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Colloques | 2017
Session 6 - Ideologías y actores de derecha
Jonathan Brown

“The bandido counterrevolution in Cuba, 1959-1965”

[02/10/2017]

Résumés

Les soulèvements des Bandidos ou des bandits qui ont commencé en 1959 trouvent leur origine dans la résistance de certains paysans à la réforme agraire. Nombre de petits propriétaires fonciers possédant quelques caféiers ou plants de tabac ou un petit troupeau de bovins ont craint la redistribution des terres privées. De nombreux paysans sans terre se sont également joints à cette lutte contre les comunistes qui ont organisé les réformes agraires. Le régime de Castro affirmait que les "vrais" paysans soutenaient la Révolution. En effet, les habitants des zones rurales qui ont tiré profit de la réforme agraire ont bien rejoint les milices qui combattaient les "bandits" dans les montagnes de l'Escambray et ailleurs sur l'île. La Contre-révolution cubaine, à cet égard, peut être comparer à celle de la Vendée en France, à la révolte des Cristeros au Mexique, aux koulaks en Russie et au mouvement des Contras au Nicaragua. Sources: documents militaires cubains et documents de la CIA.

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Texte intégral

  • 1 See Louis A. Pérez, Jr., Lords of the Mountain : Social Banditry and Peasant Protest in Cuba, 1878- (...)

1The Revolutionary State called them bandidos, outlaws, criminals. But several of the rebellion’s leaders had fought in or sympathized with the local resistance to Fulgencio Batista. They may have seen themselves passed over for jobs and rewards by communist bureaucrats. Communism was changing Cuba and their way of life for the worst, and they were willing to die and serve long prison terms for their rebellion. No, they were not mere brigands. These rebels were alzados, those who rise up in rebellion for the sake of justice and patriotism. The term alzados originally referred to runaway slaves who escaped into several of the island’s mountain ranges. It also applied to the followers of José Martí and Antonio Maceo in the 1895 rebellion for independence from Spain.1 Now in late 1959 the alzados again took up arms and, for a while, Osvaldo Ramírez was their king.

  • 2 Víctor Dreke, From the Escambray to the Congo : In the Whirlwind of the Cuban Revolution (New York  (...)

2Like other counterrevolutionaries, Ramírez too had fought against Batista. When he joined the Second National Front of the Escambray in 1958, Ramírez had been driving a truck, hauling sugar cane during the harvest and timber from the Escambray Mountains during the “dead season.” He served as lieutenant under Comandantes Eloy Gutiérrez Menoyo and William Morgan. Osvaldo Ramírez distinguished himself in the revolution. His reward after the victory consisted of a position in the new National Revolutionary Police Force.2 In May 1959, when Prime Minister Fidel Castro decreed the land reform law, former members of the Second Front began meeting in conspiratorial groups. They smuggled arms and supplies to their old hideouts.

  • 3 Enrique G. Encinosa, Cuba : The Unfinished Revolution (Austin, TX : Eakin Press, 1988), 81.

3In October 1959, Osvaldo Ramírez rose in revolt (alzarse) in opposition to the presence of communists in the Castro regime. Early in the uprising, a government militia force came upon Ramírez’s rebels. His eighteen men engaged these first militiamen in a firefight and forced them into retreat. Months later, Osvaldo was leading a force of thirty-eight men. Another militia unit trapped them at the edge of a cliff. “We can die here fighting,” Ramírez told his men as night approached, “or we can jump.”3 They jumped into the ravine below and escaped in the darkness.

4Thousands of revolutionary militiamen pursued several small bands of outlaws throughout 1960, yet the number of bandidos rose. Osvaldo’s group dispersed and escaped encirclement on several occasions, only to regroup later on. Ramírez himself was captured and escaped miraculously by throwing himself over another, higher cliff.

  • 4 Revista Moncada, vol. XII (June 1978) : 12-13, as quoted in Pedro Etcheverry Vázquez and Santiago G (...)
  • 5 Richard R. Fagen, The Transformation of Political Culture in Cuba (Stanford : Stanford University P (...)

5Osvaldo Ramírez became a well-known figure when he singlehandedly created another martyr for the Revolution. The National Agrarian Reform Institute (INRA) in May 1959 engaged literacy teachers to prepare the peasants for their revolutionary roles. Volunteer mentors went into the hills between the cities of Cienfuegos and Trinidad at the same time that the counterrevolutionary bands began to multiply. One of these volunteers was the Afro-Cuban young man Conrado Benítez. Osvaldo’s band captured the teacher together with the head of the peasant family with whom Benítez was living. According to government sources, the rebel leader became enraged when the literacy teacher would not renounce the Castro Revolution. “The stoning and knife stabs did not cease until the moment that Osvaldo decided to string him up by the neck,” an alzado later confessed. “The body was suspended and lowered on various occasions as if it were a doll until [Conrado Benítez’s] life expired, at which time we just left him hanging.”4 Fidel Castro himself eulogized the literacy teacher in his next speech. “He was poor, he was a Negro, and he was a teacher,” Fidel said of Benítez. “There you have three reasons why the agents of imperialism assassinated him.”5

6Castro’s accusation contained an element of truth. Urban allies belonging to the Auténtico Party network in Havana had been using connections to the CIA at the American Embassy to direct air drops into the Escambray for Osvaldo’s alzados. Presidnt Eisenhower closed the embassy in January 1961, which complicated the delivery of arms. Thereafter, Auténtico operatives in Havana had to make arrangements by radio with Miami. Nonetheless, government forces recovered most air drops and some of the equipment landed by boat as well.

  • 6 Encinosa, Cuba, 83.
  • 7 Julio Crespo Francisco, Bandidismo en el Escambray, 1960-1965 (Havana : Editorial de Ciencias Socia (...)

7In the meanwhile, rumors of Osvaldo Ramírez’s escapades had attracted more rebel volunteers. He now was leading more than 200 men. His group successfully ambushed a militia patrol, killing seventeen and seizing their weapons.6 Osvaldo’s other victims included local officials of the National Agrarian Reform Institute (INRA) and peasant leaders of the new cooperative farms. The alzados also ambushed buses and army trucks. Ramírez and his men were was assembling an impressive arsenal seized in firefights and acquired from sources in Miami. A militia attack on one of the group’s hideouts uncovered four shoulder-mounted cannons, 60 Springfield rifles, hand grenades, radios and batteries, and five knapsacks of medicines.7 The military equipment bore U.S. identification.

8Finally in April 1961, news of the Bay of Pigs invasion gave the alzados a welcome respite in April 1961, as Castro’s militia units left the Escambray to converge on Playa Girón. Many volunteers in Osvaldo Ramírez’s band believed that final victory against Castro’s communist regime was close at hand.

9The following tells the story of the rural rebels who resisted the revolutionary state. The rural rebellion attracted disaffected residents all over the island nation, not just in the hotbed of the Escambray. Whereas the Gusano Counterrevolution reflected urban middle class resistance, the bandido affair concerned smallholders and their rural allies. Cuba’s rural counterrevolution from 1959 to 1965 had even deeper roots in the peasantry than did Fidel’s M26. Therefore, in order to discount the farmer origins of the anti-Castro movement, the very same revolutionary leaders who exaggerated the peasants’ contributions to the struggle against Batista had to explain away the greater role they played in the anti-Castro rebellion. Revolutionaries now decried the isolation, ignorance, and misguided fanaticism of Cuba’s rural residents as relics of the pre-revolutionary era. Thus they dug up the word bandido, the term by which the Spaniards defamed the rebels of the independence war and Batista used to describe Castro’s guerrillas.

10Remarkably, the rural Bandido Counterrevolution outlasted the Gusano Counterrevolution. The Bay of Pigs invasion of April 1961 spelled the end of the urban middle class opposition in Havana and other cities. Yet the Castro’s government did not extinguish resistance in the countryside until mid-1965. Despite the Revolutionary State’s overwhelming repression, how did the Bandido Counterrevolution endure so long ?

11The answer had to do with the origins of the alzados. The rural rebellion arose not from traditional capitalist exploitation on plantations but from the rapid transformation of social relationships that the Revolution had set in motion. True, the regime’s land reform decree ended the unjust plantation system in Cuba. But it also created an institution, the INRA, that intervened in the daily lives of an independent peasantry that had existed at the margins of the sugar industry. The National Agrarian Reform Institute became the instrument by which the revolutionaries mobilized rural residents to socialize the economy. Such rapid change was bound to meet resistance, which in turn propelled the government to invest greater resources in pacifying the countryside. In the time of Osvaldo Ramírez, armed resistance sprouted like thorny marabú bushes in some of the remotest parts of the countryside. Guerrilla warfare resumed in Cuba because of agrarian reform.

12However, these rural guerrillas of the 1960s differed greatly from Castro’s fighters of the late 1950s. The alzados mainly fought in small groups without an effective centralizing leadership. The size of Oswaldo Ramírez’s outlaw gang in 1961 did not at all fit the norm. Therefore, the government’s defeat of one band of resisters merely led to new uprisings elsewhere until exhaustion set in after six whole years of rural unrest. The linkage to political rivalries of the 1950s contained some relevance in the beginning. Rural rebels also had support from Cuban political exiles abroad which, in the 1960s, remotely connected the rebels to the Central Intelligence Agency. However, following the Bay of Pigs debacle, Washington recognized the futility of trying to support the alzados and drew down its active assistance.

  • 8 Etcheverry Vázquez and Gutiérrez Oceguera, Bandidismo, 228, 243.

13Nevertheless, the rural rebels continued the struggle. In the process, one of history’s legendary guerrilla leaders, Fidel Castro, also became the master of counterinsurgency. Once the cycle of resistance continued year upon year, it became plain that unrest in the countryside had its root causes in the land reform process itself. Membership of the guerrillas as well as the profile of their victims indicate that the rebellion targeted personnel connected to the INRA’s restructuring of rural society. The alzados also targeted other revolutionary organizations, the pro-Castro small farmers of the ANAP, the provincial Communities for the Defense of the Revolution (CDRs), and the first Castro-communist party called the ORI.8 In the final reckoning, when the last “outlaw” gave up, the INRA and other revolutionary organizations reigned supreme throughout the hinterlands. Moreover, the Revolutionary state’s security apparatus penetrated deeply into every village and hamlet.

