Sierra Maestra Manifesto (July 12, 1957)

From the Sierra Maestra, where a sense of duty has united us, we issue this call to our compatriots.

The time has come when the nation can save itself from tyranny through the intelligence, courage, and civic spirit of its children, through the efforts of all those who feel deeply the destiny of this land where we have the right to live in peace and freedom.

Is the nation incapable of fulfilling its high destiny or does the blame for its impotence fall on the lack of vision of its public leaders? Can we not offer the fatherland in its most difficult hour the sacrifice of all personal aspirations, as just as they may seem, of all petty passions, personal or group rivalries, or in short, of whatever selfish or small sentiment has prevented placing on the alert, as one man, this formidable Cuban nation, awakened and heroic? Or is the self-centered desire of an aspirant to public office worth more than all the blood that has been spilled for this republic?

Our greatest weakness has been disunity. The tyranny, conscious of it, has promoted it by all means in all its forms, offering half solutions, tempting ambitions, and using the good faith or naïveté of its adversaries. They have divided the parties into antagonistic factions, divided the political opposition into different groups and, when the revolutionary current gained strength and became more threatening, they attempted to set the politicians against the revolutionaries, with the only goal of beating the Revolution now and deceiving the parties later.

It is no secret that if the dictatorship managed to defeat the rebel bulwark of the Sierra Maestra and crush the underground movement, once free from the revolutionary danger there would be left not even the remotest possibility of honest elections in the midst of general grief and skepticism.

Their intentions were made evident when they approved the senatorial minority, perhaps too soon, disregarding the Constitution and poking fun at the obligations contracted with the very delegates from the opposition. Once again they tried to divide and prepared the way for the electoral farce.

That the Interparliamentary Commission failed is recognized by the party that proposed it in Congress.(1) The seven opposition organizations that participated in it say so categorically today and denounce the whole thing as a bloody joke. All the civic institutions affirm it; above all, the facts affirm it. It was bound to fail because it wanted to ignore two forces that have made their appearance in Cuban public life: the new revolutionary generation and the civic institutions, much more powerful than any little clique. Thus, the interparliamentary maneuvers could only prosper on the basis of the extermination of the rebels. The fighters of the Sierra were not offered anything in that wretched solution but prison, exile, or death. One should never accept discussions on those terms.

Unity is now the only patriotic way. Unity is what all political, revolutionary, and social sectors that combat the dictatorship have in common. And what do all the opposition political parties, the revolutionary sectors, and the civic institutions have in common? The desire to put an end to a regime based on force, the violation of individual rights, the infamous crimes, the desire to seek the peace that we all long for by the only road possible, the democratic and constitutional path of our country.

Do the Sierra Maestra rebels not want free elections, a democratic regime, a constitutional government? It is because they deprived us of those rights that we have fought since March l0. We are here because we want them more than anyone else. To demonstrate it, there are our fighters dead in the mountains and our comrades murdered in the streets or secluded in prison dungeons. We are fighting for the beautiful ideal of a free, democratic, and just Cuba. What we do not do is to agree with the lies, farces, and compromises of the dictatorship.

We want elections, but with one condition: truly free, democratic, and impartial elections.

Is it not nonsensical, a deception of the people, what is happening here daily? Can there be free, democratic, and impartial elections under a tyranny which represents antidemocracy and partiality?

Of what value is the direct and free vote, the immediate counts, and other fictitious concessions if on the day of the elections no one is allowed to vote and the ballot boxes are filled at bayonet point? Of what use was the Committee on Suffrage and Public Liberties in halting the closing of radio stations and the mysterious deaths that continued to occur?

Has it done any good for public opinion to make demands? Have the exhortations for peace, the tears of mothers done any good?

With more blood, they want to put an end to the rebellion; with more terror, they want to end terrorism; with more oppression, they want to put an end to the desire for freedom.

Elections should be presided over by a provisional, neutral government, with the support of all, that will replace the dictatorship in order to induce peace and move the country toward democratic and constitutional normalcy.

This should be the slogan of a great civic-revolutionary front [Frente Civico Revolucionario](2) that comprises all political parties of the opposition, all civic institutions, and all revolutionary forces.

Consequently, we propose to all opposition political parties, all civic institutions, and all revolutionary sectors the following:

1. To create a civic-revolutionary front with a common strategy of struggle.

2. To designate as of now a person to preside over the provisional government, whose election will be left to the civic institutions to show the disinterest and impartiality of opposition leaders.

