempt to wade through the propaganda and dimming memories to uncover the truth behind one of the last events of Cuba’s Batista regime. I became interested in the professional revolutionary, Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara, after reading a novel by one of my favorite authors, W.E.B. Griffin. During a discussion with my father about the Cuban Revolution in general and Guevara in particular, my father regaled me with what I then thought was an almost unbelievable tale about my grandfather and how he had actually been confronted by the most infamous man to wear a beret.
This is a fascinating story about treachery, possible bribery, and an unlikely prize: an armored train. This episode has become a footnote in Cuban history because it occurred on the eve of Fulgencio Batista’s from Cuba, and was therefore overshadowed by it. The truth about these events is important however because it sheds light on the character of the men who lived through them as well as the illegitimate nature of the Cuban Revolution itself.
This site is dedicated to my grandfather, who died before I really got a chance to know him and before my interest in history blossomed. Many times, while researching this material, I wished he were still alive to give me his account first hand. Instead I have relied on the testimony of eyewitness and the surviving relatives of the protagonists, as well as declassified government documents, and an assortment of literature from various other sources.
FIDEL CASTRO AND THE 26TH OF JULY MOVEMENT:
Many volumes have been written about Cuba’s dictator, Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz, and I don’t intend to bore you with too many details of his life here since he is peripheral to the story I want to tell. But there’s some information that’s worth noting. Castro was born to a wealthy landowner in the easternmost province of Cuba. His mother was a former servant in his father’s household. Castro was ultimately educated in Havana where he graduated the equivalent of high school as well as law school.
He gained a reputation as a violent agitator, responsible for the death of rival student leaders. Many who knew him well in his youth say he always had communist inclinations. Some of the parallels between the rise to power of Fidel Castro and that of Adolph Hitler are remarkable. On July 26th 1953 Castro and a group of like-minded guerillas attacked the Moncada army barracks, resulting in his own version of the Beer Hall Putsch. Just like the Beer Hall Putsch, the attack was a fiasco and Fidel Castro ultimately was caught. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison and like Hitler was ultimately given amnesty and released. The Moncada attack succeeded in making Castro a very visible opponent of the Batista regime. His 26th of July movement gets a lot of the credit for creating the conditions that forced Batista to leave the country but the fact is that there were many groups in Cuba working towards this end. These groups, which held varying political and ideological beliefs, weren’t just involved in Guerilla actions but also in underground activities in the cities and towns across the country.
CHE GUEVARA AND FIDEL:
Castro went to Mexico to train a guerrilla force with the objective of toppling Batista. While there he met the Argentine Ernesto Rafael Guevara de la Serna. Guevara is reputed to have been a medical doctor. The story goes that while touring South America on a motorcycle, Guevara became disgusted by the injustice and poverty he saw. That it drove him to become a revolutionary. There is no doubt that Guevara was inspired by Josef Stalin.
At one point he even took to signing his name as “Stalin II”. Today Guevara’s face can be seen on t-shirts and posters in every corner of the world. He symbolizes an idealized revolutionary spirit but the truth is that Che Guevara emulated Stalin to a tee.
“GRANMA” AND THE SIERRA MAESTRA:
In 1956 Castro, Guevara and some eighty-odd guerillas embarked for Cuba on a yacht named “Granma” of all things. The landing was an unmitigated disaster from which only sixteen survived an attack by Cuban armed forces. The remaining guerrillas made their way into the Sierra Maestra (a mountain range in eastern Cuba). Once there they began to recruit followers.
In the years since 1958, the official history of the Cuban Revolution has been written to depict Castro and Guevara as valiant and cunning warriors. It should be noted however, that the second-most devastating weapon in the Rebel arsenal turned out to be propaganda. The most important was cash, but more on that later. Castro and Guevara were extremely media savvy, granting interviews to Cuban and American journalists as well as broadcasting messages via Radio Rebelde (Rebel Radio). The reality is that most of the so-called battles were mere skirmishes and that both Castro and Guevara had a tendency to disappear when the bullets started flying in earnest. Paul Bethel reports in his book The Losers: The Definitive Report, by an eyewitness, of the Communist Conquest of Cuba and the Soviet Penetration in Latin America, that the U.S. Embassy in Cuba estimated the total of fatalities during the two-year “war” in the countryside at 182. For both sides! While the real number was probably higher than that, the truth is that there were no military masterstrokes. That a ragtag force that never numbered more than several hundred was able to topple the government of a country with armed forces numbering 33,000 and a population of 6.5 million is more a testament to the discontent that many Cubans had with Batista than any love for Fidel Castro or desire for communist rule. The fact is that Castro himself admitted that he hid his communist ideology so as not to alienate the masses. (Continue)
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The True Story of the Armored Train of Santa Clara (2 of 4)
CAPTAIN ENRIQUE A. GOMEZ PEREZ M.D. AND THE LEGACY OF ISABEL RUBIO:
Enrique Antonio Gomez Perez was my grandfather. He was born in the town of San Juan y Martinez on March 17, 1908. His grandmother, Isabel Rubio, was a Cuban patriot and martyr of the war for Cuban independence from Spain. Rubio was a nurse for the Rebels who were trying throw off the yoke of Spanish rule. She was shot by Spanish loyalist troops and died shortly afterwards due to complications from her wounds. Today the town she was born in bears her name. There is a small museum in that town which honors her contribution to Cuban independence. Sadly I’ve never been there because I refuse to go to Cuba and spend dollars that will end up in the Castro government’s coffers. Rubio’s son Modesto, my great grandfather, was a doctor. My grandfather followed in his footsteps and also became a doctor. He graduated from the University of Havana’s Medical School in 1937. His specialty was pediatrics. He joined the Army as a physician in 1950 and treated the children of enlisted men and fellow officers. At one point he was transferred to the army’s corps of engineers.
THE “BATTLE” FOR SANTA CLARA AND EL TREN BLINDADO:
By the fall of 1958 Batista’s offensives against the various Rebel forces had largely failed. In November, under pressure from the U.S., Batista held elections in which Andres Rivero Aguero, his handpicked successor, was declared the winner. This election was popularly regarded as a sham. In any case Rivero was set to assume power in February of 1959. Castro did not want that transition to take place. Sensing that there would be a small window in which the Rebels could win the war and he could establish a new regime without U.S. interference.
Anti-Batista sentiment was becoming much more prevalent among everyday Cubans. The army was demoralized, not wanting to die for a regime which, it was obvious, wasn’t going to survive much longer. The town of Santa Clara is located in Las Villas province in roughly the center of the island. Emboldened by the lack of resistance the guerillas were facing from the Cuban armed forces, Castro decided to send forces to Las Villas province to capture the city and cut the island in half.
He charged Guevara with the responsibility of leading this force known as “Column 8”. Castro was fond of these grandiose names. He had several “columns” under his command on several “fronts”. Each of these “columns” had maybe 150 men. They were largely untrained and lack of discipline among the men was a common problem. Guevara established a reputation for maintaining the discipline of men entrusted to his command. He did it at the end of a gun. It’s been well reported that he personally executed more than a few of his men for “treason”. In any case the capture of Santa Clara posed a significant challenge as it was roughly 250 miles from the Sierra Maestra and was home to a rather large garrison fort. Guevara and his men made the trip in 5 weeks, largely avoiding contact with Batista’s forces, arriving in Las Villas province in early December 1958. By that time it was apparent to American observers in the U.S. Embassy that the Batista regime was going to fall, it was just a matter of when. There was a lot of confusion about the actual progress Rebel forces were making because of government censorship and conflicting propaganda coming from both sides.
One of the biggest problems facing Batista was the sabotage of the country’s roads and bridges in the areas the Rebels were controlling. To alleviate the problem, he dispatched an armored train full of men and materiel. Guevara’s and the official Castroite version of the story contend that this was a major offensive aimed at crushing the Rebellion once and for all. But the truth is that the 340 officers and enlisted men on that train belonged to the corps of engineers. Among them was my grandfather, by that point a captain. Batista did not lack infantry troops, his forces greatly outnumbered Rebel forces in almost every engagement of the war. In fact the garrison fort in Santa Clara contained several thousand well-equipped men. The town also contained several hundred police officers that had been summoned from around the province. What he lacked at that point was troops that were committed to fighting for and possibly dying for him. The objective of the men on that train was to repair bridges and roads that had become casualties of the war thus far. The highest-ranking officer aboard the train was Colonel Florentino E. Rosell y Leyva. In addition to being my grandfather’s commanding officer, Gomez Perez knew Rosell personally and socially.
