An officer in the Cuban air force before the revolution, he was trained as a pilot in the United States during the Second World War and after. In 1957 he was jailed for supporting efforts from within the armed forces to oust the U.S.-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista. After the revolution's triumph in 1959 Carreras joined in the effort to build the armed forces of the new revolutionary government. The air squadron he headed at the Bay of Pigs in April 1961 was central to defeating the U.S.-organized invasion.
The following interview with Carreras was conducted in Havana, Cuba, on October 24, 1997, by Jack Barnes, Mary- Alice Waters, and Martín Koppel. Barnes and Waters were in Havana at the time to participate in the October 21-23 international workshop on "Socialism as the 21st Century Approaches," sponsored by the Communist Party of Cuba, and to cover that conference for the Militant and the Spanish- language monthly, Perspectiva Mundial. Barnes is national secretary of the Socialist Workers Party, and Waters is editor of the Marxist magazine, New International. Koppel is editor of Perspectiva Mundial.
Interviews with two other veteran revolutionaries and high-ranking officers of Cuba's Revolutionary Armed Forces, conducted by the same reporters, are currently being published by the Militant. An interview with Division General Néstor López Cuba appeared in the June 22 issue. An upcoming issue will feature an interview with Brigadier General José Ramón Fernández.
Copyright (c) 1998 by Pathfinder Press. Reprinted by permission.
Waters: The interviews collected together in Secretos de generales [Secrets of generals], published here earlier this year, provide an invaluable insight into the social character of the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR), the Communist Party of Cuba, and the revolution as a whole.(1) The political lessons, the leadership lessons, captured in those interviews help the reader understand why the Cuban revolution triumphed, how Cuba's working people opened the socialist revolution in the Americas, and the way they have defended themselves for nearly 40 years against every form of aggression launched by Washington and its allies.
Your story is especially interesting because you began your political activities while an officer in the old army.
As a communist party in the United States, the SWP has always acted on the lessons we learned from the Bolsheviks - the importance of carrying on political work within the army, among workers and farmers in uniform. That was our course during World War II, the Korean War, and Vietnam. During the Vietnam War, we argued against those in the antiwar movement who wanted to target the soldiers in the U.S. army as if they were the enemy, even to the point of sometimes labeling all of them "murderers."
Instead, we fought for the anti-Vietnam War movement to organize the types of demonstrations and other actions that would attract GIs, not repel them. The central slogan we advocated, and which eventually became the main banner of the antiwar movement, was "Bring the Troops Home Now!" Our comrades, when they were drafted like hundreds of thousands of their generation, didn't refuse to be inducted. We organized to defend soldiers who exercised their democratic right to march and speak out against the war, when not on active duty. Broad forces in the United States were won to this perspective over time, and antiwar GIs and Vietnam veterans became a growing - and politically very important - force in the fight against Washington's murderous assault on the Vietnamese people. Their contributions very much strengthened the Black and Chicano struggles in those years as well.
For these reasons among many others, our readers in the United States would find it interesting to learn how you became a revolutionary, as you describe in Secretos de generales.
Carreras: I was a soldier in the Cuban army from 1942 until 1957, so I know the life of a soldier. I reached the rank of major.
I joined during World War II, when the government established the Emergency Military Service.(2) I was a student at the time. I enlisted to learn how to use a rifle, and because I wanted to fly.
I came from a family of modest means. My father had been a sergeant in the army. He always told me not to join up, that I wouldn't like it. My mother was a nurse, and she wanted me to become a doctor. What I had in mind, however, was a pair of wings. I had my heart set on flying. I dreamed of being a pilot some day, but it seemed an impossible dream.
It was the war, unfortunately, that allowed me to do it. That's how I got into the military aviation academy. Within a year I had become a pilot.
I was in the service here in Cuba, patrolling the coasts, searching for German submarines that were sinking ships carrying sugar to Europe and on stopovers to or from South America. Several Cuban ships had been sunk, along with ships from the United States and other countries. That was the patrol duty I was doing at first.
In 1944, I was sent to Kelly Field [in San Antonio, Texas], to learn to fly a new type of plane. We had been flying the AT-6 and then the AT-11 trainers, and now we learned to fly the B-25 bomber. The 201st Mexican Squadron was also there.
I had a lot of trouble with English in those courses. All I had learned in Cuba was the English they taught in high school, and that wasn't enough. I learned to say "ham and eggs," so I didn't have any problem with breakfast. But at lunchtime I would ask for breakfast again, and they wouldn't give it to me. Anyway, it was rough.
In the course of World War II, while in the United States, I learned many things. For example, I had never before seen women occupying posts previously held only by men, or training alongside men. At the time of the war there was still a lot of machismo in Cuba. We did not want to see women in the streets alone going to the store, much less working outside the home, even in the fields. The revolution has led us away from all that machismo.
At Kelly Field I saw young women training as gunners and pilots to ferry B-25 bombers from bases in the United States to Canada, and sometimes even to Britain.
That was my first experience in the United States. What I learned there - the training I received as a combat pilot - I subsequently taught to the pilots we trained in the early years of the revolution, including those who fought at Girón.(3) The same tactics the U.S.-organized forces used in attacking Cuba, we applied against them. But we were defending a just cause, while they were coming to reconquer what they had lost. So we're not talking about moral equivalents.
When the war ended in 1945, in Cuba we started flying not only combat aircraft but also transport planes. I flew mainly in the United States. In the early 1950s I went through a series of basic and advanced combat courses for wing command officers at the Air University [at Maxwell Air Force Base] in Montgomery, Alabama. I practiced my English quite a bit during that period, too. I completed those courses in 1955 and returned to Cuba.
But by that time, the political situation in Cuba was very bad. In March 1952 Batista had seized power in a military coup.(4)
On July 26, 1953, the Moncada army garrison was attacked. This assault was the motor that drove the revolution forward, even though it failed militarily. The attackers were not able to take the garrison, distribute arms to the people, and open the offensive against Batista - which is what they intended to do.(5) Some of the combatants were murdered right there in the Moncada on Batista's orders. Others were convicted and sent to prison, serving their sentences on the Isle of Pines, today the Isle of Youth.
I was in Montgomery at the time of the attack, and I didn't know anything about what had happened until I read it in the newspaper. Another student at the Air University, an officer in the U.S. armed forces, spoke Spanish; he was married to a woman of Cuban descent. He took me to Tampa, where his wife's family lived, and that's where I saw a newspaper report that "a group of communists" had attacked the Moncada garrison. Right from the start they claimed it was communists. I held on to that newspaper for years.
