6 (original) - Facts about Cuba - Introduction

6 (original) - Facts about Cuba - Introduction - Facts...

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Unformatted text preview: Facts about Cuba HISTORY The first humans probably reached Cuba from South America around 3500 BC, al— though habitation proven by carbon dating stretches back only to 2000 BC. The Guana— hatabey settled in the west and the Siboney throughout much of the rest of the island, including the coral cays (or keys) off the south coast.These fishers, hunters, and gath- erers were later joined by agriculturalists known as the Taino, a branch of the Arawak Indians who inhabited most of the Carib— bean islands and northern South America. Cacique with attitude 13 A century or two before the arrival of Christopher Columbus, the Taino fled west from Hispaniola and Puerto Rico under pressure from the fierce Carib tribe (whose name was eventually corrupted into the English ‘cannibal’). As the Taino arrived in Cuba they pushed the Siboney westward, and by the time the Spanish arrived in the late 15th century, three-quarters of Cuba’s 100,000 native Indians were Taino—speaking Arawaks. The Cuban Indians lived in villages, grew boniatns (sweet potatoes), yuca (manioc or cassava), yams, corn, pumpkins, peanuts, peppers, avocados, and tobacco. They had pottery, baskets, and stone implements. Idols of wood, stone, or bone represented zenus (spirits). The Taino slept in cotton hamacas (hammocks) hung in thatched caneyes or bohz’os (huts) that were arranged around an open space in front of the dwelling of the cacique (chief) known as a barey (open space).The greatest concentration of Indians was in the eastern part of the island, espe- cially around the Bahia de Nipe, where agri- culture was well developed. The Colonial Period On October 27,1492,15 days after ‘discover- ing’ San Salvador (or Watling Island) in the Bahamas, Christopher Columbus (Cristobal Colon in Spanish) sighted a large land mass that he named ‘Juana’ in honor of an heir to the Spanish throne. Columbus described Cuba as ‘the most beautiful land human eyes have ever seen.’ However, the island offered little gold, so the Spanish at first ignored it, establishing their initial base in the New World at Santo Domingo on the island of Hispaniola. Columbus thought Cuba was part of the coast of Asia, and only in l508 did Sebastian de Ocampo complete the lirst circumnavigation, proving it was an island. In 1512 a 300—member expedition from Hispaniola, led by Diego Velézquez dc Cuéllar, landed at Baracoa near the eastern- most tip of Cuba to begin a planned conqumt 14 Facts about Cuba — History A Cuban Chronology 3500 BC — first humans arrive in Cuba 1250 AD — Taino Indians arrive from the east 1492 — Columbus sights Cuba 1508 — Sebastian de Ocampo circumnavigates Cuba 1512 — Diego Velazquez de Cuéllar lands at Baracoa 1514 — first seven settlements established 1515 — Santiago de Cuba becomes capital of the colony 1518 — Hernan Cortés leaves for Mexico 1519 — Havana established at present site 1522 — first African slaves brought to Cuba 1542 — encomienda system abolished 1555 — French pirates sack Havana 1556 — Spanish captains—general move to Havana 1564 — first treasure fleet departs from Havana 1589 — Havana and Santiago de Cuba fortified 1607 — Havana declared capital of Cuba 1628 — Piet Heyn captures the flota 1674 — construction of Havana city walls begins 1700 — tobacco becomes the main export 1728 — University of Havana founded 1762 — the British capture Havana 1763 — the British trade Cuba for Florida 1765 — commerce with Spain liberalized 1790 — mass importation of African slaves 1800 — sugar becomes the main export 1818 — trade with all countries allowed 1820 — slave trade ineffectiver abolished 1825 - thanks to Simén Bolivar, most of Latin America has gained independence 1837 — first railway line built 1848 — US attempts to buy Cuba from Spain 1850 — Narciso Lopez raises Cuban flag 1854 — US tries again to buy Cuba 1865 — importation of African slaves ends 1868 to 1878 — First War of Independence 1879 — slavery converted to ‘apprenticeship' 1886 — ’apprenticeship' system ends 1895 to 1898 — Second War of Independence 1898 — Americans land at Santiago de Cuba, Spanish rule ends 1898 to 1902 — US military government controls Cuba 1901 — Platt Amendment imposed on Cuba 0906009¢9©G®9®9®0®9®906 1902 — Cuba achieves independence 1903 — US takes Guantanamo naval base 1906 — US military intervention 1917 — US military inten/ention 1925 — first Communist Party founded 1933 — Machado dictatorship overthrown 1934 — Platt Amendment abrogated 1940 — second constitution proclaimed 1952 — Batista military coup 1953 —attack on the Moncada army barracks by rebels 1956 — Granrna lands Castro's rebels in Oriente 1956 to 1958 — Castro hides out in the Sierra Maestra 1958 — Che Guevara captures Santa Clara 1959 — Batista flees, rebels take control and pass First Agrarian Reform Law 1960 — large companies nationalized, US partial trade embargo begins 1961 —- abortive Bay of Pigs invasion 1962 — Cuban Missile Crisis 1963 — Second Agrarian Reform Law 1965 — refounding of the Communist Party 1966 — Tricontinental Conference in Havana 1967 — Che Guevara killed in Bolivia 1968 — small businesses nationalized 1972 — Cuba joins Comecon trading block 1975 —first Cuban Communist Party congress; number of provinces increased to 14; 18,000 Cuban troops sent to Angola 1976 — third constitution comes into force 1979—the Non-Aligned Movement summit in Havana 1980 — 135,000 Cubans depart for the US through Mariel 1988 — Cuban troops withdrawn from Angola 1990—tourism surpasses sugar in importance, Castro declares periodo especial (five- year austerity program) 1991 — Soviet Union collapses 1993 — Cubans allowed to hold US dollars 1995 — direct foreign investment approved, tourism becomes the main money earner 1996 — Helms-Burton Law tightens US embargo 1998 — Pope John Paul II visits Cuba 1999 — Fidel launches a law and order crackdown on behalf of the Spanish Crown. By the end of 1514 Velazquez and his men had estab— lished seven settlements: Baracoa, Santiago de Cuba, Bayamo, Puerto Principe (Cam- agijey), Sancti Spiritus, Trinidad, and the original Havana. These towns were laid out on rectangular grids with a central square watched over by the main church, and each was run by a local authority called a cabildo. In 1515 Velazquez shifted his headquarters from Baracoa to Santiago de Cuba. Velazquez was reasonably enlightened for his time, and he tried to protect the Indians from the excesses of the other Spaniards. His efforts were largely in vain, however, and the Spanish slaughtered thou- sands of aborigines or forced them to flee west. Hatuey, an Indian chief who attempted to mount a resistance, was eventually cap— tured and condemned to be burned at the stake. A Franciscan monk tried to baptize Hatuey so that his soul at least would be saved, but the Indian objected, declaring that he never wanted to see another Span- iard, not even in heaven. Velazquez was not entirely satisfied with his gold-poor Cuban colony, and after 1516 he sponsored four expeditions to Mexico, one of which resulted in Hernan Cortés’ brutal conquest of 1519 to 1521. Although the Mexican adventures drew considerable manpower away from Cuba, the first years of Spanish colonialism in Cuba still saw a flurry of activity: Some gold was extracted from local mines, and large estates were set up under an encomienda system that forced the Indians to labor for the Spaniards on the pretext of receiving instruction in Christian- ity. Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas, the ‘Apostle of the Indians,’ attempted to defend Cuba’s Indians through appeals to the Span- ish Crown for more humane treatment, and in 1542 the encomienda system was abol— ished in Cuba. During this callous exploita- tion, the Spanish introduced diseases such as smallpox that soon decimated the Indian populations, and by 1550 only about 5000 scattered survivors remained. (The Spanish returned to Europe infected with syphilis.) As the number of native Indians de— creased, the Spanish turned to African slaves Facts about Cuba —- History 15 as an alternate source of labor. The first were brought in as early as 1522, and unlike slav- ery in North America, Cuba’s African slaves were kept together in tribal groups and were thus able to retain certain elements of their African cultures. Cattle ranching (producing leather and dried beef) was the main industry until the early 18th century, when tobacco (made into cigars and snuff) became the most important cash crop. Tobacco was grown commercially from 1580 onward, and in 1717 the Spanish Crown granted itself a monopoly to buy and sell tobacco, generating much local re- sentment. Only in 1817 was this regulation repealed. Sugarcane had arrived with Velaz— quez in 1512, but the expansion of sugar cul- tivation was limited by a lack of slaves. During and after the conquest of Mexico, Cuba served as a transit point for Spanish treasure fleets carrying the wealth of the New World to Spain. Each summer galleons from Cartagena and Veracruz assembled in Havana Harbor and sailed northeast to Spain as an annual flota (fleet). These riches attracted the attention of pirates such as the Frenchman Jacques de Sores, who plun- dered Havana in 1555. After this disaster Havana and Santiago de Cuba were prop- erly garrisoned, and beginning in 1589 the mouths of their harbors were fortified with Sailing the brlny seas 16 Facts about Cuba — History strong castles. Nevertheless, in 1628 the Dutch Admiral Piet Heyn captured the entire Mexican treasure fleet in Matanzas Buy. 