Wednesday, September 28, 2011


Here is the first page of a letter that is the property of the US government held in US Archives (ARC#30240 Record), written by Señor Fidel Castro at age 14. The letter is transcribed after the photocopy of the page pasted below. It would be interesting to discuss the implications of this letter with a psychiatrist, to see if it foretells his future behavior. Perhaps he hated America so much because FDR failed to send him the $10 he so clearly needed to have. Interesting, too, that he offered to take FDR to see an iron mine in Oriente Province, the seat of the M-267 movement, to make Cuba's natural resources available to the United States for ship building prior to the US entry into World War II. Finally, it is particularly interesting that Fidel lied about his age. In 1940 when the letter was written, he was 14, not 12 as he stated.

I suppose the combination of failing to earn $10 or sell iron ore to the US, coupled with his failure to conquer Hollywood six years later (see prior blog), must have contributed to his alienation and descent into the antithesis of capitalism. 

Part of the joy of writing is the research and the discovery of historical artifacts that did not make it into the history books when I was in school. By the way, the letter was discovered in 1974 among 8 billion documents that had been overlooked at the National Archives.

Part of the joy of writing is the research and the discovery of historical artifacts that did not make it into the history books when I was in school. By the way, the letter was discovered in 1974 among 8 billion documents that had been overlooked at the National Archives.


Santiago de Cuba

Nov 6 1940

Mr Franklin Roosvelt, President of the United States.

My good friend Roosvelt I don't know very English, but I know as much as write to you. I like to hear the radio, and I am very happy, because I heard in it, that you will be President for a new (periodo). I am twelve years old. I am a boy but I think very much but I do not think that I am writing to the President of the United States. If you like, give me a ten dollars bill green american, in the letter, because never, I have not seen a ten dollars bill green american and I would like to have one of them.

My address is:

Sr Fidel Castro
Colegio de Dolores
Santiago de Cuba
Oriente Cuba

I don't know very English but I know very much Spanish and I suppose you don't know very Spanish but you know very English because you are American but I am not American.

(Thank you very much)

Good by. Your friend,


Fidel Castro

If you want iron to make your sheaps ships I will show to you the bigest (minas) of iron of the land. They are in Mayari Oriente Cuba.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

When did Fidel Castro Become a Communist?

Although it is not a question I attempt to answer in The Death of the White Rose, I have been intrigued by the question of how did Fidel, a lawyer, become a communist? I had always assumed that he fell under the influence of the Soviet Union after the revolution, much as Ho Chi Minh turned to communism after the west shunned his advocacy of an independent Indo-China at the peace treaty negotiations at the conclusion of World War One. It is now quite apparent that Fidel became a communist in the beginning of the 50s. His brother, Raul, was indoctrinated into communism when he went to Moscow years before the revolution.
But this begs the question, what turned Fidel toward communism? I’m sure there are some scholarly tomes that have addressed this question. So far, if they are in English, they have not come across my desk. I had heard that in the 40s he had tried to become an actor in Hollywood. Last night, under the loosest definition of research, I watched Easy to Wed, starring Lucille Ball, Van Johnson and Esther Williams. Lucille Ball stole the show. The movie was released in 1947. The plot involved a millionaire duck hunter whose daughter, Esther Williams, was slandered by a NY newspaper while she was on vacation in Mexico City with her father. Father instructs his lawyer to sue the paper for $2 million. The newspaper hires a former reporter, Van Johnson, whose primary skill was the seduction of women. They want him to marry Lucille Ball and then get Esther Williams to seduce him, creating the ability of Lucille Ball to sue Esther for alienation of affection of her spouse. That lawsuit will be used to negotiate a settlement of Esther’s suit against the newspaper. For this service, Van Johnson is to be paid $50,000. Now, it must be remembered that there always had to be a swimming pool scene so that Esther Williams could display her Olympic athletic talent in a pool. The resort they were all staying at had a huge pool with an enormous ramp that appeared much like a ski jump. Esther descended the ramp on a luge and skipped across the pool until gravity stopped her close to the far end, allowing her to swim to the ladder.
Since the pool was at a fancy resort, the pool area was populated with very fancy people sipping tropical drinks and listening to live Latin music.  Seated at a poolside table, wearing only a bathing suit, a drink in his hand, is none other than Fidel Castro! Of course, at that time he did not have Brillo hair and a scraggly beard. While a student at Havana University, he earned extra money doing bit parts. I can only wonder if the superficiality of life in a democracy where people sue for $2 million and are paid $50,000 to gain a negotiating bargaining chip, and where hotel guests in a tropical climate are seen wearing furs, may have made him wonder if there is a sensible alternative to capitalism!
I know it made me wonder why some producer paid real money to the writer to produce this piece of garbage.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Batista's Departure