Cleansing the Escambray

14The first bandido uprisings occurred relatively simultaneously in the late summer of 1959 within two to three months following Fidel’s land reform decree. Rebels escaped to the Órganos Mountains of Pinar del Río on the western end of the island republic. They gathered up arms in the hills of Matanzas overlooking the lowland sugar plantations dating from the eighteen century. Resistance sprouted also in the highlands of Las Villas and Camagüey in the center of the island. Even in Oriente Province where loyalties to Fidel Castro remained strong, some mountain people found cause to alzarse, to rise in revolt, in the recent M26 strongholds of the Sierra Maestra and the Sierra del Cristal. [See map 6.1.]

15Traditional sugar plantations did not characterize these locations. Rather one found smallholders, tenant farmers, and guajiro squatters. Some residents of these highland zones went down to the plantations to cut cane during the zafra. However, few of these mountain men belonged to powerful pre-revolutionary organizations such as the Union of Sugar Mill Workers and the Association of Landowners (colonos). After the revolution triumphed, rural resistance sprang up in the most remote areas of the countryside. But the heartland of rebellion spread in all directions from the highest elevation, Topes de Collantes, in the mountains of the Escambray. This location constituted the area of operations of Osvaldo Ramírez and his successors.

  • 9 “Analisis de algunos aspectos de la actividad bandesca,” n.d., doc 555-(4.1), Museo de la Lucha Con (...)

16In the Escambray, the first counterrevolutionary outbreak lived up to name. An ex-sergeant of Batista’s secret police, the SIM, led seven others into resistance to the Revolution. The group, representing elements of the discredited regime, did not make much of an impact.9 Then in early 1960, the national leaders of the anti-Batista guerrilla group, the Second National Front of the Escambray, began to communicate their reservations about the Castro government to several of their former followers.

  • 10 Laura Bergquist, “Epitaph for a Big Loser,” Look Magazine, 25 April 1961 ; R. Hart Phillips, The Cu (...)

17Comandante William Morgan of the Second Front had returned to the Escambray and established a farm, raising bullfrogs for export to the United States. His “capitalist” operations did not settle well with Félix Torres, the Las Villas provincial boss the INRA. Torres proved to be a doctrinaire communist who carried out the first agrarian reform decree with scant regard for the sensibilities of the region’s farmers. Former supporters of the Second Front relied on Morgan to protect them from dispossession by the INRA. Morgan obliged. He warned the Castro government that it risked armed resistance from the guajiros (rustic rural people) of the Escambray if it did not dismiss Félix Torres. Castro’s security forces detained William Morgan. A military tribunal sentenced him to death for treason, and he faced his executioners soon thereafter.10

  • 11 Etcheverry Vázquez and Gutiérrez Oceguera, Bandidismo, 92. A French journalist reported that the IN (...)

18However, Morgan’s confederate, Comandante Eloy Gutiérrez Menoyo and a handful of his top lieutenants succeeded in fleeing into the Escambray Mountains once again.11 He reassembled some of his ex-guerrillas and then left by boat to Miami to secure financing and arms for the uprising. Menoyo never returned to the Escambray. Nor did he obtain much patronage or direction from the CIA, which could not trust Menoyo for having helped Castro put down the rightwing invasion from the Dominican Republic in August 1959. Nonetheless, rural resistance within Cuba took on a life of its own.

Causes

  • 12 Herera Medina, Operación Jaula, 126-27.
  • 13 William Gálvez, Camilo : Señor de la Vanguardia (Havana : Editorial de Ciencias Sociales, 1979), 34 (...)

19Following the land reform decree of May 1959, the intrusion of the revolutionary state into the social life of the countryside proceeded rapidly. The National Agrarian Reform Institute (INRA) acted as the vanguard. In less than two months, its Las Villas director Félix Torres confiscated 200 plantations with more than 2.7 million acres caballerías of land, and established dozens of people’s granaries and cooperatives.12 He was one revolutionary who pushed the agrarian reform beyond its original intent, which aimed to convert plantations into small properties for landless farmers. Director Torres had powerful patrons. He had been one of the only members of the Communist Party (PSP) to raise arms against Batista. His small band of fighters had joined the M26 column of Camilo Cienfuegos in the last battles of December 1958. Che Guevara commended his service in the pages of the military journal Verde Olivo.13 Also Torres distinguished himself among the barbudos by sporting a long, wispy Ho Chi Minh beard.

20The struggle itself justified the increasing intrusion into the countryside by agents of the revolutionary state. Conferences took place. Instructions went out. Political and military authorities scrutinized the rural population like never before. One “order of the day” for the Escambray in September 1961 instructed local authorities to take the pulse of the people to see

  • 14 Ejército Rebelde, “Orden del día de la conferencia del Escambray,” 24 Sep 1961, doc. 503-(4.1), MLC (...)

“if the guajiros [peasants] are understanding the Revolution better ; if they are liberating themselves from the influence of the old bosses ; if they are disposed to joining up with the local militias ; if they can still be attracted by the alzados ; or if they assist in collaborating with them and helping them.”14

  • 15 “All Cuban mass organizations were founded at times when the revolutionary government was threatene (...)

21Shortly after the Bay of Pigs, the revolutionary state began to encroach on the small holders. It created the National Association of Agricultural Producers, ANAP. This new bureaucracy took charge of closing the free market for agricultural products, forcing peasants to sell to the government at low prices, and confiscating produce for the distribution of rationed foodstuffs. ANAP’s intrusion led to producer resistance in all provinces except the Oriente, where the small farmers still supported the revolution. Modest landholders suspected that “full socialization” was coming soon. The state was already creating cooperatives out of the old cane plantations. Private owners still held more than half of the land in food production as well as coffee and tobacco.15 The state controlled the rest.

The Rebels

22The rebel groups existed as decentralized, dispersed, and short-lived groups. They differed greatly from the previous anti-Batista resistance bands of the late 1950s that had grown exponentially over a period of two years. Fidel’s own M26 in Oriente Province had developed into a rural fighting force of three thousand armed men with a central command structure. In the Escambray Mountains, the Second Front of Comandantes Menoyo and Morgan, claimed to number two thousand men. In contrast, the rebel bands of the early 1960s averaged less than twenty men. Few alzados remained in the field more than a few months ; only a handful stayed in the fight beyond one year. The difference depended on the response of the government. Batista’s army did not press the rebels, and the Castro military forces gave them no quarter.

  • 16 “El Departamento de Seguridad del Estado en la Lucha Contra Bandidos,” n.d. (c. 1962), Document 215 (...)

23Moreover, few outsiders commanded these alzados. The leaders and followers had local roots. They moved around in areas where they had grown up and had kinfolk and friends for support. They rested out-of-sight during the day and moved only after dark. “Bandidos” attacked targets away from their hideouts and then returned to their home territory for rest and supplies. They maintained networks of informants in the local population that provided intelligence about targets and location of government militia units. The rebel bands planned attacks and laid ambushes late in the late afternoon or early evening. After a brief fire-fight, the attackers dispersed individually or in pairs and used the cover of darkness to evacuate back to their home bases. New recruits had to break contact with their families, could not leave the group without permission, and worked on chores around the encampments until the guerrillas trusted them. Attempted desertion or collaboration with the government could result in the group leader ordering the offender’s immediate execution. “As for supplies of arms and ammunition,” stated one state security study, “these [counterrevolutionary groups] utilize those captured in assaults and robberies, infiltrations from abroad by air or sea, and from some ex-members of the militia or Armed Forces who ran away.”16 Therefore, the small alzado groups carried out operations that differed little from Castro’s own tactics early in 1957 when he had just two dozen men.

  • 17 Rafael Rojas, Essays in Cuban Intellectual History (New York : Palgrave MacMillan), 128.

24The Bandido Counterrevolution represented all social types found in the countryside with only a few nearby urban residents as possible connections to the Gusano Counterrevolution. Young men between the ages of 20 and 45 years old predominated. Government agents interrogated captured rebels and recorded their names, origins, and jobs. They identified several who had been soldiers in the army and police of Batista and those who served in the anti-Batista guerrilla bands in the late 1950s. The list even mentions an ex-captain of the Revolutionary Army. Former officers and men of the Second National Front of the Escambray of Comandantes Menoyo and Morgan figured prominently as leaders in the first years.17 Others on the list included mechanics, manual laborers, a fisherman, a student, an English teacher, a priest, and a medical doctor.

  • 18 “Operación de cerco,” n.d. ; “Operación de cerco y peine,” n.d. 19/3-3/5-6/1-37, Colección Fuerzas (...)
  • 19 DSE, “Expediente EI 138,” n.d. (c. 1963), doc 401-(4.1), MLCB. Says Jorge I. Domínguez, the farmers (...)

25Leaders and collaborators of the small groups derived from the middle strata of rural society. “Luis Molina, petty bourgeois, owner of two pharmacies and who is disgusted by the revolutionary laws, joined up with the MRR movement,” as one report characterized the chief of one small band. Authorities described another leader as a “medium peasant belonging to the rural bourgeoisie, who in his civil life had the reputation of being an agitator of the masses.”18 The story of Ciro Vera Catalá seems quite mundane. When captured in Havana in 1963, he was 36 years old. Catalá was a small property owner when he joined the rebels in the Escambray. He served with several different chieftains for a period of seventeen months. Finally, Catalá fled to Havana but could not escape notice of state security. He went before a tribunal and received a sentence of thirty years in prison.19 This alzado seemed motivated by no other motive than fear of revolutionary change.

26Despite the fact that the government claimed the allegiance of the peasantry, many campesinos (farmers) and rural workers figured among those detained by government forces.

  • 20 Crespo Francisco, Bandidismo en El Escambray, 296-97. “Todas esas bandas involucraron a campesinos (...)

27“All these bands consist of peasants and workers of our province,” one militia officer reported, “who for their ignorance and for their political outlook cooperate with the outlaws in one form or another.”20 Only a few on the lists faced the firing squad – one a revolutionary army deserter and another a government employee who had assassinated one of Castro’s security agents.

  • 21 “Fichas Biográficas del A.B.S.” 19/6.1/2.1/1-301, Fondo LCB ; Crespo Francisco, Bandidismo en El Es (...)
  • 22 Crespo Francisco, Bandidismo en El Escambray, 119. “Mira que un negro alzarse contra la Revolución, (...)

28“Regarding the social composition of the bandits,” said one veteran militiaman, “the great majority were peasants, workers, employees, and ex-soldiers of the dictatorship.”21 Professionals and doctors collaborated but seldom ran away into the mountains. Only a few Afro-Cubans appeared to have joined the bandidos. “Look how a black man joined the fight against the Revolution,” an Escambray resident once exclaimed, “when this is the only Government that has done anything for blacks.”22 Afro-Cubans tended to support the government and trained for the militias in significant numbers.

