Escambray rebellion

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Escambray rebellion
Part of the Cuban Project and Cold War

Cuban government victory

  • Insurgents defeated by government forces.


Supported by:
CIA (1959-1961)
Supported by:
 Soviet Union
Commanders and leaders
Osvaldo Ramirez  
William Alexander Morgan Executed
Eloy Gutiérrez Menoyo (POW)
Fidel Castro
Francisco Ciutat de Miguel
Lizardo Proenza
Raúl Menéndez Tomassevich
Units involved
Second National Front of Escambray Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces
National Revolutionary Militia
3,995 rebels engaged in combat[1]
Unknown total
250,000 (soldiers and militia)[1]
Casualties and losses
2,000-3,000 killed
5,000 captured
Armed Forces:
500 soldiers killed
1,000+ soldiers wounded
National Militia:
3,478 killed
2,099 wounded

The Escambray rebellion was a six-year rebellion (1959–1965) in the Escambray Mountains by a group of insurgents who opposed the Cuban government led by Fidel Castro.

The rebelling group of insurgents was a mix of former Batista soldiers, local farmers, and former allied guerrillas who had fought alongside Castro against Batista during the Cuban Revolution. The end result was the elimination of all insurgents by Cuban government forces in 1965. The Cuban government describes the rebellion as the "War Against the Bandits" (Spanish: Lucha contra Bandidos).



The uprising began almost immediately after the success of the Cuban Revolution in 1959. It was led by former anti-Batista revolutionaries that rejected the Castro coup and the ensuing close ties to the Soviet Union and local peasants who were disenchanted by the Communist government's expropriation of their farmlands. The uprising was also secretly backed by the CIA and the Eisenhower administration due to Castro's ties with the Soviet Union[2].

The insurgent guajiro rural farmers were aided by some former Batista's forces but were led mostly by former Directorio Revolucionario Estudantil rebels (13 March Movement), such as anticommunists Osvaldo Ramirez and Comandante William Alexander Morgan, both of whom had fought Batista's casquitos in the same area only a few years before (Morgan himself was executed in 1961 long before the resistance ended).[3] Ramirez and Morgan were viewed by the United States as potential pro-democracy option for the Cuban State and sent CIA-trained Cuban exiles to promote and spread word of them being an alternative to Castro.[4]


The CIA provided some aid to the insurgents, but withdrew all support after the failed Bay of Pigs Invasion in 1961, ensuring their ultimate defeat. Some of the failures could be attributed to Castro’s "roll up" of CIA operatives in Cuba.[5] Following the failure of the Bay of Pigs Invasion, Osvaldo Ramirez returned to the Escambray Mountains and declined an offer by Fidel Castros' emissary, Comandante Faure Chomón, to surrender. According to Dr. Miguel A. Faria, Chomon had been Ramirez's chief in the Revolutionary Directorate in the Escambray during the guerrilla war against Batista.[6]

The Cuban government's main tactic was to deploy thousands of troops against small groups of rebels, forming progressively constricting rings of encirclement.[7] The Communist leaders that Castro sent to clear the Escambray Mountains were ordered to exterminate the rebels. They were to "comb the brush, elbow to elbow" until they had completely cleared the hills of anticommunist rebels.[8] The leaders of the Cuban counter-insurgent forces Lucha contra Bandidos (LCB) were Commandantes Raul Menendez Tomassevich, founding member of the Cuban Communist Party[9] and Lizardo Proenza.[10][11][12]


Superior numbers and the lack of outside assistance, particularly supplies, led to the rebels' defeat.[13] The outnumbered anticommunist guerrillas often fought to the death.[14] Cuban forces used sweeps by long columns of militia, which cost the government substantial losses but ultimately won the war. Spanish-Soviet advisor Francisco Ciutat de Miguel, who was also present at the Bay of Pigs Invasion, played a major role in the pacification operation. Castro employed overwhelming force, at times sending in as many as 250,000 men, the vast majority of whom (including 3,500 out of the 4,000 government fatalities) were militia.[15] The insurgency was eventually crushed by the Castros' use of vastly superior numbers. Some of the insurgents ultimately surrendered, but they were immediately executed by firing squad. Only a handful managed to escape.[8][16][17]


The War Against the Bandits actually lasted longer and involved more soldiers than had the previous struggle against Batista's forces.[18][19] Cuban government combat leader Victor Dreke gave a pro-Castro viewpoint in his 2002 book From el Escambray to the Congo. This is notable for its virulent condemnation of former comrades from the war against Batista.[20] However, Dreke also describes the tactics and mindset of the Cuban government forces and its ruthless use of force and no-prisoners attitude.

