14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 19 May 2021 — Addicted as they are to the celebration of patriotic and revolutionary events, the official media should review the events that occurred in Havana on May 20, 1955, when the University Student Federation (FEU) wanted to commemorate the advent of the Republic with an act of protest against the dictatorship.
To make up for the presumed omission, 14ymedio recalls what happened taking as a reference the data provided by the volume dedicated to the year 1955 of the chronology entitled We will fight until the end, compiled by Rolando Dávila Rodríguez and edited by the Publications Office of the State Council in 2011.
That day, Friday May 20, 1955, from the early hours, the National Police (PN) deployed a huge operation around the perimeter of the University of Havana in order to prevent access to passers-by and vehicles. At nightfall, the electricity in the area was interrupted and the chairs that had been arranged for the audience were requisitioned.
The day before, Colonel Conrado Carratalá sent the president of the Emergency Court of Havana the result of the investigation carried out on the event organized by the FEU, where he said: “I have been able to learn that indeed, preparations are being made to that end, in which agents closely linked to past regimes intervene and whose primary purpose is to alter the public peace, as well as to provoke disorders that make the intervention of the public force necessary, circumstances that they will take advantage of to unleash their criticism, while trying to to foment annoyances and uneasiness among the popular masses.”
To answer these accusations, José Antonio Echevarría, president of the FEU, warned: “The de facto regime, fearful of the formidable demonstration of rejection that the people will demonstrate in the act of the university staircase, will try to prevent the celebration of this, using it as a smear campaign, thereby trying to confuse public opinion.”
Among those invited to the event was the lawyer Fidel Castro, who had been released the previous Sunday from the National Prison for Men on the Isle of Pines along with 26 of the 30 convicted for the assault on the Moncada barracks, in Santiago de Cuba, on July 26, 1953.
To respond to the blackout, at 8:30 pm a small electricity generating plant was put into operation and the first speaker, René Anillo, gave the opening remarks of the event. Immediately, the police opened fire on the hill. After a tense calm, José Antonio Echevarría took the floor and the police responded with another strong shooting.
On Saturday the 21st Fidel Castro denounced in the newspaper La Calle that he had not attended the event because when he went to the University of Havana a thick police cordon prevented him from entering the premises. “Many citizens were beaten and the act suspended without any justification, despite its orderly, peaceful and civic nature,” he said.
In that same statement, Castro stated: “Those who act like this and provoke like this cannot wish for peaceful coexistence in moments when the country is so desperate for peace (…) How can it be thought that the exiles will return to Cuba, if those who have just been released from prisons barely five days ago are already being persecuted with undisguised fury.”
But perhaps the lament of the recently amnestied that is most relevant at this time is this: “With deep sorrow we are verifying that the regime is not willing to give guarantees to its adversaries.”
So it was that May 20th, under that dictatorship.
COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.