When Christopher Columbus landed in Cuba on October 24, 1492 he described it as the "fairest island human eyes have yet beheld." However, the Spanish had not come for the scenery. When gold was discovered soon afterwards King Ferdinand of Spain sent an army to take control of the island. Led by Chief Hatuey the local Indians put up a brave struggle but the Cubans were soon defeated by the superior weapons of the Spanish.
Twenty-five years later, the population of over 1,000,000 Indians had been reduced to only 2,000. Many were murdered, others died of starvation or disease, committed suicide or had died from the consequences of being forced to work long hours in the gold-mines.
The Spanish replaced the Indians with slaves from Africa. When the gold mines were exhausted the Spanish used slaves to produce cash crops, especially sugar and tobacco. There were several slave revolts in Cuba but they were defeated by the descendants of the original Spanish settlers who became known as Creoles.
The Creoles were forced to sell their produce for low prices to Spain. They objected to this system and became involved in a war to obtain their independence. By 1898 the Cubans were on the verge of defeating the Spanish when troops from the United States arrived to quell the revolt.
The United States had originally tried to buy the island from Spain in 1853 for $130 million. After putting down the
Cuban revolt, the United States was in a position to force Cuba to sell their sugar and tobacco to them instead of to Spain. As the Spanish had done previously, the United States forced the Cubans to sell raw materials for low prices. They also made sure that Cuba bought their manufactured goods, and by 1914 an estimated 74 per cent of all imports came from the United States. Much of Cuban industry was now owned by United States companies including the railways, telephones and tobacco plantations, as was two-thirds of all arable land. The United States also took control of Guantanamo Bay. As well as providing an important base for the US Navy, Guantanamo also had two airstrips and a Marine Garrison.
The Cubans were also forced to sign what became known as the Platt Agreement. This agreement gave the United States the right to send troops to the island if they disagreed with the way that the country was being run. This meant that no Cuban government could be elected unless they were willing to implement policies favourable to the United States. In return for their cooperation, government ministers in Cuba received payments from United States businessmen. Elections in Cuba were usually rigged and the victors were rarely popular with the Cuban people.
Just ninety miles off the Florida coast, Cuba became a holiday island for rich Americans. It was a place where they could enjoy pleasures that were illegal in many states in North America. These included drinking, gambling and prostitution. Large profits could be made from these activities and it was not long before they were under the control of the Mafia.
In 1947 Fidel Castro joined the Cuban People's Party. He was attracted to this new party's campaign against corruption, injustice, poverty, unemployment and low wages. The Cuban People's Party accused government ministers of taking bribes and running the country for the benefit of the large United States corporations that had factories and offices in Cuba.
In 1952 Castro became a candidate for Congress for the Cuban People's Party. He was a superb public speaker and soon built up a strong following amongst the young members of the party. The Cuban People's Party was expected to win the election but during the campaign. General Fulgencio Batista, with the support of the armed forces, took control of the country.
Castro came to the conclusion that revolution was the only way that the Cuban People's Party would gain power. In 1953, Castro, with an armed group of 123 men and women, attacked the Moncada army barracks. The plan to overthrow Batista ended in disaster and although only eight were killed in the fighting, another eighty were murdered by the army after they were captured. Castro was lucky that the lieutenant who arrested him ignored orders to have him executed and instead delivered him to the nearest civilian prison.
Castro also came close to death in prison. Captain Pelletier was instructed to put poison in Castro's food. The man refused and instead revealed his orders to the Cuban people. Pelletier was court-martialed but, concerned about world opinion, Batista decided not to have Castro killed.
Fidel Castro was put on trial charged with organising an armed uprising. He used this opportunity to make a speech about the problems of Cuba and how they could be solved. His speech later became a book entitled History Will Absolve Me. Castro was found guilty and sentenced to fifteen years in prison. The trial and the publication of the book made Castro famous in Cuba. His attempted revolution had considerable support in the country. After all, the party he represented would probably have won the election in 1952 had it been allowed to take place. Following considerable pressure from the Cuban population, Batista decided to release Castro after he had served only two years of his sentence. Batista also promised elections but when it became clear that they would not take place, Castro left for Mexico where he began to plan another attempt to overthrow the Cuban government.
