Here is why Cuban ambassador's gesture could electrify Castro-obsessed Kerala

Cuban Ambassador Alejandro Simancas Marin presenting a book of historic photos of Fidel Castro, Che Guevara and other leaders to Kerala Assembly Speaker MB Rajesh in the presence of Revenue Minister K Rajan (right), former minister M Vijayakumar (left) and former diplomat Venu Rajamony. Photo: Twitter/ @EmbaCubaIndia

The Cuban ambassador to India, Alejandro Simancas Marin, could not have chosen a better way to thank Kerala for its undying love for Cuba and its legendary revolutionaries Fidel Castro and Che Guevara. On July 26, Tuesday, Marin opted to celebrate the 69th anniversary of a young Fidel Castro's daring but tragic attack on the Moncada Barracks, then Cuba's second largest military garrison.

"The attack did not bear fruit," Marin told a public reception organised for him by the CPM at the Ayyankali Hall in Thiruvananthapuram on Tuesday. "But this was the start of the Cuban revolution, which eventually overthrew Batista's dictatorship on January 1, 1959. And I am proud to celebrate this day among the people of Kerala," the Cuban ambassador said.

In fact, Castro himself had adopted this date of the Moncada attack, July 26, as the name of his revolutionary movement. He called it Movimiento 26 Julio, which in short is also known as M 26-7.

CPM politburo member M A Baby, who presided over the function, sounded even more passionate about the attack on the Moncada Barracks. "At a time when different kinds of protest movements were raging across the world, this was a day when a unique rebellion was experimented by Fidel," Baby said.

Cuban Ambassador Alejandro Simancas Marin called upon Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan in Thiruvananthapuram on Tuesday. Photo: Twitter/ @venurajamony

He said that young Fidel was outraged that Batista had suspended elections. The dictator, who had no chance of winning the elections, had taken law into his own hands. Batista had taken over Cuba in a military coup barely a year ago on March 10, 1952.

Fidel, who was then a lawyer, had plans to contest the elections. He was a member of a party called El Partido Ortodoxo. He even went to court seeking action against the dictator's move to suspend the election. When all means of redressal failed, Fidel called for an armed uprising.

"His sense of purpose was rousing and he managed to enlist 100-odd youngsters to attack the Moncada garrison," Baby said. Most were in their twenties, Castro himself was only 27. It is said there were two women, too. Che was not part of this rebellion but Raul, Castro's brother and the serving Cuban President were.

History has it that Castro had managed to mobilise as many guns - shotguns, handguns, sophisticated Mossberg, Remington and Winchester rifles and even a sub-machine gun - and hide them in his sister's house. It was not clear whether anyone in the group had any idea about firearms. Fidel was so consumed by his mission that he even stitched military fatigues for his 'troops'.

In the wee hours of July 26, his little band of revolutionaries set out to the Moncada Barracks in a convoy of 16 vehicles. The kind of vehicles used gave the impression that the movement was related to some government plan. Fidel's objective was to seize the weapons in the barracks and then mess up the Moncada communication systems in such a way that misleading messages were sent out to confuse Batista's army.

Photo taken in the 60's of Fidel Castro, then Cuban Prime Minister (R) during a meeting next to guerrilla leader Ernesto Che Guevara in Havana. AFP

The rebellion misfired big time. Baby said Castro made a "tactical retreat" but the fact is nearly half of his men were captured and later executed. Castro survived. Baby said Fidel was helped by a Batista soldier named Pedro Saira who had once studied with him at Havana University.

Baby also saw parallels between Batista's dictatorship and the current Narendra Modi regime. "Like Batista, we know that some others are also trying to muffle freedoms," Baby said.

Nonetheless, the Cuban ambassador had only nice words for the NDA government. "We appreciate the increasing global interventions made by the Indian government and the support India extends Cuba," ambassador Marin said.

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