Last August 24 a group of young Cuban exiles in two small motor launches shelled a waterfront hotel in Havana. The Cubans--members of the Student Revolutionary Directorate (DRE) with head-quarters in Miami--evoked cries of anguish from Fidel Castro by their abortive bombardment and "embarrassment and annoyance" on the part of the United States government.
During the recent crisis the DRE was again in the news. Its newsletter issued early last week purported to pinpoint the size and location of Russian missile bases under construction in Cuba. Yesterday its leaders expressed disappointment that the United States had reached an accord with the Soviet Union before removing Premier Castro by force of arms.
Long, Bloody History
The DRE has a long, often bloody history of revolt against oppression in Cuba.
It organized in 1932 to oppose the Machado regime, and reformed in 1952 to aid in the overthrow of Batista. The hotbed of Directorate activity was the University of Havana, and students there engaged in terrorism and acts of sabotage. Many students, however, left the University to join the 26th of July Movement operating in the hills of Oriente Province.
Within a year after Castro's rise to power, many DRE leaders began charging that Fidel had betrayed the ideals of the revolution. Castro reciprocated by jailing, shooting, or exiling most of the right-wing element in the Directorate. In late 1960 the disaffection became so widespread the DRE leadership left Cuba and set up exile headquarters in Miami.
According to an expert on Latin American student affairs the DRE membership was slightly more conservative at the time of the exile than when the group fought with Castro in the hills. Its hardcore leadership of six young Cubans, however, "tend to be fairly progressive or socialist," the expert, who wished his name withheld, said.
The Directorate's principal current activities are travelling around the world generating support for anti-Castro movements and publishing intelligence reports from its agents inside Cuba.
The reports have been greatly reduced in value since the invasion at the Bay of Pigs because of increased security measures inside Cuba and massive purges of suspected enemies of the regime. The United States National Student Association has several times pleaded clemency for condemned DRE leaders.
DRE leaders have also shown up at various international meetings, such as the Helsinki Youth Festival and the Latin American Student Conference, to plead their case. Politically, they oppose the Revolutionary Council of Dr. Jose Miro Cardona, which reportedly has the backing of the United States government, and prefer the more leftist leadership of Manuel Ray, now in Puerto Rico.
Some observers feel, however, that after more than a year in Miami the 60 exiled DRE members have become a bit too comfortable "and have accepted the idea that they are not going back to Cuba.