After building up a stock of guns and ammunition, Fidel Castro, Che Guevara and eighty other rebels arrived in Cuba in 1956. This group became known as the July 26 Movement (the date that Castro had attacked the Moncada barracks). Their plan was to set up their base in the Sierra Maestra mountains. On the way to the mountains they were attacked by government troops. By the time they reached the Sierra Maestra there were only sixteen men left with twelve weapons between them. For the next few months Castro's guerrilla army raided isolated army garrisons and were gradually able to build-up their stock of weapons.
When Castro's guerrillas took control of territory they redistributed the land amongst the peasants. In return, the peasants helped the guerrillas against Batista's soldiers. In some cases the peasants also joined Castro's army, as did students from the cities and occasionally Catholic priests.
In an effort to find out information about Castro's army people were pulled in for questioning. Many innocent people were tortured. Suspects, including children, were publicly executed and then left hanging in the streets for several days as a warning to others who were considering joining Castro. The behaviour of Batista's forces increased support for the guerrillas. In 1958 forty-five organizations signed an open letter supporting the July 26 Movement. National bodies representing lawyers, architects, dentists, accountants and social workers were amongst those who signed. Castro, who had originally relied on the support of the poor, was now gaining the backing of the influential middle classes.
Fulgencio Batista responded to this by sending more troops to the Sierra Maestra. He now had 10,000 men hunting for Castro and his 300-strong army. Although outnumbered, Castro's guerrillas were able to inflict defeat after defeat on the government's troops. In the summer of 1958 over a thousand of Batista's soldiers were killed or wounded and many more were captured. Unlike Batista's soldiers, Castro's troops had developed a reputation for behaving well towards prisoners. This encouraged Batista's troops to surrender to Castro when things went badly in battle. Complete military units began to join the guerrillas.
The United States supplied Batista with planes, ships and tanks, but the advantage of using the latest technology such as napalm failed to win them victory against the guerrillas. In March 1958, the United States government, disillusioned with Batista's performance, suggested he held elections. This he did, but the people showed their dissatisfaction with his government by refusing to vote. Over 75 per cent of the voters in the capital Havana boycotted the polls. In some areas, such as Santiago, it was as high as 98 per cent.
Castro was now confident he could beat Batista in a head-on battle. Leaving the Sierra Maestra mountains, Castro's troops began to march on the main towns. After consultations with the United States government, Batista decided to flee Cuba. Senior Generals left behind attempted to set up another military government. Castro's reaction was to call for a general strike. The workers came out on strike and the military were forced to accept the people's desire for change. Castro marched into Havana on January 9,1959, and became Cuba's new leader.
In its first hundred days in office Castro's government passed several new laws. Rents were cut by up to 50 per cent for low wage earners; property owned by Batista and his ministers was confiscated; the telephone company was nationalized and the rates were reduced by 50 per cent; land was redistributed amongst the peasants (including the land owned by the Castro family); separate facilities for blacks and whites (swimming pools, beaches, hotels, cemeteries etc.) were abolished.
Castro had strong views on morality. He considered that alcohol, drugs, gambling, homosexuality and prostitution were major evils. He saw the casinos and night-clubs as sources of temptation and corruption and he passed laws closing them down. Members of the Mafia, who had been heavily involved in running these places, were forced to leave the country.
Castro believed strongly in education. Before the revolution 23.6 per cent of the Cuban population were illiterate. In rural areas over half the population could not read or write and 61 per cent of the children did not go to school. Castro asked young students in the cities to travel to the countryside and teach the people to read and write. Cuba adopted the slogan: "If you don't know, learn. If you know, teach." Eventually free education was made available to all citizens and illiteracy in Cuba became a thing of the past.
The new Cuban government also set about the problem of health care. Before the revolution Cuba had 6,000 doctors. Of these, 64 per cent worked in Havana where most of the rich people lived. When Castro ordered that doctors had to be redistributed throughout the country, over half decided to leave Cuba. To replace them Cuba built three new training schools for doctors.
