Military history



Castro’s Improbable Comeback, 1952–1959

“IT WASN’T A landing, it was a shipwreck.” So said one of the eighty-two revolutionaries aboard the Granma when it finally reached Cuban soil before daybreak on December 2, 1956.

The voyage from Mexico, where these exiles had conducted their training, had been nightmarish. The thirty-eight-foot yacht, which they had bought for $20,000 from an American expatriate, was designed to handle a maximum of twenty-five passengers. Overloaded as it was, the Granma rode too low in the rough seas and rotten weather and steered clumsily. One passenger, Faustino Pérez, a future member of the Communist Party’s Central Committee, recalled how “enormous waves—like bobbing mountains—toyed with the small but tenacious boat.” Another passenger, a twenty-eight-year-old doctor named Ernesto “Che” Guevara, recalled how they made a “frantic search for antihistamines to combat seasickness, and could not find them.” Before long, he wrote, “the whole boat assumed a ridiculous, tragic appearance: men clutching their stomachs, anguish written in their faces, some with their heads in buckets, others lying immobile on the deck in strange positions, their clothes covered in vomit. With the exception of two or three sailors, and four or five others, the rest of the 82 crew members were seasick.”

When the Granma finally reached Oriente Province on the eastern coast of Cuba in the semidarkness of December 2, it grounded a hundred yards offshore. Most of the supplies and equipment had to be left on the boat while the men hopped into the water and waded ashore. “It was rough going . . . ,” recalled Faustino Pérez. “After endless hours in the enormous swamp, struggling through mud, mangroves, and water, we finally began to touch solid ground. We lay down on the grass, exhausted, hungry, covered with mud, knowing that we were finally on Cuban soil.”

Fidel Castro, the thirty-year-old lawyer who was the chief of this grandly named Rebel Army, had planned his landing in emulation of the landing of José Martí and other Cuban revolutionaries in 1895 to begin their war of liberation against Spain. It was designed to coincide with an uprising among urban revolutionaries in the nearby city of Santiago. But a longer than expected sea voyage had thrown the plan awry. By the time the Granma landed, there was nobody to greet them except the armed forces of dictator Fulgencio Batista. Within hours a coast guard vessel and army aircraft had arrived to bomb the mangrove swamps in which the Granma had gotten stuck. The rebels barely escaped. Fed and guided by local peasants who had no love lost for Batista’s corrupt regime, Castro and his men marched east through the sugarcane fields, moving at night to avoid air attack. They were attempting to reach the Sierra Maestra, where, amid peaks averaging 4,500 feet, they reckoned they would be safe.

On the morning of December 5, “on the verge of collapse,” in Che Guevara’s words, after an exhausting all-night march, they pitched camp on a low hillside at Alegría de Pío. Unbeknownst to them, one of their peasant guides had informed the Rural Guard of their location, which was not hard to find anyway, because they had sustained themselves en route by eating sugarcane, leaving a trail of cane peelings behind them that did not require a bloodhound to follow. At 4 p.m. the rebels began to see aircraft in the sky, and then “within seconds” came a “hail of bullets”—“at least,” Che later wrote, “that’s how it seemed to us, this being our baptism of fire.”

In the initial confusion Guevara and several other men were hit. “I felt a sharp blow in my chest and a wound in my neck; I thought for certain I was dead . . . ,” he wrote. “I immediately began to think about the best way to die, since in that minute all seemed lost.” Alone or in small groups, the inexperienced fighters scattered in panic, “flying like rabbits,” leaving their equipment behind. Many were captured and executed. Others deserted. After the battle of Alegría de Pío fewer than two dozen fighters were left.

In his olive-green uniform and heavy horn-rim glasses, Fidel Castro spent the next five days hiding in the cane fields with two compañeros, listening apprehensively for the sounds of approaching soldiers. When he went to sleep Castro positioned the barrel of his rifle against his throat, vowing, “If I am found, I’ll just squeeze the trigger and die.”

His situation was every bit as desperate as that of Toussaint Louverture after the arrival of Victor Emmanuel Leclerc’s expeditionary force in Haiti in 1802, of Mao Zedong after the failure of the 1927 Autumn Harvest uprising, or of Ho Chi Minh in his isolated Pac Bo stronghold after the occupation of Indochina by the Imperial Japanese Army. Yet even in this seemingly hopeless position Castro, like those other revolutionary icons, never lost faith. Trapped as he was, the loquacious young rebel could not refrain from talking—and dreaming. Speaking day and night in a “controlled whisper,” he regaled his two companions with his future plans: how he was going to mobilize the peasants, carry out a social revolution, vanquish the Yanquis, and much else.

