It was a revolution of the humble, by the humble and for the humble
The progressive steps taken by the Cuban Government was disliked by USA.
The Europeans began actively colonising Latin America ever since Christopher Columbus landed in Cuba in 1492. The Spanish were the first to colonise Cuba, by bringing in Africans to work in the sugar and tobacco plantations. Later, when the slave trade from Africa became difficult, they began to bring in Chinese to work in the fields. The Cuban character is a mix of Spanish, African and Chinese origins.
Cuba has a proud history of fighting for Independence. Carlos Manuel Cespedes, a land owner, was the first to initiate the first war of independence (1868-1878).He distributed his land among the slaves and made them to join the struggle against Spain. It was also the period when USA was fighting the Spanish to take over their colonies in South America. The second war of Independence was initiated by Jose Marti in 1895 who also formed the Cuban Revolutionary Party. Jose Marti was killed in battle at Dos Rios in Eastern Cuba on 19th March 1896. Two years later Spain signed an agreement with USA handing over Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Philippines and Guam territories to the latter.
Fidel and Camilo
US control over Cuba was codified by Congress with the Platt Amendment, by restricting Cuba’s right to its own foreign policy and budget and approving US military intervention at any time. The Platt amendment was subsequently incorporated into Cuba’s 1901 constitution. Since then, Cuba has been administered by military officers appointed from USA.
In August 1933 Gerardo Machado was overthrown by a general strike and a provisional government was installed. The same year in September Fulgencio Batista led the ‘sergeants’ revolt’ and replaced the provisional government with Ramon Grau San Martin as the new president. In 1934, Batista overthrew President Grau, getting hold of power. In an effort to overcome decades of corrupt administration, a constitutional assembly drafted a new constitution which took effect in 1940.
General Batista was elected president of Cuba, a post he retained until 1943.In 1951 the leader of the Orthodox Party Eduardo Chibas committed suicide at the end of his regular radio broadcast. The elections that were scheduled were banned. The Orthodox Party that was sure to win the elections was banned and in 1952 General Batista took power in a military coup. There was no alternative for the people to show their choice. Fidel Castro as a young lawyer was the leader of the youth in the Orthodox Party.
Fidel Castro decided to lead an armed rebellion against the tyranny. The rebels needed weapons. It was decided to launch an attack on Moncada Barracks on 26th July 1953. The objective was to raise awareness among the people of Cuba that the ‘Batista regime should be toppled’ and also to gather weapons. Nearly 160 young people were recruited by Fidel. The rebels were to meet at the gates of Moncada Barracks at a particular time and takeover the camp by surprise. Due to some technical faults, there were delays in reaching the entrance of the garrison. At the entrance the guards were overpowered but the patrol outside raised the alarm and the counterattack started. Fidel decided to retreat and many guerrillas were captured and shot.
Fidel Castro and Raul Castro were captured after a week. They were imprisoned. Under pressure from the Cuban people, a trial was held. This trial was an eye opener why the Cuban people had to defeat the Batista tyranny. In Fidel’s famous court room speech ‘History will Absolve me’, he explained why the youth had to take arms. He was sent for a fifteen years imprisonment.
Due to pressure from the local public and international organisations, Batista had to release the rebels in 1955. Fidel and Raul left to Mexico. Fidel decided to organise another armed movement. It was established as the July 26 Movement. In Mexico, Fidel met Ernesto Che Guevara who had been befriended by some Cubans in Guatemala before the overthrow of President Arbenz in a CIA sponsored coup the previous year.
On the 25thof November 1956 Fidel, Che and 80 Cubans left Mexico in the cabin cruiser Granma. When the boat reached Cuba on 2nd December 1956, the boat was attacked. Of the Granma expedition, only a few survived. On the 18thof December 1956, Fidel, Raul and six others reunited at Cinco Palmas where they were later joined by Juan Almeida, Che Guevara, Ramiro Valdez and four others from the Granma. They regrouped in the Sierra Maestra mountains having constant touch with the urban guerrillas. From the mountains of Sierra, the rebels could maintain a systematic attack on Batista targets and take control of those areas.
On the 1stof January 1959 Fidel entered Santiago De Cuba and the military regime collapsed. Fidel called for a general strike. Battista and his cronies fled Cuba. On 8th Jan 1959 Fidel arrived at Havana after a victorious march across the island.
The steps taken by the Revolutionary Government of Cuba led by Fidel was to defend the interests of the workers, peasants and farmers. It was a revolution of the humble, by the humble and for the humble. The progressive steps taken by the Cuban Government was disliked by USA. Since 1960 the Cuban government has been subjected to economic, military, political and terror attacks. There had been more than 600 attempts on Fidel’s life. The Cuban missile crisis, defeat of US-backed rebels at the Bay of Pigs, the murder of Ernesto Che Guevara are some infamous acts committed by US government. For more than 60 years, Cuba has been subjected to an economic embargo. The collapse of the Soviet Union was a severe setback to the Cuban economy.
With all the global changes, Cuba has been firm in its commitment to the revolution. Being a strong advocate of Non-alignment, Cuba has won world recognition for its outstanding commitment for a just global order. During the time of the Covid- 19 pandemic Cuban doctors volunteered to give their services to nearly 60 countries. Its Henry Reeves Medical Brigade was nominated to be a recipient of this year’s Nobel Peace prize. In spite of the blockade Cuba has made five candidate vaccines to fight Covid 19. Two of its vaccines Abdala and Soborena two has been approved by the WHO.
At a time when Sri Lanka is facing a severe foreign currency shortage, the experience that Cuba had gone through could be studied. 26th July is a national holiday in Cuba. By learning the experience of Cuba, we also can contribute to the development of Sri Lanka. It’s hard to understand why the US government disregards international law by failing to remove the economic blockade imposed on Cuba. We hope that US president Joe Biden will take steps to remove the blockade.