Fidel Castro

Fidel Castro

Overview
Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz (fiˈðel ˈkastro; born August 13, 1926) is a Cuban revolutionary and politician, having held the position of Prime Minister of Cuba
Prime Minister of Cuba
Prime Minister of Cuba was a position in the government of Cuba. Fidel Castro assumed the position of Prime Minister in 1959 replacing José Miró Cardona....

 from 1959 to 1976, and then President
President of Cuba
--209.174.31.28 18:43, 22 November 2011 The President of Cuba is the Head of state of Cuba. According to the Cuban Constitution of 1976, the President is the chief executive of the Council of State of Cuba...

 from 1976 to 2008. He also served as the First Secretary
Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba
The First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba is the office of the leader of the Communist Party of Cuba, Cuba's ruling party since 1965...

 of the Communist Party of Cuba
Communist Party of Cuba
The Communist Party of Cuba is the governing political party in Cuba. It is a communist party of the Marxist-Leninist model. The Cuban constitution ascribes the role of the Party to be the "leading force of society and of the state"...

 from the party's foundation in 1961 until 2011. Politically a Marxist-Leninist
Marxism-Leninism
Marxism–Leninism is a communist ideology, officially based upon the theories of Marxism and Vladimir Lenin, that promotes the development and creation of a international communist society through the leadership of a vanguard party over a revolutionary socialist state that represents a dictatorship...

, under his administration the Republic of Cuba
Cuba
The Republic of Cuba is an island nation in the Caribbean. The nation of Cuba consists of the main island of Cuba, the Isla de la Juventud, and several archipelagos. Havana is the largest city in Cuba and the country's capital. Santiago de Cuba is the second largest city...

 was converted into a one-party socialist state
Socialist state
A socialist state generally refers to any state constitutionally dedicated to the construction of a socialist society. It is closely related to the political strategy of "state socialism", a set of ideologies and policies that believe a socialist economy can be established through government...

, with industry and business being nationalised under state ownership and socialist
Socialism
Socialism is an economic system characterized by social ownership of the means of production and cooperative management of the economy; or a political philosophy advocating such a system. "Social ownership" may refer to any one of, or a combination of, the following: cooperative enterprises,...

 reforms implemented in all areas of society.

Born the illegitimate son of a wealthy farmer, Castro became involved in leftist anti-imperialist
Anti-imperialism
Anti-imperialism, strictly speaking, is a term that may be applied to a movement opposed to any form of colonialism or imperialism. Anti-imperialism includes opposition to wars of conquest, particularly of non-contiguous territory or people with a different language or culture; it also includes...

 politics whilst studying law at the University of Havana
University of Havana
The University of Havana or UH is a university located in the Vedado district of Havana, Cuba. Founded in 1728, the University of Havana is the oldest university in Cuba, and one of the first to be founded in the Americas...

.
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Timeline

1953   Fidel Castro leads an unsuccessful attack on the Moncada Barracks, thus beginning the Cuban Revolution.

1956   Fidel Castro declares himself at war with the President of Cuba.

1956   The ''Granma'' yacht reaches the shores of Cuba's Oriente province and Fidel Castro, Che Guevara and 80 other members of the 26th of July Movement disembark to initiate the Cuban Revolution.

1959   Fulgencio Batista, president of Cuba, is overthrown by Fidel Castro's forces during the Cuban Revolution.

1959   The United States recognizes the new Cuban government of Fidel Castro.

1959   Fidel Castro's Cuban Revolution is completed with the takeover of Santiago de Cuba.

1959   Fidel Castro becomes Premier of Cuba after dictator Fulgencio Batista was overthrown on January 1.

1960   Fidel Castro arrives in New York City as the head of the Cuban delegation to the United Nations.

1960   Fidel Castro announces Cuba's support for the U.S.S.R.

1961   Bay of Pigs Invasion: A group of CIA financed and trained Cuban refugees lands at the Bay of Pigs in Cuba with the aim of ousting Fidel Castro.

 
Quotations

This country is heaven, in the spiritual sense of the word. And I say, we prefer to die in heaven than survive in hell.

Speech made by Castro on February 2, 2005.

Warfare is a means and not an end. Warfare is a tool of revolutionaries. The important thing is the revolution. The important thing is the revolutionary cause, revolutionary ideas, revolutionary objectives, revolutionary sentiments, revolutionary virtues!

Speech made by Castro at Ernesto Guevara|Ernesto "Che" Guevara's memorial service on October 18, 1967.

When I was a young boy, my father taught me that to be a good Catholic, I had to confess at church if I ever had impure thoughts about a girl. That very evening, I had to rush to confess my sin. And the next night, and the next. After a week, I decided religion wasn't for me.

Source: The Atheist's Bible 1st ed., ed. Joan Konner (New York, HarperCollins, 2007), 62.
Encyclopedia
Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz (fiˈðel ˈkastro; born August 13, 1926) is a Cuban revolutionary and politician, having held the position of Prime Minister of Cuba
Prime Minister of Cuba
Prime Minister of Cuba was a position in the government of Cuba. Fidel Castro assumed the position of Prime Minister in 1959 replacing José Miró Cardona....

 from 1959 to 1976, and then President
President of Cuba
--209.174.31.28 18:43, 22 November 2011 The President of Cuba is the Head of state of Cuba. According to the Cuban Constitution of 1976, the President is the chief executive of the Council of State of Cuba...

 from 1976 to 2008. He also served as the First Secretary
Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba
The First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba is the office of the leader of the Communist Party of Cuba, Cuba's ruling party since 1965...

 of the Communist Party of Cuba
Communist Party of Cuba
The Communist Party of Cuba is the governing political party in Cuba. It is a communist party of the Marxist-Leninist model. The Cuban constitution ascribes the role of the Party to be the "leading force of society and of the state"...

 from the party's foundation in 1961 until 2011. Politically a Marxist-Leninist
Marxism-Leninism
Marxism–Leninism is a communist ideology, officially based upon the theories of Marxism and Vladimir Lenin, that promotes the development and creation of a international communist society through the leadership of a vanguard party over a revolutionary socialist state that represents a dictatorship...

, under his administration the Republic of Cuba
Cuba
The Republic of Cuba is an island nation in the Caribbean. The nation of Cuba consists of the main island of Cuba, the Isla de la Juventud, and several archipelagos. Havana is the largest city in Cuba and the country's capital. Santiago de Cuba is the second largest city...

 was converted into a one-party socialist state
Socialist state
A socialist state generally refers to any state constitutionally dedicated to the construction of a socialist society. It is closely related to the political strategy of "state socialism", a set of ideologies and policies that believe a socialist economy can be established through government...

, with industry and business being nationalised under state ownership and socialist
Socialism
Socialism is an economic system characterized by social ownership of the means of production and cooperative management of the economy; or a political philosophy advocating such a system. "Social ownership" may refer to any one of, or a combination of, the following: cooperative enterprises,...

 reforms implemented in all areas of society.

Born the illegitimate son of a wealthy farmer, Castro became involved in leftist anti-imperialist
Anti-imperialism
Anti-imperialism, strictly speaking, is a term that may be applied to a movement opposed to any form of colonialism or imperialism. Anti-imperialism includes opposition to wars of conquest, particularly of non-contiguous territory or people with a different language or culture; it also includes...

 politics whilst studying law at the University of Havana
University of Havana
The University of Havana or UH is a university located in the Vedado district of Havana, Cuba. Founded in 1728, the University of Havana is the oldest university in Cuba, and one of the first to be founded in the Americas...

. Subsequently involving himself in armed rebellions against right wing governments in the Dominican Republic and Colombia, he went on to conclude that the U.S.-backed Cuban President Fulgencio Batista
Fulgencio Batista
Fulgencio Batista y Zaldívar was the United States-aligned Cuban President, dictator and military leader who served as the leader of Cuba from 1933 to 1944 and from 1952 to 1959, before being overthrown as a result of the Cuban Revolution....

, who was widely seen as a dictator, had to be overthrown; to this end he led a failed armed attack on the Moncada Barracks
Moncada Barracks
The Moncada Barracks was a military barracks in Santiago de Cuba, named after General Guillermón Moncada, a hero of the War of Independence. On July 26, 1953, the barracks was the site of an armed attack by a small group of revolutionaries led by Fidel Castro. This armed attack is widely accepted...

 in 1953. Imprisoned for a year, he then traveled to Mexico, and with the aid of his brother Raúl Castro
Raúl Castro
Raúl Modesto Castro Ruz is a Cuban politician and revolutionary who has been President of the Council of State of Cuba and the President of the Council of Ministers of Cuba since 2008; he previously exercised presidential powers in an acting capacity from 2006 to 2008...

 and friend Che Guevara
Che Guevara
Ernesto "Che" Guevara , commonly known as el Che or simply Che, was an Argentine Marxist revolutionary, physician, author, intellectual, guerrilla leader, diplomat and military theorist...

, he assembled together a group of Cuban revolutionaries, the July 26 Movement. Returning with them to Cuba, he took a key role in the Cuban Revolution
Cuban Revolution
The Cuban Revolution was an armed revolt by Fidel Castro's 26th of July Movement against the regime of Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista between 1953 and 1959. Batista was finally ousted on 1 January 1959, and was replaced by a revolutionary government led by Castro...

, leading a successful guerrilla war
Guerrilla warfare
Guerrilla warfare is a form of irregular warfare and refers to conflicts in which a small group of combatants including, but not limited to, armed civilians use military tactics, such as ambushes, sabotage, raids, the element of surprise, and extraordinary mobility to harass a larger and...

 against Batista's forces, with Batista himself fleeing into exile in 1959.

Castro subsequently became Commander in Chief
Rank and Insignia of the Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces
The following list presents the ranks and insignia of the Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces from 1980, until 1999. In the far left, ranks are those that follow traditional Western military ranks, in the center are the Spanish name ranks in italics, and in the far right are the rank insignia...

 of the armed forces and shortly thereafter became Prime Minister. His involvement in the overthrow of Batista, as well as a suspected relationship with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev
Nikita Khrushchev
Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev led the Soviet Union during part of the Cold War. He served as First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1953 to 1964, and as Chairman of the Council of Ministers, or Premier, from 1958 to 1964...

, alarmed the United States, who through the CIA
Central Intelligence Agency
The Central Intelligence Agency is a civilian intelligence agency of the United States government. It is an executive agency and reports directly to the Director of National Intelligence, responsible for providing national security intelligence assessment to senior United States policymakers...

 organised the failed Bay of Pigs invasion
Bay of Pigs Invasion
The Bay of Pigs Invasion was an unsuccessful action by a CIA-trained force of Cuban exiles to invade southern Cuba, with support and encouragement from the US government, in an attempt to overthrow the Cuban government of Fidel Castro. The invasion was launched in April 1961, less than three months...

 in 1961 to overthrow his government, before proceeding to orchestrate repeated assassination attempts against him and implement an economic blockade of Cuba. To counter this threat, Castro forged an alliance with the Soviet Union and allowed them to store nuclear weapons on the island, leading to the events of the Cuban Missile Crisis
Cuban Missile Crisis
The Cuban Missile Crisis was a confrontation among the Soviet Union, Cuba and the United States in October 1962, during the Cold War...

 in 1962. Adopting Marxism-Leninism as his guiding ideology, in 1961 Castro proclaimed the socialist nature of the Cuban revolution, and in 1965 became First Secretary of the newly founded Communist Party, with all other parties being abolished. He then led the transformation of Cuba into a socialist republic, nationalising industry and introducing free universal healthcare and education, as well as suppressing internal opposition. A keen internationalist, Castro then introduced Cuban medical brigades who worked throughout the developing world, and aided a number of foreign revolutionary socialist groups in the hope of toppling world capitalism
Capitalism
Capitalism is an economic system that became dominant in the Western world following the demise of feudalism. There is no consensus on the precise definition nor on how the term should be used as a historical category...

.

In 1976 he became President of the Council of State
Council of State of Cuba
The Council of State of Cuba is a 31-member body of the government of Cuba, elected by the National Assembly of People’s Power. It has the authority to exercise most legislative power between sessions of the National Assembly of People’s Power, subject to its approval, and to call the National...

 as well as of the Council of Ministers
Council of Ministers of Cuba
The Cabinet of Cuba is the highest ranking executive and administrative body of the Republic of Cuba, and constitutes the nation's government...

. On the international stage, he held the post of Secretary-General of the Non-Aligned Movement
Non-Aligned Movement
The Non-Aligned Movement is a group of states considering themselves not aligned formally with or against any major power bloc. As of 2011, the movement had 120 members and 17 observer countries...

 from 1979 to 1983. Following the collapse of key ally the Soviet Union in 1991, Castro led Cuba into its economic "Special Period
Special Period
The Special Period in Time of Peace in Cuba was an extended period of economic crisis that began in 1991 after the dissolution of the Soviet Union and, by extension, the Comecon. The economic depression of the Special Period was at its most severe in the early-to-mid 1990s before slightly declining...

", before then taking the country into the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas in 2006 and forging economic and political alliances with other nations in the Latin American "Pink Tide
Pink tide
Pink tide is a term being used in contemporary 21st century political analysis in the media and elsewhere to describe the perception that Leftist ideology in general, and Left-wing politics in particular, is increasingly influential in Latin America.In 2005, the BBC reported that out of 350...

". Amidst failing health, in 2006 Castro transferred his responsibilities
2006 Cuban transfer of presidential duties
The 2006–2008 Cuban transfer of presidential duties was a transfer of duties of the Cuban presidency from Fidel Castro to the first vice president, his brother Raúl Castro, following Fidel's operation and recovery from an undisclosed digestive illness believed to be diverticulitis...

 to Vice-President Raúl Castro, who was then elected President when Fidel stepped down in 2008.

Castro is a controversial and highly divisive world figure, being lauded as a champion of anti-imperialism, humanitarianism, environmentalism and the world's poor by his supporters, but alternately his critics have accused him of being a dictator whose authoritarian administration has overseen multiple human rights abuses. Nonetheless, he has had a significant influence on the politics of a number of other world leaders, namely Nelson Mandela
Nelson Mandela
Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela served as President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999, and was the first South African president to be elected in a fully representative democratic election. Before his presidency, Mandela was an anti-apartheid activist, and the leader of Umkhonto we Sizwe, the armed wing...

, Hugo Chávez
Hugo Chávez
Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías is the 56th and current President of Venezuela, having held that position since 1999. He was formerly the leader of the Fifth Republic Movement political party from its foundation in 1997 until 2007, when he became the leader of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela...

 and Evo Morales
Evo Morales
Juan Evo Morales Ayma , popularly known as Evo , is a Bolivian politician and activist, currently serving as the 80th President of Bolivia, a position that he has held since 2006. He is also the leader of both the Movement for Socialism party and the cocalero trade union...

, and he is widely idolised by many leftists, socialists and anti-imperialists across the world.

