32. Editorial Note

On March 12, Fidel Castro issued an ultimatum, which included a 22-point program of action, calling for a general strike in April to coincide with stepped-up rebel activity against the Batista government. Beginning April 1, rail and highway transportation was to be forbidden in Oriente province. Rebel forces after that date would fire on vehicles without notice. The population throughout the country was also asked to stop payment of taxes. Moreover, officials who remained in the government or who continued to serve in the armed forces after April 5 would be considered traitors. For text of the manifesto, see Rolando E. Bonachea and Nelson R Valdes, eds., Selected Works of Fidel Castro, vol. I: Revolutionary Struggle, 1947–1958 (Cambridge, Mass.: The MIT Press, 1972), pages 373–378.

A summary of the ultimatum was attached to a memorandum of March 24 from Wieland to Snow. In the memorandum, Wieland stated that the ultimatum, which he considered Castro’s response to the Batista government’s refusal to permit the Cuban press to visit rebel forces in the mountains, was “a virtual declaration of war” against the Batista government. Wieland concluded: [Page 55]

“The success of this program hinges to a large extent on the outcome of the general strike which, in turn, is contingent upon (1) the continuance of the policy previously endorsed by the hierarchy of the CTC in opposition to a general strike and (2) the ability of the CTC officials to hold the union members in line. The Department has received reports that the CTC has begun to waiver in its support of Batista and that the Castro labor underground, the F.O.N., has substantially increased its influence amongst the rank and file of labor.

“If the 26th of July Movement and affiliated civic resistance groups fail to realize this ambitious and daring program, it will be damaging to Castro’s growing prestige and at least a temporary boon to the present Government. On the other hand, if it has a fair degree of success, it could result in the sudden exit of the Batista regime. This event would likely come about through a military coup engineered by influential groups in Cuba, including respected officers of the armed forces, which hold Batista and Castro in almost equal disdain”. (Department of State, ARA Deputy Assistant Secretary Files: Lot 61 D 411, Cuba 1958)

On March 12, President Batista announced that in view of the continuing unrest in Cuba, he was again suspending constitutional guarantees.