A New Strategy
Fidel Castro had survived with a small force of guerrilla fighters in the Sierra Maestra for over a year. Isolated from the rest of the island, sustaining few casualties and supported by the urban underground of the M-26-7, Fidel was creating a well-disciplined group of guerrillas and gaining the backing of the area's population. His mere presence in the Sierra Maestra contributed to his popularity with the people. Urban underground fighters were unknown precisely because of the secret nature of their activities, and after the deaths of Frank País and José Antonio Echeverría, Fidel was the only important insurrectionary leader, urban or otherwise, left in Cuba. Militarily, he had demonstrated that one could wage guerrilla warfare in the mountains against a regular army; and in so doing he had created a sanctuary for the urban cadres, a place where they could continue the struggle rather than perish in the cities.
The DR's insistence upon conducting urban operations in accordance with the theory of' "hitting at the top" did not altogether disappear from the minds of' some of the leaders, especially Faure Chomón. But it was evident by late 1957 that a change in approach was as urgently needed. The organization had probably suffered more than any other in the urban struggle. It was the only movement to have lost all its leaders in a period of one month--the tragic weeks of March and April 1957. The long perparatory period before the attack on the Presidential Palace, the street demonstrations, acts of terrorism and direct confrontations with the police--all of which helped to develop a group of hard-core militants--also damaged the organization. The police had learned many of the cadre members' names and sought them out with pictures after the palace attack. The DR had to initiate a campaign for new recruits and to try to reinstitute the cell structure of the organization.
After the attack on the palace and the Humboldt No. 7 killings, the executive council was reorganized. The new group included Primitivo Lima, Andrés Silva, Osmel Francis and Mary Pumpido among the voting professionals. The workers were represented by Pedro Martínez, Orlando Blanco and Jorge Martín, who were leaders of action and sabotage cells and also organizers within the labor movement. The council also included a women's section represented by Fructuoso Rodríguez's widow, Marta Jiménez.
Eloy Gutiérrez Menoyo--the brother of Carlos, who had led the commando group in the palace attack--was appointed chief of action in Havana. Under Eloy's leadership a new group of' urban cadre members emerged to replace their dead compañeros, among them: Guillermo Jiménez, Angel Quevedo, Julio Fernández, Héctor Terry, Enrique Zamorano, Domingo Pérez, Jorge ("Mago") Robreño, and Mario ("Reguerita") Reguera.
In Las Villas province, Ramón Pando, president of the Student Federation of the School of Commerce at Las Villas University, became the provincial secretary general of the DR. With Enrique Villegas and Piro Abreu active throughout the province, the DR movement acquired a new impetus in central Cuba. Meanwhile, in Camagüey other militants emerged as important members of the urban organization, among them: Antonio ("Tony") Bastida, Florencio González, Adolfo Mora and Sergio Valle.
The DR recovered rapidly from its defeat and extended its cells into the various sectors of the population reaching even well-to-do students at the Catholic Unversity of Villanova, where Jesús "Paulino" Barreiro represented the DR. Although few of these students were willing to cooperate, those who did help were instrumental in creating the Fourth Guerrilla Front in Pinar del Rio province. West of Havana, in late 1958.
The movement also organized overseas. With funds raised among exiles in Miami and other cities in the United States, the DR sent delegates to various Latin American countries. Venezuelan leader, Romulo Betancourt, José Figueres of Costa Rica and Juan José Arévalo of Guatemala aided the DR by publicly supporting the insurrection. Results of this support were impressive, opening new contacts throughout the area and helping in the formation of delegations in Chile and in Caracas, Venezuela, following the fall of dictator Pérez Jiménez in early 1958. Delegations also existed in Buenos Aires, Argentina; Montevideo. Uruguay; Lima, Peru; Bogotá, Colombia; San José, Costa Rica: and in Panama, El Salvador and Mexico. In the United States there were delegations in New York, Chicago, New Orleans, Tampa, Jacksonville and Miami. The Nassau delegation was as able to extend its contacts throughout the Bahamas and, through the members of this important delegation. The DR developed its system for infiltrating people into Cuba, for conveying contraband arms, and for receiving information on the activities of the urban underground.