To clarify my prior post about Fidel's speech on January 9, 1959, I did not mean to imply that Batista left on that date, too. He departed about midnight on December 31, 1958 from Camp Columbia, a military air base. At the time, Castro was in Oriente province in far eastern Cuba, having just defeated Batista's army. He began a caravan on January 1, 1959 from Santiago de Cuba west to Havana, arriving there to speak on January 9th.

I read a joke on an English language blog written by Rebeca Monzo from Cuba:

A teacher asks her students what is the future tense of the infinitive "to protest?"
Without hesitating a second, Pedro raises his hand and answers, "prison."

So much for democracy in Fidel's Cuba.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Fidel Castro's Speech to Citizens of Cuba, January 9, 1959

In the course of doing research I came across the speech given by Fidel upon his arrival in Havana after Batista left for the Dominican Republic. During the speech, a white dove came and perched on his shoulder, a staged showing that Providence was smiling on him. With the hindsight of 62 years, it is painfully clear that the democratic elections promised in the speech were illusory and that the Cuban people traded one despot for another, only in the process the middle and upper classes, and with them the relative prosperity of Cuba, were decimated. Here is the speech in its entirety. Reportedly, it took 9 hours to deliver.

Fellow citizens:

I beg of you to maintain order.  Are they not revolutionaries,
those who are here?  Are there not many rebel soldiers here?  Are there not
many army men here?  Then we must have discipline here, and everyone must
keep silent.  It is my duty to speak here tonight.  I am faced with one of
the perhaps most difficult of my duties in this long process of struggle
which began in Santiago de Cuba on 30 November 1956.  The people are
listening.  The revolutionary fighters are listening, and the soldiers of
the army are listening.  Their fate is in our hands.

I believe that we are at a crossroads in our history.  The tyranny
has been overthrown.  The happiness is tremendous, but nonetheless much
remains to be done still.  Let us not deceive ourselves in believing that
what lies ahead will all be easy.  Perhaps all that lies ahead will be more

To state the truth is the duty of every revolutionary.  To deceive
the people, to awaken in them deceitful illusions will always result in the
worst of consequences, and I believe that the people must be warned against
an excess of optimism.  How did the rebel army win the war?  By telling the
truth.  And how did the tyranny lose it?  By deceiving the soldiers.

As we were faced with the duty, we made this clear over the Rebel
Radio and warned all the comrades, so that the same would not happen to
them.  This was not the case with the army, in which all of the troops fell
into error, because the officers and soldiers were never told the truth,
and this is where I wish to begin.  Or rather I wish to continue in this
pattern, that of always telling the people the truth.  A period of time has
elapsed, which perhaps will represent a considerable advance.  Here we are
in the capital, in Columbia, the revolutionary forces are triumphant.  The
government has been established and recognized by many countries in the
world.  Seemingly peace has been won, but, however, we should not be
optimistic.  As we proceeded here today, while the people laughed and
expressed joy, we were concerned, and the fact that the crowd which
gathered to welcome us was most unusual and the happiness of the people was
so great made our concern the greater, because it made our responsibility
to history and to the people of Cuba the greater.

The revolution is no longer confronted with an army ready for
combat.  Who, in the future, can the enemies of the revolution be?  Who,
since the people are victorious, can be the enemies of the revolution in
times to come?  The worst enemies of the Cuban revolution in the future may
be the revolutionaries themselves.  On one occasion I said to a rebel
fighter that when we are not faced with the enemy, when the war has ended,
the only enemies the revolution can have will be we ourselves, and for this
reason I always say that we must be more demanding of the rebel soldiers
than of anyone, because it will depend on them whether the revolution
triumphs or fails.

