Title Page
 Table of Contents
 Invasion and the first month
 Spring 1958 : a false alarm
 Rebels kidnap Americans
 Fall of Baptista missed by the...
 January, 1959 : mixed feelings...
 Early 1959 : criticism grows
 Late 1959 : hostility predomin...
 Cold War enters the picture
 Road to the Bay of Pigs
 Back Matter

Group Title: Critical analysis of how selected Florida newspapers reported the Cuban Revolution
Title: A critical analysis of how selected Florida newspapers reported the Cuban Revolution
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00025919/00001
 Material Information
Title: A critical analysis of how selected Florida newspapers reported the Cuban Revolution
Physical Description: iii, 109 leaves. : ; 28 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Fullmer, Thomas Melville, 1942-
Publication Date: 1965
Subject: Reporters and reporting   ( lcsh )
Journalism -- Florida   ( lcsh )
History -- Cuba -- 1959-1990   ( lcsh )
Journalism and Communications thesis M.A.J.C
Dissertations, Academic -- Journalism and Communications -- UF
Genre: bibliography   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )
Thesis: Thesis (M.A. in J. and Com.) -- University of Florida.
Bibliography: Bibliography: leaf 109.
General Note: Manuscript copy.
General Note: Vita.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00025919
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved, Board of Trustees of the University of Florida
Resource Identifier: aleph - 000577029
oclc - 13908710
notis - ADA4720

Table of Contents
    Title Page
        Title Page
    Table of Contents
        Table of Contents
        Page 1
        Page 2
        Page 3
        Page 4
        Page 5
        Page 6
    Invasion and the first month
        Page 7
        Page 8
        Page 9
        Page 10
        Page 11
        Page 12
        Page 13
        Page 14
        Page 15
        Page 16
        Page 17
        Page 18
        Page 19
        Page 20
        Page 21
    Spring 1958 : a false alarm
        Page 22
        Page 23
        Page 24
        Page 25
        Page 26
        Page 27
        Page 28
        Page 29
        Page 30
        Page 31
    Rebels kidnap Americans
        Page 32
        Page 33
        Page 34
        Page 35
        Page 36
        Page 37
        Page 38
        Page 39
        Page 40
        Page 41
        Page 42
        Page 43
        Page 44
        Page 45
        Page 46
    Fall of Baptista missed by the papers
        Page 47
        Page 48
        Page 49
        Page 50
        Page 51
        Page 52
        Page 53
        Page 54
    January, 1959 : mixed feelings about rebel government
        Page 55
        Page 56
        Page 57
        Page 58
        Page 59
        Page 60
        Page 61
        Page 62
        Page 63
        Page 64
        Page 65
        Page 66
        Page 67
        Page 68
    Early 1959 : criticism grows
        Page 69
        Page 70
        Page 71
        Page 72
        Page 73
        Page 74
        Page 75
        Page 76
        Page 77
        Page 78
        Page 79
        Page 80
        Page 81
    Late 1959 : hostility predominates
        Page 82
        Page 83
        Page 84
        Page 85
        Page 86
        Page 87
        Page 88
    Cold War enters the picture
        Page 89
        Page 90
        Page 91
        Page 92
        Page 93
        Page 94
        Page 95
        Page 96
        Page 97
        Page 98
        Page 99
        Page 100
        Page 101
    Road to the Bay of Pigs
        Page 102
        Page 103
        Page 104
        Page 105
        Page 106
        Page 107
        Page 108
        Page 109
    Back Matter
        Back Matter 1
        Back Matter 2
Full Text







December, 1965


For their critical guidance and encouragement I wish to express

my sincerest appreciation to Dr. H. H. Griggs, Professor John Paul

Jones, and Dr. C. K. Yearley, Jr., who by thei.'rexamples as scholars

and gentlemen set the highest of standards. Any errors of inade-

quacies in this study are completely my responsibility.

A special note of thanks must go to my parents, Mr. and Mrs.

E. J. Fullmer of Berlin, Wisconsin. Their support and understanding

can never be fully repayed.


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS..... ..........................................

INTRODUCTI ON................... .......... ......................


I THE INVASION AND FIRST MONTH.......................

11 1957............................. ...... ...........

III SPRING 1958: A FALSE ALARM.........................

IV THE REBELS KIDNAP AMERICANS.........................



GOVERNMENT................ .............

VIII EARLY 1959: CRITICISM GROWS........................


X THE COLD WAR ENTERS THE PICTURE.....................

XI THE ROAD TO THE BAY OF PIGS.........................

CONCLUSIONS.................................................... .........

BIBLIOGRAPHY........** .............................................

















.This study attempts to trace and to analyze how selected Florida

newspapers treated the Fidel Castro revolution in Cuba. Despite its

importance, or more likely because of it, the Castro revolution is

imperfectly understood and is a highly controversial subject. Much

of that controversy rages over the role the American press played in

its treatment of the revolution. Criticism has been leveled at the

press by both hostile and sympathetic observers of the revolution.

Those most hostile to the Cuban revolution focus on the press's

treatment of Castro during the 25-month struggle to overthrow

Fulgencio Batista, the dictator who had ruled Cuba for practically

a quarter of a century. These critics claim Castro was glamorized

by the press and pictured as a savior while his leftist tendencies

were ignored.

This view was expressed succinctly before a U. S. Senate Internal

Security subcommittee by Earl E. T. Smith, who was the American

ambassador to Cuba from June, 1957, until January, 1959. He said that

during 1957 "much of the American press began to picture Castro as a

political Robin Hood." The American people were misled into thinking

Castro represented liberty and democracy, Smith said, because "the

crusader role which the press and radio bestowed on the bearded

rebel blinded the people to the leftwing political philosophy with

which even at that time he was already on record."'

Those who have shown sympathy to Fidel Castro have focused their

criticism on the press's treatment of the revolutionary government

which took power in January, 1959. They contend the American press

was too critical of the Castro government and turned against it during

the difficultearly weeks and months without sufficient justification.

Those sympathetic to the revolution have complained that lack of

understanding on the part of the press helped push Castro into the

waiting and all too willing arms of the Communists. Two of the chief

spokesmen for this viewpoint have been Herbert L. Matthews, who

covered the revolution for the New York Times, and C. Wright Mills.

The study covered important events in the Cuban revolution during

a 49-month period from December, 1956,through December, 1960. This

time span was selected because it covered a two-year period before

Castro took power and a two-year period after. Selection of specific

time segments to study within this 49-month period was made by deter-

mining the major events in Cuba with the aid of books covering the

revolution and the New York Times index. Thus, the crucial events

during the 49-month period were studied, including Castro"s invasion

of Cuba in December, 1956, the rebel kidnapping of nearly 50 Americans

in the summer of 1958, the Fall of Batista, Castro's two visits to the

U.S., and the crises over sugar and oil in July, 1960.

Quoted in Robert F. Smith, What Happened in Cuba? (New York:
Twayne Publishers, Inc., 1963), pp. 268-269.

Five Florida morning daily newspapers were selected to be studied.

The papers were Miami Herald, Florida Times-Union, Tampa Tribune,

Orlando Sentinel, and Pensacola Journal. This group offered the dual

advantage of covering the various geographical areas of Florida and

including papers of varying editorial beliefs. During the period

studied, these papers represented nearly 80 per cent of the circula-

tion of Florida's daily morning newspapers.

The Miami Herald is the largest of the papers studied. Serving

the state as well as the metropolitan Miami area, the Herald's circula-

tion during the 49-month period studied averaged nearly 281,000 on

weekdays and 333,000 on Sundays. Miami was the focal point of Cuban

exile activity throughout this period. In the latter two years of

Batista's rule, the area served as a departure point for rebel smug-

gling activities. Since Castro came to power the city has become

home for the vast majority of refugees from rebel rule. With its

large staff and proximity to Cuba, the Herald often dispatched its

own reporters to cover stories from the island nation. Of the five

papers studied, the Herald consistently gave the greatest depthof

coverage to the events in Cuba.

The next largest paper studied was.Jacksonville's Florida Times-

Union. During this period its circulation averaged nearly 160,000

on weekdays and 165,000 on Sundays. The Times-Union not only

covered Jacksonville, a city of 201,000 in 1960, but also circulated

over wide areas of northern Florida and southern Georgia.

The Tampa Tribune during this period had a somewhat smaller circu-

lation than the Times-Union averaging 133,000 daily and 150,000 on

Sunday, although Tampa's population in 1960 was 274,000. Like Miami,

Tampa has a large Latin American community. But Ybor City, home of

Tampa's Latin population is an old community with long history.

Tampa never became the Cuban refugee center Miami did, thus Tampa's

Latin population was much less deeply involved in the events in Cuba

than Miami's.

The Orlando Sentinel was the fastest growing paper throughout the

period studied, its daily circulation jumping from 53,000 to 80,000

and its Sunday circulation from 69,000 to 107,000. Orlando, unlike

the other four cities, is landlocked and not a major port for the

state. Much of Orlando's growth during this period, however, can be

traced to the development of the then Cape Canaveral missile range

some 40 miles to the east.

The Pensacola Journal had the smallest circulation of the papers

studied with a 49,000 weekday circulation and a 54,000 Sunday circula-

tion. The Journal served much of the Florida panhandle as well as

areas in southeastern Alabama. Its circulation was more rural than-

those of the other papers.

Attention was devoted to both news reports and editorials about

the Cuban revolution in these five papers. The great majority of news

reports originated from the two major American press associations, the

Associated Press and United Press International. Disregarding minor

day-to-day variations, all five papers carried substantially the same

news from Cuba, although differing, of course, in quantity mainly due

to the size of the respective papers. The significance of the analysis

of the news reports, therefore, lies not in providing distinctions

between the various papers, but in demonstrating the type of news

concerning Cuba which was available to the readers of the newspapers

studied. And to the extent that papers around the nation relied on

dispatches from those two press services, the analysis of news reports

will indicate the news available to the readers of most American


Analysis of the papers' editorial reactions to the developing

Cuban story, of course, does provide distinctions among the individual

papers. Editorials are significant in that they indicate a variety of

interpretations and opinions prevalent on various aspects of the


In studying both the news reports and editorials of the five

papers for the 49-month period it became apparent that for these

papers, at least, the general assumptions about the press's treatment

of the Cuban revolution were not valid. Never during the two-year

struggle to overthrow Batista was Castro pictured as a hero or polit-

ical Robin Hood. News reports generally dealt with the progress of

the revolt in a straightforward manner. Editorially, while most of

the papers took a stand against Batista, there was never any declara-

tion of support for Castro and the revolution. In fact, as the struggle

progressed the.papers became increasingly critical of the tactics of

the rebels. Thus, for the five papers studied, criticism of the

rebels began not with the executions of Batista followers in January,

1959, but long before Castro took power.

This criticism was not consistent, however. Soon after Castro

took power news reports and editorials expressed sympathy for the


revolution and optimism for Cuba. As reports of executions of Batista

supporters grew, however, the papers once again became critical and

skeptical. While opinion was still in flux in the spring.of 1959,

events soon started the Cuban-American hostilities which led eventually

to the Bay of Pigs invasion.

And in a sense, the .latter part of this thesis is a long preface

to the Bay of Pigs, examining those attitudes and beliefs which formed

the rationale behind that attempt to overthrow Castro.and bring the

Cuban revolution to an end.



The revolt which led to the eventual overthrow of Cuba's

President and Dictator, Fulgencio Batista, began November 30, 1956.

That was the day scheduled by Fidel Castro for his return to Cuba.

Fidel Castro was a 30-year-old lawyer who had, during his

student days at Havana University, been active in political activi-

ties, many of them revolutionary. In 1947 he took part in a plot

against the Trujillo regime in the Dominican Republic.1 The follow-

ing year he was active in left-wing, anti-American riots in Bogota,

Colombia.2 And on July 26, 1953, he led a group of rebels against

a Cuban army post. Arrested and sentenced to jail, Castro in 1955

was released to exile in Mexico where he helped organize a group

whose goal was the overthrow of the Batista government.

On Friday, November 30, 1956, young revolutionaries in Santiago

de Cuba, the nation's second largest city, staged an uprising that was

scheduled to coincide with the landing of Fidel Castro and 81 revolu-

tionaries on Cuba's southeast shore.

All five newspapers carried accounts of the uprising, but only

the United Press story of the outbreak indicated that Castro might be

Ruby Hart Phillips, Cuba: Island of Paradox (New York: McDowell,
Obelensky, 1959), p. 293.

Jules Dubois, Fidel Castro (New York: Bobbs-Merrill Co., Inc.,
1959); pp. 17-23.

in.Cuba. The UP story said, "reports from Mexico City where Castro

had been in exile said he had disappeared and was believed to be in


Actually, Castro was not yet in Cuba. He and his 81 followers,

who were packed in a small yacht built to carry eight comfortably,

were still at sea. They heard reports of the uprising over radio.

It was not until December 2 that they landed.5

The landing itself was almost a complete disaster. The yacht ran

aground unexpectedly in swampy waters. A rowboat lowered to carry

men and equipment to shore sank.7 The men were forced to abandon food,

medicine, weapons, ammunition and other supplies and struggle to dry

land through the water and deep mud. All 82 reached dry land, but

were soon under attack from Cuban army troops and strafing aircraft.

The revolt hung by a thread during the month of December. Under

constant harassment from the Cuban army, the rebels split up and

attempted to' make their way to the sanctuary of the Sierra Maestra

mountains of Oriente province. Of the 82 who landed, 60 were killed,

10 were captured and imprisoned, leaving a nucleus of 12 to lead a

revolution to overthrow the government of Fulgencio Batista, which

was backed by well-trained, excellently-equipped army of 30,000.8

3Jacksonville Florida Times-Union, December 1, 1956.

Dubois, p. 139.

5lbid.,pp. 139-140; Herbert L. Matthews, The Cuban Story (New
York: George Braziller, 1961), p. 17; Phillips, however, says the
landing took place on December 1; Phillips, p. x.

Phillips, p. x.

Dubois, P. 139.

Ibid.,p. 144; Phillips, p. xi.

The newspaper reports of the revolt were generally vague and

frequently contradictory. One of Batista's first acts after the

Santiago outbreak was to suspend constitutional guarantees and impose

press censorship in four of Cuba's six provinces. Information was

difficult to obtain and this suited the government fine.

On December 2, the Florida Times-Union and the Miami Herald

carried a UP story speculating that the Santiago uprising could be

the prelude to an invasion by revolutionaries. Batista had always

labeled his opponents Communists, and the UP report seemed to add

credence to the charge by describing the expected rebel invaders as

"leftwing refugees."

The question of Castro's political leanings was treated in an

Associated Press depth story carried by the Herald and the Times-

Union on December 9. The story described Oriente province as "the

scene of the most intensive Communist activity in Cuba,'and said

that Castro might have planned on support from leftist groups. While

not directly labeling Castro a Communist, the story indicated this

was a distinct possibility: "People disagree on whether he is

actually a Communist. However, they say he had strong leftist

beliefs while studying law." The story also raised the possibility

that Castro was being backed by Trujillo, who had no love for,

Batista at this time.

Generally, however, the question of Castro's political beliefs or

associations'was not treated in the newspaper reports. Much more

attention was paid to the mystery over where he was and whether he

was still alive. The Miami Herald on December 3 ran a page-one, by-

lined story by Ruth McCarthy under the headline:

Fidel Castro Killed
In Cuban Revolt

The story began:

A young revolutionary who pledged his life for
an ideal gave it Sunday afternoon on the barren southern
coast of Cuba.

