HAVANA, Jan. 2, 1959 (UPI) - Fidel Castro, the 32-year-old rebel who led a successful revolt against Cuban President Fulgencio Batista, was ready to make a triumphal entry into Havana. The Cuban armed forces today pledged their allegiance to Castro.
The first rebel forces began moving into Havana this morning.
Castro was in Santiago, his native city and the one he has chosen to be provincial capital. He named as new president, Manuel Urrutia, an exiled former president. The armed forces, led by Col. Ramon Barquin, accepted this nomination.
Both Castro and Urrutia must act quickly to give sugar-rich Cuba a new government. The U.S. hopes it will be stable and democratic.
Batista's reign ended dramatically early New Year's Day when the president-dictator and a handful of top aides flew to the Dominican Republic. Batista's other ministers fled, too, and left Cuba in the hands of the Castro rebels and their sympathizers.
Havana was paralyzed today by a general strike called by the revolutionaries. Stores, restaurants, businesses and even movies were shut down. Communications were snarled.
There were no cars on the streets and few pedestrians.
Havana thus was fairly quiet after yesterday's rioting. Mobs stormed through the streets after learning of Batista's exit, looting and wrecking.
The 40,000 Americans in Cuba appeared safe, although many of them in Havana were terrified yesterday when law and order evaporated.
U.S. Ambassador Earl T. Smith said arrangements had been made to send a ship from Key West, Fla., to Havana today to take home tourists and students here for the Christmas holidays.
Smith said an airlift would be arranged to permit more Americans to leave.
The Castro command also instructed rebel forces not to attack Cuban troops based near Guantanamo Bay, site of a major U.S. naval base in the rebel stronghold of Oriente Province.
Revolutionary militias joined police on patrol in Havana and other cities this morning. A Castro aide seized control of the armed forces in Havana and discussed with Castro headquarters in Santiago ways to get a formal cease-fire order to all troops.
Government troops were told to stop fighting yesterday by Supreme Court Justice Carlos M. Piedra, selected to be provisional president by Batista before he fled. But Castro refused to recognize Piedra and named Urrutia as his president.
Another leader in the new government may be Carlos Prio Socarras. He, like Urrutia, is a former Cuban president and was ousted by Batista. Prio flew into Havana today from Miami.
Both Urrutia and Prio have been supporters of Castro for two years.
Castro got a tremendous ovation when he appeared in Santiago this morning; so did his brother Raoul.
"Citizens of Santiago: A revolutionary greeting to all of you. On behalf of the revolution in the name of its undisputed leader Fidel Castro Ruz, and on my behalf, I send an embrace to the heroic people of Santiago de Cuba."
Castro had been fighting Batista 2 1/2 years. He stepped up his activities in eastern Cuba within the last two weeks, made spectacular gains and was about to cut the island in two when Batista fled.
The president-dictator attributed his downfall to superior arms held by the rebels.
Throughout Cuba today Castro forces were busy entering cities and formally taking over governments.
The end of the Batista regime came with unexpected suddenness. Two sons of Batista were flown to New York early this week but there was no hint the government was about to fall. Even Mrs. Batista claimed not knowing about it until the last moment.
Fulgencio Ruben Batista, one of the fallen president's sons, said on his arrival in Jacksonville, Fla., that Batista made up his mind suddenly yesterday morning.
Batista joined the Cuban army in 1921 and led a bloodless "sergeants revolt" in 1933 against the central government.
From then on he was the power behind the throne of several presidents, becoming himself president from 1940 to 1944. After four years of exile, he seized control of the government in 1952 in another bloodless coup.