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1959: the Cuban Revolution

The Cuban Revolution of 1959 began with the failed attack on the Moncada Barracks, and ended in triumph with the ousting of dictator Fulgencio Batista.

After a tremendous failure at Moncada, nearly all of the rebels were killed or captured.  At his trial, Fidel Castro gave his famous speech, History Will Absolve Me, and was pardoned after only two years.

When released, he was forced into exile for his safety.  In Mexico, he trained an army which he prepared for a guerilla war against Batista.

On December 2, 1956, Castro and 82 others aboard the Granma landed in Cuba.  Their numbers were quickly reduced by Batista's soldiers, but most of the important leaders made their way into the Sierra Maestra mountains.

The rebel forces began to rely on the peasants for support.  Batista took to ruthlessly attacking pro-Castro towns, which only stirred up more support for the rebel leader.

A movement in the cities began as well.  Frank País, whom Castro had left in charge while in exile, began to attack the Batista government in various ways.  Anti-Batista students, though not associated with the Castro-led group of rebels, unsuccesfully led an armed assault on the Presidential Palace.

On May 24, 1958, Batista launch Operación Verano.  With seventeen battalions, tanks, planes, and ships, they planned to enter the Sierra Maestra and force a showdown with Castro's rebels.  Though greatly outnumbered, the rebels repeatedly inflicted heavy casualties on the army and drove them back.

Columns commanded by Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, Raúl Castro, Camilo Cienfuegos, and others, took on army units many times their size.  Batista's army was unprepared for the fighting conditions and the guerilla style of warfare; consequently, desertion and surrender were commonplace among the dictator's forces.

Eventually, Batista decided the situation was hopeless.  His generals had arrived at the same conclusion, and were glad when Batista decided to give up the fight.  Batista fled to Spain, by then having amassed a fortune of $300 million through bribery and embezzlement.

Santa Clara was taken by Guevara's army, who then turned towards Havana.  Santiago was surrendered without a fight.  The forts in Havana also surrendered, and Castro's forces occupied the city, bringing their miliary victory to a close.

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