The Long March of the Cuban Revolution
Monthly Review January 2009
To the memory of Leo Huberman and Paul Sweezy
The Cuban revolutionary victory of January 1, 1959 was a news event of epochal proportion even for those who knew little about that country. For many, it was like discovering a new world. And as in the age of the great navigators, encountering it was clouded both by ignorance and the prejudices that usually accompany such revelations.
Curiosity, fascination, and surprise were provoked by the revolution's unique character. The dictator Fulgencio Batista was overthrown by coordinated rural guerrilla warfare and urban revolt. Moreover, the sustained rising was indigenous, waged by forces that were unknown in the wider world and had no connection to the international socialist movement or any other supranational agency. In addition, the struggle was carried on in head-on confrontation with U.S. imperialism. Finally, (and despite claims to the contrary) the revolutionaries had no hesitation about identifying with socialism. The shock of these events focused the minds of researchers and analysts on the Cuban experience, albeit from a perspective blinkered by a Eurocentric viewpoint.
In the international "Cold War" climate of the time Cuba needed and got support and solidarity from the Soviet Union. The rapprochement between the two countries led the vast majority of specialists to interpret the events surrounding Cuba in terms of the East-West confrontation. The commonplace Western explanation of the Cuban Revolution –including its causes and origins– has been to see it as arising from that antagonism, as if Cuban national life had started in 1959, as if Cuba had no history and was merely a product of events beyond its shores. Half a century later and nearly twenty years after the end of the Cold War, that is still the deciding factor in the mindset on Cuba of a large part of the West's "liberal" academia. For them, Cuba remains terra incognita.
In the post-Cold War climate, U.S. politicians and many Western academics and journalists persistently portray Cuba as an anomaly, a rarity that strays from the presumed universal norm. Obviously, such false universalism is intended ideologically to impose on everyone, as an unquestionable dogma, the capitalist system –today in its extreme neoliberal form, and accompanied as its political expression by the Western version of "representative democracy." The fallacy of attempting to impose such a dogma merits another article. Here, however, I want to concentrate on Cuban "exceptionalism. " Only those who know little or nothing about our country would be surprised to learn of the success of an autochthonous program that strays from what others consider the rule. In truth, the search for a different, independent path, inspired by an original idea and way of thinking, deriving from that search and not copied from abroad, is at the very root of Cuba's national identity and has always accompanied it.
Cuba, like Puerto Rico, was not part of the independence movement that put an end to Spanish colonial domination of the rest of Latin America during the first quarter of the nineteenth century. Although prominent Cubans subscribed to the concept of independence, and there were even some isolated attempts to achieve it, Cuba's national liberation movement would appear a half-century later than in the rest of Spanish America.
That delay is explained by the characteristics of the colonial society on the island and the international context of the time. Each contributed to setting the country apart from the other Spanish colonies, and not only in the delayed appearance of our national movement, but also, and most significantly, in shaping its unique nature.
On the American continent, the Creole oligarchy was the driving force in the struggle to break the bonds of subordination to Madrid; the campaign received a crucial boost from the Napoleonic invasion and the resulting crisis in the monarchy. Having won independence, the oligarchy would act as heir to the Crown and establish regimes that would preserve the basic structure of the old colonial societies.
The great exception in that period was the Haitian revolution in 1791. On this neighbor island the separatist movement was the largest slave revolt ever known; it shook and destroyed the old order and established, in the middle of the harassment and hostility of the rest of the world, a republic radically different from the shameful regime out of which it arose.
In Cuba the oligarchy never attempted to create a nation, never even had a national sentiment. At the time when that sentiment began to emerge in the Americas, here in Cuba there was an increase in the importation of slaves, who would make up the majority of the population. The Creole oligarchy was the chief beneficiary of the traffic and exploitation of slaves. As a consequence, Cuba became the world's sugar bowl. To maintain that status it needed a constant inflow of slaves.
