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Biography

Politics & War

Politics & War

Fidel Castro

Fidel Castro

 

EARLY LIFE

 

  • Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz was born on August 13, 1926, near Birán, in Cuba’s eastern Oriente Province. He was the third of six children, including his two brothers, Raúl and Ramón; and three sisters, Angela, Emma and Agustina.
  • His father, Ángel, was a wealthy sugar plantation owner originally from Spain who did most of his business with the American-owned United Fruit Company, which dominated the agriculture in that region at the time.
EARLY LIFE

 

  • Educated in private Jesuit boarding schools, Castro grew up in wealthy circumstances amid the poverty of Cuba but was also imbued with a sense of Spanish pride from his teachers
  • From an early age, Castro showed he was intellectually gifted, but he was also something of a troublemaker and was often more interested in sports than studies.
  • He attended Colegio Dolores in Santiago de Cuba and then El Colegio de Belén in Havana. After his graduation in late 1945, however, Castro entered law school at the University of Havana.
MARXISM

 

  • In 1947, Castro joined the Party of the Cuban People founded by veteran politician Eduardo Chibás.
  • By 1947, Castro had become increasingly passionate about social justice and he traveled to the Dominican Republic to join an expedition attempting the overthrow of the country’s dictator, Rafael Trujillo.
  • Though the coup failed before it got started, the incident did little to dampen Castro’s passion for reform, and he traveled to Bogotá, Colombia, the following year to participate in the anti-government rioting there.
STRUGGLE

 

  • Meanwhile, Castro had married Mirta Díaz Balart, who was from a wealthy political family in Cuba. They had one child, named Fidel, in 1949. The marriage exposed Castro to a wealthier lifestyle and political connections.
  • But in March 1952 a coup led by General Fulgencio Batista successfully overthrew the government and the upcoming election was cancelled, leaving Castro without a legitimate political platform and little income with which to support his family.
CUBAN REVOLUTION

 

  • In response, Castro and fellow members of the Partido Ortodoxo organized a group they called “The Movement” and planned an insurrection. On July 26, 1953, Castro and approximately 150 supporters attacked the Moncada military barracks outside of Santiago de Cuba in an attempt to overthrow Batista.
  • While incarcerated, Castro renamed his group the “26th of July Movement“. On December 2, 1956, Fidel Castro returned to Cuba aboard the boat Granma with little more than 80 insurgents.
  • Over the course of the next two years, Castro’s steadily growing forces waged a guerrilla war against the Batista government, organizing resistance groups in cities and small towns across Cuba.
  • Beginning in 1958, Castro and his forces mounted a series of successful military campaigns to capture and hold key areas throughout Cuba
LEADER

 

  • Combined with a loss of popular support and massive desertions in its military, Batista’s government finally collapsed under Castro’s efforts, and in January 1959, Batista himself fled to the Dominican Republic. At the age of 32, Castro had successfully concluded his guerrilla campaign to take control of Cuba.
  • A provisional government was quickly created, with Manuel Urrutia installed as president and José Miró Cardona as prime minister.
  • In February 1959, Miró suddenly resigned, and Castro was sworn in as Cuba’s prime minister. Meanwhile, hundreds of members of Batista’s government were tried and executed. INVASION AND
MISSILE CRISIS

 

  • Castro’s government emphasised social projects to improve Cuba’s standard of living. Castro implemented far-reaching reforms by nationalizing factories and plantations in an attempt to end U.S. economic dominance on the island.
  • During this time, Castro repeatedly denied being a communist, but to many Americans, his policies closely resembled a Soviet-style control of both the economy and government.
  • On April 14th 1961, Castro formally declared Cuba a socialist state. Three days later, some 1,400 Cuban exiles invaded Cuba at the remote Bay of Pigs in an attempt to overthrow the Castro regime. The incursion ended in disaster.
  • On February 7, 1962, the United States imposed a full economic embargo on Cuba. In October 1962, his increasing reliance on Soviet support brought the world to the brink of nuclear war.
REFORMS

 

  • In 1965, he merged Cuba’s Communist Party with his revolutionary organizations, installing himself as head of the party. In 1967, he also formed the Latin American Solidarity Organization to foster revolution in select Latin American countries.
  • Castro’s regime has been credited with opening 10,000 new schools and increasing literacy to 98 percent. Cubans enjoy a universal healthcare system, which has decreased infant mortality to 11 deaths in 1,000 (1.1 percent).
  • But at the same time, civil liberties were whittled away, as labor unions lost the right to strike, independent newspapers were shut down and religious institutions were harassed. Castro removed opposition to his rule though executions and imprisonments, as well as through forced emigration
NEW MAN

 

  • After the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union sent Cuba’s economy into a tailspin, Castro’s revolution began to lose momentum.
  • Castro then adopted a quasi-free market economy and encouraged international investment. He also legalized the U.S. dollar and encouraged limited tourism, and in 1996 he visited the United States to invite Cuban exiles living there to return to Cuba to start businesses.
  • On July 31, 2006, Castro designated his brother Raúl as the country’s temporary leader. Raúl had served as Castro’s second in command for decades and had been officially selected as his successor in 1997.
  • On February 19, 2008, 81-year-old Fidel Castro permanently gave up the Cuban presidency due to his deteriorating physical condition. He handed over power to Raúl, who was 76 years old at the time.
DEATH

 

  • The Cuban National Assembly officially elected Raúl Castro as president of Cuba the same month, although Fidel Castro reportedly remained first secretary of the Communist Party.
  • Following Castro’s death on November 25, 2016, Cuba declared nine days of mourning. Thousands of Cubans lined up to pay tribute to their leader at a memorial at the Plaza de la Revolución in Havana where he had delivered many speeches throughout his rule.