War Against the Bandits

War Against the Bandits

The War of EscambrayThe War Against the Bandits was a rebellion against the Communist government of Fidel Castro, mainly by peasants, small farmers and former landowners in the central provinces of Cuba and the Escambray Mountains.


The appellation of Lucha Contra Bandidos (War Against Bandits) was ascribed by the Cuban authorities and their historians to denigrate the anti-communist insurgency, the Alzado rebels, "who have taken to the hills" in opposition to Fidel Castro's dictatorship. This war was not known as such, certainly, by the people of Las Villas province, where the opposition first developed, intensified, and this province was the principal area of combat. The uprising began almost immediately after Castro's rise to power in 1959. It was led by former Castro supporters and small landowners disenchanted by his close ties to the Soviet Union and what they saw as his betrayal of the revolution's democratic ideals. The rural population (in Cuba these rural dwellers are commonly called guajiros) violently resisted the government's nationalization of their land in Soviet-style collectivization. The guerrilla war lasted longer and involved far more rebels than had the original struggle against the Batista forcescite web | url = http://archive.newsmax.com/archives/articles/2002/6/13/172659.shtml |title = Interview with Dr Kantor, part I | publisher = NewsMax | first = Myles B | last = Kantor | accessdate = 2007-12-24 | date = 2002-06-14 | work = Front Page Magazine] Ros (2006) pp. 159–201.] cite web | title = Anti-Cuba Bandits: terrorism in past tense | note = The public Cuban government view | url = http://www.escambray.cu/Eng/Bandits/FpasadoE.htm] . The Escambray rebellion was finally crushed by the Cuban government's overwhelming Soviet-backed forces in 1965. Even pro-Castro sources admit: “Cuban casualties in the Escambray alone were nearly three times as great as at the Bay of Pigscite web | title = Who Needs Cold War Falsification? Max Frankel and The Cuban Missile Crisis | accessdate = 2007-12-24 | work = Commentary | url = http://www.swans.com/library/art11/lproy26.html | first = Louis | last = Proyect | date = 2005-07-04 | publisher = Swans] .

One notes that by equating these small farm holding guajiros to Kulaks, almost 30 years before radical Cuban marxist Antonio Guiteras Holmes (considered a prior model for Castro by the present Cuban government) had stated he wished to avoid the conflict engendered by the formation of this class:

The insurgent guajiro-rural farmers, aided by some former Batista forces, but mostly led by former Revolutionary Directorate rebels (i.e., 13 of March Movement), such as anti-communists Osvaldo Ramirez and Comandante William Alexander Morgan both of whom had fought Batista "casquitos" in the same area only a few years before [cite web | url = http://www.latinamericanstudies.org/william-morgan.htm | title = William MORGAN | publisher = Latin American Studies] . Morgan himself was executed in 1961 long before resistance ended [cite web | url = http://educationforum.ipbhost.com/lofiversion/index.php/t4975.html | title = A Fight for Citizenship: The Rebel Without a Home | accessdate = 2007-12-24 | publisher = Miami Herald | date = 2005-09-18] . The CIA also provided very limited and often ineffective (e.g. wrong caliber ammunition) aid to the insurgents, and finally withdrew all support, ensuring their ultimate defeat. Some of the failures could be attributed to Castro’s “roll up” of CIA operatives in CubaVolkman, 1995.] . However, after the failed Bay of Pigs Invasion, US and CIA interest waned significantly. Castro's forces, on the other hand, were strongly supported by massive Soviet assistance.


In the insurgents' offensive in the summer of 1961 (following the failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion), Alzado leader Osvaldo Ramirez returned to the Escambray mountains and declined Fidel Castros' emissary, Comandante Faure Chomón's offer to surrender. Chomon had been his chief in the Revolutionary Directorate in the same Escambray in the war against Batista.Faria, Cuba in Revolution (2002), pp. 88–93.]

The leaders of the Cuban Communist forces Lucha contra Bandidos (LCB) were Commandantes Raul Menendez Tomassevich, founding member of the Cuban Stalinist communist party [cite web | url = http://www.blythe.org/nytransfer-subs/2001-Caribbean-Vol-3/Cuban_General_Raul_Tomassevich_Dies | title = Cuban General Raul MENENDEZ Tomassevich Dies | publisher = Associated Press | accessdate = 2007-12-24 |date = 2001-08-17] , and also convicted forgerDe la Cova, 2007 p. 314 note 47.] and Lizardo Proenzacite web | url = http://www.latinamericanstudies.org/book/escambray-27.htm | title = Escambray: La Guerra Olvidada | last = Encinosa | first = Enrique G | publisher = Latin American Studies | pages = 27] cite web | url = http://www.escambray.cu/che/montanas.html | title = Montañas | publisher = Escambray] cite web | url = http://secretoscuba.cultureforum.net/Informacion-General-c3/Crimenes-de-Fidel-Castro-f20/TODO-SOBRE-LA-GUERRA-EN-EL-ESCAMBRAY-p45803.htm | title = Todo Sobre la Guerra en el Escambray | publisher = Secretos de Cuba] . The main tactic was that of the deployment of thousands of troops against small groups of alzados in progressively constricting, concentric rings of encirclement.Encinosa, Unvanquished, pp. 73–86.]