The death of young children from disease was a major problem in Cuba. Infant mortality was 60 per 1,000 live births in 1959. To help deal with this Cuba introduced a free health-service and started a massive inoculation program. By 1980 infant mortality had fallen to 15 per 1,000. This figure is now the best in the developing world and is in fact better than many areas of the United States.
It has been estimated that in his seven-year reign, Batista's regime had murdered over 20,000 Cubans. Those involved in the murders had not expected to lose power and had kept records, including photographs of the people they had tortured and murdered. Castro established public tribunals to try the people responsible and an estimated 600 people were executed. Although this pleased the relatives of the people murdered by Batista's government, these executions shocked world opinion.
Some of Castro's new laws also upset the United States. Much of the land given to the peasants was owned by corporations in the United States. So also was the telephone company that was nationalized. The United States government responded by telling Castro they would no longer be willing to supply the technology and technicians needed to run Cuba's economy. When this failed to change Castro's policies they reduced their orders for Cuban sugar.
Castro refused to be intimidated by the United States and adopted even more aggressive policies towards them. In the summer of 1960 Castro nationalised United States property worth $850 million. He also negotiated a deal where by the Soviet Union and other communist countries in Eastern Europe agreed to purchase the sugar that the United States had refused to take. The Soviet Union also agreed to supply the weapons, technicians and machinery denied to Cuba by the United States.
President Dwight Eisenhower was in a difficult situation. The more he attempted to punish Fidel Castro the closer he became to the Soviet Union. His main fear was that Cuba could eventually become a Soviet military base. To change course and attempt to win Castro's friendship with favourable trade deals was likely to be interpreted as a humiliating defeat for the United States. Instead Eisenhower announced that he would not buy any more sugar from Cuba. In 1960 Eisenhower retired and the problem of dealing with Castro was passed on to the new president, John F. Kennedy.
In the three years that followed the revolution, 250,000 Cubans out of a population of six million left the country. Most of these were from the upper and middle-classes who were financially worse off as a result of Castro's policies.
Of those who stayed, 90 per cent of the population, according to public opinion polls, supported Castro. However, Castro did not keep his promise of holding free elections. Castro claimed the national unity that had been created would be destroyed by the competing political parties in an election.
Castro was also becoming less tolerant towards people who disagreed with him. Ministers who questioned the wisdom of his policies were sacked and replaced by people who had proved their loyalty to him. These people were often young, inexperienced politicians who had fought with him in the Sierra Maestra.
Politicians who publicly disagreed with him faced the possibility of being arrested. Writers who expressed dissenting views and people he considered deviants such as homosexuals were also imprisoned.
In March I960, President Dwight Eisenhower of the United States approved a CIA plan to overthrow Castro. The plan involved a budget of $13 million to train "a paramilitary force outside Cuba for guerrilla action." Over 400 CIA officers were employed full-time to carry out what became known as Operation Mongoose.
The CIA Technical Services Division was asked to come up with proposals that would undermine Castro's popularity with the Cuban people. Plans included a scheme to spray a television studio in which he was about to appear with an
hallucinogenic drug and contaminating his shoes with thallium which they believed would cause the hair in his beard to fall out.
These schemes were rejected and instead the CIA decided to arrange the assassination of Castro. It is claimed that there were twenty ClA-sponsered attempts on his life. Later, the CIA offered the Mafia $150,000 plus expenses to kill Castro. The Mafia, who had experience of this kind of work and who were keen to restore their profitable gambling and prostitution operations in Cuba, accepted the offer but, like the CIA, they failed in their attempts to kill Castro.
When John F. Kennedy replaced Dwight Eisenhower as president of the United States he was told about the CIA plan to invade Cuba. Kennedy had doubts about the venture but he was afraid he would be seen as soft on communism if he refused permission for it to go ahead. Kennedy's advisers convinced him that Castro was an unpopular leader and that once the invasion started the Cuban people would support the ClA-trained forces.
