124. Report Prepared by the Division of Research and Analysis for American Republics, Bureau of Intelligence and Research1

No. 7780



On March 12, 1958, Fidel Castro Ruz, as commander in chief of the rebel forces of the 26th of July Movement, announced, and widely publicized, a forthcoming decisive effort against the Government of Cuba headed by Fulgencio Batista. A general strike was attempted on April 9, but did not receive nation-wide popular support and was quickly frustrated by strong government counter actions. Following the strike attempt, the rebels appeared to lose strength and prestige, and a number of sources reported schisms within the movement. In fact, however, only minor figures abandoned the rebel cause and the reverse proved only temporary. At the present time the 26th of July Movement is stronger than it has ever been, and its chances for success in overthrowing the Batista regime have increased.

Factors which have enabled the rebels to recover from their April defeat and to arrive at their present advantageous position include the opening of a second front by Fidel Castro’s younger brother, Raul, which has approximately doubled the guerilla forces (now about 4,000 strong) and the territory they control in Oriente Province; a broadening of the movement’s ideological base which has widened its appeal to nonrevolutionary segments of the population; improved organization; sustained high morale and discipline; continued support from local organizations and exile and other groups based abroad; and a new emphasis on the value of propaganda. In addition, Fidel Castro [Page 197] has recently entered into a unity pact with all of the revolutionary forces opposing the Batista regime, a reversal of his position on December 14, 1957, when he repudiated a similar pact chiefly on the grounds that it did not expressly reject 1) foreign intervention in Cuban internal affairs, and 2) replacement of Batista by a military junta. Factors which have tended to limit rebel successes during the past four months have included poor planning; seemingly ineffectual appeal to and penetration of the armed forces and organized labor; insufficient arms; and a poor communications system.

The rebels have generally taken an anti-U.S. line on the basis of charges that the United States is supplying the Batista forces with war matériel. Late in June, in protest against alleged U.S. policies, the Raul Castro forces kidnapped 47 U.S. citizens and held them captive for a number of weeks; the rebels have since threatened to take additional revenge on Americans in Cuba unless our foreign policies are changed. Although the Cuban Government has consistently charged that 26th of July Movement is penetrated and influenced by communism, little evidence exists to prove these allegations, although there are continuing reports that some communists have entered the lower ranks of the rebel forces.

The chances for the overthrow of the Batista government continue to be contingent upon the government’s ability to maintain the support of the armed forces and organized labor, and to sustain a relatively high level of national economic prosperity. The majority of the Cuban population, although opposed to Batista in principle, is not willing to take up arms against him, is apathetic to his rule, and only desires a return to stable political conditions.

Should the revolutionists displace the present Cuban Government, their ability to operate a successor government would depend upon the cooperation and unity of the various revolutionary groups and their success in dealing with the military and organized labor. If the diverse factions were to cooperate, a comparatively stable left-of-center government can be envisaged. However, the dominant role achieved by the 26th of July Movement and the irresponsibility and youthful ambitions of its leadership lend serious doubt to the prospect of its continued cooperation with these groups. Should the 26th of July Movement try to “go it alone”, without the restraining influence of the more moderate members from other opposition groups, continued civil strife and violence would be expected.

[Here follow the body of the report and a map of Oriente Province. The report comprises 15 pages and is divided into three main sections: the present status of the 26th of July Movement, its relationship with other groups, and its attitude toward the United States.]

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, OSS-State Intelligence Reports. Secret. The cover sheet for the report reads: “This is an intelligence report and not a statement of Departmental policy.” Another note indicates that the report was based on information available through August 14. The full text of the report is published in Declassified Documents, 1979, 71 B.