  • 23 Joanna Beth Swanger, “Lands of Rebellion : Oriente and Escambray Encountering Cuban State Formation (...)
  • 24 Carlos Moore, Castro, the Black, and Africa, 21 ; Lillian Guerra, Visions of Power in Cuba : Revolu (...)

29Indeed, the population of Las Villa Province contained a higher percentage of whites among the people of the countryside that Castro’s revolutionary Oriente Province. Land ownership had become a mark not only of independence and self-worth but of white masculinity. Consequently the loss of land suggested descent into the loss of manhood and of one’s wife to prostitution. Rumors equated the communal aspects of INRA cooperatives with Director Felix Torres’s sexual license with unchaperoned young girls.23 The revolution seemed to mobilize the landless Afro-Cubans into the militias and the cooperatives. The slogan “Neither Black nor Red” became the call for opposition to state institutions in cities as well as the countryside.24

  • 25 Ibid., 98 ; Encinosa, Escambray, 47 ; Gerald E. Poyo, Cuban Catholics in the United States, 1960-19 (...)

30The Castro government considered the clergy to be active supporters of the counterrevolution. Military commanders reported that many Catholic priests and lay activists in Trinidad had become involved as supporters, collaborators, and volunteers for the “bandido” gangs. Some Catholic priests helped the alzados find supplies and food, others gave religious services for the rebels, and a few went into the mountains. Many clergymen resided together in the House of Priests in Trinidad. Militiamen had orders not to molest them. But they did keep an eye on the group, and took note when visitors came to see them during the night. One prisoner testified that two priests in Trinidad were providing sanctuary and food to alzados.25 Such clerical collaboration as existed ended definitively when the priests sailed into exile at the end of 1961.

  • 26 “Hechos cometados en zonas donde operan bandas,” June 1962, 19/1-2/8-10/39-61, Fondo LCB.
  • 27 See Ada Ferrer, Insurgent Cuba : Race, Nation, and Revolution, 1868-1898 (Chapel Hill, NC : Univers (...)

31The rebels mainly engaged in the destruction of property and in this way avoided confrontations with armed troops. They committed sabotage, set fire to tobacco drying sheds, and descended to the plains to burn fields of maturing sugar cane. In the eight months following November 1961, authorities reported nearly fourteen hundred cases of cane burning throughout the country.26 Setting cane fields ablaze did not begin in the struggle against the revolutionary regime but had a long history in Cuba. Rebels in the struggle for independence in the 1890s also destroyed Cuba’s cash crop, and so did anti-Batista plantation workers during the struggle against the tyranny in the late 1950s.27

  • 28 “Distintos hechos ocurridos en zona de Rodas y Cartagena desde el 9 de Noviembre,” 28 Jan 1962, 19/ (...)
  • 29 Evelio Duque Miyar, Mis memorias : Importantes revelaciones del proceso revolucionario de Cuba (Mia (...)

32Assaults took several different forms, but the common victim was an agent or collaborator with the revolutionary government. In the countryside, human targets of the alzados worked either in public health and educational institutions or in various levels of the National Institute of Agrarian Reform. The counterrevolutionaries laid ambushes for officers and men of the militias, attacked young teachers in the Literacy Campaign of 1961, and shot at officers and workers in agricultural cooperatives set up by the INRA. They also mounted armed assaults on “people’s farms,” “people’s stores,” and primary schools.28 Granted, evidence and statistics on this “terrorism” comes from sources of the revolutionary government. Three former members of state security authored the principal books on the Bandido Counterrevolution published in Cuba. Historians have to be cautious about the revolutionary state’s use of the terms “terrorism” and “outlaws.” But racism certainly had been a factor in the murder of the Afro-Cuban Benítez. Evelio Duque, second in command to Osvaldo Ramírez, explained the motives behind the brutal treatment of the literacy teacher. “Conrado Benítez,” he told his men, “has died for being a communist, for being a thief for being a rapist, and for coming to the Escambray to abuse our campesinos !”29

The Militias

  • 30 Crespo Francisco, Bandidismo en El Escambray, 28, 105-06 ; Herrera Medina, Operación Jaula, 76-77.

33Several guerrilla veterans in the Rebel Army in August 1960 received orders from the Commander in Chief Fidel Castro to organize units of bandit hunters. They set up training camps for the fifty thousand militiamen recruited from among young males of Havana and Pinar del Río. By 1961, the revolutionary government had placed these recruits into eighty battalions on the whole island : five battalions in Matanzas ; ten each in Pinar del Río, Camaguey and Oriente ; twenty in La Habana ; and twenty-five in Las Villas. Some of the earliest militiamen to fight against the bandits in the fall of 1959 also became instructors of the new Militia Training Academy at La Campana near Hoyo de Manicaragua. Instruction commenced in September 1960.30

  • 31 Crespo Francisco, Bandidismo en El Escambray, 40 ; Hart Phillips, The Cuban Dilemma, 300.
  • 32 Crespo Francisco, Bandidismo en El Escambray, 99-100 ; Hart Phillips, The Cuban Dilemma, 146.

34“As the counterrevolutionary bands initially rose up, I joined the recently created peasant militias,” an ex-militiaman remembers. His first unit going into action was “composed of peasants from all over the Escambray.” Five hundred men in his battalion had no time to complete the training course at La Campana. They entered the war zone in September 1960 under the command of officers from the revolutionary army. Many militia units suffered a number of casualties, particularly in ambushes.31 All in all, fifty thousand milicianos participated in the first Cleansing of the Escambray. Most of them came from Havana and Pinar del Río, and only a few knew the mountains of southern Las Villas Province. By comparison, President Batista sent only twenty thousand poorly-trained army troops against Fidel’s three hundred guerrillas in the summer of 1958 – and lost.32

  • 33 Etcheverry Vázquez and Gutiérrez Oceguera, Bandidismo, 26-27.
  • 34 Orlando Lorenzo Castro, “Desarrollo de la entrevista,” 17 April 1984, doc 392-(4.1) ; Augusto Sandi (...)
  • 35 Encinosa, The Unfinished Revolution, 77 ; Hans Tanner, Counterrevolutionary Agent (London : G. T. F (...)

35Fidel tasked them with carrying out La Limpia del Escambray, the cleansing the mountains of alzados. Their training developed the military tactic of encircling and combing, cerco y peine, consisting of surrounding the suspected location of a group of rebels with a superior force of militiamen. Then the officers sent of a column or two of troops to comb the area within the encirclement in order to flush out the hidden alzados.33 In fact, Commander in Chief Fidel Castro himself showed up and participated with the militiamen in cerco y peine operations from time to time. (Batista had never joined troops on the front lines fighting Castro’s rebellion.) These first bandit-hunting units tracked down the rebel chieftain Sinesio Walsh and captured his group.34 The militiamen succeeded because the bandidos were poorly armed, hungry, and constantly on the run. “Do not fire. I am Sinesio Walsh. We don’t have ammunition to fight, not even for two minutes. I don’t care if I die, but I don’t want my men slaughtered.”35

  • 36 “Muerte de Piti,” n.d., c. 1962, doc. 452-(4.1), MLCB.

36The Campaign against the Bandits created martyrs for the revolution. The teacher Conrado Benítez was not the first. The army’s commander in the Escambray, Manuel “Piti” Fajardo, died in battle in the last days of November 1960, actually two months before Benítez. Elements of the Rebel Army and the intelligence services of the Ministry of the Interior responded to a report of arms stolen from a government installation below Topes de Collantes. As Comandante “Piti” was setting up a “circle and comb” maneuver, his men came under intense rifle fire from the alzados. The commander retreated back to his vehicle with gunshot wounds and collapsed. He died while his men were transporting him to the hospital at Trinidad.36

  • 37 Norberto Fuentes, Cazabandidos (Montevideo : Libros de la Pupila, 1970), 133.
  • 38 Tanner, Counterrevolutionary Agent, 15 ; Herrera Medina, Operación Jaula, 106 ; Etcheverry Vázquez (...)

37In contrast to Batista, Fidel Castro as commander-in-chief frequently visited the sites of the rebel uprising. He involved himself in all phases of the combat, from training, to planning, to leading columns of militiamen, to talking with peasants, and to de-briefing alzados. The government had purchased FAL assault rifles made in Belgium for NATO troops. “Your little kisses burn,” said one miliciano of his FAL.37 Toward the end of 1960, the first deliveries of Czech weapons, especially the M-52 assault rifle, bolstered the firepower of the milicianos. Now the militiamen had better weapons than the World War II-era American weapons used by most bandidos. “From Trinidad we followed the direct instructions that Commander in Chief (Castro) sent to us,” recalls one former militia commander, “not only with his spoken words and personal orders, but also with his constant presence in the area where the combat actions were carried out.”38

  • 39 CIA “Mil Activities of the Cuban Government in Las Villas Province,” 18 Jan 1961 ; CIA, “Increasing (...)

38The Cleansing of the Escambray continued up to the Bay of Pigs invasion, by which time the bandits had not been eliminated. Casualties mounted in the government forces, as hospitals and morgues in Sancti Spiritus and Trinidad became strained. According to one CIA report, “The militiamen [of Camaguey] left for the zone of fighting with little enthusiasm and only because they had no alternative.”39 Nevertheless, the militias rose to the occasion at the Bay of Pigs, while these counterrevolutionaries were unable to lend support of the exile forces of Brigade 2506 some distance away at Playa Girón.

  • 40 “Operación de Cerco,” n.d., 19/3.3/5.6/1-37, Fondo LCB.
  • 41 Armando Torre to Raúl Castro Ruz, 1 Oct 1962, 19/1-2/8-9/1-14, Fondo LCB.

39The standard measure of sufficient forces to contain a guerrilla outbreak at the time was a ten-to-one ratio of soldiers to rebels. The Lucha Contra los Bandidos met these standards many times over. In one operation, the government sent in fifteen hundred men to hunt down a leader named Ojeda and his seven men. Agents of the Department de State Security (DSE) located the group. The militianos converged on the area, and still Ojeda’s group broke through the encirclement. One government official explained the reason for the mission’s failure. “The personnel who found themselves in the operation at that moment,” he wrote, “were farm workers with little experience in that type of combat.” The outlaws took advantage of the opportunity to succeed in escaping.40 In a separate incident, two militia units operating along the border between the provinces of Las Villas and Camagüey commenced firing at each other “without any order” to do so, frightening nearby peasants. The writer of the report suggested the remedy for such incompetence. “Only when each one of the [militianos] in the companies pass through the [training] schools. . . will we achieve right away a total reduction of shooting without cause.41

  • 42 Crespo Francisco, Bandidismo en El Escambray, 121.
  • 43 Domínguez, Cuba : Order and Revolution, 208.