Handsome, dashing, 30-year-old Fidel Castro Ruz
who gave up exile in Mexico to lead a "life and death
fight" against Cuban President Fulgencio Batista was
shot to death Sunday in a field of sugar cane where
he and his commandoes were ambushed by government

On the same day, the Times-Union and Orlando Sentinel carried

front-page stories from the UP which quoted "government military

leaders" as saying that Castro was among 40 rebels killed by govern-

ment planes and ground troops shortly after the rebel landing.

The next day, though, both the Miami Herald and Orlando Sentinel

carried an AP story which reported that Batista "said rebel leader

Fidel Castro Ruz had not been killed as reported." The Herald

story added another possibility to the mystery by quoting Batista

as saying he believed Castro was still in Mexico. The Times-Union

and the Tampa Morning Tribune also raised doubts about whether Castro

had been killed, saying there had been no official confirmation of

the report.9

.The issue was in doubt throughout the month. On the fifth a

UP report carried by the Times-Union seemed to indicate that only

Jacksonville Florida Times-Union and Tampa Morning Tribune,
December 4, 1956.


official identification of the rebels killed prevented confirmation of

Castro's death,.while an AP report in the Morning Tribune said

Batista had denied that Castro had been killed and had said, "his

present whereabouts are unknown."10 On the 15th it was reported that

captured rebels said they had not seen Castro since they were attacked

by government forces on the first day.1 A report on the 16th,

however, held that Castro was "believed to have eluded his pursuers."l2

Generally, United Press stories indicated the probability of Castro's

death, while other releases indicated that Castro was alive.

But, if there were some doubts; as to whether or not Castro was

alive, the newspaper reports generally agreed on the status of the

revolution. All pictured the revolution as being in serious trouble.

Ruth McCarthy's December 3 story quoted the chief of the military

forces in Oriente as saying "the revolution attempt is completely

crushed.'13 On the fourth, two papers quoted Batista as saying quiet

had been restored to Oriente.14 Only the Times-Union of that day

indicated the probability of continued hostilities. That report from

the Chicago Tribune Press Service said Batista was ordering a

tightening of security measures "as the revolution reached its

critical stage."15

Jacksonville Florida Times-Union add Tampa Morning Tribune,
December 5, 1956.

1Miami Herald, December 15, 1956.

'2Jacksonville Florida Times-Union, December 16, 1956.

13Miami Herald, December 3, 1956.

14Miami Herald and Orlando Sentinel, December 4, 1956.

15Jacksonville Florida Times-Union, December 4, 1956.

Reports of fighting between rebel remnants and government troops

were carried sporadically by the five papers throughout the first half

of the month. Then on the 15th and 16th all the papers but the

Pensacola Journal carried reports saying the revolt had officially

been declared ended by the Cuban government. The Herald story,

however, emphasized that new, more intensive uprisings against the

Batista government were expected in the near future.6

As far as the Cuban revolution was concerned, 1956 ended with a

whisper rather than a bang. But the whisper had not yet died out.

The Tampa Tribune, Miami Herald and Florida Times-Union continued

to carry isolated stories of outbursts of violence against the Batista

regime in Oriente province. Although the flame of revolution may

have gone out the embers continued to set off occasional sparks.

6Miami Herald, December 15, 1956.



The Cuban government's announcement of the death of the revolt

was proven to be premature by the events of 1957. The smouldering

revolt failed to succumb under government pressure and occasionally

burst into flames. News reports continued to be vague and somewhat

contradictory while editorially the majority of the papers adopted

an attitude of passive hostility to the Batista regime.

Status of the Revolt

From an Ember to a Flame

After a relatively quiet January, reports in the Miami Herald

and Tampa Morning Tribune in mid-February indicated the situation

in Cuba was volatile. A Herald story by assistant city editor

George Southworth said information leaking out from Cuba was "that

Castro and his '26th of July' group are having some success."2

Both the Herald and an AP story in the Morning Tribune quoted an

American citizen who had just returned from Cuba as saying: *

unrest is spreading and becoming more noticeable. The man in the

street hates his [Batista's] guts."3

1An interview of Fidel Castro by Herbert L. Matthews which
appeared in the New York Times on February 24, 1957, put an end to any
speculation of Castro's death.
2Miami Herald, February 17, 1957.
3Miami Herald and Tampa Morning Tribune, February 17, 1957.

More common, however, were stories on how the revolt had died or

was doomed. Only the Morning Tribune failed to carry such a-story

during late February or early March. On February 24 the Times-Union

reported that the government seemed to be winning its drive to wipe

out revolutionary resistance in Oriente and expected to finish the

job in the near future. Six days later a Pensacola Journal story

said that Cuban army headquarters reported the rebels had been reduced

to scattered remnants. The Orlando Sentinel followed with a story on

March 8 which quoted Cuba's army chief as saying the insurrectionaryy

movement has been completely overcome."

But the next two days saw all five papers carrying stories that

three American youths missing from the American naval base at

Guantanamo were believed to have joined the rebels. UP stories

carried by the Journal, Times-Union and Herald indicated that if

messages from the youths' families failed to bring their return, the

U.S. would take "more drastic" action, such as sending an, "American

'expedition' into the Sierra Maestra to contact rebels and arrange

return of the boys."5 No such action followed, however although the

boys refused to return until Castro ordered them to several weeks


Only the Miami Herald ,covered Cuban events late in February and

early in March with any degree of thoroughness. In addition to the

Pensacola Journal, March 2, 1957.
5Jacksonville Florida Times-Union and Pensacola Journal, March 9,
1957; Miami Herald, March 10, 1957.
6Dubois, p. 159.

wire service reports the Herald featured several depth stories by

assistant city editor George Southworth analyzing the political unrest

in Cuba.

Cuba became front page news for all five papers, however, when

on March 13 a group of young revolutionaries attempted to storm the

Presidential palace and assassinate Batista. The revolutionaries, who

had no connection with Castro or his movement, failed. But the attempt

dramatized, far more than Castro's invasion had, the volatility of the

Cuban situation and the intensity of feeling against Batista. George

Southworth in the Herald concluded that Batista had won the battle

at the palace, appeared to be winning against Castro, but seemed to

be losing the battle of public opinion in Cuba.7

But Batista had not yet won the battle against Castro by June,

and in that month the army launched an all-out offensive against the

rebels in Oriente province. A UP report on the first battle of the

drive quoted the army chief of staff as calling it a "new extermina-
tion campaign to crush the rebel movement." The Tampa Tribune

carried an AP report on the same day which also said the chief of

staff "asserted the operation was already 'nearing its end.'" The

Miami Herald and Florida Times-Union on June 3 and the Orlando

Sentinel on June 4 carried UP reports telling of army claims for the

imminent end of the revolt.

Miami Herald, March 15, 1957.

Jacksonville Florida Times-Union, Miami Herald, and Orlando
Sentinel, June 2, 1957.

9Tampa Morning Tribune, June 2, 1957.

An AP story in the Tampa Mornina Tribune on the 6th raised some

doubts, however, calling government reports on campaign results

negative. On the 7th a Herald news story indicated that there could

be trouble if the offensive failed saying, "Batista is playing his

trump card right now and the 800 men he has sent after Castro better

succeed or Batista will lose a lot of prestige." The story by

Southworth said that Castro had become an anti-Batista symbol with

some appeal to Cuba's youth.

There were signs in stories carried by the Herald, Times-Union

and Pensacola Journal on June 8 that the offensive had indeed failed.

In an interview with a Herald reporter, Batista dismissed the Oriente

rebels as being of no significance.0 UP stories in the Journal and

Times-Union said Batista firmly denied persistent rumors that he was

going to resign. On June 9, the Herald in a story by Southworth

cautioned, "don't sell Cuba's hot-headed revolutionary leader, Fidel

Castro, short."

The government offensive was a failure. The rebels continued to

harrass the Batista government with hit-and-run raids in Oriente

province and bombings in Havana and elsewhere.

Then in September, without warning, naval personnel and anti-

Batista civilian's attempted to seize control of Cienfuegos, a port

in southern Cuba less than 150 miles from Havana. The uprising was

put down by army units, but it led to a reassessment of the anti-

Batista movement.

Miami Herald, June 8, 1957.

Pensacola Journal and Tampa Morning Tribune, June 8, 1957.

A story in the Miami Herald saw the uprising as a serious threat

to the Batista regime: "The military has been Batista's strength, and

defection by any of his own indicates a severe breach in the solidarity
of his government's strength."2

Reports in other papers at first gave a different interpretation.

An AP report in the Tampa Morning Tribune and Florida Times-Union

emphasized the loyalty of the Batista army. It said that Castro's

men were no match for the government forces and added, "it would take

a mutiny in the armed forces to unseat Batista."13

But, a day later both papers carried another contradictory AP

story which agreed with the earlier analysis in the Miami Herald;

Some Cubans who in the past conceded no chance
for the cause of rebel leader Fidel Castro now seem
to have changed their minds. They believe it pos-
sible the defection of navy men to the rebel side
in Cienfuegos may be followed by similar desertions

The Herald reported that the people of Cuba were apprehensively

expecting a revolution. The story by George Southworth indicated

the aftermath of a revolution might be characterized by a bloody mood

of vengeance because years of smouldering hate had so embittered Cubans.

He wrote, "the only thing Cubans fear worse than a shooting revolution

is what might come after. They fear 'the revenge' would follow a

successful revolt."15

12Miami Herald, September 6, 1957.

13Jacksonville Florida Times Union and Tampa Morning Tribune,
September 8, 1957.

14Jacksonville Florida Times-Union and Tampa Morning Tribune,
September 9, 1957.
15Miami Herald, September 8, 1957.

By the end of the year the burning embers of the revolt had

apparently grown into a flickering flame. While Castro's forces had

yet to win any significant battle, they had, against great odds,

managed to stay alive. The outbreaks against Batista, meanwhile,

indicated potential serious trouble for his regime.

Editorial Treatment

Batista Has Several Enemies but Castro Has No Friends

The assassination attempt in March vividly dramatized the

volatility of the Cuban situation and the intensity of anti-Batista

feeling and sparked editorial comment from the Pensacola Journal,

Miami Herald, Tampa Morning Tribune and Florida Times-Union. All

expressed varying degrees of hostility to Batista. Kindest was the

Journal which simply noted that "power as an end in itself is always

a sensitive and destructive explosive." The editorial said the

eruption proved many Latin Americans were not ready for democracy

and that feeling against Batista was high. The paper's main concern,

however, lay with the source of weapons and ammunition for the rebels.

It asked, "what man or men in the country from which the arms were

obtained undertook such a shocking responsibility for gain?"

While the Journal expressed a measure of distaste toward the

Batista government it indicated that it did not feel conditions

merited a revolution. Speaking of the rebels, it noted "force has

never solved one of humanity's problems." It concluded t'this reign

of terror can only result in injury to Cuba."l6

16Pensacola Journal, March 15, 1957.

The Miami Herald, although it was more harsh with Batista,

calling his government a "military dictatorship" that "is being main-

tained now through bloodshed," took a stand similar to the Journal's.

It cautioned, "those who slay brothers to oust such a dictatorship

also must have public confidence that they too are not motivated by

the thirst for the same power."

For its conclusion the Herald struck a note that was to become

familiar in its editorials on the Cuban situation. The paper urged

Cuba to find and unite behind a true patriot whose sole interest lay

in helping his country.7

While the editorials of the Pensacola Journal and Miami Herald

tempered disenchantment with Batista with reservations about the

revolt, editorials in the Tampa Morning Tribune and Florida Times-

Union did not. The Tribune avoided any assessment of the nature of

the revolt saying rebellions .against authoritarian rule are not easy

to judge at the time they happen. As for Batista, the Tribune said

he "will find scant sympathy in this country." It indicated that

revolution was to be expected in Cuba saying "he who comes to power

by the sword must live in its shadow."l8

The most penetrating of the four editorials which appeared after

the March assassination attempt appeared in the Florida Times-Union.

The editorial squarely faced the question of the nature of the anti-

Batista movement and its implications for American policy. A com-

parison of the Hungarian and Cuban revolts, the editorial said the

17Miami Herald, March 15, 1957.
18Tampa Morning Tribune, March 16, 1957.

two countries were ruled by tyrannical regimes which "vary only

slightly." Likewise it noted the similarities in the two revolutions.

In doing this it dealt with the charge the Cuban revolution was a

Communist revolution by saying that some Communists may have entered

the revolt, but as in the Hungarian revolt,

The backbone of the fighting forces is made up of the
students and the country people, the one group interested
in ideas, the other in individual freedom from oppression
and mis-government.

But the Times-Union pointed out a dangerous paradox in United

States policies toward revolutions noting that in Latin America

the U.S. often supported dictators because they were anti-Communist.

The paper commented:

There is danger in this courseif, in our
eagerness to.oppose communism, we forget to support
liberty. Past U.S. policies in Latin America have
aided the Reds to obtain popularity. When United
States policy supports a totalitarian dictator,
those free men disgusted with the regime turn from
us to become easy listeners to the promises of our
enemies, the Communists.19

If the Times-Union editorial in March was the most penetrating,

the most vitriolic editorial appeared in the Tampa Morning Tribune in

September following the Cienfuegos uprising. Even its title, "Come

Back, Fulgencito," was insulting as it used the Spanish diminutive

"ito" making the title read, "Come Back, Little Fulgencio." The paper

said "Castro's successful guerrilla warfare" and repeated insurrec-

tions 'indicate a broad and rising popular discontent against the

Batista regime," and maintained "there will be neither peace nor

19 Florida Times-Union, March 7.
Jacksonville Florida Times-Union, March 15, 1957.

freedom in Cuba until Batista is deposed." In order "to get his foot

off Cuba's neck," the Tampa paper invited Batista to return to Daytona
Beach, while he was still able: "Come back, Fulgencito. At Daytona
lies obscurity but in Cuba, a thousand bullets bear your name.

Thus, as 1958 approached and the Cuban revolution appeared to be

gaining momentum, the Batista regime had come under some sort of

attack from four of the papers with the MorninqgTribune by far the

most outspoken. It remained to be seen whether this disenchantment

with Batista would be turned into support for Castro.

2Between 1944 and 1949 Batista lived in exile in Daytona Beach.
21 Tribune, September 9, 195
Tampa Morning Tribune, September 9, 1957.



The revolution picked up steam following the outbreak in

Cienfuegos. During the early months of 1958 revolutionary acts of

violence occurred with increasing frequency and intensity. Several

attempts to bring about conciliation failed, and as spring approached

the spectre of civil war loomed on the horizon. Castro, made confi-

dent by a rising tide of rebel successes and the inability of Batista

to destroy the rebels, in mid-March announced an intensified campaign

to overthrow the government. Key to the campaign was to be a revolu-

tionary general strike which Castro expected would topple the Batista


By this time the press association reporters apparently had

established contacts with rebel organizations in Cuba, and perhaps

partly because of this, news stories in all five papers emphasized the

seriousness of the situation and, as never before, indicated the

revolution posed an imminent threat to the government. News reports in

the Miami Herald and Tampa Morning Tribune said Castro's strike threat

"sent fear surging through Cuba." Another Herald story was headlined

"Terror Takes Reins in Cuba."2 On March 12 increased fighting was

Miami Herald and Tampa Morning Tribune, March 9, 1958.

