Книги: Episodes of the Revolutionary War, Ernesto Che Guevara
Episodes of the Revolutionary War,
Ernesto Che Guevara
ON MARCH 13, whi1e we waited for the reinforcements, we heard the news of the attempt to kill Batista. We heard the names of some of the dead First, Jose Antonio Echeverria, student leader, then the others, among them Menelao Mora. Innocent persons were killed, too: the following day we heard that Pelayo Cuervo, an Orthodox Party leader who had always maintained a firm position against Batista, had been murdered. His body appeared in some desolate spot of the aristocratic residential section of the Country Club known as “the little lake.” A strange paradox: Pelayo Cuervo's sons and their father's murderers participated in the thwarted invasion of Playa Giron. They had come to “liberate Cuba from Communist oppression.”
A few details escaped through the curtain of censorship surrounding the frustrated attack on the Presidential Pa1ace. I had never met the student leader, Echeverria, but I had met a few of the others in Mexico during a 26th of July Movement-Students' Directorate meeting aimed at taking steps toward common action. These men were: Faure Chomon, who became Cuban Ambassador to the USSR, Fructuoso Rodriguez, and Joe Westbrook. All three of them had participated in the attack.
As everyone remembers, the attack was thwarted before the men could reach the third floor of the Palace, where Batista was. What could have been a victorious coup had turned into a massacre. Only a handful of the attackers had managed to escape from the Presidential Palace.
Our reinforcements were scheduled to arrive on the 15 We waited for hours but no one came. They arrived the following day, exhausted, saying that unexpected events had delayed their departure. They came in trucks owned by a rice planter who later became so frightened about being implicated in the affair that he took refuge in an embassy, later departed for Costa Rica, and returned to Cuba as a hero, aboard a plane carrying some arms. His name: Hubert Matos,
Only thirty of the fifty-man troop were armed; they had two machinegun rifles, a Madzen and a Johnson, The few months spent in the Sierra had turned us into full-fledged veterans, and the new troop looked, to us, as full of defects as our original Granma troop: no discipline, lack of decision, and inability to adapt to the new surroundings. The group, led by Sotus, captain, was divided into five squads, each composed of ten men led by a lieutenant. This rank had been conferred by the organization in the city, pending ratification. Squad leaders were: a comrade named Dominguez, later killed at Pino del Agua; Rene Latour, guerrilla organizer in the plains, killed close to the end of the war; "Pedrin" Soto, our old Granma comrade who had joined us at fast, later killed in combat and awarded the rank of Major, posthumously, ac the Frank Pais Second Front; Pena, a student from Santiago, who reached the rank of Major – he committed suicide some time after the triumph of the Revolution – and lieutenant Hermo, the only group leader who survived the two-year war
Our greatest problem was our inability to walk. Jorge Sotus, the chief, was the worst offender: he was always at the rear, setting a horrible example. I had been ordered to take command but when I told Sotus he said that he had orders to turn the troop over to Fidel and no one else; that he was still my commander, etc., etc. I still had a little complex about being a foreigner and did not wish to resort to extreme measures, although it was easy to see that the men were not at ease. Following a few short marches, which seemed terribly long due to the men's lack of training, we came to the place where we were to have our rendezvous with Fidel Castro There we met the men who had become separated from Fidel: Manuel Fajardo, Guillermo Garcia, Juventino, Pesant, the three Sotomayor brothers and Ciro Frias.
The contrast between the two groups was tremendous. Ours was well disciplined, compact, and hardened. Theirs, was suffering from the usual ills; they were not accustomed to eating only one meal a day; if they Sound the meal unpalatable, they refused to eat. Their knapsacks were loaded with useless items, and in order to make them lighter, they would rather get rid of a can of condensed milk than a towel – this is practically high treason in guerrilla warfare! – so we made it a point to follow their trail and pick up any food they discarded. Once we settled in our camp there was a tense period brought about by constant friction between Sotus, – who was quite an authoritarian but lacked the gift of getting along with others – and the troop. We were forced to take special measures, and Rene Ramos, whose nom de guerre was Daniel, took charge of the machinegun squad at the exit of our hideout, in order to avoid any trouble.
Sometime later, Sotus was sent to Miami on a special mission. There he betrayed the Revolution when he met Felipe Pazos, whose boundless ambition for power made him forfeit his commitments and appoint himself interim president, in a shoddy maneuver in which the U.S. State Department played a major role.
As time went by captain Sotus showed signs of rehabilitation and Raul Castro offered him his chance; the Revolution has always given everyone a chance. However, he began to plot against the Revolutionary Government. He was sentenced to 20 years' imprisonment, and aided by one of the prison guards, he escaped to the counterrevolutionaries' lair: the U.S.A.
But let us get back to our story: we tried to help Sotus, easing the tension between him and the men, and explaining the need of discipline, Guillermo Garcia went to Caracas zone, looking for Fidel, and I made a little tour to pick up Ramiro Valdes, whose leg had partially healed. Fidel arrived on the night of March 24. He and his twelve stalwart comrades were an impressive sight. What a contrast between these men, with their long beards and their makeshift packs, and the new arrivals wearing clean uniforms, carrying well-made packs, and all clean shaven! I made a full report of our problems and we held council to decide on future action. Members of the council were: Fidel, Raul, Almeida, Jorge Sotus, Ciro Frias, Guillermo Garcia, Camilo Cienfuegos, Manuel Fajardo and I. Fidel criticized my behaviour for not exerting my authority, leaving it in the hands of Sotus, a newcomer – although there was no feeling of animosity toward him – whose attitude, in Fidel's judgment, should never have been condoned. New platoons were organized, comprising the entire troop, to form three groups commanded by captains Raul Castro, Juan Almeida, and Jorge Sotus. Camilo Cienfuegos led the – vanguard and Efigenio Ameijeiras the rear guard. My position: Staff Physician. Universo Sanchez was appointed Staff. squad leader.
The new arrivals added to our troop's efficiency. In addition, we had two machinegun rifles, even though they were old and badly worn. Nevertheless we now constituted a considerable force. We studied our next step and my opinion was to attack the nearest post we could find. That would be a good test for the new men. Fidel and the other members of the council were of the opinion that the men should march for long periods, to become accustomed to the rigors of jungle and mountain life as well as the long treks over rugged hills. We held a short, elementary, guerrilla training practice, and departed due East. Our plan was to cover long distances, looking for some group of soldiers to pounce upon.
Full of enthusiasm, we marched on to carry out our plan. The climax was to come at the battle of El Uvero.