Fidel Castro And The Attack On Moncada

In the last 50 years, Cuba has seen hopeful revolutions, poverty and tyrannical dictatorship. Despite their suppression, the Cuban people have never given up on their dream of freedom. In 1952, General Fulgencio Batista seized power in a military coup and invited foreign direct investment, particularly from the United States of America.

The mafia richly rewarded Batista in exchange for control of the island’s hotels and casinos, which were often visited by American businessmen. Cuba, under Batista, became a nation of gambling, drinking and women. These tendencies were able to flourish thanks to American investment. Any opposition to Batista’s rule was brutally squashed. “Anarchy was lurking behind a façade of strict authority under the Batista dictatorship. He was in power thanks to the United States but the country was in a state of anarchy,” (French journalist and author, Serge Raffy).

Revolts were widespread, but more often than not, quickly fizzled out. On July 26, 1953, a young lawyer named Fidel Castro, together with his younger brother Raúl and around 100 rebels, attempted to seize Moncada, the country’s second biggest military barracks. Their opponents outnumbered them by far, and had far more weapons and ammunition. The attack on the Moncada Barracks was an abject failure. Nineteen defending soldiers and six rebels were killed outright. Castro’s remaining men fled, with Batista’s police following close behind. Policemen and soldiers captured and executed fifty-five rebels on the spot. The Castro brothers and the remainder of their comrades were arrested.

On October 16th, 1953, Fidel Castro was put on trial. Being a lawyer, he opted to act as his own defense attorney. “History will absolve me,” was his immortal speech given during trial. “The speech was only held at the trial and was then written down from memory. It was reconstructed, in different parts, and smuggled out of the trial to be used for propaganda,” (German historian, Zeuske). The court sentenced Fidel Castro to fifteen years in prison on October 16, 1953. His brother Raúl and other rebels were given sentences of ten to thirteen years. However in May 15, 1955, Fidel and Raul Castro were released as part of a general amnesty for political prisoners, with which Batista hoped to gain sympathy and support from the people.

On July 26th, 1955, two years to the day after the attack on Moncada, the Castros gave their rebellious group a new name: the 26th of July Movement. The Castro brothers left Cuba, together with other members of their group. They traveled to Mexico, where they planned to train, recruit, and spearhead the revolution. In Mexico, the Castros also met an Argentinean doctor named Ernesto “Che” Guevara who would later go on to become an icon for the revolutionary movement. Che wanted to join the fight for the rights of the oppressed and underprivileged, especially among the agricultural workers.

On November 25th, 1956, Castro and his men set sail for Cuba with the Granma, a small boat that barely fit Castro’s eighty-two men. After seven days at sea, the Granma reached Las Coloradas bay in southeast Cuba. Instead of their comrades, the Granma crew found themselves face to face with soldiers from Batista’s army, the 26th July Movement had been betrayed.

10 October 2020
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