Like a number of other soldiers and officers in the armed forces, I was opposed to the Batista dictatorship. On September 5, 1957, a small naval post in Cienfuegos rose up in arms,(6) and I was ordered to bomb the city. A group of pilots in the squadron I commanded agreed among ourselves to instead drop the bombs into the water. There was supposed to have been an uprising in Havana at the same time, but it didn't happen for a number of reasons.
In prison at Isle of Pines
In any event, my participation in the revolution begins at this point. The conspiracy was discovered, and I was arrested, tortured, court-martialed, and dishonorably discharged by the tyranny. They initially asked for the death penalty. I served time in various prisons, including La Cabaña. Then they sent me to the Isle of Pines, where I began to get to know the revolutionaries who were imprisoned there.
Barnes: You got to know the July 26 people there?
Carreras: Yes, compañeros from the July 26 Movement who had come on the Granma were imprisoned there.(7) Young people from the Directorate and people from the Popular Socialist Party were also there.(8) All of them were there together.
The political views I held at that time came from the army. Anticommunism and hatred for the Soviet Union had been drummed into my head. That's what they taught us in the academies. I didn't know what a communist was, but everything I had heard about them was bad. I was influenced by all that propaganda.
While serving time in prison, however, I got to know all of them - Lionel Soto; Chucho Montané and other compañeros from the Granma; the compañeros from the Directorate.(9)
By the time the revolution triumphed, I was no longer the anticommunist I had been before. I had become a progressive, a revolutionary. And then I witnessed all the acts of aggression organized by the U.S. government in the early years. I came to understand how wrong everything they taught me had been. I learned in the course of the struggle, and that's the best way.
Today I am a Communist Party member, and have been since 1965 when the party was founded. I have attended the five congresses, and I feel happy to be a Marxist, a Leninist, a Fidelista.
Barnes: You said you were deeply affected by the aggression carried out by Washington against the Cuban revolution during its opening years. This month is the thirty-fifth anniversary of the October Crisis.(10) Where were you during these events? How do you recall them?
Carreras: The October Crisis was a continuation of the U.S. fiasco at Girón. The defeat they suffered there led them to risk an atomic war. Girón was like a bone sticking in their throats, something they don't accept to this day. In war one either wins or loses. But they can't admit having lost in their efforts to dominate such a small country. If they hadn't failed at Girón, there would never have been an October Crisis.
We don't hate North Americans. We only hate the governments in Washington that have attempted to destroy our revolution. If the Cuban people want this revolution, why does the U.S. government seek to impose its will on us by force of arms? By economic aggression? By acts of sabotage? All these attacks against us began even before Girón.
We were not the ones who provoked the October Crisis. They did - by breaking relations with Cuba, by preparing a mercenary brigade, and an invasion. They are afraid of Cuba. They are afraid that the example of our revolution could spread. But how can we be blamed for doing things well?
Barnes: You can't be convicted for setting a good example!
Carreras: That's right, we can't. We're not the problem, but rather our neighbors who won't accept that we've freely chosen socialism. We are not a military power, or a threat to anybody. We are a small island. They know we are not capable of attacking them, that we have no intention of doing so.
On the other hand, if they set foot on Cuban soil, they will have to pay an enormous price.
Barnes: In the United States they are now publishing for the first time the transcripts of the meetings in Kennedy's offices during the October crisis. They confirm what has been reported before, but it is amazing to "hear" it all unfold meeting after meeting.
In the early days of the crisis Kennedy had decided to invade. The reasons are interesting; they discuss their options in these meetings. They thought that if they bombed the missile sites they would kill a lot of Russians, and that might lead to nuclear war with Russia. If they took military action to enforce the blockade and stop the Russian ships on the high seas, heading for Cuba, the first shots would be against Russian forces, again raising the risk of nuclear war.
So the political chiefs decided invasion was the way to go. The fighting would be primarily between Cubans and the U.S. military, they reasoned, and given U.S. military superiority it would be over fast, the risk of nuclear confrontation less.
Then Kennedy asks the Joint Chiefs of Staff for an estimate. "What will be our casualties?" Because Kennedy is a politician. He's not a military man or a dictator. He needs to weigh the political consequences.
He gets the answer. Expect 18,000 casualties in the first 10 days. That's more casualties than they ended up suffering between 1960 and 1965 in Vietnam!
From that point on in the transcripts, discussion of the invasion option recedes. The political chiefs begin in earnest to search for other alternatives.
Even today you often read articles in the United States arguing that the Cubans wanted a nuclear war but Kennedy and Khrushchev found a way out. The truth is very different, however; only the strength and determination of the Cuban people prevented war, prevented a nuclear holocaust.
We use the example of Cuba to explain why if you want to prevent nuclear war you have to follow a revolutionary course. The imperialist rulers have to know they will face what they faced in Cuba in October 1962, what they have faced in Cuba for almost 40 years.
Carreras: Today, I'm convinced the number of casualties would be double what Kennedy was told back in 1962. Today, even more so than at that time, the Cuban army is truly the entire people.
Anyway, you asked what I was doing during the October Crisis. I was the representative of the air force at the command post of the commander in chief. Captain Flavio Bravo was the chief of operations.
We experienced some very difficult moments in our meetings, especially when flights by U.S. reconnaissance aircraft nearly provoked war. RF-101 reconnaissance planes were flying 300 meters above our bases, photographing all our equipment. Fidel said, "No more!" He gave the order to open fire on any plane that came within range of our weapons.
And they were indeed our weapons. The Soviet weapons were not ours. Only the Soviet officers could command that they be fired, and only upon orders from the Soviet Union. We didn't have the authority to tell them, "Bring down those planes." But Fidel did give the order to open fire on reconnaissance planes that came within range of our own antiaircraft defenses.
At that time we had only a small air force - some MIG-19 interceptors; 100-millimeter artillery (those with the longest range); some cuatro bocas, 37-millimeter guns with four barrels. That was it. But when morale is high, you defend the country with whatever weapons you have. Violation of our air space was a grave offense against our sovereignty. And when we fired the initial shots at the first squadron of planes that came, we chased them back. That was the end of the RF-101s.
Downing of U-2 spy plane
Then Washington sent in the U-2 planes - planes that flew so high our weapons couldn't reach them. That's when the Soviet officer who commanded the antiaircraft battery in Holguín gave the order to shoot down a U-2.(11) I recall watching the radar screen in the command post as the U-2 went down.
