Annotating a recent comment by Christian C.:
"The U.S. funded and armed Batista’s forces (despite publicly calling for elections and asking him to resign) until it became clear that his regime was untenable, ultimately recognizing the revolutionary government as the 26th of July Movement moved closer to victory on a wave of popular support." — Christian C.
[The U.S. did not "fund and arm Batista's forces." On the contrary, it declared an arms embargo against the Batista government, the first time in history that it had ever done so against a friendly country and ally. All Cubans knew immediately what this meant. Before the arms embargo, Castro's forces had sustained what he rightly called "the Revolution's greatest defeat" — the failure of the March 1958 General Strike. Intended as a show of support for the revolutionary forces, less than 5% of Cuban workers participated. In the November 1958 elections to choose a replacement for Batista, more than 50 percent of the electorate went to the polls, though warned by the rebels that anyone who voted for either the government or the opposition candidates would be shot. So, yes, support for the 26th of July Movement did increase dramatically from 5% in March 1958 to nearly 50% of the population by November 1958 because of the U.S. arms embargo. There is no other explanation, since during that time the Castro forces saw no action and took no territory; but, well-ensconced in their mountain coverts, busied themselves executing local peasants as "spies" and entertaining visiting media with stories of epic battles that were never fought but were dutifully reported (Castro's revolution was undoubtedly the first to be concocted by and conducted in the media). With only 184 "battlefield" casualties sustained by both sides during the entire process, the Cuban Revolution was never anything but an operetta revolution, which if Batista had bombed the Sierra Maestra mountains could have been over in 24 hours. But the U.S. threatened to withdraw diplomatic recognition if he did, thereby in effect becoming (for the first but not the last time) the guarantors of Castro's revolution. By December 1958, the U.S. was no longer content to let the rebels "win" the Revolution since it didn't appear that they could despite being bankrolled by rich Cubans (such as the Bacardís) and U.S. corporations doing business in Cuba (at the request of the Eisenhower administration). Therefore, the American ambassador, Earl T. Smith, was instructed by the State Department to inform Batista that his government would no longer be recognized after January 1, 1959, nor that of Cuba's president-elect Andrés Rivero Aguero, who was scheduled to take office on February 24, 1959. The U.S. thus paved the way for the triumph of Fidel Castro's Revolution. It was then that Castro's forces, unopposed, finally began their 700-mile triumphal march from Oriente to Havana. In Cuba's real Revolutionary War (1895), the rebel army, under General Antonio Maceo, had traversed the same distance fighting the Spanish forces every inch of the way in hundreds of battles. In 1898, the U.S. intervened militarily to co-opt Cuba's victory and thwart its independence. It again intervened 60 years later, this time diplomatically, to assure Castro's victory and end Cuba's independence. The U.S. did not "ultimately recogniz[e] the revolutionary government as the 26th of July Movement moved closer to victory on a wave of popular support." The U.S. evicted Batista and assured (as the active, not the passive agent) the victory of the 26th of July Movement. The Cuban people were attentive to its prompts, as was usual then. The "wave of popular support" followed in the wake of the "victory" (as is always the case with all revolutions).
It is undeniable and obvious [is it really?] that the vast majority of the Cuban people supported Castro when he initially came to power [so why didn't Castro hold elections at the supposed apex of his popularity?]. Much of your delusions about Cuba stem from this fundamental misunderstanding about the revolution’s origins [what a big coincidence, so do yours!]. Cuban exiles [you speak as if you were not one of us] like to conveniently ignore this fact [what fact? Castro's untested "popularity?"], but will usually admit to being supportive of the revolution at first if they’re being honest [which Castro was not being when he declared that the object of his revolution was to restore democracy, which might have been the reason that many Cubans initially supported him and consider that support to have been an "honest mistake"]. This includes some of the the most fiercely anti-Castro exiles (like Luis Posada Carriles) who’d go on to join the CIA-directed counterrevolution [when Posada Carriles was a terrorist for the 26th of July Movement, he was hailed as a hero; when he entered the service of the counter-revolution, he was decried as a terrorist. Anything wrong here? I guess that what determines whether you are a terrorist or not is the master you serve].
Other than members of the Batista regime and its depraved cadre of benefactors [as I just said, it was Castro who had the "cadre of benefactors"], the bill of goods Castro initially promised were to the benefit of most Cubans and, indeed, desperately desired by them ["bill of goods" is a fine description; it means a fraudulent offer, which Castro's certainly was] . He came into power on the tails of a broad-based opposition movement [which he quickly narrowed to one man (himself) by killing, imprisoning and exiling most of the anti-Batista opposition, including many of his initial supporters], vowing to assert Cuban independence, restore democracy, and promote a more just society to masses of enthusiastic revelers [lies, lies, lies. How can you credit support which is based on lies?]. The disillusionment and successive waves of immigration to the U.S. only begin after the revolution takes a radical turn and Castro comes clean about his Marxist intentions [Castro killing more Cubans in 1959 than died by natural causes didn't affect his popularity, I suppose, or cause doubts to be raised about his motives? Cuban were that deluded!] . And of course, the whole thing is proven a farce after he trades the U.S. with the U.S.S.R. as Cuba’s imperial master [Jackpot! You are restored to sanity. Congratulations! I had almost given up hope. However, at the risk of sounding a bit picky, the U.S. as "imperial master" never used Cubans as cannon fodder nor contributed to their enslavement, so this change of "imperial masters" was hardly a fair exchange].