'lhis revealed Spanish naval weakness to the world, and Spain’s Caribbean hege- mony soon began to be seriously challenged by other European powers. The British took neighboring Jamaica in 1655, and by 1665 Cuba’s towns were under almost con— tinuous threat of attack. Haiti fell to the French in 1697. In January 1762 Spain became involved in the Seven Years’ War between Britain and France, which had already cost France its colonies in Canada. In March the British dispatched a fleet to capture Havana and sever Spain’s communications with the rest of Spanish America. British troops landed at Coji’mar on June 6, captured Morro Castle from behind on July 30, and accepted the Spanish surrender on August 13.The British occupied Havana for 11 months, and during their stay they profited by importing 4000 African slaves. The 1763 Peace of Paris re— turned Cuba to Spain in exchange for Florida, and as compensation Spain was given the Louisiana Territory by France. (Spain held Louisiana from 1763 to 1803, when it fell into the hands of Napoleon, who promptly sold it to the USA) After this debacle, the French Bourbon kings who occupied the Spanish throne at— tempted to reform public institutions in an effort to strengthen their administration. Prior to 1762 the Real Compafiia de Comer- cio in Cadiz had a monopoly on Cuban trade, and the Council of the Indies in Seville controlled Cuba’s government. The governors-general of Cuba merely followed instructions sent to them from Spain, and the influence of the incompetent, corrupt Spanish officials didn’t extend far beyond the main towns: Pirates, smugglers, and es- caped slaves dominated the countryside. Prior to the British occupation, only 15 North American ships visited Havana each year. The British threw open trade with the British colonies in North America, and 700 trading ships visited Havana during those 11 months. The returning Spanish captain— general allowed the liberalized trade to con— tinue, and after 1765 Cuba was allowed to trade freely with seven Spanish ports instead of only with Cadiz. A chain of new fortresses was built around Havana. After US independence from Britain in 1783, Cuba gradually replaced the British colony of Jamaica as the main supplier of sugar to the US market, and many Cuban planters desired union with the US to guar- antee the continuation of slavery and free trade. In 1791 a slave uprising in nearby Haiti eliminated the main competitor to Cuba’s sugar industry, and production sharply in- creased due to the labor of tens of thou- sands of newly imported African slaves. French planters fleeing Haiti set up coffee plantations and modernized the Cuban sugar industry. After 1818 Cuba was allowed to trade directly with any foreign port. By the 1820s Cuba was the world‘s largest pro- ducer of sugar. Between 1810 and 1825, Mexico and all of mainland South America won their inde— pendence from Spain, leaving Cuba and Puerto Rico the only remaining Spanish colonies in the Western Hemisphere. The great liberator Simon Bolivar had wanted to free Cuba as well, but the US declared that it preferred continued Spanish rule and warned him to desist. In Cuba the Spanish authorities were supported by loyalists flee- ing the former Spanish colonies as well as fresh immigrants from Spain, Both penin- sulares (Spaniards born in Spain) and crio- llos or Creoles (Spaniards born in the New World) feared that independence might lead to a slave revolt similar to Haiti’s. In 1820 diplomatic pressure from Britain forced Spain to agree to halt the slave trade, al- though the import of African slaves con— tinued unabated, and by the 18403 some 400,000 were present in Cuba. Between 1838 and 1880 the Spanish con- tinued to modernize Cuba’s sugar industry until it accounted for a third of world pro- duction. Narrow-gauge railway lines were laid down to bring the cane to steam—powered ingenios (mills). The ruthless slave-owning planters expelled small farmers from their lands and cleared the island’s cedar, ebony, and mahogany forests. Over half of the sugar was sold to the US, which had become (‘uba’s largest trading partner. In 1848 the US attempted to buy Cuba from Spain for US$100 million but was turned down. In I854 the US increased the offer to US$130 million, but Spain again refused. In 1850 a 600—soldier force led by Narciso Lopez, a former Spanish general who favored annexation to the US as a means of pre— serving slavery, set out from New Orleans, Louisiana, and captured Cardenas, at that time the center of Matanzas’ richest sugar- growing area. When the local Cubans re- fused to support what appeared to be a US tilibuster, Lopez quickly withdrew to Florida with the Spanish in close pursuit. A few months later he landed in Pinar del Rio with a mixed company of Cubans and Ameri- cans, and was captured and executed by the Spaniards. These efforts received little sup- port from either the US government or the Cuban planters who feared they might trigger a slave rebellion. An enduring legacy of the affair is the present Cuban flag de- signed by Lépez. Its single white star (like that of slaveholding Texas) appears on a red Masonic triangle against horizontal white and blue stripes, ironic symbols of the an- nexation effort. In 1862 the British finally began enforcing the ban on slave trading enacted in 1820. Most of the slaves had arrived on US ships, and only the distraction of the US Civil War allowed the British to act without fear of major repercussions. After the importation of African slaves was effectively stopped in 1865, indentured Chinese laborers and Mexican Indians were brought in to serve as macheteros, who cut sugarcane. In 1867 an attempt to reform Cuba from within failed in the face of Spanish duplicity. A commis- sion elected by the wealthy landowners was allowed to voice their position, which in— cluded gradually phasing out slavery with compensation; however, Spain did nothing to implement their proposals. The Wars of Independence In 1868 Spain’s reactionary policies in Cuba, especially its refusal to consider internal autonomy, finally sparked the declaration Facts about Cuba — History 17 of a Cuban republic by rebels in Oriente Province. At this time eastern Cuba was an economic backwater, with most of its small sugar mills powered by oxen rather than steam. The Creole planters around Bayamo had been plotting a rebellion for some time, and when the wife of one betrayed the con- spirators through her confessor, the captain- general in Havana ordered their arrest, forcing them to take action. On October 10, 1868, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes launched the uprising at his plan- tation, La Demajagua. Céspedes called for the abolition of slavery, but to avoid alien- ating the wealthy planters in the west, only after independence had been achieved, and then with compensation. Although he did not declare the immediate emancipation of the slaves, he did free his own. At first the rebels captured much of the eastern part of the island, but the Spanish placed the cities under martial law and built a fortified ditch across the island from J (team to Moron to isolate the rebel-held east. The rebels fought indecisively and made no bold move to free the slaves (despite the example set by US President Lincoln, who on January 1, 1863, emancipated US slaves, a strategy that contributed greatly to the North’s mili- tary victory in the Civil War). When a reac- tionary militia was formed in the west to support continued Spanish rule, the rebels met at Guaimaro in April 1869 and passed a constitution that declared the slaves free. though they were to continue working for their former masters for wages. The cautious rebel council rejected Gen- eral Maximo Gomez’ proposal to invade western Cuba, and Céspedes was removed from office (to die in a Spanish ambush soon after). In 1874 and 1875 rebels under Gémez did manage several brief forays west, but this First War of Independence dragged on into a Ten Years‘ War. In February 1878 a pact was finally signed at El Zanjén in which the rebels were granted an amnesty. General Antonio Maceo and several others rejected this in the ‘Protest of Baragua.‘ and after an additional three months of lighting Maceo went into exile. Some 200,000 people had died and much property had been destroyed. 18 Facts about Cuba — History BANCO NACIONAL DE CUBA El ’3 full 1) "a IL Partners in revolution and portraits on the moneda nacional Essentially, the war for independence was lost because the liberal planter leadership in the east was unwilling to destroy the coun- try’s economy through harsh measures, and the slaveholding landlords in the west sup- ported Spain. The 17-year interval between the end of Cuba’s First War of Independence and the beginning of the second failed to produce the internal autonomy the Creole commu— nity desired, although the government in Madrid did enact a few reforms. In 1879 Spain announced the abolition of slavery, with no compensation beginning in 1888, before which the ex—slaves were required to continue working for their masters as ‘ap- prentices.’ Many employers, however, found it cheaper to pay laborers to cut their cane from January to July rather than feed and house ‘apprentices’ all year long, and the system was terminated two years early 1n 1886. Most positions in the civil service con- tinued to be filled by peninsular Spaniards. During the 18805 there was a boom in railway construction as both sugar mills and plantations grew larger. US investors snapped up bankrupt Spanish plantations and other segments of the economy for a song. Some Cuban planters and business- men continued to call for annexation to the US as a solution to their problems, a position supported by several US presidents, begin- ning with Thomas Jefferson. In 1890 tariffs on most trade between the US and Cuba were removed. While fostering prosperity, this arrangement made Cuba totally de- pendent on sugar, as other industries could not compete with US mass production. Throughout the 19th century, Cuba’s trade with the US had been larger than that with Spain, and by the end of the century US trade with Cuba was larger than US trade with the rest of Latin America combined. Cuba was the US’ third-largest trading part- ner after Britain and Germany. Meanwhile a circle of émigrés in the US plotted a return to Cuba. Their most effec- r tive spokesman was a writer named José Marti, who had earned an international rep- utation as a poet, playwright, and essaylst. Marti spent 14 years in exile in Mexico and _ later in the US, and although impressed by ' American industriousness, he was repelled by its materialism. Aware of how the US had seized half of Mexico’s national territory 1n 1848, he denounced the exploitation of the , poor by US banking and industrial mono- polies in his writings. Just prior to his death in the early days of the Second War of Inde- pendence, Marti wrote to a Mexican frlend: I am every day now in danger of giving my life for my country and for my duty as I understand it and have the courage to realize it, which is to prevent in good time that, with the independence of Cuba, | the US should extend its power over the Antilles and fall with that much more weight on our lands ‘ of America. What I have done up to today, and I will do, is for this. I lived inside the monster, and I know its entrails; and my sling is the sling of Davtd; By 1890 the autonomist movement in Cuba had been discredited by Spanish political incompetence and inflexibility, so with inter- est in independence again on the increasei, Marti dedicated himself almost exclusively to the movement as a writer, speaker, and, Facts about Cuba — History 19 José Marti Cuba's national hero, José Marti, was born to Spanish immigrant parents in Havana on January 28, 1853. While still in high school, Marti became involved in anticolonial activities, and in 1869 he pub- lished a political tract and the first issue of a newspaper called La Patria Libre. A war of independence had broken out in Oriente the previous year, and the Spanish colonial authorities were in no mood to allow criticism. In October 1869 Marti was arrested on treason charges, and in April 1870 he was sentenced to six years of hard labor. After several months at a Havana stone quarry, the young prisoner was exiled to the Isla de Pinos (today Isla de la Juventud) in October 1870. There he spent nine weeks before his deportation to Spain, where he was allowed to enroll in a university. In 1874 Marti graduated from law school, but both the war and his critical writings had continued, and official permission to return to Cuba was denied. Marti went to Mexico City and got a job with a newspaper in 1875. In 1877 he married a Cuban woman and obtained a teaching post in Guatemala. The First War of Independence ended in 1878 and Marti was able to return to Cuba under a general amnesty. In Havana the authorities prevented Marti from practicing law, and in 1879 his con- spiratorial activities and anticolonial statements at public debates led to his arrest and a second sen- tence of exile to Spain. After traveling to France, the US, and Venezuela, Marti finally settled in New York City, where he was to remain until just three and a half months prior to his death. In New York Marti served as a correspondent for the Buenos Aires newspaper La Nacién and the Caracas paper La Opinion Nac/onal. His columns describing the North American scene made him well known throughout Latin America, and he was appointed consul of Uruguay in New York. In 1892 Marti’s relentless advocacy of Cuban independence and his organizational work in New York and Florida led to his election as chief delegate of the newly formed Partido Revolucionario Cubano. On April 11, 1895, Marti, the Dominican general Maximo Gomez, and four others landed near Baracoa in eastern Cuba to launch the Second War of Independence. They soon made contact with rebels led by Antonio Maceo, but on May 19, 1895, Marti was killed during a brief skirmish with the Spanish at Dos Rios on the Cauto River in today's Granma Province. Deprived of their political leader, the Cubans fought on under the military leadership of Maceo and Gomez, only to have imminent victory snatched from them by US intervention three years later. In his own time Marti was best known for essays that set out his vision of a secular republic and warned of the threat to Cuba from sporadic US imperialism (the US had annexed half of Mexico less than four decades earlier). Although histow was to confirm his worst fears in this regard, it’s Marti's poetry that is most appreciated today. In literary circles Marti is regarded as one of the initia- tors of the school of modernism in Latin American poetry. Decades after his death, lines from Marti's Versos Senc/l/os (1891) were incorporated into the best-known Cuban song of all time, Gua/ira guantanamera: Yo soy un hombre sincero I'm a sincere man de donde crece la palma, from the land of the palm tree, y antes de morirme And before I die quiero echar mis versos de/ alma. I wish to sing these heartfelt verses. Con los pobres de la tierra With the poor of the land quiero yo mi suerte echar, I want to share a fate, y el arroyo de la sierra me comp/ace And the mountain stream pleases me mas que el mar. more than the sea. eweaaoe®9©e®6®ec000®6oo 20 Facts about Cuba — History organizer. By 1892 the movement was strong enough for Marti to travel to Santo Dom- ingo and engage General Maximo Gomez as military commander of the revolution. Antonio Maceo was recruited in Costa Rica, Where he had set up a banana plantation. In 1894 the US upped the stakes by de- claring an abrupt increase in tariffs, shat- tering Cuba’s sugar—based economy and destabilizing Spain’s shaky colonial system. Marti and the others landed in eastern Cuba in April 1895, and on May 19, Marti, con— spicuous on his white horse, was shot and killed in a brief encounter. Had he lived he would certainly have become Cuba’s first president; instead, he became his country’s national hero whose life and vast literary legacy have inspired Cubans ever since. Marti was a firm advocate of racial equality and independence from both Spain and the US. Always the idealist, in death he became a martyr. Unwilling to repeat the mistakes of the First War of Independence, Gomez and Maceo drove west in October 1895, reach- ing Las Villas in November and Matanzas Province by Christmas. Everything in their path. including sugar fields, plantations, and towns, was set on fire. By January 1896 Maceo had reached Pinar del Rio, while Gomez was lighting in the vicinity of Havana. In panic the Spaniards sent an equally ruth— less captain-general, Valeriano Weyler, to Cuba. Weyler reorganized the Spanish army and built north—south lines across the coun— try to restrict the rebels” movements. The guajims (country people) were forced into fortified camps in a process known as recon— centracirin. and anyone found supporting the rebellion was liable for execution. (These highly effective counterinsurgency tactics were later copied by the British during the Boer War.) In Pinar del Rio Weyler exerted heavy pressure on the rebels in this way, and in December 1896 Antonio Maceo was killed south of Havana trying to break out to the east. With thousands killed. estates burned, and towns sacked, Weyler‘s methods brought Cuba’s agricultural economy to a stand- still. In June 1897 Spanish Prime Minister Antonio Canovas, a hard-line opponent of Cuban independence, was assassinated in Spain by an anarchist with Cuban connec- tions. The new Spanish government favored resolving the conflict by granting autonomy, and in October Weyler resigned. The Span- iards adopted a conciliatory tone, attempt- ing to persuade the Cubans to accept the home rule under the Spanish flag that they had initially wanted, although by now the rebels would be satisfied with nothing short of full independence. US Intervention As Marti had feared, the US government had been biding its time, and it now seemed that the moment to seize Cuba had come. Largely to increase their circulation, the US tabloid press stoked war fever throughout 1897, printing sensational and often inaccu- rate articles about Spanish atrocities. When William Randolph Hearst’s illustrator Fred- erick Remington asked permission to return from Havana as all was quiet, the eminent publisher replied, ‘Please remain. You furnish the pictures and I’ll furnish the war.’ Hearst’s ally in this campaign was the assistant secre- tary of the navy, Theodore Roosevelt. In January 1898 the US battleship Maine was sent to Havana ‘to protect US citizens.’ The Maine lay at anchor off the city just west of the harbor mouth for three weeks before it mysteriously blew up on February 15, 1898, killing 266 US sailors. The Spanish claimed the explosion had been caused by an accident in the ship’s ammunition store, while the Americans blamed a Spanish mine. Some Cuban writers have asserted that the Americans blew up the Maine themselves to provide the pretext for intervening in Cuba. It may or may not have been a coincidence that the captain of the Maine and most of his officers were safely ashore when it ex- ploded. In 1911, to remove the navigational t hazard from the harbor mouth, the Maine was raised and sunk in deep water, so the real cause may never be known. After the explosion on the Maine, pande‘ monium broke loose in the US, and Presi- it dent William McKinley offered to resolve ' the problem peacefully by purchasing Cuba ‘ from Spain for US$300 million, a proposi— tion rejected by the Spaniards. The Spanish tried desperately to avoid a conflict with the Americans. On April 9, 1898, Spain declared a cease-fire in the civil war with the Cubans, and withdrew the reconcentracio’n orders for the rural populace. These measures failed to impress the Americans, who demanded a lull Spanish withdrawal, and on April 25 the U S declared war on Spain. From the onset the Spanish knew they were doomed to lose the war, and they only wanted a quick mili- tary defeat that would allow them to surren— der with honor to a superior force. Any move to capitulate without such a face— saving gesture might have led to an uprising in Spain itself and the overthrow of the monarchy. By May 