I was a captain at the time, and was responsible for maintaining coordination with the Soviet air force. They had a squadron of forty MIG-21 interceptors, as well as a squadron of IL-28s that transported land mines, torpedoes, and other weapons. There was great friendship and cooperation among us in face of the threats. Nobody was doing anything crazy. The ones doing crazy things were Kennedy and the Pentagon, so the Soviet officer complied with our wishes and took action against the U-2.
The U-2 had been piloted by Major Rudolf Anderson, who was killed. I saw the body. I know that when there is one death others follow - that's how wars start. With the downing of the U-2 we thought the war had begun. The opposite happened, however. They decided to hold talks.
The Soviets took part in those talks, along with the U.S. government. But we were left out. Had we known what was happening, we wouldn't have stood for it, but as it was we had no choice. We didn't agree to the outcome, but we had to accept it.(12)
If the October crisis had not ended as it did, we would not be going through what we are going through today. I don't know if I've made myself clear. Our situation today is the consequence of that situation.
Barnes: Washington knew how to deal with the Soviet leadership; they knew how to get agreements from them. They always remember the Soviet-German pact.(13) But the U.S. rulers don't understand Cuba. They think you are like Moscow, like Eastern Europe, only a special tropical variety. They don't know you're the opposite, that a Soviet- German pact would be impossible with Cuba.
The truth is, they may not understand you but they fear Cuba like nothing since the Russian revolution. And they will never leave you alone as long as you remain the kind of example you are - one where there has never been a gap between word and deed.
When we interviewed [General Néstor] López Cuba earlier this week, he told us about the impact Cuban soldiers training in the Soviet Union during the October Crisis had on their instructors and other ordinary Russians. What about here in Cuba itself? Did you see changes among the Russian soldiers and officers, influenced by the courage of the Cuban people? Were they ready to fight alongside you if Washington decided to come?
Carreras: The Soviets had a problem with their high command in Cuba, because their officers here felt the same way we did. They faced the same situation we did. In an atomic war, all of us were going to be wiped out. All the Cubans said goodbye to our children. We'd see who was alive when it was over. War was coming. October 27 -the day the U- 2 was shot down - is a date I'll never forget. I'm telling you, the thing was for real.
At the beginning of the crisis, the Russians thought nothing would come of it. But that wasn't our view. And within the command structure of the Soviet forces here many were upset with the orders they were getting from home. Their hands were tied: they had a general staff here, but the orders were coming from the Soviet Union. The general staff here didn't agree with letting U.S. planes fly reconnaissance missions over Cuba.
I'll give you an example. It is one that was never reported here, but it is part of the history of the missile crisis that you are putting together. A squadron of Soviet planes was flying from Camaguey to Havana, and by chance they came across some American planes. They had those planes in their gunsights, and requested authorization from their high command at home to shoot them down. The high command over there in the Soviet Union said no. Those Soviet pilots returned to base utterly demoralized.
The pilots' conflicts were not with us; they were with the Soviet high command back home. And the differences were deeply felt. Those pilots were here in Cuba, thousands of kilometers from the USSR. It was their lives that were on the line.
The decision to shoot down the U-2 was not the result of an order from Moscow. It was the individual decision of the head of the Soviet antiaircraft defense in Oriente Province.
`Brothers to the Rescue' raid
We still face these kinds of dangers today. The enemies of the revolution have kept on violating Cuban air space, and if they continue doing so - whoever does it - we're going to be back to the October Crisis some day. And while Cuba does not have atomic bombs, we do have the moral bomb of a people who won't put up with tyranny.
That's why the two planes that violated our air space were shot down in 1996.(14) For months those planes had been flying over Havana and elsewhere, dropping leaflets against the revolution. Measures had to be taken. That group of extreme right-wing Cubans who have gone to Miami were violating our air space. To this day, they are making preparations to attack us. And they receive support. They are allowed to carry out these violations.
We're not going to let them, however. So another crisis could occur. It might not be in October; it could be some other month. But they need to stop and think. They need to take steps to avoid a confrontation that we don't want, and I don't think they want either. They should just leave us alone and let us work. But they've got that bone stuck in their throats.
Barnes: When those planes were shot down in February 1996, the Militant and Perspectiva Mundial retold the story of the October Crisis, to help workers and youth in the United States and elsewhere around the world understand why Cuba had to say no to violations of its sovereignty. A front- page statement by the National Committee of the Socialist Workers Party explained that this decisive action by the Cuban government slowed down Washington's aggressive course and was a blow by Cuba against war. If Cuba allowed that kind of violation of its air space to occur, we explained, then the next probe would come, and then the next, and then the next - and at some point there would be war.
It's Cuba's resistance that prevents a war, as it has for almost four decades. That's a very important lesson for working people in the United States to understand.
Carreras: At the end of the last century, we fought against the Spanish colonial power to free ourselves. The U.S. government intervened at the end of our war of independence to advance its own policy of expansionism, going to war against Spain in 1898. What did the U.S. forces do when that war ended?(15) They forbade Cubans from marching together with them as victors. They didn't even let our mambises enter Santiago de Cuba. Everything the U.S. forces did, from the very start of their invasion of Cuba, was aimed at creating conditions to destroy the entire mambí army.(16)
We are the continuators of that mambí army and its traditions. They sacrificed themselves for Cuba's freedom then, just as we are willing to sacrifice ourselves today.
I mentioned earlier that I had taken courses in the 1950s at the Air University in Montgomery. Some of my teachers there used to ask me why Latin Americans and Cubans are so rebellious - you seem to go from one revolution to another, these teachers would say. I explained to them that hunger and necessity force peoples to change, and that change means revolution.
For the past thirty-eight years or so I would add something else: that up to now, there has been no more worthwhile course for the popular masses than socialism. That is why we in Cuba - starting with our leader Fidel - say "Socialism or death!"
Barnes: We want to ask you about the minister of the armed forces, Raúl Castro. We posed a similar question earlier this week to General López Cuba.
Raúl is singled out for vilification by the U.S. rulers and their media, in some ways more so even than Fidel. To me it is very strange, because I spent three months in Cuba in the summer and fall of 1960 and got to know a little about the commanders of the revolution, how they were viewed by the people of Cuba. Raúl had a reputation for being, among other things, one of the warmest of the commanders. I came to the conclusion that they try to demonize Raúl because they fear the continuity of leadership of the Cuban revolution. They also fear the army, of course, and the armed people of Cuba. Raúl becomes a target because, next to Fidel, he is the long-time commander of those armed forces.
So, let me ask you as well: What kind of man is the commander? Why do you think the enemies of the revolution attack him in the ways they do?
