On July 26, 1953, 153 men, under the leadership of Fidel and Raul Castro, attacked the Moncada Barracks in Santiago de Cuba (an additional 24 simultaneously attacked the barracks at Bayamo). The alarm was given before the Moncada Barracks was infiltrated, and the insurgents were outnumbered 10 to one as a result. Nine of the insurgents were killed in the fighting; an additional 56 were taken prisoner and slaughtered by the regime of dictator Fulgencio Batista.
Fifty-one of the group who attacked the barracks were captured and tried, along with 65 defendants who were leaders of the political opposition to Batista. Nineteen defendants were acquitted, while the remainder, including Raul Castro, received lengthy prison sentences. Fidel Castro was sentenced to 15 years. The Movement of the 26th of July was founded to carry on the struggle.
Many of the Moncada Barracks insurgents, including Fidel and Raul Castro, were amnestied in 1954, owing to Batista’s conviction that they were no significant threat. By 1955 Fidel and Raul had fled Cuba, where their lives were constantly under threat from the Batista regime, for Mexico.
On Dec. 2, 1956, the Castros and 80 men returned to Cuba aboard a boat named Granma. Immediately attacked by Batista’s air force, they took heavy casualties and were forced to fight their way to the Sierra Maestra mountains. Only 12 of the original 82 made it to the mountains. But thousands joined the Movement of July 26th in the mountains and made a guerrilla army which entered Havana victoriously on Jan. 2, 1959, as Batista fled into exile.
The history of the Movement of 26th July is, thus, a history of triumph over great adversity: the defeat at Moncada led to the emergence of a popular movement, the reverses of the Granma led to the guerrilla army that toppled Batista.
As the Movement of 26th July evolved into the United Party of the Cuban Socialist Revolution and eventually the Communist Party of Cuba, it has continued to meet and overcome great adversity with revolutionary heroism. On July 26 people around the world again hail the courage, resilience, and revolutionary fortitude of the Cuban people.
Since October 1960, Cuba has faced the U.S. economic blockade, a cynical campaign to impoverish the Cuban people because of their socialist revolution. Increasingly it has been the United States which has been weakened and embarrassed as many nations of the world have normalized relations and trade with Cuba. The General Assembly of the United Nations has passed resolutions by large majorities every year since 1992 demanding an end to the blockade, with only the U.S., Israel, and a handful of other states opposing. Despite that the blockade remains a cruel imposition on the Cuban people.
On this July 26 let us vow to redouble our struggle to end the U.S. blockade.
Even more than maintaining the blockade, the U.S. government has sought to harm the Cuban people by training, arming, and offering sanctuary to Cuban exile terrorist groups. In 1997 several terrorist bombings were carried out in Havana on the orders of CIA asset Luis Posada Carriles. Posada previously participated in the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner, murdering 73 people.
As a result of the Havana bombings, Cuba dispatched five intelligence officers to infiltrate Cuban exile terrorist groups in Florida to give the Cuban government warning of future attacks. They were arrested by the U.S. government, tried on espionage and other charges in a highly questionable court proceeding, and sentenced to terms ranging from life to 15 years. The Cuban Five have been condemned for succeeding in what the CIA was pilloried for failing at after 9/11: infiltrating a terrorist group to prevent an atrocity.
While one of the five was paroled and permitted to return to Cuba for his father’s funeral, effectively freeing him, the other four remain in American prison.
On this July 26 let us pledge to continue the struggle to free the remainder of the Cuban Five!
Let’s stand vigilant to oppose the lies and attacks of the U.S. government and the ultra-right on the accomplishments of the Cuban people as they build socialism.
Long live the Movement of the 26th of July! Long live the Cuban Revolution!
Photo: Fidel Castro on his arrest after the attack on the Monacada Barracks. Wikimedia Commons