53 YEARS AGO
When Raúl Castro assumed responsibility for the assault on the Moncada Garrison
BY MARTA ROJAS —Granma daily staff writer—
THIS is a facsimile which I kept from the front page of the Santiago de Cuba Oriente newspaper, datelined July 30, 1953. For its eloquence it is worth reproducing.
A youthful Raúl Castro Ruz, captured before Fidel and when he did not know his brother’s fate, but did know that Abel Santamaría, second chief of the movement, had been assassinated, assumed full responsibility for the Moncada assault.
The photo, taken in the Santiago de Cuba Bivouac has a caption that reads:
"THIS YOUNG man, who does not seem to be more than 18 years old, brother of the man charged with being chief of the insurrectional movement, Dr. Fidel Castro, name of Raúl Castro Ruz, was arrested yesterday in the vicinity of San Luis.
"According to reports, this individual was the man who personally directed the assailants of the Moncada Garrison last Sunday, who took cover in the Palace of Justic after having managed to flee in the resulting confusion, when the aggression was repelled by the Moncada garrison. (Photo: Senén Caravia)."
After all the events of the Moncada assault, Raúl, who knew the Santiago topography, left the city. He thought about going to his home in the northern area of the eastern region. However, 72 hours later, he was captured by a pair of Rural Guards. From the first moment he did not disclose his identity. He said that he had gone to the Santiago de Cuba Carnival but, having no money left, had to return to his parents’ house. The excuse was not accepted: he was taken to the area barracks. That was how they operated with any young suspect. Santiago was the inevitable destination. At that stage, the regime had drowned the survivors of the assault in their own blood.
In the statement taken from the young Raúl Castro Ruz (they wrote Ruiz) in the Bivouac, he stated that "first the government had to be destroyed, in order to subsequently sort out the country so that it could progress as it should; to undertake an Agrarian Reform, but one that is not only giving land to the campesinos, one that is something more than that: giving them land and making it productive; this system has been evil since the Republic began; Cuba is full of illiterate people, injustices are being committed, money is being stolen from the people, the Batista regime had to be defeated in order to initiate the Revolution."
Later, in September, when the Moncada trial (Cause 37) took place, the prosecution berated him because in the court hearing he declared himself a rank and file combatant, in open contradiction to his statements in the Bivouac.
With his arms crossed behind him, his head held high, his hair cut like a brush and a discreet smile on his lips, Raúl stood to attention before the court and replied:
"When they took a statement from me in the Bivouac, I assumed responsibility for the Movement because I supposed that they had killed Fidel, I knew that Abel had been assassinated and somebody had to assume responsibility for that action which was frustrated in the first attempt. But, with Fidel being alive, fortunately, things have fallen back into place. I am a simple soldier who was assigned a post and a mission.
: de la Cova, Antonio Rafael
Sent: Friday, August 04, 2006 8:40 PM
Subject: The Real Story of the Capture of Raul Castro on July 27, 1953
Granma newspaper, the Official Organ of Cuba's Communist Party, today
published a distorted version of Raul Castro's capture on July 27,
1953, the day after the Moncada attack.
The real truth is closer to the version that I am excerpting here from
my forthcoming book, "The Moncada Attack: Birth of the Cuban
Revolution" to be published by the University of South Carolina Press,
June 30, 2007.
After the Moncada attack was suppressed, warnings were quickly relayed
from regimental headquarters to the surrounding military outposts.
Forty-two-year-old Lt. Vicente Camps Ruiz had been assigned two days
earlier to the fifteen-man garrison in San Luis, seventeen miles north
of Santiago de Cuba. He responded to the fugitive alert by establishing
a highway roadblock and a covert watch on the railroad tracks between
San Luis and the town of Dos Caminos. Early on Monday morning,
twenty-one-year-old Raúl Castro was walking toward San Luis on the
railroad tracks, having slept in a cane field in El Cristo the previous
night. He had bought bread and water in Dos Caminos before stepping
into the trap manned by police Sgt. Emilio Bóveda González, Corporal
Canet, and policeman Victoriano Pellicier. Bóveda drove the suspect to
the San Luis post because he lacked identification, while the two other
policemen remained at their post.
