On March 13th, 1957, half a century ago, a strong group of revolutionaries made up of university students and workers got ready to take on the tyrant in the Presidential Palace itself and carry out actions aimed at destroying the bloody regime.

Reaching the Palace with the weapons was the culmination of a long and complex process of collaboration of the forces opposed to the pro imperialist dictatorship and the organization of activities that gradually committed the men on that afternoon to launch one of the boldest actions of the rebel struggle.

The events of the attack dates back to August of 1956 when Jose Antonio Echeverría, recently re-elected President of the Federation of University Students, FEU, and supreme leader of the Revolutionary Directorate, met in Mexico with Fidel Castro and there they exchanged opinions on the political situation in Cuba and established a strategy to be followed by the revolutionary forces.

The agreements adopted then were picked up in a document known as the Mexico Charter, in which both organizations agreed to coordinate their forces aimed at destroying the tyranny and carry out the Revolution.

The agreements outlined the spirit of unity of the time, which despite the different points of views on the application of the insurrectional line to be followed, it was determined that each would develop its actions according to specific plans, without losing the common objective.

At the end of January of 1957, the Revolutionary Directorate determined to attack the Presidential Palace and simultaneously occupy the studios of Radio Reloj, where Jose Antonio Echeverría would announce the destruction of the Batista regime and call on the population to go to the university to hand them weapons and provoke a general insurrection.

The head of the attacking commando was Carlos Gutierrez Menoyo, with second in command, Faure Chomón, and to lead the support operation was Ignacio Gonzalez. Jose Antonio as the main political leader would be responsible for the control of the radio station.

In the first days of March, the organization had been able to gather enough arms for a commando of fifty men and for the members of the support operation.

On Wednesday March 13th, once the news that Batista was inside the Presidential Palace was confirmed; the necessary measures were taken to carry out the operation.

The attack began at 3:15 in the afternoon through the back entrance of the presidential palace. After overcoming the tough resistance of the guards and gaining their entrance to the president’s office they realized that he was not there.

The enemy’s strong resistance stopped the rebels from advancing to the third floor. This factor and the fact that the support action was not carried out forced the attackers to begin retreating.

Of the fifty men that had arrived only twenty six were able to retreat almost an hour later, many of them wounded. In the entrance and interior there were dead and wounded, although the tyranny did not report prisoners as they were assassinated.

At the same time as the attack the student leader arrived at the Radiocentro building on 23 and M Streets in the heart of Havana?s Vedado district. At 3:24 Jose Antonio began his speech, but later the transmission was interrupted for technical reasons.

This would be the last time that the Cuban people would hear the voice of the beloved student leader called ‘Manzanita’. On a side of the University stairway Echeverría fell in combat a few minutes later.

Different factors influenced the failed operation, among them: the enemy’s knowledge of the combat area and its vast superiority in handling weapons and munitions; the number of casualties suffered by the attackers in the first few moments, reducing its combat possibilities, and the failed support.

In the attack against the Presidential Palace twenty four combatants fell. Of the survivors of both actions two were assassinated the following night and another four, victims of a betrayal were killed 38 days later in the building in 7 Humboldt Street in Havana.

However, the actions of March 13th, 1957, if not achieving its main purposes, did shake the tyranny and contributed to the increased efforts of the Cuban people to achieve liberty through the armed struggle, obtained the following year, 9 months and 18 days after the historic events.

Cuban Agency News
La Agencia Cubana de Noticias (ACN) es una división de la Agencia de Información Nacional (AIN) de Cuba fundada el 21 de mayo de 1974.

Cuba News Agency