40All in all, Castro’s counterinsurgency program was controlling but not defeating the outlaws. The government was achieving an important objective nonetheless. The bandido uprising served as a training ground for Castro’s supporters to become actively involved in defending the Revolution. The government called in more militia units from Habana, Camaguey, and Oriente. Each spent a couple of months tracking bandits. But the milicianos were not terribly effective. As soon as men got to know the territory, they left to go back home.42 Nevertheless, the very struggle itself paid dividends in terms of revolutionary mobilization. By 1961, three hundred thousand young men throughout the island had joined the militia forces.43

The United States

  • 44 Raúl Menéndez Tomasevich, “(Decirlo),” n.d. (c. 1965), Doc. 328 (0), MLCB.

41The Revolution’s leadership interpreted the Bandido Counterrevolution as a rebellion propagated by the CIA. The propagandists inferred that there would have been no local resistance to the Revolution without U.S. intervention. The officer of the government’s Struggle Against Bandits suggested that the U.S. imperialists had the power to change strategies that the bandidos used. According to Commander Raúl Menéndez Tomassevich, the CIA ordered the outlaws “to intimidate the revolutionary peasantry through bloody acts” such as assassinating state agents, burning schools, and assaulting the people’s stores.44 Fidel Castro often said that same thing. The CIA did many things to undermine the Cuban Revolution. In its formative years, the counterrevolution in the cities and in the countryside preoccupied the CIA. That much is true. However, the more intriguing question would be about the effectiveness of CIA agents and their Cuban collaborators in manipulating anti-Castro impulses.

42American intelligence agents operated out of the U.S. Embassy in Havana during the first two years of the Cuban Revolution. Apparently, the revolutionaries believed that the CIA’s presence close at hand helped them more than hindered the process of consolidation. Fidel did not expel embassy personnel in January 1961. They left of their own accord because the Eisenhower White House knew the men of Brigade 2506 were preparing to invade Cuba.

  • 45 “Análisis de algunos aspectos de la actividad bandesca,” n.d., doc 555-(4.1) ; Comandante Sandino t (...)

43However, The CIA took care to leave behind several Cuban collaborators behind with shortwave radio transmitters. One of them ironically had adopted the codename of Comandante Augusto Sandino after the Nicaraguan rebel who fought against the U.S. Marines in 1930s. That anti-Castro resistance director was José Ramón Ruiz Sánchez, a nephew of Tony Varona, the Auténtico activist in Miami. Comandante Augusto and the short-wave radio in his Havana home had already been linking bandidos groups to the Havana underground and their CIA patrons at the embassy. He tried to coordinate CIA air drops to alzados in the Escambray45 At least, that was the theory. Many rebel chieftains did not have radios.

  • 46 Crespo Francisco, Bandidismo en El Escambray, 70-72 ; David Atlee Phillips, The Night Watch (New Yo (...)
  • 47 Etcheverry Vázquez and Gutiérrez Oceguera, Bandidismo, 127-28, 138-39.

44Cuban exile pilots flying C-47 transport planes for Brigade 2506 out of Guatemala made air drops in order to supply arms and equipment to the anti-Castro guerrillas. They came in at a low altitude at night and dropped palettes filled with weapons, ammunition, explosives, communications equipment, battle dress, food stuffs, and medicines. The CIA made the first air drop in October 1959. However, the logistics and communications proved impossible to coordinate. Sometimes the planes did not come. At other times, they missed the designated drop zones. Moreover, the winds often wafted the parachutes away from targets that bandidos lit up at night. The émigré airmen turned out to be inexperienced and timid, dropping the pallets far from the designated drop zones.46 One night in February 1961, CIA planes dropped thirty pallets at Cabaiguán in the Escambray. Government forces captured nearly all of them. In the meanwhile, the Revolutionary Army set up anti-aircraft batteries to fire at C-47 cargo planes flown by émigré pilots, forcing one to make an emergency landing in Jamaica.47

  • 48 Encinosa, Cuba, 75 ; Crespo Francisco, Bandidismo en El Escambray ; Herrera Medina, Operación Jaula (...)

45In all, the CIA’s Cuban pilots made sixty-eight air drops. Only seven arrived to the alzados, while militia forces recovered the rest.48 The Castro government transferred the captured American weapons to military bases where foreigners were training for the export of revolution. By the end of 1961, the CIA abandoned air supplies altogether.

  • 49 “Minutes, 461th NSC Meet,” 26 Sep 60 ; “Minutes, 464th NSC Meeting, 20 Sep 60, Ann Whitman file, bo (...)

46During the time when the CIA was planning for the Bay of Pigs invasion, its agents did collect intelligence on the rural rebellion against Castro. Its first plans called for armed Cuban exiles to join with the rebels in the Escambray. Brigade 2506 would have landed near Trinidad on the south coast of Las Villas Province, then push into the mountains. Indeed, intelligence agents assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Havana sent information about the counterrevolution back to CIA headquarters at Langley. Director Allen Dulles passed on the latest intelligence to President Eisenhower and his National Security Council. Dulles reported on the growing unrest in the countryside. Dulles informed the president that “[t]here are about 1000 guerrillas in the Escambray Mountains.” Americans still working in Cuba told agents at the embassy that travel on the roads in southern Las Villas province had become hazardous and that gunfire sometimes continued throughout the night. “However, the guerrilla groups in this area are not cooperating [together] effectively,” reported CIA Director Dulles.49

  • 50 Cuban government officials counted thirty-five infiltrations of arms, money, trained men in the six (...)
  • 51 “Análisis de algunos aspectos de la actividad bandesca,” n.d., doc 555-(4.1), MLBC ; Félix I. Rodrí (...)
  • 52 Jorge Domínguez, personal message to the author, 9 Sep 2015.

47Infiltration and exfiltration of agents and supplies continued, but military patrolling of the coastline minimized the secure landing of supplies. Many a Cuban émigré boat pilot lost his nerve when approaching the shoreline and found excuses (engine trouble, high waves) to head back to Miami. Getting into the mountains and meeting up with bandit gangs also complicated outside deliveries.50 Infiltrators had a higher chance crossing paths with militia patrols than with the bandidos. Rebels descending to the coastlines to pick up supplies increased their vulnerability. Yet, at the time of the Bay of Pigs, 700 to 800 alzados were roaming the mountains seeking to disrupt the Revolution. But none of the radio operators in the anti-Castro underground knew when or where the actual invasion was to take place.51 They were unable to coordinate the rebel uprising in the cities and countryside with the landing of Brigade 2506. Anyway, Allen Dulles said later than the “popular uprising” had never been part of the plan. Bay of Pigs planners did not believe that the domestic insurgency could defeat the revolutionary government. Thus, the CIA never planned for Brigade 2507 to head into the mountains for a prolonged anti-Castro insurgency.52 The Bay of Pigs invasion was meant for quick victory.

  • 53 Ted Shackley with Richard A. Finney, Spymaster (Dulles, VA : Potomac Books, 2005), 65. Another CIA (...)
  • 54 John Meples Spíritto served a term in prison. When released in 1970, he worked for a decade in the (...)

48Others also worked in the underground ostensibly under the supervision of the CIA. John Meples Spíritto had served with Menoyo and Morgan’s Second Front against Batista. From his home in Havana, he regularly distributed rifles and machine guns to representatives of bandit gangs. He even lunched with them at the Riviera Hotel. “[O]ur agents,” wrote one of Miami’s CIA directors, “belonged largely to the Cuban middle class.”53 John Meples Spíritto had also helped direct sabotage attacks on electrical units and oil refineries in Havana. Cuban intelligence had had him under surveillance for months. When it appeared Spíritto was leaving the country in December 1962, the G-2 intelligence agents arrested him.54

49After the Bay of Pigs, American intelligence agents either lost interest in the Bandido Revolution or received little information on it. The extensive CIA reports on Cuba deposited in the Kennedy and Johnson Presidential Libraries contain little on the alzados. Even the Miami Cubans forgot about them. For all money that the CIA was pouring into Manuel Artime’s commando operation (see Chapter 6), he did not have much communication with the Bandido Counterrevolution.

  • 55 “Bandas existentes en fecha Junio 3/62,” 19/3.3/6 :1-4/3-67, Fondo LCB.

50Yet Cuban military intelligence continued to connect the Bandits gangs to the off-shore counterrevolutionary groups. In a report dating from June 1962, Cuban army officers counted the small bands and grouped them according to the anti-Castro organizations. They suggested that 223 separate rebel groups belonged to the Democratic Revolutionary Front (FDR) led by Tony Varona from Miami connected to the Auténtico Party. Two hundred four additional armed groups allegedly had ties to the Movement of Revolutionary Recuperation (MRR) of Manuel Artime.55 The sources did not at all indicate how they made these determinations.

51The FDR and MRR at the time were receiving the largest share of CIA funding in Miami.

  • 56 Ibid. ; Roberto Roca, “Relaciones de Bandidos capturados,” 19/1-3/2-2/1-54, Fondo LCB

52How much of this money was actually reaching the alzados, the documentation does not speculate. In any case, the purported ties to the Miami resistance and the CIA did not make the rebels particularly well-armed. By 1961, the militias were using Czech assault weapons. The rebels, on the other hand, carried weapons reminiscent of Castro’s M26 guerrillas : Garands, Springfields, M-1s, M-3s, submachine guns, Browning 30-06s, and Thompsons. Other reports mentioned various kinds of revolvers, Remingtons, Winchesters, shotguns, 22-caliber rifles, and a Brazilian rifle.56 In comparison to the militias, the bandidos found themselves poorly armed.

53Still, the Bandido Counterrevolution lingered on until mid-1965. CIA responsibility for rebellion in the countryside seems exaggerated.

Osvaldo’s story concluded

  • 57 Herrera Medina, Operación Jaula, 100-01 ; Etcheverry Vázquez and Gutiérrez Oceguera, Bandidismo, 59 (...)

54In the early days of the bandido counterrevolution, José Ramón Ruiz Sánchez, a cooking oil merchant and Tony Varona’s nephew, attempted to coordinate operations from his home in Havana. He lived in a “luxurious home” in the Siboney section of the capital. Ruiz Sánchez had a radio transmitter with which he could communicate with his uncle in Miami, the U.S. Embassy in Havana, and the rebels in the Escambray. He assumed national command of the counterrevolution under the code name of Comandante Augusto Sandino. Apparently, he saw no irony taking the name of the legendary anti-American fighter of Nicaragua of the early 1930s. His communication hub theoretically supported groups numbering nearly six hundred men dispersed throughout the nation and the Escambray.57 In truth, Comandante Augusto did not have the command and control that Castro had established earlier from the Sierra Maestra.