Miami Herald, March 9, 1958.

reported in Oriente province, the government again suspended all con-

stitutional guarantees, and Batista's cabinet walked out "en masse."

This story was page one in all five papers. If nothing else,.it was

apparent that the revolution had reached the stage where the threats

and announcements of the insurgents were matters of concern for the

regime and the people of Cuba and an important source of news for the

American press.

Editorially, the step-up in rebel activity brought mixed reactions.

The Herald expressed displeasure with both the "dictator-like" actions

of Batista and the terrorism of the rebels in burning sugar fields

and industrial establishments which "strikes at the national economy"

and "injures the very people whom Castro professes to represent."3

The Tribune, on the other hand, saw the increased rebel activity

as another indication of the unpopularity of the Batista dictatorship.

"In so far as one can estimate these things," the Tribune said, "an

overwhelming majority of the Cuban people must be opposed to Batista

now." Saying that it was becoming apparent the Ide's of March were

nearing for Batista, the Tribune concluded, "certain it is that

Fulgencio Batista will find few mourners when he falls from power."

Threat to Ultimatum

Rebels Apparently Gain Momentum

In mid-March the rebel threat to call a general strike turned

Ibid., March 14, 1958.

Ibid., Tampa Morning Tribune, March 14, 1958.

into an ultimatum for Batista to step down by April 5 or be overthrown

by a revolutionary general strike coordinated with action by Castro's

troops. The Florida Times-Union was first with the story running a

dispatch by Jules Dubois of the Chicago Tribune Press Service on

March 17. Dubois described Castro as "confident of victory." The

story was picked up by the press associations and the other papers the

following day.

For the next two weeks news reports from Cuba told of an approach-

ing showdown in the revolt, and the emphasis generally was on the

effectiveness of the rebel actions. On March 19 all five papers

carried an AP story describing Havana's streets and stores as deserted

following Castro's ultimatum. The next day the Tribune ran a dispatch

from International News Service saying unconfirmed reports were cir-

culating in Havana that Batista's wife had fled Cuba. The rumors

proved to be false, but they indicated the tension in Havana. Indeed

the situation had grown so serious that elections scheduled for June 1

were postponed until November 3.

As March came to a close the rebels were running at high tide.

On the 30th all five papers carried front page stories from the

Associated Press telling that the rebels were arming civilians in prep-

aration for the showdown against the Batista government. The story

also reported that Batista had asked the Cuban congress for extraor-

dinary powers to crush any attempted uprising or strike, and commented,

"it was the first time the Batista regime showed any alarm over the

possibility of a general uprising." Potentially even more ominous

for the Batista regime the story also said there were "unconfirmed

reports of soldiers deserting and fleeing to the mountains to join

Castro." On the same day the Orlando Sentinel ran an AP story by

Larry Allen which said that while Batista was planning to hold power

until the November elections, "most of his countrymen don't think he

will last that long."

The start of April found the rebels at their highest point in

the 17-month-old rebellion.5 On April 1 Castro launched the first

phase of his "total war" against the Batista government, and reports

of this activity in the five papers on April 2 generally told of

rebel successes, especially in disrupting communications in Oriente

province. There were also reports of workers leaving their jobs

even though no strike call had yet been issued.

Editorially, the Tampa Tribune responded to Castro's ultimatum

with another strong statement calling for Batista to resign and leave

Cuba so the island could be spared bloodshed and terror. In addition

the editorial contained a veiled threat to the dictator: "Surely

Batista himself would rather quit Cuba under his own power than to

leave the presidential palace on a slab."6

The Tide Begins to Turn

April 3 was a turning point, as indications of rebel successes

began to level off and there were increasing indications that the

SThe United States government at this point stopped supplying the
Batista government with arms and ammunition. The American military
mission, which helped train Batista's troops, remained in Cuba until
after Castro had come to power.
6Tampa Morning Tribune, March 19, 1958.

Batista regime might weather the storm. On that day the Herald and

the Journal gave big play to the announcement that Rafael Trujillo'had

rushed five planeloads of arms and ammunition to Cuba and toaid his

brother dictator and former enemy Fulgencio Batista.

The big news for the Sentinel on that day, however, was that

Cuba's outlawed Communist party had pledged support for the rebel

general strike. That story was carried under a five column headline

reading "Cuban Commies Support Castro." The Sentinel followed the

story with an editorial entitled "Commies in Cuba." While admitting

that the announcement may have been purely an opportunistic move to

try to gain influence if Batista fell, the Sentinel warned, "the U.S.

certainly wouldn't want to see a nest of Commies in high positions in

a country so close to us as Cuba."

News of the Communist announcement was also carried by the Tribune

and the Herald, but it was not assigned much importance. George

Southworth in the Herald called it "more of a political maneuver than

evidence of a tieup with Castro." He wrote that when all the evidence

has been weighedoneisAlikely to decide "that communism does not play

an important role in the current Cuban situation." Then as if to add

controversy from the other end of the political spectrum the Herald

ran a picture of new Cuban army recruits with the following caption:

"This group of 350 recruits giving a Nazi-like salute were added to

Batista's growing military forces."

The reports of increased rebel activity in Oriente, Batista's

asking for and receiving emergency aid from his former enemy, Rafael

Trujillo, and the Communists apparently jumping on the rebel bandwagon

all indicated unprecedented rebel strength. The Herald, however,

indicated that strength was not yet sufficient to the job. George

Southworth reported on April 3 that Batista appeared to still hold the

upper hand. Furthermore, this period saw the first criticism of the

rebel movement by the Tampa Tribune. The paper attacked Castro for

launching an offensive that promised to bring violence and bloodshed

to Cuba during Holy Week.7 For the next six days the revolution

existed on a sensitive balance. News reports alternatively indicated

rebel confidence and despair, government confidence and despair and

rebel and government successes and failures.

Nevertheless, there were indications the momentum was slipping

away from the rebels. An AP story carried by every paper but the

Herald told of disenchantment among Castro's supporters because of

the long delay of the strike call.9 Things looked worse on April 9

as the wire services reported that government forces had smashed a

rebel move on Santiago in the heart of rebel strength. George

Southworth, who happened to be in Santiago at the time of the sup-

posed rebel attack, however, reported for the Herald that he couldn't

find any evidence of a battle. He cautioned his readers that whatever

happened in the next few days in Cuba neither side had the power to

bring an end to Cuba's political disruption.

71bid., April 3, 1958.
Among the reported government successes were stories that govern-
ment troops had isolated a group of rebels led by Fidel Castro. But
dispatches from both press services in all five papers on April 16 men-
tioned that such reports had proved false in the past and said Havana
was skeptical of their accuracy.
Jacksonville Florida Times-Union, Orlando Sentinel, Pensacola.
Journal and Tampa Morning Tribune, April 6, 1958.

The Attempt

A Long Run for a Short Slide

Despite the long buildup, when the attempted uprising and general

strike came on April 9 it was singularly unsuccessful. Newspaper

reports on the 10th, except for the Pensacola Journal, all emphasized

the almost total ineffectiveness of the rebel attempt.0 The AP report

carried by the Sentinel, Times-Union and Morning Tribune called the

action "daring, but poorly timed and badly coordinated." These papers

and the Herald reported only 100 men in Havana answered the rebel call

for an armed uprising against Batista. James Buchanan, a Herald

reporter in Havana, said the attempt "appeared to have failed

mi serably."

The similarity between the AP dispatch and Buchanan's story

indicate both the AP reporter and Buchanan were using the same source.

In fact both the AP and Buchanan's story contained the following

sentence: "Scanty reports out of Oriente Province, hotbed of the Castro

rebellion, indicated no unusual activity there." While such duplica-

tions were not common they did occur occasionally in the coverage of

the revolution.

The post mortem of the revolution showed:unanimous agreement that

the rebels had suffered a severe setback. Buchanan reported that there

was no doubt in the mind of the average Havana citizen "that Castro

The Journal apparently had an earlier deadline than the other
papers for occasionally it missed a late breaking story or merely ran
a bulletin on it. The Journal story on April 10 was obviously an
early dispatch.

'suffered terribly' as a result of the fiasco."ll All papers reported

dissension in the ranks of the Havana rebels.

But all the reports were not negative for the rebels. Buchanan

reported that Castro was "scoring more than usual success in Santiago"

before news of the disaster in Havana forced him to call off his big

push.12 The AP story of the Santiago failure also told of thousands

of workers obeying a strike call even in the face of a government

decree ordering permanent dismissal of workers leaving their jobs.13

Another AP story reported, "it is probably no exaggeration to say that

80 per cent of the nation's six million people oppose Batista."14

None of the press reports mentioned the role of the Communists

in thwarting the strike. The Reds had helped to sabotage the strike.

Later in an open letter to the rebels they claimed the strike had

failed because the rebels had refused to secure Communist aid.15

Actually, little significance should be drawn from the failure to

include this information. The earlier announcement of Communist

support for the rebels had not been given much credence except by the

Orlando Sentinel.

Editorially, Castro's attempt won him no friends and disclosed

one antagonist. The Herald saw the events as proof Cuba's unrest

llMiami Herald, April 13, 1958.
13Jacksonville Florida Times-Union, Pensacola Journal and Tampa
Morning Tribune, April 11, 1958.
J1acksonville Florida Times-Union, Orlando Sentinel, Pensacola
Journal and Tampa Morning Tribune, April 13, 1958.
15phillips, p. 352.

would be of long duration. It called the situation "deplorable" and

expressed hope that somehow Cuba could find a 'Y'true, inspired patriot"

who would cure her economic and political ills.16

The Tampa Morning Tribune for the second time added criticism of

the rebels to its criticism of Batista. It said there were three sides

to the Cuban revolution, Batista's, Castro's and the Cuban people's.

After dealing with Batista, the Tribune called Castro "the idol of

impressionable young people," and criticized his lack of a positive

program. It suggested that Batista resign in favor of'a union govern-

ment which would then hold elections under the auspices of the

Organization of American States. In view of the bitterness of the

struggle the suggestion was unrealistic, and the Tribune seemed to

realize this saying that it was perhaps hoping for too much.17

The Orlando Sentinel, which had been the only paper to refrain

from attacking Batista, took advantage of Castro's defeat to state

its position which was strongly pro-Batista and anti-Castro. "There

has been too little substantiated news from Cuba to indict Batista,"

the Sentinel said. According to the paper, "new.hotels, new indus-

tries andprosperity were all over the place until Castro started his

war." As for the revolution, the paper said the failure of the

April uprising "spotlights the affair as more of a Communist plot

than a spontaneous movement of the people."18

1Miami Herald, April 11, 1958.

17Tampa Morning Tribune, April 11, 1958.

180rlando Sentinel, April 11, 1958.

Thus, after a big buildup, perhaps somewhat exaggerated because

information from rebel sources was used for the first time in any "

significant extent, the spring attempt failed, indicating that while

the Cuban people were apparently anti-Batista they were not willing

to risk all for Castro. Although news stories had indicated the

possibility of success by Castro, none of the papers championed his

cause. In fact, the Orlando Sentinel labeled the movement Communist

while others criticized Castro's tactics. Still, all but the

Sentinel remained anti-Batista in editorial line, thus there was

still a reservoir of potential support for Castro if the defeat

in April did not prove fatalto the movement.



Although little was heard from or about the rebels for many

weeks following the April debacle, that defeat had not ended the

revolt. In mid-summer of 1958 it burst back into the public lime-

light with a vengeance. In a series of spectacular raids in Southeast

Cuba near America's Guantanamo naval base, a rebel.group under the

direction of Raul Castro, Fidel's younger brother, kidnapped 50

North American citizens including American and Canadian civilians

and U.S. Marines and sailors.

From the day the story broke, June 28, until the last hostages

were released, some three weeks later, the story was an important

source of news for all five papers. At the beginning, little con-

cern was shown. All five papers reported that American officials

expected early release of the captives, who apparently had been

kidnapped in retaliation for alleged U.S. aid to Batista. The

rebels charged, and the U.S. Embassy denied, that Batista's war-

planes were using the Guantanamo naval base airport for refueling and

bombing operations against the rebels.

As July began and the rebel raids did not stop, however, it was

becoming apparent the kidnapping could turn into a serious matter.

News stories on July 1 reassessed the probable motives behind the

Jacksonville Florida Times-Union, Miami Herald, Pensacola
Journal, Tampa Tribune and Orlando Sentinel, June 28-29, 1958.

kidnapping, and both AP and UPI stories speculated that they were

ordered to prevent an attack from 12,000 government troops which had

massed in the area for a new offensive. The desire for publicity was

also given as a probable explanation.2

If the latter was the motive, editorials of July 1 indicated it

was an ill-considered tactic. The Cuban kidnapping came at a time

when American citizens were being detained in Russia, East Germany and

Red China. Feelings were sensitive in this country over our failure

to secure the release of these men. Thus, the Cuban kidnapping

irritated already festering wounds, and the first editorial reactions

on July 1 indicated America's frustration and pain.

Three of the four editorials appearing on that day linked the

Cuban kidnapping with the other detained Americans and expressed

displeasure with the failure of American policy to protect its

citizens. The most blunt was the Orlando Sentinel which said, "it's

time nations again were taught respect for U.S. nationals." Both

the Florida Times-Union in an editorial titled "Uncle Sam Should

Drop This Hat-in-Hand Role," and the Miami Herald in an editorial

titled "Hands Off U.S. Citizens" recalled that in the past America

had taken decisive actions to protect its citizens. The Herald,

somewhat wistfully, commented, "evidently that has gone out of

fashion, or been discarded." The Times-Union conceded it would be

unwise to "run rough-shod" over any nation that crossed the U.S.

but asked, "how long can we take the current treatment and retain

our self respect?"

Jacksonville Florida Times-Union, Miami Herald, Pensacola
Journal and Tampa Tribune, July 1, 1958.

The Tampa Tribune devoted its lead editorial to an attack on

the rebels for the kidnapping. It suggested that Castro, rebuffed

in April by the Cuban people, was attempting to dramatize his cause

and take advantage of latent. anti-American sentiment in Latin America.

The Tribune also commented that until the kidnapping Castro had

"enjoyed widespread sympathy in the United States,"but now would

very likely lose this important source of support.

By July 2 the kidnapping story was breaking on two fronts, one

in Cuba, the other in the United States. The news from Cuba included

speculation that two American envoys sent to negotiate with the

rebels for the release of the captives had themselves been seized.

Meanwhile, the rebels' earlier charges of U.S. aid to Batista were

explained and partially substantiated by a UPI story saying the

American Embassy had disclosed that it had delivered 300 rockets to

the Batista government in May in fulfillment of an agreement

inaugurated before the American cessation of arms shipments.

Stories from Washington in all papers but the Journal told of

indignation in the capital over the kidnapping raids. Secretary of

State, John Foster Dulles, accused the rebels of conducting a black-

mail campaign to force U.S. intervention in Cuba. Some congress-

men, notably Republican Senate leader William F. Knowland, encouraged

such intervention. He said the United States should furnish the

Cuban government with sufficient arms and ammunition to fight the

rebels if the captives were not released within 48 hours.

Miami Herald and Tampa Tribune, July 2, 1958.