Being the most stable colony –"the ever loyal" the Spaniards called it– and the most increasingly prosperous, Cuba also attracted a high level of European immigration, primarily from Spain, making Cuba the most Spanish country in the empire, with the largest Spanish population. This mass, our pieds noirs (as, a century later, the French in North Africa were called), coexisted with the colonial administration and armed forces, many having arrived with their families to what they regarded as a permanent extension of their homeland.
Along with the growing flood of African slaves, men of lighter-colored skin were also impelled by other factors to migrate to Cuba. These factors can be summed up with a single name: Haiti.
The oligarchy, whose opulence derived from the toil of the Negro slaves and which depended on them totally, feared that their way of life was threatened by the ever growing population of slaves with customs, values, and rituals that were alien to Spanish and Spanish- Creole culture. Thus the same oligarchy that uprooted hundreds of thousands of poor wretches from Africa to enslave them on plantations raised the cry to "whiten the island" and sought to attract more Spaniards and other Europeans. Fears engendered by the events in Haiti exacerbated those feelings among the major white landowners.
The issue of slavery –and its after-effect, racism– would be the predominant issue during the first two-thirds of the nineteenth century in Cuba, present in the academic debates, writings, and consciousness of the country's thinkers and literati.
Along with large-scale slave rebellions that shook colonial society, slaves also attempted a political revolt in 1812 –the first to seek independence, led by Jose Antonio Aponte, a free Negro from Havana. But these were isolated events in a social milieu lacking integration and marked by deep divisions between classes, ethnic groups, and territories.
Other trends were, however, in progress –some obscured, others more visible– from which a new reality was growing.
First of all, the official colonial policy on race did not prevent intimate contact between whites and blacks. They had sexual relations, and even started families, creating a mulatto population with the most diverse gradations of mixtures. This diversity, so perceptible in the faces of many of the colony's inhabitants, was reflected also in the music, literature, and other manifestations of culture that gradually merged, transcending racial barriers.
The Creole oligarchy watched these events with apprehension. Its sole motive was the wealth obtained from exploiting slave labor. It needed docile manpower, but was worried by miscegenation and alarmed by the news of continuing slave rebellions among the sugar plantations. The great Haitian rebellion terrified it. In addition, it had its own differences with Spain, which applied numerous controls and regulations to protect the interests of the Crown while curbing the oligarchy's expansion.
Cuba was also coveted by other powers. It had been so since early times, when it was ravaged by pirates and corsairs. In 1762 the English crown held Havana for several months during the Seven Years' War in North America. This was but one instance of repeated efforts by European powers to wrest Cuba from Spain. Cuba was in the center of what Juan Bosch (who in the mid- sixties was president of the Dominican Republic until overthrown by the Johnson administration for his clear anti-imperialist stance) called "the imperial frontier." The Creole oligarchy, under siege, generated two tendencies that differed greatly but were united by the same desire to preserve its class interests and, above all, to keep the population of African origin in a state of subjugation.
The first of these was reformism, which produced some notable thinkers who studied colonial society in depth, perceived its evils, and advocated changes aimed at improving education and public health and promoting economic, scientific, and cultural development. They repeatedly petitioned the Spanish government but achieved nothing. Their reform proposals went so far and no further: they too regarded slavery as a necessity, and believed that Cuba should remain Spanish.
The second trend was annexationism, which aimed to make Cuba a part of the United States. It was the dominant attitude among the major sugarcane plantation owners in Western Cuba and enjoyed the support of influential academics, intellectuals, and professionals. It was also favored by Washington, which from the turn of the century actively promoted it. This faction was responsible for the first plots and large-scale military actions to overthrow Spanish suzerainty, including an expeditionary force dispatched from U.S. soil of which the vast majority were foreigners.