Castro reportedly said: “to have stated a radical program would have resulted in aligning against the Revolution all the most reactionary forces, which were then divided. It would have caused the formation of a solid front among the North American imperialists, Batista, and the ruling classes.” He even likened himself to Lincoln, who concealed his abolitionism as a strategy to avoid being defeated by the overwhelming fear people had towards that radical idea [Lincoln was never a sincere abolitionist, but an opportunist who issued the Emancipation Proclamation (which in effect freed no slaves) to obtain a cheap propaganda victory after a series of stunning defeats on the battlefield. Even after nominally embracing abolition, Lincoln still advocated the "repatriation" of slaves to Africa as the "final solution" to America's "race problem." In fact, he told General Benjamin Butler that he even favored the transportation of African-Americans to "the garbage dump of Cuba" where slavery still existed!!! This suggestion caused Martí to reassess his opinion of Lincoln]. Castro's lies, on the other hand, weren't noble.
At any other point in Cuban history the discontent with the regime that grew in the 1960’s would have likely consolidated into a formidable domestic opposition movement [it did, in the Escambray Mountains, where ten times as many rebels amassed against Castro as had against Batista, and they would have defeated Castro, too, if Castro had been Batista (Castro had no problem bombing his opponents) and if the U.S. had not betrayed them, as it has all Cuban rebels with the exception of Castro] and brought down the government [you mean regime], but the world was in the midst of the Cold War [all the more reason to have acted decisively against Castro]. The U.S. actively courted Cuban exiles and appropriated the struggle against Castro [actually, Cubans would have been quite happy to see any other country "appropriate" the anti-Castro struggle, but, unfortunately, only the U.S. did and very half-heartedly at that], using them as pawns for America's own Cold War objectives [like the Soviets used Castro's subjects as "pawns for (their) Cold War objectives," right?] (This, of course, isn't the first time in Cuban history that something like this has happened). [Actually, it was the first time that a Cuban leader had invited a foreign power (the USSR) to colonize his country; previously, the colonizers had invited themselves. When the first happens, it is treason (think of Quisling). When the latter happens, it is an unprovoked act of aggression for which the invader is responsible. Big difference].
After the Bay of Pigs debacle, President Kennedy, one of history’s most fanatically [and ineffectively] anti-Castro presidents, intensified the fight against Castro by launching Operation Mongoose, a covert program that allowed him to save face in the event that they were caught [yes, "save face" as at the Bay of Pigs, or is that just a euphemism for betraying anti-Castro Cubans?]. This consolidated covert CIA-directed paramilitary efforts to overthrow Castro that begun during the Eisenhower administration into a multifaceted government-wide operation. Most Cubans involved in the anti-Castro opposition were channeled into the CIA’s multimillion dollar covert war [what other choice had they? To accept Castro? And does the fact that the CIA spent millions to topple Castro more objectionable than the fact that the Soviet Union spent billions to avert the collapse of the regime?].
Shockingly, covert operations continued in the midst of the missile crisis [when Castro was doing his worst (best?) to blow up the world, very shockingly]. Your obsession with the Kennedy-Kruschev [I have the same difficulty spelling Khrushchev] Pact as the source of the problem is completely unfounded and a historical [the U.S. pledged not to invade Cuba in exchange for the removal of Soviet missiles, in effect establishing a perverse protectorate over the Castro regime]. This was a non-binding pledge [which the U.S. has respected as if it were codified law]. The Kennedy administration actually established a legal rationale that they maintained the right to invade Cuba and proceeded with the covert program, which imagined the U.S. military aiding CIA-trained exile front groups after they linked with imaginary [so the Escambray rebels were "imaginary?"] anti-Castro forces on the island and took back Cuba.
Operation Mongoose inevitably failed because exile front groups were repeatedly constrained by limited CIA directives, which called for pointless small-scale attacks [exactly, "pointless small-scale attacks" but no INVASION]. Even if those harebrained covert sabotage attacks had been successful, they were being carried out under the auspices of what most Cubans saw as the enemy of Cuban independence [No, Cubans then, today and always will regard Fidel Castro as the principal enemy of Cuban independence, and it is thanks to his monumental role in crushing it that other actors almost as blameworthy will never get the credit that they richly deserve]. After Kennedy was assassinated [by Castro, as LBJ always believed], Operation Mongoose was called off by LBJ despite AG Robert Kennedy's insistence that it continue [maybe LBJ thought that he would be assassinated by Castro, too?].
In addition to the ample evidence provided by the Bay of Pigs debacle [I'm glad you didn't use "fiasco"], the regime had captured exiles and retrieved evidence from downed planes and seized vessels with U.S. markings, for example. He used this as proof to demonstrate to the Cuban people and the world that Cuba was under siege by the U.S. and the revolution needed to move in a radical direction in order to preserve Cuban independence [so if Castro had never been opposed by the U.S. or Cuban exiles he would never have had the "proof" that he supposedly "needed to move in a radical direction?" Surely, you don't believe this? You are not that gullible, and neither are the Cuban people. When Castro announced ex cathedra that he "was and would always be a Marxist-Leninist," Cubans never again believed a word he said].
This comment by Christian C. originally appeared in the Will Cuba Ever Be Free Again? comment thread.