  • 58 Dreke, From the Escambray, 94-95, 102 ; Etcheverry Vázquez and Gutiérrez Oceguera, Bandidismo, 110- (...)
  • 59 Tanner, Counterrevolutionary Agent, 146.

55Comandante Augusto (Ruiz Sánchez) had connections to the CIA Station in Miami through his uncle, Tony Varona, the Auténtico operative on the Cuban Revolutionary Council. Like many other dissidents, he also maintained contact with CIA agents in the American Embassy until it closed down in January 1961. At least one chief of alzados in the Escambray attempted to go around Ruiz Sánchez. Evelio Duque, another ex-fighter with the Second Front, briefly held a post with INRA until he rebelled. The government claimed that he had used his position to take bribes. From his camp in the Escambray, Evelio Duque sent a radio message intended for CIA station in the Embassy. In it, Duque complained about the underground leader. Ruiz Sánchez’s radio receiver in Havana picked up the message and he promptly declared Evelio Duque a traitor. He dismissed Duque from his command in the “anticommunist army” and promoted Osvaldo Ramírez in his place. The underground leader in Havana signed the order as Comandante Augusto.58 Evelio Duque ultimately fled to Miami. The veteran fighter announced that he intended to return to the Escambray. “We have the men,” Duque said, “give us the arms !”59 He never returned.

  • 60 Ibid., 20, 40, 74 ; Etcheverry Vázquez and Gutiérrez Oceguera, Bandidismo, 162.

56Neither did Comandante Augusto. When he arrived in Miami, Ruiz Sánchez claimed that that the chieftains in the Escambray had asked him to represent them in Miami. The man who took Sandino’s name as his nom d’guerre then sent a message to Osvaldo Ramírez. He suggested that the rebel chieftain find a way to ex-filtrate to the United States, where the CIA would give him training. Ramírez refused. But once in Miami, everyone vowed to go back and Ruiz Sánchez tried without success.60 Certainly, his timely flight to Miami had removed him from the G2 dragnet in Havana.

57In July 1961, Osvaldo Ramírez gathered together several other bandit chieftains and proclaimed himself commander in chief of the National Liberation Army. By then, he had become famous for having killed the Afro-Cuban literacy teacher Conrado Benítez as well as other representatives of the revolutionary state. Ramírez appointed six captains to head up guerrilla activities in six combat zones throughout Las Villas and Camagüey Provinces. Despite the image of command and control, the separate groups within his command operated on their own. Other resistance leaders in the region did not acknowledge Osvaldo’s authority. Militia patrols kept them all in survival mode rather than on the offensive.

  • 61 Ibid., 194-95.

58Meanwhile, in July 1962, the revolutionary government had organized a second offensive, the Struggle Against the Bandits or LCB, to systematically suppress the many alzados on a nationwide scale. Raúl Menéndez Tomassevich, himself a former guerrilla fighter in Raúl Castro’s Second Front, took command of eight militia battalions of the Highlands Division (División Serrana).61 This civil war became a struggle between insurgents and former insurgents, and the latter began to gain the upper hand against the National Liberation Army of Osvaldo Ramírez.

  • 62 “Frente Nacional Democrático, Comandancia General de Operationes Escambray,” n.d. (c. 1962), doc 34 (...)
  • 63 Historian Encinosa claims that the revolutionary government’s crimes outweighed those of Osvaldo Ra (...)

59At one point in his rebellion, Ramírez proclaimed the death sentence on some two dozen of his local enemies – which he described as comunistas y chivatos, communists and trouble makers. The decree issued from his hideout in the Escambray applied even to the sons and wives of the principals. Oswaldo signed the document above his signature block as “Comandante en Jefe” of the Democratic National Front, the Auténtico action group in Miami.62 These kinds of death threats amounted to the tactics of terrorism. Evidence gathered by the government points to the fact that the bandits committed atrocities. Castro’s government wanted the Cuban people to understand the terroristic nature of the counterrevolution. The newspaper Revolución often featured articles and photos of Bandido atrocities. The destruction of property and killing of peasants and occasionally of teenagers cast the alzados as terrorists.63 The bandits of the Escambray had no Code of Conduct and no tribunals. They had no lawyers such as Humberto Sorí Marín, who had lent legal legitimacy to Castro’s M26 in the Sierra Maestra.

  • 64 Etcheverry Vázquez and Gutiérrez Oceguera, Bandidismo, 203.

60The date of 13 March approximated an Auténtico day of commemoration. On that date in 1957, José Antonio Echeverría died leading the attack on the dictator Batista at the Presidential Palace. Twenty armed men in 1962 chose the 13th of March to seize the peasant village of Las Llanadas, Yaguajay. They lined up the peasant villagers so that they could witness the burning of the pueblo’s cooperative store, called the Center for Social Welfare. As the alzados left, they kidnapped the administrator of the public granary and a local representative of the ruling party, the ORI, and executed them just outside of town.64 This assault amounted to the most spectacular bandit operation of the Bandido Counterrevolution, though this group acted without the authorization of Osvaldo Ramírez.

  • 65 Etcheverry Vázquez and Gutiérrez Oceguera, Bandidismo, 199, 206-07.

61The Comandante Augusto-Duque affair demonstrated that unity in the struggle against Castro eluded these rebels. From abroad, Miami’s political leaders arranged the infiltration back into Cuba of the leaders of five different factions then attempting to support bandidos. They sought to unite all rebels throughout the country. Osvaldo’s subordinates met with several of these delegates in March of 1962 and agreed on arrangements “to supply him with money, ammunition and arms.” In other words, only with the provision of arms and supplies would the disparate groups cooperate with offshore politicians. Ramírez’s men told the visits of their command in chief’s plan to seize Osvaldo’s hometown of Sancti Spiritus, cutting communications between east and west. “We responded that although it sounded to us a bit hair-brained and that no one had enough resources to carry it out successfully,” one of the dissidents later told Castro’s G-men, “if Osvaldo was disposed to put the plan into action, we would be disposed to assist it nationally.”65 No one could complete the bargain. Cuban security agents captured many of these infiltrators before they could return to Miami with instructions, and Ramírez’s Liberation Army could not leave the Escambray without running into revolutionary troops.

  • 66 Crespo Francisco, Bandidismo en El Escambray, 149-51. 87-89.

62Meanwhile, government security officers regularly kept an eye out for suspicious persons at hotels, and railway and bus stations in areas of alzado activity. Once they apprehended the mother of Osvaldo’s second-in-command because she was headed toward the mountains with oversized luggage filled with medicines and preserved food.66 Such vigilance paid dividends for revolutionary forces.

  • 67 Crespo Francisco, Bandidismo en El Escambray, 141-43, 146-49.

63The intelligence branch of the Tomassevich’s command closed in on the supply network of the Osvaldo Ramírez’s National Liberation Army. Alzados had chains of collaborators in the cities that helped supply them and facilitate their activities. Authorities uncovered one such associate in Trinidad. This person held the position of paymaster for state cooperatives, a job that gave him an excuse to go into the hills. The paymaster, whose codename was Pancho el Grande, played a critical role in Ramírez’s supply system. Residents of one safe house would transport recruits and couriers to the next safe house, a couple of kilometers down the road. Government intelligence agents detained Pancho el Grande after he returned home from taking food to a band of Osvaldo’s men. The Escambray commander, Raúl Menéndez Tomassevich, came to lecture Pancho el Grande on the benefit of land reform for campesinos. Whoever says differently is a liar, said Tomassevich. Pancho el Grande accepted the offer of cooperating with Tomassevich to expose the collaborators and the alzados. Cooperate or be executed – those were the options. Pancho el Grande finally led government forces to Osvaldo.67

  • 68 The government deployed two battalions to eliminate the group of Tomás San Gil in March 1963. Luis (...)

64Osvaldo’s death came in April 1962. Guided by Pancho el Grande’s information, the militias again cornered Osvaldo Ramírez and about forty of his men. The bandido who had become known for his remarkable ability to escape encirclement and ambushes again sought to flee through the thick vegetation of a ravine. A militiaman fired at Osvaldo from the hill above and mortally wounded him. His second in command, Tomás San Gil, took over the dwindling group, now numbering only a dozen alzados, San Gil had raised cattle in the shadow of the Escambray. He took up arms after a heated discussion with an INRA official over whether his pastures belonged to the “people” or to San Gil who had paid for it. “I’m going into the monte,” San Gil told him. “Come and find me. I’ll be waiting for you.” San Gil and his dwindling band perished in battle eleven months later.68 In the year that Osvaldo Ramírez and Tomás San Gil died, the revolutionary forces captured six hundred bandidos. Yet tens and hundreds of alzados remained in the field against the revolutionary government in every one of Cuba’s six provinces.

  • 69 Báez, Secretos de generales, 387, quoting Ernio Hernández Rodríguez.

65Other bands held out in the Escambray. The rebellion that began here in November of 1959 ended with the capture of the last alzado in July of 1965. “The struggle in the Escambray was very complex, as it covered a very great area, some parts unpopulated, and others with numerous peasants, who for their low level of political consciousness helped the bandits,” said one militia commander who fought the alzados. “But to be correct, one can say also that a large portion of the peasantry was our ally in this battle.”69

Struggle against the bandits, 1962-1965

  • 70 Pedro Etcheverry Vázquez and Santiago Gutiérrez Oceguera, “El Bandidismo en Matanzas,” unp. ms., p. (...)

66In July 1962, the government reorganized the national counterinsurgency campaign and called it La Lucha Contra los Bandidos or the Struggle Against the Bandits. The campaign became better known by its Spanish acronym, LCB. The Armed Forces divided up the country into five theaters of operations. The Escambray Mountains, largest area of contention in the civil war, formed Zone A. The government recruited, trained, and deployed militiamen exclusively from within the same zones in which they lived. Hencefore, they fought against their rebel neighbors, lending militiamen the same knowledge of the terrain and local customs as the enemy. “When they created the structure of the Struggle Against the Bandits, many of these men were mobilized in a permanent fashion,” remembers one former army officer. “[The government] solicited recruits at their work centers, listed them in the military enrollment, and paid them from Army funds. From that moment on, they formed part of the permanent mobilization.”70 Comandante Tomassevich, the man who hunted down the Bandit King Ramírez, took all-over direction of the LCB.

  • 71 Raúl Menéndez Tomassevich, “(Decirlo),” n.d. (c. 1965), Doc. 328 (0), MLCB ; Encinosa, The Unfinish (...)