At a deeper level, another process took place among the academic minds and was reflected in certain publications that circulated among the educated minority. Their philosophy was based on a severe critique of scholasticism developed in the late 1830s by two priests, Jose Agustin Caballero and Felix Varela, and by their follower, Jose de la Luz y Caballero. Luz was at the center of a philosophical controversy that has been described as the most original event in the history of the Latin American challenge to Eurocentrism in the Americas. It reflected a persistent search for a uniquely Cuban approach and way of thinking, as he put it, "a Cuban sophia [wisdom] that is just as much a sophia, and just as distinctively Cuban, as the Greek was to the Greeks."
Varela was the first thinker of the national independence movement. He passionately preached in support of independence in El Habanero, Cuba's first newspaper, which he published in exile in the United States to be circulated clandestinely on the island. His thinking –to the core pro-independence and antislavery– anticipated the notion of a Cuba that should be "as much an island politically as it is geographically. "
Luz, shortly before his death in 1862, defined the ethic that the nation yet to be born should embrace: "I'd prefer the collapse of the institutions of men, kings and emperors, and to see the stars fall from the firmament than to see a human being lose their sense of justice, that sun of the moral world."
The struggles of the slaves for emancipation and of the intelligentsia for cultural independence would have to merge into a single movement to create a nation and liberate it. This movement was born on October 10, 1868. Carlos Manuel de Cespedes, one of the main revolutionary leaders in eastern Cuba, had repeatedly suffered imprisonment, exile, and other forms of persecution and had plotted in Jacobin freemasonry lodges that had sworn "War to the death on exploitation and discrimination of Man by Man." On that day he proclaimed both Cuba's independence and the freeing of the slaves –whom he referred to as "citizens," and to whom he extended an open invitation to join the war to achieve both those aims.
After liberating Bayamo, one of Cuba's principal cities, Cespedes installed a revolutionary government there –a triumvirate that included a Negro and a manual worker– which exercised authority over the Valle del Cauto for three months, laying out a singular blueprint for revolutionary democracy, involving direct participation by the people in the government. In the public square of Bayamo, and in other towns and villages in liberated territory, the leaders and the people debated questions of common interest –including the progress of the war and of the emancipation of the slaves. This, our first experience of people's power, ended when, faced with the imminent prospect of attack by the enemy's heaviest forces, the population made its last and most momentous decision: to raze its beautiful city to the ground and go –men, women and children– to the forest to continue the struggle.
Bayamo's revolutionary experience is totally ignored by bourgeois historians and the Cubanologists. In its time, however, it did not pass unnoticed. One of the main spokesmen of annexationism wrote of it: "Cuba has never been closer to a true social and socialist revolution."
The revolution set about expanding to the west of the island. A burning torch –symbol of the destruction of the colony's economic foundation and of emancipation of the slaves– was adopted as a symbol by the most radical factions led by President Carlos Manuel Cespedes, considered by Cuban's "the father of the nation." Invasion of western Cuba was attempted several times, without success. The theater of military operations was reduced to the regions of Camaguey and Oriente –the least developed part of Cuba– where Cubans fought a colonial army larger than the combined forces that had defended the Spanish continental empire. During the ten-year conflict, sugar production –and with it, slavery– continued to grow.
The revolution suffered near total isolation. It had the lukewarm moral support of a few Latin American countries. Patriotic emigres, exiled mainly in the United States, were persecuted and suppressed by U.S. authorities. Washington supported the colonial regime and armed and maintained a powerful fleet capable of blockading Cuba's coasts and stopping both aid from abroad and the revolutionary forces' advance on Havana. Denouncing Washington in 1870, Cespedes wrote, "The secret aim of its policy is to seize Cuba." The longest and bloodiest war that the American continent had ever seen ended in a disastrous total defeat for the newly emergent Cuban nation.
As a result, after ten years of war, Cuba lost over a third of its population, with massive emigration to the United States and other neighboring countries –by far the largest exodus in our history.
The patriotic former landowners suffered expropriation without compensation and many died in poverty. The slavery regime was restored throughout the country. The regions at the root of the conflict were devastated and their inhabitants consigned to pauperism.
