He turned his trial in Santiago into an indictment of the dictatorship. In his final courtroom speech, he reportedly concluded with the phrase: “Condemn me, it does not matter! History will absolve me!” (It would be years before scholars would note the ringing phrase was lifted from another dramatic courtroom oration by Adolf Hitler, on trial in Germany for an attempted 1923 coup.) In prison, Castro wrote furiously, converting his trial speech into a formal document smuggled out for publication. It became his platform during the struggle against Batista. Batista released Castro on May 15, 1955, as part of a general amnesty, 18 months into his sentence. Castro traveled briefly the same year to Miami, where he spoke at the old Flagler movie theater downtown, asking supporters for funds. “I swear to you,” he promised the cheering crowd, “in Cuba, it’ll be us or them.” Then he went to Mexico, where he rebuilt his tiny revolutionary band and organized an invasion. blogThere Castro met and recruited Ernesto “Che” Guevara, a 27-year-old Argentine physician with Marxist ideas who had been expelled from Guatemala after a CIA-backed coup there the previous year. On Dec. 2, 1956, Castro, Guevara and 80 followers reached the shore of Cuba’s Oriente province in a battered American cabin cruiser, the Granma, wretchedly seasick after a seven-day voyage.
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