There are many kinds of revolutionaries, and many kinds of
revolution.  We have been hearing talk of revolution for a long time.  Even
on 10 March, there was talk of revolutionaries.  We have heard talk of
revolutionaries for a long time, too.  I recall my first impression of
revolutionaries.  Later, study and some maturity gave me an idea of what a
revolution really was, and what a revolutionary really was.  But my first
impression of a revolutionary goes back to childhood.  So and so was in
this or that battle, and such and such was a revolutionary.  In the name of
revolution a caste was created, and there were revolutionaries then who
wanted to live off the revolution.  And it is possible that those who talk
the most were those who had done the least, and it is certain that they
went to the ministries to seek public posts, hastening to profit from the
revolution.  And we cannot fall into this, or else we would be throwing
away, as they did, the revolutionary ideal.

I recall, from my first impressions as a boy, those
revolutionaries who went around wearing 45 pistols in their belts and
wanted to do things their own way.  One had to fear them because they were
capable of killing anyone.  They went to the officers of high officials,
threatening them in order to obtain what they wanted, which these officials
had to give them.  And in fact, one wonders: where is the revolution they
undertook?  Because there was no revolution and there were very few
revolutionaries.  The first question those of us who undertook the
revolution must ask ourselves is what our intentions were in doing so, and
whether an ambition, an ignoble desire, was hidden in any of us.  We must
ask ourselves if each of the combatants in this revolution had a firm and
heartfelt idea or thought because of some egotistical goal or in the
pursuit of other unknown but inadmissible goals.

If we undertook this revolution thinking that if only the tyranny
were overthrow, we could enjoy the advantages of power, planning to mount
the throne and live like a king, in a little palace, expecting life to be a
lark for us from then on, if this was why we became revolutionaries, if we
thought of removing one minister in order to impose another, to remove one
man to impose another, it would not have been worth the trouble undertaking
the revolution.  But I know that in each one of us there was a real spirit
of sacrifice.  I know that in each one of us there was a desire to do this,
expecting no reward.  And if we were ready to give up everything in
advance, we were ready also to carry out our duty as sincere

This question must be asked because the fate of Cuba, of ourselves
and of the people, may depend to a great extent on this examination of our
consciences.  When I hear talk of columns, of battle fronts, of troops, I
always reflect.  Because here our strongest column, our best unit, the only
troops capable of winning the war alone are the people.

No general can do more than the people.  No army can do more than
the people.  I was asked what troops I would prefer to command, and I
answered I would prefer to command the people.  Because the people are
unconquerable and it was the people who won this war, because we had no
army, we had no fleet, we had no tanks, we had no planes, we had no heavy
guns, we had no military academies or recruiting and training teams.  We
had neither divisions nor regiments nor companies nor platoons, but we have
the confidence of the people, and with this alone we were able to win the
battle for liberty.

The people have won this war.  And I say this in case anyone
believes that the people have been deceived.  And therefore, the people are
more important than anything.  But there is something else: the revolution
does not serve my interests as a person, nor those of any other commander
or captain.  The interests the revolution serves are those of the people.
Those who win or lose by the revolution are the people, and it was the
people who suffered the horrors of these years, the people who had to
decide if in ten, fifteen or twenty years they and their children and their
grandchildren would still by suffering from the horrors to which the people
of Cuba were subjected under such dictatorships as those of Machado and

It is of great concern to the people whether we will do well by
this revolution just completed, and the one before that, etc., and thus it
is the people who will suffer the consequence of our errors, because there
is no error without consequences for the people.  There is no political
error for which one does not pay sooner or later.  Today's circumstances
are not the same as those of yesterday.  For example, as of the present
there is a greater opportunity than ever for the revolution to fulfill its
destiny fully.  This is perhaps why the joy of our people today is so
great.  But there is much more to be added.  One of the greatest desires of
the nation, as a result of the errors from which it suffered thanks to
repression and war, was that for peace, peace with freedom, peace with
justice and peace with law.  No one asks for another kind of peace, because
Batista spoke of peace, spoke of order, but no one wanted that peace and
that order.  Away with him, because this would have been peace at the cost
of subjection.  We here want peace as it is: to the benefit of the people.
Peace without dictatorship, without crime, without censorship, without
repression.  Perhaps this is the joy which is most keenly felt now.
Perhaps this is the joy of the Cuban mothers, the mothers of soldiers or
revolutionaries, the mothers of any citizens who are today aware that their
sons are finally free of danger; thus the greatest crime which could be
committed in Cuba today would be a crime against peace, and this no one
would pardon -- it would be the plotting, by anyone against peace.  Anyone
today who does anything to threaten peace in Cuba, anyone who puts the calm
and happiness of a regime of Cuban freedom in danger is a criminal and a
traitor.  Those who are not prepared to sacrifice something for peace,
those who are not prepared to sacrifice everything for peace are criminals
and traitors.  As this is my belief, I say and I swear before my fellow
citizens and all of my comrades that our movement is the best safeguard for
peace in Cuba.  From this moment on, the people can be sure of, are
guaranteed, a regime of respect, progress and peace, because I am a man who
has indeed sacrificed something, as I have proved this on more than one
occasion in my life, because I have taught this to my comrades, and
therefore, I presume to have sufficient moral authority and strength to
speak at a ceremony like this.  And the first among those to whom we must
speak of this are the revolutionaries, and if it were necessary, or rather
because it is necessary, I would say here: that decade which followed the
fall of Machado is not so far off.  Perhaps one of the worst evils in that
struggle was the proliferation of revolutionary groups which soon destroyed
each other, and as a result what happened was that Batista came and was
left master of the revolution in Cuba.

