Fidel Castro is a revolutionary figure and former Prime Minister of Cuba who served the country from 1959 to 1976 and gained a reputation of an anti- capitalist who openly refuted the American dominance in Asian countries. He was also the 22nd president of the country, a position he took in 1976 and held until 2008, when he resigned and formally transferred all his duties and powers to his brother, vice -president Raul Castro. As a major political figure, Fidel drew attention for his highly critical views on Capitalists countries including the United States, whose political and corporate influence in Cuba had increased with time. In 1965, he became the first secretary of the communist party of Cuba and embarked on a mission of transforming Cuba into a one-party socialist republic. As a head of Cuba, Castro led the country for nearly five decades and still remains active till this day.
Fidel Castro was born on August 13, 1926 in Biran, near Mayari, Cuba. His father Angel Castro y Argiz, originally from Spain, was relatively wealthy and owned a sugarcane plantation. His mother Lina Ruz Gonzalez had been a maid to Angel's first wife. He grew up in wealthy circumstances amid poverty. His original name was Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz.
After completing his elementary education at the private Catholic School, Fidel went to El Colegio de Belen, a Jesuit school in Havana in 1945. Fidel was an intellectually gifted student with an amazing memory-power. Fidel was, in fact, more interested in sports than in academics and while at Belen, Castro pitched on the school's baseball team. A peasant rebellion in Oriente during Castro's formative years is thought to have influenced his political leanings.
In 1945 Castro entered law school at the University of Havana, where student activism, violence, and gang fights were common. He became immediately embroiled in the political culture at the University and associated with one of the gangs, the “Union Insurreccional Revolucionaria”. The police even suspected him of the murder of a rival student leader and other violent actions but could not corroborate anything. Despite his reputation and public speaking ability Fidel never became a well-known student leader and lost several student elections.
In 1947, Castro joined the newly formed Partido Ortodoxo formed by Eduardo Chibas. The Partido Ortodoxo publicly exposed corruption and aimed at establishing Cuban economic independence and freedom from the United States. Chibas was the Presidential candidate for the Party and however lost the election. In 1951, Chibas died after he shot himself in the stomach during a radio broadcast.Following Chiba’s death, Fidel campaigned for a seat in the Cuban Congress and the Party was expected to win the election. But, things changed suddenly when Fulgencio Batista, in a coup seized control of the Cuban government in order to prevent the rise of the Orthodoxos. Under Batista, thousands of political opponents were murdered and the people were held under massive oppression.
Batista established himself as de facto leader and was supported by elements of Cuban society and powerful Cuban agencies. Castro broke away from the Partido Ortodoxo to initiate legal arguments and formally charged Batista with violating the constitution. His petition was denied by the Court of Constitutional Guarantees and he was not allowed even a single hearing. This experience convinced Castro that revolution was the only way to depose Batista and come to power. Castro married Mirta Diaz Balart, a student from a wealthy Cuban family.
In 1953, Castro abandoned his law practice and led an armed group of fighters to overthrow Batista. On the 26th of July, 1953, they attacked Moncada Barracks, Batista's largest garrison outside Santiago de Cuba. In the battle, over sixty revolutionaries were killed and the rest, including Fidel Castro, were sent to prison. Though the depose-attempt landed Castro in prison it also fetched him popularity across Cuba.
After being released in 1955, Castro went to Mexico and met Argentine revolutionary Ernesto "Che" Guevara to prepare for a second attempt to topple Batista. Since regular contacts with the KGB (Soviet Intelligence Agency) had not resulted in the hope for weapon supply, Castro and Guevara visited the United States of America to gather personnel and funds from Cubans living in the US.
After building up a stock of guns and ammunition, Castro, Che Guevara, Juan Almeida along with eighty other rebels set out from Tuxpan, Veracruz on November 26, 1956, for the purpose of starting a rebellion in Cuba. The group was trained under a veteran of Spanish Civil War and became known as the “July 26 Movement” (the date that Castro had attacked the Moncada barracks). Their plan was to set up their base in the Sierra Maestra mountains. On the way to the mountains they were attacked by government troops. By the time they reached the Sierra Maestra there were only sixteen men left with twelve weapons between them. For the next few months Castro's guerrilla army raided isolated army garrisons and were gradually able to build-up their stock of weapons.
