Uprisings against Cuba’s communist government began almost immediately after the 1959 Cuban Revolution. In the wake of the revolution, thousands of supporters of ousted president Fulgencio Batista, farmers and former rebel fighters instigated a guerrilla war against the country’s communist forces that was ultimately crushed in 1965. Several Cuban dissident groups have been organized since revolutionary leader Fidel Castro and his brother, Raul, established the communist regime, which still governs Cuba. According to The Economist Intelligence Unit’s 2011 Democracy Index, Cuba is the only “authoritarian regime” in the Americas. The Caribbean island is among the top 10 most censored countries in the world, the Committee to Protect Journalists reports.
The Escambray Rebellion was a six-year conflict (1959-1965) in Cuba’s Escambray Mountains instigated by a group of insurgents who opposed the communist government led by Castro. The uprising was heavily supported by rural farmers who resisted the Soviet-style collectivization of land advocated by the new regime. Although the CIA initially provided some aid to the insurgents, it withdrew all support after the failed Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961. Castro deployed thousands of communist troops against the rebels, who were ordered to execute all of the guerrilla fighters – even those who surrendered. The insurgent forces were eliminated by the Castro government by 1965. The Cuban government soon dubbed the six-year conflict the “War Against the Bandits.”
Bay of Pigs Invasion
The Bay of Pigs invasion was an unsuccessful 1961 military invasion of Cuba that aimed to overthrow Castro’s communist regime. The counter-revolutionary regiment, consisting of approximately 1,400 Cuban exiles, were trained and funded by the United States government. The force was defeated by the Cuban armed forces within three days of landing on the island’s Bay of Pigs beach, an event that is still considered one of the worst foreign policy moves in U.S. history. The event was a catalyst for the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, which brought the United States and the Soviet Union-backed Cuban regime to the brink of nuclear war.
Cuban dissident groups are part of a political movement that aims to overthrow the country’s communist regime and replace it with a democratic form government. Several dissident groups have formed to campaign for political and social change in Cuba, with other individual dissidents have participated in protests, hunger strikes and media interviews to plead for democratic reforms. According to some reports, dissident groups are often infiltrated by Cuban state security, a move that has weakened the movement and repressed their threat to the regime. Thousands of dissidents each year illegally escape their homeland and immigrate to the United States. A huge majority have settled in Miami, Florida, where Cuban-Americans have come to dominate the cultural and political culture of the city.
The Cuban government imprisoned 75 dissidents – including journalists and human rights activists – in a 2003 crackdown on political protesters known as the Black Spring. The Castro regime claimed the individuals targeted were working as agents of the United States. According to Amnesty International, the event was the largest suppression of dissidents on the island since the 1959 revolution. All of the dissidents were eventually released and exiled to Spain after the European Union imposed sanctions on the Castro regime in response to what it said was “a breach of the most elementary human rights.”
- The Economist: The Democracy Index 2011
- Committee to Protect Journalists: 10 Most Censored Countries
- NewsMax: Interview with Dr. Miguel Faria
- BBC: 1961 - Exiles Invade Cuba at Bay of Pigs
- The Huffington Post: 25 Cuban Dissidents Launch a Hunger Strike
- Harvard International Review: Challenges to a Post-Castro Cuba
- Amnesty International: Cuba "Essential Measures"? Human Rights Crackdown In the Name of Security
- European Parliament: Sakharov Nominee - Cuban Women Who Protest Against Unjust Imprisonment
- Florida International University: Cuban-American Political Empowerment
- Spencer Platt/Getty Images News/Getty Images