28 the US had blockaded the Spanish fleet at Santiago de Cuba Bay. The only important land battle of the war took place on July 1, when the US Army attacked Spanish positions on San Juan Hill just east of Santiago de Cuba. The 700 Spanish de- l'enders held up 6000 US troops all day, inflicting casualties on them of 223 dead, l243 wounded, and 79 missing (compared to Spanish losses of 102 dead and 552 wounded). Despite this, future US President Theodore Roosevelt personally led the cele— brated charge of the ‘Rough Riders’ up San Juan Hill and claimed a great victory. Histo— rian Hugh Thomas (author of Cuba, or The Pursuit of Freedom) argues that had the Spanish counterattacked instead of with— drawing, the Americans would have suffered a humiliating defeat. On July 3, the outgunned Spanish fleet tried to break out of Bahia de Santiago de Cuba. Although they managed to evade the chaotic US fleet, the wooden Spanish ships caught fire in a strong tail wind and ran aground. Of 2225 Spanish sailors, 1670 man- aged to get to shore and surrendered. US losses in this non-battle were one dead and two wounded. Meanwhile the US tightened its siege of Santiago de Cuba, and the Spaniards sur— rendered on July 17, 1898. The US military leaders refused to allow the rebel com— mander in Oriente, General Calixto Garcia, Facts about Cuba — History 21 Teddy Roosevelt — bully! or his troops to enter Santiago de Cuba for the surrender ceremony, largely because the military became alarmed when they learned that Garcia and many of his followers were black. Instead, the Americans decided to let the Spanish municipal authorities remain in their positions. As a result, the Cubans in Santiago de Cuba made little effort to help their American conquerors when they began dying of yellow fever, malaria, and dysen- tery at the rate of 200 a day. On August 7 the enfeebled US forces began withdrawing to the US, as Calixto Garcia’s army moved northwest to obtain the surrender of Span- ish forces in Holguin and elsewhere. On December 12, 1898, a peace treaty ending the ‘Spanish-American’ War was signed in Paris by the Spanish and the Americans. The Cubans were not invited. An amendment known as the Teller Resolu- tion (after Senator Henry M Teller of the US state of Colorado), passed simultane- ously with the declaration of war on Spain. had committed the US to respect Cuban self-determination. Only this prevented the US from adding Cuba when they annexed Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines. Cuba was placed under US military occupa- tion instead. 22 Facts about Cuba — History The first US governor of Cuba, General John R Brooke, disbanded the mostly black Cuban army, but left the white former Span- ish officials in their posts. The Americans considered the Cuban rebels disorderly and corrupt, and had them demobilized and turned out onto the streets. Brooke was soon replaced by General Leonard Wood, an ambitious medical doctor who worked to improve public health, built US—style schools, and conducted public works, all with the overt intention of tying Cuba to the US. Throughout its history Cuba had been wracked by yellow fever epidemics, and al— though a Cuban doctor named Carlos Juan Finlay (1833-1915) had discovered in 1881 that a certain type of mosquito was the car- rier, the Spanish authorities had done nothing to implement Finlay’s suggestions. Wood launched a campaign that soon eradicated yellow fever. In November 1900 Wood convened an as- sembly of elected Cuban delegates who drew up a constitution similar to that of the US. Then, at the instigation of US Secretary of War Elihu Root, Connecticut Senator Orville Platt attached a rider to the US Army Appropriations Bill of 1901 giving the US the right, among other things, to in- tervene militarily in Cuba’s internal affairs whenever the US decided such intervention was warranted. This was approved by Presi— dent McKinley, and the Cubans were given the choice of accepting the Platt Amendment or remaining under US military occupation indefinitely. In the end, they accepted this amendment as the lesser of two evils, and in 1903 the US used it to obtain a naval base at the mouth of Guantanamo Bay, a legacy that persists to this day. After Independence The US intervention endowed Cuba with a series of weak, corrupt, and dependent gov— ernments. Cuba became an independent re- public on May 20, 1902, after Tomas Estrada Palma was elected president. However, a revolt broke out when Estrada Palma’s Liberal opponents accused him of employ- ing fraud to obtain a second term. This led to a US military intervention in Septem- ber 1906. A US governor named Charles Magoon held power until January 1909, when a deal was worked out specifying that the Liberals and Conservatives would alter- nate in power under the threat of Platt Amendment intervention. Elections were carefully managed to ensure that the results came out right. The first Liberal president, José Miguel Gomez, initiated corruption, incompetence, and discrimination against blacks, which persisted until 1959. When Afro-Cubans in Oriente demonstrated against this discrimi- nation in 1912, some 3000 were slaughtered by government troops. That same year the US intervened militarily to stop a revolt by former slaves in Pinar del Rio, and in 1917 US soldiers were back again to ensure a steady flow of sugar during WWI. By the 19205 US companies owned two- thirds of Cuba‘s farmland and most of its mines. The US saw Cuba as a source of raw materials and a market for finished US products. Manufacturing in Cuba itself was crippled by high US tariffs on most Cuban goods other than raw sugar, tobacco leaves, and unprocessed minerals. Yet Cuba’s sugar industry boomed during the 19205, and with Prohibition in force in the US from 1919 to 1933, tourism based on legal drinking, gam- bling and prostitution flourished. Only a few benefited, however, and when com- modity prices collapsed in the wake of the Great Depression, Liberal President Gerardo Machado y Morales used terror to quell the resulting unrest. In August 1933 Machado was toppled during a spontaneous general strike. Chaos followed, and on September 4 an army ser- geant named Fulgencio Batista (who took no part in the overthrow of Machado) seized power in a noncommissioned ofcers’ coup. In November 1933 Franklin D Roosevelt was elected president of the US, and as part of his ‘good neighbor’ policy toward Latin America he arranged for the abrogation of the Platt Amendment on May 29, 1934. The lease on the Guantanamo naval base was extended for 99 years, though a clause stipu- lated that both sides would have to agree before the lease could ever be terminated. Batista served as the army’s chief of staff from 1934 to 1940, and in 1940 he had a democratic constitution drafted guarantee- ing many rights. He was duly elected presi— dent in 1940, and during WWII he won US favor by supporting the Allied war effort. In 1944 Batista allowed free elections, but his preferred candidate lost. The next two gov— crnments, led by Presidents Ramon Grau San Martin and Carlos Prio Socarras of the Partido Auténtico, were corrupt and ineffi- cient. Public services hardly existed and mil— lions of Cubans were unemployed. In 1947 Eduardo Chibas formed the Partido Orto- doxo to fight corruption, and in 1948 Batista set up the Partido de Accion Unitaria in an attempt to make a comeback. On March 10, 1952, just three months before the scheduled election date, Batista staged a second military coup, which the US government recognized two weeks later. Batista’s coup, motivated mostly by his impending defeat in the presidential elec— lion, invalidated the 1940 constitution and prevented the almost certain election of a young Ortodoxo candidate named Fidel Castro to the House of Representatives. Op- position politicians were unable to unite against the dictator, who later sought legiti- macy through rigged elections in 1955 and 1958. By this time over half of Cuba’s land, industry, and essential services were in for— eign hands, and Batista’s cronies had en- riched themselves with bribes. The Cuban Revolution After Batista’s second coup, a revolutionary circle formed in Havana, including Abel Santamaria (later tortured to death by Batista’s troops), his sister Haydée Santa— maria, Melba Hernandez, Fidel Castro, and others. They decided on a dramatic ges- ture that would signal a general uprising throughout the country. On July 26, 1953, Castro led 119 rebels in an attack on the Moncada army barracks in Santiago de Cuba, the second most important military base in Cuba at that time. They assumed that the soldiers would be drunk due to a carni- val then in progress, but the assault failed when a patrol jeep encountered Castro’s Facts about Cuba - History 23 motorcade by chance, costing the attackers the essential element of surprise. After the abortive assault, 55 of the men detained by the army were cruelly tortured and executed. Castro managed to escape into the nearby foothills, where he intended to launch a guerrilla campaign. It was only through extraordinary luck that he was cap- tured a week later by an army lieutenant named Sarri’a, who took him to Santiago de Cuba’s main jail instead of immediately shooting him as the army chiefs had secretly ordered. (One of Fidel’s first acts after the success of the revolution in 1959 was to re- lease Sarri’a from the prison where Batista had subsequently incarcerated him and give him a commission in the revolutionary Young Fidel — tan, rested, and ready 24 Facts about Cuba — History THE CUBAN REVOLUTION Mm University's’tudert Palace and a " ' army.) Castro’s capture soon became known, and the Batista regime had no choice other than to put him on trial. Castro was a lawyer by profession and his defense summation at the trial was later edited and released as a political manifesto entitled History Will Ab— solve Me. In the end Castro was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment on Isla