When the 26 July Movement was organized, and even when we
undertook this war, I believed that if indeed the sacrifices we were making
were very great and the struggle would be very long (and it only lasted two
years), they were for us but a step, two years of hard combat from the time
we began the struggle again with a handful of men until the time we reached
the capital of the republic -- despite the sacrifices which lay ahead, I
was comforted by one idea, that the 26 July Movement would have popular
support and sympathy.  It was obvious that the 26 July movement had the
support of the Cuban young people.  It seemed that this time a great and
strong organization would take up the concerns of our people.

I think that everything went well for us from the very first, with
a single revolutionary organization -- ours or any other, that of 36, 27 or
50, whichever.  Because when all is said and done it was the same men,
those of us who fought in the Sierra Maestra or in the Hscambray or in
Pinar del Rio, and we were the same men, all of us supported a single ideal
and revolutionary organization.  Ours was simply the first, that which
waged the first battle at the Moncada Barracks, that which disembarked from
the "Granma" in the month of December and which fought alone for more than
a year against the tyranny, when we had no more than 12 men holding high
the ban etc., until we came to show that this was not the struggle, that it
must be different.  We had to invent tactics in so doing, and it was we who
had to lead the struggle effectively to the achievement of its ideal, and I
want the people to tell my honestly if this is or is not the truth.

There is,-moreover, another question.  The 26 July Movement was a
majority movement.  Isn't this true?  And how did the struggle end?  When
the tyranny fell, we had taken all of Oriente, Camaguey, almost all of Las
Villas, Matanzas and Pinar del Rio.  The struggle ended with the forces
which had reached Las Villas, because we rebels had in command Major Camilo
Cienfuegos and Major Guevara in Las Villas.  On 1 January, because of
Cantillo's betrayal, Camilo Cienfuegos had orders to advance on the capital
and attack Columbia, and Major Ernesto Guevara in Las Villas also had
orders to advance on the capital and seize La Cabana, and every military
fortress of any importance fell to the rebels.  And finally, it was our
efforts, experience and organization which enabled us to win.  Does this
mean that the others did not fight?  No!  Does this mean that the others
were not worthy?  No!  Because we all fought as the people fought.  In
Havana there were no mountain battles, but hundreds were killed.  In Havana
there were no mountain battles, but the general strike was a decisive
factor in making the triumph of the revolution complete.

In stating this, the only proper thing is to put things in their
place.  The overall effect of the movement in the struggle was not here and
not there exclusively.  It was the product of the joint efforts of all.
Someone should write an article entitled "Against Everything," explaining
the strategy which this revolution developed and which culminated with the
26 July triumph and the overwhelming defeat of the tyrant's forces, which
surrendered to the forces of the rebel Army.  Not only did this serve the
ends of the 26 July forces, but it also taught how it is necessary to deal
with the enemy in war, because this was perhaps the first revolution in the
world in which no prisoner of war was murdered, no wounded soldier
abandoned, no man tortured, because this was the conduct maintained by the
Rebel Army, and, moreover, this was the only revolution in the world which
did not produce a single general.  Not one, because the rank I took for
myself, which my comrades assigned me, was that of Major, and I have not
changed it, although we have won many battles. i still want to be a major.
And there was a moral result which promotions will not produce, because our
highest rank is that of major, although there are more than one can count.
To judge from appearances, I believe that the people approve of the way we
fought, and because I have fought as I have for citizens' rights, I take
for myself the right to speak the truth even if it hurts, and also because
we are defending the interests of the fatherland, and will not compromise
with the threats which may hang over the Cuban revolution.  Although others
have the same moral authority as I to speak, I would say that they
nonetheless have less merit, as I believe that for men to have equal
prerogatives, they must earn them in practice, against negative moral
conditions, they must prove worthy of merit. I believe that the revolution
has been completed, now that Major Cienfueges, after a month and several
days of battle, is in command in Columbia, now that Alnejeiras, who has
lost three brothers in this war, is chief of police and now that Major
Ernesto Guevara, who landed with the "Granma" and is a veteran of two years
and one month of battle in the highest and most rugged mountains of Cuba,
is in command of La cabana, and now that we have placed in charge of the
various regiments in the different provinces the men who have sacrificed
and fought the most in this revolution.  If this is the case, no one has
the right to challenge them.