Carreras: I didn't know Raúl or Fidel personally at the time of the triumph of the revolution. Nevertheless, I did know about them through the political activity they had carried out, going all the way back to Fidel's years as a student leader at the University of Havana in the late 1940s, and then Raúl's student days in the early 1950s after the Batista coup. I knew them through the actions they took at Moncada, and the Granma landing. They chose the line of armed struggle to overthrow the tyranny. There was no other way. They were the ones who saw it, who did it.
That's how I began to get to know Raúl and Fidel, well before I had ever met them. Fidel reached Havana a few days after the revolution triumphed, and Raúl came somewhat later, and we got to know each other there.
Personal relations between us grew as time went on. As a flight instructor I was very concerned - sometimes - that he flew. But he was indefatigable. He was a very young man. I must have been about thirty-six years old then; he was still in his twenties. That is how we began to get to know each other. In the air and on the ground. To tell you the truth, I learned a lot from the example he set.
Raúl is a very capable man, very well trained militarily, brave, and decisive. He has helped make the Revolutionary Armed Forces the vanguard of the revolution. Fidel has always had confidence in the leadership of the FAR, its organization, and its training.
If the enemies of the revolution attack Raúl, it's because he is a great commander of a great army, an army of the entire people. He is very human. He always asks about my family - the children, the grandchildren. In his personal traits, he's very much a Cuban. He has a great affinity with the masses.
Of course, we don't want nature to take Fidel away from us, since he is, as they say, the star that shines the brightest in the Cuban revolution - and, for that matter, in the Latin American revolution, too. That's why our enemies attack Raúl - because they know that with him, we'll have no problems if something happens to Fidel. But there won't be a problem with anybody else, either.
Unfortunately, however, the enemy has a very big propaganda apparatus. But that's for external consumption. Here, they can say what they want; nobody pays much attention.
Fidel and Raúl have the best qualities you'll find in a leader. What's unusual is that two such individuals emerged, prepared to take any risk and to head a mission as difficult as the one we are carrying out.
You look at them and sometimes you ask yourself, "Where did they learn so much?" Perhaps the priests really know how to teach, because that is where they both studied!(17)
Revolutionary integrity and responsibility
Barnes: I remember watching some television coverage from Cuba in 1989 of various proceedings during the crisis involving Ochoa and the Ministry of the Interior.(18) You could see in Raúl's face how deeply he had been affected by this breakdown of revolutionary integrity among even a handful of officers in the FAR and Interior Ministry.
In following these events, it seemed to us that as part of Fidel's response to this crisis, he turned to the FAR to shoulder even more responsibility and take broader political initiative to guarantee the direction and honor of the revolutionary government. That also seemed involved in the decision to appoint Furry [Gen. Abelardo Colomé Ibarra] to replace Abrantes as head the Ministry of the Interior. How did the Cuban people see these developments?
Carreras: The Cuban people entrusted the continuity of the revolution to Fidel and Raúl. And we can say today that there are cadres here in Cuba capable of carrying forward that continuity who were not even born when Fidel and Raúl were already engaging in struggle.
The struggle itself is a school in which you learn things you can't learn in regular schools. You learn how to fight. You learn how to confront problems, and how not to confront problems. Imagine sullying our uniform for money, to get out of an economic bind! That's what Ochoa did. And this in an army as honorable as the Rebel Army! If we have to die of hunger we'll die of hunger, but we won't disgrace what the people have fought for so hard and so long. We won't disgrace what so many people have died for over the years. We must honor those who have fallen.
What was done by Ochoa and those involved with him is incompatible with the principles we defend. Anyone who violates those principles knows the consequences. We regretted having to shoot someone who had once been a revolutionary. But a revolutionary cannot stain his hands, or take the wrong road in order to obtain funds for things our people need. Here there can be no contraband, no drugs. Not here.
If once again we are seeing prostitution - the problem of the jineteras that has come with the growth of tourism - it is something we are combating. I look at my little granddaughters and so much want no harm to come to them, to my family, which means, to my people.
That's why we fought for socialism - to eliminate such evils. Look at what's happening in Russia today. Look at what's happening in Romania. Look at what's happening in all those European countries. We will not permit those evils in Cuba.
Recently a code of ethics was approved in our country reaffirming the necessity for a high moral standard among cadres, and that code is being applied. Such standards are essential if the people are to support the leadership and cadres of the revolution, because the population is small -11 million - and very alert. People see how you live. We don't have to point out abuses, because the people do so and begin fighting the cadres implicated.
Raúl has been very vigilant, not only as a general of the army but as the second secretary of the Communist Party. He has always sought to guard the honor of the party, the example set by its members.
So, this effort by the enemy to vilify Raúl is for consumption abroad - it won't work in Cuba. They don't know the Cuban revolution.
Vietnam and Cuba
Waters: In Secretos de generales, you mention your experiences in Vietnam for several months in 1969. Could you tell us about that?
Carreras: I was in Vietnam, although not as a combatant. I was there for several months as part of a commission to learn from the experiences of North Vietnam's antiaircraft defenses against the U.S. bombing. The commission included radar specialists, communications experts, and so on. We saw how the tiny Vietnamese air force was organized, and learned how they were often able to use the radar guidance system on incoming enemy planes to determine targets in advance and minimize the effectiveness of U.S. air strikes.
We traveled from Hanoi down close to the border with South Vietnam. The Vietnamese didn't let us go further, since several other members of our commission had already been killed as a result of taking big risks. These compañeros, who had arrived in Vietnam earlier than I did, found themselves in the middle of an antiaircraft battery under attack. A U.S. Navy plane had launched a missile against a radar installation, I believe, and the Cubans tried to take cover and watch what was happening at the same time. The missiles hit and exploded, killing them.
The Vietnamese didn't want the same thing to happen to us. They never wanted anybody to fight alongside them. They did want cooperation and aid. And they shared their experiences with us, since sooner or later we too were likely to be subjected to the same kind of aggression. We relayed these experiences back here to Cuba. It was extremely useful in training our pilots and preparing our antiaircraft defenses, so that air strikes against us would be less effective.
We saw first hand the criminal character of the U.S. bombings. The U.S. warplanes destroyed all the bridges. They attacked cities using fragmentation bombs. Women and children would go into their homemade shelters -lengths of pipeline buried underground. Sometimes, however, they couldn't shelter themselves adequately, and children were killed when cluster bombs hit the ground and fragmented. We saw these things happen. It was a criminal war against the Vietnamese people.