His two companions thought he was hallucinating. They were liable to be caught and killed any minute. Even if they escaped alive, how could a handful of ill-armed rebels overthrow an entrenched regime defended by forty thousand well-equipped soldiers? “Shit, he’s gone crazy . . . ,” one of Fidel’s comrades told himself. “How can we beat Batista with these few people?”

The answer would come in the next twenty-five months.121

TITO WAS A poor peasant. Mao a well-to-do peasant. Ho Chi Minh and Vo Nguyen Giap impoverished mandarins. Fidel Castro was downright rich. He was born in 1926 to a landowner who controlled over 25,000 acres in Oriente Province and lorded over his field hands with a silver-handled whip. Fidel’s father, Angel, was a self-made man, an immigrant from Spain who had started out as a simple laborer and learned to read only as an adult. His lack of aristocratic lineage hindered Fidel socially when he attended an elite Jesuit high school in Havana; the other students looked down on him as “primitive” and “not cultured” even though he was captain of the basketball team. It did not help that he bathed infrequently and had “bad table manners.” A resentful loner with a violent temper, Fidel was filled, a fellow student recalled, with “hatred against society people and moneyed people.” He also clashed with his parents and teachers. “I’d started being a rebel . . . at like six or seven,” he later said.

In this respect he was similar to the young Mao, Tito, and Stalin: all of these future Communist insurgents turned dictators had found themselves in conflict with their parents and society from a young age. All of them nursed a grudge against their supposed “superiors” and a political system that denied them the power that they saw as rightly theirs—and they were ready to use violence to seize what they wanted. Castro was different from Mao, Tito, and Stalin, if not from Giap, in having the benefit of a university education. Like a growing number of twentieth-century radicals and, for that matter, the nineteenth-century Russian Nihilists, he had become active politically while attending university—in his case the law school at Havana University, which he entered in 1945. Politics in Cuba was not a sport for milquetoasts; Castro usually carried a gun and was often involved in violent altercations with other students and the police. He neglected his studies, was twice accused of murder, and acquired a reputation as a swaggering “young political hoodlum.” In those years “El Loco Fidel,” as he was called by his schoolmates, had only one thing on his mind. A friend recalled, “Even if he was with a girl he kept talking about politics.” Years later, once in power, he would become a prolific womanizer, like Mao and Tito, but, also like them, he would never lose his overriding interest in political machinations.

After graduating from law school in 1950, Castro opened a law practice yet did little legal work. Money was tight despite an allowance from his father that would continue until he was on the cusp of power. His beautiful blond wife, Mirta Díaz-Balart, a member of a pro-Batista family whom he had married in law school, often had no milk for their newborn son, “Fidelito.” But the boy’s father was too busy carousing with his political cronies to care. He was preparing to run as a candidate for the Chamber of Deputies in 1952 when the elections were suspended. Fulgencio Batista, a onetime army sergeant who had been president from 1933 to 1944, seized power for a second time. During his first stint in office he had been a progressive and popular leader who had won the backing of the labor unions and the Communist Party. However, upper-class Cubans had never much liked this mulatto from a lowly background who had once worked as a common laborer. Batista’s brutality and corruption during his second stint in power ensured that he became increasingly unpopular with all classes. Castro immediately began plotting a revolution—as did many other radicals. If they could not seize power by the ballot box, they would do so by force.

The Castro of those years, at over six feet tall and pudgy, was already an imposing physical presence even if he did not yet sport his later trademarks—an unruly beard and an olive army uniform. In those days he favored dark suits, a thin mustache, and Brylcreem in his hair. Even as a tyro politico, however, he already displayed his talents as a “monologist,” delivering the hours-long harangues that would be a lifelong hallmark. His manner, like that of Tito or Garibaldi, was said to be “rough and charming.”