We must honor merit, because those who do not are but ambitious
creatures, those who do not honor the merits of others, who challenge them,
seek to deceive in order to assume their prerogatives.

Now the republic and the revolution are entering a new phase.
Would it be just for ambition or egotism to threaten the destiny of the
revolution here?  What serves the interests of the people?  Because it is
the people to whom it is of interest to avoid this danger.  Our freedoms,
the rights they have won, peace, inner interest?  Because currently the
people have all the freedoms, all the rights, and all the pace they have
wanted.  Does an honest government serve the interests of the people?  Is
it not an honest government which serves the interests of the people?
Well, today they have one.  In the President of the Republic we have an
honorable official.  Does honest and open army leadership serve the
interests of the people?  Well, today they have it.

What is important to the people here is that their leaders be
honest men, not just anyone.  What matters here is that those appointed
have these qualities, for haphazard appointees are not worth anything to
the people of Cuba.  Has any of our appointees tried to cover the country
with blood?

Has any of our ministers covered the country with blood and
disturbed the peace of this nation?

If the team of leaders the present government has does not prove
worthy, the people have the right to out them, not to approve them, I mean
in elections, because when everyone knows that they are not worthy, this is
the final recourse: elections.  We have finished forever here with coups

We must make this clear so that demagogy and confusion will not
arise, and with the first evidence of ambition to appear, we must be
merciless.  Nor my part, I tell you that the only thing to heed is the
people, and the people have all the armed columns.  This is because in
order to wage a free revolution we called upon the people, because by
talking with the people it is possible to avoid bloodshed and it is
necessary to call upon the people, so that they can help to resolve the
problems.  I who have profound faith in the people and believe I have shown
this, tell you that the people want to be counted on this country, but for
public opinion to make itself felt, it is necessary to have extraordinary
strength.  In an era of dictatorship, public opinion is nothing, but in an
era of freedom, it is everything and the official authorities must express
their views to the republic.  They must speak to the people, because
always, by this means, by speaking wisely with the people, the revolution
can avoid many threats.  And I tell you that these treats are not so great,
because it should not be necessary to shed more Cuban blood to consolidate
the revolution.

I must say that we are working to consolidate this revolution,
because otherwise it would not exist, nor would I have been speaking here
before this vast crowd.

I could not have spoken thus when we were a group of 12 men, when
all we had was the duty to fight, to struggle and to win merit in the eyes
of the people.  But now that we have heavy guns, weapons, a navy and
tremendous strength of a military nature, and in the people, our great
concern must be not to fight, because there is no merit in fighting thus,
because to fight now with tanks, heavy guns, etc., has no merit.  What I
ask of the people in order to combat all ambition is their cooperation in
condemning the ambitious, in order to eliminate any emerging ambition from
hereon.  I am not going to make an attack of a personal and specific
nature, because the triumph is too recent to permit embarking on polemics.

However, when the time comes to do so, I am ready, because I have moral
authority enough to do this (applause).  And this is because I believe in
the mass of the fighters, in the majority of the men, and I cite as an
example Carlos Prio Socarras, who told me that he wanted to contribute to
the revolution, without any personal aspirations, that is to say,
unconditionally, and he proved this by protesting not at all, by never
expressing the slightest objection or complaint to the cabinet.  And I have
found the same readiness in other organizations -- those of combatants, men
who fought and struggled, and the other organizations must have the feeling
of the free revolutionaries who have always thought of the welfare of the
people.  And I am certain that if anyone were to come to combat civil
revolution in Cuba they should do so very carefully, because all they would
achieve would be the desertion of all the combatants from their ranks,
because they would not follow them.  One would have to be mad to challenge
the reason, the right, the peace and the history of Cuba.