de Pinos (now called Isla de la Juventud). In February 1955 Batista got himself elected president in a fraudulent election, and in an effort to win legitimacy and pop— ular support he freed all political prisoners «a 5/ ) Matanzas '5.) Matanzas 196M,» _ Coumerrevoluttbnary‘gange , (meme in Sierra [diet :Eseam ‘ LANISLAND, ’ ‘35” 81‘W in May 1955, including Castro. Castro de- parted for Mexico in July 1955, but he left behind in Santiago de Cuba a Baptist school- teacher named Frank Pais to organize the underground resistance of the 26th of July Movement, or ‘M—26—7’ as it was commonly called. In December 1955 students at Havana University formed the Directorio Revolu— cionario (DR), which was led by Jose Antonio Echeverri’a. When the Partido Ortodoxo entered into compromise negotiations with Batista in February 1956, Castro severed all ties between the M-26-7 and that party. In Mexico the M-26—7 trained and equip- ped a revolutionary force, and on December 2, 1956, Castro and 82 companions landed from the motor vessel Grarrma at Playa Las Coloradas near Niquero in Oriente. Three days later the group was decimated in an ini- tial clash with Batista’s army at Alegrfa de Pio, but Castro and 11 others (including an Argentine doctor named Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara, Fidel’s brother Raul, and future comandames Camilo Cienfuegos and Juan Almeida) escaped into the Sierra Maestra, where the M-26-7 underground leader in Facts about Cuba - History 25 THE CUBAN REVOLUTION _ ‘ 7 — Route of Raul Castro, March 1958 Route of Ernesto ‘Che' Guevara, October to December 1958 ---— Old Provincial Boundaries Manzanillo, Celia Sénchez, managed to send them supplies. On January 17, 1957, the guerrillas scored their first success by overrunning a small army outpost 0n the south coast. Herbert l. Matthews of the New York Times inter- viewed Castro in the Sierra Maestra on February 17, 1957, bringing Castro's group to the attention of the American public for the first time. Matthews portrayed Castro and his bearded rebels as romantic heroes. winning them a degree of popularity in the US and limiting the amount of overt mililm \ support US officials could provide to Batista. In March 1957 Frank Pais sent 52 new recruits from Santiago de Cuba, and the rebel army’s strength grew. On March 13, 1957, university students belonging to the DR attacked the Presiden- tial Palace in Havana in an unsuccessful attempt to assassinate Batista. Batista had learned of the attack beforehand and con— centrated his defenses on the palace’s top floor, which could only be reached by an el— evator. The attackers fought their way into the building and reached Batista’s office on the second floor, but were unable to proceed as the elevator had been blocked. Batista’s troops soon surrounded the building and many of the attackers were shot trying to escape down the marble stairway. Of the 35 students who had attacked the palace, 32 were killed. In a simultaneous assault, members of the Directorio captured Radio Reloj and broadcast news of the dictator’s overthrow, but they were also killed as they came out of the building. After this episode Batista’s men rounded up and murdered anyone vaguely connected with the incident, as well as many other political opponents. Echeverri’a was killed, and Batista’s reprisals pushed most opponents of the dictatorship toward Castro’s M-26—7. On May 28, 1957, the M—26-7 overwhelmed 53 Batista soldiers at the army post in El Uvero and captured badly needed supplies. On July 30 Frank Pais was trapped in San- tiago de Cuba and shot. Yet reinforcements from the cities continued to trickle in, and by the end of 1957 Castro was able to establish a fixed headquarters at La Plata, high up in the Sierra Maestra. Radio Rebelde began broadcasting from La Plata in February 1958, and in March Raul Castro led a party of rebels into the Sierra de Cristal on the north coast of Oriente, where they set up a second front. In April 1958 a general strike failed to bring Batista down, largely because the Cuban Communist Party (PSP) refused to cooperate. In fact, the Communist Party provided no support to the rebels until mid- 1958, when they seemed to be winning. In May Batista sent an army of 10,000 into 26 Facts about Cuba — History the Sierra Maestra to liquidate Castro’s 300 armed guerrillas. By August the rebels de- feated this advance and captured a great quantity of arms, a crucial turning point of . the revolution. After Batista’s offensive fizzled, Castro sent columns led by Che Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos to set up additional fronts in Las Villas Province, which they reached in October and Novem- ber after marches of incredible endurance. They planned for Guevara to capture Santa Clara and cut Cuba in two, while Cienfuegos was to have pushed west into Pinar del Rio, as Fidel and Raul Castro encircled Santiago ‘ de Cuba. Ever conscious of Cuban history, Castro was merely repeating the westward drive of Maximo Gomez and Antonio Ma- ceo in 1895. In the Sierra del Escambray of central Cuba, Guevara and Cienfuegos formed a united front with guerrillas from the Direc— torio Revolucionario. Road and rail links across the country were cut, and when Batista’s troops tried to turn back these rebels in November, his soldiers were de- feated. The army’s weakness was becoming ‘ evident, and on November 30, 1958, Castro’s ‘ column took the town of Guisa near Bay- amo after a pitched battle. On December 28 Guevara’s troops advanced on Santa Clara, .‘ and the next day they captured an armored ‘ train Batista had sent to reinforce the city. Two days later the city fell to the rebels, ‘ despite the 3000 Batista troops stationed i there. At 9 pm on December 31, Batista’s gen— eral in Santiago de Cuba warned the dicta- tor that the city was about to fall, so at 2 am . on January 1, 1959, Batista fled to the Do- >. minican Republic, which was then ruled by fellow dictator Rafael Trujillo. (Batista ‘ took with him US$40 million in govern- ment funds and died in comfortable exile in Spain in 1973.) To prevent opportunists , from stepping into the vacuum, Guevara and Cienfuegos immediately set out for. Havana, which they reached on January 2. Castro’s column had entered Santiago de Cuba the night before, as workers all across Cuba responded to his call for a general. strike. Consolidating Power On January 5, 1959, the Cuban presidency was assumed by Manuel Urrutia, a judge who had defended the M-26-7 prisoners during the 1953 Moncada trials. Castro entered Havana on January 8 and on February 16 he was named prime minister. Among the first acts of the revolutionary government were cuts in rent and electricity rates, and racial discrimination was abolished. In April 1959 Castro made a private visit to Washington to address a gathering of the National Press Club. To avoid meeting the (‘uban leader, President Eisenhower (whose knowledge of Latin American affairs was negligible) made a point of leaving on a golfing holiday, and Vice President Richard Nixon received Castro at the White House. Nixon accused Castro of being a communist or under the influence of communists, some- thing Castro had always denied. Castro later remarked that the Americans were far more concemed about possible communist infiltra- tion into his administration than in finding out what he planned to do to reform Cuba. After their one—hour meeting, Nixon set in motion a process of anti-Castro subversion that eventually led to the Bay of Pigs. Back in Cuba, most of 1959 was devoted to the promised agrarian reform. In May all estates over 400 hectares were nationalized during the First Agrarian Reform, which di- rectly affected the holdings of large US com- panies such as the United Fruit Company. The first half of 1959 also saw revolutionary groups supported by Cuba launch unsuc- cessful campaigns against undemocratic regimes in Panama, Nicaragua, and the Do- minican Republic. In July 1959 President Urrutia resigned after criticizing the agrar- ian reforms. He was replaced by Osvaldo Dorticos, an M-26-7 leader from Cienfuegos. In October 1959 Huber Matos, the gov- ernment’s military chief of Camagi‘ley, at- tempted a counterrevolutionary coup, and Cuban émigrés from Miami provoked Cas- tro by flying a B-25 bomber over Havana. In response to these events, Castro formed a popular militia to defend the revolution. Soon after there was a purge of the judicial system, when many judges and lawyers left Facts about Cuba — History 27 the country. Around this time, CIA—backed guerrillas began operating in the Sierra del Escambray of central Cuba. Meanwhile Cuba’s economic problems mounted as thousands of professionals, managers, and technicians who didn’t share Castro’s vision of a new society left the country for exile in Miami. As relations with the US deteriorated due to the land seizures, Cuba made overtures to the Soviet Union to provide a balance. In February 1960 Soviet Vice Premier Anastas Mikoyan visited Cuba at the head of a trade delegation. Important contracts were signed, and the USSR agreed to send technicians to replace some of those who had left for the US. On March 4, 1960, the French ship Cou- bre, bearing a cargo of Belgian arms, blew up mysteriously in Havana Harbor, killing 81 people and wounding 200 more. CIA-backed émigrés were accused of being behind the sabotage, and relations with the US declined further. Two weeks later President Eisen— hower authorized the CIA to train and arm a counterrevolutionary force to overthrow the Castro government. These provocations led Cuba to resume diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union in May 1960. A new crisis erupted in Cuba in June 1960: Refineries owned by Texaco, Standard Oil, and Shell bowed to US pressure and refused to refine Soviet petroleum rather than the Venezuelan crude they had been purchasing from their own subsidiaries at in- flated prices. Two weeks later these compa- nies were nationalized. After