67Fighting units trained for several different types of “combing” or armed forays through territories marked off by encircling troops. The cercar y peinar strategy would flush out suspected bandits encampments identified by intelligence agents. The systematic LCB training secured one victory after another for government forces between 1962 and the end of the campaign in 1965. Toward the end, the militiamen had perfected the tactic of forming up two and three cercos. “If the guerrillas broke through the first ring, they would find themselves caught between the first and the second ring,” says a surviving alzado, “[I]f they broke through the second ring, they faced a third.”71

68Still no single victory proved decisive. For every three bands of alzados rounded up, two others popped up elsewhere. The capture and killing of no single leader ended the uprising until the dissidents became exhausted and accepted the presence of state institutions in the countryside. The INRA organized and managed the collective farms fashioned out of the big plantations. The ANAP brought the private farmers under state control.

  • 72 Dreke, From the Escambray, 111. Víctor Dreke later served with Che Guevara in the Congo.
  • 73 Crespo Francisco, Bandidismo en el Escambray, 162, 176. “Vamos a vestir de verde olivo”

69Training and overwhelming force were the orders of the day. Raúl Menéndez Tomassevich had a term for it. “Let’s dress” the zone of combat “in olive green.” Everyone involved in the LCB turned out in full olive green battle dress with the Che Guevara-style beret. Training and discipline among government forces emphasized the human treatment of captives, a strategy having antecedents among the M26 guerrillas in the Sierra Maestra. “Our troops never abused a single prisoner,” said one militia commander. “We never mistreated a single one, even though those prisoners had committed a great many murders, and we hated them.”72 Troop morale was rising just at the right patriotic moment. In October 1962 Fidel Castro, the Commander in Chielf, called the militiamen away from hunting outlaws in order to fend off a possible invasion by U.S. armed forces during the Missile Crisis.73

  • 74 Mártires del Minint : Semblanzas biográficas, 2 vols. (Havana : Editora Política, 1990), I : 25, 29 (...)

70Perhaps the LCB’s most significant result for the Revolutionary State turned out to be its contribution to the professionalization of the security services. The counterrevolution gave the state an excuse to develop G-2 intelligence into an institution capable of reaching into the hinterlands. Prime Minister and Commander in Chief Fidel Castro, the Defense Ministry under command of his brother Raúl, and the Ministry of Interior constructed the security apparatus from scratch. Most of these men of the intelligence services had been born in the 1930s, a few in the 1920s. They came principally from the provinces. Most State Security agents had had a rudimentary education and joined local resistance groups affiliated loosely with Castro’s M26. Only a few had served in the Sierra Maestra or in the columns of Raúl, Che, and Camilo. Others entered the intelligence services because of their affiliation with the old Communist Party—though none of these had actually been combatants against “the tyranny.” Some entered the military and received advanced training, while others had gone through police training of the Interior Ministry. Individuals who demonstrated commitment to the Revolution by joining the militias of workers and peasants also came to the notice of the Interior Ministry recruiters. All recruits underwent intensive training in Cuba. Some undertook six months of higher-level training with the KGB in the Soviet Union. Selected personnel received ideological training in six-month courses at the School of Revolutionary Instruction “Carlos Marx” in Havana.74

71Many G-2 recruits in the early 1960s served in the Struggle Against the Bandits. Seventy-seven men of them died in action from January 1960 to June 1965. They lost their lives confronting counterrevolutionaries attempting a boat landing or a seaborne arms drop ; others, in the act of apprehending suspected collaborators. Intelligence agents also died in firefights with alzados or attempting to prevent the illegal emigration of armed opponents.

  • 75 Ibid., I : 9-13, 40 ; Etcheverry Vázquez and Gutiérrez Oceguera, Bandidismo, 314-15 ; Dreke, From t (...)

72A few of the G-men volunteered or were selected for the most dangerous work – joining the bandidos as spies. Among the first was José Martí Medina González, who joined the Department of Intelligence of the Revolutionary Army. In 1959, he ingratiated himself into the entourage of the Second Front. His work assisted in uncovering the plot orchestrated by Comandante William Morgan in 1960, whom Medina González exposed as a traitor. Another spy, Antonio Santiago García had served in the Escambray during the dictatorship with the Directorio Revolutionario guerrillas. Thus he was a natural to undertake espionage among outlaw groups whose knew of his prior service. However, one bandit leader discovered his cover and had him executed. Other spies suffered the same fate.75

  • 76 Crespo Francisco, Bandidismo en El Escambray, 321. For an outlaw’s view of imprisonment, see Lorrin (...)

73One undercover agent codenamed El Águila was captured by revolutionary forces by the alzados. El Águila did not reveal his intelligence affiliation and spend time in jail. There he continued to provide information to his G-2 handlers. “I went through everything others did in prision,” he said later, “because there they were not using torture, but definitely it was not a good life either.”76 Even El Aguila’s family thought he was a counterrevolutionary. Dedication to the Revolution and professionalism rather than cronyism seemed to motivate Castro’s security personal. He expected them to behave the same abroad as at home.

  • 77 CIA Intelligence Information Cable, 6 May 1964 ; Directorate of Intelligence, “Weekly Cuban Summary (...)

74The Revolutionary justice system penetrated the countryside as another institution meant to build loyalty and productivity. The revolutionary criminal justice system developed to deal firmly but not did not arbitrarily with bandidos and their collaborators. Military tribunals condemned to death a minority of leaders who had blood on their hands. Most of the followers received prison sentences of up to 20 years. On the other hand, for the collaborators there was internal exile and rehabilitation. “Compete families of peasants accused of harboring and helping anti-Castro guerillas are being rounded up and broken up,” reported one British diplomat in Cuba. “Heads of families are sent to penal battalions for forced labor on the land. Mothers and children are taken to Havana – the mothers to special compounds under detention and the children to crèches or child institutions.”77 After all, the peasants were supposed to be supporting Fidel.

  • 78 Fagen, The Transformation of Political Culture, 170, 173-75. Also see Crespo Francisco, Bandidismo (...)

75Soviet advisers in 1961 introduced the Cubans to Agrarian Methods, a policy they had developed in fighting Russian counterrevolutionaries in the 1920s. In amounted to a system of reinserting collaborators back into society – yet away from their home province. Peasants who supported the bandidos were relocated to Ciudad Sandino (again named for the Nicaraguan rebel). Two-thirds of Ciudad Sandino hailed from the Escambray. When Stanford University’s Richard Fagen visited the Ciudad Sandino in the mid-1960s, he found that two-thirds of the town’s population hailed from the Escambray. Professor Fagen described several hundred homes, day care centers, and schools that taught the construction trades as well as standard academic courses. The residents worked on two People’s Farms. Franja Sandino specialized in the cultivation of blond tobacco for cigarettes and Franja Simón Bolívar, in citrus and other fruits. The farms had commons-style food halls and barracks for visiting workers from the city. It was a time of “voluntary labor,” the plan originated by Minister of Industries Ernesto “Che” Guevara. Bureaucrats from Ministry of Foreign Affairs came regularly for the harvests. Fagan noted that the diplomats worked faster in fields than did the clerical workers, drivers, and mechanics from Havana.78

76Fidel Castro took great pride in the performance of his revolutionary justice system during the Struggle Against the Bandits . “It is necessary to say that not one single [outlaw] went unpunished. It is necessary to say that none of those doers of evil deeds who had killed brigade members, teachers, workers and peasants, managed to escape. It is necessary to say that law and justice fell on the guilty ones.”79

  • 80 Pedro Etcheverry Vázquez and Santiago Gutiérrez Oceguera, “El Bandidismo en La Habana,” unp. ms., p (...)
  • 81 Etcheverry Vázquez and Gutiérrez Oceguera, Bandidismo, 214, 327-28, 330. On the U.S. Naval Base and (...)

77Finally, it was over. In Matanzas, the last band of rebels, numbering only three, fell to government forces in January 1965.80 At the eastern end of the island, where the government charged that some alzados escaped with the assistance of the U.S. Navy at Guantánamo, the last band gave up in May of 1965. In Pinar del Río on the western end of Cuba, the rebellion had actually begun in January 1959. It came to an end in with the capture of the brothers Camargo Piloto in August 1965.81 In the Escambray, the last rebels came in from the cold on July 24, just two days before Fidel Castro celebrated the twelve anniversary of the attack on Moncada Barracks. He chose to do it at Santa Clara, several dozen miles north of the hotbed of the Bandido Counterrevolution.

Epitaph for revolutionary violence

78Nationwide, the bandidos fielded nearly 300 separate bands of anti-Castro rebels. In the Escambray itself, 177 outlaw gangs had operated, most on a short-term basis, between September 1959 and July 1965. Two thousand combatants had taken up arms and at least 6,000 collaborators had participated in the anti-Castro uprising. The people of the Escambray bore about one-half the burden in the fight against the Revolution.

  • 82 Domínguez, Cuba : Order and Revolution, 345-46 ; Encinosa, Cuba, xii ; Etcheverry Vázquez and Gutié (...)

79The headquarters of LCB drew up the statistics for the entire nation. They set the total number of anti-government fighters at 4,000 and their collaborators at 10,000. The government counted 549 deaths among all revolutionary forces. More than 200 addition soldiers, militiamen, and security officers suffered incapacitating injuries. Three hundred victims of bandido violence died as well. The number of alsados killed or captured in the entire campaign totaled 3,500 in the six years of fighting. An additional twenty-five thousand rural residents may have been relocated away from the Escambray.82 Cuba at that moment had a population of some seven million inhabitants.

  • 83 “Weeka Report,” 14 Sep 1960, 737.00(W), 9-1460, Department of State Records : Cuba, 1960-1963.

80Practically every book published in Cuba on the internal counterrevolution quotes a number of conclusions derived from Castro’s speeches. One of them concerns the role of the United States and the Central Intelligence Agency. Cubans on the island with little variation treated the bandido uprisings as if the U.S. government had orchestrated them directly from Washington, D.C. “Agents of imperialism” – Castro used that term frequently. Revolutionary leaders explained away the fact that thousands of peasants went into the mountains seeking to join the bandit gangs by claiming that their isolation and ignorance made them easy prey for imperialist spies. “These are actions of tiny groups of stupid and misguided men,” Che Guevara told the milicianos in 1960. “No real threat.”83 Nevertheless, the Castro government took the threat seriously, and responded with massive force.