On April 14, 1961, B-26 planes began bombing Cuba's airfields. After the raids Cuba was left with only eight planes
and seven pilots. Two days later five merchant ships carrying 1,400 Cuban exiles arrived at the Bay of Pigs. The attack was a total failure. Two of the ships were sunk, including the ship that was carrying most of the supplies. Two of the planes that were attempting to give air-cover were also shot down. Within seventy-two hours all the invading troops had been killed, wounded or had surrendered.
At the beginning of September 1962, U-2 spy planes discovered that the Soviet Union was building surface-to-air missile (SAM) launch sites. There was also an increase in the number of Soviet ships arriving in Cuba which the United States government feared were carrying new supplies of weapons. President Kennedy complained to the Soviet Union about these developments and warned them that the United States would not accept offensive weapons (SAMs were considered to be defensive) in Cuba.
As the Cubans now had SAM installations they were in a position to shoot down U-2 spy-planes. Kennedy was in a difficult situation. Elections were to take place for the United States Congress in two month's time. The public opinion polls showed that his own ratings had fallen to their lowest point since he became president.
In his first two years of office a combination of Republicans and conservative southern Democrats in Congress had blocked much of Kennedy's proposed legislation. The polls suggested that after the elections he would have even less support in Congress. Kennedy feared that any trouble over Cuba would lose the Democratic Party even more votes, as it would remind voters of the Bay of Pigs disaster. One poll showed that over 62 per cent of the population were unhappy with his policies on Cuba. Understandably, the Republicans attempted to make Cuba the main issue in the campaign.
This was probably in Kennedy's mind when he decided to restrict the flights of the U-2 planes over Cuba . Pilots were also told to avoid flying the whole length of the island. Kennedy hoped this would ensure that a U-2 plane would not be shot down, and would prevent Cuba becoming a major issue during the election campaign.
On 27th September, a CIA agent in Cuba overheard Castro's personal pilot tell another man in a bar that Cuba now had nuclear weapons. U-2 spy-plane photographs also showed that unusual activity was taking place at San Cristobal. However, it was not until the 15th October that photographs were taken that revealed that the Soviet Union was placing long range missiles in Cuba.
President Kennedy's first reaction to the information about the missiles in Cuba was to call a meeting to discuss what should be done. Fourteen men attended the meeting and included military leaders, experts on Latin America, representatives of the CIA, cabinet ministers and personal friends whose advice Kennedy valued. This group became known as the Executive Committee of the National Security Council. Over the next few days they were to meet several times.
At the first meeting of the Executive Committee of the National Security Council, the CIA and other military advisers explained the situation. After hearing what they had to say, the general feeling of the meeting was for an air-attack on the missile sites. Remembering the poor advice the CIA had provided before the Bay of Pigs invasion, John F. Kennedy decided to wait and instead called for another meeting to take place that evening. By this time several of the men were having doubts about the wisdom of a bombing raid, fearing that it would lead to a nuclear war with the Soviet Union. The committee was now so divided that a firm decision could not be made.
The Executive Committee of the National Security Council argued amongst themselves for the next two days. The CIA and the military were still in favour of a bombing raid and/or an invasion. However, the majority of the committee gradually began to favour a naval blockade of Cuba.
Kennedy accepted their decision and instructed Theodore Sorensen, a member of the committee, to write a speech in which Kennedy would explain to the world why it was necessary to impose a naval blockade of Cuba.
As well as imposing a naval blockade, Kennedy also told the air-force to prepare for attacks on Cuba and the Soviet Union. The army positioned 125,000 men in Florida and was told to wait for orders to invade Cuba. If the Soviet ships carrying weapons for Cuba did not turn back or refused to be searched, a war was likely to begin. Kennedy also promised his military advisers that if one of the U-2 spy planes were fired upon he would give orders for an attack on the Cuban SAM missile sites.
The world waited anxiously. A public opinion poll in the United States revealed that three out of five people expected fighting to break out between the two sides. There were angry demonstrations outside the American Embassy in London as people protested about the possibility of nuclear war. Demonstrations also took place in other cities in Europe. However, in the United States, polls suggested that the vast majority supported Kennedy's action.