I say all this because I want to ask the people a question the
answer to which interests me greatly.  Why are they amassing weapons
secretly now?  Why are they smuggling weapons in currently?  I tell you
that currently there are members of revolutionary organizations who are
stockpiling weapons and smuggling them.  All of the rebel army weapons are
in the barracks, and no one has taken them home.  They are in the barracks
under lock and key!  This is true in Pinar del Rio, just as it is in
Havana, Matanzas, Camaguey and Oriente, because these weapons should now be
in the barracks.  And I will give you this warning: I am prepared to do
whatever I have to do to resolve this problem with the help of public
opinion, and I want to count on the strength of the people alone to
safeguard the weapons.  I suggest that these revolutionaries abandon the
false positions into which they are slipping and get back in tune with the
freedoms and peace of the people.

Weapons for what?  To fight against whom?  Against the
revolutionary government, which has popular support?  Weapons for what?  To
fight against the revolution?  Is Urrutia the same as Batista?  Now there
is no censorship, the press is free and you can be sure that censorship
will not be reestablished, ever.  Today there is no torture, assassination
or dictatorship.  Today there is only happiness.

All of the leaders are organizing their trade union organizations,
all of the rights of the citizens have been reestablished.  Weapons!  What
for?  To blackmail the President of the Republic?  To threaten peace?  So
that we can watch gangsterism and daily skirmishes flourish?  Weapons for
what?  Well, I say to you that two days ago, members of a certain
organization entered the San Antonio barracks, which was under the command
of Camilo Cienfueges and myself, as commander-in-chief of the armed forces,
and took 500 machine guns and other weapons.  And I honestly hope that they
have not decided to engage in any other provocation, because to violate
what has been achieved like this is knavery.  If they were seeking
provocations, what they lacked was not guns but only men of the people to
support them.

Because the combatants with true ideals are capable of fixing the
responsibility for this deed with those who have none, and so we have
remained calm, and no one fears that we are going to become dictators.  He
who does not have the people with him, he who is not in the right, has no
strength, and we have seen such human and total affection in the hearts of
the people because we have never acted in such a way as rudely to impose
ourselves where we were not wanted, because we have won and produced
something in waging this struggle against the people and we do not need
force because on the day that the people look with disfavor upon us -- only
this -- we will leave, because we regard this task as a sacrifice, not
pleasure.  We are working honestly, because it will bring us nothing
personally, and the people will never see me granting privileges to anyone,
nor committing injustices, nor plundering nor abusing, because we regard
the exercise of authority as a sacrifice, and we believe that if it were
not thus, if it were not for the demonstration of affection received from
the people, the least we could do would be to withdraw and retire,
particularly since it is a duty, and if it were not for this duty, what I
would do would be to say goodbye and take with me the gift of the love
which I have won in the hearts of the people, and wait for them to call
upon me in the same words as they have done today.

The tasks which duty imposes upon us not represent a difficult
path full of dangers.

And there is also another reason force does not interest us,
because on the day someone rises up to use force here I will make bold to
call him an enemy.  I will tell him to take that force, and again I would
depart, and they could see how long this lasted.

I believe that these are reasons enough to show everyone that ...
The President of the Republic has appointed me commander-in-chief of all
the air, land and sea forces in the republic.  This is not an honor I have
earned, because to me it represents a sacrifice, and so I am not proud or
thankful for it, and I want the people to tell me I should assume this
duty. I believe that if I created an army with only 12 men and if I
commanded a military force which never abandoned a wounded man, nor harmed
a prisoner, we are the men who should command the forces of the republic,
filling the armed institutes with men not a one of whom has ever struck,
tortured or killed a prisoner, and moreover, we can serve as a bridge
between the revolution and the military.  Because these soldiers will have
the duty of continuing to belong to the armed forces, and I also say that
those who have murdered will never save anyone.

And this is the case because all of the revolutionary combatants
want to belong to the regular forces of the army of the republic, have a
right to do so, since... but there are other more important problems to
resolve.  The doors will be open to all the revolutionary fighters, because
they have fought and produced good for the country.  And if they have
confidence in the country, in the government, if the doors are open to all,
what reason is there to stock weapons?  I want the people to tell me if
they want peace, or a kind of war.  I want to be told if the people agree
that each has a right to his own private army, in order to promote discord,
if we can have peace in the republic this way.