81Evidence taken from Cuban sources suggest an alternative narrative. It indicates that the counterrevolution in the countryside had powerful organic origins. The appeal of bandadismo stemmed from the discomfort of some rural producers felt toward rapid social change. Mass mobilizations disrupted the normal rhythms of rural life. The invasion of the countryside by the National Agrarian Reform Institute altered the structures of producing, buying, and selling agricultural products. Those who benefitted by the new order – and they appeared to have been in the majority –remained loyal to the Revolution. Those who calculated that they might lose out acted on their resentments.

82True, the CIA did encourage Cuba’s rural rebellion. The bandidos could have been collaborators, a fifth column that might provide American policymakers with allies in overthrowing the first socialist republic in the Western Hemisphere. But the obstacles to American interference in Cuba’s rural affairs remained powerful. CIA incompetence in delivering arms to the alzados figures as the greatest drawback. Dedication of the militiamen is another. Lack of communication is a third. Historians should not automatically accept the government’s explanations emphasizing “ignorance.” To do so would rob the rural people of their agency. The evidence demonstrates much agency being exercised by those who chose to flee into the mountains. The outlaws won few victories in six years of fighting, and still newcomers ran away to take up arms.

83The analyst has to come back to the political instincts of Fidel Castro. His masterful consolidation of revolutionary power enabled him to coordinate all the state agencies in quelling the internal rebellion. The ministries and the mass organizations snapped to his orders. Teachers, security agencies, police, militiamen, officers and soldiers, agrarian officials, neighborhood committees, and communist administers, peasant leaders—all marched to his commands. Moreover, he used the strength of both Gusano and Bandido Counterrevolutions to heighten the dedication of his followers. CIA meddling merely raised their enthusiasm for the Revolution.

84The historian has to answer one more important question. If Washington did not control and direct the bandido insurrection, why did it end at the precise moment in 1965 that President Johnson transfered the anti-communist campaign from Cuba to Vietnam ? The White House shut down Manuel Artime’s commandos and the Miami CIA station simultaneously.

  • 84 “Bandidos capturados por ano,” n.d., document 334-(4.1), Fondo LCB. President Johnson shut down the (...)

85Actually, evidence from Cuba does not point to an abrupt end to the rebellion in 1965. That year marked the last whimper, a final gasp. The rebellion of the outlaws actually started its decline with the death of Oswaldo Ramírez in 1962. The declining intensity of the anti-revolutionary struggle could be measured in the number of alzados that revolutionary forces captured in the Escambray. Those figures tapered off every year from a height of 235 in 1961 to 14 in 1965.84 When President Johnson finally pulled funds and personnel from the anti-Castro campaign, the outlaw rebellion had already reached extinction. The rebels had not gone into the hills because of the CIA. Nor did the bandidos abandon the struggle when Washington lost interest.

86As usual, the victors had the last word. “Guerrilla warfare is a formidable weapon when fighting against exploitation, against colonialism, against imperialism,” Fidel Castro pronounced on the twelfth anniversary of the Moncada Attack. “But guerrilla warfare will never be an adequate or useful instrument for counterrevolution – for the imperialists to fight against the exploited, to fight against the people.”85

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Notes

1 See Louis A. Pérez, Jr., Lords of the Mountain : Social Banditry and Peasant Protest in Cuba, 1878-1918 (Pittsburgh : University of Pittsburgh Press, 1989) ; Rosalie Schwartz, Lawless Liberators : Political Banditry and Cuban Independence (Durham, NC : Duke University Press, 1989).

2 Víctor Dreke, From the Escambray to the Congo : In the Whirlwind of the Cuban Revolution (New York : Pathfinder Press, 2002), 170 ; Enrique G. Encinosa, Escambray : La guerra olvidada (Miami : Editorial CIBI, 1989), 26, 32 ; José R. Herrera Medina, Operación Jaula : Contragolpe en el Escambray (Havana : Casa Editorial Verde Olivo, 2006), 72-73.

3 Enrique G. Encinosa, Cuba : The Unfinished Revolution (Austin, TX : Eakin Press, 1988), 81.

4 Revista Moncada, vol. XII (June 1978) : 12-13, as quoted in Pedro Etcheverry Vázquez and Santiago Gutiérrez Oceguera, Bandidismo : Derrota de la CIA en Cuba (Havana : Editorial Capitán San Luis, 2008),

119-20. “Las piedras y los pinchazos no cesaron un momento, hasta que Osvaldo dispuso que laláramos la soga. El cuerpo fue suspendido y bajado en varias ocasiones como si fuera un muñeco, hasta el final de su vida en que lo lo dejamos arriba.”

5 Richard R. Fagen, The Transformation of Political Culture in Cuba (Stanford : Stanford University Press, 1969), 42. Also see Jesús Arboleya, The Cuban Counter-Revolution, trans. by Rafael Betancourt (Athens, OH : Ohio University, 2000), 113-19.

6 Encinosa, Cuba, 83.

7 Julio Crespo Francisco, Bandidismo en el Escambray, 1960-1965 (Havana : Editorial de Ciencias Sociales, 1986), 75.

8 Etcheverry Vázquez and Gutiérrez Oceguera, Bandidismo, 228, 243.

9 “Analisis de algunos aspectos de la actividad bandesca,” n.d., doc 555-(4.1), Museo de la Lucha Contra los Bandidos, Trinidad, Cuba [hereafter MLCB].

10 Laura Bergquist, “Epitaph for a Big Loser,” Look Magazine, 25 April 1961 ; R. Hart Phillips, The Cuban Dilemma (New York : Ivan Obolensky, 1963), 259, 311.

11 Etcheverry Vázquez and Gutiérrez Oceguera, Bandidismo, 92. A French journalist reported that the INRA nationwide ran 800 cooperatives, 604 cane copos, 268 people’s farms, 150 sugar mills and food factories, and 2,000 tiendas del pueblo. See Victor Franco, The Morning After, translated by Ivan Kats and Philip Pendered (Frederick A. Praeger (New York : Frederick A. Praeger, 1963), 115.

12 Herera Medina, Operación Jaula, 126-27.

13 William Gálvez, Camilo : Señor de la Vanguardia (Havana : Editorial de Ciencias Sociales, 1979), 341, 395 ; Guevara, Reminiscences of the Cuban Revolutionary War, 265. Chapters of Guevara’s book first appeared as short articles in Verde Olivo. For more on Félix Torres, see Encinosa, The Unfinished Revolution, 49. 57-59 ; Rafael Hernández, “‘Siempre me he considerado un socialista :’ Max Lesnik habla sobre la Revolución cubana,” Temas : Cultura, Ideología, Sociedad, no. 55 (2008), 37 ; Jon Lee Anderson, Che Guevara : A Revolutionary Life (New York : Grove Press, 1997), 338-39 ; 400.

14 Ejército Rebelde, “Orden del día de la conferencia del Escambray,” 24 Sep 1961, doc. 503-(4.1), MLCB.

15 “All Cuban mass organizations were founded at times when the revolutionary government was threatened,” says Jorge I. Domínguez. “ANAP was no exception.” Jorge I. Domínguez, Cuba : Order and Revolution (Cambridge, Mass. : Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1978), 445, 447-48. Also see The Cuba Reader : History, Culture, Politics, edited by Aviva Chomsky, Barry Carr, and Pamela Maria Smorkaloff (Durham, NC : Duke University Press, 2003), 380-81.

16 “El Departamento de Seguridad del Estado en la Lucha Contra Bandidos,” n.d. (c. 1962), Document 215-(0), MLCB. “Sobre los abastecimientos de armas y parque,” the DSE report concluded, “éstos utilizaban las capturadas en los asaltos, robos, infiltraciones desde el extranjero por aire o mar y de algunos ex-miembros de la milicia o las Fuerzas Armadas que se alzaban.”

17 Rafael Rojas, Essays in Cuban Intellectual History (New York : Palgrave MacMillan), 128.

18 “Operación de cerco,” n.d. ; “Operación de cerco y peine,” n.d. 19/3-3/5-6/1-37, Colección Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias, Fondo Lucha Contra los Bandidos, Instituto de Historia de Cuba [hereafter Fondo LCB]. “Luis Molina, pequeñe burgués, dueño de dos farmacias e cual disgustado por las leyes revolucionarias, se incorporó al movimiento MRR,” and “campesino medio perteneciente a la burguesía rural, el cual en su vida civil tenía fama de ser un individuo agitador de las masas.”

19 DSE, “Expediente EI 138,” n.d. (c. 1963), doc 401-(4.1), MLCB. Says Jorge I. Domínguez, the farmers “revolted against what they perceived as an intrusion of arbitrary outside power that threatened the security of the land and of their way of life.” Domínguez, Cuba : Order and Revolution, 443.

20 Crespo Francisco, Bandidismo en El Escambray, 296-97. “Todas esas bandas involucraron a campesinos y obreros de nuestra provincial,” one militia officer reported, “que por su ignorancia o por su position política, cooperaron de una o de otra forma con los bandidos.”

21 “Fichas Biográficas del A.B.S.” 19/6.1/2.1/1-301, Fondo LCB ; Crespo Francisco, Bandidismo en El Escambray, 103-04. “En cuanto a la composición social de los bandidos,” said one veteran militiaman, “la gran mayoría eran campesinos, obreros, empleados, ex casquitos,”

22 Crespo Francisco, Bandidismo en El Escambray, 119. “Mira que un negro alzarse contra la Revolución,” a resident of the Escambray said, “cuando éste es el único Gobierno que ha hecho algo por los negros.”

23 Joanna Beth Swanger, “Lands of Rebellion : Oriente and Escambray Encountering Cuban State Formation, 1934-1974,” Ph.D. Dissertation : University of Texas at Austin, 1999 : 287-88, 304.

24 Carlos Moore, Castro, the Black, and Africa, 21 ; Lillian Guerra, Visions of Power in Cuba : Revolution, Redemptions, and Resistance, 1959-1971 (Chapel Hill, NC : University of North Carolina Press, 2012) 182-83.

25 Ibid., 98 ; Encinosa, Escambray, 47 ; Gerald E. Poyo, Cuban Catholics in the United States, 1960-1980 (Notre Dame, IN : University of Notre Dame, 2007), 76-77.

26 “Hechos cometados en zonas donde operan bandas,” June 1962, 19/1-2/8-10/39-61, Fondo LCB.

27 See Ada Ferrer, Insurgent Cuba : Race, Nation, and Revolution, 1868-1898 (Chapel Hill, NC : University of North Carolina Press, 1999), 99-100, 144 ; Gillian McGillivray, Blazing Cane : Sugar-Communities, Class, and State Formation in Cuba, 1868-1959 (Durham, NC : Duke University Press, 2009), 4.

