14ymedio, Frank Calzón, Miami, 13 August 2022 — In the midst of the tragedy of the oil tank accident in Matanzas, Cuban President Díaz-Canel made some triumphalist statements modeled on the speeches of the former Maximum Leader. The declarations almost coincide with a birthday of Fidel Castro, a man whose regime is still in power on the basis of repression, propaganda and the iron control of information.
Unfortunately, many important events in Fidel Castro’s life are not known by millions of Cubans and have never been published in the pages of the State newspaper Granma.
For example, that he never entered the Moncada Barracks. He was in a car that was taking him to the scene to assume command of the attack. He was accompanied by several revolutionaries, including Gustavo Arcos Bergnes, who, upon arriving at the barracks, where the shooting could already be heard, hurried to join the combat, where he was wounded. Years later, Arcos became Ambassador of the Revolutionary Government in Belgium and was later sent to political prison for dissenting from Fidel’s new course.
He swam away, leaving his companions behind who were captured by the Cuban Navy.
That Sunday, July 26, 1953, inexplicably, the future Comandante en Jefe did not get out of the car and did not enter the barracks.
Many of those men died there, obeying his orders, while he fled to hide under the cassock of the Archbishop of Santiago de Cuba, Enrique Pérez Serantes, who saved his life.
It was not the only time that Castro staged a “tactical retreat” by abandoning others.
Two weeks after his 21st birthday, at the end of August 1947, during the expedition to Cayo Confites, where he was training to overthrow the Dominican dictator Leónidas Trujillo, Fidel Castro took to his heels. In other words, he fled by swimming, leaving his companions behind, who were captured by the Cuban Navy.
Many years later, in Washington, I had dinner with the former Cuban ambassador to Colombia, Dr. Guillermo Belt Ramírez, and his wife, Cuquita. Belt told me about the events of the Bogotazo in April 1948, the insurrection in Colombia following the assassination of Jorge Eliécer Gaitán. According to Belt, Fidel, with his high-sounding speeches, encouraged young
Colombians to assault several police stations, but faced with the offensive by the Colombian Armed Forces and fearful for his life, he took refuge in the Cuban Embassy.
In the midst of the crisis there were no commercial flights from Bogotá to Cuba, but Fidel insisted that they would kill him if he left the diplomatic headquarters. In the end, the ambassador was able to get him on the only available flight: a cattle cargo plane. There, among the mooing cows, the future Maximum Leader departed for Cuba. Perhaps that trauma explains the comandante’s peculiar attachment to Ubre Blanca, his favorite cow.
According to official propaganda, the commander-in-chief’s bravery was legendary. But not enough for him to get close to Batista’s troops.
According to official propaganda, the commander-in-chief’s bravery was legendary. But not enough for him to get close to Batista’s troops. Hidden in his lair in the Sierra Maestra, between 1957 and 1958, he killed the “casquitos,” young peasants enlisted in the Batista army from far away, with a rifle with a telescopic sight. There are the photos, in the Museum of the Revolution, if anyone doubts it.
As for the unfortunate Argentine Ernesto Guevara de la Serna, when he was surrounded by members of a Bolivian army in 1967, at that time advised by the CIA, and without the support of the peasants or the Bolivian communists, Fidel let him die, without doing anything to save him.
In the fall of 1958, Fidel sent commanders Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos hundreds of miles to capture the city of Santa Clara, while he awaited the outcome of the battle in the Sierra Maestra, where he was caught sleeping by Batista’s flight on January 1, 1959.
Castro lingered a week on a victorious march, much like Benito Mussolini’s march to Rome. Acclaimed by crowds, including nuns, he arrived in Havana on January 8, accompanied by Commander Huber Matos, whom he would later sentence to 20 years in prison for daring to resign due to communist infiltration of the Rebel Army.
In the case of Grenada in 1983, Fidel ordered the Cuban forces not to surrender, to fight to the death. Castro´s press published how those Cubans, following Fidel´s orders, died holding their weapons, embracing the lone star Cuban flag.
In Angola and Ethiopia, it never occurred to Fidel to visit his troops in war zones, as did American presidents who went to fraternize with their soldiers in Vietnam.
It was not until after it became known that the head of the Cuban forces, Colonel Pedro Tortoló Comas, faced with the overwhelming push of the US forces that invaded that Caribbean Island where they, the Cuban forces, intended to replicate the Cuban revolution, decided to save Cuban lives and ordered their surrender. Due to his common sense, Colonel Tortoló, upon being repatriated, was reprimanded by Fidel and, after being demoted to the rank of common soldier, was sent to Africa to fight for having ignored the whims of the revolutionary leader. Never again did his name appear in the pages of Granma.
I am thinking of the case of other characters, such as Benito Mussolini, Mao Zedong, Josef Stalin, Adolf Hitler or Francisco Franco, who are also objects of propaganda deification. As in those cases, the story of Fidel Castro will one day also be known by the new generations in Cuba.
Translated by Norma Whiting
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.