In the late 1880s, a sharp decline in financial contributions from tobacco workers and manufacturers for the nationalist cause triggered a controversial shift in revolutionary strategy. Deteriorating economic and social conditions in Cuba’s rural districts produced a generation of bandits who turned to kidnapping and ransoming wealthy planters and raiding small towns for a living. Many fled to Key West, became politicized under the influence of José D. Poyo and other nationalists, and returned to Cuba as guerrilla fighters. These bandit-patriots, especially Manuel García, cooperated with the Convención Cubana, Key West’s secret insurgent organization, extorted funds for the revolutionary treasury, and helped create an environment in Cuba conducive to revolution. Some nationalist leaders in Key West expressed ambivalence and others expressed outright opposition about this turn in nationalist strategy, characterizing it as immoral, but Poyo persisted viewing this as the only viable strategy for raising revolutionary funds at least until the workers regained their enthusiasm for the cause.
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