The forces that had launched the rebellion were deeply divided and frustrated. The various attempts to renew the armed struggle –including la Guerra Chiquita (the Little War) led by Calixto Garcia in 1879– all failed, serving only to fuel internal disagreements and defeatism.
Born in 1853, Jose Martí was an adolescent when the Ten Years War of 1868 started. At sixteen he became a political prisoner and endured several years of inhumane treatment. He lived for just forty-two years, nearly all in exile, including fourteen in the United States. He was our principal poet, a prolific writer, journalist, and public speaker; he left written works of surprising breadth and lucidity, enough to fill any library. His inimitable style revolutionized the Spanish language. But above all, Martí was Latin America's most brilliant politician, the first to call U.S. imperialism by that name, to warn of its threat to our peoples, and to call for continental resistance and unity to confront it.
He was also a patient, systematic organizer, an astute strategist, and a visionary who studied the experience of the Ten Years War in depth, including the causes and influences that led to that terrible defeat. Uniting the patriots was a true apostolic passion for him: healing wounds, overcoming grudges and rivalries, and cementing relations between the veterans and the younger elements. Before he had ever taken up arms, he won the respect of seasoned fighting men. He proved able to unite them and, step by step, acquired their recognition of his moral and political authority as a new revolutionary guide.
The essence of his strategy was to form a party composed of all the revolutionaries, a unique political instrument that would free our people of the dire consequences of internal divisions. A party whose main support, whose majority base, was the Cuban-born manual workers in Tampa, Key West, New York, and other U.S. cities as well as throughout the Cuban Diaspora in Mexico, Venezuela, Central America, and various Caribbean countries.
It was Jose Martí who introduced the idea of imperialism –especially U.S. imperialism– to Cuban political culture, together with that of a single party as an essential tool of revolution. These concepts were used by Cubans, without knowing who Lenin was and long before the Bolshevik uprising. These ideas have persisted in our revolutionary tradition for several generations. Martí rescued the founding ideology of the 1868 revolution. For him also, winning national independence was not the sole aim: it was inseparable from that of a radical social revolution. Cespedes's goal of establishing "perfect equality" between the citizens of the Republic was identical to that announced by Martí : "We will achieve total justice."
Washington's military intervention took place in 1898, with the whole of Cuba at war, the colonial army reeling and the rebel forces operating close to Havana. Cespedes's prophesy was fulfilled, imperialism carried out the plan that Martí had denounced and had given his life trying to prevent. Thirty years of heroic, unequal struggle ended, once again, in catastrophe.
The intervention was marked by the imperialists' arrogance and their contempt for the Cubans. The Army of Liberation and the Cuban Revolutionary Party were disbanded; the republican authorities and institutions –the government, the Assembly of Representatives, the constitution (the last of the four adopted by the Cubans during their struggles for independence)– were completely ignored. The country was placed under a military regime of occupation, which set about looting the economy, reintroducing racism and racial discrimination, while perpetuating and expanding the corruption and other vices of the colony.
Cuba and Puerto Rico were the last countries in Latin America to wage war for national independence. Although they fought the longest, both islands were also the only Latin American nations that suffered defeat. Without a single day of freedom, they changed from Spanish colonies to colonies of the United States.
Then came the fictitious republic, which suffered military intervention and occupation by the United States several times. Cuba became a vassal state in a condition even more deplorable than that under Spanish colonialism. The contemporary Cuban poet Cintio Vitier described it thus: "The colony was an injustice, but not a fraud. The Yankee neo-colony was both. By turning what had been the ideal of several generations and martyrs into a sham and a farce, they struck with impunity at the very heart of the homeland."
Nonetheless, this neocolonial period was also marked by major worker, student, and farmer struggles, which kept alive the legacy of our independent revolutionary tradition. Julio Antonio Mella, founder and leader of the University Students' Federation and the Communist Party, who was assassinated in 1929 in the middle of his youth, was in his time the tradition's best example. In an article written as a tribute to the recently deceased Lenin, Mella said, "We don't intend to implant here servile copies of revolutions made by other men....We don't want all to be from this or that doctrine, that is not important at this time where, as always, the important factors are Men, human beings who act following their own thoughts and by their own understanding, not by the reasoning of foreign thoughts."
