A retrospective: Fidel Castro

Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz ( 1926 – 2016)

Fidel Castro was a Cuban communist revolutionary, that was not only Prime Minster of the Republic of Cuba, but after that he became the President.

Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz

Early years

Fidel Castro was born in Birán, which is in the Holguín province in Cuba. His father Ángel María Bautista Castro y Argiz was a wealthy Spaniard who became successful in the sugarcane industry, who had Fidel out of wedlock to his mistress. Fidel was one out of seven of their children.

Fidel was raised as a Catholic and attended a Catholic boarding school in Santiago de Cuba, and then high school in Havana. In 1945 he started at the School of Law in Havana where his interest in politics grew, and he quickly became an activist and was part of the attempt to overthrow Rafael Trujillo who was President of the Dominican Republic, and in 1948 took part in the riots at Bogotá, the Colombian capital.

Start of a political career

Fidel graduated and started to study law and joined the Party of the Cuban people (Partido del Pueblo Cubano) Orthodox Party (Partido Ortodoxo), who adopted the slogan: “Shame against money” (Vergüenza contra dinero), and promoted direct democracy, free market, labour rights, anti-imperialism, fair payment and fought against political corruption.

In 1952 former Cuban President Fulgencio Batista overthrew Carlos Prío Socarrás who went to exile into the U.S.A.

In 1953 Fidel led rebel forces against Batista’s regime, but failed, and most ended up dead, but Fidel and his brother Raúl were captured and sentenced to 15 years in jail, but were both released in 1955 and they went to Mexico to plot the demise of the Batista regime and Fidel formed the rebel movement 26th of July Movement (Movimiento 26 de Julio), who eventually removed Batista from power in 1959, with the help of Argentine Ernesto Che Guevara .

Ernesto “Che” Guevara

Fidel Castro gains power

Fidel became Commander in Chief of Cuba’s new Government, and the newly appointed liberal president, Manuel Urrutia, was removed and Fidel took complete control of the government with a massive majority of support from Cuban residents. They expected him to reinstate full civil liberties, but Fidel took a more radical approach, which involves severing ties with America, and strengthening Cuba’s relationship with the Soviet Union.

Although refusing to categorize his regime as socialist and repeatedly denying being a communist, Castro appointed Marxists to senior government and military positions. Most notably, Che Guevara became Governor of the Central Bank and then Minister of Industries. ‘ – Wikipedia

Fidel‘s first task was education, and he opened many new schools, and at the same time healthcare was nationalised and grew rapidly. He made sure all children were vaccinated, he upgraded the infrastructure with the building of new roads and homes, whilst care for children, the elderly and the disabled was drastically improved.

There is often talk of human rights, but it is also necessary to talk of the rights of humanity. Why should some people walk barefoot, so that others can travel in luxurious cars? Why should some live for thirty-five years, so that others can live for seventy years? Why should some be miserably poor, so that others can be hugely rich? I speak on behalf of the children in the world who do not have a piece of bread. I speak on the behalf of the sick who have no medicine, of those whose rights to life and human dignity have been denied.’ – Fidel Castro

Most people welcomed Fidel‘s actions, but many of he middle class ie: lawyers, engineers and doctors went to Florida to escape his regime. He started to gather anti-Castro groups and imprisoned them. The Dominican government and the C.I.A funded guerrilla groups to try and take down Fidel, and this was the start of the Escambray rebellion that was a six-year rebellion from 1959–1965.

In 1960 the Cold War had started and due to his contempt towards America, and sympathising with the political stance of the Soviet Union he sent them provisions and loaned them money.

President Eisenhower authorized the CIA to overthrow Castro’s government. He provided them with a budget of $13 million and permitted them to ally with the Mafia, who were aggrieved that Castro’s government closed down their brothel and casino businesses in Cuba‘ – Wikipedia

Fidel created a one-party government to manage dictatorial control over all aspects of Cuba’s political, economic, and everyday lives of its citizens. Whilst he upgraded health and welfare services the countries economy ended up relying on the Soviet Union for aid as the US had set a trade embargo.

There were several coups to attempt to remove Fidel’s government.

The CIA and the Democratic Revolutionary Front had based a 1,400-strong army, Brigade 2506, in Nicaragua. On the night of 16 to 17 April, Brigade 2506 landed along Cuba’s Bay of Pigs and engaged in a firefight with a local revolutionary militia. Castro ordered Captain José Ramón Fernández to launch the counter-offensive, before taking personal control of it. After bombing the invaders’ ships and bringing in reinforcements, Castro forced the Brigade to surrender on 20 April.‘ – Wikipedia

Fidel turned the government into Democratic centralism which was a Leninist ideology. Cuba’s relationship with the Soviet Union strengthened Fidel admitted that he’d been a supporter of Marxism–Leninism for a long time. The Cuban government started implementing more Soviet styles to their operation of the country, despite the economy in a steep decline. The Communist Party of Cuba (Partido Comunista de Cuba) became official in 1965. 

Cuban missile Crisis

Undertaken in secrecy, only the Castro brothers, Guevara, Dorticós and security chief Ramiro Valdés knew the full plan. Upon discovering it through aerial reconnaissance, in October the U.S. implemented an island-wide quarantine to search vessels headed to Cuba, sparking the Cuban Missile Crisis. The U.S. saw the missiles as offensive; Castro insisted they were for defense only’ – Wikipedia

This was the closest that America and the Soviet Union got to war. America discovered weapons on Cuba and being delivered by the Soviets,and John F. Kennedy and the then Soviet First Secretary Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev, agreed to a truce where the Soviets dismantled weapons in Cuba, and America did the same in Turkey. Both parties realised communication was essential and the Moscow–Washington hotline was established.

John F. Kennedy

In 1963 just months later, John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. In 1964 Fidel travelled to Moscow to discuss trade agreements and his worry that the U.S would blame Cuba for the murder of their President.Castro was even more eager for a global revolution, and allowed militant groups from the Viet Cong to the Black Panthers, to train in Cuba. Fidel was devastated when Che Guevara was killed by militants supported by the C.I.A, and his relationship with the Soviet Union slightly diminished. He was increasingly influenced by China‘s ‘Great Leap Forward’ and decided it was time for Cuba to go full Communism.

Castro publicly celebrated his administration’s 10th anniversary in January 1969; in his celebratory speech he warned of sugar rations, reflecting the nation’s economic problems. The 1969 crop was heavily damaged by a hurricane, and to meet its export quota, the government drafted in the army, implemented a seven-day working week, and postponed public holidays to lengthen the harvest‘ – Wikipedia

In 1973 he attended a summit in Algiers, where he distanced himself from Israel due to their relationship with the U.S and the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. Many Arab nations respected him for this bold move and he became close friends with Muammar Mohammed Abu Minyar Gaddafi and got involved in several disputes in the Middle East.

As Cuba’s economy grew Fidel decided to turn back to socialism and once again adopt Marxism-Leninism. He still tried to get South American countries to also adopt the ideology to no avail.

He was Cuba’s Prime Minister from 1959 to 1976 and he reorganised the government and formed Council of State (Consejo de Estado) where he became head of state, and head of government.

As several years passed Cuba’s economy failed again and people started fleeing, and gathering at Embassies. Castro accepted that people wanted to leave Cuba and upon his decision to allow people to leave, it’s estimated over 120,000 left from ports, Fidel‘s government took advantage and loaded the boats with anyone they didn’t want in Cuba.

Despite not liking Argentina‘s Junta dictatorship, he aided them during the Falkland’s war against Great Britain. Castro aided many conflicts and revolutions in central and South America over the years, and he was also aware of America’s desire to remove him. He said this of Reagan‘s administration.

openly warmongering and fascist foreign policy

Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev

When Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev became President of the Soviet Union, he told Castro that Soviet-Cuban relationships had deteriorated and Soviet subsidies would end, but The Chernobyl disaster was a turning point in his career and the Soviet regime due to the government’s handling of the disaster.

In the 1990’s Cuba started going backwards.

Petrol rations were dramatically reduced, Chinese bicycles were imported to replace cars, and factories performing non-essential tasks were shut down. Oxen began to replace tractors, firewood began being used for cooking and electricity cuts were introduced that lasted 16 hours a day. Castro admitted that Cuba faced the worst situation short of open war, and that the country might have to resort to subsistence farming.‘ – Wikipedia

In 1991 Boris Yeltsin dissolved the Soviet Union, including the Communist party, making Russia and other countries who were part of the U.S.S.R free states. He was President of Russia for 8 years.

Boris Yeltsin

Not long after, Castro stepped down as head of government and replaced by a Carlos Lage Dávila, but remained head of the communist party and the military.

Fidel Castro and Carlos Lage Dávila

To stop further decline Fidel allowed economic liberalization and free-market activities, but maintained strict control of the government. He continued to juggle with freedom and control as his health deteriorated, and in 2006 handed provisional power to his brother Raúl Castro. He never retook control and stayed out of the public eye for almost 2 years.

‘I do not bid you farewell. My only wish is to fight as a soldier of ideas‘

In 2011 he stepped down as leader of the communist party and his brother took control. In 2016 Barrack Obama visited Cuba and Fidel wrote him a 1,600 page letter titled ‘Brother Obama’. Obama was the first President of America to visit Cuba in almost 80 years.

Later that year in November he died at age 90.

Fidel Castro’s religious views

Fidel Castro was baptised and raised as a Catholic attending Catholic schools. Despite running Cuba as a communist state he never took religion out of the equation. In 1992 he loosened his little religious control, and even permitted his fellow Catholics to join the Communist Party of Cuba.

Pope John Paul II visited Cuba in 1998 and he appeared in public several times with Castro.

Pope John Paul II and Fidel Castro

‘Religious faith, like political belief, should be based on reasoning, on the development of thought and feelings. The two things are inseparable’ – Fidel Castro

Many people, often theists, claim that atheism and communism are synonymous, and this shows that Fidel Castro went against the grain of assumption, and adopted Marxism-Leninism as a self-confessed Christian.

At times, I’ve referred to Christ’s miracles, and have said, ‘Well, Christ multiplied the fish and the loaves to feed the people. That is precisely what we want to do with the Revolution and socialism.’ – Fidel Castro

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