We learned from these experiences and changed our own defensive tactics. The truth is that the enemy compelled us to keep making these changes - and continues to do so now that we are alone, now that we no longer get the aid we used to before the socialist camp, in Fidel's words, fell like a meringue. It just disintegrated.
The war of the entire people - that is the foundation of our tactics and strategy. We are ready to confront whatever attack the enemy might carry out against us. You've been here. You've learned something about our ground troops. And we're preparing as best we can to make sure that the air force is never destroyed. The majority of our aircraft are in underground shelters; others are above ground but in reinforced shelters. Even so, of course, we all know that U.S. weapons are very sophisticated and dangerous, and that no matter what measures we take the air force is going to suffer greatly. That's why our strategy has always been based on making clear that any country that invades this island will pay a very high price.
Invading Cuba would be a very big risk for them. Cuba and the United States are very nearby, so it would be a lot harder for them to hide the consequences of the war. It would be a lot easier for people in the United States to see things close-up in Cuba than they were able to do in Vietnam - and, despite that, your antiwar movement won out. The closer to home events are, the faster your movement can win.
Let's hope they never get so crazy over there as to come here to attack us. We don't want deaths. All we want is to be able to work. All we want is to be able to help humanity, especially in Latin America, which is going through very painful times right now. There is a lot of hunger, a lot of poverty. And only revolution, only social change can salvage the situation. Today, children are paying a price for something they haven't done, for things adults have done.
Here in Cuba we are fighting, we are resisting.
Barnes: How has the Special Period affected the armed forces and its responsibilities?(19)
Carreras: The Special Period has had a big impact, definitely. There's a lot to say about that.
You are aware, for example, that we have virtually no oil deposits in Cuba, and the little we do have is not very good quality. It has high sulfur content. This fuel shortage keeps us from maintaining our armed forces in optimal condition.
Prior to the breakup of the Soviet Union, the Soviet government sold us large quantities of oil, and we paid very low prices. The end of these shipments was very abrupt. We had no time to make adjustments. Suddenly no one could find even a liter of oil. But we had maintained a strategic reserve, and that saved the day. Fidel and Raúl had always insisted on that for defense purposes. We ended up having to utilize part of the strategic reserve so the lights could stay on, so refrigerators could function, so hospitals had electricity.
As the economic situation worsened, we kept on learning. The party leadership guided this effort. We have been learning the appropriate measures to tackle the difficulties we face. We've had to change our defensive strategy, for example. We've had to cut back the armed forces and relocate many cadres to agriculture, to tourism, to study other fields. We've had to keep reducing the air force, which is the most expensive part of the armed forces.
What is our plan? Conservation of resources - so that when the time comes, when the combat alarm sounds, we have what we need. So that our planes can fly. So we can use our artillery. We have tanks and other weapons stored away, much of it underground, some above ground. The above ground weaponry is for use in the event of a surprise attack, to provide time to put the rest into service.
With the onset of the Special Period, our armed forces budget was cut in half to begin with, reducing it by billions of pesos. Then we cut it again. Now, we're making further reductions in compliance with decisions of the party congress earlier this month.
Who has made it possible for us to make these adjustments without affecting our defense preparedness? The people. The people are organized in the Territorial Troop Militia and in the reserves, as well as in the standing army.
The standing army is the part that is best equipped technically. For example, our air force has combat-ready air units that can respond immediately to attacks, giving us time to activate the people and the aircraft being kept in reserve. Some combat pilots remain on active duty and continue their normal schedule of flying time, while others fly for reduced amounts of time. Reserve units are kept ready for use, and there are pilots flying transport planes who can be called up when the combat alarm goes off or a state of alert is called. We maintain flight crews and a minimum of training. Each active-duty pilot flies between one hundred and two hundred hours during the course of a year. The reserve forces fly ten hours a year.
Thus, as needed, we can and will mobilize the same air force we had before the Special Period.
We remain combat-ready, twenty-four hours a day. Nobody flies over Cuba without authorization. Our radar units not only help with air navigation, but inform us immediately of any object that appears in our skies. As soon as the radio message comes in, the fighter planes take off.
That's what happened in 1996 with the planes from Florida we were discussing earlier. We let them come close and then told them several times to turn back. They didn't want to cooperate, however, so down they went.
So, yes, the Special Period has had an impact. We generals like to have large units, but we can't afford that pleasure right now. We have put many planes and a lot of artillery into reserve, and it will be activated in a state of war.
`The war for beans'
We are waging a war in Cuba today, but it's an economic war. It's the war for beans, as Raúl says.(20) And it's more difficult than a shooting war.
The war for beans is the one we're fighting right now. When the pilots are not flying, they are planting some of those beans, or harvesting them. They go to the farms and help out in agricultural tasks. Those on active duty rotate with those in the reserves. They keep in good shape, physically and medically. They set an example for other compañeros.
As a revolutionary, I'm still learning, even at my age. I was never a farmer, and I used to dislike the land. But when I sit at the table and eat rice, plantains, and beans, I have to ask: "Where does it come from?" It comes from the land. I'm not a good farmer, but when we go to the farms, I do my part. I want the young people to see the old-timers take part in bringing in the beans.
We have felt the cutbacks very much. But we are content. The Revolutionary Armed Forces does not have advisers of any kind. We are our own advisers. That's what I'm doing now: I went from being a division general to an adviser in the Ministry of the Armed Forces. I was sent there by the minister [Raúl Castro]. They ask me about the early years, how we did things back then. I respond as best I can, and it's good for me.
I can assure you that the young generation is better prepared than we were - politically, intellectually, culturally, in every sense. That's what the majority of the new ministers who were just chosen are demonstrating. That's the generation that is replacing us.
Barnes: In the United States we tell revolutionary-minded workers and young people that the living traditions of the Cuban armed forces represent for us today what the young fighters in the soldiers' soviets in Russia meant for toilers the world over in 1917. It has the same kind of political attraction to revolutionists as the army Lenin and the Bolsheviks forged seventy years ago to defend the young Soviet workers and peasants republic against the counterrevolutionary bandits of that time, and against the invading imperialist armies that backed them.
Right now, the FAR is the only revolutionary army working people and youth in the United States today have a chance to see. And they need to learn about and understand soldiers in a revolutionary army, because some day they are going to be soldiers in a revolutionary army.