John McDermott of the Herald seemed to sympathize with Knowland's

view. He decried the position the United States had assumed in the

incident and asked, "has U.S. foreign policy gone soft?" Of prime

consideration to McDermott was American prestige. He said, "around

the world we must be looking like prize dumbbells," and commented,'

"for a nation which supposedly is the leader of the Free World, this

is anything but good."4

There were other columnists and politicians, however, who refused

to become agitated by the Cuban developments. Peter Lisagor, in a

column on the same page as McDermott's, reported that American

officials were confident that now that Castro had gotten back into the

news he would soon release the prisoners. He chided those who wist-

fully referred to the past use of gunboat diplomacy saying that policy

"began to go out of vogue with high button shoes," and had "vanished

completely in a mushroom cloud a few years back." For his part,

President Eisenhower firmly rejected the use of any militant action,

and on July 2 the rebels released five of their civilian captives.

With the return of these men the question of the motivation

behind the kidnapping became even more complex. The released

captives reported the rebels had taken them to bombed areas and

showed them fragments from American bombs with the hope that these

men would rally public opinion against further military aid by the

U.S. government to Batista's regime. In the days that followed the

Herald was to give much space to this aspect of the kidnapping.

Miami Herald, July 2, 1958.

The Sentinel, on the other hand, ran a story on July 3 saying

that the rebels in Santiago "had defied" demands in the U.S. to use

force to return the captives. According to this account "the rebel

attitude bolstered the belief of some observers here (Washington) that

the kidnapping were a bid for U.S. intervention in Cuba's creeping

revolt rather than retaliation for alleged U.S. aid to the government."

The situation became even more muddled when all papers but the

Herald reported that Fidel Castro had broadcast an order to his

followers to release any Americans and Canadians they might have

seized.5 Later an AP story in the Journal, Sentinel and Times-

Union reported "rebel radio broadcasts said Fidel Castro had ordered

his brother to free all captives." These announcements suggested

a possibility the kidnapping had taken place without Fidel's prior


Nevertheless, it was still generally assumed that Fidel was

behind the kidnapping, and the Sentinel took advantage of this to

strengthen its pro-Batista, anti-Castro editorial position. Calling

Batista "a friend of this nation," the Sentinel said, "now almost 50

U.S. nationals and at least 29 in the uniform of the nation are held

in Cuba by a rebel leader whose history includes two trials for murder

and almost constant action in behalf of Latin American Communist

5Tampa Tribune, July 3 and 4, 1958; Jacksonville Florida Times-
Union, Orlando Sentinel and Pensacola Journal, July 4, 1958.

Jacksonville Florida Times-Union, Orlando Sentinel and Pensacola
Journal, July 5, 1958.

leaders." More importantly, the Sentinel became the first of the five

papers to suggest American men be sent to get rid of Castro. "It

wouldn't take long," the paper said, "and it would impress the entire

Latin American community that the U.S. means business.. .."

The Pensacola Journal, though, spoke out in favor of the American

policy. Unlike other papers which in varying degrees decried the lack

of U.S. action, the Journal said the American policy was destined to

cause the rebel plan to fail since'the President has rightly turned

thumbs down on sending in Marines for which Castro had hoped."8

Linked with this debate over the sagacity of American policy

were the theories on the motivations behind the kidnapping. The

Sentinel based its militant stand on the belief that the kidnappings

were part of a world-wide Communist conspiracy directed from the

Kremlin. In addition the Sentinel claimed that Castro's ultimate

goal was to destroy American prestige. "Rebel leader Fidel Castro

has a pro-Communist record which dovetails perfectly with the Red

kidnapping policy he has adopted in the global campaign to destroy

U.S. prestige."

The Journal pictured Castro with similar but more modest goals.

It said, "Castro's purpose seems to have been to invite American

intervention so that he could charge the U.S. was upholding dictator

70rlando Sentinel, July 4, 1958.

Pensacola Journal, July 7, 1958.

90rlando Sentinel, July 11, 1958.

Batista and thus gain the support of dissident Latin American


These views were in direct conflict with a report filed by James

Buchanan of the Miami Herald. Writing from Cuba, Buchanan maintained

the servicemen were being held "as a trump card to force compliance

with demands for strictest U.S. neutrality."ll This analysis squared

more with the rebels announced reasons for the kidnapping and the

reports of those men released by the rebels.

There was still the possibility that the raids had no place in

the formal rebel policy. This possibility was strengthened by further

reports that Fidel had again ordered his brother to release the
remaining captives "immediately." These orders suggested again

that if Fidel had ordered the kidnapping he did not expect or desire

them to become a political hot potato and had attempted to extract

himself from an unpopular position as quickly as possible. A

subsequent story in the Herald tended to remove Fidel from implica-

tion in the planning of the kidnapping raids as it quoted "informed

sources," which absolved him from complicity in the raids. .'They said

the elder Castro had no hand in the kidnapping and was irked at Raul's

seizure of the prisoners.

With all civilians returned, negotiations for release of the

American servicemen dragged slowly under reports of increasing

10Pensacola Journal, July 7, 1958.

Miami Herald, July 7, 1958.
Miami Herald and Pensacola Journal, July 11, 1958.

13Miami Herald, July 12, 1958.

impatience with the rebels who supposedly were demanding recognition

from the United States government. On July 12 an AP story in the

Tribune, Journal and Times-Union quoted the commandant of the naval

base as saying the Castro brothers had hurt their cause in an attempt

to blackmail the United States into recognition. Two days later a

UPI story in the Herald and Times-Union reported that sources at

Guantanamo said it was obvious the rebels were holding up release of

the men in an attempt to gain some sort of recognition from the

American government. The attempt failed, and after another slight

delay the rebels began to free the servicemen. When the Lebanon

crisis broke, all remaining hostages were released.

James Buchanan, who had gone into the mountains and found' Raul

Castro's band, came up with an excellent postscript to the episode,

shedding light on some of the background story of the kidnapping.

Buchanan reported that the younger Castro "enjoyed every second he

had kept our State Department and Navy in embarrassing suspense."

He said the decision to stage the kidnapping "was Raul Castro's and

Raul's alone." By their actions, Buchanan related, the rebels had

gained breathing time in their fight with Batista but had failed

to get what Raul "most wanted: A slip of paper--just any slip of

paper that would show the U.S. recognizes the rebels as an indepen-

dent government."14

In summary, the rebels had regaLned publicity by their actions.

Nevertheless, they had done so at the risk of much prestige and

4Ibid., July 20, 1958.

support. Kidnapping is among the most serious crimes in American law

and the outraged reaction of many Americans was to be expected.

Furthermore, the timing of the kidnapping, with Americans concerned

with the fate of fellow citizens held behind the iron curtain, could

only amplify the American reaction.

The press associations and the papers had occasionally supported

questionable analyses in assessing the motives of the kidnapping

raids. It stretches credulity to maintain that the kidnapping were

ordered to provoke U.S. intervention in order to attract anti-

American sentiment throughout the hemisphere or were part of a

global Communist conspiracy to destoy U.S. prestige. The rebels were

engaged in the deadly serious business of revolution. Any move designed

to bring the United States into the struggle on the side of Batista in

exchange for moral support from Latin America would have been sheer

insanity. Likewise, it is difficult to believe the rebels would risk

their movement and their lives to conform with the desires of some

global ideological movement.

The rebels did attain some limited benefits from the kidnapping,

the foremost being a breathing space in the war with Batista and

renewed publicity. But as has been shown, the rebels paid a stiff

price. It remained to be seen whether the kidnapping had permanently

colored American opinion toward the rebels.



The rebels were only sporadically active during late summer and

early fall, but as the long-postponed-national elections approached

the rebels stepped up their activities and again ran afoul of American

opinion. The kidnapping of two Americans late in October created

little immediate interest in the papers. Two days later, however,

when the captives were released the papers carried stories telling of

sharp official reaction to the rebels' actions. A UPI story in the

Journal reported the State Department had issued "a harshly worded

statement" concerning the kidnapping.

Furthermore, the American government took some action by

evacuating more than 50 U.S. citizens from its Nicaro Nickel plant

in Oriente province. Rebels had moved into the area of the plant and

the evacuation had taken place supposedly to prevent further kidnap-

pings. Again official American annoyance with the rebels was

portrayed in an AP story in the Tribune and the Sentinel which quoted

a State Department official as saying, "we're damned sick and tired

of having Americans kidnapped from time to time."2

Pensacola Journal, October 24, 1958.

Orlando Sentinel and Tampa Tribune, October 24, 4958.

The evacuation of American citizens from Nicaro Nickel plant led

to a bitter outburst from Fidel Castro. In a rebel broadcast follow-

ing the evacuation Castro warned the United States to stay out of the

rebellion. He called the American statements about the kidnapping

aggressivee declarations," and charged that the American ambassador

Earl E. T. Smith was plotting with Batista to provoke direct American

intervention in Cuba. The rebel leader maintained the current crisis

had been initiated when Smith and Batista agreed on the withdrawal

of Cuban troops from Nicaro in the hope it would force America to

take actions involving itself in the Cuban dispute. The story of

Castro's warning and charges were given page-one treatment by all

except the Sentinel and Times-Union.

There 'was sharp editorial reaction to Castro's statements. The

Orlando Sentinel called Castro's values "cockeyed" and said "the only

thing people like Castro understand is force."3 The Herald termed

Castro's broadcast "impudent" and called his followers "brigands."4

Harshest of all was the Tribune which evaluated the rebel moves as

"misguided press agentry designed to publicize the revolution and let

us know it is still going on, despite the failure of Castro's call for

a general uprising early this year." The Tribune said Americans were

once sympathetic with Castro but now "we suspect that American opinion,

summed up and addressed to Senors Batista and Castro, now would say:

A plague on both your houses."

3Orlando Sentinel, October 29, 1958.

4Miami Herald, October 28, 1958.

5Tampa Tribune, October 27, 1958.

Indeed, according to a Trendex News Poll in the Florida Times-

Union the rebels had failed to win American sympathy. The poll which

sampled opinion on the revolutions in Algeria, Cyprus and Cuba showed:

that while Americans favored the rebels in Algeria and Cyprus, in' Cuba

more Americans favored Batista than the rebels. The biggest factor in

limiting support of the Cuban rebels to 31 per cent as opposed to 38

per cent for Batista apparently was the kidnapping of Americans by the

As November approached attention turned to the upcoming elections.

David Kraslow reporting from Washington for the Herald said the official

U.S view was "that the most crucial period of the two-year-old rebel-

lion is at hand." He quoted his source as saying Castro must make some

move between November 1 and the date the new Cuban administration would

take over, February 27. Castro's chances for success were believed to

lie in either a crippling general strike or a big military offensive.

In view of later events this story proved remarkably prophetic.

With Castro's main attention centered on disrupting the planned

November 3 election,all papers reported stepped-up rebel activity in

Oriente on October 30. The following day the Herald carried a story

by George Southworth telling of a drastic rebel campaign of violence.

Southworth said, "rebels were told they could kill any candidate for

national., provincial or municipal office .. Cubans were warned

they risked their lives if they voted."

Jacksonville Florida Times-Union, November 2, 1958.

7Miami Herald, October 26, 1958.

On the eve of the election, in the midst of reports of increased

rebel activity, a passenger plane was hijacked during a Miami-to-

Havana run, and while attempting to land in rebel territory crashed,

killing 17 of the 20 on board. The rebels had hijacked another plane

earlier and although they denied any involvement in the fatal hijack-

ing all news reports linked the rebels with the disastrous stunt.

The hijacking brought forth-another harsh statement from the U.S.

State Department deploring acts of brigandage and violence. An inves-

tigation was begun to see if the rebels were responsible as the Cuban

government and the airline charged. A UPI story in the Herald and

Journal noted that U.S. information on the incident had come not from

interviews with survivors but from airline officials. Nevertheless,

the assumption continued that rebels were responsible, and it was

safe to assume that if the hijacking had not been orderedby rebel

leaders it had been done by rebel partisans caught in the spirit of the

fierce attempt to disrupt national elections.

Despite rebel efforts, the elections took place, and to no one's

surprise, Batista's candidate, Andres Rivero Aguero, won handily.

There was little hope the election would settle anything, and the

news reports in the five papers on November 5 did not express any

optimism for the end of the civil struggle.

Editorially, the rebels took another beating for their tactics.

The Herald on November 4 called the hijacking of the Cuban airliner

"an outrage," and said "the Castro excesses have passed all bounds

Miami Herald and Pensacola Journal, November 4, 1958.

of sanity." Commenting on charges of election rigging, the Tribune

said Gallup could have predicted the outcome of the election "without

sampling a soul." The Tribune joined in attacking the rebels saying

if Castro ever came to power he "might be worse than Batista.' Only

the pro-Batista Orlando Sentinel saw the results of the election as

significant. "Castro has been beaten many times by the Cuban army,"

said the Sentinel,'"but this time he was beaten by the voters. It

may be more effective."0 Suprisingly, harshest of all, was the

Pensacola Journal. The Journal, which had steadfastly supported

Eisenhower's policy of nonintervention during the June and July

kidnapping controversy reversed its position after the fatal election-

eve hijacking. While throwing a bone to nonintervention the Journal

said the lives of American citizens were involved and that if


Needs assistance in cleaning out the brigands posing
as rebels seeking freedom from the Batista dictatorship,
the time is approaching when he should get it from this 11
country in the form of well armed Marine or Army forces.

The election had been held and it had settled little. The revo-

lution would continue. But if David Kraslow's report was correct

a big move could be expected from the rebels before Aguero was

scheduled to take office in February. It would probably come in the

form of another attempt at a general strike or a large-scale military


Tampa Tribune, November 5, 1958.

O1rlando Sentinel, November 13, 1958.

1Pensacola Journal, November 14, 1958.


If and when it did come the rebels could expect little moral

support from the five newspapers, despite the fact that four of them

had expressed editorial opposition to Batista. The kidnapping in

the summer had not been forgotten, and the rebel efforts to prevent

the election had only heightened editorial displeasure with rebel




If the press associations and the newspapers which use them could

have their way the coverage of the Cuban revolution in December of

1958 would probably never be mentioned. For after following the revolt

during a long two-year period, when the climax came the press associa-

tions and the newspapers using them were looking in the wrong direction.

The forces which had mobilized so well to cover the false alarm in

April were in many respects caught napping in December. In addition,

as rebel successes began to grow in significance news reports from

the most commonly used press association, the Associated Press, seemed

to display an anti-rebel bias.

On December 11 after the return of former judge Manuel Urrutia

to Oriente, Fidel Castro announced the rebels were going to establish

a provisional government with Urrutia as President. The Herald in

a story by George Southworth speculated the move was a preliminary

step to mediation of Cuba's civil war by the United States. A UPI

story in the Journal, Tribune and Times-Union, however, saw the move

as an attempt to add new energy to the revolt through recognition of

the provisional government by other Latin American nations.2

Miami Herald, December 12, 1958.

Jacksonville Florida Times-Union, Pensacola Journal and Tampa
Tribune, December 12, 1958.

Editorially, the Herald indicated dispair over the conditions in

Cuba, picturing the situation as a hopeless stalemate with neither.

side being able to defeat the other. This view was taken although

the Herald noted the power of the rebels."seems to be growing" and

also that "government troops have no will to fight their brothers in

the cruel guerrilla struggle that is now in its third year." It was

just these two factors which were shortly to provide the impetus of

the rebel victory, but their significance was not seen at this

time. The Herald, obviously tired of the prolonged revolution, said

in language similar to a Tribune editorial a month earlier, "the

common people of Cuba cry a plague on both houses. They have no

love for Batista and no confidence in Castro."3 Although subsequent

news stories in the Herald reported that Batista was having trouble

with his rubber-stamp congress, that the revolt was spreading, and

that there were doubts about the loyalty of the army, the rebels

still were not given much chance of success. George Southworth

concluded in one story, "even if the rebel groups were united they

could not hope to defeat the combined military strength of the

government forces."