The train departed Havana on or about the 23rd of December. After some setbacks it reached the town of Santa Clara on or about 25th of December. The train came to a stop at the foot of the Capiro Hills. Soldiers were placed on the hill to defend the train but on the 29th of December they pulled back from their defensive positions when faced with Rebel fire. It became apparent that the train was in a bad location since the Rebels were now holding positions in the higher terrain of the hills and were firing down on the train. Though the train was armored on its sides the roofs of the various carriages were unprotected. The train was ordered to move away from the hills and closer to the town. Anticipating this move some of the guerillas used a bulldozer to destroy a section of the railroad track. This caused the several of the carriages to derail. The officers and men eventually surrendered the train to Che Guevara. With the exception of the nature and purpose of the troops aboard the train, all accounts generally agree on the details to this point.
The purpose of this site is to explore the circumstances surrounding the surrender of the train. One might ask why this is important. In the end, a surrender is a surrender. But since those fateful day since late December 1958 it has been rumored that Colonel Rosell “sold” the armored train; that he was given cash to surrender the train and its contents to Che Guevara. If true, these allegations shed a new light on Guevara’s “genius” as a guerrilla strategist. After all this was his biggest victory as a professional revolutionary. His subsequent failures in the Congo and Bolivia (where he was caught and killed) are well documented so if he indeed took Santa Clara without the heavy fighting he reported in his diaries and that has been accepted as the official version of the events, then his entire career as a guerilla commander would be largely a fraud.
Colonel Rosell presumably arrived in Santa Clara by airplane on the 24th. He participated in a somber noche buena, (Christmas Eve dinner) with the officers in the garrison fort. He ate breakfast aboard the armored train on Christmas morning, yet he was not among the surrendering officers and enlisted men a couple of days later. Rosell’s brother, a local politician in Santa Clara was seen by my grandfather when he came to visit the colonel aboard the train. Gomez later saw both brothers depart with several briefcases in automobiles. Colonel Rosell never returned to the train leaving it in the command of Comandante Gomez Calderon (no relation to my grandfather Gomez Perez). That Colonel Rosell abandoned the train is not in doubt. His motivations are. Was he returning to Havana under orders of his superiors? Was he going to update Batista on the situation in the field? Was he a coward who did not want to be caught by Rebel forces and executed? Or was he bribed to surrender the train and then (in an act of self-preservation and greed) abandoned it and the men in his command?
THE COLONEL’S GONE FISHING:
My grandmother was naturally worried about my grandfather. She had not heard any news of the train, its progress or its location. She decided to pay Colonel Rosell’s family a visit in their home just outside of Havana. My father Enrique L. Gomez who was 16 years old at the time drove his mother there since she did not at that point know how to drive a car. When they arrived they found the house was completely dark. They knocked on the door and after some time the Colonel’s mother in law opened the door. She seemed out of sorts.My grandmother asked what had happened to the armored train and what had happened to the Colonel.
The woman responded that she didn’t know what happened to the train but that Rosell had arrived that morning and gone fishing on his yacht. “Fishing?” my grandmother asked incredulously. The woman said yes, that he had left on his yacht saying he was going fishing. She added that the SIM (Military Intelligence Service) had been by the house and ransacked it. She said the SIM men had left only 20 minutes before my father and grandmother arrived and showed them how they had turned the house over. My father and grandmother decided to leave Rosell’s home for fear of getting caught up in whatever was going on.
Colonel Rosell flew from the air base in Santa Clara to Havana and departed on his yacht for Miami. He had sent his wife and children ahead of him several days before. Rosell immediately became quite wealthy in Miami with a construction company. Those who subscribe to the theory that he did indeed accept a cash payment for the surrender of the train point to this as proof that he came to U.S. with a substantial amount of “seed capital” but by all accounts Rosell was wealthy in Cuba. In those early days, immediately before and after Batista fled, some Cubans were able to escape with some of their assets so it’s not inconceivable to think that he moved his savings to Miami at some point during those fateful days. (Continue)
The True Story of the Armored Train of Santa Clara (3 of 4)
The derailed train was fired upon and returned fire sporadically for some time. At one point voices outside the train began yelling “The International Red Cross is asking for a ceasefire, the International Red Cross is asking for a ceasefire.” My grandfather who was in one of the carriages closest to where the voices were coming from came out to address the men who were asking for the ceasefire. He was accompanied by another officer who was also a doctor by the name of Valdez Infante. The men who had come to ask for the ceasefire said that the Comandante ‘Che’ Guevara wanted to speak with the train’s commanding officer. My grandfather asked one of the men on the train to send for Gomez Calderon. Meanwhile the men escorted my grandfather and Valdez Infante into a house. From that house he passed to another house through a hole that had been made in the wall as a sort of passageway. After passing through several houses in this manner he was finally face to face with Che Guevara.
