[After the Moncada Barracks attack in 1953, Fidel Castro] "slipped away, only to be captured a few days later in the mountains." -- Roger Cohen, "The End of the End of the Revolution," New York Times Magazine, Dec. 5, 2008
Fidel Castro wasn't killed in the attack on the Moncada Army Barracks because he did not participate in it. His car, supposedly, broke down on the way to the barracks, or he got lost in the streets of a city he had known since childhood. In any case, when he finally arrived to take command, the rebels had been routed and were endeavoring to retreat. Rather than join in a last stand, or at least share the fate of the men he had pointed (but not led) to slaughter, Fidel drove away. The car that couldn't get him there in time managed to get him out of harm's way without difficulty.
Castro didn't take refuge "in the mountains" nor was he "captured" a few days later by Batista's troops. What Castro did was to avail himself of Cuba's longstanding tradition of ecclesiastical asylum. He sought the protection of the Archbishop of Santiago de Cuba, Msgr. Enrique Pérez Serantes, who arranged for Castro's peaceful surrender to the authorities. That would have been the end of Castro in any other Latin American country. But Cuba was like no other Latin American country at the time because it was governed under the Rule of Law and boasted an independent judiciary, most of whose members had been appointed before Batista's 1952 coup and retained their positions despite their opposition to him. Most importantly, Cuba's 1940 Constitution had abolished the death penalty. If a terrorist attacked a U.S. military installation, then or now, it is highly unlikely that he would escape execution. In Cuba, Castro was sentenced to 15 years in prison and amnestied by Batista in less than two.
When Castro seized power in 1959, thanks in no small part to The New York Times' unrelenting advocacy, he abolished ecclesiastical asylum; the Rule of Law; the independent judiciary; and the Constitution of 1940. He also reinstated the death penalty, and, for the first time since Spain ruled Cuba, applied it to "political crimes." The firing squad, which had formed no part of the history of the Cuban Republic (1902-58), was made the symbol of his Revolution and nearly 15,000 Cubans were paraded before it in his first year in power (more than died through natural causes in 1959). And, of course, Castro has never issued a general or partial amnesty in 50 years of unelected rule, as had been the custom in Cuba since the earliest days of the Republic upon the election of a new president.
Archbishop Pérez Serantes was the first Cuban prelate to condemn the imposition of Communism in Cuba. In a pastoral letter dated May 30, 1960, he stated that "It can no longer be said that Communism is at the gates, because in truth it is within, speaking powerfully. Not in vain have some clear-sighted persons been preparing to fight those who try to impose the heavy yoke of the new slavery."