One of the important tasks of the delegations was to conduct public campaigns to discredit Batista's regime and to present the case for the insurrection. As the tempo of these activities increased, U.S. authorities began to pay more attention to Cuban exiles in the Florida area. Federal authorities sometimes succeeded in blocking arms shipments to Cuba; more often they were unsuccessful.
Under the leadership of Luis Blanca, Héctor Rosales, Carlos "Chino" Figueredo and Armando Fleites, the DR created a chain of' arms depots that extended from New York City to New Orleans and from there to Miami. Arms were never concentrated in a specific place, and sites where arms were gathered were usually outside the Spanish-speaking colonies. When a shipment left, several cars and trucks were used along the route, and deliveries were seldom made at the same place twice. False reports circulated throughout the exile colony to confuse the authorities. However, the general feeling among DR militants was that U.S. authorities were simply looking the other way as much as they possibly could.
The DR's Decision to Fight Guerrilla War
In September, Eloy Gutiérrez Menoyo, the DR's chief of action in Havana, arrived in Miami to discuss future strategy with Chomón, Cubela and Armando Fleites. The latter, a young physician and DR leader in Las Villas province, agreed with Gutiérrez Menoyo on the need to adopt a guerrilla strategy counter to the "hit at the top" tactic. Chomón still favored the direct action tactic, but agreed that the DR should change its approach and open a guerrilla front in Cuba. Eloy Gutiérrez Menoyo returned to Havana and left the capital for the Escambray Mountains, reaching that area in mid-October. Menoyo's task was to inspect the area and to set up a guerrilla group; establish the necessary contacts with DR leaders in the surrounding towns and cities, and prepare the ground for the arrival of a larger group of' DR militants. On November 10, 1957 the guerrillas issued their first internal order declaring that a second national guerrilla front had been crcated and instructing the guerrillas to be loyal to the country, to keep all secrets of war, never to abandon their weapons, and to denounce deserters and traitors. In January 1958, various small arms shipments arrived in Cuba and were rapidly distributed throughout the various action cells, and some were transported to the Escambray Mountains. César Páez and Juan Figueroa, students who were born in Las Villas province, arrived in Havana and went to their native province to make contacts for future guerrilla actions. Pedro Martínez Brito, veteran of the Radio Reloj operation in 1957, infiltrated to Havana from Miami to acquaint DR cells of forthcoming operations against Batista. Meanwhile, Enrique Villegas, DR leader in the city of Sancti-Spiritus, in Las Villas, was shot to death by the army while he was taking supplies to Menoyo's guerrilla group. The movement rapidly gathered military information on government troops in Las Villas province, and on forces concentrated in posts close to the mountains.
On January 28, 1958, José Martí's birthday, the DR held a mass rally at Miami's Bayfront Park, scene of many such gatherings by Cuban exiles. At that meeting, it was announced that Cuba would soon be in flames, and other pledges of future action were issued. Rumors of an impending invasion of Cuba circulated throughout the exile colony. During the first week of February, the DR underground was placed on the alert, and various cells prepared to go into diversionary actions against the government.
In the final hours before the expedition, reports circulated in the exile colony about an encounter between an army patrol and guerrillas at Escambray. Fearing that these guerrillas were Menoyo's, and that Batista would mobilize the army to stop another Castro-like invasion, the DR gave the plan for an expedition its final touches.
In Miami, the students had established contact with an American named Alton Sweeting, captain of a pleasure yacht, the "Thor II," licensed in New York. Captain Sweeting agreed to take the expedition to a point near the northern coast of Cuba. From there a rendezvous ship was to transport the expeditionaries to the mainland, while Captain Sweeting's yacht would be refueled for the trip back to Miami.
A few hours before departure, the authorities raided several places where students usually gathered around Miami. They failed to make any arrests, but they did succeed in letting everyone know that they had to move immediately. To confuse the authorities, the expeditionaries selected the most conspicuous place of departure, the Miami River. There, very close to the MacArthur Causeway which links Miami with Miami Beach, the Cubans gathered and boarded the "Thor II." renamed "Escapade." The decision was made to carry five tons of arms, thus reducing the number of expeditionaries to 15 men and one woman (Esther Martín). With its cargo the "Escapade" quietly cruised out of Miami.