Newspapers and press associations weren't the only ones destined

to place their collective feet in their collective mouths in December.

Senator Alien Ellender of Louisiana,speaking at a press conference

in Havana on December 12, said he thought the press had greatly

3Miami Herald, December 13, 1958.

lbid., December 14, 1958.

exaggerated the Cuban situation. According to a UPI story in the

Herald, "Ellender said he had found no unrest but conceded,

'I might be wrong.'" Ellender called the rebels a bunch of

bandits," and refused an invitation to meet with Castro saying, "I

certainly am not going to become involved in the internal affairs of

a sister republic."5 Needless to say, these remarks did not sit

well with Fidel Castro who soon was to be the leader of the nation.

The storm clouds were gathering around the middle of the month.

On December 16 the Tribune reported the Cuban army was preparing a

major Christmas offensive against the rebels. One day later the

same paper said the rebels were preparing to increase their activity

in Las Villas province. The first report of the government offensive

came in an AP story in the Herald, Tribune and Journal on December 20.

The stories in the first two papers by William L. Ryan said the

offensive would be bolstered "by tons of new military equipment

which arrived yesterday from England."

The following day all papers but the Herald carried an analysis

of the Cuban situation by Ryan which, while somewhat kind to Batista,

proved remarkably prophetic. Ryan saw a tragic irony in the long

fight against the Batista regime, which he said by Cuban standards

had been "fairly respectable." The country had been so disrupted by

the events of the last two years, Ryan said, that even though the

rebels were fighting to oust a dictator their efforts were bound to

be in vain for even if the rebels won "nothing but a dictatorship

could possibly rule Cuba in the wake of this revolt."

5Ibid., December 13, 1958.

As the month and the year were drawing to a close the newspapers

were silent on the government offensive, but instead began to carry

stories of rebel military victories. The Miami Herald carried such

stories on the 23rd and Christmas. On December 26 reports of rebel

successes appeared in all but the Pensacola Journal. Both an AP

story and a Chicago Tribune Press Service dispatch said the rebel

advances in central Cuba had confronted the government "with a

rapidly deteriorating situation." There was still little awareness

of the importance of the battles, however, as the Tribune story was

only four paragraphs long and the Times-Union story was run on

page 25.

News out of Cuba continued to tell of rebel successes in their

drive to capture the eastern half of Cuba. A UPI dispatch quoted

a rebel broadcast by Ernesto "Che" Guevara claiming the rebels

would soon enter Santa Clara, the capital of Las Villas province.

The UPI story described Guevara as an "Argentine-born physician and

one of Castro's chief lieutenants," The AP described Guevara simply

as "an Argentine leftwinger."7 In addition AP stories claimed the

rebels' successes were due in great part to the fact:that the govern-
ment was suffering from a lack of arms. This analysis seemingly

ignored an earlier AP story telling of the arrival of tons of new

arms from England.

Jacksonville Florida Times-Union and Pensacola Journal,
December 27, 1958.

7Tampa Tribune, December 27, 1958.

Miami Herald, Pensacola Journal and Tampa Tribune, December 27,


With the continued rebel successes there was a growing awareness

that the revolution was reaching perhaps its most vital phase. In an

editorial the Herald noted a great increase in the number of Cuban

pesos being changed into American dollars. Calling money "a sensitive

barometer of revolutions," the Herald speculated, "perhaps something

big is in the Cuban wind."9 News on December 28 substantiated this

speculation as all five papers gave the Cuban story front-page space,

reporting that Batista had shaken up his army command as rebel

successes continued. In addition AP stories in the Times-Union,

Journal and Tribune said, "some government troops are reported balk-

ing at the prospect of a bloody all-out offensive against the rebels

. .." 0 Reports of the next two days told of both government and

rebel offensives, and although there was confusion: as to who was

winning all papers on December 29 reported, "the payoff day of the

two-year-old civil war appeared to be close at hand." It was.

On the last day of 1958 newspaper reports emphasized rebel claims

of success in the decisive battle for Santa Clara. Three ran headlines

repeating rebel predictions of Batista's imminent overthrow. Adding

substance to this claim two of Batista's sons flew to New York. Three

papers reported the government's claim that the youths had just gone

to New York for the holidays and would return immediately.ll

9Miami Herald, December 27, 1958.
10Again these reports emphasized the government was hampered by
a lack of arms and ammunition due to the American embargo. This
ignored the aid Batista got from other countries.

11These were the Times-Union, Sentinel and Tribune. Ironically,
this was the truth since Batista's decision to leave came at the last
moment; Phillips, pp. 393-394.

The AP, which had begun in the latter stages of December to draw

attention to "Che" Guevara and label him a leftist, on the 31st linked

the Communist party with the revolution. An AP story in the Tribune

reported that the party which had long supported Castro had renewed

its allegiance to the revolution. The 22nd paragraph of a 23-paragraph

AP story in the Times-Union referred to the revolution as "Castro's

Communist backed campaign to oust Batista."

As the final day of 1958 told of rebel victories three papers

ran editorials pessimistically appraising Cuba's future. The Tribune

while it continued to indicate it would only be too happy to see

Batista leave also continued to express doubts about the Castro

movement. For the first time it expressed concern over possible

Communist involvement in the revolution, noting it was disturbed by

reports that one of Castro's lieutenants, "an Argentine named Guevara,

is'pro-Communist."12 The Herald and Journal raised questions about

Castro's ability to lead Cuba wisely. The Herald said, "there is

doubt whether Castro's type of leadership would pull Cuba from its

political morass."3 The Journal, noting evidences of anti-American

sentiment by Castro, questioned whether if he won he would "bring
better government than the present regime." While these statements

were critical of the rebels it must be noted that they- were milder

than the evaluations which had appeared early in November. Thus, 1958

ended with the climax of the revolution apparently near, with the

12Tampa Tribune, December 29, 1958.

13Miami Herald, December 31, 1958.

14Pensacola Journal, December 31, 1958.

rebels riding a string of military successes, and with the majority of

the papers expressing editorial opinions critical of Castro.

Then it happened. Batista fled Cuba near midnight New Year's

eve, too late for the morning New Year's day papers. This in itself

would not have led to a journalistic debacle. But the stories which

did run reported the smashing of the rebel offensive by the govern-

ment troops. AP stories in all five papers accompanied by bold

headlines said Batista's troops were routing rebel forces and

driving them out of Las Villas province. Batista was reported

staying in the Presidential palace so he could greet the new year

with an announcement of a sweeping victory over the rebels. Nothing

could have been further from the truth.

There has been no real answer as to how the reports could have

been so wrong. The stories quoted rebel broadcasts calling for rein-

forcements, but neither this nor claims from frequently unreliable

government sources should have been enough to justify the stories

written, especially in light of the recent string of rebel victories

and reports of apathy among government troops. Then too, with this

claim of a smashing government victory the AP would have had to

ignore some of its earlier stories saying the Cuban army did not

have sufficient arms and ammunition to fight the rebels.

In fact in the Herald's AP story on January 1 there was informa-

tion which should have raised serious doubts that the government

was really winning any victory at all. The last paragraph in the

story indicated panic among Cuban government officials, something


that certainly would not have accompanied a Batista victory. The

paragraph said:

In Havana, a group of government officials and
lawmakers sought visas from the American embassy to
go to the U.S. Families of some prominent Cubans
already have left for the U.S.

It is almost inconceivable that news of large-scale government

victories could be accepted without question in view of the above

information, especially after the trend of rebel successes and

reports of apathy among Batista's troops.



Although the flight of Batista came as a surprise, the press

associations and newspapers rapidly marshalled their forces to pro-

vide exhaustive coverage of the Cuban situation.

Batista had fled, but the power of Castro was not immediately

recognized. The Herald on January 2 asked in a headline, .

Castro to Take Over?" An Associated Press story on the history of

the revolt said it was still in doubt whether Castro would emerge as

the top man in Cuba. The AP's William L. Ryan in a Times-Union

story on the same day said the only hope for peace in Cuba lay in

the possibility Castro might accept mediation from a third party.

Ryan said Castro was in a position where he could hold out for all

or nothing but contended, "if he does, that will be costly for Cuba."

The failure by many to realize immediately Castro's power

probably stemmed partially from a lack of understanding of Batista's

Cuba. While during the revolution news dispatches had at times

reported as much as 80 per cent of the people against Batista, and

although four of the five newspapers studied had with varying fre-

quency and intensity editorially attacked the Batista regime, neither

the press associations nor the newspapers appeared to be aware of

the nature of the Batista regime or the intensity of feeling against


Penscola Journal, January 2, 1959.

During the two-year struggle for power Batista was often called

a dictator, but reports of government terror or torture were extremely

rare. Opposition to Batista was reported to be mainly on the grounds

he was a dictator and he was thwarting the democratic desires of the

Cuban people. Even the Tampa Tribune with the strongest anti-

Batista editorial line did little more than emphasize Batista's

anti-democratic actions.

Evaluation of Batista immediately after his fall was very

sympathetic. On January 2 the Herald ran two stories picturing

Batista as a near-hero. A story by Herald managing editor George

Beebe told of Batista's sincere desire to make Cuba the happiest and

most prosperous small nation in the world. He said Batista's program

for progress had gotten off to a good start but had somehow been

stalled. "Fidel Castro thumbing his nose from the Sierra Maestra

was probably a contributing factor," Beebe wrote.

Batista's original popularity was emphasized. Beebe told of

a trip he had made with Batista to Sancti Spiritus where the Cuban

leader was to dedicate "badly needed schools and highways." Beebe

said, "I have never seen a throng of people show such reverence for

a benefactor." This incident took place after 1952 when Batista had

returned to power through a coup. Another Herald story on the same

day also emphasized the early popularity of Batista, but, somewhat

contradictory to Beebe's story, said Batista's popularity had

waned by 1952. Batista was said t6 have been rated as the third

man in a three-man field as the 1952 election approached.

Of course leading the pro-Batista voices was the Orlando Sentinel

which editorially called the fall of the Cuban dictatorship "a blow

to the Western Hemisphere." It said Batista "introduced tourism to

Cuba, built many swanky hotels, did a lot of economic good for the

country he loved."

As January progressed, knowledge of the nature of the Batista

regime slowly increased. William Ryan in an AP story carried by the

Journal, Sentinel and Times-Union called the Batista rule "repressive

and often wantonly cruel." Still, however, the two major indictments

against Batista were that "Cubans were ruled by a dictator who gave

no freedoms; and Batista's followers and family/amassed fortunes at

public expense.3 And the Pensacola Journal could still say in an

editorial on January 5 that there was some truth to Batista's claim

that his rule was benevolent. A day later the Tribune mentioning

Batista said he was "at least, pro-American." Nevertheless, claiming

it had learned much in the last few days, the Sentinel on January 7

did an abrupt about face and criticized the Batista regime. Its

editorial attacked Batista's dictatorial policies and the graft in

his government.

Most damaging to the Batista reputation were the reports of

torture and terror under his rule that began to appear in the papers.

One such story told of the discovery of a mass grave of 160 mutilated
anti-Batista political prisoners at a town 60 miles from Havana. In

2Orlando Sentinel, January 2, 1959.

Jacksonville Florida Times-Union, Orlando Sentinel, Pensacola
Journal, January 4, 1959.

Jacksonville Florida Times-Union and Miami Herald, January 12,

light of these and similar reports the Tribune remarked that appar-

ently "Batista had gathered around him a prize collection of gunmen

and experts in torture."5

The surprise victory of Castro and the revelations about the

terror and torture under Batista put the papers in a somewhat awkward

position. The Orlando Sentinel, Miami Herald and Tampa Tribune all

editorially admitted they had been ill-informed on the nature of the

Batista regime. The latter two papers also engaged in a little


The bulk of the blame was placed on the press associations.

John Knight, editor and publisher of the Herald commenting on the

stories of government successes that were filed on the day Batista

fled, commented, "editors who value resourceful reporting and integ-

rrity in news have a legitimate complaint against both press associa-

tions.'" The Tribune charged that "in the coverage of the Batista

government, the wire services suffered from an excess of caution and

left a story untold."

Don Shoemaker, the editorial page editor of the Herald, leveled

the most serious attack against the press's failure to present the

complete picture of Batista's Cuba.

It is the business of a free press to report the news
when it is available--and to make it available when

5Tampa Tribune, January 16, 1959.

Orlando Sentinel, January 7, 1959; Miami Herald, January 9,
1959; Tampa Tribune, January 27, 1959.

Miami Herald, January 18, 1959.

8Tampa Tribune, January 27, 1959.

it is elusive. Most American newspapers abdicated this
role in Batista's Cuba and in the hours when Castro was
coming to power.9

Communist Influence

At the same time the nature of the Batista regime was being

unmasked, the charges of Communist influences which had periodically

plagued the rebels and had become an important issue as soon as the

rebels had come to power were being gradually weakened by January's

events. An AP story appearing in all five papers except the Miami

Herald reported on January 2 that Castro was "the darling of the

Communist worldwide propaganda machine." The story went on to

explain, however, that this support for a successful revolutionary

leader was "standard operating procedure" for the Communists and did

not mean the Reds had hopes of exerting any influence over any

Castro government.

The Tampa Tribune, nevertheless, again expressed concern in an

editorial about possible Communist influences in the rebel movement.

The paper referred to a manifesto Castro had issued in Mexico in 1955

calling for nationalization of American owned utilities and sugar

estates in Cuba, but was more disturbed that "one of Castro's

lieutenants [Guevara] has been described as pro-Communist."l0 The

Sentinel could only explain Castro's victory in terms of such

Miami Herald, January 23, 1959.

'OTampa Tribune, January 3, 1959.

extensive aid from some outside source--"the Soviet Union seems the

best bet"--that the rebels couldn't lose.

Despite the allegations consistently linking Guevara and fre-

quently linking the Castro brothers with the Communists, the U.S. State

Department denied the presence of Red influences in the rebel move-

ment, and news stories from Cuba tended to confirm this assessment.

The State Department's analysis was reported in an AP story in the

Tribune and Herald on January 3. According to the story a State

Department official, who asked to remain anonymous, said there were

indications the rebel leadership was "trying to avoid any Communist


News stories on January 5 tended to substantiate this assessment

as they told of a showdown between Communists and rebels over control

of a labor union building with the Reds finally being forced to back
down.2 Editorially, the Journal used the showdown as evidence of

the democratic and middle-class nature of the revolt.13 The Tribune

called the regime's policy toward communism "more reassuring."l

Most startling of all the Sentinel said it had been convinced the

revolution was truly a popular uprising and said "the Communist tag,

thank goodness, has been somewhat removed from Castro's halo."15

Orlando Sentinel, January 3, 1959.
12Jacksonville Florida Times-Union, Miami Herald, Pensacola
Journal and Tampa Tribune, January 5, 1959.

13Pensacola JournalJanuary 8, 1959.

14Tampa Tribune, January 6, 1959.

1Orlando Sentinel, January 7, 1959.

The news from Cuba throughout the month told not of cooperation

and agreement between Fidelistas and Communists but clashes and dis-

agreements. !The Herald reported that several pro-Communists, who

had seized important positions in Cuba's labor movement in the con-

fusion after Batista's fall, had been shuffled out of office in a

move sanctioned by Castro. Several days later Cuba's foreign

minister said the country had no plans to establish diplomatic

relations with Russia and indicated Communists would be excluded

from the government.