this, Cuba was dependent on the USSR for its fuel and the degree of economic leverage the US could apply diminished sharply. On July 6 President Eisenhower cut 700,000 tons from the Cuban sugar quotu. but a few days later the USSR offered to buy any sugar the US rejected. This greatly strengthened Castro’s position, as he could now present himself as a defender of Cuban sovereignty against US aggression. In August 1960 the Cuban government nationalized the American-owned telephone and electricity companies and 36 sugar milln. including US$800 million in US assets The outraged American government quickh L 28 Facts about Cuba — History pushed through a resolution by the Organi- zation of American States (OAS) condemn- ing ‘extra-continental’ (Soviet) intervention in the Western Hemisphere, to which Cuba responded in September 1960 by establish- ing diplomatic relations with communist China and issuing a call for other Latin American countries to throw off US neo— colonial control. In September 1960 the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR) were formed to consolidate grassroots support for the revolution. Later, these neighborhood bodies would play a decisive role in health, education, social, and voluntary labor cam- paigns. Also in September, at a meeting of the United Nations in New York, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev agreed to supply arms to Cuba to defend itself against emigre groups based in the US. On October 13, 1960, most banks and 382 major Cuban-owned firms were national— ized, and the next day an Urban Reform Law nationalized rental housing. On October 19, 1960, a partial trade embargo was imposed on Cuba by Washington, to which Cuba re— sponded five days later by nationalizing all remaining US businesses in the country. In effect, the Cold War politicians in Washing- ton, DC, had made it easy for Castro to steer the revolution toward communism in part— nership with the Soviet Union. Conflict with the USA By January 1961 the US embassy in Havana had become the crux of destabilization at— tempts against Cuba, so Castro ordered the embassy to reduce its staff from 300 to 11, the same number then serving at the Cuban embassy in Washington. The US broke off diplomatic relations with Cuba and promptly banned US citizens from traveling to Cuba. In March 1961 President Kennedy abolished the remaining Cuban sugar quota. Since the mid-1960s several CIA opera- tions had been attempting to assassinate and/or overthrow Castro, supported by a budget of US$13 million. Fantastic schemes were hatched, such as one to make Castro’s beard fall out by using a powder planted in his shoes and another involving an exploding cigar. The US Mafia was offered US$150,000 plus expenses to ‘eliminate’ Castro, but even the Mafia bosses were unable to find anyone willing to take the risk. The most famous US aggression against Cuba began on April 14, 1961, when some 1400 Cuban émigrés trained by the CIA in Florida and Guatemala set sail in six ships from Puerto Cabeza, Nicaragua. Nicaraguan dictator Luis Somoza saw them off and re- quested that they bring back a few hairs ‘ from Fidel’s beard. The next day planes from Nicaragua bombed Cuban airfields, but they failed to eliminate the Cuban Air Force. On April 16, during a speech honoring the seven Cuban airmen killed in the raids, Castro pro- claimed the socialist nature of the Cuban revolution for the first time. The next day the invaders landed at t Playa Giron and Playa Larga in the Bahia V dc Cochinos (Bay of Pigs). Cuban planes Mission: Assassinate Fidel Method: Exploding cigar Result: giViva Fidel?! llllliICdIaler attacked their supply ships, \Illking two and forcing the rest to withdraw, leaving the troops stranded on the beaches utthout most of their equipment. Eleven aircraft were shot down, including all of the H 3.6 bombers flown from Nicaragua that day. Castro took personal charge of the i| u ces moving against the ‘mercenaries,’ and \thin 72 hours the invaders at the beach— lit-ads surrendered after about 200 of them had been killed. President Kennedy had allowed the US \lavy to escort the invading ships to Cuba, hut direct US military involvement in Cuba \\ as further than he was willing to go, and he tanceled US air cover during the landings. i-ventually 1197 of the men captured at the May of Pigs were ‘ransomed’ by the US for l i8$53 million in food and medicine. (Inter— esting to note: E Howard Hunt Jr, the CIA operator who helped plan the catastrophic May of Figs invasion, was later a key player In the Watergate burglary that brought down Richard Nixon.) During his 1961 May Day speech, Fidel ( ‘astro reaffirmed that the Cuban Revolu- Imn was socialist, and on December 1, 1961, he declared that he had been a Marxist- | t-ninist since his university days. He claimed that he had concealed his communist beliefs to avoid damaging the chances of success of lhc revolution. In his book Castro, Ameri- \ an biographer Peter Bourne argues that this n as mostly an attempt to outflank members at the old Communist Party, who were occu- pying increasingly important positions in the administration, and a ploy to ensure Soviet support in Cuba’s confrontation with the l is. Bourne and others, such as British histo- rian Hugh Thomas, say that Castro was tnrccd into his Marxist-Leninist position by the pressure of events. After their stinging defeat at the Bay of I’igs. the Americans tried to put Cuba in quarantine. They declared a full trade em— hargo in June 1961, and in January 1962 managed to have Cuba expelled from the l )i'ganization of American States, followed lw ()AS economic sanctions. However, many moderate Latin American leaders felt un- t tunt'ortable joining the US crusade against Facts about Cuba — History 29 Cuba, given the long history of US interven- tions south of the border. America’s closest neighbors, Mexico and Canada, who under- stood the idiosyncrasies of US foreign policy better than anyone else, refused to bow to American pressure to sever diplomatic rela— tions with Cuba, as did many others. By the middle of 1961, inventories in Cuba had been exhausted and the country was facing shortages of almost everything. Rationing began in March of 1962. That month, when the Soviets failed to respond promptly to Cuba’s bid to join the Socialist bloc (with the assurance of full military and economic aid such status would imply), Castro launched a purge of old Communist Party officials to convince Moscow that he was in charge and that socialism had been achieved through his revolution and not through the working class led by the Party, as envisioned in classical Marxism. All revo- lutionary groups in Cuba were merged into a single National Directorate of the Inte— grated Revolutionary Organizations. In April 1962 Khrushchev decided to install missiles in Cuba to use as bargaining chips in the Soviet Union’s ongoing rivalry with the US. The Berlin Wall had been erected in August 1961, and US attempts to destabilize East Germany through Berlin were as much a bone in the Soviet throat as Cuba had become for the Americans. Castro only wanted short-range missiles capable of hitting Miami, a sufficient deterrent against invasion in his eyes, but Khrushchev sent medium-range missiles capable of striking anywhere in the US. Even though the US had surrounded the Soviet Union with far more powerful and numerous missiles soon after WWII, Washington objected strongly to receiving the same treatment. On October 22, 1962, President Kennedy ordered the US Navy to stop Cuba-bound Soviet ships in international waters and In carry out searches for missiles This led to the Cuban Missile Crisis, which brought the world closer to the brink of nuclear war than it has ever been. Only after receiving a secret assurance from Kennedy that (‘uhu would not be invaded did Khrushchev de- fuse the crisis on October 28 by ordering the 30 Facts about Cuba — History missiles dismantled. The crisis had a sober- ing effect on superpower relations, and a year later the US and the USSR signed a treaty banning above-ground nuclear test- ing. Khrushchev’s decision to withdraw the missiles without consulting or even inform— ing Castro infuriated him, and in Moscow Khrushchev’s withdrawal was interpreted as a sign of weakness, which would lead to his fall from power two years later. Shortly after the missile crisis, the US focused on new military adventures in Viet— nam, and largely forgot Cuba. In April 1963 Kennedy ordered the CIA to stop financing the attacks of exile groups on Cuba. Building Socialism During the first decade of the revolution, Cuba’s economy was run on a trial-and- error basis marked by inconsistency, disor- ganization, falls in production, declining quality, and growing bureaucracy. As presi- dent of the National Bank and later as min- ister of industries, Guevara had pushed for centralization and moral, rather than mate— rial, incentives for workers, but these proved ineffective. Inexperience and the departure of so many trained people took their toll. In August 1963 some 10,000 medium-size farms were taken over in the Second Agrar- ian Reform, which fixed maximum private holdings at 65 hectares. More than two- thirds of Cuban farmland was now held by the state. In 1968 Cuba underwent a mini Cultural Revolution, or ‘Great Revolutionary Offen— sive,’ in which some 55,000 surviving small businesses and holdings were nationalized, and self-employment and private trading were banned. Bureaucrats were assigned to agricultural Work in the countryside, while military officers filled posts in government and the economy. Self-defense brigades of workers were formed in the factories and on state farms. Production sagged and the shortages became worse than ever. Despite massive Soviet aid the Cuban economy languished during the late 19605, and the effort to produce 10 million tons of sugar in 1970 almost led to an economic breakdown, as the many consumer scarcities were multiplied by