For most Cubans, New Year’s Day comes with mixed emotions. The convivial occasion, on the one hand, of saying goodbye to the departing year and welcoming a new one, is celebrated joyously as is the custom in most parts of the world. At the same time, a degree of sadness engulfs Cubans. That day, marked the historical aberration of the Communist takeover of Cuba occurred. The claim of an epic guerrilla-led, revolutionary war of national liberation victory, militarily won, and consummated to overcome abject poverty, social injustices and neo-colonial claims in Cuba is fraudulent and part of the historiographical farce the far-left has conned a great part of the world into believing. Comprehensive deceit and walloping disinformation have been the foundational pillars of Castro-Communism since its inception.
“Tyranny,” remarked the eminent political scientist and former United Nations Ambassador, Jeanne Kirkpatrick, “thrives only on deception” (Kirkpatrick 138). Unbeknownst to most non-Cubans, there were no major military battles fought in the two-year guerrilla campaign (1956-1958) to oust the authoritarian regime of Fulgencio Batista, only skirmishes. There was much terrorist activities, though, like blowing up bombs in theaters, stores, and schools in urban centers. Yet, that did not stop the Cuban economy from having its most successful economic year in 1957, since the Republic’s founding. The collapse of the Batista regime had more to do with international factors than a military defeat by Castro’s rebel rag-tag army. The romance associated with a popular revolutionary “storming-the-Bastille-type” of political power process never occurred.
The variables which most influenced the collapse of the Batista government were a well-programmed disinformation strategy organized by the Comintern (Communist International), subsequent Soviet intelligence entities, certain media outlets and international factors. Among these, those that produced the greatest dividends for Communism’s purpose were the far-reaching disinformation effects of penetrating Cuba’s republican institutions (unions and political parties), government agencies of the United States, particularly the State Department, fake media news coverage by newspapers outlets such as The New York Times and a resulting arms embargo by the Eisenhower Administration.
The truth is that International Communism’s desire to get a foothold in the Western Hemisphere did not begin with the opportunity presented in 1956 by toppling a left-wing caudillo like Batista. Cuba had a formal Communist party since 1925. Additionally, according to recently obtained intelligence documents from the Czech Republic (then Czechoslovakia) and related in the brilliant book El soviet caribeño (“The Soviet Caribbean”) by César Reynel Aguilera, as early as December 1919, the Soviets had a Communist presence inside Cuba with the subversive purpose of attempting to obtain political power (Aguilera, location 198 Kindle).
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Ion Mihai Pacepa, former Lieutenant General of the Securitate, Communist Romania’s secret police, and the highest-ranking defector from the former Socialist Bloc, categorically stated that, “During the Cold War, more people in the Soviet bloc worked for the disinformation machinery than for the Soviet army and defense industry put together” (Pacepa, location 837 Kindle). This aggressive, well-planned scheme of falsifying data and information was precisely what opened the door for power for the 26th of July Movement (“26/7M”) which Fidel Castro headed, one of three coalition groups fighting Batista’s authoritarian rule.
The eyes, ears and the resulting data presented to the Eisenhower Administration on Cuba, Castro and the 26//M was prepared and filtered principally by two individuals in the State Department: Roy Rubottom, Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs, and William Wieland (a/k/a Arturo Montenegro), Director of the Office of Caribbean and Mexican Affairs. Both figures offered benign views of the Castro brothers, challenging American intelligence sources that connected Fidel Castro with Communist ties going back to the assassination of Colombian Liberal leader, Jorge Eliécer Gaitán in 1948 and the ensuing riots known as the “Bogotazo”. Rubottom and Wieland, during Senate testimony following the Communist acquisition of power in Cuba, were identified by numerous witnesses, such as United States Ambassador to Cuba Earl E. T. Smith and William D. Pawley, an American diplomat, as being the culprits in presenting to the U.S. government false narratives and claims concerning Castro’s Communist connections. Smith and Pawley were only two of a large chorus of expert witnesses that contradicted the discredited assersions made by Rubottom and Wieland.
Another important disinformation element were three front-page interviews and subsequent reporting of Fidel Castro by journalist Herbert Matthews for The New York Times beginning in February 1957. Matthews presented to the American public an altered picture of reality. First, he falsely made fictious accounts of the number of rebel soldiers he witnessed. Consistently, Matthews told the American people that there was no shred of Communism within Castro’s movement, a fabricated feat he continued even after the Cuban tyrant himself publicly admitted that he was a Communist. Many have correctly compared him to another Times correspondent infamously remembered for being a Communist dictator apologist, Walter Duranty. In that case, the admiration was for Stalin. Anthony DePalma, another New York Times reporter, did not miss the mark when he titled an investigative book he authored looking into Matthews whitewashing of Castro’s past: The Man Who Invented Fidel (Public Affairs 2007). Other American news outlets followed suit from the favorable “Robin Hood” coverage the enamored Matthews gave Cuban Communism in its pre-political stage.
Consequently, the exaggerated reports against the Batista regime, the Communist affiliation denial and democratic credentials given to Castro by the cited State Department personnel and the Matthews Times interviews and reports, convinced the Eisenhower Administration that Batista had to go. On March 14, 1958, the United States issued an arms embargo against the Cuban government. This was a severe psychological blow to the Batista regime. This was especially so, since it was accompanied by aggressive lobbying by American officials on other international arms vendors pressuring them to follow suit.
Earl E. T. Smith, the mentioned United States Ambassador to Cuba at the time, marvelously details in his classic, The Fourth Floor, how the American government exerted monumental pressure on Batista to abandon power quickly. On January 1st, 1959, at approximately 2:00 AM, Batista resigned, and a provisional government was established as dictated by the Cuban 1940 Constitution (Smith 187). Shortly thereafter, Batista, his closest advisors and family members, left Cuba. With them and the ensuing power vacuum, so fell the Republic.
Fidel Castro and his intimate power circle hid from the world their Marxist inclinations and Soviet ties. Within less than two years, Castro-Communism had fully established a totalitarian regime. In 1961, Fidel Castro publicly admitted that he was a Marxist and had been one all his life. Cuba’s republican constitutional army, at the time of the two-year military campaign, had a 100 to 1 number superiority to the rebels. Castro and Communism’s victory was an asymmetric one. Disinformation, both intelligence, media and diplomatic, along with an arms embargo and its psychological impact, delivered to Cuba and consequently to all Latin America, a tremendous disservice.
Julio M Shiling, political scientist, writer, director of Patria de Martí and The Cuban American Voice, lecturer and media commentator. A native of Cuba, he currently lives in the United States. Twitter: @JulioMShiling // Julio es politólogo, escritor, director de Patria de Martí y The Cuban American Voice. Conferenciante y comentarista en los medios. Natural de Cuba, vive actualmente en EE UU.