The news from Cuba, therefore, seemed to contradict those who

saw a Castro-Communist link. Subsequent events in Cuba have made

an apparently reasonable circumstantial case for those who saw

Castro wedded to the Communists from the start. Such an explanation,

however, fails to square with the events in January 1959. This is

not to deny the presence of any Communist influence in the rebel

movement, but to say that events in January indicated any such

influence was not important and was not sought by the rebel movement.

Nor did the events in January remove all suspicion of Communist

influence in the rebel ranks. The Tribune remained concerned about

the presence of Guevara in a position of power, saying on January 16

that his prominence "raises some doubts about Cuba's future." Near

the end of the month George Southworth wrote in the Herald that "even

rebel leaders admit that a few of their big boys may have Communist


1Miami Herald, January 24, 1959.

171bid., January 25, 1959.

As Castro took power there was general agreement his first task

would be to restore order to Cuba. It was assumed this would be a

long, difficult, and perhaps very bloody project. The intense anti-

Batista hatred of the people, however, turned into complete adulation

for Castro, who was viewed as a savior, and the process of restoring

a surface order proved to be fairly simple. Well-disciplined rebels

took over control of Havana and the rest of Cuba, and under their

firm guidance peace was restored to the island much sooner than had

been believed possible by American observers.

In the end this quick return to order may have hurt Castro, for

combined with the unmasking of the nature of the Batista rule and

the reduction of the fears of Communist influence in the rebel move-

ment it turned a suspicious, pessimistic, and formerly hostile press

into an optimistic observer. -Thus, the AP's William'L. Ryan wrote,

"Young Fidel Castro faces a golden opportunity to give Cuba

what it has long craved--a free and honest constitutional govern-

ment."'8 Late i.n December of 1958 the same correspondent had said

"nothing but a dictatorship could possibly rule Cuba in the wake of

this revolt."19

Editorially, all the papers but the Florida Times-Union.which

maintained a sphinx-like silence on the Cuban situation, reversed

long-held positions and became sympathetic and optimistic observers

of the rebel movement. The Tampa Tribune on July 6 praised Castro's

Jacksonville Florida Times-Union, Miami Herald, Pensacola
Journal and Tampa Tribune, January 3, 1959.

1Jacksonville Florida Times-Union, Orlando Sentinel, Pensacola
Journal and Tampa Tribune, December 21, 1958.

responsible words and actions. The Miami Herald a day later in its

lead editorial commented, "considerable order has been brought out of

civil chaos, and in a remarkably short time." Optimistically, the

Herald asked, "is this, at long last, Cuba's main chance?" In a

subsequent editorial the Herald called the workings of the rebel

government "an eight-day wonder" and said, "it cannot be repeated too

often that Cuba's finest opportunity may lie just ahead of her."20

Even the Orlando Sentinel, under the pressure of the revelation

of the venality and corruption of the Batista regime, said a few

good words about the revolution. It even went so far as to negate
charges of Communist influence in the revolt.21 Finally, the

Pensacola Journal saw the events in early January as indications "the

people of the island are struggling upward toward a real republic

ruled by a vote of the majority."22

The Executions

This temporary optimism and sympathy on the part of the papers

did not last long, however, as the number one story of the successful

revolution began to take shape. That story was not the revelations

of Cuba under Batista or the struggle for power between Castro's 26th

of July movement and the Communists. Instead the top story soon

became accounts of trials and executions 6f former Batista aides.

And this story soon negated the optimism for Cuba and the sympathy

2Miami Herald, January 9, 1959.
Orlando Sentinel, January 7, 1959.
22 sacola Journal, January 8 1959.
Pensacola Journal, January 8, 1959.

for the rebels which had developed in the early days after Batista's


The first news of executions appeared in the Miami Herald on

January 4 in a story by George Southworth. In a story discussing

the formation of the rebel government Southworth informed his

readers, "it was also reported that executions of some Batista army

officers had started in the provinces." Reports of executions of

Batista-men appeared in the papers sporadically until January 8 when

all five papers carried stories headlining the execution of more than

a dozen officers of Batista's armed forces.

This disclosure sparked the first editorials on the executions.

The Tribune was disturbed by the events and resumed its questioning

of the revolutionary movement. Castro had said the Cuban executions

were similar to the execution of German war criminals following

World War II, but the Tribune rejected this analogy as "singularly

ill-chosen" since the Cuban conflict had been a civil war and not a

war between nations. Pessimistically, the Tribune commented, "the

regime still has a long way to go before proving that Cuba has not

swapped one dictatorship for another."23

Another paper, the Florida Times-Union, didn't think the

analogy between the executions following the Cuban revolution and

World War II was ill-chosen. It said, "Americans should recognize

that.the Cuban trials are just an extension of the Nuernberg trials."

23Tampa Tribune, January 9, 1959.

Thus, for the Times-Union the most "disquieting thought of all" was

that the United States had contributed to the precedent for Cuban

revolutionary justice.24

Reports of continuing executions received increasingly prominent

attention until January 13 when all five papers carried accounts of

the execution of over 70 Batista supporters at Santiago. From this

day until the end of the month practically all the news from Cuba was

concerned with some aspect of the trials and executions of Batista's

former associates.

The Santiago executions immediately sparked three editorials,

but two of the editorials were surprisingly moderate and only one

contained a bitter denunciation of the acts. The Times-Union ran a

light essay titled "Ah, the Guillotine, What/A Wonderful Way to Die,"

which discussed some of the various methods utilized throughout the

history for disposing of political enemies.25 At the other extreme

the Tribune charged "the 26th of July movement has degenerated into

an orgy of vengeance.'26 Somewhere in the middle was the Herald.

It admitted the executions were Cuba's business and said it was

unrealistic to ask Cubans to forget the torture and the terror of

the Batista regime. Nevertheless, the Herald cautioned, "no country

dedicated to the ideals expressed by Senor Castro and his followers

can endure half free and half vengeful."27

24Jacksonville Florida Times-Union, January 24, 1959.

251bid., January 14, 1959.
26Tampa Tribune, January 14, 1959.

2Miami Herald, January 13, 1959.

Later on January 16 the Pensacola- Journal and Orlando Sentinel

joined in the attacks on the executions. Again, however, the

Journal's response was mild criticizing the quickness and secrecy

of the trials, but admitting there might be some justification for

the executions. The Sentinel, though, allowed nothing--facts included

--to qualify its attack on the executions. It blithely said, "there

is no record of wholesale executions by Batista." This seed planted,

the Sentinel then added a qualifying statement providing an escape

route from this falsehood by saying, "there may have been some--

and probably were ... .." But still according to the Sentinel there

was one important difference, "at least Batista and his policemen

had the good taste not to gloat over human slaughter." Thus, as far

as the Sentinel was concerned, the secret terror under Batista was

morally preferable to the open, post-revolution executions under

Castro. To add the coup de grace the Sentinel forgot its earlier

brief heresy of denying Communist influence in the revolution and

said, "Cuba continues the stormy, dangerous, Communist infested


The protests in Washington and elsewhere over the summary trials

and executions created another point of contention between the rebels

and the American government. The revolutionary government claimed

all those killed had received fair trials, but temporarily suspended

executions and announced future trials would be held in Havana's

massive Sports Palace where they could be witnessed by all. In

addition American reaction sparked an ill-considered statement by

Fidel Castro that if the U.S. sent Marines to interfere in Cuban

affairs "200,000 Gringos will die." The remark, made by Castro on his

way to a speech before the Rotary Club, was obviously not intended for

publication, but its nature was such that its use by the press was

probably inevitable. And considering the nature of the remark it

was handled quite routinely on January 16 by the five papers. None of

the papers used the word Gringo in its main headline on the story,

and only two, the Herald and the Journal mentioned the threat of

200,000 deaths in the main headline. The other headlines were exceed-

ingly mild such as the Times-Union "Castro Warns U.S. Against


The executions soon resumed as Castro rallied impressive public

support for his policies. A massive public rally held January 21

demonstrated the solidarity of the Cuban people, and wire service

reports as well as stories from Buchanan of the Herald and Jim Powell,

an.associate editor of the Tampa Tribune, all emphasized the unanimity

of the Cuban people in support of the executions. While the newspaper

reports continued to keep score on the mounting number of executions,

they also left no doubt that Castro's actions had the enthusiastic

approval of the Cuban people. In fact, some stories indicated some
Cubans felt the rebels were too lenient.

There was more criticism of the executions than attempts to

understand them, however, and in the forefront of the critics were

many members of the American Congress including both liberals and

conservatives. Senator Wayne Morse of Oregon called the executions

28Jacksonville Florida Times-Union, Miami Herald, Pensacola
Journal, Tampa Tribune and Orlando Sentinel, January 22 and 29, 1959.


a bloodbath, while an Ohio Representative, Wayne Hays suggested the

banning of travel to Cuba and slicing the importation of Cuban sugar

as ways to force the government to end the executions.

Even the public trials which were initiated to silence foreign

protests backfired'on the rebel government as the trials served to

attract even more protests. Held in the gigantic Havana Sports

Palace before thousands of emotional and vociferous spectators, the

trials immediately won the designation "circus" in press reports on

January 23 and 24. So great was the reaction that once more the rebel

government changed its policy, halting trials in the Sports Palace

and initiating public trials held in more dignified surroundings.

Despite the criticism of the trials there was agreement in the news

reports that justice had been done by the courts.

The trials and executions continued throughout the month to the

dismay of American observers. Without a doubt the trials and execu-

tions were highly damaging to the image of the new rebel'government.

The brief period of optimism was destroyed and the papers once more

turned into skeptics if not critics. But the executions had to stop

eventually, and it remained to be seen whether they had permanently

damaged the image of the rebel regime.



By February the executions had slackened and had pretty well lost

their newsvalue. Thus reports from Cuba increasingly gave attention

to other matters. A prime concern was the nature of the government

being established in Cuba. Early in February Castro announced a

program calling for general elections as early as possible, vast

public works programs, and early reform of Cuba's trade and tariff

agreements. Both the Miami Herald and the Tampa Tribune were some-

what disturbed by the latter aspects of the program. The Herald,

apparently believing such reforms would harm American interests,

said the program was somewhat anti-U.S. The Tribune, also worried

that Castro was considering eliminating the preferential treatment

of American businesses in Cuba, contended such moves would be

economically disastrous for the island nation.2

Generally, however, the papers handled the Cuban situation

delicately during February. In the middle of the month Castro

assumed the position of Prime Minister, technically the second

ranking office in the rebel government. There was no criticism of

this development. The Tribune said the move was probably inevitable

and called it "a healthy development for Cuba."3 The Herald said

Miami Herald, February 5, 1959.

2Tampa Tribune, February 6, 1959.

31bid., February 15, 1959.

"as long as he is calling the shots, Fidel Castro might as well wear

the pistol."

Still there were harsh treatments of Castro. In a syndicated

column in the Herald, Jim Bishop called him "completely incompetent"

and "a vengeful man."5 Edwin Lahey, chief of the Herald's Washington

Bureau, writing from Havana, charged that Castro had a messianic

complex and seemed to have no sense of compassion.

The early spring saw a blossoming of tension in the Caribbean

with allegations that Cuba was fomenting revolutions elsewhere in

Latin America, including one in Panama. More disturbing to many

Americans, however, were stories that Castro in a public meeting had

proclaimed that Cuba would remain neutral in any war between the

United States and Russia. At about the same time charges of enlarging

Communist influence in the rebel government increased significantly.

Senator George Smathers of Florida became one of Castro's chief

critics during this period, who called for a Latin American peace

force to prevent planned invasions of Latin American countries by

Cuban revolutionaries.

Nevertheless, opinion was still in flux when Castro made a visit

to the United States in mid-April. It is perhaps significant that

Castro came to this country not at the invitation of the United States

Miami Herald, February 16, 1959.


Ibid., February 20, 1959.

Jacksonville Florida Times-Union and Tampa Tribune, April 16,

government, but in response to an invitation to speak before the annual

convention of the American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE). That

act by the ASNE indicates that the American press had not, by this

time at least, arrived at a firm and final evaluation of the new

Cuban government. The Florida Times-Union, perhaps expressing a view

prominent in the ASNE commented, "everything about Castro is contro-

versial .. There are few facts available but many opinions."

The Times-Union went on to say that Americans would likely never fully

understand Castro "if for no other reason than that he is a profes-

sional revolutionary, something this country hasn't seen since

George Washington, and he was an amateur."

The news reports of April 18 on Castro's appearance before the

editors varied greatly on the vital issues of Communist influence in

his government and Cuban policy in the event of an American-Russian

war. The Sentinel said in its headline, "Castro/Dodges/Big Issues."

The story by Edward Sims of the paper's Washington bureau maintained

that Castro dodged the issue of Cuba's position in a'U.S.-Soviet war,

and "eluded a direct reply on the role the Communists played in

bringing him to power." Throughout, Sims painted an unflattering

picture of the Cuban leader saying he spoke too long, allowed only a,

brief questioning period, and abused that by using each question as

a springboard for a small speech.

In contrast, the Herald and the Times-Union ran headlines saying

Castro had denied being a Communist. Writing for the Herald, Edwin

Jacksonville Florida Times-Union, April 17, 1959.

Lahey, who had shown himself to be no great admirer of Castro, reported

"Fidel seemed most eager to scotch the story that he is creating a

climate favorable to the Communists in Cuba," and said the audience

had applauded Castro "frequently and warmly." Somewhere between the

Herald and Sentinel accounts was the AP report in the Tribune. Accord-

ing to this version Castro had spoken out strongly against dictators,

had told the editors "we are not Communists," but had avoided a

direct answer when asked what Castro would do in the event of a war

between the United States and the Soviet Union. In addition the story

said the question of Communist influence in the rebel government had

not received much attention.

Despite the differing interpretations on what Castro had said,

there was general agreement that the Cuban leader had been impressive

in his appearance before the editors. Herald editors George Beebe

and Don Shoemaker reported the reaction of the editors was "generally

favorable." A later AP story in the Tribune said a spot check showed

10 of 12 editors favorably impressed, one unfavorably impressed, and

one sitting squarely on the fence.9 Publisher John Knight found

much that was impressive about Castro, but he also had some reserva-

tions. His conclusion on the rebel leader: "Idealistic, dedicated

and naive. Will bear watching."l0

The Orlando Sentinel planned to watch Castro for other reasons,

It knew Castro was "either a Commie or a nut," but had not decided

9Tampa Tribune, April 19, 1959.

10Miami Herald, April 26, 1959.

which. Whichever the case, the Sentinel concluded, "he sounds like

dynamite to -us.." Several days later the Sentinel apparently had

decided Castro was a Communist for it warned, "the communism of Latin

America has begun. It must be halted for the sake of freedom in the

Western Hemisphere."12

The Sentinel was not alone in finding disturbing aspects in the

Cuban situation even in the wake of Castro's favorable appearance in

this country. Conservative columnist David Lawrence told of Communist

advances in the rebel government, although he said Castro was not a

Communist.13 The AP agreed with Lawrence's assessment reporting that

"Communists have been on the rise since the Castro revolution threw
out Batista Jan 1."4 Then too even after Castro's visit the Tribune

continued to express doubts about the relationship between the rebels

and communism. "Thinking Americans," the Tribune said, "will have

good cause to wonder about the professed friendship of a man who

takes such a casual, if not sympathetic, approach to the most des-

tructive force at large in the world today."15

The disturbing news from Cuba increased throughout the spring

and early summer of 1959. The situation in the Caribbean worsened

and Cuba was accused of fomenting revolutions throughout the area

110rlando Sentinel, April 18, 1959.

