By Martin Guevara
HAVANA TIMES — Today we celebrate or suffer, according to how you want to look at it, the 63rd anniversary of the attack on the Moncada Barracks, 99 years after it was constructed in 1854 as the Barracks of the New Prison, under the charge of the Marquis of Villalte, and which was renamed after the famous mambi general, Guillermo Moncada, at the turn of the 20th century.
The attack on the Moncada Barracks was carried out by 135 anti-Batista assailants who had been trained on the Siboney farm and were led by three leaders: Fidel Castro, who led the column of 95 men that would attack the barracks, his brother Raul Castro who took charge of the Palace of Justice with 10 troops and the brave Abel Santamaria who along with 21 men took over the Civil Hospital.
Out of those responsible for attacking the barracks, a group of 8 men took the lead to attack post number 3. However, a security guard detachment took them by surprise and they were able to send word to the military forces within the barracks so they could organize. This group of assailants was followed by 45 men with handguns.
And behind those men was Fidel, behind as always. Another important group of men that were carrying rifles got lost in the streets of Santiago de Cuba city and arrived late to the battle scene. Men on both sides died amidst the shooting and the insurgents began to withdraw in groups of ten under the protection provided by six snipers.
Fidel managed to escape without so much as a scrape of a bullet, and later, he handed himself into the authorities as his life has been guaranteed by an archbishop from Santiago de Cuba, Enrique Perez Serantes, and judging by the overwhelming amount of clues, he offered some other secret concessions.
During the attack, many barrack guards and a large number of guerrilla fighters perished, which led to the significant increase in repressive measures in the immediate aftermath of the attacking forces being defeated, which was brutal and unworthy of the Republic of Cuba’s prestigious army that had been formed in the fight for Independence against the Spanish only half a century beforehand.
One of the three commanders, Abel Santamaria, was brutally tortured; his nails were pulled off and his testicles cut off before he died, and as if that wasn’t sadistic enough, they took his deformed body to his sister’s cell, Haydee Santamaria, to show her what they had done to her brother, to teach her a lesson.
The other commanders of the attack, Fidel, the most responsible for the attack and the mastermind behind it, and his brother Raul Castro, walked out of that incident uninjured and immune, without so much as a scratch, and they spent only a year and a half in jail, a conspicuously lenient punishment given the fact that they were responsible for a massacre against the Army and the Republic.
Nowadays, and even in the most sophisticated of countries, 20 year prison sentences are at least served, if not life sentences or the death penalty for such acts. However, in the ‘50s, there were very few countries where they wouldn’t have died as soon as they set foot in a jail cell.
Soon after turning himself in, Fidel, who had probably analyzed the propaganda effect of the Moncada Barracks attack, decided to defend himself in the courtroom and his defense statement went down in History which he later established as an official document, in a pamphlet known as “History will absolve me.”
They served their sentence at the prison on Isle of Pines [today Isla de la Juventud], the same prison where, years later, Fidel and Raul would send anyone who opposed them to serve their sentences in inhuman conditions after the Revolution triumphed:, from rebels in the Escambray mountains, to simple detractors who weren’t following the prophetic course linked to the USSR that was surreptitiously taking over the Revolution that they themselves had sponsored, whether it was with logistics, money, services and even their own blood, to overthrow the Batista dictatorship and to establish a democracy such as that outlined by the 1940 Constitution, which was inspired by the 1931 Spanish Constitution.
This modern text was approved by no less than Grau San Martin, Prio Socarras, Eduardo Chibas, Blas Roca and Juan Marinello at the National Constitutional Assembly, and was very sophisticated for that time and still is today.
Sixty-three years after the attack, the Castro brothers who walked out of that massacre unharmed, continue in power under lock and key. The leaders who told their men to attack the barracks so as to overthrow an oppressive regime that was in power for a ridiculous amount of time if we now compare it to the disgraceful half a century that which later they, as “uprising patriots” against Batista, have had to make their behinds comfortable on the throne of power. This, on the backs of dissidents and those riddled with fear, and the impoverished Cuban people who have little dignity and live in their enduring oppression.
Having entered History by the always purifying passage to the Kingdom of Darkness, rest assured that the Santamaria siblings and the dead on both sides of that attack one morning 63 years ago have been dismissed, pardoned and absolved by History.
However, this same ambiguous magma of facts has been transformed into a date on the calendar, saint’s day, anniversaries, banners, legends and somewhere among all of this there lies some truth, which we know from History, and that’s that History hasn’t reserved Raul and his illustrious brother, who continue to live, a place on the forgiveness bench, not even in the corner of benefit of the doubt.