No worker in the United States has ever known a general like those in the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Cuba. Young workers who've served in the U.S. army know the officer corps as a caste who consider them trash - just pieces of meat to be trained, used, and disposed of, dead or alive. That is why the generals of the FAR who spoke to the young people from the Americas taking part in the youth festival last summer had such a tremendous impact on them.(21) As soon as we read Secrets of Generals earlier this year, we knew that fighters in the United States were going to have a new opportunity to learn about some very important history, the traditions of a revolutionary army.
Many revolutionary-minded workers in the United States study the Russian revolution, and they develop a pretty good feel for the workers' soviets - the mass councils of workers' delegates that grew up in the heat of battle and formed the foundation of the new revolutionary government. Workers and other young people in the United States even develop somewhat of an understanding of the peasants' soviets, although fewer and fewer of them today have ever been on a farm. But they have a much harder time understanding the soldiers' soviets, since it's even a step or so further removed from anything they've ever experienced, even indirectly. So we tell them: learn what you can about the armed forces in Cuba, and you'll have about as good a feel for the soldiers' soviets as is possible short of major new revolutionary developments.
Traditions of Cuban army
Carreras: If you'll pardon my saying so, armies have their own traditions. The Soviets have theirs, of course, very strong ones. We have our own traditions - very appealing ones, which we fight to maintain and guard.
Who were our soldiers in Cuba's war of independence from Spain? The slaves who had been freed, the peasants - that's who joined up as soldiers together with Carlos Manuel de Céspedes(22) to liberate Cuba. During the revolutionary war against Batista, the majority of the soldiers who joined the Rebel Army were peasants, as well as workers and students. That's the source of our traditions. And you can't transfer experiences from one country to another.
I've seen firsthand the traditions of other armies, traditions very different from our own. For one thing, we are incapable of laying a hand on a soldier. That is the greatest aberration we can imagine. Yet once, right in front of several of us, I witnessed a Soviet general strike a soldier for being drunk. I can put up with a lot, but seeing that made me so angry I had to get out of there. Laying a hand on a soldier shows a lack of respect, and that's something we do not allow. That's just the way we are.
Barnes: Yes, and your traditions are more like those of the young working-class and peasant soldiers in the soviets of 1917 who gave everything when Lenin and the Bolsheviks called on them to defeat the imperialist invasion and the counterrevolutionary armies of the landlords and capitalists. That is what we have always believed.
The example of Che is part of your traditions, too, and this month, October - here in Cuba, in the United States, and elsewhere - we've been commemorating the thirtieth anniversary of the combat waged in Bolivia by Che Guevara and his comrades. For Che the military, the political, and the economic were not separate, unconnected arenas, but instead parts of an integrated strategy to fundamentally transform society and in the process transform the human beings engaged in that revolutionary activity. Could you tell us a little more about what Che's example means for the cadres and leaders of the Revolutionary Armed Forces, and for the Cuban people?
Carreras: Che is the greatest exponent of the Latin American revolution. As Fidel explained the other day,(23) few individuals have done what Che did to point the way for humanity - to give everything, as he did.
I flew with Che a number of times. I got to know his personality. Che foresaw and spoke about many of the things that are happening to us in Cuba today. He was a man of great foresight, like Fidel - who has even greater foresight. Both of them were able to see things far down the road, and that proved decisive in helping us emerge victorious from the most difficult moments the revolution has passed through.
The image of Che can be found wherever there is a young person who wants to change humanity. Che does not represent only armed struggle, only Cuba, only Argentina. No, he represents the image of the new man.
This is why the enemies of the revolution criticize Che so much. Because his example continues to threaten them. But here in Cuba, we have worked hard to bring Che forward again, to review what he fought for. And now we have him here among us.
Barnes: It seems important for us to explain in the United States that a Peruvian and a Bolivian family decided they wanted the remains of their loved ones to be buried in Cuba alongside Che's. That was a free decision by the families of these combatants.
At a public sendoff meeting in Chicago for this trip at which Mary-Alice and I spoke just the day before coming here, a comrade asked me: "So that's their final resting place?" I said I didn't know. There will be a revolution in Peru some day, and a revolution in Bolivia too. So, "final" is probably not the word we are looking for.
We had supper last night with a friend here in Havana who has never been a member of the Communist Party. "I never march in the May Day demonstrations here," she told us. "I've never liked big crowds." It's a lie when the press in United States says people in Cuba are forced to go out in the streets, she told us. "I almost never go." But there have been two times, she said, when she did go out. The first time was when U.S.-backed counterrevolutionaries blew up the Cubana plane in Barbados.(24) And the second time was earlier this month when the military procession for Che came through her neighborhood en route to Santa Clara. "I found myself going down to join everyone else along the road," she said.
That's a very important story to tell in United States, I think. Because it's another piece of evidence that if the U.S. rulers ever invade Cuba, they won't just be fighting the FAR; they won't just be fighting the Communist Party; they truly will be fighting the Cuban people.
Waters: Is it accurate that you taught Che to fly ?
Carreras: Yes, that's partially true. Che started out flying with a compañero who had been in his column in the Rebel Army. He had been a crop-duster pilot. This compañero - his name was Orestes Acosta - died in the air attack on our bases that preceded the invasion at Girón.(25) So Che came to me and said, "Carreras, why don't you teach me aerial acrobatics?" He loved acrobatics. I'll tell you an anecdote. Whenever I fly, whether as a pilot or an instructor, I'm always careful about safety measures - and even more so when I had Che in the plane.
But Che always had a cigar in his mouth. He loved cigars. He was a very respected person, and I didn't know quite how to tell him, "Throw away that cigar before you blow us both up!"
So at first I said, "Commander, permit me to hold your cigar while you fly."
"No, Carreras, it's out. The cigar isn't lit."
Then I asked him, "So if it isn't lit, why do you need the cigar in your mouth? I'll hold it for you."
"No, it relieves my asthma."
He had an answer for everything! Imagine! Cigars help your asthma!
He said it so seriously, however, that I let him talk me into keeping the cigar. But whenever he flew with me, I always made sure the cigar wasn't lit. He was the minister of industry and had other major leadership responsibilities. If Che's plane had caught fire, what a price to have paid for a cigar!
My relations with Che were working relations, and we never had much of a chance to talk when we were on the ground. At one point Che was head of the Department of Instruction, so as head of the air force I had various working meetings with him to coordinate training on naval and army aircraft. That was when he was working in INRA [National Institute of Agrarian Reform].(26)
I learned a great deal from Che, and, like many others, deeply regret that he was killed. But Che is not dead. In fact, I believe his presence is being felt more and more in the new generations that are playing a key role in world developments today.
