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Abstaining from discussing the US response other than superficially, the Press announced that the nation was girding up its loins. Radio Havana condemned US aggressors and flatly denied the presence of missiles.

On 24 October, the French Ambassador reported that, but for a few "sporadic rallies" staged by the authorities in popular districts, the population was "calm and almost lethargic."

The population taking to the streets
October 1962
The population taking to the streets

The nation girds up its loins
The nation girds up its loins

In the following days, the Cuban authorities extended the mobilization to reservists working in the building, printing and power supply industries. In some districts of Havana, militiamen enforced rationing so as to curb a purchasing panic which had emptied the shops of coffee, sugar, matches and biscuits.

For two days people braced themselves in silent fear of whatever might happen. Torrential rain made the atmosphere all the heavier. All roads to the beaches were blocked, and on the central highway there were military check-points and convoys. At night the Havana streets were empty and drab. Civil Defence searchlights crisscrossed the bay. Hoy, the daily paper, mentioned that the army was gearing up all over the island: older schoolboys and students joined the army while women flocked to register as nurses. In factories, mothers and wives substituted for their mobilized sons or husbands.

As the tension began to ease, the Cuban Press highlighted with great relief that, on 27 October, Moscow had accepted U Thant's proposals, whereas the US response was deemed "evasive".

Havana: with the Hotel Riviera as backdrop, a Cuban soldier aims his rifle
Manned antiaircraft battery with
Hotel Riviera as backdrop
Revolución welcomed the "first plan aiming at truce negotiations"; Hoy praised the UN Secretary General for his "peace proposal". When the Soviet Tanker Vinnitza docked in Havana there were scenes of jubilation in the harbour.

Two days after Fidel Castro had told Jeune Afrique that he, too, was in favour of negotiations, the líder, who had been excluded from the negotiations, issued a statement on 29 October listing his own terms for a settlement of the crisis.

The communiqué was hyped up by the Press, in order to restore his image. Yet, in the evening, it was a weary and tense Castro who addressed disillusioned Defence Committees. When the crisis was defused, a rather despondent Cuban population showed no sign either of joy or relief.

Revolución Headlines: 'Our country or Death! We Shall Overcome!
Revolución Headlines: "Our Country or Death! We Shall Overcome!"


Cuba: A country in danger Close