Childhood and education: 1927–1945


Fidel's father, Ángel Castro y Argiz
Ángel Castro y Argiz
Ángel María Bautista Castro y Argiz was the father of Cuban leaders Fidel and Raúl Castro....

 (1875–1956) was a Spaniard born to a poor peasant family in rural Galicia, north-west Spain. Working as a manual laborer on local farms, in 1895 he was conscripted into the Spanish army to fight in the Cuban War of Independence
Cuban War of Independence
Cuban War of Independence was the last of three liberation wars that Cuba fought against Spain, the other two being the Ten Years' War and the Little War...

 against the Cuban forces who wished to secede from the Spanish Empire
Spanish Empire
The Spanish Empire comprised territories and colonies administered directly by Spain in Europe, in America, Africa, Asia and Oceania. It originated during the Age of Exploration and was therefore one of the first global empires. At the time of Habsburgs, Spain reached the peak of its world power....

. Wishing to gain greater influence in the Caribbean, the United States subsequently declared war on Spain, leading to the Spanish-American War
Spanish-American War
The Spanish–American War was a conflict in 1898 between Spain and the United States, effectively the result of American intervention in the ongoing Cuban War of Independence...

 of 1898, in which the U.S. seized control of Cuba, setting up their own American government on the island. In 1902, the Republic of Cuba was proclaimed, however it remained only partially independent of the U.S., which retained economic and political dominance over it. For a time, Cuba enjoyed economic growth, and Ángel Castro decided to migrate there permanently in search of employment. Doing so, he undertook various jobs, eventually earning enough money to set up his own business growing sugar cane on a farm in Birán
Birán
Birán is a small town in Holguín Province of Cuba, best known as the birthplace of Fidel Castro in 1926 and Raúl Castro in 1931. Their father owned a 23,000 acre plantation there. It is located south-west of Mayarí and south of Cueto, in the foothills of the Nipe Mountains ....

, near Mayarí
Mayarí
Mayarí is a municipality and city in the Holguín Province of Cuba.The origins of the city date back to 1757, when the first farms were established on the actual location. On January 19, 1879 the city became the seat of the municipality....

 in Oriente Province.

Ángel took a wife, María Luisa Argota, with whom he had two daughters, but they separated after several years and he began a relationship with a household servant who was thirty years his junior. This woman, Lina Ruz González (September 23, 1903 – August 6, 1963), came from an impoverished Cuban family of Canarian descent, but became Ángel's domestic partner, bearing him three sons and four daughters.

Fidel was Lina's third child, being born at his father's farm on August 13, 1927, and was given his mother's surname of Ruz rather than his father's because he had been born out of wedlock
Wedlock
Wedlock may refer to:* Marriage* Wedlock , an album by Sunburned Hand of the Man* Wedlock , directed by Lewis Teague* Billy Wedlock, an English footballer* Fred Wedlock, an English folk singer...

, something that carried a particular social stigma at the time. Although he was from a prosperous background, with his father's business proving ever more profitable, his father ensured that he grew up alongside the children of the farm's workforce, many of whom were Haitian economic migrants of African descent, something that Fidel would later relate prevented him from absorbing "bourgeois culture" at an early age. Aged six, Fidel, along with his elder siblings Ramón and Angela, was sent to live with their teacher in Santiago de Cuba
Santiago de Cuba
Santiago de Cuba is the second largest city of Cuba and capital city of Santiago de Cuba Province in the south-eastern area of the island, some south-east of the Cuban capital of Havana....

, and it was here that the children dwelt in cramped conditions and in relative poverty, often failing to have enough to eat because of their tutor's poor economic situation. Aged eight, Fidel was then baptized
Baptism
In Christianity, baptism is for the majority the rite of admission , almost invariably with the use of water, into the Christian Church generally and also membership of a particular church tradition...

 into the Roman Catholic Church (something usually performed soon after birth), although later gave up his faith in Christianity, becoming an atheist. Being baptized enabled Fidel to begin attending the La Salle boarding school in Santiago, but here he often got into trouble with the school authorities for misbehavior, and so he was instead sent to the privately-funded, Jesuit-run Dolores School in Santiago.

In 1945 he transferred to the more prestigious Jesuit-run El Colegio de Belén
Belen Jesuit Preparatory School
Belen Jesuit Preparatory School is a Roman Catholic preparatory school in Miami, Florida operated by The Society of Jesus. It was established in Cuba by the Jesuits in 1854, but moved to the United States after the communist government of Fidel Castro, himself an alumnus, took power and expelled...

 in Havana
Havana
Havana is the capital city, province, major port, and leading commercial centre of Cuba. The city proper has a population of 2.1 million inhabitants, and it spans a total of — making it the largest city in the Caribbean region, and the most populous...

, although to get in he had to pretend to be a year older than he was; his father bribed an administrator to supply him with a fake birth certificate stating that he was born in 1926 rather than 1927. Although Fidel took an interest in history and debating at Belén, he did not excel academically, instead devoting much of his time to playing sport, including swimming, mountain climbing, table tennis, athletics, basketball and baseball. Meanwhile, Ángel Castro finally dissolved his first marriage when Fidel was fifteen, allowing him to marry Fidel's mother; Fidel was formally recognized by his father when he was seventeen, when his surname was legally changed from Ruz to Castro.

University and early political activism: 1945–1947


In late 1945, Castro began studying law at the University of Havana
University of Havana
The University of Havana or UH is a university located in the Vedado district of Havana, Cuba. Founded in 1728, the University of Havana is the oldest university in Cuba, and one of the first to be founded in the Americas...

. Here he became immediately embroiled in the student protest movement, which in Cuba at that time was particularly volatile: under the regimes of centre-left Cuban Presidents Gerardo Machado
Gerardo Machado
Gerardo Machado y Morales was President of Cuba and a general of the Cuban War of Independence...

 (1925–1933), Fulgencio Batista
Fulgencio Batista
Fulgencio Batista y Zaldívar was the United States-aligned Cuban President, dictator and military leader who served as the leader of Cuba from 1933 to 1944 and from 1952 to 1959, before being overthrown as a result of the Cuban Revolution....

 (1933–1944) and Ramón Grau
Ramón Grau
Dr. Ramón Grau San Martín was a Cuban physician and the President of Cuba .-Youth:...

 (1944–1948) there had been a government crackdown on student protesters, with student leaders being killed or terrorized by violent gangs. This led to a form of gangsterismo culture within the university that was dominated by a variety of violent and often armed student groups who spent much of their time fighting one another and running criminal enterprises rather than opposing the government. Becoming surrounded by this gang culture, Castro focused on political objectives, unsuccessfully campaigning for the position of President of the Federation of University Students (FEU). To do so he put forward a platform of "honesty, decency and justice" and emphasized his opposition to political corruption, something that he increasingly associated with the involvement of the U.S. government in Cuban politics. He became passionate about anti-imperialism
Anti-imperialism
Anti-imperialism, strictly speaking, is a term that may be applied to a movement opposed to any form of colonialism or imperialism. Anti-imperialism includes opposition to wars of conquest, particularly of non-contiguous territory or people with a different language or culture; it also includes...

 and opposing American intervention in the Caribbean, joining the University Committee for the Independence of Puerto Rico
Puerto Rican independence movement
The Puerto Rican independence movement refers to initiatives throughout the history of Puerto Rico aimed at obtaining independence for the Island, first from Spain, and then from the United States...

 and the Committee for Democracy in the Dominican Republic.

He was in contact with members of several different student leftist groups at the time, including the Popular Socialist Party
Popular Socialist Party (Cuba)
The Popular Socialist Party was a communist party in Cuba. Originally called the Communist Party of Cuba , it was formed in the 1925 by a group including Blas Roca, Anibal Escalante, Fabio Grobart and Julio Antonio Mella, who acted as its leader until his assassination in Mexico in 1929. It was...

 (Partido Socialista Popular – PSP), the Socialist Revolutionary Movement (Movimiento Socialista Revolucionaria – MSR) and the Insurrectional Revolutionary Union (Unión Insurrecional Revolucionaria – UIR), although did not adopt the Marxist
Marxism
Marxism is an economic and sociopolitical worldview and method of socioeconomic inquiry that centers upon a materialist interpretation of history, a dialectical view of social change, and an analysis and critique of the development of capitalism. Marxism was pioneered in the early to mid 19th...

 ideas of the former and mistrusted some of MSR's connections to the Grau government. Castro himself had become highly critical of the corruption and violence of Grau's regime, delivering a public speech on the subject in November 1946 that earned him a place on the front page of several newspapers. Instead, it was to the UIR that he grew closest to, although whether he ever became a member or not has remained unknown. In 1947, Castro joined a newly founded socialist party, the Party of the Cuban People (Partido Ortodoxo
Partido Ortodoxo
The ' was a Cuban political party, otherwise known as the . It was founded in 1947 by Eduardo Chibás in response to perceived government corruption and lack of reform...

), which had been formed by veteran politician Eduardo Chibás
Eduardo Chibás
Eduardo René Chibás Ribas was a Cuban politician who used radio to broadcast his political views to the public. He primarily denounced corruption and gangsterism rampant during the governments of Ramón Grau and Carlos Prío which preceded the Batista era...

 (1907–1951). A charismatic figure, Chibás attracted many Cubans with his message of social justice, honest government, and political freedom. The Partido Ortodoxo publicly exposed corruption and demanded governmental and social reform. Though Chibás lost the election, Castro, considering Chibás his mentor, remained committed to his cause, working fervently on his behalf.

Meanwhile, the student gang violence had escalated after Grau had employed several prominent gang leaders, including members of the MSR, as officers in the police force, and Castro soon received a threat urging him to either leave the university and its political arena or be killed. He did not give in to the threat, instead going around with a gun and surrounded himself with friends who were similarly armed. Various accusations would arise in later years alleging that Castro carried out gang-related assassination attempts at this time, including of prominent UIR member Lionel Gómez, MSR leader Manolo Castro and university policeman Oscar Fernandez, but these are supported by "scant evidence" and remain unproven.

Latin American rebellions: 1947–1948


In June 1947, Castro learned of a planned international expedition to invade the Dominican Republic and overthrow its right-wing president, Rafael Trujillo, a military general widely seen as a dictator who had overseen a system of "repressive brutality" through the use of a violent secret police which routinely murdered and tortured opponents. An ally of the United States, Trujillo angered many across the world when he ordered the Parsley Massacre
Parsley Massacre
In October 1937, Dominican President Rafael Trujillo ordered the execution of the Haitian population living in the borderlands with Haiti. The violence resulted in the killing of 20,000On October 2, 1937, Trujillo had ordered 20,000 Haitian cane workers executed because they could not roll the "R"...

 that killed 20,000–30,000 impoverished Haitian migrants. Castro had become a heavy critic of Trujillo's regime, rising to the presidency of the University Committee for Democracy in the Dominican Republic, and decided to join the military expedition, which was led by General Juan Rodríguez
Juan Rodríguez
Juan Rodríguez may refer to:* Juan Rodríguez de la Cámara del Padrón , Spanish writer* Juan Rodríguez de Fonseca , Spanish religious leader & government administrator...

, a Dominican exile, and supported by Grau's Cuban government which feared Trujillo's militaristic behavior. The invasion was carried out on July 29, 1947 by around 1,200 men, most of whom were exiled Dominicans or Cubans, although other volunteers came from across Latin America. However, both Dominican and U.S. intelligence had gained foreknowledge of the event, and it was soon quashed by the Dominican army and the Cuban government, who had been pressured by the U.S. to cease their support for it. Whilst Grau's government immediately arrested many of those involved, Castro managed to escape the police by jumping off of the naval frigate he was aboard and swimming to shore in the dark of night.
The botched mission only served to further Castro's opposition to the Grau administration, and returning to Havana, he took a leading role in the student protests that were centred against the killing of a high school pupil by government bodyguards. The protests, accompanied by a U.S.-imposed crackdown on those considered to be communists, led to violent clashes between protesters and police in February 1948, in which Castro was badly beaten. It was at this point that his public speeches took on a distinctively leftist slant, condemning the social and economic inequalities of Cuba under the Grau government, something that was in contrast to his former public criticisms, which had centered around condemning corruption and U.S. imperialism. Castro's biographer Leycester Coltman would later remark that "Castro was not yet expressing a Marxist viewpoint, but he was moving in that direction."

After a quick visit to Venezuela and Panama, in April 1948 Castro traveled to the city of Bogotá
Bogotá
Bogotá, Distrito Capital , from 1991 to 2000 called Santa Fé de Bogotá, is the capital, and largest city, of Colombia. It is also designated by the national constitution as the capital of the department of Cundinamarca, even though the city of Bogotá now comprises an independent Capital district...

 in Colombia with a number of other Cuban students on a trip sponsored by the government of Argentine President Juan Perón
Juan Perón
Juan Domingo Perón was an Argentine military officer, and politician. Perón was three times elected as President of Argentina though he only managed to serve one full term, after serving in several government positions, including the Secretary of Labor and the Vice Presidency...

, whose anti-imperialist politics impressed Castro. Once there, the assassination of popular leftist leader Jorge Eliécer Gaitán Ayala led to widespread rioting that came to be known as the Bogotazo
Bogotazo
El Bogotazo refers to the massive riots that followed the assassination in Bogotá, Colombia of Liberal leader and presidential candidate Jorge Eliécer Gaitán on April 9, 1948 during the government of President Mariano Ospina Pérez...

. Leaving three thousand dead, the riots revolved around clashes between rightist Conservatives
Colombian Conservative Party
The Colombian Conservative Party , is a conservative political party in Colombia. The party was unofficially founded by a group of Revolutionary Commoners during the Revolutionary War for Independence from the Spanish Monarchy and later formally established during the Greater Colombia...

, who then controlled the country's government and who were backed by the army, and leftist Liberals
Colombian Liberal Party
The Colombian Liberal Party is a center-left party in Colombia that adheres to social democracy and social liberalism.The Party was founded in 1848 and, together with the Colombian Conservative Party, subsequently became one of the two main political forces in the country for over a century.After...

 who were supported by a number of Colombian socialist groups. Castro, along with his fellow Cuban visitors, joined in in support of the Liberal cause by stealing guns from a police station, but subsequent police investigations came to the conclusion that neither Castro nor any of the other Cubans had been involved in the killings.

Marriage and Marxism: 1948–1950


Returning to Cuba, Castro became a prominent figure in the widespread protests going on at the government's attempts to raise bus fares, with buses being the only form of transport available to most students and workers, many of whom would have had difficulty affording the higher fees. It was also in 1948 that Castro married Mirta Díaz Balart
Mirta Diaz-Balart
Mirta Francisca de la Caridad Díaz-Balart y Gutiérrez was Fidel Castro's first wife, the daughter of Rafael José Díaz-Balart, a prominent Cuban politician and mayor of the town of Banes, and wife América Gutiérrez...