And these are the problems I have sought to control, so that the
guns could disappear from the streets as soon as possible, because when we
are not confronted by the enemy, there is no need to fight anyone, and if
one day it is necessary to do so, because they come to oppose the
revolution, it will not be just a few who will fight, but all.  No one has
a right to have a private army.  These elements have been seen engaging in
suspicious maneuvers.  Perhaps they have taken the pretext that I have been
appointed commander of the army, and they have talked of a political army.
Is this a political army?  That which has the support of the people?

And I want to tell the people and the mothers of Cuba that I will
resolve all problems without shedding a drop of blood.  I tell the mothers
that they will never, because of us, have to weep.  I want to ask the
people, all responsible men, to help us to resolve these problems and when
we are threatened with an action... this is immoral.  I say here, moreover,
that we will not access to these threats, because this would be to dishonor
the revolution and to compromise its success and consolidation.  Let those
who are not members of the regular forces of the republic return the
weapons to the barracks, because there are more than enough weapons here
now, and it has been proven that weapons are only needed when one has to
defend the right and the people.  They are not for committing misdeeds.

I want to tell the people that they can be sure that the laws will
be respected, because there is no egotism or partisanship here.  However,
on the day the people order that weapons be taken up to guarantee their
law, their peace and their right, then these weapons which are under my
jurisdiction will be taken up again to fulfill their duty.

Let no one think that we will full into temptation, because we
have too great a responsibility to prevent the shedding of a single drop of
blood, so that we cannot allow ourselves to be corrupted or confuse the
issues of life.  Thus, let no one fear, because when our patience is
exhausted, we will seek new patience, and when that is finished, we will
seek still further patience.  And this must be the slogan of the men who
have weapons in hand, and power in their hands: they must never become so
exasperated as to take up weapons.  They must resign themselves to all
sacrifices, except when there is an attempt to endanger the security of the
law and the rights of the people.  But we will make use of the weapons when
the people so demand.  What I want to do now is simply to warn the people
of this danger, so that this revolution, which has cost us so much, can be
kept pure and useful to the citizens.

It is true that all peoples, after such struggles, have had others
and yet more.  This seems to be an exception, and would that it should even
more so, because there could be no one who wants the firing of a single
further shot here.  I am proud of the discipline and the spirit of the
people because if something really excellent has been accomplished it is
the demonstration of their dignity and civic conscience.  Sacrifice for
such a people is well worth it.

As of the present, the military battles have ended.  Tomorrow we
will have another day of peace like all the rest.  We have become
accustomed to war.  For a long time, we did not know what peace was.  But
we must learn to work to pay the rent, the electrical bills, etc.  I know
that the young people are deeply imbued with the enthusiasm which will
change the republic.  I am certain of it, and also of the fact that there
is a president who has the confidence of the people, because no danger
threatens.  The position of the president is established, and has now been
recognized by almost all the nations in the world.  Nothing can threaten
him, and he has the support of the people, our support and that of the
revolutionary forces.  This is true support, support without revolution and
without danger.  For us, this step is above suspicion because we have
fought without ambition and full of the greatest hopes, faith and without
the slightest doubt.

Thus, now we must work hard.  For my part, I will do all I can to
the benefit of the country.  And I with all of my comrades stand with the
President of the Republic and all the other Cubans.  I hope that the
triumph of consolidation will not be long in being achieved.

I see an extraordinary spirit of cooperation in all sectors of the
people, among the journalists and in all the other sectors of the country.
We will make a tremendous advance.  The Republic will be free of all petty
politicking, vice and gambling.  And now it is the Republic which will
resolve all the problems...  Because I am not a professional military man
or an army careerist.  I was a military man as short a time as possible.  I
am not going to engage in military war undertakings with neighboring
countries, because if it is desired to fire shots, I believe that there is
plenty of room here in Cuba to do so.

If we do not resolve all these problems it means an incomplete
revolution, because I believe that the basic problem of the Republic,
following the triumph, is work, and this is the way to resolve the

But this is not all, comrades.  There are thousands of other
things.  But as you can imagine, we are not going to deal with every
subject in a single evening.  We are ending a long day.  Although I am not
tired, tomorrow morning a day of work must be begun.  I promised to attend
the program "With the Press" tonight and I see that it is 1:30 and I cannot
go.  You will have other opportunities to hear me on the radio, in the
press, etc.  Also we will meet in the schools, the neighborhoods and
everywhere, anyone can talk with me.  The demands of all will be met.