My grandfather’s identification of Guevara was positive. He was wearing an arm cast and a sling on his broken arm. Guevara had broken it earlier in the campaign. Guevara asked why the Rebels had been fired upon by the men on the train. “This is not what we had agreed to!” My grandfather explained that he knew nothing of any agreement. At that point Gomez Calderon arrived and Guevara repeated his question. Gomez Calderon also said he knew nothing of an arrangement. Guevara seemed legitimately upset. He explained to the three army officers that the battle to save the Batista regime was lost and that the train was vulnerable. That the men aboard could fight and be killed or they could surrender the train and join the Rebels or otherwise return to Havana. Gomez Calderon said that he preferred not to make a decision on the spot. That he wanted to confer with the other officers aboard the train. The three officers returned to the train. My grandfather never saw Guevara again. Ultimately the officers agreed to surrender. All of the men were given the option to join the Rebel forces. Only one man took the Rebels up on the offer. The officers were then separated from the men and the officers were then transported to the port of Caibarien, which was under Rebel control. They spent the night of the 30th there and departed for Havana on a navy vessel the following morning. My grandmother received a call from a friend of my grandfather’s named Jesus Blanco whose brother was in the navy. Blanco stated that my grandfather would be arriving that night at about 11:00 PM on a vessel captained by his brother. My father and grandmother arrived at the docks at 10:30 and at 11:00 the vessel arrived as scheduled. My grandfather was only able to speak to his son and wife for a couple of minutes as he was being taken from the vessel to a bus. He explained that “it’s all over, the Rebels completely control Santa Clara.”
It seems incongruous that the Rebels would capture the train and simply allow the officers a safe return to Havana. It’s worth mentioning that the Rebels really had no interest in keeping these men prisoner. Prisoners needed to be guarded and fed. The Rebels being the small force that they were of course couldn’t spare the men or supplies to do this. Besides they were promising amnesty to all officers and soldiers who surrendered without a fight. Castro had broadcast certain edicts that resistors to the revolution would be tried as traitors and if found guilty be sentenced to an execution by firing squad. How much this weighed on the minds of the soldiers that were being asked to fight the Rebels cannot be underestimated. Sending the officers back to Havana posed little risk to the Rebels. They knew that the men would be viewed as traitors by the army and would not be trusted again with commands. In the end it became irrelevant because shortly after the vessel with the officers from the armored train arrived on the evening of the 31st, Batista fled Havana and the Rebels had their victory.
Once in Havana my grandfather was kept at an air force base for several weeks before being released. Remember that once Batista fled, Fidel Castro’s chosen President, Manuel Urrutia Lleo, was recognized by the United States and by the Cuban people as the legitimate leader of Cuba. The soldiers, seamen and airmen of the Cuban armed forces now officially worked for the Revolutionary government. Castro initially guaranteed the jobs of all military men that were not deemed as treasonous to the revolution. He calculated correctly that if he could keep the military happy until he could consolidate his power that he would then be in a better position to remake the Cuban armed forces with men loyal to him. My grandfather continued on as a doctor in the army for several months until he was discharged of his duties.
In various books about Che Guevara the capture of the train is portrayed as the critical moment in the battle for Santa Clara. The entire image of Che as a master guerilla strategist is built upon it.
In his book, Respuesta, Fulgencio Batista says that General Francisco Tabernilla Sr. and General Pedro A. Rodriguez Avila “informed me that Colonel Florentino Rosell, without authorization from his superiors, had to return to Havana, saying that he needed to render urgent information. The following day they informed me that Colonel Rosell had deserted. During the morning, he left by sea, the assumption being that he was headed to some port in Florida in the United States of America.”