Raul Castro claimed in a speech in 1970 that the rebellion killed 500 members of the Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces; the death toll of the rebels and others involved in the rebellion (such as civilians and pro-government militias) are unknown. Estimates for total combatant deaths range from 1,000 to 7,000. Norberto Fuentes, a close friend of Fidel Castro who had privileged knowledge of the Cuban state security apparatus, gave the figures of 3,478 killed and 2,099 wounded for Cubans fighting in the pro-government National Revolutionary Militia, figures generally accepted as accurate. Evelio Duque, one of the rebel commanders, claimed in a June 1965 speech that the rebels had lost 1,200 killed and 5,000 imprisoned. Jose Suarez Amador put rebel deaths at 2,005.[21]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Swanger, p. 243
  2. ^ Warner, Michael. ([200-?]). The CIA's internal probe of the Bay of Pigs affair. [Forgotton History]. OCLC 176629005. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  3. ^ "William Morgan". Latin American Studies.
  4. ^ Warner, Michael. ([200-?]). The CIA's internal probe of the Bay of Pigs affair. [Forgotton History]. OCLC 176629005. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  5. ^ Volkman, 1995.
  6. ^ Faria, Cuba in Revolution Archived 2008-07-20 at the Wayback Machine (2002), pp. 88–93.
  7. ^ Encinosa, Unvanquished, pp. 73–86.
  8. ^ a b Faria Jr, MD, Miguel A (2002-11-18). "Cuban War Criminal Touring US: Victor Dreke and the Real Story of the Escambray Wars". NewsMax. Archived from the original on 2002-11-21. Retrieved 2007-12-24.
  9. ^ "Cuban General Raul Menendez Tomassevich Dies". Associated Press. 2001-08-17. Archived from the original on 2008-10-22. Retrieved 2007-12-24.
  10. ^ Encinosa, Enrique G. "Escambray: La Guerra Olvidada". Latin American Studies. p. 27.
  11. ^ "Montañas". Escambray. Archived from the original on 2007-09-28. Retrieved 2007-07-31.
  12. ^ "Todo Sobre la Guerra en el Escambray". Secretos de Cuba.
  13. ^ Faria, Cuba in Revolution, pp. 88–93.
  14. ^ Faria Jr, MD, Miguel A (2002-06-14). "Interview With Dr. Miguel Faria (Part I) by Myles Kantor". Hacienda Publishing. Retrieved 2002-06-14.
  15. ^ "Cuba News". Cuba Net. 2002-05-02. Archived from the original on 2005-12-05. (see Puebla).
  16. ^ Encinosa, Enrique G. "Escambray: La Guerra Olvidada". Latin American Studies. p. 18.
  17. ^ Franqui (1984), pp. 111–115.
  18. ^ Ros (2006) pp. 159–201.
  19. ^ "Anti-Cuba Bandits: terrorism in past tense". Archived from the original on 2007-02-22.
  20. ^ Dreke 2002 p. 68 ‘Cubela… traitor to the revolution’; p. 93 ‘nearly all… counter revolutionaries’; p. 95 ‘William Morgan raped’.
  21. ^ Joanna Swanger. "Rebel Lands of Cuba: The Campesino Struggles of Oriente and Escambray, 1934–1974." Page 243.

Sources and further reading[edit]

  • De la Cova, Antonio Rafael. 2007. The Moncada Attack: Birth of the Cuban Revolution. University of South Carolina Press. ISBN 978-1-57003-672-9, p. 314 note 47.
  • Dreke, Victor (Edited by Mary-Alice Waters) 2002. From el Escambray to the Congo. Pathfinder Press, New York. ISBN 0-87348-947-0, ISBN 0-87348-948-9.
  • Encinosa, Enrique G. 1989. El Escopetero Chapter in Escambray: La Guerra Olvidada, Un Libro Historico de Los Combatientes Anticastristas en Cuba (1960–1966). Editorial SIBI, Miami.
  • Encinosa, Enrique G. 2004. Unvanquished – Cuba's Resistance to Fidel Castro, Pureplay Press, Los Angeles, pp. 73–86. ISBN 0-9714366-6-5.
  • Faria, Miguel A. Cuba in Revolution – Escape from a Lost Paradise. Hacienda Publishing, Macon, GA, pp. 88–93. ISBN 0-9641077-3-2.
  • Fermoselle, Rafael 1992. Cuban Leadership after Castro: Biographies of Cuba's Top Commanders, North-South Center, University of Miami, Research Institute for Cuban Studies; 2nd ed (paperback) ISBN 0-935501-35-5.
  • Franqui, Carlos 1984 (foreword by G. Cabrera Infante and translated by Alfred MacAdam from Spanish 1981 version). Family portrait with Fidel, Random House First Vintage Books, New York. ISBN 0-394-72620-0 .
  • Priestland, Jane (editor) 2003. British Archives on Cuba: Cuba under Castro 1959–1962. Archival Publications International Limited, 2003, London ISBN 1-903008-20-4.
  • Puebla, Teté (Brigadier General of the Cuban Armed Forces) 2003. Marianas in Combat: the Mariana Grajales Women's Platoon in Cuba's Revolutionary War 1956–58, New York Pathfinder (Paperback) ISBN 0-87348-957-8.
  • Ros, Enrique 2006. El Clandestinaje y la Lucha Armada Contra Castro (The clandestinity and the armed fight against Castro), Ediciones Universal, Miami ISBN 1-59388-079-0.
  • Volkman, Ernest 1995. "Our man in Havana. Cuban double agents 1961–1987" in Espionage: The Greatest Spy Operations of the Twentieth Century, Wiley, New York ISBN 0-471-16157-8.