The Council of Ministers is made up of great revolutionary
elements.  The President of the Republic chose the Prime Minister, and when
he asked our cooperation, we granted it.  As I have said previously, we
cannot do everything in one, two or three days.  Moreover, I have told the
people during other ceremonies that they should not expect these ministers
to know how to be ministers.  These are new tasks for them.  We knew
nothing about war, either, nor did Che Cuevara know anything about
strategy, or anything like it.  He knew nothing of military matters.  Why?
Because he had not studied them.  Possibly the same will be the case with
the ministers, but I am sure that within a month, they will know more than
enough.  The most important thing is the desire they have to learn, to
serve the people, and to do their jobs well.  How will they know how to do
this?  Morality, honesty will teach them, because although there are no
sages here, there are indeed honest men.  The majority of them are members
of the 26 July Movement, but if they do not serve the purpose, others, the
men of 27 or 28 July, will replace them.  The 26 July veterans have a right
to try to serve the Republic.  And this must be all for today.  Really, I
have said all I wanted and if there is something else, I will leave it for
another time.

I realize now that what I have not said is that I believe that all
of the people of Havana are here today.  The vast crowd gathered today,
this astonishing multitude, will be seen in photographs.  And I believe
that the people have done too much, because this is more that we merit.  I
believe that never again will we see a crowd such as this, although I am
sure that on such will gather again when we go to our grave, because we
want to merit the gathering of such a crowd, since we will never deceive
our people.

Monday, September 12, 2011


I read a review today of Andy Garcia’s movie, Lost City, written by Humberto Fontova. In it he notes:Andy Garcia shows it precisely right. In 1958 Cuba was undergoing a rebellion, not a revolution. Cubans expected political change, not a socioeconomic cataclysm and catastrophe. But I fully realize such distinctions are much too "complex" for a film critic to grasp. They prefer boneheaded clichés.”  Fontova is author of Fidel, Hollywood’s Favorite Tyrant.

In the review Fontova notes that most of the popular support for Fidel came from the middle and upper middle classes who wanted a return to constitutional democracy. This is what Fidel promised up until two weeks after he seized power. That’s when everything changed. The peasant and working classes were not the major sources of Fidel’s support. When a general strike was called in April 1958, it fizzled and then died. One bus was destroyed and the phones stopped working in Havana for a few hours. Beyond that, nothing happened because the labor unions intentionally withheld their support and sent everyone to work during the strike.

Much of the left of center establishment has rewritten Cuban history, ignoring the very fact that there was a substantial middle class which had backed the Castro movement, only to be sold out by it within weeks of its success. That is the lesson of Lost City and also The Death of the White Rose.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Music of Cuba 1958

One of the ways to recreate the life of 1958 Cuba as a writer is to listen to its music. Fortunately, YouTube is full of samples of the rich musical history of Cuba from that era. Sitting at a computer and pushing a few buttons that transport me in a virtual time machine back to the time of Batista’s Cuba. The first chapter of The Death of the White Rose occurs at the Havana Yacht Club, scene of many great musical evenings for the dancers who dined there. Also, the Nacional Hotel and Havana Riviera, other book locations were certainly home to many a big band.

Take a few minutes and listen and watch and you, too, can travel back 53 years. Here are a few clips. I hope you enjoy them:

Monday, September 5, 2011


Part of recreating Havana in 1958 has been my research into the Mafia's involvement with legalized gambling in Havana. One scene in my new novel takes place at the Hotel Havana Riviera, a 352 room, 21-story creation of Meyer Lansky that opened in December 1957. It was the first hotel in Havana to have air-conditioned guest rooms.

The entrance was a work of art with an enormous white marble statue of an intertwined mermaid and swordfish. The marine theme was found throughout with murals by Rolando Lopez Dirube. Walls were covered in gold leaf and the roof tiles were blue like the ocean it overlooked.

Abbott and Costello appeared onstage in the showroom and Steve Allen filmed an episode of the Steve Allen Show for broadcast. Lansky's partners included Moe Dalitz, Morris Kleinman, Sam Tucker and Wilbur Clark, an owner of the Desert Inn in Las Vegas, Edward Levinson of the Fremont Hotel and Hyman Abrams and Morris Rosen who had interests in the Flamingo after Bugsy Siegel had left the scene.

Here is a picture of how it looked: