Leader of the Cuban revolutionby Rit Nosotro First Published:: 2003
Fidel Castro was well known as the leader of the Cuban revolution, a socialist and a strong political leader. From 1959 to 2007, he ruled solemnly in a crisis-haunted Cuba, leading the nation through social reforms, US attacks and barricades, holding on to a clear idealistic policy.
Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz was born on August 16th, 1926, in Mayari, Cuba. He was educated at the University of Havana in law, where he also studied politics. His political ideas were formed throughout these years, and he joined several student political groups devoted to helping the poor workers and peasants. His ideas later matured, and he joined the Ortodoxo Party (Party of the Cuban People), of which he became the leader in 1951. As Fidel Castro was running for elections, general Fulgencio Batista staged a coup dŽetat, and established a dictatorship in Cuba. In response, Fidel Castro favoured of armed revolution, and he joined underground groups attempting to overthrow the unpopular dictator. In 1953 he attacked with a group of 150 revolutionists, but failed and was captured. He was jailed until 1955 for conspiracy to overthrow the Cuban government. He used the years in jail to study political philosophy, history and literature, which strengthened his policy of change from corruption to social equality.
In 1955 he was granted amnesty and left for Mexico, where he trained a guerrilla group in Sierra Maestra aided by another well-known revolutionist; Che Guevara. They lived among the poor peasants, and were able to experience their difficulties, which again formed Fidel Castro's socialist politics. While they were fighting in the mountains they were bombed with US planes, from which the guerrilla groups escaped unharmed from, but caused serious casualties among the poor peasants. At this time, there were many anti-Batista groups led by different leaders, but Fidel Castro's advantage was his clear ideological position, in contrast to other groups only focused on removing the dictator. The Cuban military was aided by shiploads of arms from the United States, but as these ceased, Fidel Castro's group caught strength. In January 1959 Batista fled the country and Fidel Castro overtook the leadership. During his initial speech, a white dove landed on his shoulder before the crowds. In the deep rooted superstition of Catholicism, this signified divine acceptance of the guerrilla leader.1 His strong personality overpowered the other revolutionist groups, and the people pledged to his promises of reforms and changes from the corrupt past of Fulgencio Batista.
The dove incident did not dupe Pope John XXIII who excommunicated Castro, an atheist, on January 3, 1962. In the 1990s, Pope John Paul II permitted Catholics to join the Cuban Communist Party which reversed the 1949 decree by Pope Pius XII forbidding Catholics from supporting communist governments.2
Throughout his first period as the Head of the Cuban Armed Forces and later the Prime Minister of Cuba, he pushed through radically changing reforms such as the redistribution of wealth among the poor. Together with Che Guevara, Fidel Castro developed a new theory; The New Man's Theory, which was basically that Cubans should no longer work for personal benefits, but for the good outcome for everybody in the society. The literacy rate was increased remarkably, and almost all Cubans could have free quality health care. He also controlled strictly the ideological propaganda machinery of Cuba, putting out neighborhood watch groups and controlling the media, even banning such books as The Diary of Anne Frank. His ideology was basically socialistic; he wanted to redistribute wealth and gain back US controlled property in the nation, support social justice, strengthen the national identity, provide for economic independence, and clear the nation of damaging influence from powerful foreign nations in Cuba's affairs. In 1961, Cuba was declared a socialist nation. Tens of thousands from the higher class capitalists and Jews left for the United States.
Fidel Castro's opposition to the US influence and socialist ideology brought forth a collision between the two nations. He seized US owned businesses in Cuba and established contacts with the USSR. Therefore, the US broke all the former relations and began planning an invasion of Cuba in 1960, after having put a partial trade embargo on the nation (prohibiting all import except food and medication). The CIA trained Cuban exiles, which landed on the Bay of Pigs April 17th, 1961, was attempting to built up a counterrevolution in an attempt to overthrow the Cuban leader. But the Bay of Pigs invasion failed as the people backed up Fidel Castro and his politics. The US now attempted a military invasion from within the nation, where agents working for the US government tried to assassinate Fidel Castro several times.
During the Cold War, Cuba invited the USSR to established military bases on the island. When John F. Kennedy discovered the missiles, it led to the Cuban Missile Crisis, in which the US and the USSR almost went to war. After negotiating, the missiles were removed with the US promise of never invading Cuba. Castro could now develop his political ideas without fear of a US invasion.
Castro's foreign policy also included the support of revolutionary groups in other countries, like Nicaragua, Bolivia, El Salvador, and finally, the Venezuela of Hugo Chávez. As a communist, Castro's main foreign goal was to advocate liberation from wealthier nations' dominion over the poorer. He never submitted totally to all the communist ideologies from other strong nations, like the USSR, and he was reluctant to support revolution groups without clear ideologies. As a result of the US tactic of weakening the Cuban government with a trade barricade, other nations, some hostile to the USA, backed the Castro regime.
In October 1973, Castro broke diplomatic relations with Israel after he deployed thousands of Cuban soldiers including helicopter pilots and tank crews to fight alongside the Syrians during the Yom Kippur War. Hundreds of Palestinians have received military training in Cuba. In Havana, Castro gave Yasser Arafat his prestigious "Bay of Pigs Medal" in 1974.3, 4
The economy of Cuba continues to be very poor in comparison to the region's other nations. The USSR provided the nation with financial aid, but when the USSR collapsed in the 90's, and with the US still enforcing the trading barricade from the 60's, Cuba lost their financial ally and the already poor economy collapsed. In a speech, Fidel Castro said that he knew no solution for the financial crisis, but promised the people to not surrender to a capitalist system enforced by a stronger wealthier nation, but to help the crisis, he allowed for some free trading and investments of other nations in Cuba. As a result of black market trading, inflation occurred and Castro had to allow the use of foreign currencies. This destroyed the Cuban social and economic equality as a higher social group was formed. As a result of the falling economy, desperate riots broke out in old Havana, but Fidel Castro met the crowd face to face and allowed them to exile, which re-established the peace.
On February 24, 2008, the National Assembly of People's Power unanimously chose his brother, Raúl Castro, as Fidel's successor as President of Cuba.