Batista

July 12, 1957 – Castro Releases the Sierra Maestra Manifesto

Comandancia_de_la_Plata_Sierra_Maestra_Cuba_03_anagoria

Comandancia de la Plata Sierra Maestra – Castro’s rebel hideout in the Sierra Maestra mountains near Santo Domingo

On July 12, 1957, Castro issued the Sierra Maestra Manifesto, named for the mountain refuge of his M-26-7 front.  Countering the recommendations of The Manifesto of the Five created by a coalition of five other opposition groups hostile to Batista, Castro argued against negotiation or political compromise with the current regime.  He agreed that it was time for all opposition to Batista to unite; their disunity had been fostered and exploited by the regime’s tyranny and deceptions.  He stated clearly that, contrary to the assertions of the Manifesto of the Five, revolutionary violence would not lead to totalitarianism or revenge.  In fact, he asserted, there was no hope for honest elections if the rebels forces were taken out of the picture.

Castro maintained that the Sierra Maestra rebels wanted “free elections, a democratic regime, a constitutional government.  It is because they deprived us of those rights that we have fought since March 10.  We are here because we want them more than anyone else. . . .  We are fighting for the beautiful ideal of a free, democratic, and just Cuba.”  The manifesto spelled out eight points which included calls for: free elections; an impartial provisional government; Batista’s resignation; a unified civic-revolutionary front (all opposition parties working together); no international mediation in Cuba’s affairs; no military junta to rule Cuba; an apolitical military establishment; immediate freedom for political, civil, and military prisoners; freedom of information, the press, and guarantees of individual rights; suppression of embezzlement; creation of career civil service; free elections within labor unions; campaigns against illiteracy and civic rights education for all; agrarian reform; stabilization of the currency; and job creation.

Two points needed emphasis, Castro declared.  First, a provisional leader must be named who was capable of uniting Cuba behind the “ideal of freedom”, who would meet the conditions of “impartiality, integrity, capability, and decency” and, second, all civic organizations must back this leader to avoid partisan compromise and ensure “absolutely clean and impartial elections.”

Castro also maintained that revolution was not inevitable; the crisis in Cuba could be averted by following his manifesto’s agenda.  “We hope,” he concluded, “that our appeal will be heard and that a real solution will halt the spilling of Cuban blood and will bring an era of peace and freedom.”

Image Credit: Anagoria/Wikimedia Creative Commons

June 10, 1957 – The New York Times Reports Santiago de Cuba in Open Revolt

On June 10, 1957, New York Times special correspondent Herbert L Mathews reported that “virtually every man, woman, and child in Santiago de Cuba, except police and army authorities, are struggling at all costs to themselves to overthrow the military dictatorship in Havana.”  “If Havana had anything like the civic resistance movement of Santiago de Cuba, ” Mathews stated, “the Batista regime might have ended a long time ago.”  Mathews went on to describe a reign of terror by recently arrived Lieut. Col. Jose Maria Salas Canizares, selected by Batista to serve as chief of police.  Beatings, torture, stabbings, shootings, murder – intimidation and repression, reprisals for talking to outside reporters – Mathews heard accounts of violence and counter-terrorism from all fronts.  Those coming forward to talk with him at great personal risk  included business and professional groups, workers, union leaders, clergy, peasants, students, Rotarians, mothers, and people on the street.  Many Santiagueros were grateful to the Times for reporting the plight of the citizens of Cuba and their determination to resist the Batista regime.