28 “Distintos hechos ocurridos en zona de Rodas y Cartagena desde el 9 de Noviembre,” 28 Jan 1962, 19/3-4/3 : 4.2/1-2, Fondo LCB.

29 Evelio Duque Miyar, Mis memorias : Importantes revelaciones del proceso revolucionario de Cuba (Miami : Evelio Duque Miyar, 1995), 107, as quoted in Swanger, “Lands of Rebellion,” 301.

30 Crespo Francisco, Bandidismo en El Escambray, 28, 105-06 ; Herrera Medina, Operación Jaula, 76-77.

31 Crespo Francisco, Bandidismo en El Escambray, 40 ; Hart Phillips, The Cuban Dilemma, 300.

32 Crespo Francisco, Bandidismo en El Escambray, 99-100 ; Hart Phillips, The Cuban Dilemma, 146.

33 Etcheverry Vázquez and Gutiérrez Oceguera, Bandidismo, 26-27.

34 Orlando Lorenzo Castro, “Desarrollo de la entrevista,” 17 April 1984, doc 392-(4.1) ; Augusto Sandino to Sinesia Walsh Rice, 18 Sep 1960, doc 368-(4.1), MLCB.

35 Encinosa, The Unfinished Revolution, 77 ; Hans Tanner, Counterrevolutionary Agent (London : G. T. Foulis, 1962), 47 ; For more on Sinesio Walsh, see Dreke, From the Escambray, 173 ; Hart Phillips, The Cuban Dilemma, 255.

36 “Muerte de Piti,” n.d., c. 1962, doc. 452-(4.1), MLCB.

37 Norberto Fuentes, Cazabandidos (Montevideo : Libros de la Pupila, 1970), 133.

38 Tanner, Counterrevolutionary Agent, 15 ; Herrera Medina, Operación Jaula, 106 ; Etcheverry Vázquez and Gutiérrez Oceguera, Bandidismo, 70, 74-75 ; Fuentes, Cazabandidos, 146.

39 CIA “Mil Activities of the Cuban Government in Las Villas Province,” 18 Jan 1961 ; CIA, “Increasing Opposition to Castro,” 15 Feb 1961 ; CIA, “Indications in Camaguay of Increasing Dissatisfaction with CASTRO government,” 10 March 1961, Research Reports.

40 “Operación de Cerco,” n.d., 19/3.3/5.6/1-37, Fondo LCB.

41 Armando Torre to Raúl Castro Ruz, 1 Oct 1962, 19/1-2/8-9/1-14, Fondo LCB.

42 Crespo Francisco, Bandidismo en El Escambray, 121.

43 Domínguez, Cuba : Order and Revolution, 208.

44 Raúl Menéndez Tomasevich, “(Decirlo),” n.d. (c. 1965), Doc. 328 (0), MLCB.

45 “Análisis de algunos aspectos de la actividad bandesca,” n.d., doc 555-(4.1) ; Comandante Sandino to Osvaldo Ramírez, 8 Nov 1961, doc 522-(4.1), MLBC.

46 Crespo Francisco, Bandidismo en El Escambray, 70-72 ; David Atlee Phillips, The Night Watch (New York : Bllantine Books, 1977), 123.

47 Etcheverry Vázquez and Gutiérrez Oceguera, Bandidismo, 127-28, 138-39.

48 Encinosa, Cuba, 75 ; Crespo Francisco, Bandidismo en El Escambray ; Herrera Medina, Operación Jaula, 36, 140.

49 “Minutes, 461th NSC Meet,” 26 Sep 60 ; “Minutes, 464th NSC Meeting, 20 Sep 60, Ann Whitman file, box 12, Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library, Abilene, KS ; [Deleted] to Allen W. Dulles, 12 Sep 1960, CREST.

50 Cuban government officials counted thirty-five infiltrations of arms, money, trained men in the six years of the rebellion. The CIA supposedly provided the mother ship, the freighter Rex, and the fast boats used in these operations. An unreported number of these attempts were intercepted by State Seguridad troops. Etcheverry Vázquez and Gutiérrez Oceguera, Bandidismo, 336.

51 “Análisis de algunos aspectos de la actividad bandesca,” n.d., doc 555-(4.1), MLBC ; Félix I. Rodríguez and John Weisman, Shadow Warrior (New York : Simon and Schuster, 1989), 87-88.

52 Jorge Domínguez, personal message to the author, 9 Sep 2015.

53 Ted Shackley with Richard A. Finney, Spymaster (Dulles, VA : Potomac Books, 2005), 65. Another CIA agent, Warren Frank, said, “It was hard to get agents in Cuba, but a lot of them weren’t effective.” Bayard Stockton, Flawed Patriot : The Rise and Fall of CIA Legend Bill Harvey (Washington, DC : Potomac Books, 2006), 130.

54 John Meples Spíritto served a term in prison. When released in 1970, he worked for a decade in the Ministry of Construction. Then he departed for the United States. Etcheverry Vázquez and Gutiérrez Oceguera, Bandidismo, 97, 221-41 ; Herrera Medina, Operación Jaula, 66-67.

55 “Bandas existentes en fecha Junio 3/62,” 19/3.3/6 :1-4/3-67, Fondo LCB.

56 Ibid. ; Roberto Roca, “Relaciones de Bandidos capturados,” 19/1-3/2-2/1-54, Fondo LCB

57 Herrera Medina, Operación Jaula, 100-01 ; Etcheverry Vázquez and Gutiérrez Oceguera, Bandidismo, 59, 90-91.

58 Dreke, From the Escambray, 94-95, 102 ; Etcheverry Vázquez and Gutiérrez Oceguera, Bandidismo, 110-11 ; Herrera Medina, Operación Jaula,, 81-82 ; Crespo Francisco, Bandidismo en El Escambray, 54-55 ; Encinosa, Escambray, 68.

59 Tanner, Counterrevolutionary Agent, 146.

60 Ibid., 20, 40, 74 ; Etcheverry Vázquez and Gutiérrez Oceguera, Bandidismo, 162.

61 Ibid., 194-95.

62 “Frente Nacional Democrático, Comandancia General de Operationes Escambray,” n.d. (c. 1962), doc 348-(4.1), Fondo LCB.

63 Historian Encinosa claims that the revolutionary government’s crimes outweighed those of Osvaldo Ramírez. Encinosa, Escambray, 50-51.

64 Etcheverry Vázquez and Gutiérrez Oceguera, Bandidismo, 203.

65 Etcheverry Vázquez and Gutiérrez Oceguera, Bandidismo, 199, 206-07.

66 Crespo Francisco, Bandidismo en El Escambray, 149-51. 87-89.

67 Crespo Francisco, Bandidismo en El Escambray, 141-43, 146-49.

68 The government deployed two battalions to eliminate the group of Tomás San Gil in March 1963. Luis Báez, Secretos de generales (Havana : Editorial Si-Mar, 1996), 199 ; Encinosa, Cuba, 85 ; Encinosa, Escambray, 55-56 ; Crespo Francisco, Bandidismo en El Escambray, 149-51. Also see Norberto Fuentes, Cazabandidos (Montevideo : Libros de la Pupila, 1970), 30.

69 Báez, Secretos de generales, 387, quoting Ernio Hernández Rodríguez.

70 Pedro Etcheverry Vázquez and Santiago Gutiérrez Oceguera, “El Bandidismo en Matanzas,” unp. ms., p. 21, MLCB.

71 Raúl Menéndez Tomassevich, “(Decirlo),” n.d. (c. 1965), Doc. 328 (0), MLCB ; Encinosa, The Unfinished Revolution, 75.

72 Dreke, From the Escambray, 111. Víctor Dreke later served with Che Guevara in the Congo.

73 Crespo Francisco, Bandidismo en el Escambray, 162, 176. “Vamos a vestir de verde olivo”

74 Mártires del Minint : Semblanzas biográficas, 2 vols. (Havana : Editora Política, 1990), I : 25, 29-30, 61, 172, 235, 35.

75 Ibid., I : 9-13, 40 ; Etcheverry Vázquez and Gutiérrez Oceguera, Bandidismo, 314-15 ; Dreke, From the Escambray, 114-15.

76 Crespo Francisco, Bandidismo en El Escambray, 321. For an outlaw’s view of imprisonment, see Lorrin Philipson and Rafael Llerena, Freedom Flights : Cuban Refugees Talk about Life under Castro and How They Fled His Regime (New York : Random House, 1980), 6-7, 13-14, 41-43, 61.

77 CIA Intelligence Information Cable, 6 May 1964 ; Directorate of Intelligence, “Weekly Cuban Summary,” 21 Apr 1965, National Security Files, Country File, Boxes 22 and 36, Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library, Austin, TX. In 1966, a Stanford University Professor visited one resettlement camp of Escambray peasants in Pinar del Río Province. Fagan, The Transformation of Political Culture, 170.

78 Fagen, The Transformation of Political Culture, 170, 173-75. Also see Crespo Francisco, Bandidismo en El Escambray, 164, 294. And voluntary labor by Pittsburg economist.

79 “Fidel Castro Speech on 26 of July Anniversary,” Santa Clara, 26 July 1965, http://www.lanic.utexas.edu/project/castro/db/1965/19650726.html, accessed 28 January 2015.

80 Pedro Etcheverry Vázquez and Santiago Gutiérrez Oceguera, “El Bandidismo en La Habana,” unp. ms., p. 15, Museo de la Lucha Contra los Bandidos, Trinidad, Cuba.

81 Etcheverry Vázquez and Gutiérrez Oceguera, Bandidismo, 214, 327-28, 330. On the U.S. Naval Base and the counterrevolution, see Jana K. Lipman, Guantánamo : A Working Class History between Empire and Revolution (Berkeley : University of California Press, 2009), 168-69.

82 Domínguez, Cuba : Order and Revolution, 345-46 ; Encinosa, Cuba, xii ; Etcheverry Vázquez and Gutiérrez Oceguera, Bandidismo, 336 ; Guerra, Visions of Power, 185-86.

83 “Weeka Report,” 14 Sep 1960, 737.00(W), 9-1460, Department of State Records : Cuba, 1960-1963.

84 “Bandidos capturados por ano,” n.d., document 334-(4.1), Fondo LCB. President Johnson shut down the CIA’s Miami office in 1965. Shackly, Spymaster, 62 ; David Corn, Blond Ghost (New York : Simon & Schuster, 1994), 116 ; Stockton, Flawed Patriot, 74-75.

85 “Fidel Castro Speech on 26 of July Anniversary,” Santa Clara, 26 July 1965, http://www.lanic.utexas.edu/project/castro/db/1965/19650726.html, accessed 28 January 2015.

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