the overemphasis on sugar. After this failure more attention was ‘ placed on careful economic planning and the 3 sugar harvest was increasingly mechanized. Conditions improved slowly during the 1970s as a new generation of technicians and managers dedicated to the revolution gradu— ated from school to replace those who had left for the US. Half of Cuba’s 6000 doc- tors left the country during the early ’60s, but by 1974 the number was back up to 9000 . doctors. After 1970 the personal style gave way to ‘ the planned style, both in the economic and political spheres, with closer ties to the Soviet Union. In 1972 Castro visited every country in Eastern Europe, and soon after Cuba was admitted to the CMEA, or Com- econ, the Soviet—led Council for Mutual Economic Assistance, resulting in debt relief and increased prices for Cuban exports. An unprecedented Soviet aid package was an- nounced in early 1973. However, the ecov nomic planning was done in a centralized and arbitrary way. Trade with the Soviet bloc gradually increased from 65% of the total in the early 19705 to 87% in 1988, a degree of dependence that was to cost the country dearly. ‘ In 1975 the number of provinces was m- creased from six (Pinar del Rio, La Habana, Matanzas, Las Villas, Camagiiey, and Ori- ente) to the present 14. Also in 1975, the First Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba approved a process known as institutional- ization, which installed an actual Soviet sys-, tem in Cuba. A third Cuban constitution was drawn up to replace the Ley Fundamental, (Fundamental Law) enacted in February, 1959. This was approved by referendum in‘ February 1976, and Fidel Castro replaced Osvaldo Dorticés as president. Cuban lnternationalism ’ After the US defeat at the Bay of Pigs, the Kennedy administration launched an ‘Alo liance for Progress,’ which channeled eco- nomic aid to Latin American countries to counter Cuban attempts to export revolui tion.This coincided with a period when man democratic Latin American governmen w ere being overthrown by military coups, .uul by 1964 the time looked ripe for a toutinent—wide revolution. Both Castro and t iuevara began actively supporting guerrilla movements in Latin America and Africa. For seven months in 1965, Guevara trained utterrilla forces under Laurent Kabila in the Iormer Zaire, and some 1000 Cuban troops \\ ere sent to the Congolese Republic to sup- port a socialist regime. By 1966 Cuban advi- \ot‘s were in Guinea, and assistance was also being given to rebels fighting Portuguese t'olonialism in Angola and Mozambique. l'he Tricontinental Conference in Havana in Ltnuary 1966 firmly established Cuba as a leader of revolution throughout the third world. In November 1966 Guevara personally launched a guerrilla campaign in southeast liolivia, but the local Communist Party failed to support it. Guevara had hoped Bolivia would be the first step in the liberation of the entire continent, as Simon Bolivar had liberated South America from Spain in the 18205. In panic, the US sharply increased military aid to the Bolivian military, and on t )etober 9, 1967, Guevara was captured by liolivian troops and murdered in the pres- ence of US advisors. Cuban support for ‘tcrrorism’ had dampened the country’s re— lations with the rest of Latin America and contributed to its isolation. Not until 1975 were the OAS sanctions against Cuba lifted. Cuban involvement in Africa ran deeper. Angola was due to become independent trom Portugal on November 11, 1975, but |ust a month before that date, South Africa, with US support, sent 10,000 troops into the diamond—rich country to install a client regime. In response, Cuba dispatched 18,000 soldiers to Angola to defend the Marxist MPLA of Agostinho Neto (an old friend of (‘astro’s). The South Africans had not ex- pected much opposition and were only lightly armed, and the Cubans drove them hack, the first important military setback ever suffered by the apartheid regime. This Cuban victory was applauded throughout the third world, and when the Von-Aligned Movement met in Sri Lanka a tear later, they decided that their 1979 Facts about Cuba — History 31 meeting would be in Havana, which meant that Castro would be the movement’s presi- dent for three years. Since the 19605 Cuba had been attempting to balance its reliance on the Soviet Union by participating in the Non-Aligned Movement, and the invitation to host the 1979 summit and chair the move- ment from 1979 to 1982 was a great victory. In late 1977 Cuba sent 17,000 troops to Ethiopia to fight an invasion of the Ogaden region by US-backed forces from Somalia. This illAconsidered move undertaken at Soviet behest soured relations with the Carter administration, and beginning in 1980 Cuban troops were pulled out of Ethiopia. After an agreement between Cuba, South Africa, and Angola in December 1988, the 50,000 Cuban troops then present in Angola were also withdrawn. As a stipulation of the agreement, in 1990 Namibia became inde- pendent of South Africa. More than 2000 Cubans had died in Angola. In July 1991, Nelson Mandela would visit Cuba to dem— onstrate his gratitude for the pivotal role this small country had played in the defeat of apartheid. In February 1973 Cuba and the US signed a reciprocal agreement on the return of hi- jackers, in which both countries promised to punish anyone attempting to launch attacks on the territory of the other. On September 1, 1977, the US established an interests sec- tion in Havana, and Cuba opened one in Washington, DC. A restoration of diplo- matic relations seemed to be in the offing when anti—communist hard-liner Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Carter’s national secu- rity advisor, scuttled the talks. In 1982 Cuba scored points in Latin America by support- ing Argentina during the Falklands War. Communism in Crisis By the mid-19805 the inefficiencies of Cuba‘s Soviet-style economy had become obvious. as quality was sacrificed to meet production quotas set by central planners, and ordinary citizens were alienated from government by the vertical command structure. In 1986 a process known as the ‘rectification of errors’ began, which attempted to reduce bureau- cracy and allow more decision-making at RICK GERHARTER 32 Facts about Cuba — History local levels. In 1989 an anticorruption cam— paign led to the highest levels, as General Arnaldo Ochoa Szinchez, a hero of the war in Angola, was tried for complicity in drug trafficking and sentenced to death. In the middle of the rectification process came the collapse of Eastern European communism in 1989. As trade and credits dried up, President Castro declared a five— year periodo especial (special period) aus- terity program in August 1990. For almost three decades Cuba had adhered closely to Soviet foreign policy, to the extent of en- dorsing the invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 and tilting toward the USSR in its conflict with China. Soviet economic subsi- dies, in the form of above-market prices for Cuban exports, totaled around US$5 billion a year, and the loss of this support was a dis— aster for Cuba. In late 1991 Russia announced that their 11,000 military advisors and technicians in Cuba would be withdrawn. The US refused May Day display of medals and awards to do likewise, and thousands of US troops remain at the Guantanamo naval base in eastern Cuba. The US tightened their hold with the 1992 Torricelli Act, which forbids foreign subsidiaries of US companies from trading with Cuba and bans ships that have called at Cuban ports from docking at US ports for six months. Ninety percent of the trade banned by this law consists of food, medicine, and medical equipment. In October 1991 at the Fourth Congress of the Cuban Communist Party in San— tiago de Cuba, President Castro declared that he would remain loyal to communism and that ideological concessions could en- danger the revolution. Economic reforms, however, were not ruled out. In December 1991 the National Assembly removed refer— ences to Marxism—Leninism from the Cuban Constitution. However, the strain of the special period was bringing Cuba to the breaking point, and in a 1993 speech to mark the 40th anniver- sary of the attack on Moncada, President Castro announced that henceforth, individ- ual Cubans would be allowed to possess US dollars. In August 1993 the constitution was amended to allow Cubans to hold foreign currency, to open dollar bank accounts, and to spend cash dollars at hard-currency stores. In September 1993 self—employment in more than 100 trades was legalizedTaxes on dollar incomes and profits were an— nounced in August 1994, and in October farmers’ markets were opened. In Septem— ber 1995 a law was approved allowing foreign companies to run wholly owned businesses and possess real estate in Cuba, although the Cuban state was to continue to control the workforce. Previously only joint ven— tures with state-owned companies had been permitted. These reforms led to the reemergence of class differences in Cuba, as those with dollars gained access to goods and services out of reach of those without. Many Cubans became desperate for dollars, and prosti- tutes known as jineteras (jockeys) reap- peared in the tourist areas. Cuban émigrés returning for visits from the US found them— selves treated like royalty for the dollars in their wallets. These reforms did relieve some of the pressure for even greater change and gave Cuba’s socialist system some breath— ing room. By 1996 the post-Soviet crisis had sub— sided, most investors hadn’t been scared away by US intimidation, and tourism was booming. Hard-liners led by Castro became concerned by the appearance of nouveau riche and decided it was time to take back some of the concessions granted in 1993. Heavy taxes were imposed and private busi- nesses deemed too competitive with state enterprises were closed d0wn.The size of the police force was greatly increased in 1999 to deal with burgeoning crime. Yet putting