, a student from a wealthy Cuban family through whom he was exposed to the lifestyle of the Cuban elite. The relationship was a love match and was disapproved of by both of their families. Mirta's father gave them tens of thousands of dollars to spend in a three-month honeymoon in New York City, and the couple also received a U.S. $1,000 wedding gift from the military general and former president Fulgencio Batista
Fulgencio Batista
Fulgencio Batista y Zaldívar was the United States-aligned Cuban President, dictator and military leader who served as the leader of Cuba from 1933 to 1944 and from 1952 to 1959, before being overthrown as a result of the Cuban Revolution....

, a friend of Mirta's family.
That same year, Grau decided not to stand for re-election, and his party instead nominated Carlos Prío Socarrás
Carlos Prío Socarrás
Carlos Prío Socarrás was the President of Cuba from 1948 until he was deposed by a military coup led by Fulgencio Batista on March 10, 1952, three months before new elections were to be held.- Governance :...

 as their presidential candidate. Prío would go on to win the election, becoming President of Cuba. However, he faced widespread protests when members of the MSR, which by this time was allied to the police force, assassinated Justo Fuentes, a "self-taught black man" and prominent member of the UIR who was a friend and ally of Castro's. In response, Prío agreed to try to quell the gangs, but found them to be too powerful to control.

Castro had begun to move further to the left in his political views, being influenced by the writings of prominent Marxists
Marxism
Marxism is an economic and sociopolitical worldview and method of socioeconomic inquiry that centers upon a materialist interpretation of history, a dialectical view of social change, and an analysis and critique of the development of capitalism. Marxism was pioneered in the early to mid 19th...

 like Karl Marx
Karl Marx
Karl Heinrich Marx was a German philosopher, economist, sociologist, historian, journalist, and revolutionary socialist. His ideas played a significant role in the development of social science and the socialist political movement...

, Friedrich Engels
Friedrich Engels
Friedrich Engels was a German industrialist, social scientist, author, political theorist, philosopher, and father of Marxist theory, alongside Karl Marx. In 1845 he published The Condition of the Working Class in England, based on personal observations and research...

 and Vladimir Lenin
Vladimir Lenin
Vladimir Ilyich Lenin was a Russian Marxist revolutionary and communist politician who led the October Revolution of 1917. As leader of the Bolsheviks, he headed the Soviet state during its initial years , as it fought to establish control of Russia in the Russian Civil War and worked to create a...

. In doing so, he came to see the problems facing Cuba as being an integral part of capitalist society, or the "dictatorship of the bourgeoisie", rather than as simply the failings of corrupt politicians. Coming to believe the Marxist idea that true political change could only be brought about by a revolution led by the working class, Castro set about visiting Havana's poorest neighbourhoods, witnessing the nation's huge social and racial inequalities, and became active in the University Committee for the Struggle against Racial Discrimination.

In September 1949, Mirta gave birth to a son, Fidelito, and so the couple moved to a larger flat in Havana. Despite the fact that he had a new family to take care of, Castro continued to put himself at risk, staying active in the city's political arena and joining a new organisation, the September 30 Movement, which contained within it both communists and members of the Partido Ortodoxo. The purpose of the group was to oppose the influence of the violent gangs within the university, which President Prío had failed to control, instead offering many of their senior members jobs in government ministries. Castro volunteered to deliver a speech for the Movement on November 13, in which he exposed the government's secret deals with the gangs and identified many of their key members. Attracting the attention of the national press, the speech angered the gangs, and Castro was forced to go into hiding, first in various rural areas and then in the U.S. Returning to Havana several weeks later, Castro layed low and focused on his university studies, graduating from university as a Doctor of Law in September 1950.

Career in law and politics: 1950–1952


Now a Doctor of Law, Castro became a professional lawyer, founding his own legal partnership with two of his fellow leftist students, Jorge Azpiazu and Rafael Resende. Castro intended for their partnership to focus on helping poor Cubans to assert their rights, and as such it earned little money, with its main client being a timber merchant who paid them in timber to furnish their office. Castro himself cared little for money or material goods, something that his wife found difficult, particularly when their furniture was reposessed and their electricity cut off, in both instances because Castro had failed to pay his bills.
Castro remained active in politics, taking part in a high-school protest in Cienfuegos
Cienfuegos
Cienfuegos is a city on the southern coast of Cuba, capital of Cienfuegos Province. It is located about from Havana, and has a population of 150,000. The city is dubbed La Perla del Sur...

 in November 1950 that involved students fighting a four-hour battle with police in protest at the Education Ministry's ban on the founding of student associations in schools. He was arrested and charged with using violence against police officers, but the magistrate later dismissed the charges. He also became an active member of the Cuban Peace Committee, a part of the international campaign led by British intellectual Betrand Russell to oppose western involvement in the Korean War
Korean War
The Korean War was a conventional war between South Korea, supported by the United Nations, and North Korea, supported by the People's Republic of China , with military material aid from the Soviet Union...

. His hopes for Cuba still largely centred around Eduardo Chibás
Eduardo Chibás
Eduardo René Chibás Ribas was a Cuban politician who used radio to broadcast his political views to the public. He primarily denounced corruption and gangsterism rampant during the governments of Ramón Grau and Carlos Prío which preceded the Batista era...

 and his left wing Partido Ortodoxo
Partido Ortodoxo
The ' was a Cuban political party, otherwise known as the . It was founded in 1947 by Eduardo Chibás in response to perceived government corruption and lack of reform...

; however Chibás had made a mistake when he accused Education Minister Aureliano Sánchez of purchasing a Guatamalan ranch with misappropriated funds, but was unable to substantiate his allegations. The government used this as an opportunity to go on the offensive against Chibás, accusing him of being a liar and a troublemaker. In 1951, while running for president again, Chibás shot himself in the stomach during a radio broadcast in an attempt to issue a "last wake-up call" to the Cuban people. Castro was present and accompanied him to the hospital where he died of his injuries.

Although his political views were further left than the Partido Ortodoxo, Castro believed that those parties on the far left, namely the PSP, were too unpopular to achieve a revolutionary leftist movement in Cuba, and for this reason stuck with the Ortodoxo. Seeing himself as the heir to Chibás, Castro wanted to run for Congress in the June 1952 elections, but senior party members feared his radical reputation and refused to nominate him. Instead he gained the support of enough Ortodoxo members in Havana's poorest districts to be nominated as a candidate for the House of Representatives, and put all his energies into campaigning. It was at the time that Castro held a meeting with General Fulgencio Batista
Fulgencio Batista
Fulgencio Batista y Zaldívar was the United States-aligned Cuban President, dictator and military leader who served as the leader of Cuba from 1933 to 1944 and from 1952 to 1959, before being overthrown as a result of the Cuban Revolution....

, the former president who had recently returned to politics by winning a seat in the Senate and founding the Unitary Action Party; although they both opposed the Prío administration, their meeting never got beyond "polite generalities" with no indication that they would later become bitter enemies.

The Ortodoxo had gained a considerable level of support, and there was a "fair chance that the Ortodoxos and Castro would both have succeeded in the election." However, this was quashed in March 1952 when General Batista seized power in a military coup, removing the widely discredited President Prío from office, who then fled to Mexico. Subsequently declaring himself president, Batista cancelled the planned presidential elections, describing his new system as "disciplined democracy": however Castro, like many others, instead saw it as the establishment of a one-man dictatorship which would not benefit the Cuban populace. Although in his earlier democratic terms as president Batista had taken a centre-left stance, he now moved to the right and went on to solidify his ties with the United States, severing diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union, suppressing trade unions and persecuting socialist groups in Cuba. Intent on opposing the Batista administration, Castro brought several legal cases against them, arguing that Batista had committed sufficient criminal acts to warrant at least 100 years imprisonment and accusing various of his ministers of breaching labour laws, but these came to nothing, leading Castro to begin thinking of alternative ways to oust the new government.

The Movement and the Moncada Barracks attack: 1952–1953


Finally becoming dissatisfied with the Ortodoxo and their policy of non-violent opposition to Batista's regime, Castro decided to form a group simply known as 'The Movement' that consisted of both a civil and a military committee; the former of these would conduct political agitation through an underground newspaper, El Acusador (The Accuser), whilst the latter would arm and train recruits to take violent action in order to bring down Batista. With Castro himself as the Movement's head, the organisation was based upon a clandestine cell system
Clandestine cell system
A clandestine cell structure is a method for organizing a group of people in such a way that it can more effectively resist penetration by an opposing organization. Depending on the group's philosophy, its operational area, the communications technologies available, and the nature of the mission,...

, with each cell containing ten members, none of whom knew the whereabouts or activities of the other cells. A dozen individuals formed the nucleus of the movement, many of whom were also dissatisfied Ortodoxo members, although from July 1952 the Movement went on a recruitment drive, and within a year it had around 1,200 members, organised into over a hundred cells, with the majority of members coming from the poorer districts of Havana. Although Castro's political ideology was that of revolutionary socialism
Revolutionary socialism
The term revolutionary socialism refers to Socialist tendencies that advocate the need for fundamental social change through revolution by mass movements of the working class, as a strategy to achieve a socialist society...

, he avoided an alliance with the communist PSP, fearing that this would frighten away the social moderates who were members of the Movement, but did keep in contact with some of the PSP's members, who included his brother and fellow conspirator Raúl. He would later relate that the members of the Movement were on the whole simply anti-Batista, and few had strong socialist or anti-imperialist views, something which Castro attributed to "the overwhelming weight of the Yankees'
Yankee
The term Yankee has several interrelated and often pejorative meanings, usually referring to people originating in the northeastern United States, or still more narrowly New England, where application of the term is largely restricted to descendants of the English settlers of the region.The...

 ideological and advertising machinery" which he felt had suppressed class consciousness
Class consciousness
Class consciousness is consciousness of one's social class or economic rank in society. From the perspective of Marxist theory, it refers to the self-awareness, or lack thereof, of a particular class; its capacity to act in its own rational interests; or its awareness of the historical tasks...

 amongst Cuba's working class.

Castro's Movement was not the only militant group that wanted to oust Batista, for one of the Orthodoxo's founding members, the Professor of Philosophy Rafael García Bárcena, had also founded his own group, the National Revolutionary Movement (Movimiento Nacional Revolucionaria – MNR), which consisted largely of middle-class members devoted to the cause, something in contrast to Castro's predominantly working class support base. In March 1953, the MNR had planned to attack and seize control of the barracks at Camp Colombia, but police had been alerted to the plot, with the conspirators being rounded up and tortured. In all, fourteen people were sentenced to imprisonment for the attack. Meanwhile, Castro had been having similar ideas, stockpiling weapons in order to lead the armed wing of the Movement in an attack on the Moncada Barracks
Moncada Barracks
The Moncada Barracks was a military barracks in Santiago de Cuba, named after General Guillermón Moncada, a hero of the War of Independence. On July 26, 1953, the barracks was the site of an armed attack by a small group of revolutionaries led by Fidel Castro. This armed attack is widely accepted...

, a military garrison just outside Santiago de Cuba
Santiago de Cuba
Santiago de Cuba is the second largest city of Cuba and capital city of Santiago de Cuba Province in the south-eastern area of the island, some south-east of the Cuban capital of Havana....

 in Oriente. The plan was for Castro's members to dress in army uniforms and arrive at the base in cars on July 25, the festival of St James, when many of the officers would be on leave or celebrating in the nearby town. The rebels would then seize control of the barracks before the alarm could be raised, raid the armoury and then escape before the army could bring in reinforcements. Supplied with a wealth of new weaponry, Castro believed that the Movement could arm local supporters and spark a revolution in Oriente, which was dominated by a population of impoverished cane-cutters. The plan was to then seize control of a radio station in Santiago, from which the Movement could broadcast their manifesto and promote widespread uprisings against Batista. In doing so, Castro's plan was directly emulating those of the 19th century Cuban independence fighters who had raided Spanish barracks, and in keeping with this Castro saw himself as the heir to independence leader and national hero José Martí
José Martí
José Julián Martí Pérez was a Cuban national hero and an important figure in Latin American literature. In his short life he was a poet, an essayist, a journalist, a revolutionary philosopher, a translator, a professor, a publisher, and a political theorist. He was also a part of the Cuban...

, both leading national liberation struggles against foreign dominance.

Castro had gathered together 165 members of the Movement to take part in the mission, 138 of which were stationed in Santiago, with the other 27 instead positioned in Bayamo
Bayamo
Bayamo is the capital city of the Granma Province of Cuba, and one of the largest cities in the Oriente region.The community of Bayamo lies on a plain by the Bayamon River...

; the majority of these were young men from Havana and Pinar del Río
Pinar del Río
Pinar del Río is a city in Cuba. It is the capital of Pinar del Río Province.Inhabitants of the area are called Pinareños.Neighborhoods in the city include La Conchita, La Coloma, Briones Montoto and Las Ovas.-History:...

, and he ensured that, with the exception of himself, none of the volunteers had children. The plan had been carefully orchestrated, and Castro ordered his troops not to cause bloodshed unless they met armed resistance.

The attack took place on July 26, 1953, but before it had even begun it ran into trouble; of the sixteen cars that had set out from Santiago, one broke down on the way and two others got separated from the main convoy. When they eventually reached the barracks, further problems arose and soon the alarm was raised by the guards, with most of the rebels being pinned down outside of the base by machine gun fire. Those that managed to get inside faced heavy resistance, and four of them were killed by gunfire before Castro, realising that he was heavily outnumbered, ordered his men to retreat. In the attack, the rebels had suffered 6 fatalities and 15 other casualties, whilst the government forces had faced a heavier toll, with 19 dead and 27 wounded. Meanwhile, some of the other rebels had taken over a civilian hospital, but as the main attack on the barracks failed, government soldiers stormed the hospital, rounding up the rebels, before torturing them for information and finally summarily executing 22 of them without trial. Those rebels that had been able to escape, and who included both Fidel and his brother Raúl, had assembled at their base, the Siboney Farm, where some debated surrender, whilst others wished to flee to Havana. Castro however, accompanied by 19 comrades, decided to set out for the rugged Gran Piedra mountains several miles to the north, where they could establish a guerrilla base and continue their revolutionary activities.

In response to the Moncada attack, Batista's government ordered a violent crackdown on all dissent (orchestrated by both the army and the SIM police), declaring martial law and imposing strict censorship on the media. Government propaganda began broadcasting falsities about the event, claiming that the rebels had murdered patients in the civilian hospital and asserting that the Movement was a communist group financed by the exiled President Prío (ignoring the fact that the latter was a fierce anti-communist). Despite this censorship, news and photographs soon spread of the army's use of torture and summary executions in Oriente, causing widespread public and even some governmental disapproval.