12bid., April 23, 1959.

13Jacksonville Florida Times-Union and Tampa Tribune, April 20,
1959; Orlando Sentinel, April 24, 1959.

1Miami Herald, April 26, 1959.

15Tampa Tribune, April 20, 1959.

including one attempted invasion of Panama. A steady stream of

refugees poured into Miami from Cuba. There were increasing reports

of economic disruption and political discontent.

Much of the growing criticism was generated by Castro's agrarian

reform which had been announced in May, begun in June, but not really

pushed until much later. Nevertheless, by mid-summer it began to

look like Castro was prepared to put the program into effect, hurting

American interests in Cuba. American opposition to the program

centered on the provisions for compensation for expropriated property.

Americans particularly were upset that the compensation would be in

Cuban government bonds instead of dollars and would be based on very

low assessments of property value.

While these two provisions were constantly attacked by Americans

including the Tribune, Herald and Sentinel, it would seem that such

criticisms were on shaky ground, especially on the latter point.

Payment in dollars would probably have been very unsound for a Cuban

government worried about balance of payment problems. iAs far as

evaluation was concerned, the Americans really had little grounds for

complaints since they, themselves, had established the assessments.

Part of the affinity the American business colony in Cuba had for

Batista resulted from the preferential treatment they had received

from his government. Part and parcel of this preferential treatment

was a very favorable tax system. American properties were assessed

at phenominally low rates, and thus American businesses payed

16Miami Herald, July 13, 1959; Tampa Tribune, July 14, 1959;
Orlando Sentinel, July 19, 1959.

phenominally low taxes. When Castro took power he asked American

businessmen to assess their properties for tax purposes. Later when

the agrarian reform program was formulated these assessments were to

be used as the basis for compensation of expropriated property.1 If

the businesses were to be hurt by the low assessments if and when

their property was expropriated they had their original duplicity

to blame.

While the agrarian reform program lay behind much of the

criticism of revolutionary Cuba, most attention was focused on

another problem, the extent of Communist influence in the government.

Accusations of Communist inroads in the government had grown through-

out the spring and summer, and reached a new peak in July, 1959,

when the chief of the Cuban air force defected and testified before

a Senate committee that the Cuban government was controlled by

Communists. As the highest ranking defector from Castro's government,

Major Pedro Luis Diaz Lanz gained widespread publicity for his


Those statements included accusations that Fidel Castro was a

Communist and was dedicated to giving Cuba a Communist government.

Speaking before a Senate Internal Security subcommittee headed by

James Eastland, Diaz quoted Castro as saying he was going to give
Cuba "a system like Russia has."8 With his revolutionary background,

Diaz's charges were the most telling indictment yet to be leveled

against Castro.

17Robert F. Smith, The United States and Cuba (New York:
Bookman Associates, 1960), p. 178.
18Miami Herald, July 11 and 15, 1959; Jacksonville Florida-
Times-Union, July 14 and 15, 1959; Orlando Sentinel, Pensacola
Journal and Tampa Tribune, July 15, 1959.

The immediate effect of Diaz's testimony was to widen the grow-

ing Cuban-American'split. Both the Orlando Sentinel and Pensacola

Journal carried an AP story saying Castro had called the committee's

hearing interference in Cuba's internal affairs.19 A later story said

"Castro was described by his associates as 'filled with bitterness'"
over the charges by Diaz.20 The Herald reported that Revolucion,

the paper of the 26th of July movement "accused the U.S. of planning
to attack Cuba."2 Similar information appeared in the Sentinel

and Tribune in a story which also told that Diaz's testimony got big
play in the Latin press.2

There was another important aspect to the Diaz testimony, which

to some extent mitigated the effect of his charges but was only

reported in the Miami Herald until late in the month. That was the

circumstances under which his testimony came about. On July 11

David Kraslow reported that Diaz had been "a pawn in an amazing cloak

and dagger tug of war." Diaz had fled from Cuba with his wife on

the first of the month, but neither the CIA nor the State Department

was informed of his arrival. Instead, one week later the Senate

Internal Securi.ty committee was informed of Diaz's presence and

hearings were set up. Kraslow noted that Eastland had been an.out-

spoken admirer of Dominican strongman Rafael Trujillo and reported

19Orlando Sentinel and Pensacola Journal, July 13, 1959.
20Tampa Tribune, July 15, 1959.

21Miami Herald, July 16, 1959.
220rlando Sentinel and Tampa Tribune, July 16, 1959.

Washington officials expected Castro would claim that Diaz's appear-

ance before Eastland's subcommittee was proof that the defection was

part of a plot arranged by American supporters of Trujillo. Several

days later Kraslow reported that President Eisenhower was dissatis-

fied with the handling of the Diaz case, and that the administration

felt that putting Diaz in Eastland's hands 'was like waving a red

flag in Castro's face."23 The Herald attacked the handling of the
case in a later editorial. The maneuvering had hurt the effectiveness

of the Diaz testimony, especially in Latin America. But not until

Drew Pearson repeated the story later in the month did the Times-

Ujnig.., Tribune or Sentinel present this aspect of the story to their


Even as the Diaz testimony was making headlines in the United

States an even bigger story was building in Cuba. On July 14 the

Tampa Tribune carried a small, three-paragraph UPI story reporting

that Cuban President Manuel Urrutia had charged Communists were gravely

hurting Cuba and trying to turn the country away from the U.S. and

to Russia. The story also said Urrutia called reports of differences

labeled "counter-revolutionary" reports of differences between him

and Castro. The implications in such a statement were pregnant with

meaning which were recognized the following day when a UPI story in

the Herald said Urrutia had charged the Reds with plotting treason

2Miami Herald, July 16, 1959.

2bid., July 17, 1959.

2Jacksonville Florida Times-Union, Orlando Sentinel and Tampa
Tribune, July 24, 1959.

and thus "set the stage for an internal power struggle between the

right and left in Fidel Castro's revolutionary government."

The power struggle broke out in the open on July 17 as Castro

took to nationwide television, and in a dramatic speech submitted his

resignation from the government and leveled a devastating attack

against Urrutia. Castro charged the Cuban President, theoretically

his superior, with near-treason and comparedhim to Diaz for his

statements about Communists. Urrutia submitted his resignation before

Castro's television tirade was completed. The Cuban cabinet met

immediately and chose a new President, Osvaldo Dorticos Torado,

rejected Castro's resignation, and called for his return. To no

one's surprise the swift events still left Castro in the driver's


Both the Tampa Tribune and Miami Herald viewed Castro's resig-
nation as a sign of weakness. The Tribune saw the weakness as

more severe, however, and said it was an open question how much

longer Castro could last, while also indicating it would gladly

celebrate his downfall. But the Herald also carried a story by

Herbert L. Matthews of the New York Times who contended, "Castro's

position inside Cuba could not be stronger." However, somewhat

contradictorily, Matthews also pictured Castro's move as one to

increase his strength, feeling that a show of loyalty by the Cuban

people could "provide impetus for the revolution, put fear into his

enemies and impress skeptics and opponents abroad.27 The show of

26Miami Herald, July 18, 1959; Tampa Tribune, July 19, 1959.

27Miami Herald, July 18, 1959.

loyalty was a huge demonstration in Havana, held significantly on

July 26, featuring the campesinos, rural peasants who had flocked to

the capital to demonstrate their support for Castro's policies. To

no one's surprise Castro announced his return to office during the


Two papers saw the demonstration as a failure. The Sentinel

indicated the rally had not proved that Castro had the support of

the majority of Cubans. It would admit, however, that Castro could

count on unquestioned support from the little people and the "have-

nots."28 The Herald, ignoring its earlier interpretation of Castro's

move as a sign of weakness, said it was not impressed by the support

shown by the people since .there had never been any doubt that

Castro was the "supreme hero of the great majority of his countrymen"

who would follow wherever he led.29

The Pensacola Journal and Tampa Tribune, however, indicated

they were impressed by the show of solidarity by the campesinos.

The Journal called Castro's maneuver a success in showing the

popularity of his regime.30 The Tribune said, "the celebration

suggests that Castro's hold on troubled Cuba may be stronger than

recent events have indicated."31 Thus, although the Herald denied

it, its editorial and the one in the Tribune indicated that Castro's

maneuver had managed to convince some of the skeptics of his con-

tinued popularity in Cuba.

28Orlando Sentinel, July 29, 1959.

29Miami Herald, July 21, 1959.
30Pensacola Journal, July 21, 1959.

31Tampa Tribune, July 28, 1959.

Even though reports from Cuba by the summer of 1959 had become

almost entirely negative, emphasizing political and economic problems,

there were reports that pictured Castro in a favorable light. The

stories on Urrutia's successor, Osvaldo Dorticos, were generally

sympathetic. The danger of a possible Cuban-Russian link was

minimized by Walter Lippmann: "Cuba is our near neighbor and is far
beyond the reach of the Soviet Union."

Nevertheless, only readers of the Herald were exposed to any

significant information favorable to the Castro regime. For several

weeks during the controversies over the charges made by Diaz and the

political maneuverings of Castro the Herald carried a series of

stories from Cuba by staff reporter Juanita Greene. The series

focused mainly on the common people of Cuba, especially those in

rural areas, and indicated the revolution was improving the lot of

these people. A farmer was quoted as saying he had hope.for the

first time in his life.33 This hope was primarily brought about by

the land reform program which promised to free the campesinos from

generations of debt peonage. A priest was quoted as saying "land

reform is absolutely necessary for Cuba."3

But Juanita Greene also found disturbing aspects to the Cuban

regime. She found much resentment against the United States. The

Cuban people," she wrote, "are becoming convinced we are not their

32Miami Herald, July 24, 1959; Jacksonville Florida Times-Union,
July 26, 1959

3Miami Herald, July 12, 1959.

4Ibid., July 20, 1959.

friends, that we choose to believe only lies about the government and

their leaders."35 And there was still Fidel Castro, the major enigma

of the revolution. "Right now it is too early to tell whether Fidel

will be a Lincoln or a Hitler. But it looks like he'll turn out to

be one or the other."36

With few exceptions the news stories and editorials of late

spring and throughout the summer pictured Castro as a Hitler. And

as the year progressed the picture increasingly became tinted with

the red brush of communism.

351bid., July 24, 1959.

361bid., July 19, 1959.



Cuban-American relations continued to deteriorate throughout

the summer and early fall. They hit a new low late in October when

two planes flew over Havana dropping anti-Castro leaflets. Castro

claimed the planes had bombed the city killing two, and he blamed the

United States for the raid. A crowd marched on the American Embassy

in Havana in what was called in news reports in all five papers on

October 23 "the biggest anti-American demonstration since Castro

took power." The stories also termed Castro's speech the "bitterest

attack yet on the U.S." Castro called for a massive rally to protest

the air attacks.

The Tribune viewed Castro's antics as merely fodder for local

consumption,l but the Herald expressed much stronger feelings. The

Herald introduced a relatively mild news story with this diatribe:

WHO is wrecking Cuba's faltering economy?
WHO, besides the avowed Communist, is the
leading voice of anti-Americanism in the Caribbean?
WHO, after sweet-talking U.S. visitors,
scathingly denounces the U.S.A., all in a matter of
WHO has adopted the technique of the dicators--
Hitler, Mussolini, Peron--by endlessly repeating the
big lie for propaganda purposes?
FIDEL CASTRO, Cuba's revolutionary leader.
Here is a close look at him by a Miami Herald
reporter who observed him first-hand during last
week's violent events ..2

1Tampa Tribune, October 25, 1959.

2Miami Herald, October 26, 1959.


The massive rally came off according to the script. Castro

blamed the United States for the raids and said American officials LCf't C'p' o

were either accomplices to murder or helpless to stop planes from 1 ''f, '

leaving their country for bombing raids in spite of radar and other

advanced technological devices. Again reports in all five papers on

October 27 termed the attack the "angriest" or "bitterest to date."

Once again the Times-Union refrained from making any editorial

comment on the recent events, but the other papers took advantage

of Castro's anti-American outburst to present anti-Castro editorials.

The Miami Herald asked, "is the lad going loco?"3 Similarly, the

Tampa Tribune said Castro's antics were due "to the fact that the man
has an unstable personality." Both the Herald and Tribune said the

U.S. should remain calm and not be provoked by Castro's words or

actions. Even calmer than these two papers was the Pensacola

Journal which took the recent events in Cuba somewhat philosophically.

"The cycle continues," the Journal said. "Dictators rise and fall

and that appears to be the ultimate fate of Castro, no matter how

sincere he was at the outset."5

The Orlando Sentinel viewed the events as a sign of weakness.

"It is obvious, the Sentinel said, "that Castro's star is fading and

that he's grasping at straws to try to rebuild his popularity." The

Sentinel expressed a common belief that Cuba could not stand if the

31bid., October 27, 1959.

4Tampa Tribune, October 29, 1959.

5Pensacola Journal, October 29, 1959.

U.S. did not subsidize her- by buying sugar at prices above those on

the world market. The paper was sure "the U.S. could straighten Cuba

out in short order," and it advocated that the United States do so.

Furthermore, the Sentinel indicated it would not be disturbed if the

U.S. used military force to do the straightening saying, "we can do

it economically--or militarily if that is the way Fidel wants it."

Although the leaflet raid increased the ever widening Cuban-

American gulf and brought on more anti-Castro editorials, in the midst

of this crisis on October 23 the Herald carried an excellent analysis

of the Cuban regime by George Southworth. Southworth said Castro had

probably lost popular support, and said a good guess would place that

loss at "10 to 20 per cent of the 95 per cent that he had when he

took control of the government." He admitted leftist elements had

ridden Castro's coattails but denied they were running the government.

Southworth saw time and the agrarian reform program as the two

key elements to the understanding of Castro's regime. Castro,

Southworth said, had staked the future of the revolution on the

success of the agrarian reform program. That program was bound to

cause some temporary economic dislocation, however, until it was firmly

established. Castro's main problem, therefore, Southworth contended,

lay in pushing through the agrarian reform as quickly as possible

in order that the dislocation caused by its initial application would

not be a threat to his regime. Southworth said there was no doubt

Orlando Sentinel, October 27, 1959.

Castro could call an election and demonstrate decisively his popular-

ity but he wouldn't do so because it would slow him down and the

agrarian reform program would collapse.

Southworth had no illusions that Castro's Cuba was a paradise,

but he expressed a fear of what would happen if the rebel leader


Things are not good in Cuba now, but if Fidel
Castro is not able to carry out his plans things will
grow worse. Cuban politics can be violent and
usually are. It will be a long time before the people
will stand solidly behind any leader.

The most complete analysis of the Castro regime was done at the

end of the year by the Herald in a series of stories on the first

year of Castro's Cuba. The series, done by a team of Herald reporters,

delved into every aspect of the Cuban situation and came out with a

somewhat mixed appraisal.

