Enigma's third episode: Socialism in Cuba and Washington's schemes
The third episode of Enigma talks about post-revolution Cuba and highlights the measures taken by Havana in Cuba and the US role in inciting against the revolutionary government.
The third episode of Al Mayadeen's Enigma documentary series, aimed at shedding the light on the Cuban revolution and the impact it had on the world, highlighted the most prominent figures in the Cuban revolution and the circumstances that led to it altogether.
The third episode touched on what it was like in post-revolutionary Cuba and the measures taken by the revolutionary government in light of incitement by the United States against the government in Havana.
On January 8, 1959, through the road known as Malecón, Havana, officially the Avenida de Maceo, the freedom convoy led by leader Fidel Castro marched onto Havana. They had thwarted Fulgencio Batista's US-backed dictatorship and came from the east, from the mountains of Sierra Maestra, from where they had begun 25 months prior to their final battle for victory and national integrity.
They were accompanied by popular support from the people of Cuba, and at the capital, the support of the Cuban people and their eagerness for change climaxed: they now had a new leader.
By that time, all main government strongholds that used to be controlled by the Batista regime had been under the control of the revolutionary authorities. Commander Ernesto "Che " Guevara had taken over the Fortaleza de San Carlos de la Cabaña, or the Fort of Saint Charles, and his comrade Camilo Cienfuegos over Camp Columbia, the stronghold of dictatorship in Havana. That is where Castro went that night, and he was surrounded by a sea of people chanting in support of him and celebrating the ousting of the US-backed dictator whose reign caused nothing but misery. Castro called for the unity of the Cuban people, unity for victory, and he also warned that as of that moment, everything could either be smooth sailing or be extremely difficult.
Since the beginning, the revolutionary government took impactful measures, with the people being thought of first when it came to policy-making. The economic, political, and social changes were implemented swiftly, with rents and electricity prices getting halved, medicine prices getting decreased, and civilians being allowed to go on the beach after they were denied such privileges by the dictator.
Despite the various policies taken by Castro's government, the measure that had the most repercussions at the time was the first agrarian law passed in May 1959, which granted the right of ownership of land to those who cultivate it and worked on it. Cuba started changing course and began reimbursing the people for their work after they had been exploited at the hands of the US-backed regime. And with that, the United States began weaving its first plots against the revolutionary government.
US anti-revolutionary schemes
With the onset of the revolution, the United States signed a decree imposing the first ban on trade with Cuba. The decision was made to stop all exports to the island, except for food and medicine. A few months later, on January 3, 1961, diplomatic relations were severed, and a few days later, the decision was made to restrict the travel of American citizens to the island. The Eisenhower administration ushered in a new era and drew up the basics of Washington's policy toward Cuba, which would go on to shape US-Cuban relations to this very day.
Many of the destabilizing elements between Cuba and the United States were policies taken during the 60s and are still in force to this day, and the Cuban people are bearing the brunt of the US anti-revolutionary rhetoric.
Another aspect that shaped Cuban-US relations was the countless operations carried out by the CIA to try and destabilize Cuba, such as Operation Peter Pan, which was orchestrated by the CIA, the US State Department, and the leadership of the Catholic Church in Miami.
All measures of change in the country were taking place in the face of violent confrontations, and in fact, the country was subject to a permanent terrorist threat, as sabotage, threats of invasion, and hijacking of planes and fishermen's boats were commonplace.
Not far from the Escambray Mountains in central Cuba, in the ancient province of Las Villas is the city of Trinidad, a World Heritage Site. Right in the heart of that region, some of the fiercest counter-revolutionary gangs operated between 1959 and 1965. It was a counter-revolutionary movement funded, armed, and run by the CIA.
The CIA wanted to take advantage of this situation in the Escambray region to carry out a sea and land landing of a military brigade and take control of a coastal outpost in Trinidad. US plans revealed that Washington would form a provisional government there and demand international recognition and military support to overthrow the revolutionary government.
In March 1961, Havana carried out Operation Cage, an operation aimed at counter-revolutionaries, trapping them before conducting an offensive against them. The offensive was called Operation Escambray Purge, and it saw more than 70,000 fighters from all over Cuba taking up arms in the face of the anti-revolutionaries.
On the dawn of April 15, 1961, eight American B-26 bombers carried out attacks against three Cuban airports; Santiago de Cuba, San Antonio de los Baños, and Ciudad Libertad. The bombing was an attempted false flag operation. The bombers flew in disguised with the emblem of the Cuban Air Force in order to make it look like an internal mutiny from the air force. However, the other goal behind the operation was destroying the humble revolutionary air force on the ground so that it would not possess the capacity for a confrontation during an invasion.
On that day, seven Cubans were killed and 50 others were wounded. One of those murdered by the United States wrote the name of Fidel Castro on the wall in his own blood before succumbing to his wound, embodying the decision to resist.
