Escambray rebellion

  (Redirected from War against the Bandits)

The Escambray rebellion was a six-year conflict (1959–1965) in the Escambray Mountains during which several insurgent groups fought against the Cuban government led by Fidel Castro. The rebellion was called the War Against the Bandits or the Struggle Against the Bandits (Spanish: Lucha contra Bandidos) by the Cuban government.[9]

Escambray rebellion
Part of Aftermath of the Cuban Revolution

Cuban government victory

  • Insurgents defeated by government forces.

Republic of Cuba (1902–1959) Insurgents:

Supported by:
CIA (1959–61)
 Dominican Republic (1959–61)[1]
Partido Auténtico[2]
Supported by:
 Soviet Union
Commanders and leaders
Osvaldo Ramirez 
William Alexander Morgan Executed
Eloy Gutiérrez Menoyo (POW)
Sinesio Walsh (POW)[3]
Fidel Castro
Francisco Ciutat de Miguel
Lizardo Proenza
Raúl Menéndez Tomassevich
Manuel Fajardo [4]
Units involved
c. 177 outlaw groups,[5] including Second National Front of Escambray remnants Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces
National Revolutionary Militia
Department of State Security[6]

2,000 active fighters, 6,000+ collaborators[5]

  • 3,995 rebels engaged in combat[7]
250,000 (soldiers and militia)[7]
Casualties and losses
2,000–3,000 killed
5,000 captured
Armed Forces:
500 soldiers killed
1,000+ soldiers wounded
National Militia: Unknown
Total deaths: 1,000 to 7,000.[8]

The rebels were a mix of former Batista soldiers, local farmers, and leftist ex-guerrillas who had fought alongside Castro against Batista during the Cuban Revolution. The end result was the elimination of all insurgents by Cuban government forces in 1965.


The uprising began almost immediately after the success of the Cuban Revolution in 1959. It was led by ex-guerrilla that had fought against Batista before, but rejected the socialist turn the Cuban Revolution had taken and the ensuing close ties with the Soviet Union. Small landowning farmers, who disagreed with the socialist government's collectivization of Cuban farmlands also played a central role in the failed rebellion. The uprising was also secretly backed by the CIA and the Eisenhower administration because of Castro's ties with the Soviet Union.[10]

The insurgent guajiro rural farmers were aided by some former Batista forces but were led mostly by former Directorio Revolucionario Estudantil rebels (13 March Movement), such as the anticommunists Osvaldo Ramirez and Comandante William Alexander Morgan, both of whom had fought Batista's casquitos in the same area only a few years before (Morgan himself was executed in 1961, long before the resistance ended).[11] Ramirez and Morgan were viewed by the United States as potential pro-democracy options for Cuba and sent CIA-trained Cuban exiles to promote and spread word of them being an alternative to Castro.[10]


The CIA provided some aid to the insurgents but withdrew all support after the failed Bay of Pigs Invasion in 1961, ensuring their ultimate defeat. Some of the failures could be attributed to Castro's "roll up" of CIA operatives in Cuba.[12] After the Bay of Pigs failure, Osvaldo Ramirez returned to the Escambray Mountains and declined an offer by Castro's emissary, Comandante Faure Chomón, to surrender.[citation needed]

The main tactic of the Cuban government was to deploy thousands of troops against small groups of rebels, forming progressively-constricting rings of encirclement.[13] The communist leaders that Castro sent to clear the Escambray Mountains were ordered to exterminate the rebels. They were to "comb the brush elbow to elbow" until they had completely cleared the hills of anticommunist rebels.[citation needed] The leaders of the insurgent forces Lucha contra Bandidos (LCB) were Commandantes Raul Menendez Tomassevich, a founding member of the Cuban Communist Party[14] and Lizardo Proenza.[15][16][17]


Both their smaller numbers and the lack of outside assistance, particularly supplies, eventually led to the rebels' defeat.[18] The outnumbered anticommunist guerrillas often fought to the death.[19] Cuban forces used sweeps by long columns of militia, which cost the government substantial losses but ultimately won the war. The Spanish-Soviet advisor Francisco Ciutat de Miguel, who was also present at the Bay of Pigs Invasion, played a major role in the pacification operation. Castro employed overwhelming force, at times sending in as many as 250,000 men, almost all of whom (including 3,500 out of the 4,000 government fatalities) were militia.[20] The insurgency was eventually crushed by the Castros' use of their vastly-superior numbers. Some of the insurgents ultimately surrendered but were immediately executed by firing squad. Only a handful managed to escape.[21][22]


The War Against the Bandits actually lasted longer and involved more soldiers than had the previous struggle against Batista's forces.[23][24] The Cuban government combat leader Víctor Dreke gave a pro-Castro viewpoint in his 2002 book From el Escambray to the Congo, which is notable for its virulent condemnation of former comrades from the war against Batista.[25] However, Dreke also describes the tactics and mindset of the Cuban government forces and its ruthless use of force and no-prisoners attitude.

