Anti-Cuban Commandos During Operation Mongoose

Escambray

By Pedro Echeverry Vázquez

After the absolute defeat of the mercenary brigade 2506 in Bay of Pigs, Kennedy’s administration appealed immediately to encourage even more the subversive propaganda against Cuba, including the re-activation of its remaining bands that have ended reeling after the so-called Limpia de el Escambray (Escambray Cleanse) Cuban crusade to capture armed anti-Revolution individuals, early April of 1961.

On April 23, 1961, Kennedy and his junta constituted a commission presided by General Maxwell Taylor to research the very causes of the failure of the invasion, which was presented on May 4, under the title Cuba and Communism in the Hemisphere,  which in one of its paragraphs reads: Propelling guerilla actions, efficiently backed by U.S.A could mess up the normal course of Cuba as well as maintain resistance against the heavy controls alive.

 

On May 19, the White House was centered on new Program of Covert Actions to weaken Castro’s régime that in the parenthesis C , outlined the strictly support to all operations of the guerilla.

 

In its execution would have a decisive role the CIA, through the Miami-based JM/WAVE station, the one which created and fed significant espionage networks and subversion alike as the United Western Front, in Cuban western Pinar del Rio province, headed by Esteban Márquez Novo, who was intended to call for a national uprising that it should be ,consequently extended to several Cuban provinces, the Mariano Pinto Rodríguez and Luis Puig Tabares’s networks in Las Villas that within their objectives appeared to be supply the bands, the Gato Negro (the Black Cat) network with Joaquín Escandón Ranedo, Pedro Comerón Pérez and Manuel del Valle Caral as main leaders, in former province of Oriente. This latter one sought for presice military information as well as for armed upheaval.

 

At least in six occasions the CIA was able to contact with the main bandit leaders. On June of 1961, CIA agent Javier Souto met with Osvaldo Ramírez, the spearhead of the Escambray Focus, who on July 16, rallied all armed anti-Cuba individuals and organized them into commands throughout several operation areas stretching over this vast territory.

 

Since then, those bands began a process of invigoration, characterized by avoiding frontal combat with the revolutionary legions; and the growth of terrorist plots as sabotages and frightful murders, with the purpose of obstructing the real advance of the Revolutionary government in the island, as well as to terror local Revolution staunchers; in addition to unleash a national insurrection that should propitiate a U.S military intervention.

 

November 26, 1961, Julio E. Carretero’s squad cruelly tortured and murdered young teacher Manuel Ascunce Domenech,16, along with his student peasant  Pedro Lantigua Ortega.

 

The Revolution’s backlash came immidiately through an increase of military operations against such criminal bands and the Law Decree 988, was approved, sanctioning severely to everyone who enrolled to these hostile actions in opposition to the Cuban people’s Revolution, while 100 000 young volunteer teachers had spontaneously incorporated to a nation-wide Literacy Campaign.

 

Four days after the assassination of volunteer teacher Ascunce, the U.S. government officially unchained the Operation Mongoose. Specialists in irregular war at the Pentagon sustained the thesis that a handful of well-trained commandos could set suitable conditions to forge focuses of armed opposition inside Cuba. As Chief of Operations was designated General Edward Lansdale, an expertee in counterinsurgency, whose  documents drafted several phases since the month of March to October of 1962.

 

The  Resistance phase would be launched between August and September, outlined the beginning of all operations by this guerilla force. The second and last phase would be unleashed on October and according to his forcast would wind up with the downfall of the Revolution.

 

Kennedy’s administration did not care about whether the guerilla’s operations included either the execution of terrorist plots or the murder of civilians.

 

Lansdale, on his report, did asked to the Enlarged Special Group, a special team created at the Council of National Security to coordinate anti-Cuban military actions of all U.S. agencies involved.

 

Would Washington’s quick response be sending a regular military force to back uprising in the island?  The adviser for the U.S. National Security, Mc George Bundy, responded in another document (1)

 

a) To propel the overthrow of the Cuban communist government, in question, the United States shall make the maximum use of its internal and external native resources, but it too recognizes that for its final success will finally require of a decisive military intervention.

 

b) The native resources, just as they are developed, are to be used for either staging or  justifying an invasion.

 

The CIA insisted on the native resources and attempted to produce a national front of bandits whose headquarters should be based at central Cuba. The agency made available a gross of its resources to support  bands, made up by former military officers from defeated Batista’s army, lumpens, landowners’ old employees, the Cuban bourgeois, peasants and politically-confused workers, as well as individuals, who once joined to in the Rebel Army’s insurrectional fight, seeking for personal ambitions.