The generation that expressed itself in these terms was, once again, about to conquer heaven. In 1933, it succeeded in overthrowing the tyranny of Gerardo Machado, Mella's murderer, and installed a revolutionary government that lasted a hundred days –until another U.S. intervention imposed the first of the two bloody Batista dictatorships.
Finally, on January 1, 1959, the revolutionary movement, now led by Fidel Castro, swept aside tyranny and the neocolonial regime.
From that time onwards, the Cuban people have had to face multiple, constant, and systematic aggression, including the longest economic blockade in history, military attacks –including the failed Bay of Pigs invasion– a vicious and interminable series of acts of terrorism and sabotage, diplomatic pressures, and hostile, slanderous propaganda campaigns.
In the pages of Monthly Review, Leo Huberman and Paul Sweezy, models of authentic intellectuals, were the first to analyze with scientific objectivity the uniquely difficult task facing the Cubans, to which they dedicated Cuba: Anatomy of a Revolution (1960) among other memorable works.
They were joined by C. Wright Mills, who sought to stir the conscience of his fellow countrymen –Listen Yankee: The Revolution in Cuba (1960)– and right up to his death in 1962 he worked for friendship between the two countries.
In the 1990s, many official U.S. documents till then kept secret were declassified. In 1991, the State Department published a thick volume entitled Foreign Relations of the United States 1958-1960, Volume VI, Cuba, which contains hundreds of documents, reports, internal department analyses, minutes of the National Security Council and other government agency meetings, messages exchanged with the U.S. embassy in Havana and other diplomatic missions and allied countries, and other materials. These cover the last years of the Batista regime and the first two years of Cuba-U.S. conflict, up to the breaking of diplomatic relations. The volume contains irrefutable proof of Washington's close alliance with the bloody dictatorship which scourged the island. Nineteen fifty-eight was a crucial year which holds the key to understanding what was to happen later. Collaboration between the two governments existed in the most diverse spheres, even the nuclear energy sector. Military aid was unlimited, extending beyond the supply of weapons, munitions, equipment, and assistance at all levels. All officers in Cuba's air force, nearly all army, navy, and police officials, and complete units of the troops that fought against the rebels in the Sierra Maestra were trained in U.S. military schools. Batista also found support in domestic U.S. agencies. The FBI and Department of Justice kept a tight rein on exiles and anti-Batista emigres and worked to thwart all their efforts to aid those who struggled for freedom at home. The two governments exchanged information and coordinated their actions to that end.
As the Batista regime's deterioration became more and more evident, concealing the aid which it continued to receive became a priority for the Eisenhower administration, as did the obstinate and fruitless efforts aimed at preventing the people's victory. "We must prevent a Castro victory" was the conclusion often repeated at White House meetings.
The declassified documents reveal more than the political, military, and economic commitment between the two governments, which at times appear to merge into a single body. We come across anxious and perplexed characters, actors in a drama they are unable to understand. In the course of 1958, more and more meetings see Eisenhower, Nixon, Dulles, and their generals draw up desperate plans looking for a magic formula to save the old regime and prevent its complete collapse.
As in soap operas there is intrigue and melodrama, like the scene in which the president, in a grave and solemn tone, asks everyone present to promise they will deny, without exception, having heard what was discussed there. Or his precise and unquestionable instruction, that "the hand of the United States remain hidden." And, as if this were not enough, as though suspicious of his closest advisors, there was his personal instruction to the CIA director-to stop discussing plans against Cuba at National Security Council meetings.
On that last New Year's Eve of the old regime, they were forced to interrupt or postpone dinners and revelries. As midnight approached, from his office, Secretary of State Christian Herter sent Havana a last message of 1958. It was a bitter and sorrowful letter which summarized everything Washington had done to support the despot until the last moment.