He was a leftist but not yet a member of the Communist Party. He would not join the party until he was already in a position, as Cuba’s president, to give it orders; he never wanted to be bossed around by anyone. His initial political affiliation was with theOrtodoxos, a moderate opposition party that claimed to embody the ideals of José Martí, one of Castro’s lifelong heroes. Castro’s primary allegiance, however, was always to his own ambitions; he had a limitless need, a female friend noted, for “approval, applause, adoration.” “He wants to be a god,” she concluded.

Still ignorant of Marxism, which he would not embrace until years later, a self-confessed “political illiterate,” Fidel did not read the works of Lenin, Mao Zedong, and other notable insurgents before embarking on his own insurgency. He was more influenced by Cuba’s own independence struggle and by one of his favorite novels—Ernest Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls, which recounts the adventures of a Republican guerrilla in the Spanish Civil War. “That book,” he later said, “helped me conceive our own irregular war.” Unlike Mao, he did not attach much importance to political organizing as a prelude to military action. He believed that a band of idealistic and dashing guerrilleros could spark an uprising on their own with a few bold attacks. This would later become known as the foco theory, but it seldom if ever worked—not even in Cuba.

THE LONG AND tortuous journey that would take Castro to prison and exile before a return home to wage guerrilla warfare began in 1952. He spent much of the year traveling across Cuba in his beige Chevrolet, gathering followers with a promise to restore democracy. Before long he had twelve hundred recruits. For their first target he picked the forbidding Moncada army barracks in Santiago, surrounded by stout walls and guarded by more than four hundred soldiers. He hoped to seize weapons that could be used to equip his Rebel Army, but the attack, which occurred on July 26, 1953, was a fiasco. Most of Castro’s force was captured or killed. Castro tried to escape with a few men to the mountains, but he was caught by the paramilitary Rural Guard. It was his good fortune that the lieutenant in charge was humane enough to disregard the take-no-prisoners edicts of his superiors.

In the best revolutionary tradition, Castro turned his trial into a forum for publicly promulgating his views. The judges allowed Castro, acting as his own lawyer, to lodge accusations of “assassination and torture” against the government. Castro wound up being sentenced to fifteen years in prison along with twenty-five companions, including his brother Raúl. But before he was done Castro had delivered a two-hour speech in his own defense that recalled John Brown’s memorable oration after Harpers Ferry. There is no exact record of what he said, but in prison he reconstructed and no doubt embellished his remarks in a clandestinely published pamphlet: History Will Absolve Me. Its fiery conclusion: “I do not fear the fury of the miserable tyrant who snuffed out the life of seventy brothers of mine. Condemn me, it does not matter. History will absolve me!

The notoriety he had acquired from the Moncada barracks attack, combined with the nobility of his defense, catapulted Castro to a leadership position among the anti-Batista forces. His time behind bars on the Isle of Pines, a tropical gulag, further burnished his revolutionary credentials, even though he was a privileged prisoner who was free to receive packages of books, food, and cigars. His prison reading began the ideological journey that culminated in his conversion to communism. While in prison he was also divorced by his wife, supposedly after she had mistakenly received a letter he had written to his mistress. He would have numerous flings in years to come (his bodyguards would procure bedmates) but, as one of his female friends noted, “His one true mistress was the revolution.”

In 1955, under pressure from the prisoners’ mothers, Batista extended an amnesty to Castro and his followers. This was part of a pattern with Batista, who was dictatorial enough to arouse widespread opposition but not dictatorial enough to suppress it. He had a perfect opportunity to kill his most dangerous foe or at least to lock him up for good—and he blinked. Castro would not make the same mistake when it was his turn to rule.122

AFTER LEAVING THE Isle of Pines, Castro headed to voluntary exile in Mexico. Here he trained his forces, now known as the 26th of July Movement, or, in its Spanish initials, M-26-7. And here he met a new recruit, a physician known initially as El Argentino, who was destined to become the most romantic and celebrated guerrilla fighter since Garibaldi.

Like Castro but unlike Garibaldi, Che Guevara was no son of the working class. His family was not as rich as Castro’s but it had a more aristocratic lineage; he was descended from one of Argentina’s richest men. By the time Ernesto was born in 1928 most of the family fortune had been dissipated, but his parents still lived well—often beyond their means. They were Bohemian in lifestyle and liberal in outlook; his mother wore trousers and smoked cigarettes, which was considered daring in her day. Ernesto’s father was a notorious ladies’ man; eventually he and Ernesto’s mother separated. Ernesto was closer to his mother than to his father. She nursed him through a childhood of asthmatic suffering—a disease that would make physical exertion agonizing for the rest of his days. Like Hubert Lyautey and Theodore Roosevelt, Guevara would drive himself to perform punishing feats to prove to himself and others that he was no longer the sickly boy he had once been. And like Lyautey and Roosevelt he grew up to be an intellectual as well as a man of action. His parents transmitted to him a love of both athletics and reading; he played rugby and golf and devoured Sartre and Freud, Lenin and Marx. From his parents, too, he inherited a disdain for societal conventions.

