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Cuba's road to Revolution

December 02, 2016, 7:21 UTC+3 MOSCOW
Friday marks 60 years since a group of Cuban revolutionaries, led by Fidel Castro, disembarked to touch off the revolution in Cuba
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Fidel Castro, 1961

Fidel Castro, 1961

© TASS archive

MOSCOW, December 2. /TASS/. December 2, 2016 marks 60 years since a group of revolutionaries, led by Fidel Castro, debarked from a small leisure yacht Granma on Cuba’s eastern coast. It was the start of the guerilla war against dictator Fulgencio Batista that resulted in his overthrow on January 1, 1959.

 

Cuba in early 20th century

Cuba, a colony of Spain between 16th and 19th centuries, fell under the US control following Spain’s defeat in the 1898 Spanish-American War. On January 1, 1899 the United States occupied Cuba. Although the US had promised that Cuba would become an independent state, it forced the so-called Platt Amendment into the island nation’s constitution in 1901. The amendment, along with a series of other treaties and legal initiatives, granted Washington nearly total control over the island’s political and economic life, including the right to intervene militarily.

 

Background and causes of armed struggle

In 1944, the nationalist Cuban Revolutionary Party - Authentic, commonly named Authentic Party (Partido Autentico), took power, announcing the "rule of the people" and pledging agrarian and tax reforms, as well as economic development. However, not all of their electoral promises were fulfilled and their rule was marred by political repressions, assassinations of dissidents and censorship, along with widespread corruption and gang violence.

In 1952, an armed coup brought into power US-backed General Fulgencio Batista. He dissolved the parliament and abolished the constitution, starting a period of dictatorship.

 

Armed revolt

Batista antagonized the population by establishing links to organized crime and allowing American companies to dominate the Cuban economy. As most parties remained politically inactive, non-systemic opposition gained momentum. In 1953, Fidel Castro, then a young lawyer and activist, gathered a group of rebels seeking an armed overthrow of Batista’s rule.

In 1953, the group assaulted the federal barracks at Moncada, near Santiago-de-Cuba. The attack was a failure, with nearly half of the rebels killed and the rest, including brothers Fidel and Raoul Castro, captured and sent to jail. The attackers were released in 1955 as Batista bowed to international and domestic pressure and announced amnesty for the Moncada assault participants. Castro, along with many of his supporters, fled to Mexico to prepare an armed revolt.

On November 25, 1956, 82 Cuban rebels, including Fidel and Raul Castro, Ernesto "Che" Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos, piled onto the small yacht Granma in Tuxpan, Mexico, and set sail for Cuba. The yacht, designed for maximum of 12 passengers, was loaded many times beyond capacity, but also carried fuel, foodstuffs and weapons. Miraculously, the Granma made it to Cuba on December 2 and the Cuban rebels disembarked to touch off the revolution.

Several days later, government troops located the group and the revolutionaries were immediately scattered. Of all rebels who arrived on board Granma, only a group of 20 people managed to make it to the mountains of Sierra Maestra, forming the core of the future rebel army.

Within the next two years, the rebels, reinforced by local sympathizers, gradually progressed westward, making a series of outstanding victories over the enemy that overwhelmingly surpassed them in numbers.

 

Victory of the revolution

In late November 1958, Fidel Castro personally led his forces into battle near Guisa, not far from the island’s second most important city of Santiago de Cuba. It was the start of the rebel army’s final offensive. Meanwhile, another group of rebels, led by Ernesto "Che" Guevara, marched toward the capital, Havana. On December 31, 1958, the city of Santa Clara not far from the capital fell to the revolutionary forces. The news caused Batista to panic, and he fled to the Dominican Republic on January 1, 1959.

When Castro learned of Batista's flight in the morning, he immediately started to negotiate with the military commander in Santiago de Cuba, and his forces took over the city with no resistance on January 2, proclaiming the victory of the revolution. On January 8, 1959, Castro and his triumphant forces arrived in Havana.

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