A timely and sympathetic evaluation of the Cuban revolution and Castro's Cuba by the New York Times reporter who interviewed Fidel in the Sierra Maestra during the fight for power. Matthews was later scapegoated when the revolution--which had actually been backed by the U.S. decision to dump Batista--took a Communist turn. Now he takes understandable pride in underlining its accomplishments, while accurately insisting that Fidel was not a Marxist-Leninist in 1959--his sincerity and pragmatism, combined with Yanqui pressure, left him no choice if he wanted to build up the country. Other tales contested by Matthews include the conjecture that Che Guevara quarreled with Castro before the former's departure for Bolivia. However, Matthews doesn't explain why Castro, the sensible chief of state, would allow his friend to undertake such a patently suicidal mission. Matthews professes great respect for Guevara, but his account of Che--which underlines death-infatuated quotations, asthma, and his neurotic refusal to take baths--provokes skepticism as well as sympathy. Unlike K. S. Karol's Guerrillas In Power (1970), this book takes a positive view of Soviet aid to Cuba, while observing that the ""100% nationalistic"" Fidel is no puppet. Matthews' survey of Cuban social and economic accomplishments like free education, medical care, low rents, and the gradual mechanization of the sugar industry, is accompanied by polite contempt for leaders like Allende who were unwilling to take drastic measures. Despite rationing, the calorie intake of Cubans is well above the Latin American average, Matthews points out; and he takes Amnesty International to task for publicizing ""allegations"" of torture as if they were undisputed facts. The Cuban leadership has matured, Matthews concludes. A memorable appreciation.