1. Secretos de generales comprises interviews by veteran Cuban journalist Luis Báez with forty-one top officers of Cuba's Revolutionary Armed Forces, including Carreras. It was released in 1997 by Si-Mar Publishers of Havana.
2. The Cuban government declared war on Germany and Japan following Washington's entry into World War II. Havana created the Emergency Military Service to meet the personnel needs of its armed forces under these wartime conditions.
3. Playa Girón (Girón Beach) is the name used in Cuba for the April 1961 battle in which the militias and Revolutionary Armed Forces defeated some 1,500 Cuban mercenaries, organized and financed by Washington, who invaded at the Bay of Pigs on the southern coast. The mercenaries planned to declare a provisional government to appeal for direct U.S. intervention. Within seventy-two hours of their April 17 landing, however, the last invaders surrendered at Playa Girón.
4. On March 10, 1952, Fulgencio Batista - a retired Cuban army general and strongman in successive governments in Cuba between 1934 and 1944 - organized a military coup against the government of Carlos Prío and canceled scheduled elections. With support from Washington, Batista imposed a brutal military dictatorship that lasted until January 1,1959. On that date Batista fled the country as his military and police forces crumbled in face of the victories won by the advancing Rebel Army commanded by Fidel Castro, and the growing popular support for the July 26 Movement, including a revolutionary general strike.
5. On July 26, 1953, some 160 revolutionaries launched an insurrectionary attack on the Moncada army garrison in Santiago de Cuba, and a simultaneous attack on the garrison in Bayamo. This marked the beginning of the revolutionary armed struggle against the Batista dictatorship. After the attack's failure, Batista's forces massacred more than fifty of the captured revolutionaries. Fidel Castro, the central leader of the group and commander of the Moncada assault, and twenty-seven others were captured, tried, and sentenced to up to fifteen years in prison. They were released in May 1955 after a public defense campaign forced Batista's regime to issue an amnesty.
6. The uprising was led by anti-Batista forces within the armed forces and supported by the July 26 Movement. When the simultaneous uprisings planned for Havana and elsewhere did not occur, Batista's forces were able to rapidly crush the Cienfuegos revolt. (See Episodes of the Cuban Revolutionary War by Ernesto Che Guevara, Pathfinder, pp. 266-67.)
7. On November 30, 1956, eighty-two revolutionary fighters, including Fidel Castro, Raúl Castro, Juan Almeida, and Ernesto Che Guevara, set sail from Tuxpan, Mexico, toward Cuba aboard the yacht Granma, to initiate the revolutionary war against the U.S.-backed regime of Fulgencio Batista. The expeditionaries landed in southeast Cuba on December 2. Surprised by Batista's troops three days later at Alegría de Pío, twenty-one of the combatants were killed; twenty-one were captured and imprisoned; of the forty who avoided capture and escaped, twenty regrouped in the Sierra Maestra mountains as the nucleus of the Rebel Army.
8. The Revolutionary Directorate, founded in 1955, was an anti-Batista organization based largely among university students in Havana. The Popular Socialist Party was the name taken in 1944 by the Communist Party of Cuba. In 1961, the July 26 Movement initiated a fusion with these two groups to form the Integrated Revolutionary Organizations and later, in 1965, the Communist Party of Cuba, with Fidel Castro as first secretary.
9. Lionel Soto was a leader of the Popular Socialist Party youth group during the struggle against Batista. Jesús "Chucho" Montané, a leader of the July 26 Movement who participated in both the Moncada attack and the Granma expedition, was captured several days after the battle of Alegría de Pío and spent the rest of the war in prison.
10. In the face of escalating preparations by Washington for an invasion of Cuba in the spring and summer of 1962, the Cuban government signed a mutual defense agreement with the Soviet Union. In October 1962 U.S. president John Kennedy demanded removal of Soviet nuclear missiles installed in Cuba following the signing of that pact. Washington ordered a naval blockade of Cuba, stepped up its preparations to invade, and placed U.S. armed forces on nuclear alert. Cuban workers and farmers mobilized in the millions to defend the revolution. Following an exchange of communications between Washington and Moscow, on October 28 Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev, without consulting the Cuban government, announced his decision to remove the missiles.
11. A U.S. U-2 spy plane was downed over Cuba on October 27, 1962. Contrary to instructions from Moscow, the Soviet officer, without prior permission, ordered his troops to launch missiles at the plane violating Cuban air space.
12. Commenting on the outcome of the October Crisis in a 1992 NBC television interview with Maria Shriver, Cuban president Fidel Castro said: "Naturally we did not want war. We wanted a solution, but an honorable solution.... We didn't know that the crisis was on its way to being resolved on the basis of the almost unconditional concessions made by Khrushchev. They left everything the way it was. They left the blockade. They left a dirty war. They left Guantánamo Naval Base."
13. In August 1939 the governments of the Soviet Union and Germany concluded a nonaggression pact. As part of that agreement, on September 1, German imperialist troops invaded Poland from the west, and Soviet troops occupied eastern Poland. The pact made it possible for Hitler's general staff to march the Wehrmacht west without fear of a two-front war. Once western Europe had been conquered to the English Channel, in June 1941 Hitler turned and invaded the Soviet Union, catching the Soviet government and Communist Party leadership by surprise and less prepared for battle than they had been in 1939. Far from using the time to strengthen Soviet defenses, Stalin and the Communist Party leadership worldwide had deepened illusions in the supposedly stable, long-term character of the "nonaggression" pact and brought the Moscow show trials to their bloody conclusion with a sweeping purge of the Soviet officer corp, virtually decapitating the Red Army.
In a 1992 interview with Nicaraguan revolutionary Tomás Borge, Fidel Castro described the policies of Stalin prior to World War II as "a flagrant violation of principles: to seek peace with Hitler at any cost, stalling for time.... Far from gaining time, the nonaggression pact shortened it, because war broke out anyway.... If Hitler had declared war on the USSR in 1939, the destruction would have been less than the destruction caused in 1941, and he would have suffered the same fate as Napoleon Bonaparte.... With the people's participation in an irregular war, the USSR would have defeated Hitler." Stalin also "conducted a terrible bloody purge of the armed forces, practically beheading the Soviet Army on the eve of war," Castro noted.