The 26th of July Movement waged a guerrilla war against the Batista government and when the guerrillas took control of territory they redistributed the land amongst the peasants. In return, the peasants helped the guerrillas against Batista's soldiers. Many resistant groups were formed in the towns and rural regions of Cuba. In some cases the peasants also joined Castro's army. In an effort to find out information about Castro's army people were pulled in for questioning. Many innocent people were tortured. Suspects, including children, were publicly executed and then left hanging in the streets for several days as a warning to others who were considering joining Castro. The behavior of Batista's forces increased support for the guerrillas.
In an attempt to crush the fighters of Castro and other resistant outfits, Batista launched Operation Verano in 1958. Castro's guerrilla forces scored a series of victories, largely aided by Batista's uncommitted and poorly trained army When Operation Verano ended, Castro ordered three columns commanded by Guevara, Jaime Vega and Camilo Cienfuegos to invade central Cuba where they enjoyed the strong support of rebellious elements. In January 1959, Batista lost the battle at Santa Clara and fled to the Dominican Republic. The junta (military rule) selected Dr. Carlos Piedra, one of the oldest judges of the Supreme Court, as provisional President of Cuba but Castro refused to accept the selection. The workers came out on strike and the military were forced to accept the people's desire for change.
Castro - The Leader
On January 8, 1959, Castro marched into Havana victoriously as Cuba’s new and popular leader. On January 5, on Castro’s demand, Dr. Urrutia, former judge of the Urgency Court of Santiago de Cuba, was installed as the Provisional President and Law professor Jose Miro Cardona as Prime Minister. Castro assumed the post of Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces on January 8. Following the sudden resignation of Jose Miro on February 16, 1959, Castro was sworn in as the new Prime Minister of Cuba.
The United States quickly recognized the new Cuban government, but tensions arose as Fidel Castro set about far-reaching reforms. In his first hundred days in office Castro's passed several new laws including
Rents were cut by up to 50 per cent for low wage earners
Property owned by Batista and his ministers was confiscated;
The telephone company was nationalized and the rates were reduced by 50 per cent;
Land, including his own portion was redistributed amongst the peasants
Abolished separate facilities like swimming pools, beaches, hotels, cemeteries for blacks and whites.
These pro-peasants and pro-worker reforms led to the end of U.S. economic dominance. Moreover, Castro also began to establish closer ties with the Soviet Union. In 1960, a variety of pacts were signed between Castro and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, allowing Cuba to receive large amounts of economic and military aid from the USSR. Consequently, on January 3, 1961, Washington broke off diplomatic ties with Cuba.
On April 16, 1961, he formally declared Cuba a socialist state. The very next day, around 1,400 members Cuban exiles, trained by the Central Intelligence Agency, invaded the Bay of Pigs. The Cuban armed forces repelled the invaders, killing many and capturing a thousand.
In March 1960, Eisenhower approved a CIA plan to overthrow Castro. The plan involved a budget of $13 million to train "a paramilitary force outside Cuba for guerrilla action." The strategy was organized by Richard Bissell and Richard Helms. An estimated 400 CIA officers were employed full-time to carry out what became known as Operation Mongoose. Edward Lansdale became project leader whereas William Harvey became head of what became known as Task Force W. The JM WAVE station served as operational headquarters for “Operation Mongoose”.
Fidel Castro once said, “"If surviving assassination attempts were an Olympic event, I would win the gold medal." The group or unit responsible for Castro’s protection has revealed that there were 638 attempts made by the CIA to kill Castro, but every time he survived.
A survey carried out by a private firm found that 90 per cent of the Cuban population supported Fidel Castro and policies. The revelation assisted Castro in tightening his grip over Cuba and he started enjoying all the powers of the government. He was all-in-all of Cuba. Castro put a ban on the existence of political parties and announced that it would destroy the national unity and integrity.
Castro was also becoming harsh towards people, especially intellectuals and political thinkers who argued his policies and actions. He often reshuffled his ministries and inducted the young soldiers who were loyal to him during the guerilla war against Batista. Castro continued to serve as the “Head of the state” for almost five decades.
While suffering from a number of severe illnesses, on July 31, 2006, Castro delegated all his powers to his brother Raul Castro. The powers included were that of President of the Council of State, President of the Council of Ministers, First Secretary of the Cuban Communist Party and the post of commander in chief of the armed forces. Announcing his retirement from official public life, Castro on February 18, 2008, said that he would not accept the positions of president and commander in chief. On February 24, 2008, the National Assembly of People's Power unanimously chose his brother & fellow revolutionarie, Raul Castro, as Fidel's successor as President of Cuba.