Arrest and trial: 1953


Over the next few days all of the rebels hiding in the mountains were rounded up by government forces and transported to a prison north of Santiago, although Castro was not executed on the spot as many of his comrades had been. Believing that Castro had been incapable of planning the attack by himself, the government accused politicians from the Ortodoxo and communist PSP of being involved in masterminding the attack, and in all 122 defendents, amongst them Castro, were put on trial on September 21 at the Palace of Justice in Santiago. Although they were censored from reporting on it, journalists were permitted to attend the proceedings, which proved an embarrassment for the Batista administration; acting as his own defence council, Castro convinced the three presiding judges to overrule the army's decision to keep all defendents handcuffed in court, before proceeding to argue that the charge with which they were all accused – of 'organising an uprising of armed persons against the Constitutional Powers of the State' – was incorrect, for they had risen up not against the Constitutional Powers of the State but against Batista, who had seized power in an unconstitutional manner. When asked who was the intellectual author of the attack, Castro claimed that it was the long deceased national icon José Martí, before quoting some of Martí's works that justified uprisings against tyrannical regimes.

As the trial went on, knowledge of the torture that army officers inflicted on some of those captured emerged, which included castration using a razor and the gouging out of eyes with bayonets; the judges agreed that full investigations into these crimes would have to be undertaken. These revelations proved to be a great embarrassment to the army, who tried unsuccesfully to prevent Castro from testifying any further by claiming that he was too ill to leave his cell. The trial came to an end on October 5, with all of the politicians and many of the rebels being acquitted, although fifty-five were sentenced to prison terms of between 7 months and 13 years. Castro was sentenced separately, on October 16, during which he proceeded to deliver a speech that would later be printed under the title of History Will Absolve Me
History Will Absolve Me
"History Will Absolve Me" is the concluding sentence and subsequent title of a four-hour speech made by Fidel Castro on 16 October 1953. Castro made the speech in his own defense in court against the charges brought against him after leading an attack on the Moncada Barracks...

, in which he proclaimed that:
I warn you, I am just beginning! If there is in your hearts a vestige of love for your country, love for humanity, love for justice, listen carefully... I know that the regime
Regime
The word regime refers to a set of conditions, most often of a political nature.-Politics:...

 will try to suppress the truth by all possible means; I know that there will be a conspiracy to bury me in oblivion. But my voice will not be stifled – it will rise from my breast even when I feel most alone, and my heart will give it all the fire that callous cowards deny it... Condemn me. It does not matter. History will absolve me.


Although the maximum penalty for leading such an uprising was a 20 year prison sentence, Castro was ultimately sentenced to only 15 years, being imprisoned in the hospital wing of the Model Prison (Presidio Modelo) on the Isla de Pinos, sixty miles off of Cuba's southwest coast.

Imprisonment and the July 26 Movement: 1953–1955


Whilst imprisoned in the Presidio Modelo along with 25 of his fellow conspirators, Castro devoted himself to politics once more, changing the name of the Movement to the "July 26 Movement", in memory of the date of the failed Moncada attack. Forming a school for the prisoners, the Abel Santamaría Ideological Academy, Castro organised five hours a day of teaching, with himself and other Movement members lecturing on such subjects as ancient and modern history, philosophy and the English language. Making use of the prison library and gifts from friends outside of prison, he himself continued reading widely, enjoying the works of Marx, Lenin, and Martí but also reading books by Sigmund Freud
Sigmund Freud
Sigmund Freud , born Sigismund Schlomo Freud , was an Austrian neurologist who founded the discipline of psychoanalysis...

, Immanuel Kant
Immanuel Kant
Immanuel Kant was a German philosopher from Königsberg , researching, lecturing and writing on philosophy and anthropology at the end of the 18th Century Enlightenment....

, William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon"...

, Axel Munthe
Axel Munthe
Axel Martin Fredrik Munthe was a Swedish psychiatrist, best known as the author of The Story of San Michele, an autobiographical account of his life and work....

, Somerset Maugham and Fyodor Dostoyevsky, analysing most of them within a Marxist framework. He also corresponded with those outside of prison, trying to maintain control over his Movement without giving too much away to the prison censors, who read all of his letters, and also organised the publication and distribution of his History Will Absolve Me lecture. Although at first he had a fair amount of freedom within the prison, this came to an end after prison inmates embarrassed the guards by singing anti-Batista songs on a visit by the president in February 1954. In retaliation, the prison authorities removed most of the privileges that Castro and other prisoners were allowed, locking Castro himself up in solitary confinement
Solitary confinement
Solitary confinement is a special form of imprisonment in which a prisoner is isolated from any human contact, though often with the exception of members of prison staff. It is sometimes employed as a form of punishment beyond incarceration for a prisoner, and has been cited as an additional...

 indefinitely.

Meanwhile, Castro's wife Mirta, who did not share his obsession with political activism, had gained employment in the Ministry of the Interior, thereby working for Batista's government, something that she had been encouraged to do by her brother, who had been a friend and ally of Batista for many years. This had been kept a secret from Castro, who eventually found out about it on a radio announcement, and was appalled; he raged that he would rather die "a thousand times" than "suffer impotently from such an insult". Both Fidel and Mirta subsequently initiated divorce proceedings, with Mirta taking custody of their son Fidelito, something that angered Castro, who did not want his son growing up in a bourgeois environment.

In 1954, Batista's government finally went ahead with their earlier promises and held presidential elections, but no politicians had risked standing against Batista lest they face violent reprisals, and he won comfortably, with the election being widely recognised as fraudulent. The election had however allowed some political opposition to be openly voiced, and supporters of Castro and his Movement had begun agitating for an amnesty for all those imprisoned over the Moncada incident. Some politicians in the government suggested that such an amnesty would provide good publicity, and the Congress and Batista eventually agreed. Backed by the U.S. government and major corporations, and with a thriving economy, Batista believed that Castro would be no political threat to his regime, and on May 15, 1955 the prisoners were released.

Returning to Havana, Castro was met by his supporters, being carried along on the shoulders of students, and set about giving various radio interviews and press conferences. Now a single man again, Castro had sexual affairs with a number of women, including one of his devout supporters, Naty Revuelta, who conceived him a child named Alina, and another of his supporters, Maria Laborde, who conceived another child, Jorge Angel Castro. He also set about to strengthen his anti-Batista revolutionary Movement, welcoming members of the now defunct MNR into it, and establishing an eleven-person National Directorate of the 26 July Revolutionary Movement (or MR-26-7). However, despite these changes to its structure there was still dissent, with some members questioning the leadership of the MR-26-7, which was entirely under the control of Castro. When the dissenters presented to him a proposal that it be run by a democratic board rather than just himself, Castro dismissed it, arguing that a successful revolution could not be run by a committee; some of them subsequently abandoned the MR-26-7, labeling Castro a caudillo
Caudillo
Caudillo is a Spanish word for "leader" and usually describes a political-military leader at the head of an authoritarian power. The term translates into English as leader or chief, or more pejoratively as warlord, dictator or strongman. Caudillo was the term used to refer to the charismatic...

 (dictator), although the majority accepted his reasoning and remained loyal to him.

Mexico and guerrilla training: 1955–1956


In 1955, a series of bomb attacks and violent demonstrations against Batista's administration led to a crackdown on dissent in Cuba, with Castro being placed under armed guard by his supporters to protect him from possible assasination attempts. His brother Raúl was accused of one such bomb attack and had to flee the county, with Fidel deciding to follow on July 7. Those members of the MR-26-7 that remained in Cuba were left with orders to prepare cells for revolutionary action in all of the country's main towns and cities, and await Castro's return, when he would bring with him an armed revolutionary army to topple Batista. He sent a letter to the country's political leaders and the press, declaring that "I am leaving Cuba because all doors of peaceful struggle have been closed to me. Six weeks after being released from prison I am convinced more than ever of the dictatorship's intention, masked in many ways, to remain in power for twenty years, ruling as now by the use of terror and crime and ignoring the patience of the Cuban people, which has its limits. As a follower of Martí, I believe the hour has come to take our rights and not beg for them, to fight instead of pleading for them."

The Castro brothers and a number of other MR-26-7 members travelled to Mexico, a country with a long history of offering asylum to left-wing exiles, where they felt that they would be welcomed by this exiled socialist community and a relatively tolerant government. Raul had befriended one of these socialists, an Argentine doctor and convinced Marxist-Leninist named Ernesto "Che" Guevara
Che Guevara
Ernesto "Che" Guevara , commonly known as el Che or simply Che, was an Argentine Marxist revolutionary, physician, author, intellectual, guerrilla leader, diplomat and military theorist...

 (1928–1967), who was a proponent of guerrilla warfare
Guerrilla warfare
Guerrilla warfare is a form of irregular warfare and refers to conflicts in which a small group of combatants including, but not limited to, armed civilians use military tactics, such as ambushes, sabotage, raids, the element of surprise, and extraordinary mobility to harass a larger and...

 and who was keen to join the Cuban Revolution as a part of his deeply held belief in overthrowing U.S. imperialism in Latin America. Upon meeting Guevara, Fidel took a liking to him, later describing him as being "a more advanced revolutionary than I was." Another socialist revolutionary whom Castro began associating with was the Cuban-born Spaniard Colonel Alberto Bayo
Alberto Bayo
Alberto Bayo y Giroud was a Cuban military leader of the defeated left-wing Loyalists in the Spanish Civil War. He was also a poet and essayist.He was born in Cuba and studied in the United States and Spain...

 (1892–1967), who had fought for the leftist Republican side
Second Spanish Republic
The Second Spanish Republic was the government of Spain between April 14 1931, and its destruction by a military rebellion, led by General Francisco Franco....

 in the Spanish Civil War
Spanish Civil War
The Spanish Civil WarAlso known as The Crusade among Nationalists, the Fourth Carlist War among Carlists, and The Rebellion or Uprising among Republicans. was a major conflict fought in Spain from 17 July 1936 to 1 April 1939...

 during the 1930s, before being exiled upon the victory of the fascist General Francisco Franco
Francisco Franco
Francisco Franco y Bahamonde was a Spanish general, dictator and head of state of Spain from October 1936 , and de facto regent of the nominally restored Kingdom of Spain from 1947 until his death in November, 1975...

 and his Falange
Falange
The Spanish Phalanx of the Assemblies of the National Syndicalist Offensive , known simply as the Falange, is the name assigned to several political movements and parties dating from the 1930s, most particularly the original fascist movement in Spain. The word means phalanx formation in Spanish....

. Bayo agreed to teach Fidel's rebels the skills in guerrilla warfare that they would need if they were to return to Cuba to battle Batista, clandestinely meeting them at various hired premises.

In desperate need of money to finance his activities, Castro went on a tour of the United States in search of wealthy sympathizers, including the exiled former President Prío (who contributed the considerable sum of $100,000), during which time he was monitored by agents of Batista's government who at one point allegedly orchestrated a failed plot to kill him. These agents also bribed Mexican police to arrest Castro and other MR-26-7 members in the country, but ultimately the revolutionaries were all released, particularly as several members of the Mexican government sympathized with their cause. Meanwhile, Castro had also kept in contact with the MR-26-7 agents who had remained in Cuba, where they had succeeded in getting a large clandestine support base in several towns in Oriente. Other militant groups had also sprung up to oppose Batista within the country, primarily from the ranks of the student movement; most notable of these was the Revolutionary Directorate (DR), which had been founded by the Federation of University Students (FEU) President José Antonio Echevarría, who traveled to Mexico City to meet with Castro, but the two disagreed widely on tactics, with Castro disagreeing with the young student's policy of support for indiscriminate assassinations of government figures.

Purchasing a decrepid old yacht, the Granma
Granma (yacht)
Granma is the yacht that was used to transport 82 fighters of the Cuban Revolution from Mexico to Cuba in 1956 for the purpose of overthrowing the regime of Fulgencio Batista. The 60-foot diesel-powered cabin cruiser was built in 1943 and designed to accommodate 12 people...

, it was on the 25 November 1956 that Castro set sail from Tuxpan
Tuxpan
Tuxpan is both a municipality and city located in the Mexican state of Veracruz. The population of the city was 78,523 and of the municipality was 134,394 inhabitants, according to the INEGI census of 2005, residing in a total area of 1,051.89 km²...

 in Veracruz
Veracruz
Veracruz, formally Veracruz de Ignacio de la Llave officially Estado Libre y Soberano de Veracruz de Ignacio de la Llave , is one of the 31 states that, along with the Federal District, comprise the 32 federative entities of Mexico. It is divided in 212 municipalities and its capital city is...

, Mexico with a group of 81 revolutionaries, armed with 90 rifles, 3 machine guns, around 40 pistols and 2 hand-held anti-tank guns. The 1,200 mile crossing to Cuba was harsh, and in the overcrowded conditions of the ship (which was designed to hold around 20 passengers), many of the men suffered from seasickness, and food supplies began to run low. At some points they had to bail water caused by a leak, and at another a man fell overboard, delaying their journey. The plan had been for the journey to take five days, and on the Granmas scheduled day of arrival, 30 November, members of the MR-26-7 in Cuba under the leadership of Frank Pais
Frank País
Frank País was a Cuban revolutionary who campaigned for the overthrow of General Fulgencio Batista's government in Cuba...

 led an armed uprising against government buildings in Santiago, Manzanillo and several other towns. However, the crossing in the Granma ultimately lasted for seven days, and with Castro and his men unable to provide immediate back-up, Pais and those MR-26-7 members under his leadership dispersed to their homes after two days of intermittent attacks, having "suffered very few casualties and arrests".

Guerrilla war in the Sierra Maestra: 1956–1958


The Granma landed in Cuba on 2 December 1956, crashing in a mangrove swamp at Playa Las Coloradas, close to Los Cayuelos
Los Cayuelos
Los Cayuelos is a location near the eastern city of Niquero in Cuba. It is known as the landing site of Fidel Castro and his troops on December 2, 1956....

. Batista's forces had been expecting them, and within several hours of their arrival they were bombarded from a naval vessel, forcing them to flee inland, where they began heading for the Sierra Maestra
Sierra Maestra
Sierra Maestra is a mountain range that runs westward across the south of the old Oriente Province from what is now Guantánamo Province to Niquero in southeast Cuba, rising abruptly from the coast. Some view it as a series of connecting ranges , which joins with others extending to the west...

 in Oriente, a large forested mountain range from where they could lead a guerrilla war against Batista. At daybreak on 5 December they were unexpectantly attacked by a detachment of Batista's Rural Guard; in the confusion, the rebels scattering into different groups which continued making their journey to the Sierra Maestra independently. With only two comrades, Castro made it to the mountains, along the way meeting up with others who had survived the attack, but ultimately it was discovered that of the 82 rebels who had arrived on the Granma, only 19 had made it to the Sierra Maestra, the rest being killed or captured by Batista's forces.
Setting up an encampment
Military camp
A military camp or bivouac is a semi-permanent facility for the lodging of an army. Camps are erected when a military force travels away from a major installation or fort during training or operations, and often have the form of large campsites. In the Roman era the military camp had highly...

 in the thick jungle of the Sierra Maestra, the survivors, who included Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, Raúl Castro and Camilo Cienfuegos
Camilo Cienfuegos
Camilo Cienfuegos Gorriarán was a Cuban revolutionary born in Lawton, Havana. Raised in an anarchist family that had left Spain before the Spanish Civil War, he became a key figure of the Cuban Revolution, along with Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, Juan Almeida Bosque, and Raúl Castro.-Political...