On October 24, President John F. Kennedy was informed that Soviet ships had stopped just before they reached the United States ships blockading Cuba. That evening Nikita Khrushchev sent an angry note to Kennedy accusing him of creating a crisis to help the Democratic Party win the forthcoming election.
On October 26, Khrushchev sent Kennedy another letter. In this he proposed that the Soviet Union would be willing to
remove the missiles in exchange for a promise by the United States that they would not invade Cuba. The next day a second letter from Khrushchev arrived demanding that the United States remove their nuclear bases in Turkey.
While the president and his advisers were analyzing Khrushchev's two letters, news came through that a U-2 plane had been shot down over Cuba. The leaders of the military, reminding Kennedy of the promise he had made, argued that he should now give orders for the bombing of Cuba. Kennedy refused and instead sent a letter to Khrushchev accepting the terms of his first letter.
Khrushchev agreed and gave orders for the missiles to be dismantled. Eight days later the elections for Congress took place. The Democrats increased their majority and it was estimated that Kennedy would now have an extra twelve supporters in Congress for his policies.
The Cuban Missile Crisis was the first and only nuclear confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union. The event appeared to frighten both sides and it marked a change in the development of the Cold War.
Castro remained dependent on the support of the Soviet Union. Nikita Khrushchev was ousted from power on 15th October, 1964, but his successors, including Leonid Brezhnev, Yuri Andropov, Konstantin Chernenko and Mikhail Gorbachev provided aid to his government. However, after the fall of communism in the Soviet Union in 1989 this economic help came to an end.
In 1991 Cuba suffered an economic crisis. Its outdated and unrepaired equipment meant that sugar and tobacco production fell. At the same time Cuba could no longer rely on former countries in Eastern Europe to buy its goods. Fidel Castro suffered great embarrassment when his own daughter sough asylum in the United States in 1994.
(A1) In 1977 the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party produced a book on the history of Cuba.
US investment in Cuba, totalling 50 million dollars in 1896, went up to 160 million in 1906, to 205 million in 1911, and 1.2 billion in 1923, which included the ownership of three-quarters of the sugar industry. The corrupt governments and the repeated Yankee interventions in the first few decades of the neo-colonialised republic did their job of handing over the country's wealth to foreign masters.
(A2) David Detzer, an American journalist, visited Cuba in the 1950s.
Brothels flourished. A major industry grew up around them: Government officials received bribes, policemen collected protection money. Prostitutes could be seen standing in doorways, strolling the streets, or leaning from windows... One report estimated that 11,500 of them worked their trade in Havana... Beyond the outskirts of the capital, beyond the slot machines, was one of the poorest - and most beautiful - countries in the Western world.
(A3) Senator William Fulbright of Arkansas made a speech in Congress on United States policy in Latin America.
Most Latin Americans have seen their neighbour to the north (the United States) growing richer; they have seen the elite elements in their own societies growing richer - but the man in the street or on the land in Latin America today still lives the hand-to-mouth existence of his great, great grandfather... They are less and less happy with situations in which, to cite one example, 40 per cent of the land is owned by 1 per cent of the people, and in which, typically, a very thin upper crust lives in grandeur while most others live in squalor.
(A4) Earl Smith was the American Ambassador in Cuba (1957-1959).
The United States... was so overwhelmingly influential in Cuba that... the American Ambassador was the second most important man in Cuba; sometimes even more important than the President (of Cuba).
(A5) In 1953, Fidel Castro, a young politician, complained about Cuba's economic relationship with the United States.
With the exception of a few food, lumber and textile industries, Cuba continues to be a producer of raw materials. We export sugar to import candy, we export hides to import shoes, we export iron to import ploughs.
(A6) Arthur Schlesinger, was asked by the United States government to write a report on Batista's Cuba.
The corruption of the Government, the brutality of the police, the regime's indifference to the needs of the people for education, medical care, housing, for social justice and economic justice... is an open invitation to revolution.