the genie back in the bottle hasn’t been easy, and communist Cuba is still looking for its place in a predominately capitalist world. Recent US Policy The prickly question of Cuban-American relations continues to hang over both coun— tries like a dark cloud.The USA and Cuba are natural trading partners, and the anachro- nistic embargo has deprived US companies of numerous opportunities to do business in Cuba. Washington’s travel restrictions alone cost US tour companies, travel agencies, air- lines, and hotel and catering chains billions of dollars a year in lost tourism revenues. American farmers have been shut out of a lucrative market. It’s estimated that the em- bargo deprives US businesses of as much as US$2 billion a year in export sales to Cuba (which translates into 40,000 American jobs not created). There’s little doubt that US isolationism has greatly strengthened the Castro regime, both by accepting most of the opposition as political refugees and by making it easy for Fidel to present himself as a nationalist de— fending his country against a hostile neigh- bor. Economic difficulties resulting from the inefficiencies of state monopolies can be blamed on the embargo, and domestic op— ponents can be branded as foreign agents. Of course, the 5911 outstanding claims against Cuba by US investors, totaling US$1.8 billion (four times that with inter- est), will have to be considered in any settle— Facts about Cuba — History 33 ment. Cuba has repeatedly offered to com- pensate these investors, but it is the US gov- ernment itself that prohibits them from accepting such payoffs. It must also be rec- ognized that Cuba has legitimate damage claims against the US resulting from illegal American interference in Cuba’s relations with third countries. Immediately after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, US policy toward Cuba was based on the assumption that without Soviet support the Castro government would soon topple; all that was required was a tightening of the economic screws and a little patience. Yet by 1993 the effects of the Soviet with- drawal had bottomed out, and since that time the Cuban economy has only grown. The economic reforms provided a small outlet for those who felt oppressed by state ownership and the number of joint ventures with Canadian, European, and Latin Amer- ican companies has increased. In 1994 Cuba joined the Association of Caribbean States as a full member. The prospect of Castro’s communist gov- ernment actually managing to survive and eventually renewing economic relations with the US filled the embittered Miami exiles and their right-wing political allies with horror. The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Jesse Helms, and Congressmember Dan Burton drafted legis- lation to allow US investors to take legal action in the American courts against foreign companies utilizing their confiscated prop- erty in Cuba. The executives of such foreign companies are refused entry to the US. The bill also prevents any US president from lift- ing the embargo until a transitional govern- ment is in place in Havana and requires US representatives to international financial or- ganizations to oppose loans to Cuba. The Helms—Burton Bill was rejected lw most moderate American politicians. inclml ing President Clinton, as prejudicial to Us interests. They recognized that overt US m terference in the trade and investment pm tices of friendly countries could have wt tum repercussions, and that US volen were min concerned with issues that would "If" I» unleashed by a political uphcnvnl m ( til-u 34 Facts about Cuba — History such as illegal immigration. Clinton indicated that he would veto Helms-Burton unless it were softened. With their political influence in Washing- ton dwindling, extremists in the Cuban exile community adopted desperate measures, and one outfit called ‘Brothers to the Rescue’ began provocative incursions into Cuban territory. Brothers’ original mission had been to rescue Cuban refugees at sea, but after the flow of rafters was effectively stopped in May 1995, Brothers turned to more direct action. On July 13, 1995, the Cuban coast guard stopped a flotilla of 12 boats, six planes, and two helicopters from entering Cuban waters, but one plane managed to slip through and buzzed Havana’s Malecon. In September a second flotilla fizzled after one of the boats sank off Key West. On January 9 and 13, 1996, planes sent from Florida by Brothers dropped thousands of antigovernment leaflets on Havana. The Cuban government issued public and pri— vate warnings that unless the flights ceased those responsible would face serious conse- quences. Events came to a head on February 24, 1996, when two Cessna aircraft were shot down by Cuban jets. Brothers claimed the planes were over international waters at the time, but Cuba insisted that they had en- tered a forbidden zone in spite of prior radio warnings. Following this incident, the Helms-Burton Bill was swiftly passed by the US Congress and signed into law on March 12, 1996, by a wobbly Bill Clinton. (American presidents tend to look upon Cuba as a domestic polit— ical issue, and Clinton couldn’t afford to ap- pear ‘weak‘ in an election year.) By hastily signing legislation he knew to be flawed, Clinton was merely continuing the Ameri- can tradition of reacting to events in Cuba instead of trying to find accommodation with its southern neighbor. The conditions attached to Helms-Burton make it highly unlikely that Cuban-American relations will improve for a very long time, or at least as long as Fidel Castro or any immediate suc— cessor is in power. Internationally these attempts by the US to legislate for the world have been widely condemned, and every year since 1992 the United Nations General Assembly has voted by an overwhelming margin to condemn the US economic embargo against Cuba. Dur- ing his visit to Cuba in January 1998, Pope John Paul 11 called for an end to the ‘unjust and ethically unacceptable’ embargo. In the wake of the pope’s visit, the US relaxed some aspects of the embargo, allowing more charter flights between Miami and Havana, increasing the amount of money Americans could send to family and friends in Cuba, al- lowing the sale of food to private restaurants, and improving mail service. The crowning irony of it all is that Jesse Helms and his cohorts may actually have saved Cuban communism from collapse. Without the embargo Cuba’s leaders might not have managed to cope with an influx of American tourism, trade, and investment during the difcult years from 1990 to 1995. With his back to the wall, Fidel managed to ride out the storm, and he’s in good health and likely to be around for another decade at least. Emigration Yesterday & Today After the nationalization of industries and businesses, much of the top managerial and technical staff of the affected companies left for exile in the US. From 1959 until mid- 1962 Cubans could leave by simply boarding the regular twice-daily flight to Miami, and some 250,000 did exactly that. From 1965 to 1970 another 250,000 left for the US on special chartered flights. The Cuban Adjust- ment Act of 1966 declared that any Cuban reaching US territory by any means was eli- gible for a residence permit. In April 1980 a third wave of 135,000 refugees reached Miami via the Cuban port of Mariel. These migrants were generally poorer (and darker) than those who had fled to Florida immediately after the revolution, and the Cuban government even took ad- vantage of the chaotic exodus to send con— victs and the mentally retarded north. In December 1984 Cuba and the US signed an agreement whereby up to 20,000 ; ordinary Cubans and 3000 former politi— cal prisoners and their families would be allowed to immigrate legally to the US annually. In practice. only about 1000 ordi- nary Cubans received visas each year while the political-prisoner quota was fully used, a deliberate policy of encouraging dissent by rewarding dissidents with admission to the US. In early August 1994 a new crisis erupted after several boats were hijacked on their way to Florida in separate incidents that cost two Cuban soldiers their lives. Miami radio stations beamed inflammatory messages at Cuba, leading to rioting in Havana and a surge in illegal immigration to the US. On August 12, after being accused of using ex— cessive force to block Cubans from depart- ing, President Castro ordered the Cuban coast guard not to stop anyone from leaving Cuba. When this became known some 35,000 Cubans took to the sea on rafts and small boats, and on August 19 President Clinton was forced to rescind the US open-door policy toward illegal Cuban immigration and order that the balseros (boat people) be taken to the Guantanamo naval base. Even— tually most were admitted to the US. In May 1995 the US government con- ceded that most of the 1994 arrivals — over half of whom were young men between the ages of 18 and 21 — were in fact economic migrants, and an agreement was signed with Cuba whereby future illegal immigrants in- tercepted at sea by the US authorities would be returned to Cuba. Cubans who manage to reach US soil, however, still have the legal right to stay. The US also promised to issue a minimum of 20,000 visas a year to Cubans wishing to immigrate. In 1997 there were 435,000 applications with the winners chosen by lottery. At present some 1.5 million persons of Cuban origin live in the US, 700,000 of them in southern Florida. (About 11 million Cubans remain in Cuba.) After 1965 most Cuban Americans realized that they would not be returning home anytime soon, so they built new lives for themselves in the US. Al- though most are still strongly anti-Castro, a growing number would like the US to make peace with Cuba so they can reestablish regular ties with their homeland. ...
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6 (original) - Facts about Cuba - Introduction - Facts...

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