, began launching attacks on small army posts in the region in order to steal weaponry; in January 1957 they attacked the outpost near to the beach at La Plata, defeating the soldiers stationed there (who Guevara, being a doctor, subsequently treated for any injuries), but executing the local mayoral (land company overseer) Chicho Osorio, who was despised by the local peasants and who had boasted of killing one of the MR-26-7 rebels several weeks previously. The execution of Osorio aided the rebels in gaining the trust of local people in the mountains, who typically hated the mayorals as enforcers of the much-despised wealthy landowners. Nonetheless, although the majority of the locals hated the army and the gentry, they were initially not particularly enthusiastic in their support for the guerrillas, viewing them with suspicion as outsiders. As trust grew between the two communities, some locals subsequently joined the rebels, although the majority of new recruits actually came from urban areas, travelling to the Sierra Maestra in order to aid the revolutionary effort.

With rising levels of support and more and more volunteers joining the rebel army, which now numbered over 200, in July 1957 Castro eventually divided his men into three columns, keeping charge of one and giving control of the others to his brother and Che Guevara. The MR-26-7 members operating in urban areas also continued agitating against the government, sending supplies to the Sierra Maestra rebels and on 16 February 1957 Castro met with other leading members of the group to discuss tactics, and it was here that he met Celia Sánchez
Celia Sánchez
Celia Sánchez Manduley was a participant of the Cuban Revolution and a close friend, and rumored lover of Fidel Castro....

, who would become a close friend and comrade of Castro's. The Cuban Revolution was not however simply contained to the MR-26-7, and across Cuba militant groups were beginning to rise up against Batista. Most notably, Echevarría and his DR had been carrying out bombings and acts of sabotage, leading the police to respond with mass arrests, the torture of suspects and extra-judicial killings. In March 1957 the DR launched an attack on the presidential palace, with Batista himself narrowly surviving, but the rebels were eventually defeated, and Echevarría was shot dead by police in the street as he attempted to issue a radio broadcast to the Cuban people. His death would prove beneficial for Castro, removing a charismatic rival to his leadership of the anti-Batista movement.
Although he was already a convinced Marxist-Leninist, Castro kept his beliefs a secret from many of the MR-26-7, something in contrast to Guevara and Raúl, whose beliefs were well known. In this way he hoped to gain a wider support base amongst those of other political persuasions, and in 1957 he met with leading members of the Partido Ortodoxo. Castro and the Ortodoxo leaders Raúl Chibás
Raúl Chibás
Raúl Chibás Rivas was a Cuban politician and military officer who initially supported Fidel Castro and the Cuban Revolution but later defected to the United States. Born in Santiago de Cuba, Chibás spent his childhood in Havana and attended the University of Havana...

 and Felipe Pazos
Felipe Pazos
Felipe Pazos was a Cuban economist who initially supported the Cuban Revolution of Fidel Castro, but became disillusioned with the increasingly radical nature of the revolutionary government. Born in Havana, Pazos earned a doctorate from the University of Havana in 1938. He was a member of the...

 drafted and signed a document called the Sierra Maestra Manifesto in which they laid out their plans for a post-Batista Cuba. Rejecting the idea that Cuba should be run by a provisional military junta following Batista's demise, it demanded that a provisional civilian government be set up that was "supported by all" and which must implement agrarian reform, industrialisation and a campaign to wipe out illiteracy before introducing "truly fair, democratic, impartial, elections".

Batista's government censored the Cuban media, and so Castro felt it would be beneficial to reach out and contact foreign media sources in order to spread his message. Subsequently, a U.S. journalist from the New York Times named Herbert Matthews
Herbert Matthews
Herbert Lionel Matthews was a reporter and editorialist for the New York Times who grew to notoriety after revealing that Fidel Castro was still alive and living in the Sierra Maestra mountains, though Batista had claimed publicly that he was killed during the 26th of July Movement's...

 came to interview Castro in the Sierra Maestra, attracting interest to the rebel's cause in the United States and other parts of the world, turning him into something of a celebrity
Celebrity
A celebrity, also referred to as a celeb in popular culture, is a person who has a prominent profile and commands a great degree of public fascination and influence in day-to-day media...

. The New York Times front page story presented Castro as a romantic and appealing revolutionary, and had exaggerated the number of troops and resources that he had at his command (an impression that Castro had deliberately given to Matthews), with Matthews even declaring that "Batista cannot possibly hope to suppress the Castro revolt". Soon, other reporters followed in Matthews' footsteps by travelling to the Sierra Maestra to interview Castro, sent by such news agencies as CBS
CBS
CBS Broadcasting Inc. is a major US commercial broadcasting television network, which started as a radio network. The name is derived from the initials of the network's former name, Columbia Broadcasting System. The network is sometimes referred to as the "Eye Network" in reference to the shape of...

, whilst a reporter from Paris Match
Paris Match
Paris Match is a French weekly magazine. It covers major national and international news along with celebrity lifestyle features. It was founded in 1949 by the industrialist Jean Prouvost....

 actually stayed with the rebels for around four months, documenting their daily routine.

With the increasing number of attacks that Castro's guerrillas were making against army outposts in and around the Sierra Maestra, Batista's government decided to withdraw from all such posts in the region, and by the spring of 1958 the rebels controlled all of the mountainous areas in Oriente province, thereby having control over a hospital, schools, a printing press, slaughterhouse, land-mine factory and a cigar-making factory.

Countering Operation Verano: 1958


President Batista was coming under increasing pressure by 1958. His army's military failures in Oriente, coupled with his censorship of the media and the repressive techniques of torture and extra-judicial killings employed by the police and armed forces were being increasingly criticised both at home and abroad. Influenced by a wave of anti-Batista sentiment amongst their citizens, the U.S. government made the decision to stop supplying him with weaponry, which he had been using against the rebels, leading him to instead begin buying arms from the United Kingdom. The opposition movement used this as an opportunity to rise up across the country, with Castro being a supporter of the proposition of a general strike
General strike
A general strike is a strike action by a critical mass of the labour force in a city, region, or country. While a general strike can be for political goals, economic goals, or both, it tends to gain its momentum from the ideological or class sympathies of the participants...

 which would be accompanied by armed attacks by the MR-26-7. The strike began on 9 April, and whilst it received strong support in the centre and east of Cuba, in Havana and other urbanised western parts of the country most workers continued working as usual.
Batista's response was to launch an all-out-attack on Castro's guerrilla forces, known as Operation Verano
Operation Verano
Operation Verano was the name given to the summer offensive in 1958 by the Batista government during the Cuban Revolution. The offensive was designed to crush Fidel Castro's revolutionary army, which had been growing in strength in the area of the Sierra Maestra hills since their arrival in Cuba...

. The army began aerial bombardment of forested areas and villages that were suspected of aiding and hiding the militants, whilst 10,000 soldiers under the command of General Eulogio Cantillo surrounded the Sierra Maestra, driving north to the areas where the rebels were camped. However, despite their massive superiority of numbers and weaponry, the army were at a disadvantage, having no experience with guerrilla warfare or the mountainous region. Castro, who by this time had around 300 men at his command, avoided open confrontation, instead using land mines and ambushes to halt the enemy offensive. The army suffered heavy losses and a number of embarrassments; in June 1958 a battalion was trapped in a valley by the rebels and forced to surrender. Their weapons were confiscated, and they were handed over to the Red Cross. In the summer, the MR-26-7 went on the offensive, pushing the governmental forces back, out of the mountain range and into the lowlands, with Castro using his columns in a pincer movement to surround the main army concentration in Santiago. By November, Castro's forces had most of the provinces of Oriente and Las Villas under his control, and although the capitals of Santiago and Santa Clara remained in government hands, their grip on them was slipping.

Batista's fall and Cantillo's military junta: 1958–1959


The U.S. government had come to realise that Batista would probably lose the war, and fearing that Castro, under the influence of known Marxist-Leninists like Che Guevara, would displace U.S. interests with socialist reforms, they decided to support Batista's removal in support of a military junta led by centrist or right wing officers, believing that General Cantillo, who then commanded most of the country's armed forces, would be best placed to lead it. After being approached with this proposal, Cantillo decided to secretly meet with Castro to see if they could bring an end to the fighting, and ultimately it was agreed that the two would call a ceasefire, following which Batista would be apprehended and tried as a war criminal. However, Cantillo still had some loyalty to Batista, and warned him of Castro's intentions. Wishing to avoid a war crimes tribunal, Batista subsequently resigned on 31 December 1958, informing the armed forces that they were now under the control of Cantillo. With his family and closest advisers, Batista then fled into exile, taking with him an amassed fortune of more than US$ 300,000,000. The following morning Cantillo entered the presidential palace in Havana, proclaimed the Supreme Court
Supreme Court of Cuba
The People's Supreme Court is the highest body of judicial power in Cuba. It is elected by, and accountable to, the National Assembly of People’s Power...

 judge Carlos Piedra to be the new President, and began appointing new members of the government.

Still in Oriente, Castro was furious at Cantillo's actions, recognising it as the establishment of a military junta and told his troops to end the ceasefire and continue on the offensive against government forces. The MR-26-7 put together a plan to oust the Cantillo-Piedra junta, freeing the high ranking military officer Colonel Barquin from the Isle of Pines
Isle of Pines
The name Isle of Pines can refer to more than one thing:* The former name for the Isle of Youth, Cuba* The Isle of Pines, an island off New Caledonia* The Isle of Pines , a book by Henry Neville....

 prison (where he had been held captive for plotting to overthrow Batista), and commanding him to fly to Havana to place Cantillo under house arrest. Meanwhile, whilst there was widespread celebrations as news of Batista's downfall spread across Cuba on 1 January 1959, Castro gave an order to MR-26-7 members to take on the responsibility of policing the country, in order to prevent the widespread looting and vandalism that he had witnessed in the Bogotazo.

Whilst Cienfuegos and Guevara led their columns of soldiers into Havana onto 2 January, Castro entered Santiago, where he accepted the surrender of the Moncada Barracks, before giving a speech to the assembled crowds in which he invoked the 19th century wars of independence against the Spanish Empire. He proceeded to speak out against Cantillo's junta but highlighted that the majority of soldiers in the armed forces were honourable, and that only the few who had committed human rights abuses would be brought to justice. He also praised the role that women had played in the MR-26-7, and proclaimed that they would have equal rights in the new Cuba. Castro immediately became a heroic figure to the Cuban people, striking a "Christ-like figure" and wearing a medallion of the Virgin Mary, with cheering crowds meeting him at every town on his way to Havana, in most of which he would stay to give speeches, press conferences and interviews. U.S. and other foreign reporters noted that the public adulation of Castro was on an unprecedented scale.

Provisional government: 1959


Whilst still in the Sierra Maestra, Castro had made it clear that the lawyer Manuel Urrutia Lleó
Manuel Urrutia Lleó
Manuel Urrutia Lleó was a liberal Cuban lawyer and politician. Urrutia campaigned against the Gerardo Machado government and the second presidency of Fulgencio Batista during the 1950s, before serving as president in the first revolutionary government of 1959...

 (1901-1981) should be the new Cuban president and leader of the provisional government. An established figure, Urrutia had defended several revolutionaries, including members of the MR-26-7, in court during the Batista administration, and it was for this reason that Castro believed he would make a good leader, being both connected to the Cuban establishment and favourable to the revolutionary cause. Following the house arrest of Cantillo and the ensuing collapse of the junta, Urrutia proclaimed himself to be provisional president, based purely on the support of Castro and his rebels rather than on any democratic consensus.

Law professor José Miró Cardona
José Miró Cardona
José Miró Cardona was a Cuban politician. He served as Prime Minister for a period of some six weeks in early 1959, following his appointment by President Manuel Urrutia on January 5, 1959...

 created a new government with himself as prime minister and Manuel Urrutia Lleó
Manuel Urrutia Lleó
Manuel Urrutia Lleó was a liberal Cuban lawyer and politician. Urrutia campaigned against the Gerardo Machado government and the second presidency of Fulgencio Batista during the 1950s, before serving as president in the first revolutionary government of 1959...

 as president on January 5. The United States officially recognized the new government two days later. Castro himself arrived in Havana to cheering crowds and assumed the post of Commander-in-Chief
Commander-in-Chief
A commander-in-chief is the commander of a nation's military forces or significant element of those forces. In the latter case, the force element may be defined as those forces within a particular region or those forces which are associated by function. As a practical term it refers to the military...

 of the Armed Forces on January 8.

On January 8, 1959, Castro's army rolled victoriously into Havana and would shortly thereafter declare that "power does not interest me, and I will not take it."

Fidel Castro sought to oust liberals and democrats, such as José Miró Cardona and Manuel Urrutia Lleó. In February professor José Miró Cardona had to resign because of Castro's attacks. On February 16, 1959, Castro was sworn in as Prime Minister of Cuba. Professor Miró soon went into exile in the United States, and would later participate in the Bay of Pigs Invasion
Bay of Pigs Invasion
The Bay of Pigs Invasion was an unsuccessful action by a CIA-trained force of Cuban exiles to invade southern Cuba, with support and encouragement from the US government, in an attempt to overthrow the Cuban government of Fidel Castro. The invasion was launched in April 1961, less than three months...

 against Castro's form of government. President Manuel Urrutia Lleó wanted to restore elections, but Castro opposed free elections. Castro's slogan was "Revolution first, elections later".

During this period Castro repeatedly denied being a communist. For example in New York on April 25 he said, "...[communist] influence is nothing. I don't agree with communism. We are democracy. We are against all kinds of dictators... That is why we oppose communism."

Between April 15 and April 26, Castro and a delegation of industrial and international representatives visited the U.S. as guests of the Press Club. Castro hired one of the best public relations
Public relations
Public relations is the actions of a corporation, store, government, individual, etc., in promoting goodwill between itself and the public, the community, employees, customers, etc....

 firms in the United States for a charm offensive visit by Castro and his recently initiated government. Castro answered impertinent questions jokingly and ate hot dogs and hamburgers. His rumpled fatigues and scruffy beard cut a popular figure easily promoted as an authentic hero. He was refused a meeting with President Eisenhower
Dwight D. Eisenhower
Dwight David "Ike" Eisenhower was the 34th President of the United States, from 1953 until 1961. He was a five-star general in the United States Army...

. After his visit to the United States, he would go on to join forces with the Soviet leader, Nikita Khrushchev
Nikita Khrushchev
Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev led the Soviet Union during part of the Cold War. He served as First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1953 to 1964, and as Chairman of the Council of Ministers, or Premier, from 1958 to 1964...

