Origins and Growth of the Democratic Opposition in Cuba

Some history on Cuba’s growing opposition movement from Notes from the Cuban Exile Quarter:

Origins and Growth of the Democratic Opposition in Cuba

“It is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles; if you do not know your enemies but do know yourself, you will win one and lose one; if you do not know your enemies nor yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle.” – Sun Tzu, The Art of War

The democratic opposition in Cuba predates the Castro dictatorship. It came into being on March 10, 1952 in reaction to General Fulgencio Batista’s coup d’état against Cuba’s democracy. The movement was divided between those who sought regime change through the remaining institutions of the republic and attempted to engage Batista in a civic dialogue and those who took up arms in an armed struggle. Batista’s intransigence to leave power through the dialogue process made armed resistance more attractive. However, the military was corrupt and lacked fighting spirit and this meant that armed resistance could succeed. Fidel Castro’s rise to national prominence was predicated on restoring the pre-existing democratic order using violent means and received support from Cuba’s last democratically elected president, Carlos Prio Socarras.

The consolidation of power, with the assistance of the Soviet Union and the East German intelligence service into a totalitarian communist dictatorship was a rude shock to many compatriots of Fidel Castro who had fought alongside him to remove Batista from power. For example, President Carlos Prio Socarras who had backed Castro against Batista and returned to Cuba in 1959 in a short period of time understood that a democratic transition was not taking place went back into exile and in opposition to Fidel Castro. Many others who had fought in guerilla actions against Batista went back into the hills of the Escambray in an anti-Castro guerilla struggle that continued throughout the 1960s.

The Castro regime with Soviet and East German advisors overhauled the military and installed a disciplined fighting force. By 1962 there were more than 40,000 Soviet troops in Cuba. Following the Cuban Missile Crisis Fidel Castro also employed former Nazi Waffen SS to train Cuban units and the Cuban dictator purchased weapons from the extreme right in Germany.

The democratic armed resistance to the Castro dictatorship, mainly based in the Escambray mountain range in central Cuba was eventually crushed, but it took six years and the forced transfer of thousands to accomplish it.

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