The expedition was as a complete success, and coordination between the exiles and the urban cadres was excellent. Captain Sweeting's cruiser anchored at Raccoon Cay off the northern coast of Cuba, and the expeditionaries \Acre transported further by a fishing boat, the "San Rafael." From the moment "Escapade" touched Raccoon Cay, Gustavo ("Tavo") Machin'' was responsible for the operation. Close to the coast they boarded a third small craft, the "Yaloven," which carried men and supplies to the fishing village of Santa Rita, close to the port of Nuevitas, in Camaguey province. On February 8, 1958,12 the DR's small expeditionary force landed and rapidly moved inland toward the capital of' Camaguey province where they remained hidden for a day, in groups of two and three at various underground headquarters.
The expedition's cargo was at this point divided between arms to he transported to the DR's underground in Havana, and arms suitable for mountain fighting. Antonio ("Tony") Bastida, manager of a transport fleet of' trucks, was in charge of delivering the arms in Havana. The urban underground received 33 Thompsons, a .50 caliber machine gun, two .55 caliber anti-tank rifles, one shotgun, two .30 caliber machine guns, one M-3, two M-1s, a Winchester rifle, one Browning automatic rifle, 300 rounds of ammunition for the anti-tank rifles, 2,000 capsules (30.06mm) and ammunition for .45 caliber pistols, and hand grenades. The would-be guerrilla fighters carried 50 Italian carbines, two "Stern" submachine guns, one Thompson, two M-3s, two Springfield rifles, one Garand rifle, one M-1, five semi-automatic Remington rifles with telescopic sights, and 20,000 rounds of ammunition of various calibers.
The route leading from Camaguey to the Banao area in the Escambray Mountains (190 kilometers) had been traced by urban cadres. All along the \Nay cadre members met the expeditionaries to render reports on the area they were still to cover, and to pinpoint army positions. The urban cadre members-among them Ramon Pando and Piro Abreu, student leaders in Las Villas province-took supplies to the expeditionaries and sometimes added men to the group. Dr. Manuel Sori Marin was also very helpful in finding means of transportation for the expeditionaries.
On February 13, the expeditionaries reached the Banao area in the subregion of the Trinidad-Sancti-Spiritus mountains, to the southeast of Santa Clara, Las Villas' capital, and the next day the group reached the Cangalito hills- At 7 AM on February 15, they arrived at Cacahual, a small guerrilla camp flanked by two hills, where Gutierrez Menoyo, William Morgan and other guerrillas awaited the group. With Castro's experience at Alegria de Pio in mind, the expeditionaries place two observers on the hills surrounding Cacahual. Two days later, the observers alerted the camp to five army scouts approaching Cacahual~ an ambush disposed of' three of the five soldiers, but the rest escaped. Fearing the arrival of' army reinforceincrits the expeditionarics broke camp.
At this point there were 29 guerrillas marching in two separate groups. Fourteen guerrillas followed an old peasant guide named Cadenas, among them \Acre Rolando Cubela, Gustavo ("Tavo") Machin, Dario Pedrosa, Alberto Mora and Efren Mur. The other group included, among others, Eduardo Garcia Lavandero, Rodriguez Loeches, Chomon, Luis Blanca, Armando Fleites, Alberto Blanco, Menoyo, Ivan Rodriguez, Ramon Pando, Oscar Ruiz and William Morgan.
The second group of guerrillas marched toward the west and into the mountain chain called Guamuhaya. On February 19, the guerrillas camped at a place where they were to meet the rest of' the expeditionaries. Some of the DR men were to separate from the main group and return to the cities to wage urban guerrilla warfare. Ramon Pando and Alberto Blanco decided not to wait for the rest and were led out of' the mountains by Leonardo Bombino and a guide named Faustinito. They "ere intercepted by an army patrol, and Ramon Pando was captured, but the others managed to escape. Pando was later assassinated by order of army Lieutenant Froilan Perez. I I
The two groups reunited at the Michelena forests, and the remaining 27 men tried to escape the area and tile pursuing army. They marched until 4 PM on February 19, when they camped at the forest of' "La Diana." Soon army troops approached along a path in the forest: at 4:45 PM the DR combatants ambushed them, in a 15-minute encounter killing 14 and wounding 16 soldiers." For the next 13 hours the guerrillas, led by Leonardo Bombino, marched along ravines until they managed to escape from the army. On February 24, safe from the army's pursuit, the DR leaders A rote a manifesto which they signed on the 25th.
The Manifesto of Escambray
The DR's manifesto set forth the objectives of the struggle by announcing that its strategy would be to conduct simultaneous urban and rural guerrilla A warfare against Batista. The DR would fight for the re-establishment of the Constitution of 1940, and to open the way for a social revolution. Revolutionary unity was essential for the victory of the insurrection, and the DR proposed that a "party of the revolution" be organized after Batista's overthrow. That party would gather "the real fighters who daily risk their lives fighting the dictatorship," and would guarantee that the constitution and the laws were fulfilled. The need for violence was reaffirmed, for peace could only come through the waging of war. The pillars of the future revolution were to be education, administrative honesty, agrarian reform and industrialization. Internationally, the DR supported the formation of a federation of' Caribbean republics, an initial step toward the organization of a confederation of American republics.
The insurrectionary struggle against Batista, maintained the DR, was but the continuation of the country's historical struggle for independence since the nineteenth century. the DR viewed the insurrection as inspired by Jose Marti's ideas, the nationalism of Antonio ("Tony") Guiteras and the democratic principles of Jose Antonio Echeverria. The DR's fight was not only against Batista's regime, but also against -those who only a few years ago supported the Nazis on conquered land of Europe," a direct reference to the Communists, who -today are playing Batista's game as vulgar puppets." The caste of old and young politicians would be swept away by the insurrection as a fundamental requisite of social therapy.
On February 27, the guerrillas reached the mountains to the south of Santa Clara, close to the cities of Placetas, Cabaiguan, Santa Clara and Guayos. At a peak called Tres Cruces, Chomon, Alberto Blanco, Rosendo Yero, Rodriguez Loeches, Garcia Lavandero and Luis Blanca began their journey back into the urban struggle. They were led by the peasant guide Bombino and another peasant named Raul Rosa.
Although the DR had suffered severe casualties in the urban struggle, the theory of "hitting at the top" had not been discarded completely. Faure Chomon, Rodriguez Loeches and Eduardo Garcia Lavandero continued to urge the DR to strike at the dictator. These men had been molded in the urban insurrection, men from the cities, whose insurrectionary outlook was directly connected with struggle in the center of power, Havana.
Consequently, when Rodriguez Loeches left his companeros to seek help in the cities close to the Escambray Mountains, he felt "a sense of relief and security," since as an urban fighter he felt "secure in my own environment." In Sancti-Spiritus, Loeches established contact with Piro Abreu through a lawyer, Emilio Morata. Abreu provided the insurrectionists with a car and with an experienced driver, Carlos Brunet. On the evening of March 3, the group met at Fomentos with plans to reach the city of Placetas, and then move by bus to Havana.
As their car approached the city of' Placetas on the Central Highway, an army jeep and a car from the Servicio de Inteligencia Militar (SIM) closed the road to check on all cars. The DR militants sped through the SIM's barricade as the army's car sped after them. Suddenly, Brunet stopped the car; as the soldiers stepped out of theirs, Brunet started the car again and the SIM agents opened fire. The men succeeded in escaping Placetas, heading east toward the city of Cabaiguan. Along the way, the driver refused to continue what he viewed as a suicide mission; the car was stopped and Brunet and Rosendo Yero stayed behind while Alberto Blanco took the driver's seat.
In minutes, the car approached the city of Cabaiguan where an army patrol was waiting, signaling for them to stop. The soldiers "had all kind of weapons," and as Blanco sped through the army's barricade "shots rang out," and "pieces of glasses flew all over."" Garcia Lavandero fired his M-3 rifle behind the driver while Chomon, fired from the other window as the car went through the army's blockade and into the city. Miraculously, they escaped with Garcia Lavandero suffering only a minor wound in the shoulder. After a daring escape from Cabaiguan and several days of hiding with peasants, the group established contact with the urban underground again and reached Havana. Despite their brush with death they "decidedly felt more secure in the llano (plain)."" Once in Havana, Chomon, met with Faustino P6rez to discuss the feasibility of a general strike.