Before dawn broke that first morning of 1959, Washington was already receiving reports from its ambassador in Havana, Earl Smith. The gentleman had not slept a wink; he had been busy trying to prop up the military junta which was scrambling to organize itself and coordinating the departure from the country of those leaders and collaborators who had not already fled with Batista.
Already in those first early hours, Cuba was to receive one of the toughest blows of the U.S. economic war against the island. The fugitives had literally plundered the Treasury of the Republic, creating what the Department of State itself described as a situation no administration could bear. Not one cent was returned. Therein lies the origin of the many fortunes that arose, later to be swelled by privileges, tax exemptions, and other benefits no one else has ever enjoyed in the history of the United States, fortunes which the official propaganda extols as the supposed success stories of a community of enterprising emigres.
Batista and his cohorts were allowed to pocket hundreds of millions of dollars--more than four hundred million, according to calculations by experts from the National Bank of Cuba and New York Times journalists. Later, incalculable sums would be taken from U.S. taxpayers as tax exemptions for the supposed loss of properties left behind in Cuba, and other, equally exorbitant sums, through diverse anti-Castro programs that have been generously financed with money from the federal budget for half a century.
As the recently declassified documents tell us, 1959 and 1960 were years in which the powerful hand which sought to remain invisible wrestled with a small country which sought to ward it off. New acts of economic aggression soon followed the brutal sacking of the public treasury. Given Cuba's then almost complete dependence on U.S. financing and markets, Washington strategists were confident that a few economic blows to the country would suffice to make Cuba collapse and come again under U.S. domination.
With the passing of time, they coined phrases which proved useful in concealing the meaning of their actions. The learned refer to these actions as "sanctions" which are part of an "embargo." Now, it is possible for us to read that, as early as 1959, one of the first measures, the suppression of the sugar quota, was described by Secretary Herter as "economic warfare."
We know, also, that, in those early days, U.S. authorities had a very precise idea of what they were doing, of the moral implications of their actions and the political ends they were pursuing. Few times were they as sincere as when they wrote: "The majority of Cubans support Castro...the only foreseeable means of alienating internal support is through disenchantment and disaffection based on economic dissatisfaction and hardship...every possible means should be undertaken promptly to weaken the economic life of Cuba...a line of action which, while as adroit and inconspicuous as possible, makes the greatest inroads in denying money and supplies to Cuba, to decrease monetary and real wages, to bring about hunger, desperation and overthrow of government." [Office of the Historian, Bureau Of Public Affairs, United States Department Of State; John P. Glennon, et al., eds., Foreign Relations of the United States, 1958-1960, Volume VI, Cuba (Washington D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1991), 885.]
In 1997, the CIA declassified another document it had zealously kept secret for over thirty years, with the pertinent omissions and finishing touches. It is the report of General Lyman B. Kirkpatrick, CIA inspector general for the actions undertaken in 1959, which, in essence, describes the policy the United States has continued to apply to this day.
The program consisted of:
1. Formation of a Cuban exile organization to attract Cuban loyalties, to direct opposition activities, and to provide cover for Agency operations.
2. A propaganda offensive in the name of the opposition.
3. Creation inside Cuba of a clandestine intelligence collection and action apparatus to be responsive to the direction of the exile organization.
4. Development outside Cuba of a small paramilitary force to be introduced into Cuba to organize, train and lead resistance groups.
[Inspector General's Survey of the Cuban operation and associated documents, CIA historical review program release as sanitized 1997, 3-4.]
The hidden hand was generous indeed. It handed out no less than $35,000 a week for the publication of Bohemia Libre magazine, whose circulation reached 126,000; the reprinting in exile of the daily newspaper Avance, formerly financed by Batista; Radio Swan broadcasts; television programs; other publications including comic strips; not to mention the travel expenses of lecturers, deployed to divulge propaganda across Latin America. At the time, the CIA paid Cuban leaders in exile $131,000 in salaries each month.
