The communist government of Cuba has announced a “Fighting People’s March” in Havana on December 2 to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Castro brothers landing in Cuba after fleeing a confrontation with Fulgencio Batista’s forces.
The march follows the completion of “military exercises” announced immediately after the U.S. presidential election of Donald Trump, who made opposition to human rights violations in Cuba a cornerstone of his Latin America foreign policy.
The Spain-based Diario de Cuba cites state propaganda outlets as announcing that dictator Raúl Castro had decreed December 2 a national holiday — a “National Day of Defense” — in order to maximize attendance at national marches. “Cubans are pressured by political organizations in their places of employment, study, and their neighborhoods to participate in these marches,” the newspaper notes.
The march will mark the anniversary of the landing of the Granma, a boat the Castro brothers and mass murderer Ernesto “Che” Guevara, along with some close allies, navigated out of Mexico into Cuba. By the time the communist revolutionaries landed in Cuba once again, the leaders of the true opposition to President Batista — urban guerrilla leader Frank Pais and student leader José Antonio Echeverría — had completed most of the work of dismantling Batista’s regime but perished in their efforts. As Yale professor Carlos Eire explains, the landing of the Granma was largely a failure:
…[A]fter begging for money from exiles in the United States and living off the work or the fortunes of others, Fidel, Raul, an Argentine scumbag they called “Che” and a handful of fellow “revolutionaries” landed in eastern Cuba in a boat named Granma, and, once again, Fidel and Raul managed to get nearly everyone in the expedition killed. The brothers and the Argentine survived, mostly by avoiding all confrontations with their enemies and letting everyone else do the fighting. They headed for the mountains, met up later with a New York Times reporter named Herbert Matthews and managed to draw all attention to themselves and their 26th of July Movement, even though there were many other “revolutionaries” fighting against Batista, much more effectively, with much nobler goals.
The celebration of this historical event follows the conclusion of the 2016 “Bastion Strategic Exercises,” announced in response to Trump’s election to the White House. The exercises were allegedly meant to “simulate the struggle against the enemy landing within defensible territory” on the island, according to the state newspaper also named Granma. Granma published multiple updates on the exercises that did little to explain the need for such exercises, particularly in light of the cordial visit President Barack Obama made to the island in March.
“This is a way for us to prepare ourselves to defend the nation,” Sergeant José Antonio Pedraza Caballero is quoted as saying, without explaining what Cuba needs to defend itself from. “Confronting the adversary and defeating them is our mission, and we are equipped to achieve it, as we have proven today.”
Cuban state television propagandists also appeared on television in military outfits, and civilians were encouraged to dress in military garb to support the troops.
The Miami-based Martí Noticias agency reports, however, that those on the island appeared little enthusiastic about the exercises.
“I saw absolutely nobody in my neighborhood wearing green, absolutely nobody in military garb, absolutely nobody mobilizing for the War of All People,” dissident Witner Ballester told the agency from Cuba. “The only war here is against the hunger that is killing the Cuban people.”
Dissident Guillermo Fariñas, an EU Sakharov Prize winner who has completed 24 hunger strikes against the regime, argued that the target of these exercises is not Donald Trump, but the Cuban people. Fariñas told the Diario de Cuba that the Cuban government is “very nervous since Obama achieved so much popularity, even within the Communist Party. The military exercises, he argued, were a measure of “intimidation against the Cuban people and international public opinion.”