Juan Almeida Bosque, a leader of the Cuban Revolution that toppled the bloody, U.S.-backed dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista, has died at age 82.
Almeida, who was born in a poor neighborhood of Havana, Cuba, left school at age 11 to begin work in construction.
In 1952, he joined Fidel Castro and a group of young Cubans in an attack on the Moncada Military Barracks in Santiago de Cuba which was aimed at securing arms for a popular uprising against the Batista dictatorship. Many of the participants in the failed incursion were tortured and murdered. Almeida, along with Fidel Castro, Raul Castro and others, were able to escape temporarily before being apprehended.
Almeida and the other captured rebels were imprisoned on the Isle of Pines. They were freed after nearly two years in prison as a result of popular pressure.
The rebels soon after went to Mexico where they formed a guerrilla nucleus and began training for a war to overthrow Batista.
In 1956, 82 rebels set out for Cuba on a rickety yacht. Their landing, delayed and disrupted, was a disaster. Not long after touching ground, all but 16 of the guerrillas had been killed by government forces.
Almeida led a small group that included Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara, the Argentine-born revolutionary who joined the Cuban revolutionaries, out into the jungle during that bleak early period.
The guerrillas were eventually able to regroup. They begun to win battles, recruit new members and supporters, establish new ties and advance.
Almeida, a crack shot, quickly became a comandante, the highest rank in the rebel army. He led one of the few guerrilla fronts during the revolutionary war.
On January 1, 1959, “Batista the Butcher” fled Cuba, realizing his overthrow was imminent. Immediately afterward, the victory of the Cuban Revolution was secured by an island-wide general strike.
The Revolution opened the doorway to equality for Almeida and other Black Cubans who previously suffered under conditions of degradation and discrimination.
Almeida held a number of positions in the revolutionary government. He was a General in the Revolutionary Armed Forces, a member of the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party, president of the Association of Combatants of the Revolution and Vice-President of the Cuban Council of State.
At the time of his death, Almeida was one of only three living Cubans holding the title Commander of the Revolution.
Almeida was also an artist and writer, having written more than 300 songs and several books on Cuban History.
Thousands of Cubans showed up at memorials across the country to bid farewell to Almeida. According to his wishes, his body is being interred at the Mausoleum of the Mario Muñoz Monroy Third Eastern Front, which he led.
The following is a copy of a response I wrote to a recent email I received asking how I could support Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara, a “communist killer,” and the Cuban Revolution. It has been edited slightly for form.
Che was a indeed a revolutionary. That’s what enabled him to be such a great person. He fought for the liberation of humankind from exploitation and oppression.
Che didn’t kill “thousands” of people. Not even his enemies (at least those who are at all serious or have any idea what Che did during his life) claim that.
At most, he killed some people in the course of revolutionary wars. A revolution is not a tea party. It’s necessary to take up the gun to abolish the gun.
Che’s enemies also condemn him for overseeing the popular trials after the Cuban Revolution that brought the torturers, rapists and murderers of the dictatorship to justice. A revolution is not a bed of roses.
The Cuban Revolution was fought against the dictatorship of the Butcher Batista, a U.S.-sponsored monster who was responsible for the torture and deaths of tens of thousands of Cubans. It was a popular revolution that drew the support of the large majority of Cubans. After a hard fought war against the dictator’s army, Batista’s rule was finally brought down by a general strike of all workers across Cuba.
Here’s a video of Fidel’s arrival in Havana
You speak of Cuba as the “Pearl of the Caribbean,” but it was more commonly known as the “Whorehouse of the Caribbean.” Most of the country was owned by U.S. businesses. It was the playground of rich people from the U.S. and the Mafia. Many beaches were off limits to Black Cubans. Today they are open to all. Only 54% of the population could read (as compared to 100% now), life expectancy was only 55.8 years (as compared to 78 now), and infant mortality was 60 (as compared to 5.8 now, a number surpassing even the United States, the richest country in the world).
The Cuban Revolution ended the rule of Batista and the dominance of imperialism over Cuba. Farms and businesses owned by U.S. corporations were taken under the control of the Cubans who worked them, the houses of the rich were given to the servants that cleaned and maintained them, and everyone was given an equal opportunity to advance together.
Cuba has been harassed and attacked by the United States since the beginning of the Revolution. There have been over 600 attempts on Fidel Castro’s life. There was a military invasion of Cuba. There were threats, bombings that killed innocent people, sabotage, and more.
Even today, the U.S. continues its decades-long blockade of Cuba, despite the fact that the vast majority of the countries of the world have condemned it 17 times again in the United Nations (source).
Despite all this, the Cuban Revolution has eliminated illiteracy, homelessness and unemployment, and has brought quality education and healthcare to all.
It is because of this, and more, that the Cuban Revolution still has the support of the majority of Cubans (as can be seen in the following photos) and millions of others around the world.
Where’s the picture of a banner that says “4 more years of Bush?” Where are the pictures of a million people coming to hear Bill Clinton speak? How about graffiti that says “Long live Lyndon Johnson?”
Those Cubans who attack the Cuban Revolution (and make up crazy stories about it like your “Che ran over a child for no reason,” “Fidel Castro eats babies,” or whatever other nonsense they can come up with) are the uninformed and the rich, mostly white Cubans who fled Cuba after the Revolution because they were afraid they’d have to work together with the rest of the population instead of continuing to live on the labor of others. The latter are commonly known in Cuba as los gusanos (the worms).
The Cuban Revolution was by and for the toiling majority. It took the power out of the hands of the U.S. businesses and their Cubans assistants and put it in the hands of the masses.
Che fought in the Cuban Revolution and in revolutionary struggles in the Congo and Bolivia. He gave his life for the liberation of humanity. This is why he is hailed by millions upon millions of people around the world while the butcher Batista is scorned or forgotten.
If you’re really interested in the facts you should do some research. Relying on second-hand stories from people who are hostile to Che and the Cuban Revolution is no way to find out the truth.
Here is the real story of Che (it’s short and to the point).
Here is a site that shows how Cuba compares with the rest of the world in areas like poverty, literacy, healthcare, education, etc. You can see that Cuba surpasses them all.
I’d also recommend the DVD “Fidel: The Untold Story.”