The reporters found much to praise. Edwin Lahey called Castro's

educational program "the brightest spot in the revolution." He also

noted "there has been a sense of freedom under Castro." As far as

possible Communist domination was concerned Lahey wrote, "the facts

of political life assert that the Communists could not hope to

control Cuba unless they first figured some way to remove the island

several thousand miles from the shore of the United States."7

Another reporter, E. V. W. Jones noted the popularity of the agrarian

reform program. "It has the wholehearted support of the majority,

Miami Herald, December 18, 1959.

the acquiesence of most of the others, and the opposition of only a

few," Jones wrote. Jones also noted agrarian reform had long been a

goal of the Cuban people and was included in the nation's 1940 con-

stitution. This aspect had been ignored by Americans who liked to

see the agrarian reform program as evidence that Castro had betrayed

the revolution for communism.

The reporters also found serious drawbacks to the rebel rule.

Jones noted that "Castro uses many of the trappings of dictatorship."9

Lahey reported that subtle limits had been placed on freedom of

expression.0 Jones also expressed reservations about Communist

influences in the government.1

The Cubans themselves, however, provided the severest indictment

of all by their actions. They arrested Herald reporter James

Buchanan for allegedly giving aid to an escaped political prisoner.

After spending almost two weeks in a Cuban jail, Buchanan was tried

and given a 14-year suspended sentence. Upon his return to Miami

Buchanan wrote a series of stories based on his prison experiences.

These stories told of a nascent police state in Cuba and were carried

by all five papers studied. Buchanan said his visits to Cuba in 1959

had brought an increasing concern that Cuba "may have traded one

dictator for another, though a much more popular, one." He said,


91bid., December 23, 1959.

10Ibid., December 18, 1959.

11bid., December 24, 1959.

"Cuba isn't yet a police state, but the network of spies and jails is

being organized in a pattern that threatens to smash the hopes and

prayers of thousands of Cubans."12

Editorially, the Herald was the most optimistic of the papers when

assessing Cuba's first year under Castro. While decrying the Cuban-

American rift and certain other aspects of Castro's rule, it concluded

the revolution had helped Cuba's common people. "The common man, of

Cuba has gained much," the Herald said. "He has more money to spend,

a better standard of living, and better prospects for his children."13

None of the other papers shared this view, however. Even the

Times-Union, which had refrained from joining the anti-Castro editorial

chorus at many times throughout the year, broke its semi-silence and

called Castro's control "one year of rule by firing squad and near

anarchy."14 Harshest was the Sentinel, which nevertheless seemed to

have retreated somewhat from its advocacy of a showdown with Castro and

the use of economic or military force to straighten the island out.

It still maintained that Cuba was controlled by the Communists

("It is obvious to all that a 100 pct Communist regime governs Cuba,

unconditionally devoted to Moscow and Peiping."). But it rejected

the possibility of cutting the Cuban sugar quota saying "starving

six million Cubans to punish one man is not the answer." It was

left with the somewhat sterile alternative of trying to sell the

12Jacksonville Florida Times-Union, Miami Herald, Pensacola
Journal, Tampa Tribune and Orlando Sentinel, December 27, 1959.

13Miami Herald, December 30, 1959.

1Jacksonville Florida Times-Union, December 26, 1959.

Cuban people on the ideas of liberty and democracy in the hope they

would overthrow Castro.1

Castro's first year in power ended with U.S.-Cuban relations

seriously, if not irreparably, harmed. All five papers had assumed

an anti-Castro editorial stance, although the Herald still appeared

to be receptive of information favorable to the rebel regime and

seemed to have a greater understanding of the complexities of the

Cuban situation. Only the Sentinel claimed the regime was Communist,

but the other papers noted that Castro's actions were helping the


Those who did not view Cuba as Communist tended to feel that

Cuba's Catholic population and geographical proximity to the U.S.

would preclude any Communist control of the island nation. Another

general assumption was that the United States could quickly bring

Cuba to heel through threats to cut her sugar quota. This assumption

was based on the belief that Cuba's economy was wedded to that of

the United States and could not survive without American assistance.

The story of 1960 was to be the story of the shattering of these

two illusions.

15Orlando Sentinel, December 26, 1959.



With Cuban-American relations at a dangerously low ebb, February,

1960, saw the opening gambit in the formation of a Cuban-Soviet link

as Soviet Deputy Premier Anastas I. Mikoyan made a visit to the island

nation. News reports speculated that the visit might lead to a

resumption of diplomatic relations between the two countries. The

first concrete result of the visit, however, was the announcement

that Russia had agreed to buy 345,000 tons of Cuban sugar.

The Mikoyan visit again brought to the forefront the question

of the relationship between the revolutionary government and communism.

A UPI story on the eve of Mikoyan's visit reported that diplomats

we're unable to point out any Communist in the upper echelons of the

Cuban government.2 Yet there was the fear that the Mikoyan visit

might move the Cubans toward the Communist orbit. Senator George

Smathers of Florida, a long-standing critic of the Castro regime,

decried the trend of the events in the Caribbean but recommended the

United States take no action saying, "we can't stop a country if it

wants to go Communist."

Miami Herald, Orlando Sentinel and Tampa Tribune, February 4,

2Orlando Sentinel, February 4, 1960.

Jacksonville Florida Times-Union and Tampa Tribune, February 13,

All five papers expressed editorial concern over the potential

implications of the Mikoyan visit. The Herald was not concerned

with Cuba's commitment to sell sugar to Russia, describing it as a

trading agreement "reached by our neighbors, who are sovereign and

free to go about their business." But the Herald was concerned that

Mikoyan's visit and his warm reception by Castro indicated the rebel

leader was turning towards communism. "One wonders more and more,"

said the Herald, "whether Fidel is not a pledge in the fraternity."

The Pensacola Journal feared that Castro was emulating Nasser and

trying to play the United States against Russia. "It is bad to have

a dictator in the Middle East flirting with the Reds," commented the

Journal, "but it is far worse to have one right at our back door.,5

The Tampa Tribune, in an editorial entitled "Foxy Mikoyan in the

Henhouse," also expressed concern over the implications of the Soviet

leader's visit, but said Smathers' admonition to sit tight was the

best advice.

The Florida Times-Union, however, indicated it would support

some American action directed against Castro. It applauded a proposal

being introduced into Congress that would permit the President to cut

the sugar quota of any nation when it was in the interest of the U.S.,

and said it was "encouraging to see this country considering a more

forceful policy toward the upstart Castro." But the paper urged

4Miami Herald, February 6, 1960.

Pensacola Journal, February 9, 1960.

Tampa Tribune, February 15, 1960.

great caution in the formulation of any such policy so that it

wouldn't drive Castro "further into the arms of the Reds." The

Mikoyan visit was proof, the Times Union said, that "the Communists

would love to exploit any rift between the United States and Cuba."

And the paper warned the Reds would be willing to buy Cuban sugar as

"an investment in international goodwill at America's expense."

The Orlando Sentinel viewed Castro's anti-Americanism and

agreements with Communist nations as final proof the regime was

dominated by Communists. With this established, the Sentinel then

began to express fears for American security. The key to this

argument was the American naval base at Guantanamo Bay. The Sentinel,

however illogically, argued that Guantanamo was our best insurance

against any attack launched from Cuba. "Should Castro attack the

U.S.," the Sentinel said without stopping to explain why this possi-

bi-lity was even remotely plausible, "our men at Guantanamo could

easily blow Cuba out of the water. It is clear, therefore, that we

must keep Guantanamo."

Thus all five papers showed deep concern over the implications

of Mikoyan's Cuban trip especially as it related to an apparent

Cuban-Russian rapprochement. And if the Sentinel appeared unduly

concerned with American security, it should be noted that there were

soon rumors of possible submarine bases in Cuba. Furthermore,

American official patience with Castro was on its last legs. The

7jacksonville Florida Times-Union, February 9, 1960.

8Orlando Sentinel, February 6, 1960.

Ibid., February 9, 1960.

proposal to allow the President to cut the Cuban sugar quota was a

manifestation of the beginning of a new attitude toward the Cuban

government. Not long after Mikoyan's visit to Cuba, President

Eisenhower took the first step toward the Bay of Pigs by deciding to

equip and train anti-Castro Cuban exiles.10

As the year progressed it became apparent that Cuban-American

relations were heading for a crisis. The rift between the two coun-

tries had in all practicality become irreconcilable. All that was

lacking was a series of events culminating in a showdown in which

this irreconcililability would be clearly illustrated. This occurred

in the summer of 1960 almost two years from the dates of the Cuban

kidnap crisis.

Two events formalized the rift. One was the long-threatened

cutting of sugar imports from Cuba. On the last day of June the

House of Representatives passed a bill authorizing the President

to halt importation of Cuban sugar. The action had been taken after

strong pressure from President Eisenhower and amid reports Cuba was

planning to rush large shipments of sugar to this country before any

action could be taken. An AP story carried by all five papers on

July 1 said the vote came after angry denunciations of Castro with

at least one demand that the United States occupy Cuba.

The Senate was much more reluctant to conform to Presidential

wishes, but two days later both houses agreed on a compromise program

giving the President power to cut sugar imports from Cuba for the

1Matthews, p. 249.

remainder of the year. An AP story on the passage of the final pro-

posal reported that the complexities of the issues in the controversy

"left some of the members [of Congress] so baffled they confessed to

reporters they did not know what they were acting on."' Certainly

a UPI report on the final Senate vote lent itself to no easy analysis,

as such diverse figures as Barry Goldwater, Allen Ellender, Wayne
Morse, and William Proxmire all voted against the bill.12

Nevertheless, the Congress had granted President Eisenhower power

to slash the Cuban sugar quota and on July 6 he used this power

slashing the quota by some 700 tons. News reports on July 7 all

emphasized the seriousness of the act for the Cuban economy. There

was unanimous agreement the action would deal a severe financial

blow to the rebel government. The estimates on the value of the loss

in dollars to Cuba, however, varied so widely as to bring into ques-

tion the amount of real knowledge concerning the situation. For

example, a New York Times dispatch in the Herald said Cuba would lose

85 million dollars by the action. A story in the Sentinel compiled

various press services placed the cost to Cuba at approximately 70

million dollars. On the other hand an AP story in the Tribune placed

the loss at only 35 million. Another AP story in the Journal and

Times-Union covered all bases, saying the move was expected to cost

Cuban sugar growers from 35-85 million dollars.

Jacksonville Florida Times-Union and Tampa Tribune, July 4,

12Miami Herald, July 4, 1960.

The sugar quota was termed in one news dispatch the "life blood

of the Cuban economy,"13 but news of the American actions to cut this

quota took second place to other events occurring at the same time

concerning the big American oil refineries in Cuba. Late in June the

Cuban government asked the Texaco refinery to process some Russian

crude oil. The refinery refused and was promptly seized by the Cuban

government. The response of the other refineries was immediate as

they quit supplying Cuba with oil. The UPI reported this move and

called it "the start of a huge squeeze play which could make expropri-

ation of foreign property boomerang against the Cuban economy."l

Herald reporter Dom Bonafede indicated the oil companies had made

their move with the encouragement of the U.S. government and quoted

one oil spokesman as saying the move to cut off Cuba's oil "has all

the earmarks of a diplomatic intrigue."l5

There was disagreement as to whether Cuba could operate the

refineries if they were seized. The UPI report said it was believed

that Russia couldn't rush in enough technicians to keep the refineries

operating. But Bonafede quoted a Miami oil expert as saying the

refineries could be operated by only a handful of Russian technicians

in addition to the native Cubans.17

O3rlando Sentinel, July 7, 1960.

14Jacksonville Florida Times-Union, Miami Herald,. Pensacola
Journal, July 1, 1960.

Miami Herald, July 1, 1960.

16Jacksonville Florida Times-Union, Miami Herald, Pensacola
Journal, July 1, 1960.

17Miami Herald, July 1, 1960.

Cuba didn't hesitate, immediately seizing the refineries. This

made the island nation dependent on the Soviet Union to supply the oil

needed for the functioning of the Cuban economy. Newspaper reports

were skeptical that Russia was up to the task. A July 2 Associated

Press report in the Times-Union, Sentinel and Journal reported that

"experts expressed doubts Russia can find 20-25 spare tankers needed

to shuttle crude oil to Cuba," and said the move "raised prospects of

an oil famine." UPI stories in the Herald and Tribune on the same

day painted a slightly less pessimistic picture saying oilmen didn't

expect an oil shortage for several weeks.

Both the showdowns over sugar and oil naturally accentuated the

rift between Cuba and America. In Cuba this was manifested by a

rising tide of anti-Americanism. UPI reported the seizure of the oil

refineries was "accompanied by a rising hate-America chorus in the
press and on the radio."18 In addition there were reports that the

Cuban government was preparing to retaliate by seizing large American

businesses in Cuba. The Cuban cabinet authorized the expropriation

of all property owned by American businesses or citizens, and the

Times-Union and Sentinel said Castro's government was expected to
take "drastic retaliatory action."1

Expectations of economic crisis and possible economic collapse

were expressed in editorials. The Herald said that without oil

"Fidel Castro's juggernaut will grind to a standstill."20 The

18Miami Herald and Tampa Tribune, July 2, 1960.

19Jacksonville Florida Times-Union and Orlando Sentinel, July 7,
20Miami Herald, July 1, 1960.

Sentinel'predicted that "a further fall in dollar income from Cuba

will soon precipitate a crisis."21 The economic hardships were also

expected to hasten a successful revolution against Castro. While the

Journal expressed dismay that many innocent Cubans might be severely

hurt by an economic crisis it rationalized that this might be neces-

sary to demonstrate that Castro "must be toppled before he preci-

pitates absolute chaos."22

But economic considerations took second place to political con-

siderations as the showdown over the oil refineries injected, as

never before, the cold war into the Cuban-American dispute, for it

made Cuba dependent on the Soviet Union for the oil essential to its

economy. Gerry Robichaud in the Miami Herald noted that if Russia

could bail Cuba out of a potential economic mess by supplying her with

adequate amounts of oil "it might go a long way toward enhancing
Russian prestige and influence in many sections of Latin America."2

Likewise a subsequent AP story in the Herald said that "Soviet affairs

experts in London" warned that Russia's move to supply oil to Cuba

might be "a turning point in the Kremlin's Latin American policy."

The move was compared to an arms deal with Egypt in the mid 1950's

"which opened the floodgates to Soviet influence in the stategic

Middle East."24

2Orlando Sentinel, July 7, 1960.
22Pensacola Journal, July 3, 1960.

23Miami Herald, July 3, 1960.

Ibid., July 5, 1960.

With the Soviet Union underwriting the economic stability of

the Castro regime the Cuban-American dispute evolved into a Russian-

American dispute. Front page stories on July 10 told of a sharp.

exchange of words between President Eisenhower and Premier Khrushchev

over Cuba. Both the AP and UPI reported Khruschev had hinted Russia

might use missiles to defend Cuba against intervention by the United

States. In response Eisenhower had warned the Russian leader to

keep his hands off Cuba. According to both press services Eisenhower

had told Khrushchev the United States wouldn't stand for a Cuban

regime dominated by international communism.

The AP report underscored the explosive potential of the

situation saying the American government was concerned that

Khrushchev might "overplay his hand and perhaps try to make good on

some of his boastful threats--and conceivably start World War iii.25

This concern was not limited to government officials as Dom Bonafede

writing from Havana reported that "everywhere people discussed the

possibilities that the Cuba-U.S. dilemma may light the spark causing

World War 111."26

Adding further fuel to the fire news stories from Moscow

quoted Khruschev as claiming the Monroe Doctrine no longer had any

validity. At the same time Castro claimed that Russia's pledge of

military assistance was Cuba's only insurance against an American

251bid., July 10, 1960.

26Ibid., July 12, 1960.

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