 

In spite of all these efforts by the CIA, with the exception of the Focus at the Escambray, they   could never structure a central command.

 

The first murder by such bandits within the official period of the Operation Mongoose was executed on January 15, 1962, when Jesus R. Real Hernández’s squad shot peasant Valentine Alonso Maceda and his son Valentine Alonso Barrera, in the Escambray.

 

The last crime was carried out on December 28, by several followers of Gustavo A. Sargent Pérez, who murdered Flores Colina Díaz and peasant José Tristá, in Ranchuelo, Las Villas.

 

Over this time the anti-Cuban bandits made 75 murders through the whole national territory and wounded 152 civilians.

 

The CIA agent  Manuel Guillot Castellano interviewed with the bandit leader Manuel A. Pacheco Rodríguez “The Congo” on January of 1962, where he promised him supply and financial aid, and early of March, he also contacted to Juan José Catalá Coste, the main boss of those paramilitary forces in western Matanzas province.

 

Guillot appointed Coste finally as the provincial head and pledged to immediately supply him with warlike material.

 

The Osvaldo Ramírez’s death on April 16, came to be a devastating loss for this heavily-armed terrorists on this stage, who was replaced then, by Tomás David Pérez Díaz, San Gil,  who plotted much more aggressive terrorist actions; and on July 19, after a meeting that held at the Hoyo del Naranjal, was ratified as the top leader of the Escambray. However, the new growing wave of murders, far more from scaring the local peasants, strEngthened their links with the revolutionary forces, as well as their hostility against bandits instead.

 

On July  3, 1962, Commandant Juan Almeida Bosque created the Section of Fight Against Bandits (LCB) at Central Army, and commited Commander Raúl Menéndez Tomassevich to chief of its operations; cosenquently, war methods based on a suitable use of resources and coordination among all troops in operations as the Militias and the State Security Organs were consummated .

 

Meanwhile, the CIA agent Julio Hernández Rojo urged Matanzas-based bandits to join to a calling by the Student Revolutionary Directory (DRE) to uprising on August 30, but the day before, Aug 29, Cuban State Security detained the whole conspirators.

 

During the October Crisis, bandits remained inactive while waiting for a long-wanted U.S. invasion. On November 5, the CIA agent Luis David Rodríguez, head of the contrarrevolutionary Anticommunist Civic Resistance (RCA) organization, scheduled a meeting with Tomás San Gil, where he delivered an amount of money to San Gil and encoureged him as well to perpetrate more frightful terrorist plans to justify new applications for war material and financial supply by the U.S.

 

December 26, the bandit Juan L.  Morales Soza was sent to Havana with strict orders of contacting to the RCA and of leaving secretly for the United States in a support-seeking mission, but he would wind up arrested rather on March of 1963.

 

The Operation Mongoose was officially invalidated on January 3, 1963. Between November of 1961 and January of 1963, some of 181 bands of nearly 1 580 troopers held clout at the Escambray.

 

A number of 30 bandit leaders, along with hundreds of their henchmen were captured and 14 bands were annihilated.

 

A total of 11 CIA agents and five agents of the Navy Intelligence Service at the U.S. Navy Base in Guantánamo were also arrested.

 

Those anti-Cuba forces launched dozens of their attacks over rural communities, destroying more than 30 households, setting on fire 41 rural schools, 12 state farms, 14 grocery stores from nearby villages, 19 agricultural warehouses and ambushing closely 20 civilian vehicles, among other actions.

 

During this three-year-long campaign to squash these terrorist bands, about 85 revolutionary combatants fell and hundreds were wounded. Our enemy carried out more than 25 incursion attempts, of which 15 were related to armed uprising, but almost the majority of them occured to be detected and aborted by the Cuban Intelligence services.

 

After the end of the Operation Mongoose those gangs began to get through an irreversible crisis that would wind up then, with the full victory over them by the revolutionaries two years later.

 

On July 26, 1965, in central city of Santa Clara, during the central ceremony for the 12th anniversary of the Assault to Moncada Barracks, our Commander-in-Chief Fidel Castro noted: “The imperialism received an unforgettable lesson, the imperialism received a lesson not lesser important than the one of Bay of Pigs, the imperialism learned that guerilla contrarrevolutionaries cannot progress (…) the guerilla war is formidable, but as a revolutionary weapon”

 

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