(A7) Che Guevara, The Cuban Economy, International Affairs (October, 1964)
Sugar cane has been part of the Cuban picture since the sixteenth century. It was brought to the island only a few years after the discovery of America; however, the slave system of exploitation kept cultivation on a subsistence level. Only with the technological innovations which converted the sugar mill into a factory, with the introduction of the railway and the abolition of slavery, did the production of sugar begin to show a considerable growth, and one which assumed extraordinary proportions under Yankee auspices.
The natural advantages of the cultivation of sugar in Cuba are obvious, but the predominant fact is that Cuba was developed as a sugar factory of the United States.
North American banks and capitalists soon controlled the commercial exploitation of sugar and, furthermore, a good share of the industrial output of the land. In this way, a monopolistic control was established by U.S. interests in all aspects of a sugar production, which soon became the predominant factor in our foreign trade due to the rapidly developing monoproductive characteristics of the country.
Cuba became the sugar-producing and -exporting country par excellence; and if she did not develop even further in this respect, the reason is to be found in the capitalist contradictions which put a limit to a continuous expansion of the Cuban sugar industry, which depended almost entirely on North American capital.
The North American government used the quota system on imports of Cuban sugar not only to protect her own sugar industry, as demanded by her own producers, but also to make possible the unrestricted introduction into our country of North American manufactured goods. The preferential treaties of the beginning of the century gave North American products imported into Cuba a tariff advantage of 20 percent over the most favored of the nations with whom Cuba might sign trade agreements. Under these conditions of competition, and in view of the proximity of the United States, it became almost impossible for any foreign country to compete with North American manufactured goods.
The US quota system meant stagnation for our sugar production. During the last years the Cuban productive capacity was rarely utilized to the full, but the preferential treatment given to Cuban sugar by the quota also meant that no other export crops could compete with it on an economic basis.
Consequently, the only two activities of our agriculture were cultivation of sugar cane and the breeding of low-quality cattle on pastures which at the same time served as reserve areas for the sugar plantation owners.
Unemployment became a constant feature of life in rural areas, resulting in the migration of agricultural workers to the cities. But industry did not develop either, only some public service undertakings under Yankee auspices (transportation, communications, electrical energy).
(A8) Che Guevara, speech (17th October, 1959)
Our universities produced lawyers and doctors for the old social system, but did not create enough agricultural extension teachers, agronomists, chemists, or physicists. In fact, we do not even have mathematicians. Consequently we have had to innovate.
In many cases our universities do not even offer the required resources. On a few occasions a very small number of students go into such fields. We have found a technological vacuum because there was no planning, no direction on the part of the state that considered the needs of our society.
We believe that the state is capable of understanding the needs of the nation; as such, then, the state must participate in the administration and direction of the university. Many people oppose this vehemently. Many consider it a destruction of university autonomy.
This is a mistaken attitude. The university cannot be an ivory tower, far away from the society, removed from the practical accomplishments of the Revolution. If such an attitude is maintained, the university will continue giving our society lawyers that we do not need.
There are two possible paths that the university can take. A number of students denounce state intervention and the loss of university autonomy. This student sector reflects its class background while forgetting its revolutionary obligation. This sector has not realized that it has an obligation to workers and peasants. Our workers and peasants died beside the students in order to attain power.
It is dangerous to maintain this attitude. The fact is that larger questions are involved here. Great strategic links are being developed abroad to destroy our Revolution. Those forces are trying to attract all those who have been hurt by the Revolution. We do not refer to the embezzlers, criminals, or the members of the old government; we are thinking of those who have remained on the margin of this revolutionary process, those who have lost economically but support the Revolution in a limited way.
All these people are dispersed throughout different social classes. Today they can express their discontent with freedom. National and international reactionaries want to strengthen their forces by attracting these people and making a front to bring economic depression, an invasion, or who knows what.
The issue of autonomy which is being fought so furiously is creating the very conditions that we should avoid. Those are the conditions that reactionaries can use effectively against the Revolution. The university, vanguard of our struggling people, cannot become a backward element, but it would become so if the university did not incorporate itself into the great plans of the Revolution.
