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  • Residents of Obispo Street place the M26 flag in the preparations for the 'National Rebellion Day' in Old Havana, Cuba, July 25, 2019.

    Residents of Obispo Street place the M26 flag in the preparations for the 'National Rebellion Day' in Old Havana, Cuba, July 25, 2019. | Photo: EFE

Published 26 July 2019

The insurgent process that led to the triumph of the Cuban Revolution started on July 26, 1953.

Millions of Cubans are celebrating Friday the "National Rebellion Day", a holiday that recalls the "Assault on the Moncada Barracks", a failed military operation which triggered the most important Latin American anti-imperialist revolution of the Twentieth Century.

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At dawn on July 26, 1953, lawyer Fidel Castro and a group of young revolutionaries stormed the military fortresses of Guillermon Moncada in Santiago de Cuba and Carlos Cespedes in Bayamo.

Considered as one of the first public acts of those who subsequently pushed the Cuban revolution, the assault on those barracks represented a direct challenge to the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista, who had been ruling the island since March 1952.

“Despite the bravery of the attackers, who were in frank numerical disadvantage and poorly armed, both actions resulted in military failures. The regime reacted with brutal repression, ”Prensa Latina explained and recalled that Batista decreed the state of siege, suspended constitutional guarantees and censored the press and radio throughout the country.

Given that the dictator ordered to assassinate 10 revolutionaries for each dead soldier, dozens of young Cubans were captured, tortured and killed.

“They didn't kill for a minute, an hour or a day but they did it for a full week. Beatings, torture, launches of people from the roof and shots did not cease for a moment,” said Fidel who survived the events but was jailed.

"July 26, 1953. Cuba The Centennial Generation, led by the young lawyer Fidel Castro Ruz, carries out the assault on the Moncada and Carlos Manuel de Cespedes barracks. It is the beginning of true independence! No to the Helms-Burton Act."

During the trial against him, the future leader of the Cuban revolution presented a self-defense claim which acquired international fame and is known as “history will absolve me.” In this speech, Castro went from accused to accuser as he denounced the sufferings of his people.

He also outlined the actions that should be implemented to avoid the prevailing social injustice, all of which were implemented later when the revolution triunfied.

“A revolutionary government backed by the people and with the respect of the nation, after cleansing the different institutions of all venal and corrupt officials, would proceed immediately to the country's industrialization, mobilizing all inactive capital,” Fidel said.

Also the young lawyer proposed an agrarian reform to deliver the land to those who work it and break with the hoarding of arable land by U.S. agribusinesses.

"Revolutionary law would give non-mortgageable and non-transferable ownership of the land to all tenant and subtenant farmers, lessees, share croppers and squatters who hold small parcels."

"Armed forces of the revolutionary people decided to assault the Moncada barracks in Santiago de Cuba and the Carlos Manuel de Cespedes barracks in Granma. These facts and this day have gone down in history. July for ever victorious."

In his defense statement, Castro also proposed to make Cuba the first Latin American country free of illiteracy.

Castro said, "a revolutionary government that carries out a comprehensive reform of our teaching ... to prepare the generations that are called to live in a happier homeland ... An educated people will always be strong and free."

"A revolutionary government would undertake the integral reform of the educational system... An educated country will always be strong and free."

Although the attack on the Moncada Barracks was a military defeat for the rebels, it became a victory because it provided the revolutionary movement with legitimacy and public visibility both inside and outside Cuba.

"The Moncada Assault taught us to turn setbacks into victories," said Fidel, the exiled lawayer who returned from Mexico to Cuba on Dec. 1956 with the "July 26 Movement" (M26) and its 82 guerilla fighters, among whom was the Argentine physician Ernesto "Che" Guevara.

After three years of a guerrilla war carried out in the Sierra Maestra mountain range, the M26 defeated Batista's dictatorship on January 1, 1959.

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