50 Year's Of Revolution:
Jan 1 1959: Batista flees to Dominican Republic as the rebels take power.
Jan 8 1959: Castro enters Havana following a triumphant procession through the island from east of Cuba.
Oct 19 1960: United States begins partial economic embargo.
Jan 3 1961: Washington breaks off diplomatic relations with Cuba.
April 16 1961: Castro declared Cuba a socialist state.
April 19 1961: Bay of Pigs invasion. CIA-backed Cuban exiles are defeated.
Feb 7 1962: United States imposes full trade embargo on Cuba.
Oct 1962: Cuban Missile Crisis. After a thirteen day standoff, Russians withdraw missiles from Cuba.
Oct 9 1967: Che Guevara killed by Bolivian troops seeking to emulate Cuban-style revolution in South America.
Sept 1 1977: Resumption of limited economic ties between Cuba and the United States.
Apr-Sept 1980: Mariel Boatlift. Cuba allows mass exodus of about 125,000 citizens to the United States, many leaving from the Mariel port west of Havana.
Aug 14 1993: Havana ends ban on use of dollars.
Aug 1994: Raft Crisis. More than 30,000 Cubans flee island on flimsy boats, many perishing in shark-infested waters between Cuba and Florida. Washington and Havana signed a migration agreement to stem exodus and allow a minimum of 20,000 legal entry visas per year for Cubans.
March 12 1996: The Helms- Burton law - allowing the United States to penalise foreign companies investing in Cuba - is signed into law by President Clinton.
Jan. 21-25 1998: Visit of Pope John Paul II, who condemns the US embargo and calls for greater freedom on the island.
Jan 1 1999: Castro celebrates 40 years in power.
Nov 1999 - April 2000: Elián González affair dominates Cuba-US relations. Elián is eventually returned to his father in Havana.
June 25 2001: Castro has to be helped off stage after near collapse at open-air rally outside Havana
July 27 2001: Castro leads a crowd, estimated at 1.2 million, in a parade to celebrate the Cuban revolution and demonstrate against the US blockade. Castro prepares to celebrate 75th birthday in August.
December 16 2001: Shipments of corn and chicken arrive in Havana harbour, the first direct US food sales to Cuba in nearly 40 years.
March 6 2003: Castro is elected by parliament to a sixth five-year term as president of the Council of State – Cuba's governing body.
March 18 2003: A crackdown by Cuba on dissidents alleged to be working with the US sees 75 sentenced to prison terms ranging from six to 28 years.
October 20 2004: Following a speech, Castro trips and falls, shattering his left kneecap and breaking his right arm highlighting his old age.
November 2004: Cuba releases half-dozen political prisoners including dissident writer Raúl Rivero, in a move widely seen as intended to court favour with the European Union.
February 2 2005: Castro calls President Bush "deranged" for referring to Cuba as an outpost of tyranny.
July 27 2006: A four-hour Revolution Day speech urging Cubans to have patience as electrical problems are solved marks Castro's final personal appearance as president.
July 31 2006: Younger brother, Raúl Castro, is temporarily handed power after Fidel recovers from an operation for gastrointestinal bleeding.
August 13 2006: Birthday celebrations for Castro's 80th are postponed until December to give him more time for recovery.
December 2 2006: Castro fails to appear at a military parade marking the 50th anniversary of Cuba's Revolutionary Armed Forces and does not attend any of his birthday celebrations.
March 28 2007: The first of a series of essays called Reflections of the Commander-in-Chief are written by Castro voicing his opinion on international affairs while he remains off the public stage.
June 18 2007: Castro's sister-in-law, Vilma Espín – Raúl's longtime wife and former fellow rebel fighter dies aged 77.
August 13 2007: Castro turns 81 and fails to appear in public again.
October 14 2007: Live broadcast of telephone from Castro to ally Hugo Chavez who tells him: "You will never die."
December 18 2007: Castro publishes an essay saying he doesn't intend to hold onto power forever and will not obstruct the path of younger people coming to power. Repeats this idea in a letter to parliament 10 days later.
Jan 20 2008: Castro re-elected to parliament opening possibility that he could remain as president.
February 19 2008: Castro resigns as president but says he will remain in parliament.
November 25 2016: Castro died in Havana,Cuba.