When Lieutenant Camps interrogated Raúl Castro around 8:00 A.M., he
claimed to be Ramón González, a brother of the leader of Batista's PAP
Party in Marcané. Raúl stated that he had attended the Santiago de Cuba
carnival and was returning home to Cueto, near Marcané. Camps recalled,
"Raúl lacked documentation and only had a fifty-cent coin in his
pocket. I became suspicious when he could not satisfactorily explain
why he had not bought a round-trip ticket to attend the carnival. He
then claimed that he had gone to Santiago de Cuba in a car with two
friends that he named." Camps had the detainee undress to check for
wounds and closely examine his shoulders for traces of rifle-butt
abrasions. "Although he claimed to be a peasant, I noticed that he wore
jockey briefs, an undergarment not used by peasants because of their
similarity to female panties. I then knew that he was a city dweller,"
recalled the lieutenant. Raúl's hands were shaking when left in a
detention cell while his identity was verified.
Lieutenant Camps telephoned the army chief in Alto Cedro, who replied
that the person who supposedly drove Raúl to Santiago de Cuba had sold
his car a month before and the other alleged companion was convalescing
a fractured leg. Camps was given a description of Ramón González, whom
Raúl Castro claimed to be, and it did not match. When the suspect was
confronted with this information and the fact that neither of the two
friends he mentioned had gone with him, he quickly admitted his real
identity and confessed his participation. A paraffin test indicated
that he had not fired a weapon. The next day, Camps and two corporals
escorted the prisoner to the Palma Soriano garrison, where he remained
for three days, before being transferred to the Santiago de Cuba vivac
city jail, a colonial structure built in 1845. Camps then told Raúl,
"Look, your brother got killed," and gave him the pro-government Ataja
newspaper headlined "Fidel Castro Dead." The article stated that "with
all certainty, among the civilians not identified who died in the
Moncada garrison attack, fell the leader of the attackers, Fidel
Castro." According to Camps, the distraught youth blurted out, "He died
like he wanted to. He was a big rogue." (Murió como quería. Fue un gran
cabrón). Camps asked, "Why do you say that?" Raúl replied, "Because he
betrayed us. He said we were going to join some soldiers at Moncada for
a coup d'etat. I did not kill anyone."
Upon arriving in Santiago de Cuba, Raúl Castro stated to the reporters
of Cadena Oriental de Radio and the Havana Post,
"I arrived in Santiago de Cuba on Saturday night for the purpose of
taking part in the assault on the Moncada army post. I left Havana,
where I live at No. 214 Neptuno St., on Friday, on the invitation of my
brother Fidel, who had not explained to me the plans to take part in
that attack until we arrived at the El Siboney estate. There we were
told that we were going to take the Moncada Army post and how it was to
be done, but everything turned out different (they had been deceived
and told that the soldiers and officers were against the government and
would support them). My brother assured us that there would be no
murders, but when we arrived at the Civil hospital some did occur. I
entered the building of the Santiago Court of Appeals, with five other
comrades, to take it and prevent the armed forces from taking up
positions there and firing on the attackers . . .
At the El Siboney estate we were given the army uniforms we were to
use and the weapons. We had no plans on what should be done in Cuba. I
was an Ortodoxoist and I say "was" because Ortodoxoism no longer
exists. Once the plan had failed, I got rid of the army uniform I was
wearing and descended the hill beside the Court of Appeals, leaving the
city and making for Dos Caminos, where I was arrested and taken to San
Luis. Both in the San Luis and Moncada army posts we were well
treated." ("Brother of Fidel Castro Admits Hospital Murders," Havana
Post, July 31, 1953, page 1).