Guevara grew up rebellious and disobedient, fearless and stubborn. He liked to shock the bourgeois with his untidy appearance, boasting, for example, that he had not washed his shirt in half a year. Girls were drawn to this “easy-going” young man with, in the words of his first wife, a “commanding voice but a fragile appearance.” He had “dark brown hair framing a pale face and fair features that emphasized his striking black eyes.” Guevara would be only the latest in a long line of guerrilla chieftains, stretching back to Garibaldi and beyond, who proved irresistible to women—and they to him.

Guevara studied medicine at Buenos Aires University, but he had no intention of becoming a physician. His passions were travel and writing. His family had moved often when he was a child, and he kept moving as an adult, becoming for a time, if you will, a Latin Jack Kerouac. In 1950 he crisscrossed Argentina by himself on a motorized bicycle. Two years later he set off with a friend across South America on a motorcycle nicknamed La Poderosa (the Powerful One)—a seven-month journey chronicled in hisMotorcycle Diaries. In 1953, after graduating from medical school, he embarked on yet another long transcontinental ramble with another friend.

Like Mao, who had been appalled by the conditions he encountered in 1917 while spending a summer with a fellow student as beggars on a walking tour of Hunan Province, Che saw much poverty, illiteracy, and untreated illness alongside vast wealth and privilege. He was, for instance, appalled by a meeting in 1952 with a Chilean copper miner who had been imprisoned for striking and whom he encountered, along with his wife, “frozen stiff in the desert night,” without even “one single miserable blanket to cover themselves with.” Just as Mao had blamed the inequities he saw not on the inherent difficulties of a transition from an agrarian to an industrial economy but rather on capitalism itself (“Money is the father and grandfather of the mean of spirit,” young Mao was quoted as saying), so too Che focused his ire on capitalists—in his case, Latin American oligarchies and their Yanqui backers. He was particularly angered by the United Fruit Company plantations in Costa Rica. “I have sworn,” he wrote home, “before a picture of the old and mourned comrade Stalin that I won’t rest until I see these capitalist octopuses annihilated.”

He was ineluctably drawn deeper into politics in Guatemala, where in 1954 he was a witness to the CIA-engineered coup that overthrew the leftist president, Jacobo Arbenz. Guevara “thoroughly enjoyed” himself and “licked” his “chops” during the fighting. “It’s all been great fun here,” he wrote, “with shooting, bombing, speeches and other touches that have broken the monotony.” By the time he fled Guatemala in the fall of 1954, he was a dedicated Marxist and a budding war lover.

His next destination was Mexico City, long recovered from its days as a battleground in Mexico’s own revolution (1910–20) and in the midst of a rapid expansion that would produce the ugly and crowded yet vibrant megalopolis that the novelist Carlos Fuentes would dub “the capital of underdevelopment.” Since Mexico was ruled by the leftist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), its leading city had become a draw for exiles such as Leon Trotsky, who was assassinated there in 1940, and literary rebels such as Jack Kerouac, who visited regularly in the 1940s–1950s, and William S. Burroughs, who lived there from 1949 to 1952.

While in Mexico City, Che recorded in his diary in July 1955, “I met Fidel Castro, the Cuban revolutionary.” Guevara was impressed: “He is a young, intelligent guy, very sure of himself and extraordinarily audacious.” He added, “I think we hit it off well.” So well, in fact, that Guevara immediately signed up for M-26-7.

Not the least of the movement’s attractions was that it offered an escape from what Guevara called a “disastrous conjugal situation.” After she became pregnant, he had married a plump and homely older woman of Indian ancestry—Hilda Gadea—whom he had met in Guatemala. In spite of his love for his newborn daughter, he could not settle down to become a “boring family man.” Now he didn’t have to. During the campaign to come, he would acquire a younger and prettier girlfriend, a revolutionary activist named Aleida March, who would become his second wife. (Hilda, a good socialist to the end, claimed she amicably granted Che a divorce so that he could devote his full energy “to the struggle for the liberation of America.”)

Initially Guevara was to serve only as a medical officer. But he excelled at military training and later at military operations. Despite his asthma, he drove himself so hard and so recklessly, much as Garibaldi and Wingate did, that eventually he became a senior officer, a commandante, notwithstanding the resentment some Cubans felt toward this foreigner. (His fastidious comrades were particularly appalled by Guevara’s disdain for bathing.) The key to Guevara’s rise was that, although more intellectual and more disciplined than Castro, he never challenged Fidel’s primacy; there was room for only one Maximum Leader.123

AFTER THE ONE-SIDED ambush at Alegría de Pío, in which most of Castro’s men were caught or killed, Batista was convinced that M-26-7 was finished and withdrew most of his forces from the Sierra Maestra. That allowed the small number of survivors to recuperate and regroup with the help of friendly guajiros (peasants). Castro, like Mao, enjoined his men to treat the poor with respect. They always paid for their own food and lodging and often punished rebels who abused the population—a welcome contrast to Batista’s army, which routinely stole from and abused the peasants. At the same time, Castro set up “people’s trials” to punish “informers” and “exploiters”—categories elastic enough to include anyone who stood in his way. Like all successful insurgents, Castro knew how to mix love and fear, attraction and chastisement, to mobilize the populace.

Informers remained a problem. On January 30, 1957, a peasant led the Rural Guard to the guerrillas’ camp, allowing Batista’s aircraft to bomb and strafe them. Guevara personally executed the traitor; nobody else had the guts to do it.124 Again, just as at Alegría de Pío, the rebels had to scatter in small groups. Again they barely escaped. And again they came back.

Their resurgence was made possible in no small part by a New York Times correspondent who arrived at their remote hideout on February 17, 1957. Castro was consciously copying José Martí, who had arranged an interview with the New York Herald shortly after landing in Oriente in 1895—and unconsciously copying Mao, who had made such shrewd use of Edgar Snow. His amanuensis was Herbert L. Matthews, an editorial writer who had a proclivity for identifying with those he covered, whether the Italian Fascists invading Abyssinia or the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War. Legend has it that Castro marched his men in circles to prevent the credulous correspondent from discovering how small and embattled the Rebel Army was. This is probably apocryphal. But it is true that he had an aide deliver a fictitious message from a nonexistent “second column,” and that he boasted that his forces operated in “groups of ten to forty” when his entire army did not amount to forty men.

The credulous Matthews swallowed Castro’s tall tales and regurgitated them on nothing less than the front page of the New York Times. He wrote that the “hero of Cuban youth” was “alive and fighting hard and successfully” for a “new deal for Cuba” that was “radical, democratic and therefore anti-communist.” Batista had lifted censorship temporarily, so the stories were reprinted in Cuba, where they caused a sensation. Cubans had been told more than once that Castro had been killed. Now they learned that “Senor Castro,” “a man of ideals, of courage, and of remarkable qualities of leadership,” already had “mastery of the Sierra Maestra” and that “General Batista cannot possibly hope to suppress the Castro revolt.” Matthews’s claims were overblown, but they would become a self-fulfilling prophecy—the latest demonstration of the growing, and sometimes decisive, influence of “information operations” in modern guerrilla warfare.125

A LITTLE-NOTICED ASPECT of the Matthews saga was the part played by the revolutionary underground in Cuba’s cities. Matthews had been summoned from New York via Castro’s contacts in Havana. Other urban radicals conducted Matthews to his rendezvous, slipping him past Batista’s checkpoints and then back again in much the same way that urban Chinese Communists had done with Edgar Snow in 1936. Cuban revolutionaries would repeat the same service for other reporters such as Bob Taber of CBS, who would broadcast a glowing report on Castro in May 1957—Rebels of the Sierra Maestra: The Story of Cuba’s Jungle Fighters.

This was only one of many services provided by an urban support structure that spread propaganda on Castro’s behalf and funneled him recruits, money, medicine, arms, ammunition, food, and clothes. There were an estimated ten thousand revolutionaries in thellanos (plains), far more than in the sierras (mountains),126 and prior to 1958 they were far more important. Few were Marxists. Many were rivals of Castro. These were men such as the charismatic student leader José Antonio Echevarría. After the publication of the Matthews articles, Echevarría led an ill-fated assault on the presidential palace in a desperate bid to upstage Castro. His death was a windfall for Castro by removing one of his chief competitors.