.

On May 17, 1959, Castro signed into law the First Agrarian Reform
Agrarian Reform Laws of Cuba
The agrarian reform laws of Cuba sought to break up large landholdings and redistribute land to those peasants who worked it, to cooperatives, and the state. Laws relating to land reform were implemented in a series of laws passed between 1959 and 1963 after the Cuban Revolution...

, which limited landholdings to 993 acres (4 km²) per owner and forbade foreign land ownership.

Castro started to organize attacks on President Manuel Urrutia Lleó. Castro himself resigned as Prime Minister of Cuba
Prime Minister of Cuba
Prime Minister of Cuba was a position in the government of Cuba. Fidel Castro assumed the position of Prime Minister in 1959 replacing José Miró Cardona....

 and later that day appeared on television to deliver a lengthy denouncement of Urrutia, claiming that Urrutia "complicated" government, and that his "fevered anti-Communism" was having a detrimental effect. Castro's sentiments received widespread support as organized crowds surrounded the presidential palace demanding Urrutia's resignation, which was duly received. On July 23, Castro resumed his position as premier and appointed Osvaldo Dorticós
Osvaldo Dorticós Torrado
Osvaldo Dorticós Torrado was a Cuban politician who served as the President of Cuba from July 17, 1959 until December 2, 1976.-Background:...

 as the new president.

Premiership


As early as July 1959, Castro's intelligence chief Ramiro Valdés
Ramiro Valdés
Ramiro Valdés Menéndez is a Cuban revolutionary and politician. He became a Government Vice President in the 2009 shake-up by Raúl Castro....

 contacted the KGB
KGB
The KGB was the commonly used acronym for the . It was the national security agency of the Soviet Union from 1954 until 1991, and was the premier internal security, intelligence, and secret police organization during that time.The State Security Agency of the Republic of Belarus currently uses the...

 in Mexico City. Subsequently, the USSR sent over one hundred mostly Spanish-speaking advisors, including Enrique Líster Forján
Enrique Líster
Enrique Líster Forján was a Spanish communist politician and military officer.-Early life:...

, to organize the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution
Committees for the Defense of the Revolution
Committees for the Defense of the Revolution , or CDR, is a network of neighborhood committees across Cuba. The organizations, described as the "eyes and ears of the Revolution", exist to promote social welfare and report on "counter-revolutionary" activity...

.

In February 1960, Cuba signed an agreement to buy oil from the USSR. When the U.S.-owned refineries in Cuba refused to process the oil, they were expropriated, and the United States broke off diplomatic relations with the Castro government soon afterward. To the concern of the Eisenhower administration, Cuba began to establish closer ties with the Soviet Union. A variety of pacts were signed between Castro and Soviet Premier
Premier of the Soviet Union
The office of Premier of the Soviet Union was synonymous with head of government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics . Twelve individuals have been premier...

 Nikita Khrushchev
Nikita Khrushchev
Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev led the Soviet Union during part of the Cold War. He served as First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1953 to 1964, and as Chairman of the Council of Ministers, or Premier, from 1958 to 1964...

, allowing Cuba to receive large amounts of economic and military aid from the USSR.
In June 1960, Eisenhower reduced Cuba's sugar import quota by 7,000,000 tons, and in response, Cuba nationalized
Nationalization
Nationalisation, also spelled nationalization, is the process of taking an industry or assets into government ownership by a national government or state. Nationalization usually refers to private assets, but may also mean assets owned by lower levels of government, such as municipalities, being...

 some US$850 million worth of U.S. property and businesses. Health care was socialized. The new government took control of the country by nationalizing industry, redistributing property, collectivizing agriculture and creating policies that would benefit the poor. While popular among the poor, these policies alienated many former supporters of the revolution among the Cuban middle and upper-classes.

By the early autumn of 1960, the U.S. government was engaged in a semi-secret campaign to remove Castro from power.

In September 1960, Castro created Committees for the Defense of the Revolution
Committees for the Defense of the Revolution
Committees for the Defense of the Revolution , or CDR, is a network of neighborhood committees across Cuba. The organizations, described as the "eyes and ears of the Revolution", exist to promote social welfare and report on "counter-revolutionary" activity...

, which implemented neighborhood spying in an effort to weed out "counter-revolutionary" activities.

By the end of 1960, all opposition newspapers had been closed down and all radio and television stations were in state control, run under the Leninist principle of Democratic Centralism
Democratic centralism
Democratic centralism is the name given to the principles of internal organization used by Leninist political parties, and the term is sometimes used as a synonym for any Leninist policy inside a political party...

. Moderates, teachers and professors were purged. He was accused of keeping about 20,000 dissidents held captive and tortured under inhuman prison conditions every year.

Groups such as homosexuals were locked up in concentration camps in the 1960s, where they were subject to medical-political "re-education". Castro's admiring description of rural life in Cuba ("in the country, there are no homosexuals") reflected the idea of homosexuality as bourgeois decadence, and he denounced "maricones" (faggots) as "agents of imperialism". Castro stated that "homosexuals should not be allowed in positions where they are able to exert influence upon young people". However, in August 2010, Castro called the sending of openly gay men to labor camps without charge or trial "moments of great injustice, great injustice!" saying that "if someone is responsible, it's me."

Loyalty to Castro became the primary criteria for all appointments on the island. The Communist Party strengthened its one-party rule, with Castro as the Prime Minister.

In the 1961 New Year's Day parade, Castro exhibited Soviet tanks and other weapons. The Soviet Union awarded him the Lenin Peace Prize
Lenin Peace Prize
The International Lenin Peace Prize was the Soviet Union's equivalent to the Nobel Peace Prize, named in honor of Vladimir Lenin. It was awarded by a panel appointed by the Soviet government, to notable individuals whom the panel indicated had "strengthened peace among peoples"...

 later that year.

Bay of Pigs Invasion


The Bay of Pigs Invasion (known as La Batalla de Girón, or Playa Girón in Cuba), was an unsuccessful attempt by a US-trained force of Cuban exile
Cuban exile
The term "Cuban exile" refers to the many Cubans who have sought alternative political or economic conditions outside the island, dating back to the Ten Years' War and the struggle for Cuban independence during the 19th century...

s to invade southern Cuba
Cuba
The Republic of Cuba is an island nation in the Caribbean. The nation of Cuba consists of the main island of Cuba, the Isla de la Juventud, and several archipelagos. Havana is the largest city in Cuba and the country's capital. Santiago de Cuba is the second largest city...

 with support from US government armed forces, to overthrow the Cuban government of Fidel Castro.

The plan was launched in April 1961, less than three months after John F. Kennedy
John F. Kennedy
John Fitzgerald "Jack" Kennedy , often referred to by his initials JFK, was the 35th President of the United States, serving from 1961 until his assassination in 1963....

 assumed the presidency in the United States. The Cuban armed forces, trained and equipped by Eastern Bloc
Eastern bloc
The term Eastern Bloc or Communist Bloc refers to the former communist states of Eastern and Central Europe, generally the Soviet Union and the countries of the Warsaw Pact...

 nations, defeated the exile combatants in three days.

Reaction: the socialist state


On May 1, 1961, Castro declared Cuba a socialist state
Socialist state
A socialist state generally refers to any state constitutionally dedicated to the construction of a socialist society. It is closely related to the political strategy of "state socialism", a set of ideologies and policies that believe a socialist economy can be established through government...

 and officially abolished multiparty elections. Critics noted that Castro feared elections would eject him from power. On the same day Castro announced to the hundreds of thousands in his audience that:

In a nationally broadcast speech on December 2, 1961, Castro declared that he was a Marxist-Leninist
Marxism-Leninism
Marxism–Leninism is a communist ideology, officially based upon the theories of Marxism and Vladimir Lenin, that promotes the development and creation of a international communist society through the leadership of a vanguard party over a revolutionary socialist state that represents a dictatorship...

 and that Cuba was adopting Communism. On February 7, 1962, the US imposed an embargo against Cuba
United States embargo against Cuba
The United States embargo against Cuba is a commercial, economic, and financial embargo partially imposed on Cuba in October 1960...

. This embargo was broadened during 1962 and 1963, including a general travel ban for American tourists.

Cuban Missile Crisis




Tensions between Cuba and the U.S. heightened during the 1962 missile crisis, which nearly brought the U.S. and the USSR into nuclear conflict. Khrushchev conceived the idea of placing missiles in Cuba as a deterrent to a possible U.S. invasion and justified the move in response to U.S. missile deployment in Turkey. After consultations with his military advisors, he met with a Cuban delegation led by Raúl Castro in July in order to work out the specifics. It was agreed to deploy Soviet R-12 MRBMs on Cuban soil; however, American Lockheed U-2
Lockheed U-2
The Lockheed U-2, nicknamed "Dragon Lady", is a single-engine, very high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft operated by the United States Air Force and previously flown by the Central Intelligence Agency . It provides day and night, very high-altitude , all-weather intelligence gathering...

 reconnaissance discovered the construction of the missile installations on October 15, 1962 before the weapons had actually been deployed.

The U.S. government viewed the installation of Soviet nuclear weapons 90 miles (145 km) south of Key West
Key West
Key West is an island in the Straits of Florida on the North American continent at the southernmost tip of the Florida Keys. Key West is home to the southernmost point in the Continental United States; the island is about from Cuba....

 as an aggressive act and a threat to U.S. security. As a result, the U.S. publicly announced its discovery on October 22, 1962, and implemented a quarantine
Quarantine
Quarantine is compulsory isolation, typically to contain the spread of something considered dangerous, often but not always disease. The word comes from the Italian quarantena, meaning forty-day period....

 around Cuba that would actively intercept and search any vessels heading for the island. Nikolai Sergevich Leonov
Nikolai Leonov
Nikolai Sergeyevich Leonov is a Russian nationalist politician and was a senior KGB officer and Latin America expert in the USSR. In 1953, at the age of 25, Leonov was posted to Mexico City, where he learned Spanish at the Autonomous University. In the course of the sea voyage, he met Raúl Castro,...

, who would become a General in the KGB Intelligence Directorate and the Soviet KGB deputy station chief in Warsaw, was the translator Castro used for contact with Russians during this period.

In a personal letter to Khrushchev dated October 27, 1962, Castro urged him to launch a nuclear first strike against the United States if Cuba were invaded, but Khrushchev rejected any first strike response. Soviet field commanders in Cuba were, however, authorized to use tactical nuclear weapons if attacked by the United States. Khrushchev agreed to remove the missiles in exchange for a U.S. commitment not to invade Cuba and an understanding that the US would secretly remove American MRBMs targeting the Soviet Union from Turkey and Italy, a measure that the U.S. implemented a few months later.

Assassination attempts


Fabian Escalante, who was long tasked with protecting the life of Castro, estimated the number of assassination schemes or attempts by the CIA to be 638. Some such attempts allegedly included an exploding cigar
Exploding cigar
An exploding cigar is a variety of cigar that explodes shortly after being lit. Such cigars are normally packed with a minute chemical explosive charge near the lighting end or with a non-chemical device that ruptures the cigar when exposed to heat...

, a fungal-infected scuba-diving suit, and a mafia-style shooting. Some of these plots are depicted in a documentary entitled 638 Ways to Kill Castro
638 Ways to Kill Castro
638 Ways to Kill Castro is a Channel 4 documentary film, broadcast in the United Kingdom on November 28, 2006, which tells the story of some of the numerous attempts of the Central Intelligence Agency to kill Cuba's leader Fidel Castro.-Production:...

. One of these attempts was by his ex-lover Marita Lorenz
Marita Lorenz
Marita Lorenz is a German woman who had an affair with Fidel Castro in 1959 and in January 1960 was involved in an assassination attempt by the CIA on Castro's life. She later had a child with the Venezuelan former dictator Marcos Pérez Jiménez.In the 1970s she testified regarding the John F...

 whom he met in 1959. She allegedly agreed to aid the CIA and attempted to smuggle a jar of cold cream
Cold cream
Cold cream is an emulsion of water and certain fats, usually including beeswax and various scent agents, designed to smooth skin and remove makeup. The name derives from the cooling feeling that the cream leaves on the skin...

 containing poison pills into his room. When Castro realized, he reportedly gave her a gun and told her to kill him but her nerve failed. Castro once said, in regards to the numerous attempts on his life he believes have been made, "If surviving assassination attempts were an Olympic event, I would win the gold medal."

According to the Family Jewels
Family Jewels (Central Intelligence Agency)
The Family Jewels is the informal name used to refer to a set of reports that detail activities conducted by the United States Central Intelligence Agency. Considered illegal or inappropriate, these actions were conducted over the span of decades, from the 1950s to the mid-1970s...

 documents declassified by the CIA in 2007, one such assassination attempt before the Bay of Pigs invasion involved Johnny Roselli and Al Capone
Al Capone
Alphonse Gabriel "Al" Capone was an American gangster who led a Prohibition-era crime syndicate. The Chicago Outfit, which subsequently became known as the "Capones", was dedicated to smuggling and bootlegging liquor, and other illegal activities such as prostitution, in Chicago from the early...

's successor in the Chicago Outfit
Chicago Outfit
The Chicago Outfit, also known as the Chicago Syndicate or Chicago Mob and sometimes shortened to simply the Outfit, is a crime syndicate based in Chicago, Illinois, USA...

, Salvatore Giancana and his right-hand man Santos Trafficante. It was personally authorized by the then US attorney general Robert Kennedy.

Giancana and Miami Syndicate leader Santos Trafficante were contacted in September 1960 about the possibility of an assassination attempt by a go-between from the CIA, Robert Maheu
Robert Maheu
Robert Aime Maheu was an American businessman and lawyer, who worked for the FBI, CIA and as the chief executive of Nevada operations for the industrialist Howard Hughes.-Biography:...

, after Maheu had contacted Johnny Roselli, a member of the Las Vegas Syndicate and Giancana's number-two man. Maheu had presented himself as a representative of numerous international business firms in Cuba that were being expropriated by Castro. He offered US$150,000 for the "removal" of Castro through this operation (the documents suggest that neither Roselli nor Giancana and Trafficante accepted any sort of payments for the job). According to the files, it was Giancana who suggested using a series of poison pills that could be used to doctor Castro's food and drink. These pills were given by the CIA to Giancana's nominee Juan Orta, whom Giancana presented as being an official in the Cuban government who was also in the pay of gambling interests, and who did have access to Castro.

