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Cuba: Something Is Moving

5 minute read

“This is Radio Free Cuba, the anti-Communist voice of Cuba broadcasting on the 40-meter band. Worker, militiaman, rebel soldier, radio ham—help topple the despot! Close ranks so that the fatherland, today bloodied by Russian imperialism, becomes the tomb of Communism in America. This is Radio Free Cuba transmitting from a point in Cuban territory.”

In Cuban exile communities from Miami to Caracas, the word was out: “Algo se mueve”—Something is moving. First came the faint, crackling anti-Castro broadcast last week from inside Cuba. Then 24 hours later came word of the biggest raid in months on Castro’s fortress. The raiders identified themselves as members of the Movement for Revolutionary Recuperation, led by Manuel Artime, who headed the abortive Bay of Pigs landing.

At 10:30 p.m., said an M.R.R. spokesman in Miami, Artime and a “strong force of commandos” had gone ashore at Puerto Pilón, 145 miles from Guantanamo on Cuba’s southern coast.

Linking up with a second force of guerrillas from the nearby Sierra Maestra mountains, the exiles had captured the town and held it for three hours against Castro’s militia, during that time declaring it a “free territory of Cuba.” They then blew up the Cabo Cruz sugar mill and disappeared. Puerto Pilón, the exiles noted with satisfaction, was only a few miles from the spot where Castro himself originally landed in 1956, and the Sierra Maestra was his sanctuary in the early stages of the revolution.

Within hours, Radio Havana was on the air railing about the attack. Castro denied that the exiles had sent in a landing party. The mill, he fumed, was bombarded from the sea “by a pirate vessel of the Rex type, which the CIA operates from bases located in Florida, Puerto Rico and Central America.”

Nevertheless, he admitted damage to shore installations and cried that “70,000 sacks of sugar” had been destroyed. Naturally, he blamed “a new criminal, vandalistic act by the United States Government.” Two days later, Castro’s internal radio reported two more landings—one by Artime on the southern coast, and the other by Underground Leader Manolo Ray somewhere in the north. But exile groups in Miami would neither confirm nor deny the new raids.

Recruits & Munitions. In Washington, the State Department blandly denied all. “These attacks,” said a spokesman, “are neither supported nor condoned by the Government.” Perhaps not, but Miami was alive last week with exile activity. Once again, Cubans were turning up at the old clapboard house on 23rd Street that served as a recruiting center for the Bay of Pigs operation, getting physical exams, then mysteriously dropping out of sight. Small groups of Cubans were training at isolated farms outside Miami. At Key Largo, a 28-ft. launch loaded with exile munitions caught fire, was popping while firemen were trying to douse the blaze.

No one believes that a second frontal invasion is in the offing. The exiles agree that it would amount to suicide. What does seem to be in the works is an attempt at infiltration, sabotage and guerrilla warfare. Right now, three main groups are operating:

> The M.R.R., headed by Artime, reportedly has the strong backing of Nicaragua’s Tachito Somoza and other anti-Castroites in Central America. Ar time, say exile sources, operates from camps stretching from Costa Rica north to Honduras. A U.S. hunter in the northeastern jungles of Costa Rica recently stumbled onto a camp with three large buildings and a landing strip that was in constant use by light aircraft. “Cubans,” said his guide. Artime does not have the kind of support inside Cuba to operate a major underground, is gearing his efforts to sabotage teams inside Cuba and commando raids against 17 coastal targets.

> The Junta Revolucionaria Cubana (Jure), led by Ray, a onetime Castro leader and a popular man inside Cuba. Ray gets his moral—and reportedly considerable material—support from Venezuela’s former President Romulo Betancourt and Puerto Rico’s Munoz Marin, is said to operate training camps in both countries. He has widely publicized May 20 as his deadline for returning to Cuba to revitalize the island’s anti-Castro underground. Last week Ray resigned his job as a consultant to the Puerto Rican Planning Board, and dropped out of sight. He is tough, shrewd—and a man of his word. “We are not worried,” he says. “Castro is the man who must worry.” — A coalition of Alpha 66, the Revolutionary Movement of the People, the Second National Front of Escambray and one or two smaller outfits, led by Eloy Gutierrez Menoyo, a longtime guerrilla leader who fought against Batista. Menoyo plans to infiltrate a small force into Cuba—probably into the central Escambray Mountains—and start up a guerrilla network. Two weeks ago, Menoyo left Miami. The exiles say he is in Cuba.

Turn of the Screw. If the U.S. is not directly involved, some U.S. influence and support seem apparent. Washington reportedly gave Artime the green light last July. Recruiting personnel and collecting arms would also be difficult without at least tacit U.S. approval. And then there is the U.S. economic embargo. The British and French deals for buses, trucks and locomotives notwithstanding, Castro remains virtually cut off from free-world trade: As an other turn of the screw, Washington last week tightened controls on U.S. exports of food and drugs to Cuba. Both had been exempted from the general U.S. trade embargo. Now exporters will need Government approval for shipments.

Brazil last week finally took the action everyone had expected since the revolution that overthrew leftist President João Goulart. Cuban agents, said the Brazilian government, had been engaging in “offensive” propaganda “incompatible with democratic and Christian principles. Such interference in the internal affairs of Brazil can no longer be tolerated.” Diplomatic relations with Cuba were therefore formally and officially severed.

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