Other urban radicals carried on the fight, however. They organized strikes and mutinies and carried out numerous acts of sabotage and terrorism. These included setting fire to 400,000 gallons of jet fuel outside Havana, briefly occupying the national bank, and kidnapping an Argentine racing-car driver who was visiting Cuba. Even when unsuccessful, their activities diverted government attention away from the guerrillas in the Sierra Maestra and kept pressure on the dictator.

Castro’s success would not have been possible if there had not been a broader turn against Batista among the Cuban population. Even wealthy businessmen contributed to his cause, some no doubt cynically buying insurance against political upheaval, others driven by genuine detestation of Batista and duped by Castro’s promises of moderate reform. In March 1958 forty-six civic organizations representing 200,000 people called on Batista to resign.127 But, for all the work of other regime opponents, it would be thebarbudos (bearded ones) who would deliver the coup de grâce and their leader who would reap the rewards.

A TURNING POINT came in the summer of 1958 when the guerrillas were able to repel a full-scale invasion of their “free territory” in the mountains. Batista assembled 10,000 soldiers, supported by aircraft and artillery. Castro had only 300 or so fighters. But geography was on his side. The army had to proceed along “steep and treacherous” trails that were impassable to horses, let alone jeeps. Castro’s “cunningly camouflaged hut” could be reached only by a “shin-breaking clamber through nettled trees up an endless slope.” That made it possible for a relatively small number of defenders to stop a much larger attacking force. After seventy-six days, having lost copious stockpiles of weapons and 1,500 dead, wounded, and captured, Batista had to call off the offensive.128

At the end of August 1958 Castro launched his own attack. Like Mao, he planned to encircle the cities from the countryside, but his forces were laughably small by comparison with Mao’s, even accounting for the fact that Cuba is a much smaller country than China. Camilo Cienfuegos led one column of 82 men out of the mountains. Che Guevara led another column of 150 men. They were heading on foot for Havana, five hundred miles away. Castro himself marched out in September with a third column, 230 strong, to secure Santiago. If this had been a conventional war, these small bands would have had no chance of success. However, the Cuban army was demoralized and losing faith in Batista, who admitted that “panic was growing” as “military affairs went from bad to worse.”129

On December 29, 1958, Guevara’s column, now numbering 340 men, attacked the town of Santa Clara in central Cuba, a major transportation hub with a population of 150,000 and a garrison of 3,500 soldiers. Three bloody days of street fighting ensued that recalled the Redshirts’ assault on Palermo in 1860. Like Garibaldi, Guevara prevailed with the help of civilians who barricaded the streets and threw projectiles at the army—in this case, Molotov cocktails. After Santa Clara’s fall, nothing stood between the Rebel Army and Havana.130

By this time even the United States had all but abandoned Batista—there was no influential adviser like Edward Lansdale around to bolster him and push him to launch the sort of reforms that might have won him popular sympathy. Exasperated with this obdurate ally, the Eisenhower administration stopped arms shipments to him in March 1958, and the CIA, trying to cover its bets, provided covert funding to M-26-7.131

Batista had no choice but to flee the country on New Year’s Eve, leaving behind, he wrote mournfully, “the suits, the dresses, the children’s toys, the trophies won by the eldest at horse shows, the expensive gifts made to the children on their birthdays, pictures and works of art, jewels and ornaments of the First Lady, my personal possessions, acquired or presented to me from the 1930’s on.”132 Asked upon his arrival in the Dominican Republic how he could have lost to such a small force, Batista told reporters “that the Army had not been prepared to counter the guerrilla tactics of the rebels.”133

Rebel troops entered the capital on the night of January 1–2, 1959, amid general jubilation. The black-and-red flag of M-26-7, once forbidden, suddenly sprouted everywhere like flowers after a rainstorm. Cars raced through the streets, horns blaring, past joyous crowds who were certain that the new year signaled a new dawn for the beleaguered island.134 That same day Castro marched into Santiago, where his movement had begun in 1953. This time he took the Moncada army barracks without a shot. All that remained was to consolidate power.

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