14. On February 24, 1996, three Cessna planes organized by the Florida-based counterrevolutionary organization Brothers to the Rescue were warned several times that they had entered Cuban air space. Two were shot down, and four men on board were killed. Cuba had experienced ten other violations of its air space within the previous twenty months, involving some thirty planes all told. On at least three occasions the planes scattered leaflets from the air. The same organization mounted flotillas to violate Cuban waters several times during this period. In response to these aggressive acts, the Cuban government in July 1995 publicly reaffirmed its long-standing policy that "any vessel coming from abroad, which forcefully invades our sovereign waters, could be sunk; and any plane shot down.... We have confronted this provocation with great patience, but patience has its limits. The responsibility for whatever happens will fall, exclusively, on those who encourage, plan, execute, or tolerate these acts of piracy."
15. At the conclusion of that war, Washington took direct possession from Madrid of Puerto Rico, the Philippines, and Guam as U.S. colonies, while imposing the Platt Amendment on the Cuban government established during the U.S. military occupation. Under the provisions of that amendment - incorporated in Cuba's new constitution - Washington was given the "right" to intervene in Cuban affairs at any time and to establish military bases on Cuban soil. These provisions were eliminated from the Cuban constitution in the wake of the 1933-34 revolutionary uprising there.
16. Mambí refers to fighters in Cuba's wars of independence from Spain, many of them freed slaves or agricultural workers. These wars took place during 1868-78 and 1895-98. The term "mambí" originated in the 1840s during the fight for independence from Spain in Santo Domingo. After a Black Spanish officer named Juan Ethninius Mamby joined the Dominican independence fighters, Spanish forces began referring to the guerrillas as "mambies," later applying the related term "mambises" to the freedom fighters in Cuba, who adopted it as a badge of honor.
17. Like most children from middle-class families in prerevolutionary Cuba, both Fidel and Raúl were educated at schools run by the church. Fidel Castro describes the education he received in Jesuit-run schools in his book- length interview with Brazilian priest Frei Betto entitled Fidel and Religion.
18. In June-July 1989 Arnaldo Ochoa, a division general in the Cuban army, and three other high-ranking officers of the Revolution Armed Forces and Ministry of the Interior were tried, convicted, and executed for hostile acts against a foreign state, drug trafficking, and abuse of office. Ochoa had organized the smuggling of ivory and other goods while heading Cuba's military mission in Angola and had established contacts with Pablo Escobar and other major international drug dealers. At the same trial, thirteen other Cuban army and Ministry of the Interior officers were convicted.
That same month, José Abrantes was removed as head of the Ministry of the Interior in connection with these events. In August he was convicted and sentenced to twenty years in prison on charges of abuse of authority, negligence in carrying out his duties, and improper use of government funds and resources. Abrantes was replaced as minister by Army Corps General Abelardo Colomé, who at the time was deputy minister of defense and first substitute for the minister Raúl Castro.
A documentary record of the case of Ochoa and others convicted with him can be found in Case 1/1989: End of the Cuban Connection (José Martí Publishing House: Havana, 1989).
19. The Special Period is the term used in Cuba for the extremely difficult economic conditions the Cuban people have faced since the early 1990s, and the policies the leadership has implemented to defend the revolution. With the disintegration of the regimes of the Soviet bloc that previously accounted for 85 percent of Cuba's foreign trade, much of it on terms favorable to Cuba, the island was brutally thrust deeper into the world capitalist market. The sudden break in trading patterns - which took place as the world capitalist crisis intensified, and has been compounded by the ongoing economic warfare organized by Washington - led to the most severe economic crisis in Cuba since 1959. By 1996, however, through the efforts of Cuban working people, the decline in industrial and agricultural production had bottomed out. Shortages of food and other essentials, though still severe, have begun to be eased.
20. In an August 3, 1994, speech to the National Assembly of People's Power, Raúl Castro said: "Today, as our president has just pointed out, the central strategic, economic, political, ideological, and military task for all Cuban revolutionaries, without exception, is to guarantee the population's food supply, and to produce sugar, as Fidel has consistently pointed out in recent times.
"Yesterday we were saying that beans are as important as guns; today we are affirming that beans are more valuable than guns, using beans generically to cover all indispensable basic foods. (However, so as not to confuse the United States; we do have guns and other weapons in plentiful supply for the defense of our country.)"
21. During the 14th World Festival of Youth and Students in Havana in July-August 1997, many delegates participated in a meeting with four generals of Cuba's Revolution Armed Forces (FAR) who had fought with Ernesto Che Guevara during the revolutionary war against Batista and during internationalist missions in the Congo and Bolivia. The officers were Division General Ramón Pardo Guerra and Brigadier Generals Harry Villegas Tamayo, Enrique Acevedo Glez, and Luis Alfonso Zayas. The meeting was held at the conclusion of a two-day anti-imperialist tribunal during the festival that was attended by some 1,500 delegates. [For coverage of the event, see Militant, August 25, and September 22, 1997]
22. Carlos Manuel de Céspedes was the initiator of the Cuban independence war of 1868-78. He was killed in 1873.
23. Castro spoke at the October 17, 1997, ceremony in the Cuban city of Santa Clara, where the remains of Guevara and six other combatants from Bolivia, Cuba, and Peru who were part of Che's guerrilla in Bolivia were interred. Castro's speech was printed in the booklet, Celebrating the Homecoming of Ernesto Che Guevara's Reinforcement Brigade to Cuba: Articles from the Militant newspaper on the 30th anniversary of the combat waged in Bolivia by Che and his comrades, distributed by Pathfinder Press. It is also available in the October 26, 1997, issue of Granma International.
24. On October 6, 1976, Cuban counterrevolutionaries set off a bomb on a Cubana Airlines flight from Barbados to Cuba. All seventy-three people aboard were killed.
25. On April 15, 1961, as part of the preparations for the Bay of Pigs invasion two days later, Washington organized air assaults on air bases near Santiago de Cuba and Havana, killing seven and wounding fifty-three. The following day, at a mass rally to honor the victims of the attack and to mobilize the entire population for the coming war, Fidel Castro proclaimed the socialist character of the Cuban revolution.
26. The Rebel Army's Department of Instruction was responsible for political education in the fast-growing military in the period after the January 1959 victory. In October 1959 the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR) was founded, incorporating the Rebel Army - which continued to be called by that name for several years - as well as the Rebel Air Force, the Revolutionary Navy, and the Revolutionary National Police. Ernesto Che Guevara headed this department beginning in early 1959. Verde Olivo, the FAR's magazine, was "published under the guidance of the Department of Instruction of the Revolutionary Armed Forces." The Political Directorate of the Revolutionary Armed Forces, currently headed by Div. Gen. Néstor López Cuba, is responsible for political education in the FAR today.
Che was named head of INRA's Department of Industrialization in October 1959. This was the predecessor of the Ministry of Industry, founded in early 1961.
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