In an article that appeared in El Diario de Nueva York on June 25th 1959, Francisco Rodriguez Tamayo, AKA “El Mexicano”, who was a captain in the Rebel Army and Humberto Olivera Perez who was a captain in Cuba’s Regular Army, state that “…many of the “battles” that were won by rebel forces were in reality “purchases” made by the rebel army off of Batista officers.” The article continues, “According to them, Colonel Ernesto [sic] Rosell for a sum (that some sources say was $350,000 and others say was $1,000,000) sold the armored train in Santa Clara to “Che” Guevara. He sold not only the whole train, but also the arms and troops aboard it.”
In the same article “El Mexicano” talks about how the Rebels collected funds for the purposes of bribing Batista forces and purchasing their weapons and he claims that “When all the battles were done, Fidel had, in the 26th of July headquarters, some $4,500,000 left for those purposes. I don’t know what might have happened to that money.”
My grandfather’s account of Guevara’s reaction to the shots fired from the train is consistent with a man who felt he had been swindled. My grandfather also stated that the officers on the train were all speculating that Rosell had been paid. This gives us some insight as to the feelings of the rank and file soldiers who apparently were aware of the allegations that battle victories were being routinely bought by the Rebels.
Jorge Castañeda, in his biography of Guevara, writes that Eloy Gutierrez Menoyo, a rival Rebel leader claims he had negotiated a surrender with Rosell but that Rosell’s brother spoke to Che Guevara and instead of surrendering the train to Gutierrez Menoyo the train would be surrendered to Guevara. This detail is important because of the weapons that were believed to be aboard the train. With those weapons Guevara and the 26th of July forces would be much better armed than the rest of the Rebel groups. Castañeda quotes Gutierrez Menoyo as saying “I discussed this two or three times with Guevara and asked him ‘what did you offer that I didn’t?’ He only laughed and never confessed the truth to me.”
For his part, Che Guevara writes in his memoirs of the Cuban Revolution that an incredible battle took place. That the Rebels threw Molotov cocktails on the train’s carriages making them into ovens and that after fierce fighting the train was surrendered. This is almost certainly not the case. My grandfather never mentioned a single soldier on that train as having been killed or seriously injured. This, like so much else that is written about the Cuban Revolution, is simply a myth. A large segment of populace of Santa Clara were in support of the Rebels. The men on the derailed armored train were cut off from their fellow soldiers in the garrison fort. They had been abandoned by their commanding officer. They weren’t even infantrymen. They were prepared to build bridges and repair roads not kill fellow Cubans while trying to suppress a popular revolution.
Rosell lived in Miami until his death in January of 2007. He wrote a book in 1960 entitled, La Verdad (The Truth) explaining his side of the story. In their 1980 book, The Winds of December, John Dorschner and Roberto Fabricio state that in the interview they conducted with him, Rosell admits to having lied about certain details in La Verdad. The irony of that statement should not be lost on the reader.
Dorschner and Fabricio do not mention the rumored sale of the train. In their version of the events, Rosell flees because he fears being arrested by SIM as a traitor because he had hatched a plan with other army officers to oust Batista and come to an agreement with the Rebels to install a new ruling junta. Supposedly once Guevara and the Rebels rejected the plan, and its very existence was made known to SIM and Batista, Rosell had nowhere to go but Miami. Various sources agree that Rosell was among several officers that were displaying defeatist attitudes during those December days, looking for accommodations with the Rebels. Rosell definitely appears to have been spinning, what Dorschner and Fabricio call a “web of intrigue.” (Continue)
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The True Story of the Armored Train of Santa Clara (4 of 4)
“Web of Intrigue”
This web of intrigue is underscored by an account given to me by Santiago de Juan. Mr. de Juan owned 2 radio stations in Cuba and managed 5 others. He was also a member of the Havana underground working for the Directorio Revolucionario 13 de Marzo with the code name of Marcos Duran until his situation in the city became untenable. He then went to the Escambray mountains where he participated in joint actions with the 26th of July forces. On the morning of December 24th, while attempting to travel from Placetas to Santa Clara in an automobile and disguised in civilian , he was stopped at a checkpoint. A colonel directed him out of earshot of his traveling companions. There the colonel made it clear that he knew who de Juan was and what he was up to by saying “Listen, I am an Engineer and you are a Radio Station owner, so lets talk like such, okay?” After a brief exchange of words about what had happened in Placetas, the colonel asked de Juan to meet him in the restaurant of the Gran Hotel in Santa Clara.
