This event took place on January 1, 1959, and was reported in the The
New York Times the following day. The
New York Times. January 1, 2001
Army Halts Fire
Rebels Seize Santiago and Santa
Clara-- March on Capital
By R. Hart Phillips. The New York Times, January 2, 1959.
Havana, Friday, Jan. 2 -- Fulgencio Batista resigned as President of
rebellion-torn Cuba yesterday and fled to exile in the Dominican Republic. The
rebel forces of Fidel Castro moved swiftly to seize power throughout the island.
Dr. Manuel Urrutia, Senor Castro's own choice, appeared likely early this
morning to become the provisional President. Col. Ramon Barquin, who had been
imprisoned for conspiring against the Batista Government, was brought here by
military plane from the Isle Pines penitentiary and named chief of the joint
Colonel Barquin immediately sent out a call to Senor Castro to come to the
capital with Dr. Urrutia and set up a new Government. The rebel leader and his
forces had entered Santiago de Cuba late yesterday and had taken over the
Moncado army post without firing a shot. About 5,000 soldiers there surrendered.
Key Cities Captured
Truckloads of soldiers moved into Havana last night to maintain order in
conjunction with militia of Senor Castro's 26th of July Movement, who were also
patrolling the streets armed with machine guns and rifles.
The rebel forces forged ahead throughout the island. While some insurgents
spread out from Santa Clara, capital of Las Villas Province, which they had
seized Wednesday, other groups announced the capture of Camaguey.
General Batista led an exodus from Cuba that has reached a total of perhaps
400 persons fleeing by ship and plane to the United States and the Dominican
Republic. They included key political and military leaders and their families.
Piedra Is Rejected
Calling his military chiefs together early yesterday at Camp Columbia, army
headquarters, General Batista, strong man of Cuban politics for most of the
period since 1933, declared he was resigning "to prevent further bloodshed."
He left behind a junta headed by Gen. Eulogio Cantillo, recently the
commander in Oriente province, the center of the Castro revolt. The junta
immediately designated Dr. Carlos Piedra, the oldest judge of the Supreme Court,
as provisional President in accordance with the Constitution of 1940.
General Cantillo took over as chief of staff of the army. Dr. Gustavo Pelayo
was designated Premier.
But Senor Castro declared that his insurgents would remain on a "war
footing" and refused to accept the designation of Justice Piedra as
provisional President. The Supreme Court refused to administer the oath of
office to the Justice.
The rebel leader called a general strike for today in protest against the
Piedra regime. He demanded that Dr. Urrutia, former judge of the Urgency Court
of Santiago de Cuba, be installed as the provisional President, as he had
proposed a year ago.
The Cane Planters Association of Cuba, speaking for the island's pivotal
sugar industry, last night issued a statement supporting Senor Castro and his
General Cantillo, as army chief, issued a cease-fire order to troops
throughout the island. Political prisoners were being freed in Havana and the
interior. Yesterday afternoon several hundred in Principe Fortress in Havana
Since it was New Year's Day, commerce and industry were halted. Restaurants,
cafes and grocery stores closed their doors as rioting began. Mobs broke windows
and looted some stores. The police fired on the mobs and a number of persons
have been killed and wounded.
A mob set fire to the plant of El Tiempo, a newspaper owned by Senator
Rolando Masferrer. Senator Masferrer, an intimate friend of General Batista, had
a private army of some 2,000 operating in Oriente Province. They were accused by
the inhabitants of many killings and tortures. The office of Dr. Rafael Guas
Inclan, elected Mayor of Havana in November, was burned.
As the news of the fall of the Government spread early yesterday, the public
poured into the streets.
The black and red flag of the 26th of July Movement, headed by Senor Castro,
appeared on automobiles and buildings. Cars raced through the streets with horns
Mob Destroys Gambling Casino
Firing broke out near the docks, but details were not immediately available.
A mob destroyed the new gambling casino in the Plaza Hotel.
Amleto Battisti, owner of the Sevilla Biltmore Hotel and its casino and a
Representative in Congress, took refuge in the Uruguayan Embassy.
Armed young rebels seized the radio stations. Broadcasts called on the
people to remain calm and orderly.
Crowds also attacked the Banco de la Construccion in the Central Plaza.
Latin-American embassies were crowded with officials who had taken political
asylum. Hundreds of others were hiding in the city.
In the afternoon the National Association of Newspapermen declared a strike
until the situation was clarified. But several Havana newspapers had published
Cruise Ships Leave Port
United States Ambassador Earl E. T. Smith warned American citizens to take "appropriate
precautions." Two big cruise ships with many American tourists aboard, in
Havana harbor for the New Year's holiday, left yesterday.
Many tourists were stranded here by the swift fall of the Government. Plane
service was curtailed for a time and ships arriving at Havana were unable to
dock owing to the strike. The United States Embassy said it was trying to
arrange transportation for a large number of tourists and some students who had
asked its assistance.
Later, it was announced that it was arranging for a ship to come from Key
West today to pick up stranded citizens.
City Almost Deserted
Restaurants and other establishments that closed during the rioting did not
open because personnel heeded the strike call. However, most hotels supplied
their guests with meals.
The resistance movement told the public that the strike would not include
telephones, broadcasting and power services.
At night Havana was almost a deserted city, the inhabitants remaining in
their homes. Only a few automobiles moved on the streets. The mobs had
In the luxurious Miramar residential section, a few of the homes of high
officials were looted, including that of the chief of the national police, Pilar
Garcia, who fled in the morning.
No Patrolmen Seen on Street
No policemen on foot were seen patroling the streets of Havana. Some patrol
cars drove about. The lack of display of force was in startling contrast with
the number of armed forces that patrolled the city and guarded strategic points
Later last night, troops and militiamen took over the task of guarding the
Eusebio Mujal, secretary general of the Confederation of Cuban Workers,
sought asylum in the Argentine Embassy. Senor Mujal and his labor leaders
strongly supported the Batista regime.
Castro Superior in Arms, Batista Declares in Exile
U.S. Aides Wary On Cuba's Future: Rebel-Conservative Conflict Envisaged --
Castro Men Take Over Embassy
Casinos Wrecked: Throngs Sack Hotels, Shops and a Paper During Vandalism
Copyright 2000 The New York Times Company