The DR Guerrilla Front
As the student manifesto circulated throughout the island, the new guerrilla front gained importance. The Escambray Mountains were an excellent location for guerrilla warfare. The Trinidad-Sancti-Spiritus subregion of the mountain range was the second largest coffee-producing area on the island. The valleys surrounding Escambray produced good crops of rice, beans and vegetables, guaranteeing the guerrillas a constant supply of food. The large coffee plantations and cattle ranches also guaranteed a steady income through revolutionary taxes imposed during the campaign. The central Cuba location guaranteed that many urban fighters could reach the Escambray Mountains and participate in rural guerrilla warfare. To the southwest was the city of Cienfuegos, long a bastion of resistance to Batista. From Cienfuegos many young men joined the guerrillas, and intelligence reports about army movements "ere gathered there and sent to the Escambray. The various sugar mills in the province, the DR's previous involvement with the sugar workers in Las Villas province, and the militancy of DR urban cadres in cities and towns close to the mountains was a factor of great importance in the stabilization of the DR's guerrilla front.
The number of DR guerrillas increased steadily. Many experienced urban fighters who had been identified by the regime's forces went to the mountains for the duration of the insurrection. Others went to the mountains but returned to the cities, some because the life of a rural guerrilla was too devoid of "excitement," others because they could not work "ell in groups of 20 or 30 and their individualism was too great a risk to the discipline which must exist in a guerrilla unit. Many of these fighters died in encounters with Batista's police. The DR's chief of action, Eduardo Garcia Lavandero, was killed together with Pedro Martinez Brito during the summer of 1958; Jose Rodriguez Vedo, Raul Gonzalez Sanchez, Ramon Gonzalez Coro and Mario ("Rcguerita") Reguera also died fighting the dictatorship in the cities.
In the Escambray Mountains, the students received their baptism of' fire in encounters with the army at Fomento, Saltillo, Hanabanilla, Guinia de Miranda and the two battles of Pedrero, during the spring and summer of 1958. They also learned to walk in jungles, to get their bearings in the area and to prepare ambushes, where their collective effort was paramount. The guerrilla's skills eventually led the army to follow the example of their comrades in the Sierra Maestra. The regular soldiers simply refused to enter the mountains.
By the beginning of the summer, the DR controlled the Escambray Mountains. As their power over the area grew, their responsibilities increased and the DR organized a civil administration. A comison campesina led by Juan Miranda, a peasant, was created and enlisted the support of most peasants in the mountains. Under the direction of Pedro Martinez Larrinaga, a sugar worker, a population census was taken in the area for the first time in the country's history. More than 50 schools were built, and all were functioning regularly by the end of the year. An educational unit administered by Professor Gilberto Mediavilla was formed-Unidad Educacional Joe Westbrookwith graduate students in charge of programming and student teachers at all levels of instruction in the system. There was a department of Justice-Division Legal Menelao Mora-under the supervision of Dr. Humberto J. Gomez a criminal lawyer and an officer in the DR guerrilla army. By the end of the insurrection the DR had created a department of public works and was building roads throughout the marginal areas of the Sierra del Escambray. Workers' brigades were organized to help in such endeavors as the maintenance of the three gun factories, and the schools, roads and hospitals.
The activities of the committee of the census and that of the campesinos "ere coordinated to create a system of' cattle distribution among the inhabitants of Escambray and adjacent territories under the DR's control. A cattic-breeding center was formed under the direction of' professional veterinarians and students of the veterinary school from Havana University . The insurgents built two peasant homes for the elderly, and named them after Juan Pedro Carbo Servia The Pepe Wanguemert Medical Division at the town of' Guinia de Miranda extended medical aid throughout the mountains. Towards December 1958 the service had 15 field hospitals and ten ambulances, and treated more than 400 cases a month. Special attention was given to children's diseases, from intestinal parasites to leprosy. Cases of malnutrition were common; it was estimated that three out of five infants died before reaching the age of two. Before these rather primitive facilities were established, pregnant women received no prenatal care, but instead went to the local "nurse," who was a sort of witchdoctor. Dentists at field hospitals worked without respite in eight-hour shifts, 24 hours a day. Although many of the peasant families had brothers, cousins and other relatives in the Rural Guards, the location of the guerrilla hospitals were never revealed to the army. There were even times when regular soldiers, dressed in civilian clothes and accompanied by friends of the guerrillas, went to these medical centers for aid. There seems to be no doubt that through these activities the guerrillas established an excellent relationship with the rural population, and that the harsh realization of the poverty of the peasants served to radicalize the students further.