Santiago de Juan explains what happened next “We were having lunch at the hotel restaurant just a few minutes past noon, when the elevator door opened and out came Rosell Leyva, by himself. As a courtesy, I got up and walked toward him and we met halfway, by ourselves. He greeted me with a ‘buenas tardes’ and again, without beating around the bush asked: ‘Have you heard of the Tren Blindado?’ The truth is that if I did, I could not really remember but so as not to sound stupid, I said yes with a gesture of my head. Then he continued and said: ‘In the next few days, the train will not have much protection.’ he extended his hand which I accepted and bid me ‘buenas tardes’ again, turned around and that is all I know about him.”
Mr. de Juan corroborates Dorschner and Fabricio’s version inasmuch as Rosell was trying to send a signal to the Rebels that he would turn the train over without a fight, quite possibly as a gesture of goodwill to them, believing the war was lost. One thing is certain, he was not acting like someone who was committed to carrying out the mission he had been entrusted with. I think it’s a little far fetched to believe that Rosell acted instinctively when he fled and that he did not premeditate his departure to Miami, given that he sent his family ahead of him.
The Rebel forces were well financed by wealthy Cubans that wanted to oust Batista. Castro also extorted money from the businesses (mostly sugar mills) in the areas he controlled. Dorschner and Fabricio detail one instance where a Sugar Mill president paid a $450,000 “tax” to the Rebels. Paul Bethel documents in his book, The Losers, an instance in which a large sum of money was paid by Che Guevara to army officials for safe passage through otherwise hostile territory. Bethel’s opinion of the armored train episode is that Rosell “sold the train to Castro. A few shots and bombs to make it look good, and the deal was consummated in a triumph of Castro propaganda.”
It is possible that Rosell was in fact paid a large sum of money to surrender the train. But wanting to hedge his bet in case of a double cross, he took the money and fled to Miami. Where I differ with Bethel is that I believe that any shots that were fired by Cuban soldiers during the brief engagement were legitimate since Rosell was gone and the men knew nothing of an “arrangement.” Although Rosell reneged on his deal ultimately Che got his prize, his legend and later his comeuppance in Bolivia.
My grandfather eventually came to the United States. He became licensed to practice medicine and opened a private practice in West Chester, Pennsylvania. He was very popular among the Puerto Ricans living in the area because he was a pediatrician that spoke Spanish. With his help my father was able to attend college at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia and the medical school at the Universidad de Salamanca in Spain. My grandfather died in Miami in 1979. My grandmother still lives. I have a sister who is an elementary school teacher and I work in Spanish language advertising. My grandfather had four other grandchildren from his daughter. Two of them, Alejandro and Luis Enrique, are graduates of the United States Military Academy at West Point. None of his six grandchildren followed their genetic legacy and went into medicine.
The vast majority of the people who supported the Cuban Revolution initially were not communists or socialists. They simply wanted a democratically elected government that would reform and remedy some of the nation’s pressing problems. Once Batista fled, Castro’s evil genius was truly displayed. He consolidated this popular revolution by first eliminating supporters of the previous regime through farcical show trials and summary executions and then by jailing or executing potential rivals that had been previously cooperating with him. Fans of Fidel Castro usually gloss over this reign of terror that would have made Stalin himself proud. As far as the people, many of them wealthy, who helped fund Castro and his Revolution go, this should serve as a cautionary tale. Be careful what you wish for. These people thought that anyone other than Batista would be better. Castro ended up being their worst nightmare. He nationalized every industry and confiscated all private property. Many of Castro’s harshest critics today were once on his side, and that has to tell you something about his character. Cuba’s human rights abuses are well documented. There is no democracy and there are no individual rights in Cuba. 10% of the Cuban population lives in exile and if allowed there’d be a lot more than that.
After Castro took power, Che Guevara was placed in charge of the military fort known as La Cabaña. While there he supervised and personally participated in the torture and execution by firing squad of hundreds of Cubans. El Che, to me, seems like the kind of guy who only felt alive when he had the power to kill a defenseless fellow human being in his hands. I doubt that he was ever really a medical doctor. I have yet to see one shred of proof that he ever graduated from medical school and have studied him intensely. In addition to the firing squads Guevara was responsible for setting up the gulag system in Cuba where people were imprisoned for such crimes as being homosexual and listening to rock and roll music. Just the kind of hero you’d want adorning the front of your t-shirt.
THE END @ COPYRIGHT 2012