On July 26, 1953, Fidel Castro led an assault on the Moncada Barracks in Santiago de Cuba. While the attack failed, that date became the namesake of Castro’s revolutionary movement – M 26-7, or Movimiento 26 Julio – and marked the start of the Cuban revolution that ultimately ended the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista. On the 60th anniversary of Castro’s movement, Latin American leaders look back on the impact of the Cuban revolution on Latin American politics, and look forward to an equal partnership with the United States which both sides have been hard pressed to come by.
Cuba’s elected president from 1940 to 1944, Batista’s regime lasted another 7 years during which he shifted from a progressive leader to a dictator. Unemployment and organized crime ran rampant. During his second term, Batista broke ties with the Communist party, of which he had been a part during his election in 1940, and formed political ties with the United States, which offered military aid in support of the anti-Communist regime. He was overthrown in 1959 and his regime replaced with Castro’s revolutionary state, which later aligned with the Communist party that remains in power today. The US broke its political ties with Cuba in 1960 following the nationalization of the large amounts of property owned by the US corporations in Cuba and echoing fears that Castro’s new government would spark the spread of Communism throughout Latin America. The US-Cuba embargo is still in place as of 2013.
60 years after the iconic attack at the Moncada Barracks – an attack which led to the torture, imprisonment, and death of many of the 160 young guerilla soldiers who were part of the revolt and catalyzed the Cuban revolution – President Raul Castro reminds Cuba that “the years have passed, but this continues to be a revolution of young people.” And on this anniversary, Latin American leaders are weighing in on the effect of Castro’s revolutionary efforts on the rest of Latin America, and largely condemning US actions. Political analysts say that anti-US sentiments from Latin America stem from the desire to have the US as “a friend… not a boss,” and a failure to forget the way the US supported Batista’s dictatorship in the years leading up to the Cuban revolution.
“Fundamentally this was a revolution of dignity, of self-esteem for Latin Americans. It seeded us with dreams, it filled us with Quixote,” said Jose Mujica, President of Uruguay, referring to Castro’s movement as an inspiration to Latin America.
Castro’s famous words before he was sentenced to 15 years in prison following the Moncada attack: “Condemn me, it does not matter. History will absolve me.”