There were also problems. The guerrillas tried to organize two agricultural cooperatives, but the plan failed because the peasants refused to abandon their own plots of land or even to discuss collective farming. The DR distributed land to peasants in the marginal areas of the Escambray Mountains, granting immediate title to peasants who requested land and who showed a desire to work. A department of agricultural affairs supervised the DR's agrarian reform and also offered technical advice in an attempt to teach the new proprietors methods of irrigation and the use of fertilizers. However, very seldom did the new owners folio" the suggestions of the technicians, and generally they made fun of those who tried to teach them how to plant certain crops. Some students tried to conduct study groups to improve family relations, in an attempt to decrease the machista attitude of the peasant men towards their women. The project was discarded when no men attended the study groups, and one of the volunteers for the project alertewd his companeros that the peasants were taking their advice as an insult. The new generation of Cuban insurrectionists was learning the social values of the peasants and their religious dogmas; not only were they being confronted with all their problems at once, but also with the realization that the peasants were quite a conservative group. The students learned to differentiate theory from practice, and to understand the complexity of problems involved in a seemingly easy family project which the students conceived as beneficial to the peasants, but which the latter viewed as prejudicial to their own traditions.
The DR established a good communication system. It was based upon a telephone network which covered about 20 square kilometers, linking advance posts with headquarters. Maintenance was handled by a group of technicians of the Cuban Telephone Company, who left the urban underground to join the guerrillas in Escambray. The DR had two radio stations, and by the fall of 1958 these were linked with mobile units that reported the campaign leading to the battle of Santa Clara.
BY mid-August 1958 the regular army would not even approach the marginal areas of the Escambray Mountains. However, during the fall of 1958, the army made an attempt to cut the guerrilla front in half by advancing simultaneously from the city of Cienfuegos towards the north, and from Santa Clara to the south. The army's sudden decision to fight the guerrillas was probably due to the arrival of Battalion No. 11, whose chief, Colonel Angel Sanchez Mosquera, was transferred from Oriente to Las Villas province. In theory the main objective was to isolate the guerrillas who had been operating in the western sector of the mountains and had attacked various army posts in the area, moving too close to the city of Cienfuegos. However, after two weeks of futile marching the army withdrew, leaving a few dead, some wounded, and plenty of' arms and ammunition. This brief and useless operation allowed the guerrillas to capture dozens of automatic rifles, substantial amounts of ammunition, secret codes and even a tank.
In September 1958 approximately 800 guerrillas were operating in Escambray, with about 150 recruits in training and 50 messengers taken from among the youth in the area. As government persecution increased in the cities more urban militants went to the mountains. It was difficult to get to the Sierra Maestra or to the Sierra Cristal, but it "as relatively easy to reach the Escambray Mountains. Some activists of the M-26-7 also took refuge there because the rebel army in the Sierra Maestra would accept only a select number into the ranks of the guerrillas. Tile Escambray forces were larger, but Castro's 300 fighters had the advantage of' being united under one command, his. Castro would not allow any violation of the guerrilla code to threaten the group's unity. His policy was to limit the guerrilla fighters to a manageable number.
In July 1958 Faure Chomon returned to the Escambray Mountains to find a conflict between Rolando Cubela and Eloy Gutierrez Menoyo over the right of leadership,. Menoyo refused to accept Cubela as head, of' the guerrilla fighters, and he also rejected Chomon's insistence on "hitting at the top," as a useless spilling of blood. Menoyo protested sending arms I to the urban underground, claiming that all the arms were needed by the rural guerrillas.
The leadership conflict in the mountains had a number of roots. One
was that Menoyo's membership in the DR dated back to 1957, and although
he had done a tremendous amount of organizational work as chief of action
in Havana, Cubela was a founding member of the organization, and within
the DR's tradition he, not Menoyo, had the right to the top position in
the Escambray Mountains. Menoyo's claim to leadership was based on the
fact that he had been the first DR guerrilla to reach the mountains. The
organization found by the DR expeditionaries upon their arrival in central
Cuba had been created by Menoyo. The conditions for the establishment of
a guerrilla front, the contacts with the peasantry, the selection of sites
for guerrilla camps, the knowledge of the terrain, and the contacts with
cadres in surrounding urban areas were all the product of Menoyo's dedicated work. Menoyo's claim clashed with Cubela's long standing as a DR leader, and with Chomon's leadership as the secretary general of the movement. But if experience as a guerrilla fighter had been considered as the prerequisite for leadership, then Menoyo, not Chomon, had the right to lead the DR's new phase of struggle.
