CHAPTER XIII
THE ARMORED TRAIN AND THE LAST ARMS

TO DEFEAT THE groups which the rebels now called "columns," new troops were sent to Las Villas. The squadrons of the Rural Guard, and the infantry units stationed at headquarters, had been reinforced. Some 10 companies, each composed of 100 men, were working to dislodge the rebel infiltrations operating weakly in the mountains of the Central Range, south of Santa Clara. These troops were reinforced by three large battalions, each formed by more than 400 men. This contingent and the new Highway Patrol should have been able to open an efficient attack. Unfortunately, the leadership was inadequate and the operation failed.

In Oriente Province it had taken the rebels almost two years to immobilize the military detachments; in Las Villas, with Río Chaviano as chief of the military district, they succeeded in weeks. The opportune warning of the plan to break the communication lines of Las Villas--given a month and a half previously--had served little purpose. By the beginning of December, important bridges on the Central Highway, designated by the Army Central Staff as those marked by the rebels for destruction, were being attacked and destroyed.

What seemed without basis, or merely rumors, was becoming actual fact, and there was a growing distrust of the guilty chiefs.

To repair the bridges which had been dynamited or destroyed with blow-torches, as well as great stretches of the Central Highway and others, an operation was hurriedly formed which included the Commission of National Development, the Ministry

-88-

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