Cuba adopts socialism
From the heart of the Cuban capital of Havana and as a funeral was underway for those martyred during the bombing, commander Fidel Castro declared a general state of alert to face the imminent invasion. He also declared the socialist aspect of the Cuban revolution, turning Cuba into the first country to adopt socialism as a social and economic system in the Western Hemisphere.
A military campaign was orchestrated by the United States to topple the island nation's socialist government, with Washington allocating some $13 million to form a brigade of 600 mercenaries who, according to the US dream that would stand the test of time as a dream, were supposed to completely eradicate the revolution within two days. Some of the mercenaries were sent to train in training camps set up in Guatemala and Panama.
The e 2506th Mercenary Brigade, financed by the Kennedy administration, landed at the Bay of Pigs on April 17, 1961. However, the fierce and brilliant resistance of the Cuban Revolutionary Militia, personally led by Fidel Castro, thwarted this aggression in less than 72 hours. The time factor was important because the goal of the invaders was to control a coastal outpost, form a government, and seek recognition from the puppet governments of the corrupt OAS.
The mercenaries were only able to make it a couple of kilometers into Cuba from the shore before they were completely crushed by a resilient Cuba.
The most dangerous event that both countries and indeed the entire world faced during the Cold War period was in October 1962. Humanity was on the brink of nuclear fallout. USSR intelligence confirmed what Cuba already knew: the American invasion of the island is imminent. The Soviet Union then suggested to the government and the leadership of the revolution that Moscow deploys defensive nuclear missiles on Cuban soil.
President Kennedy demanded that the Soviet nuclear missiles stationed in Cuba be handed back. To realize his goal, he imposed a naval blockade on the island. This prompted the Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces to respond by putting all its units on combat alert, as a direct attack on Cuba seemed imminent.
Despite the unwavering position of the people of Cuba and its armed forces, who were all mobilized and prepared in the face of this threat, the Soviets decided unilaterally to take the missiles back from Cuba during negotiations that took place between Nikita Khrushchev and Kennedy without the involvement of the Cuban leadership.
The proclamation of the socialist nature of the Cuban Revolution was a decisive step towards uniting all the revolutionary political forces: the 26th of July Movement, the Popular Socialist Party, and the Revolutionary Directorate of the 13 March Movement agreed to dissolve themselves independently and individually in order to later unite into a single party: the Communist Party of Cuba.
It was a Monday not like any other, as the streets of Cuba were unusually silent. The news of Che's martyrdom has made it into every street, house, and heart of Cuban citizens. Children went to school, but they were silent. That is what a local newspaper said in Che Guevara's obituary.
About half a million Cubans participated in the anti-colonial wars in Africa. Men and women from the Caribbean island supported Algeria, Congo, Guinea-Bissau, Cape Verde Island, and Ethiopia, in their wars to defend their sovereignty. The Cuban forces supported Angola in its struggle against the system of discrimination and apartheid as well.
In the long list of attacks against the Cuban people, 1976 stands out as one of the most blood-stained years since the revolution. Another terrorist act was organized by members of the Cuban-American mafia in Miami, and the CIA had a hand. The terrorists bombed a Cubana de Aviacion airliner while in the air, killing 73 people. Those who masterminded this terrorist attack were the Cuban terrorists Orlando Bosh and Luis Posada Carriles. They were later protected by the US government after the victims' families demanded that they be prosecuted.
On September 18, 1980, the first Latin American man to make it to space, Cuban astronaut Arnaldo Tamayo Méndez, took off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome. This event was the fruit of space cooperation between the Soviet Union and other socialist countries.
Ties between the USSR and Cuba were very warm despite being almost non-exist pre-revolution. They began to develop due to transformations undertaken by the country. From the start, these ties helped resist the US blockade imposed on the Caribbean island.
By 1974, Cuba had joined the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (CMEA) on preferential terms. In practice, this meant that Cuba would be granted loans on soft terms and had incentive prices set for its products, as well as partaking in joint construction of industrial facilities while receiving effective assistance in the scientific sector.
The 90s brought upon the world an array of changes; the Berlin wall fell, Soviet republics were no more, the USSR collapsed, and with that CMEA was no more either. It was believed at the time that Cuba was isolated from its "eco-system", from the system that allowed it to maintain its economic equilibrium. This political and economic isolation would have isolated or re-isolated Cuba at a time when the United States was escalating its hostilities against the island nation. However, Cuba was not to be isolated just yet due to the creative resistance of the Cuban people.
The people and their revolution were unwavering in the face of the challenges and hardship thrown in their direction. None of the public services that the revolution implemented for its people were abolished. None of them were privatized. Schools remained open and Cuba remained safe from the neoliberal policies that had taken the entire Latin American region by storm at the time. Those who were hoping that the Cuban revolution would falter and that its end was near were greatly disappointed. The Cuban Revolution survived, and it continues to live even after the death of most of its leaders.