The solution was simple: Faure Chomon, stayed in the mountains as the
secretary general of the DR, and I Rolando Cubela was reconized as
the military leader of the DR. The executive committee of the DR supported
Chomon's position, and Menoyo announced that he was leaving the organization
to create his own group of guerrilla fighters. Chomon, then repeated
the same charge that had been passed down after the palace attack, when
Jorge Valls and Tirso Urdanivia, among
others, were expelled as traitors. Chomon charged Menoyo with treason, proclaimed his expulsion from the DR, and settled down to direct the guerrilla campaign with Cubela.
The division within the DR guerrilla army reflected the absence of the charismatic leadership of Jose Antonio Echeverria. Echeverria had maintained the control of the organization from its inception to the palace attack and his death: second-level leaders like Chomon and Menoyo appear to have inspired less respect on the part of the militants, and were more subject to criticism. The surviving leaders of the DR appear to have completely lacked the unique qualities which characterized Fidel Castro and made him not only an excellent insurgent, but also an astute politician.
The DR had suffered two serious setbacks: the palace attack and the Chomon-Menoyo split. It may be that the palace attack was the product of amateurish planning. but the Chomon-Menoyo split was the result of the mediocrity of the surviving members of the DR.
The Second Front of Escambray
Because of the conflict between leaders, Eloy Gutierrez Menoyo formed the Segundo Frente Nacional del Escambray. At this point he attained the rank of major. William Morgan, 11 a former U.S. Marine, was also a commander and close to Gutierrez Menoyo. Also backing the- Second Front was Max Lesnik, a radio commentator and politician who disliked Chomon and Castro. Other guerrilla fighters, most of whom had an Autentico background, joined the Second Front of Escambray. The main financial backing came from former president Prio, whose contact with Gutierrez Menoyo was Lazaro Artola, an Autentico and an admirer of the former president.
This guerrilla group was characterized by its lack of bureaucracy and by its highly mobile units. Its general staff included Majors Armando Fleites, William Morgan, Lazaro Artola, Alfredo Pena, Genaro Arroyo, Jesus Carrera and Gutierrez Menoyo as chief."
The guerrilla army of the Second Front performed quite well during the remaining months of the insurrection. It had various encounters with the regular army, inflicting 37 casualties at La Diana. At Charco Azul, 30 soldiers were killed, and in the Rio Negro commando raid, 40 Rural Guards were shot to death and over 100 wounded. The encounters of Guanayara, Manantiales, Dos Became Jibacoa, San Blas, Hanabanilla, the second attack against the Rio Negro army post, and the encounters of Soledad, Guaos and La Moza helped to raise the prestige of the organization, and to consolidate its territory 1.39
Towards the end of the insurrection, while "Che" Guevara and the DR encircled Santa Clara, Major Gutierrez Menoyo's army attacked the regular trrops at Topes de Collantes, and fought the regular army at Camanayagua, Manicaragua, Barajagua, San Fernando de los Camarones, Guaos, Hormiguero and El Hoyo until the army sought refuge inside the city of Cienfuegos. But the approximately 300 guerrillas under his command did not have a definite ideology, nor was the group a disciplined political organization. Its sole purpose was to overthrow Batista.
The division within the ranks of the DR had come at a critical time. Eight hundred guerrillas united under a single command could have created havoc with the regular army; instead, the divisiveness weakened the DR. The guerrilla movement remained divided in the Escambray Mountains, and was not to unite even after "Che" Guevara's arrival in I-as Villas province in October 1958. Gutierrez Menoyo did not change his position toward Chomon Chomon continued to charge Menoyo with treason; and "Che" took Chomon's side but paid attention to his main task: to defeat the regular army.
Castro did not need to worry about internal divisions over military
and political strategy. Although the M-26-7 militants complained of' Castro's
dictatorial attitude, harsh discipline in its ranks and absolute centralization
of command, the M-26-7 was monolithic by the end of 1958. This was the
most important factor in the future course of the insurretion; for in insurrections,
discipline is of paramount importance.