Cuban Revolutionary

Cuba’s revolutionary leader, Fidel Castro, breathed his last on November 25, aged 90.

Fidel Castro

The Cuban leader Fidel Castro. Photo: Antonio Milena – ABr Creative Commons 2.0 Brasil

When and where was he born?

Fidel Castro was born on August 13, 1926, in southeast Cuba. He excelled in sports in school. A born rebel, he joined student politics while studying law at the University of Havana. He was influenced by the ideas of Karl Marx and wanted to end the inequality between poor laborers and rich sugar barons.

How did he come to power?

Along with the Argentine revolutionary, Che Guevara, Castro launched guerilla attacks against the government in 1957-58. On January 1, 1959, his troops ousted the dictator General Fulgencio Batista who fled Cuba. He became the Prime Minister and established the first communist state in the Western Hemisphere.

How did Castro do as head of state?

As soon as he came to power, Castro implemented radical policies. He introduced free education and healthcare and built roads and houses for the Cuban people. He instituted sweeping land reforms and nationalized commerce and industry.

On the other hand, he severely repressed freedom of the press, free speech, and political opponents. While he eased the life of workers and farmers, he alienated the upper and middle educated classes who immigrated to the USA in droves.

Why did Cuba’s relations sour with the USA?

Castro captured the imagination of the people as a fiery lone ranger in military uniform defying the might of USA. He allied himself with USSR, USA’s enemy in the Cold War. When US oil companies refused to process Soviet oil in their refineries, Castro retaliated by taking over US-owned sugar plantations, banks, and factories. Angered by the move, USA imposed and economic embargo and broke all diplomatic ties with Cuba in 1961.

Over the next decades, Castro continued to be a thorn in USA’s side, sponsoring revolutionary movements in Latin America and Africa.

When did Castro resign from power?

He formally resigned in 2008, ceding power to his brother Raul. He was in power for 49 years- he was the longest non-royal ruler.

 

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