3. To declare to the country that due to the gravity of events there is no possible solution other than the resignation of the dictator and the transference of power to the person who has the confidence and the support of the majority of the nation, expressed through its representative organizations.

4. To declare that the civic-revolutionary front does not invoke or accept mediation or intervention of any kind from another nation in the internal affairs of Cuba. In contrast, it supports the denunciations of the violation of human rights made by Cuban emigrants before international organizations and asks the government of the United States that as long as the present regime of terror and dictatorship persists to suspend all arms shipments to Cuba.

5. To declare that the civic-revolutionary front, by republican and independent tradition, will not allow any type of provisional military junta to rule the Republic.

6. To declare that the civic-revolutionary front plans to separate the army from politics and to guarantee the apolitical nature of the armed forces. Military men have nothing to fear from the Cuban people, but it is the corrupt clique that sends them to their death in a fratricidal struggle.

7. To declare under formal promise that the provisional government will hold general elections for all offices of the state, the provinces, and the municipalities at the end of a year following the norms of the 1940 Constitution and the Electoral Code of 1943, and that power will be given immediately to the elected candidates.

8. To declare that the provisional government must adjust its mission to the following program:

a. Immediate freedom for all political, civil, and military prisoners.

b. Absolute guarantee of freedom of information, of the spoken and written press, and of all the individual and political rights guaranteed by the Constitution.

c. Designation of provisional mayors in all the municipalities after consultation with the civic institutions of the locality.

d. Suppression of embezzlement in all its forms and adoption of measures that tend to increase the efficiency of all state agencies.

e. Establishment of the civil service on a career basis.

f. Democratization of labor politics, promoting free elections in all unions and industrial federations.

g. Immediate initiation of an intensive campaign against illiteracy, and civic education emphasizing the duties and rights of each citizen to his society and fatherland.

h. Establishment of the basis for an agrarian reform to distribute barren lands and convert into owners all the tenant farmers, sharecroppers, squatters, and lessee planters who have small parcels of land, be it property of the state or of private persons, with prior indemnification to the owners of the land.

i. Adoption of a healthy financial policy that safeguards the stability of our currency and tends to use the credit of the nation in productive works.

j. Acceleration of the process of industrialization and the creation of new jobs.

Special emphasis must be put on two points of this document.

First: The need to name now the person called to preside over the provisional government of the Republic, to demonstrate before the world that the Cuban nation is capable of uniting behind the ideal of freedom and supporting the person who, meeting the conditions of impartiality, integrity, capability, and decency, can represent that ideal. There are more than enough men in Cuba capable of presiding over the Republic!

Second: That this person must be designated by all civic institutions because those organizations are apolitical and their backing would free the provisional president of partisan compromises and lead to absolutely clean and impartial elections.

To form this front it is not necessary that the political parties and the civic institutions declare themselves in favor of the insurrectional thesis and come to the Sierra Maestra. It is enough that they deny all support to the regime's electoral compromise and declare heroically before the nation, before the armed forces, and before world opinion that after five years of useless effort, of continuous deceit and rivers of blood, in Cuba there is no other solution than the resignation of Batista, who already has ruled the destiny of the country in two stages for sixteen years, and that Cuba is not disposed to fall into the situation of Nicaragua or Santo Domingo.

It is not necessary to come to the mountains to discuss this. We can be represented in Havana, in Mexico, or wherever may be necessary.

It is not necessary to decree the Revolution: Organize the front that we propose and the downfall of the regime will follow, perhaps without spilling another drop of blood. One has to be blind not to see that the dictatorship is in its last days, and that this is the moment when all Cubans must put forth the best of their intelligence and effort.

Can there be another solution in the midst of civil war with a government incapable of guaranteeing human life, which no longer even controls the action of its own repressive forces and whose continued tricks and games have made completely impossible the slightest public confidence?

No one should be deceived by the government propaganda concerning the situation in the mountains. The Sierra Maestra is already an indestructible bulwark of freedom that has taken root in the hearts of our compatriots, and here we shall know how to honor the faith and confidence of our people.

Our call may not be heard, but the fight will not stop because of it, and the victory of the people, although it will be much more costly and bloody, will not be prevented by anyone. We hope, however, that our appeal will be heard and that a real solution will halt the spilling of Cuban blood and will bring an era of peace and freedom.

1. The establishment of the Interparliamentary Commission was to formulate a peaceful transition of power in Congress.

2. The proposed Frente Civico Revolucionario (FCR) contained the initials of Fidel Castro Ruz.