All of Cuba to-day was under the precarious control of Fidel Castro, the 31-year-old rebel whom the Batista Government pictured to its graceless end as a ragamuffin hiding in the scrub hills of Oriente Province.
Castro to-day chose his birthplace, Santiago de Cuba, as provisional capital until such time as he could safely install in the Presidential palace at Havana the man he has proclaimed provisional President. He is Manuel Urrutia Lleo, a 58-year-old judge unknown to fame until, after 31 years on the bench, he faced last year 150 youths charged with inciting to revolt. He set them free on the brave principle that the Batista Government had left Cubans no other means to defend their constitutional rights. He became a revolutionary hero and today he has his reward. His first act was to declare a general strike so as to curb the rioting and to demonstrate, through the patrols of the revolutionary militia, that Castro is indeed the Government in fact.
The Batista Government and most of its lackeys are already in the United States or in one of several Caribbean havens. A plane load of 92 of them landed at Idlewild last night and a Cuban merchant ship sailed for the Dominican Republic, where Batista is safe in the embrace of his former ward and enemy, the dictator Trujillo.
The last act of Batista's abortive junta was to tell the Government troops to lay down their arms. They appear to have done so, but Castro broadcast to-day an order to his forces everywhere to go armed and fire on sight at all looters, agitators, and pockets of resistance.
Most Cubans, and certainly the onlooking dictators of Nicaragua, Paraguay, Haiti and the Dominican Republic, find it hard to believe that Batista's domain could be conquered by an angry, though wealthy young man, whose first putsch against the island on December 1, 1956, left him with only twelve of the original force of 93 men.
Castro may doubt it too, but he is taking no chances. The mob, which yesterday tooted and rejoiced through the streets, betrayed him in an outbreak of pillage and rioting. This morning the streets of Havana were reported to be empty, except for the Castro patrols, cruising in the cars that were chasing them only two days ago.
But by midday a radio dispatch said that the city was taking on again "a dangerously lively air." Units of rebel militia were ordered to the Manzana de Gomez block of buildings, where groups of followers of Senator Rolando Masferrer, a leading Batista supporter, were hiding. Fighting went on for two hours, watched by crowds of spectators.
To-day in Ciudad Trujillo, Batista admitted the absurdity of his rout by an amateur but said that the first men sent to wipe out the rebels were "soldiers of the rural guard who were not prepared for guerrilla warfare. When the rebels extended their operations and met the army in open battle they were well armed and their weapons were superior to ours."
The last excuse is doubted by Latin American experts and business men who say that up to the end Batista was receiving planes and arms from Big Powers. What doomed him, they agree, was the treachery of his own leaders, widespread desertions in the Army, and the final dash for safety of men bound to him only by bribery.
Late this afternoon one of Castro's lieutenants took over the Havana remnants of this faithless army and passed the cue to Castro to begin his triumphal entry into the capital city. If he subdues it without much bloodshed he must quickly repair the heavy damage to the railroads, highways, and sugar farms in three provinces, set the economy flowing again, and keep the people quiet until he can arrange free elections.
Then he must answer the question that confronts all resting heroes who have raised their flags in the capital and put the tyrants to flight: how free dare the elections be? Castro has advertised an elaborate and drastic Socialist programme. He proposes to nationalise all utilities; to give their working land to tenant farmers, who make up 85 per cent of the farming population; to distribute to the employees of every business in Cuba 30 per cent of the profits; to confiscate all the property of "corrupt" (i.e. former) Government officials; to modernise the island's industries and begin a huge rural housing and electrification project.
In a country where Army officers on the winning side instantly inherit palaces, where there is little experience of parliamentary government, and where the idea of a loyal Opposition is tantamount to treason, Castro may, like others before him, come to demand a rubber stamp and permit only token opposition.
At the moment, though, all is joy and glory. The liberals among the South Americans in the United Nations are toasting the great day and calculating the present arithmetic of tyranny in Latin America. The present score seems to be, as one man put it, "four down and four to go."