The Face of Hope
Life Before Leadership
- Born August 13, 1926 in Mayari, Cuba, Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz was the third child of a wealthy sugar plantation owner.
- Fidel was formally recognized by his father, Angel Castro, at the age of 17 when Angel dissolved his first marriage and married Fidel's mother (the first wife's maid).
- He was educated in private Jesuit boarding schools, and graduated from El Colegio de Belen in 1945. After graduation, Fidel entered law school at the University of Havana.
- In 1950, Fidel became a practicing lawyer who often represented the poor free of charge.
Early Political Involvements
- In 1947, Castro became involved in not only law, but social justice as well. He joined an expedition to the Dominican Republic to attept and overthrow of the dictator, Trujillo ("Fidel Castro" 1). Although the plan failed before it ever began, this experience fed his hunger for social justice and motivated him to make a change in his own country.
- After returning to the University of Havana, Fidel joined the Partido Ortodoxo ("Fidel Castro" 1). This anticommunist political party focused on political reform and an end to government corruption was founded by Eduardo Chibas. Chibas was a presidential candidate in the 1948 election without success.
- Fidel Castro married Mirta Diaz Balart in 1948, and had a child, Fidelito. Mirta was from a wealthy family, and the marriage exposed Castro to many political connections. Castro was a candidate for a seat in the Parliament of 1952, but the elections were cancelled due to a military coup.
- General Fulgencio Batista, a former president, staged a coup that succesfully overthrew the government and cancelled all elections.
The Cuban Revolution
- On July 26, 1953, Castro orquestrated an attack on the Monacada army barracks near Santiago. Nearly all of Castro's men were killed or captured. When Castro was brought to trial, he gave a 4 hour long speech known as "History will Absolve Me", outlining his political beliefs and plans of social reform (Hamilton). This speech led to him being characterized as a hero by the people of Cuba.
- Castro was sentenced to 15 years in prison, but only servied 19 months before Batista offered to let him move to Mexico instead.
- In Mexico, Fidel, his brother Raul, and an Argentine radical Che Guevara, formed the 26th July Movement. In 1956, they took a yacht (Granma) from Mexico to Oriente Province, Cuba. The plan was to invade and overtake the city. The invasion failed and only 20 out of the 82 men survived (Hamilton). Fidel, Raul, and Guevara all survived and fled to the Sierra Maestra Mountains.
- While hiding, Fidel's forces grew in numbers, and soon with the use of guerilla forces and activist peasantry, Fidels forces defeated Batista's army and claimed victory in Havana on January 1, 1959.
- Castro's victory was met by local and internation celebration. However, as Castro's plans of radical nationalist reforms and the overturn of the heirarchies of power became clear, support among the U.S. busniess community and the middle class decreased. Fidel used his gift of communication to work with the workers and farmers to gain support and loyalty.
"Patria o muerte, venceremos!" ~Fidel Castro
The Following Years
- Castro nationalized factories and plantations to end U.S. economic "dominance" on the island. This caused tension between the two countries.
- Fidel claimed that he was not a Communist, but to the United States, his policies of controlling the economy and government resembled the Soviet government.
- After forbidding foreign property ownership in Cuba, the United States withdrew from sugar trades. The loss of the U.S. market for Cuban sugar, the main export, led Castro to look for financial support somewhere else. This search resulted in an alliance with the Soviet Union.
- This alliance led to the Cuban Missile Crisis when Soviet, Nikita Khrushchev, placed missile in Cuba, just 90 miles from Florida. U.S. President Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev came to an agreement to remove the missile, but in doing so, completely humiliated Castro who was left out of the meetings.
- In 1962, Castro declared himself a Marxist-Leninist, ended democratic elections in Cuba, and announced that Cuba was now Communist. This led to the United States placing a full economic embargo on Cuba.
- In 1965, Fidel merged Cuba's Communist Party with his revolutionary organizations. He formed the Asia-Africa-Latin America People's Solidarity Organization in 1966 to promote revolution. And in 1967 he formed the Latin America Solidarity Organization to foster revolution in just Latin American countries around Cuba.
- Castro's regime is credited with opening 10,000 new schools and providing a universal health-care system. However, civil liberties have declined as labor unions lost the right to strike, religious institutions were harrassed, and independent newspapers were shut down ("Fidel Castro" 3).
- Castro's response to oppossition of his rule was especially ruthless. He removed opposition through executions, imprisonment, and mandatory emigration. Hundreds of thousands of Cubans fled to the United States to escape Castro's rule in the 1970's and 1980's.
- In 1991, the Soviet Union collapsed and Castro lost support. Unemployment grew, and the population because generally unhappy.
- Throughout the 1990's, Castro's health declined, and on February 19, 2008, Fidel handed over the Cuban Presidency to his brother Raul.
How did Castro's leadership strategies and policies affect Latin American politics and Cuba's international political relations?
- Castro's Cuban Revolution encouraged the people of many Latin American countries. In the Dominican Republic, revolutionaries secretly listened to Castro's radio broadcasts which gave them hope and inspiration.
- The forming of the Latin America Solidarity Organization helped many Latin American countries form revolutions for freedom, and boosted Castro's popularity.
- Castro's involvement in forming the Asia-Africa-Latin America People's Solidarity Organization, and his sending of troops to places such as Angola and Ethiopa, changed the political thinking of many Third World countries.
- While Castro's leadership formed and strengthened Cuba's alliance with the Soviet Union, it also alienated Cuba from many other nations of the world.
- Fidel's turn to Communism caused a wall to be constructed between the United States and Cuba. This wall caused severe economic and international political problems for Cuba.
- Fidel's ruthless tactics led to secretive intervention by the United States. The CIA is accused of having tried to assassinate Castro hundreds of times.
- In response to Castro's holding of missiles in Cuba with the Soviet Union, the Organization of American States ended diplomatic relations with Cuba.
Fidel Castro Speech about Human Rights
Fidel Castro Poem
There he learned how to fight with words instead of fists,
But as he realized that justice wasn't always the law,
The violence deep inside of him started to thaw,
After trying to attack the Moncada army,
He stood at trial pleading "History Will Absolve Me",
He planned an invasion as the 26th of July Movement,
In the end it turned out his plan could have used some improvement,
Of the ones that survived was Fidel Castro,
Wounded he fled to the Mountains of Sierra Maestra,
From there they fought a victory all the way to Havana,
They were seen as romantic heroes not rebels with bandanas,
The world saw him as freedom and praised him as leader,
But as a dictator their democracy started to teeter,
When Fidel ordered Cuba Communist his support started to fall,
He asked for help from other nations but none returned his call,
The CIA decided Castro should be dead,
638 times they planned a bullet to his head,
Much to their dismay he remained alive,
And unfortunately for them his hero legacy survives.
"Fidel Castro." 2013. The Biography Channel website. Mar 26 2013.
"Fidel Castro Speech about Human rights- Youtube." Youtube. Web. 26 Mar. 2013.
Hamilton, Neil. "Fidel Castro." World History: The Modern Era. ABC-CLIO, 2013. Web. 26