The Bay of Pigs fiasco did not put an end to these activities; rather, these became broader and more intense. Clandestine radio broadcasts, which have not ceased, were later expanded and became special Voice of America programs, today's Radio and TV Martí . Since then, the CIA has financed newspapers, journals, and other publications and continues to have lecturers, academics, and journalists on its payroll.
It is clear that Washington's opposition to the Cuban Revolution began before January 1, 1959. From that day on it has only intensified its efforts and devised means of aggression, from the Torricelli Act (1992) and Helms-Burton Act (1996), to the unlimited imperialist arrogance of George W. Bush and his detailed plans to intervene in Cuban affairs to the point of total domination. In addition to economic warfare and the terrorist violence that has caused damage to property and incalculable human suffering, imperialist strategy has always included a colossal campaign of lies and cover-ups.
To pursue this strategy over the last half-century Washington has spent more than its total "development assistance" to Latin America for the same period, or its spending on education and medical services for its own poor citizens. In that way, it has come to deceive millions, and made them think that Cuba is something different from what it really has been and is.
The Washington plutocracy also uses the "culture industry" and information monopolies –in both cases under its thumb– to distort reality, confuse people, and make them mindless. It does this all over the world, but its main and most vulnerable victim is the American people. (Monthly Review has been a brilliant exception –giving its readers accurate information and in-depth analyses– that has contributed significantly to educating about and promoting the struggle for a better world for sixty years.)
The U.S. government has concealed from many the fact that it has been sponsoring terrorism against Cuba, with taxpayers' money, for the last five decades, and continues to do so. This explains why self-confessed terrorists –such as Luis Posada Carriles and Orlando Bosch, both implicated in the bombing of a Cuban airliner in 1976 in which seventy-three people were killed, and many others in the United States– have no need to hide: they are there for all to see, walking around the streets, on television, and at public meetings (where they hug Democratic and Republican politicians).
Many Americans are also unaware that Gerardo Hernandez, Ramon Labanino, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando Gonzalez, and Rene Gonzalez are held in maximum-security prisons under abominable conditions. They have been punished because, unarmed and without force, they penetrated terrorist groups operating freely in Miami to gather information about violent plans, which they sent back to Cuba, helping to save lives. Highly sensitive information collected by them was passed on to the White House personally by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, as was revealed in writing by the Nobel laureate himself. As a result of Garcia Marquez's efforts, President Clinton in July 1998 sent senior FBI officials to Havana. These were given a large amount of detailed information on these criminal designs, including the exact location of the terrorists. Despite assurances from both Clinton and the FBI that they would act swiftly, they did nothing: no action was ever taken against the terrorists, nor did they bother to reply to Cuba. They did move fast, however, on September 12, 1998, to arrest the five heroes mentioned above, who at the risk of their lives had supplied the evidence that the U.S. authorities needed to do their duty.
These facts are known to millions all over the world; the terrible injustice perpetrated against the five Cubans, and Bush's shameless protection of Posada Carriles and his cronies, have been condemned by governments, parliaments, intellectuals, unions, political parties, and celebrities worldwide, but have hardly been mentioned in the United States.
In 1960, C. Wright Mills warned Americans that the revolution in Cuba was the start of a wider process that would spread to Latin America and the third world. On the occasion of its fiftieth anniversary, practically anyone can see that our continent has begun a new era. Campaigns by old and new social movements are underway everywhere, progressive governments are consolidating their positions, neoliberal dogma is degenerating into bankruptcy, and the peoples of Latin America are becoming increasingly united. None of this would exist if Fidel Castro and his comrades had not triumphed on January 1, 1959. History has finally done them justice.
Ricardo Alarcón De Quesada is president of the National Assembly of People's Power, Cuba's parliament. He was ambassador to the United Nations (1966-78 and 1990-92) and Cuba's foreign minister (1992-93).