The Communist leaders sent by Castro to clear the hills of the Escambray Mountains (La segunda limpia del Escambray) pledged that they would wipe out the alzados. They were to "comb the brush, elbow to elbow" until they had cleared the hills of the anticommunist rebels and their guajiro supporters.cite web | url = http://www.newsmax.com/archives/articles/2002/11/18/152446.shtml | title = Cuban War Criminal Touring US: Victor Dreke and the Real Story of the Escambray Wars | last = Faria Jr, MD | first = Miguel A | publisher = NewsMax | accessdate = 2007-12-24 | date = 2002-11-18] They also pledged that they would capture Comandante Ramirez. In the end, pure numbers and lack of outside assistance, particularly supplies, would overcome the rebels.Faria, Cuba in Revolution, pp. 88–93.]

The outnumbered rebels often fought to death. Cuban forces used tactics that consisted of sweeps by long columns of ill-trained militia, which caused heavy government losses but ultimately won the war. Hispano-Soviet advisor Francisco Ciutat de Miguel, also present at the Bay of Pigs Invasion, played a major role in the "pacification" operation. Castro employed overwhelming force, at times consisting of 250,000 troopscite web | url = http://www.cubanet.org/CNews/y02/may02/30a6.htm | title = Cuba News | publisher = Cuba Net | date = 2002-05-02 (see Puebla).] The insurgents sometimes defeated their opponents, but the resulting attrition for the much smaller insurgent forces (at most 4,000 in total, Puebla) decided the war.

Defeat of the Insurgents

The insurgency was finally defeated by the Cuba government's use of overwhelming force, mass arrests, executions, and internal deportations to “closed” towns (labor camps) in the westernmost province of Pinar del Rio — an effective if brutal tactic used by the British high command in South Africa in the Second Boer War, by the Spanish General Valeriano Weyler during Cuba's War of Independence, and by the USSR in its battles with anti-communist guerrillas. A partisan pro-Cuban government view point is presented by combat leader Victor Dreke in his 2002 book From el Escambray to the Congo. This is notable for its condemnation of former combatants from the war against BatistaDreke 2002 p. 68 ‘Cubela… traitor to the revolution’; p. 93 ‘nearly all… counter revolutionaries’; p. 95 ‘William Morgan raped’.] . However, the book also describes the tactics and mindset of the Cuban government forces at time and its ruthless use of force and no prisoners attitude.

In 1962, food rationing was introduced throughout the entire island. While some argue this was a response to the United States embargo against Cuba, the Cuban government stated this method of distribution control served to ensure each citizen a minimum intake of food, regardless of the person’s social and economical status. Much of the rationed food was grown in Cuba in abundance prior to the revolution. In practice rationing provided state control over everyone's food supply allowing Cuba's government to withhold food from its opponents. Without the new government food ration cards, the remaining insurgents starved. Some of them surrendered, only to be immediately executed. Others fought on to the death. A few managed to escapecite web | url = http://www.latinamericanstudies.org/book/escambray-18.htm | title = Escambray: La Guerra Olvidada | last = Encinosa | first = Enrique G. | pages = 18 | publisher = Latin American Studies] . The losses by Castro's forces are believed to be staggering, but there is little documentation available to determine the actual numbers. The resistance was suppressed with ruthlessnessFranqui (1984), pp. 111–5.] .



Pro-Cuban government

* Puebla, Teté (Brigadier General of the Cuban Armed Forces) 2003 Marianas in Combat: the Mariana Grajales Women's Platoon in Cuba's Revolutionary War 1956–58, New York Pathfinder (Paperback) ISBN 0-87348-957-8.
*Dreke, Victor (Edited by Mary-Alice Waters) 2002 From el Escambray to the Congo. Pathfinder Press, New York. ISBN 0873489470, ISBN 0873489489.


* De la Cova, Antonio Rafael. 2007 The Moncada Attack: Birth of the Cuban Revolution. University of South Carolina Press. ISBN 978-1570036729, p. 314 note 47.
* Encinosa, Enrique G. l989 El Escopetero Chapter in Escambray: La Guerra Olvidada, Un Libro Historico de Los Combatientes Anticastristas en Cuba (1960–1966). Editorial SIBI, Miami.
* Encinosa, Enrique G. 2004 Unvanquished — Cuba's resistance to Fidel Castro, Pureplay Press, Los Angeles, pp. 73–86. ISBN 0971436665.
* [http://www.haciendapub.com/ Faria, Miguel A] . 2002 Cuba in Revolution — Escape from a Los Paradise, pp. 88–93. ISBN 0-9641077-3-2.
* Fermoselle, Rafael 1992 Cuban leadership after Castro: Biographies of Cuba's top commanders North-South Center, University of Miami, Research Institute for Cuban Studies; 2nd ed (paperback) ISBN 0-935501-35-5.
* Franqui, Carlos 1984 (foreword by G. Cabrera Infante and translated by Alfred MacAdam from Spanish 1981 version) Family portrait with Fidel. 985 edition Random House First Vintage Books, New York. ISBN 0394726200 .
* Priestland, Jane (editor) 2003 British Archives on Cuba: Cuba under Castro 1959–1962. Archival Publications International Limited, 2003, London ISBN 1-903008-20-4.
* Ros, Enrique 2006 El clandestinaje y la lucha armada contra castro (The clandestinity and the armed fight against Castro, Cuba y sus Jueces) Ediciones Universal, Miami ISBN 1593880790.
* Volkman, Ernest 1995 Our man in Havana. Cuban double agents 1961–1987 in: Espionage: The Greatest Spy Operations of the Twentieth Century Wiley, New York ISBN 0-471-16157-8.

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