Raúl Castro claimed in a speech in 1970 that the rebellion killed 500 members of the Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces. The death toll of the rebels and others involved in the rebellion (such as civilians and pro-government militias) is unknown. Estimates for total combatant deaths range from 1,000 to 7,000.[26]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Clodfelter, Micheal (2017). Warfare and Armed Conflicts: A Statistical Encyclopedia of Casualty and Other Figures, 1492-2015, 4th ed. McFarland. p. 637. ISBN 978-0786474707.
  2. ^ Brown (2017), Paragraph 6.
  3. ^ Brown (2017), Paragraph 35.
  4. ^ Brown (2017), Paragraph 36.
  5. ^ a b Brown (2017), Paragraph 78.
  6. ^ Brown (2017), Paragraph 39.
  7. ^ a b Swanger, p. 243
  8. ^ Joanna Swanger. "Rebel Lands of Cuba: The Campesino Struggles of Oriente and Escambray, 1934–1974." Page 243.
  9. ^ Brown (2017), Paragraph 66.
  10. ^ a b Warner, Michael. ([200-?]). The CIA's internal probe of the Bay of Pigs affair. [Forgotten History]. OCLC 176629005. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  11. ^ "William Morgan". Latin American Studies.
  12. ^ Volkman, 1995.
  13. ^ Encinosa, Unvanquished, pp. 73–86.
  14. ^ "Cuban General Raul Menendez Tomassevich Dies". Associated Press. 2001-08-17. Archived from the original on 2008-10-22. Retrieved 2007-12-24.
  15. ^ Encinosa, Enrique G. "Escambray: La Guerra Olvidada". Latin American Studies. p. 27.
  16. ^ "Montañas". Escambray. Archived from the original on 2007-09-28. Retrieved 2007-07-31.
  17. ^ "Todo Sobre la Guerra en el Escambray". Secretos de Cuba.
  18. ^ Faria, Cuba in Revolution, pp. 88–93.
  19. ^ Faria Jr, MD, Miguel A (2002-06-14). "Interview With Dr. Miguel Faria (Part I) by Myles Kantor". Hacienda Publishing. Retrieved 2002-06-14.
  20. ^ "Cuba News". Cuba Net. 2002-05-02. Archived from the original on 2005-12-05. (see Puebla).
  21. ^ Encinosa, Enrique G. "Escambray: La Guerra Olvidada". Latin American Studies. p. 18.
  22. ^ Franqui (1984), pp. 111–115.
  23. ^ Ros (2006) pp. 159–201.
  24. ^ "Anti-Cuba Bandits: terrorism in past tense". Archived from the original on 2007-02-22.
  25. ^ Dreke 2002 p. 68 ‘Cubela… traitor to the revolution’; p. 93 ‘nearly all… counter revolutionaries’; p. 95 ‘William Morgan raped’.
  26. ^ Joanna Swanger. "Rebel Lands of Cuba: The Campesino Struggles of Oriente and Escambray, 1934–1974." Page 243.


  • Brown, Jonathan (2017). "The bandido counterrevolution in Cuba, 1959-1965". Nuevo Mundo Mundos Nuevos. doi:10.4000/nuevomundo.71412.
  • De la Cova, Antonio Rafael. 2007. The Moncada Attack: Birth of the Cuban Revolution. University of South Carolina Press. ISBN 978-1-57003-672-9, p. 314 note 47.
  • Dreke, Victor (Edited by Mary-Alice Waters) 2002. From el Escambray to the Congo. Pathfinder Press, New York. ISBN 0-87348-947-0, ISBN 0-87348-948-9.
  • Encinosa, Enrique G. 1989. El Escopetero Chapter in Escambray: La Guerra Olvidada, Un Libro Historico de Los Combatientes Anticastristas en Cuba (1960–1966). Editorial SIBI, Miami.
  • Encinosa, Enrique G. 2004. Unvanquished – Cuba's Resistance to Fidel Castro, Pureplay Press, Los Angeles, pp. 73–86. ISBN 0-9714366-6-5.
  • Faria, Miguel A. Cuba in Revolution – Escape from a Lost Paradise. Hacienda Publishing, Macon, GA, pp. 88–93. ISBN 0-9641077-3-2.
  • Fermoselle, Rafael 1992. Cuban Leadership after Castro: Biographies of Cuba's Top Commanders, North-South Center, University of Miami, Research Institute for Cuban Studies; 2nd ed (paperback) ISBN 0-935501-35-5.
  • Franqui, Carlos 1984 (foreword by G. Cabrera Infante and translated by Alfred MacAdam from Spanish 1981 version). Family portrait with Fidel, Random House First Vintage Books, New York. ISBN 0-394-72620-0 .
  • Priestland, Jane (editor) 2003. British Archives on Cuba: Cuba under Castro 1959–1962. Archival Publications International Limited, 2003, London ISBN 1-903008-20-4.
  • Puebla, Teté (Brigadier General of the Cuban Armed Forces) 2003. Marianas in Combat: the Mariana Grajales Women's Platoon in Cuba's Revolutionary War 1956–58, New York Pathfinder (Paperback) ISBN 0-87348-957-8.
  • Ros, Enrique 2006. El Clandestinaje y la Lucha Armada Contra Castro (The clandestinity and the armed fight against Castro), Ediciones Universal, Miami ISBN 1-59388-079-0.
  • Volkman, Ernest 1995. "Our man in Havana. Cuban double agents 1961–1987" in Espionage: The Greatest Spy Operations of the Twentieth Century, Wiley, New York ISBN 0-471-16157-8.