After a series of six attempts to introduce the poison into Castro's food, Orta abruptly demanded to be let out of the mission, handing over the job to another, unnamed participant. Later, a second attempt was mounted through Giancana and Trafficante using Dr. Anthony Verona, the leader of the Cuban Exile Junta, who had, according to Trafficante, become "disaffected with the apparent ineffectual progress of the Junta". Verona requested US$10,000 in expenses and US$1,000 worth of communications equipment. However, it is unknown how far the second attempt went, as the entire program was cancelled shortly thereafter due to the launching of the Bay of Pigs Invasion
Bay of Pigs Invasion
The Bay of Pigs Invasion was an unsuccessful action by a CIA-trained force of Cuban exiles to invade southern Cuba, with support and encouragement from the US government, in an attempt to overthrow the Cuban government of Fidel Castro. The invasion was launched in April 1961, less than three months...

.

United States embargo




José María Aznar
José María Aznar
José María Alfredo Aznar López served as the Prime Minister of Spain from 1996 to 2004. He is on the board of directors of News Corporation.-Early life:...

, former Spanish Prime Minister, wrote that the embargo was Castro's greatest ally, and that Castro would lose his presidency within three months if the embargo was lifted. Castro retained control after Cuba became bankrupt and isolated following the dissolution of the Soviet Union
Dissolution of the Soviet Union
The dissolution of the Soviet Union was the disintegration of the federal political structures and central government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , resulting in the independence of all fifteen republics of the Soviet Union between March 11, 1990 and December 25, 1991...

 in 1991. The synergic contraction of Cuban economy resulted in eighty-five percent of its markets disappearing, along with subsidies and trade agreements that had supported it, causing extended gas and water outages, severe power shortages, and dwindling food supplies.

In 1994, the island's economy plunged into what was called the "Special Period"; teetering on the brink of collapse. Cuba legalized the US dollar, turned to tourism, and encouraged the transfer of remittances in US dollars from Cubans living in the USA to their relatives on the Island.
After massive damage caused by Hurricane Michelle
Hurricane Michelle
Hurricane Michelle was the thirteenth named storm and the strongest tropical cyclone of the 2001 Atlantic hurricane season. Michelle developed from a tropical wave that moved across the Atlantic, and formed into Tropical Depression Fifteen on the October 29. The depression slowly intensified as...

 in 2001, Castro proposed a one-time cash purchase of food from the U.S. while declining a U.S. offer of humanitarian aid.

The U.S. authorized the shipment of food in 2001, the first since the embargo was imposed. During 2004, Castro shut down 118 factories, including steel plants, sugar mills and paper processors to compensate for the crisis due to fuel shortages, and in 2005 directed thousands of Cuban doctors to Venezuela in exchange for oil imports.

Soviet Union


Following the establishment of diplomatic ties to the Soviet Union, and after the Cuban Missile Crisis, Cuba became increasingly dependent on Soviet markets and military and economic aid. Castro was able to build a formidable military force with the help of Soviet equipment and military advisors. The KGB
KGB
The KGB was the commonly used acronym for the . It was the national security agency of the Soviet Union from 1954 until 1991, and was the premier internal security, intelligence, and secret police organization during that time.The State Security Agency of the Republic of Belarus currently uses the...

 kept in close touch with Havana, and Castro tightened Communist Party control over all levels of government, the media, and the educational system, while developing a Soviet-style internal police force. Castro's alliance with the Soviet Union caused something of a split between him and Guevara. In 1966, Guevara left for Bolivia
Bolivia
Bolivia officially known as Plurinational State of Bolivia , is a landlocked country in central South America. It is the poorest country in South America...

 in an ill-fated attempt to stir up revolution against the country's government.

Cuba's relations with the Soviet Union became strained when Cuba continued to recognise Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

 as an independent state; the Soviet Union and its satellite state
Satellite state
A satellite state is a political term that refers to a country that is formally independent, but under heavy political and economic influence or control by another country...

s in the Eastern Bloc
Eastern bloc
The term Eastern Bloc or Communist Bloc refers to the former communist states of Eastern and Central Europe, generally the Soviet Union and the countries of the Warsaw Pact...

 (with the exception of the Socialist Republic of Romania) had broken of diplomatic ties with Israel the earlier year. Relations became even more sour when Alexei Kosygin, the Chairman
Premier of the Soviet Union
The office of Premier of the Soviet Union was synonymous with head of government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics . Twelve individuals have been premier...

 of the USSR Council of Ministers, visited Cuba in the aftermath of the 1967 Glassboro Summit Conference
Glassboro Summit Conference
The Glassboro Summit Conference, usually just called the Glassboro Summit, was the 23–25 June 1967 meeting of the heads of government of the United States and the Soviet Union—President Lyndon B. Johnson and Premier Alexei Kosygin, respectively—for the purpose of discussing Soviet–US relations...

. During the visit Kosygin pressured Castro to end diplomatic relations with Israel, Castro responded by demanding that the Soviet Union end diplomatic relations with the United States.
On August 23, 1968, Castro made a public gesture to the USSR that caused the Soviet leadership to reaffirm their support for him. Two days after the Soviet invasion of
Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia
On the night of 20–21 August 1968, the Soviet Union and her main satellite states in the Warsaw Pact – Bulgaria, the German Democratic Republic , Hungary and Poland – invaded the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic in order to halt Alexander Dubček's Prague Spring political liberalization...

 Czechoslovakia
Czechoslovakia
Czechoslovakia or Czecho-Slovakia was a sovereign state in Central Europe which existed from October 1918, when it declared its independence from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, until 1992...

 to repress the Prague Spring
Prague Spring
The Prague Spring was a period of political liberalization in Czechoslovakia during the era of its domination by the Soviet Union after World War II...

, Castro took to the airwaves and publicly denounced the Czech rebellion. Castro warned the Cuban people about the Czechoslovakian 'counterrevolutionaries', who "were moving Czechoslovakia towards capitalism and into the arms of imperialists
Imperialism
Imperialism, as defined by Dictionary of Human Geography, is "the creation and/or maintenance of an unequal economic, cultural, and territorial relationships, usually between states and often in the form of an empire, based on domination and subordination." The imperialism of the last 500 years,...

". He called the leaders of the rebellion "the agents of West Germany
West Germany
West Germany is the common English, but not official, name for the Federal Republic of Germany or FRG in the period between its creation in May 1949 to German reunification on 3 October 1990....

 and fascist reactionary rabble." In return for his public backing of the invasion, at a time when many Soviet allies were deeming the invasion an infringement of Czechoslovakia's sovereignty, the Soviets bailed out the Cuban economy with extra loans and an immediate increase in oil exports.

In 1971, despite an Organization of American States
Organization of American States
The Organization of American States is a regional international organization, headquartered in Washington, D.C., United States...

 convention that no nation in the Western Hemisphere
Western Hemisphere
The Western Hemisphere or western hemisphere is mainly used as a geographical term for the half of the Earth that lies west of the Prime Meridian and east of the Antimeridian , the other half being called the Eastern Hemisphere.In this sense, the western hemisphere consists of the western portions...

 would have a relationship with Cuba (the only exception being Mexico
Mexico
The United Mexican States , commonly known as Mexico , is a federal constitutional republic in North America. It is bordered on the north by the United States; on the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; on the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and on the east by the Gulf of...

, which had refused to adopt that convention), Castro took a month-long visit to Chile, following the re-establishment of diplomatic relations with Cuba
Cuba
The Republic of Cuba is an island nation in the Caribbean. The nation of Cuba consists of the main island of Cuba, the Isla de la Juventud, and several archipelagos. Havana is the largest city in Cuba and the country's capital. Santiago de Cuba is the second largest city...

. The visit, in which Castro participated actively in the internal politics of the country, holding massive rallies and giving public advice to Salvador Allende
Salvador Allende
Salvador Allende Gossens was a Chilean physician and politician who is generally considered the first democratically elected Marxist to become president of a country in Latin America....

, was seen by those on the political right as proof to support their view that "The Chilean Way to Socialism" was an effort to put Chile on the same path as Cuba.

When Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev
Mikhail Gorbachev
Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev is a former Soviet statesman, having served as General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1985 until 1991, and as the last head of state of the USSR, having served from 1988 until its dissolution in 1991...

 visited Cuba in 1989, the camaraderie between Havana and Moscow was strained by Gorbachev's implementation of economic and political reforms in the USSR. "We are witnessing sad things in other socialist countries, very sad things", lamented Castro in November 1989, in reference to the changes that were sweeping such communist allies as the Soviet Union, East Germany, Hungary, and Poland. The subsequent dissolution of the Soviet Union
Dissolution of the Soviet Union
The dissolution of the Soviet Union was the disintegration of the federal political structures and central government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , resulting in the independence of all fifteen republics of the Soviet Union between March 11, 1990 and December 25, 1991...

 in 1991 had an immediate and devastating effect on Cuba.

Other countries


On November 4, 1975, Castro ordered the deployment of Cuban troops to Angola
Angola
Angola, officially the Republic of Angola , is a country in south-central Africa bordered by Namibia on the south, the Democratic Republic of the Congo on the north, and Zambia on the east; its west coast is on the Atlantic Ocean with Luanda as its capital city...

 in order to aid the Marxist MPLA
Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola
The People's Movement for the Liberation of Angola - Labour Party is a political party that has ruled Angola since the country's independence from Portugal in 1975...

-ruled government against the South African-backed UNITA opposition forces. Moscow aided the Cuban initiative with the USSR engaging in a massive airlift of Cuban forces into Angola. On Cuba's role in Angola, Nelson Mandela
Nelson Mandela
Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela served as President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999, and was the first South African president to be elected in a fully representative democratic election. Before his presidency, Mandela was an anti-apartheid activist, and the leader of Umkhonto we Sizwe, the armed wing...

 is said to have remarked "Cuban internationalists have done so much for African independence, freedom, and justice."

Cuban troops were also sent to Marxist Ethiopia to assist Ethiopian forces in the Ogaden War
Ogaden War
The Ogaden War was a conventional conflict between Somalia and Ethiopia in 1977 and 1978 over the Ogaden region of Ethiopia. In a notable illustration of the nature of Cold War alliances, the Soviet Union switched from supplying aid to Somalia to supporting Ethiopia, which had previously been...

 with Somalia in 1977. In addition, Castro extended support to Marxist Revolutionary movements throughout Latin America, such as aiding the Sandinistas in overthrowing the Somoza
Anastasio Somoza Debayle
Anastasio Somoza Debayle was a Nicaraguan leader and officially the 73rd and 76th President of Nicaragua from 1 May 1967 to 1 May 1972 and from 1 December 1974 to 17 July 1979. As head of the National Guard, he was de facto ruler of the country from 1967 to 1979...

 government in Nicaragua
Nicaragua
Nicaragua is the largest country in the Central American American isthmus, bordered by Honduras to the north and Costa Rica to the south. The country is situated between 11 and 14 degrees north of the Equator in the Northern Hemisphere, which places it entirely within the tropics. The Pacific Ocean...

 in 1979. It has been claimed by the Carthage Foundation
Carthage Foundation
The Carthage Foundation is one of the American Scaife Foundations. It is controlled by Richard Mellon Scaife. The foundation does not award grants to individuals. It concentrates its efforts towards causes focused on public policy at a national and international level. From 1985 to 2003 the...

-funded Center for a Free Cuba that an estimated 14,000 Cubans were killed in Cuban military actions abroad. Castro never disclosed the amount of casualties in Soviet African wars, but one estimate is 14,000, a high number for the small country.

Juan Antonio Rodríguez Mernier, a former Cuban Intelligence Major who defected in 1987, says the regime made large amounts of money from drug trafficking operations in the 1970s. The cash was to be deposited in Fidel's Swiss bank accounts "in order to finance liberation movements". Norberto Fuentes
Norberto Fuentes
Norberto Fuentes is a writer and journalist.He has published Hemingway in Cuba and Ernest Hemingway: Rediscovered, both available in English, as well as Dulces guerreros cubanos, Condenados de Condado , Posición Uno, and El último Santuario...

, a defected member of the Castro brothers' inner circle, has provided details about these operations. According to him, an operation conducted in cooperation with the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine
Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine
The Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine is a Palestinian Marxist-Leninist, secular political and military organization. It is also frequently referred to as the Democratic Front, or al-Jabha al-Dimuqratiyah...

 helped Cuban intelligence to steal one billion by robbing banks in Lebanon during the 1975–76 civil war. Gold bars, jewelry, gems, and museum pieces were carried in diplomatic pouches
Diplomatic immunity
Diplomatic immunity is a form of legal immunity and a policy held between governments that ensures that diplomats are given safe passage and are considered not susceptible to lawsuit or prosecution under the host country's laws...

 via air route Beirut-Moscow-Havana. Castro personally greeted the robbers as heroes.

Cuba and Panama restored diplomatic ties in 2005 after breaking them off a year prior when Panama's former president pardoned four Cuban exiles accused of attempting to assassinate Cuban President Fidel Castro in 2000. The foreign minister of each country re-established official diplomatic relations in Havana by signing a document describing a spirit of fraternity that has long linked both nations. Cuba, once shunned by many of its Latin American neighbours, now has full diplomatic relations with all but Costa Rica and El Salvador.

Although the relationship between Cuba and Mexico remains strained, each side appears to make attempts to improve it. In 1998, Fidel Castro apologized for remarks he made about Mickey Mouse which led Mexico to recall its ambassador from Havana. He said he intended no offense when he said earlier that Mexican children would find it easier to name Disney characters than to recount key figures in Mexican history. Rather, he said, his words were meant to underscore the cultural dominance of the US. Mexican president Vicente Fox
Vicente Fox
Vicente Fox Quesada is a Mexican former politician who served as President of Mexico from 1 December 2000 to 30 November 2006 and currently serves as co-President of the Centrist Democrat International, an international organization of Christian democratic political parties.Fox was elected...

 apologized to Fidel Castro in 2002 over statements by Castro, who had taped their telephone conversation, to the effect that Fox forced him to leave a United Nations summit in Mexico so that he would not be in the presence of President Bush, who also attended.

At a summit meeting of sixteen Caribbean countries in 1998, Castro called for regional unity, saying that only strengthened cooperation between Caribbean countries would prevent their domination by rich nations in a global economy. Caribbean nations have embraced Cuba's Fidel Castro while accusing the US of breaking trade promises. Castro, until recently a regional outcast, has been increasing grants and scholarships to the Caribbean countries, while US aid has dropped 25% over the past five years. Cuba has opened four additional embassies in the Caribbean Community
Caribbean Community
The Caribbean Community is an organisation of 15 Caribbean nations and dependencies. CARICOM's main purposes are to promote economic integration and cooperation among its members, to ensure that the benefits of integration are equitably shared, and to coordinate foreign policy...

 including: Antigua and Barbuda
Antigua and Barbuda
Antigua and Barbuda is a twin-island nation lying between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. It consists of two major inhabited islands, Antigua and Barbuda, and a number of smaller islands...

, Dominica, Suriname
Suriname
Suriname , officially the Republic of Suriname , is a country in northern South America. It borders French Guiana to the east, Guyana to the west, Brazil to the south, and on the north by the Atlantic Ocean. Suriname was a former colony of the British and of the Dutch, and was previously known as...

, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. This development makes Cuba the only country to have embassies in all independent countries of the Caribbean Community.

Castro was known to be a friend of former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau
Pierre Trudeau
Joseph Philippe Pierre Yves Elliott Trudeau, , usually known as Pierre Trudeau or Pierre Elliott Trudeau, was the 15th Prime Minister of Canada from April 20, 1968 to June 4, 1979, and again from March 3, 1980 to June 30, 1984.Trudeau began his political career campaigning for socialist ideals,...

 and was an honorary pall bearer at Trudeau's funeral in October 2000. They had continued their friendship after Trudeau left office until his death. Canada became one of the first American
Americas
The Americas, or America , are lands in the Western hemisphere, also known as the New World. In English, the plural form the Americas is often used to refer to the landmasses of North America and South America with their associated islands and regions, while the singular form America is primarily...

 allies openly to trade with Cuba. Cuba still has a good relationship with Canada. In 1998, Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien
Jean Chrétien
Joseph Jacques Jean Chrétien , known commonly as Jean Chrétien is a former Canadian politician who was the 20th Prime Minister of Canada. He served in the position for over ten years, from November 4, 1993 to December 12, 2003....

 arrived in Cuba to meet President Castro and highlight their close ties. He is the first Canadian government leader to visit the island since Pierre Trudeau was in Havana in 1976.

The European Union
European Union
The European Union is an economic and political union of 27 independent member states which are located primarily in Europe. The EU traces its origins from the European Coal and Steel Community and the European Economic Community , formed by six countries in 1958...

 accuses the Castro regime of "continuing flagrant violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms". In December 2001, European Union
European Union
The European Union is an economic and political union of 27 independent member states which are located primarily in Europe. The EU traces its origins from the European Coal and Steel Community and the European Economic Community , formed by six countries in 1958...

 representatives described their political dialogue with Cuba as back on track after a weekend of talks in Havana. The EU praised Cuba's willingness to discuss questions of human rights. Cuba is the only Latin American country without an economic co-operation agreement with the EU. However, trade with individual European countries remains strong since the US trade embargo on Cuba leaves the market free from American rivals.

In 2005, EU Development Commissioner Louis Michel
Louis Michel
Louis H. O. Ch. Michel is a Belgian politician. He served in the government of Belgium as Minister of Foreign Affairs from 1999 to 2004 and was European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid from 2004 to 2009. Since 2009, he has been a Member of the European Parliament...

 ended his visit to Cuba optimistic that relations with the communist state will become stronger. The EU is Cuba's largest trading partner. Cuba's imprisonment of 75 dissidents and the execution of three hijackers have strained diplomatic relations. However, the EU commissioner was impressed with Fidel Castro's willingness to discuss these concerns, although he received no commitments from Castro. Cuba does not admit to holding political prisoners, seeing them rather as mercenaries in the pay of the United States.

Castro is seen as an icon by leaders of recent socialist governments in Latin America. Hugo Chávez
Hugo Chávez
Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías is the 56th and current President of Venezuela, having held that position since 1999. He was formerly the leader of the Fifth Republic Movement political party from its foundation in 1997 until 2007, when he became the leader of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela...

 of Venezuela
Venezuela
Venezuela , officially called the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela , is a tropical country on the northern coast of South America. It borders Colombia to the west, Guyana to the east, and Brazil to the south...

 is a long-time admirer and reached agreements with Cuba to provide subsidized petroleum in exchange for Cuban medical assistance. Evo Morales
Evo Morales
Juan Evo Morales Ayma , popularly known as Evo , is a Bolivian politician and activist, currently serving as the 80th President of Bolivia, a position that he has held since 2006. He is also the leader of both the Movement for Socialism party and the cocalero trade union...

 of Bolivia
Bolivia
Bolivia officially known as Plurinational State of Bolivia , is a landlocked country in central South America. It is the poorest country in South America...

 has described him as "the grandfather of all Latin American revolutionaries".

Succession issues



According to Article 94 of the Cuban Constitution, the First Vice President of the Council of State assumes presidential duties upon the illness or death of the president. Raúl Castro
Raúl Castro
Raúl Modesto Castro Ruz is a Cuban politician and revolutionary who has been President of the Council of State of Cuba and the President of the Council of Ministers of Cuba since 2008; he previously exercised presidential powers in an acting capacity from 2006 to 2008...

 was the person in that position for the last 32 years of Fidel Castro's presidency.

Speculation on illness: 1998–2005


Due to the issue of presidential succession and Castro's longevity, there have long been rumors, speculation and hoaxing about Castro's health and demise. In 1998 there were reports that he had a serious brain disease, later discredited. In June 2001, he apparently fainted during a seven-hour speech under the Caribbean sun. Later that day he finished the speech, walking buoyantly into the television studios in his military fatigues, joking with journalists.

In January 2004, Luis Eduardo Garzón, the mayor of Bogotá
Bogotá
Bogotá, Distrito Capital , from 1991 to 2000 called Santa Fé de Bogotá, is the capital, and largest city, of Colombia. It is also designated by the national constitution as the capital of the department of Cundinamarca, even though the city of Bogotá now comprises an independent Capital district...

, said that Castro "seemed very sick to me" following a meeting with him during a vacation in Cuba. In May 2004, Castro's physician denied that his health was failing, and speculated that he would live to be 140 years old. Dr. Eugenio Selman Housein said that the "press is always speculating about something, that he had a heart attack once, that he had cancer, some neurological problem", but maintained that Castro was in good health.

On October 20, 2004, Castro tripped and fell following a speech he gave at a rally, breaking his kneecap and fracturing his right arm. He was able to recover his ability to walk and publicly demonstrated this two months later.

In 2005, the CIA said it thought Castro had Parkinson's disease
Parkinson's disease
Parkinson's disease is a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system...

.
Castro denied such allegations, while also citing the example of Pope John Paul II
Pope John Paul II
Blessed Pope John Paul II , born Karol Józef Wojtyła , reigned as Pope of the Catholic Church and Sovereign of Vatican City from 16 October 1978 until his death on 2 April 2005, at of age. His was the second-longest documented pontificate, which lasted ; only Pope Pius IX ...

 in saying that he would not fear the disease.

Transfer of duties, speculation on illness 2006–2007


On July 31, 2006, Castro delegated his duties as President of the Council of state
Council of State of Cuba
The Council of State of Cuba is a 31-member body of the government of Cuba, elected by the National Assembly of People’s Power. It has the authority to exercise most legislative power between sessions of the National Assembly of People’s Power, subject to its approval, and to call the National...

, President of the Council of Ministers
Council of Ministers of Cuba
The Cabinet of Cuba is the highest ranking executive and administrative body of the Republic of Cuba, and constitutes the nation's government...

, First Secretary of the Cuban Communist Party and the post of commander in chief of the armed forces to his brother Raúl Castro
Raúl Castro
Raúl Modesto Castro Ruz is a Cuban politician and revolutionary who has been President of the Council of State of Cuba and the President of the Council of Ministers of Cuba since 2008; he previously exercised presidential powers in an acting capacity from 2006 to 2008...

. This transfer of duties was described at the time as temporary while Fidel recovered from surgery he underwent due to an "acute intestinal crisis with sustained bleeding". Fidel Castro was too ill to attend the nationwide commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Granma
Granma (yacht)
Granma is the yacht that was used to transport 82 fighters of the Cuban Revolution from Mexico to Cuba in 1956 for the purpose of overthrowing the regime of Fulgencio Batista. The 60-foot diesel-powered cabin cruiser was built in 1943 and designed to accommodate 12 people...

 boat landing on December 2, 2006, which also became his belated 80th birthday celebrations. Castro's non-appearance fueled reports that he had terminal pancreatic cancer
Pancreatic cancer
Pancreatic cancer refers to a malignant neoplasm of the pancreas. The most common type of pancreatic cancer, accounting for 95% of these tumors is adenocarcinoma, which arises within the exocrine component of the pancreas. A minority arises from the islet cells and is classified as a...

 and was refusing treatment, but on December 17, 2006 Cuban officials stated that Castro had no terminal illness and would eventually return to his public duties.

However, on December 24, 2006, Spanish newspaper El Periódico de Catalunya reported that Spanish surgeon José Luis García Sabrido had been flown to Cuba on a plane chartered by the Cuban government. Dr. García Sabrido is an intestinal expert who further specializes in the treatment of cancer. The plane that Dr. García Sabrido's traveled in also was reported to be carrying a large quantity of advanced medical equipment. On December 26, 2006, shortly after returning to Madrid, Dr. García Sabrido held a news conference in which he answered questions about Castro's health. He stated that "He does not have cancer, he has a problem with his digestive system", and added, "His condition is stable. He is recovering from a very serious operation. It is not planned that he will undergo another operation for the moment." Although most Cubans acknowledge that they are aware Castro is seriously ill, most also seem worried about a future without Castro.

On January 16, 2007, the Spanish newspaper, El País, citing two unnamed sources from the Gregorio Marañón hospital —who employs Dr. García Sabrido— in Madrid
Madrid
Madrid is the capital and largest city of Spain. The population of the city is roughly 3.3 million and the entire population of the Madrid metropolitan area is calculated to be 6.271 million. It is the third largest city in the European Union, after London and Berlin, and its metropolitan...

, reported Castro was in "very grave" condition, having trouble wound healing
Wound healing
Wound healing, or cicatrisation, is an intricate process in which the skin repairs itself after injury. In normal skin, the epidermis and dermis exists in a steady-state equilibrium, forming a protective barrier against the external environment...

, after three failed operations and complications from an intestinal infection caused by a severe case of diverticulitis
Diverticulitis
Diverticulitis is a common digestive disease particularly found in the large intestine. Diverticulitis develops from diverticulosis, which involves the formation of pouches on the outside of the colon...

. However, Dr. García Sibrido told CNN that he was not the source of the report and that "any statement that doesn't come directly from [Castro's] medical team is without foundation." Also, a Cuban diplomat in Madrid said the reports were lies and declined to comment, while White House press secretary Tony Snow
Tony Snow
Robert Anthony "Tony" Snow was an American journalist, political commentator, television news anchor, syndicated columnist, radio host, musician, and the third White House Press Secretary under President George W. Bush. Snow also worked for President George H. W. Bush as chief speechwriter and...

 said the report appeared to be "just sort of a roundup of previous health reports. We've got nothing new." On January 30, 2007, Cuban television and the paper Juventud Rebelde showed fresh video and photos from a meeting between Castro and Hugo Chávez said to have taken place the previous day.
In mid-February 2007, it was reported by the Associated Press
Associated Press
The Associated Press is an American news agency. The AP is a cooperative owned by its contributing newspapers, radio and television stations in the United States, which both contribute stories to the AP and use material written by its staff journalists...

 that Acting President Raúl Castro had said that Fidel Castro's health was improving and he was taking part in all important issues facing the government. "He's consulted on the most important questions", Raúl Castro said of Fidel. "He doesn't interfere, but he knows about everything." On February 27, 2007, Reuters
Reuters
Reuters is a news agency headquartered in New York City. Until 2008 the Reuters news agency formed part of a British independent company, Reuters Group plc, which was also a provider of financial market data...

 reported that Fidel Castro had called into Aló Presidente
Aló Presidente
Aló Presidente is a largely unscripted talk show hosted by Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez which is broadcast on Venezuelan state television and radio stations every Sunday at 11:00 AM...

, a live radio talk show hosted by Hugo Chávez
Hugo Chávez
Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías is the 56th and current President of Venezuela, having held that position since 1999. He was formerly the leader of the Fifth Republic Movement political party from its foundation in 1997 until 2007, when he became the leader of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela...

, and chatted with him for thirty minutes during which time he sounded "much healthier and more lucid" than he had on any of the audio and video tapes released since his surgery in July. Castro reportedly told Chávez, "I am gaining ground. I feel I have more energy, more strength, more time to study", adding with a chuckle, "I have become a student again." Later in the conversation (transcript in Spanish; audio)
, he made reference to the fall of the world stock markets that had occurred earlier in the day and remarked that it was proof of his contention that the world capitalist system is in crisis.

Reports of improvements in his condition continued to circulate throughout March and early April. On April 13, 2007, Chávez was quoted by the Associated Press as saying that Castro has "almost totally recovered" from his illness. That same day, Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Roque confirmed during a press conference in Vietnam that Castro had improved steadily and had resumed some of his leadership responsibilities. On April 21, 2007, the official newspaper Granma reported that Castro had met for over an hour with Wu Guanzheng
Wu Guanzheng
Wu Guanzheng was the head of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection of the Communist Party of China, an anti-corruption body from 2002 to 2007.-Career:...

, a member of the Politburo of the Chinese Communist Party who was visiting Havana. Photographs of their meeting showed the Cuban president looking healthier than he had in any previously released since his surgery.

As a comment on Castro's recovery, U.S. President George W. Bush
George W. Bush
George Walker Bush is an American politician who served as the 43rd President of the United States, from 2001 to 2009. Before that, he was the 46th Governor of Texas, having served from 1995 to 2000....

 said: "One day the good Lord will take Fidel Castro away", Hearing about this, Castro, who is thought to be atheist, ironically replied: "Now I understand why I survived Bush's plans and the plans of other presidents who ordered my assassination: the good Lord protected me."

In January 2009 Castro asked Cubans not to worry about his lack of recent news columns, his failing health, and not to be disturbed by his future death. At the same time pictures were released of Castro's meeting with the Argentine
Argentina
Argentina , officially the Argentine Republic , is the second largest country in South America by land area, after Brazil. It is constituted as a federation of 23 provinces and an autonomous city, Buenos Aires...

 president Cristina Fernández on January 21, 2009.

Final years



Retirement: 2008-present


In a letter dated February 18, 2008, Castro announced that he would not accept the positions of president and commander in chief at the February 24, 2008 National Assembly meetings, saying "I will not aspire to nor accept—I repeat I will not aspire to or accept—the post of President of the Council of State and Commander in Chief," effectively announcing his retirement from official public life. The letter was published online by the official Communist Party newspaper Granma
Granma (newspaper)
Granma is the official newspaper of the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party.Its name comes from the yacht Granma that carried Fidel Castro and 81 other rebels to Cuba's shores in 1956 launching the Cuban Revolution.-Editions:...

. In it, Castro stated that his health was a primary reason for his decision, stating that "It would betray my conscience to take up a responsibility that requires mobility and total devotion, that I am not in a physical condition to offer".


On February 24, 2008, the National Assembly of People's Power unanimously chose his brother, Raúl Castro
Raúl Castro
Raúl Modesto Castro Ruz is a Cuban politician and revolutionary who has been President of the Council of State of Cuba and the President of the Council of Ministers of Cuba since 2008; he previously exercised presidential powers in an acting capacity from 2006 to 2008...

, as Fidel's successor as President of Cuba
President of Cuba
--209.174.31.28 18:43, 22 November 2011 The President of Cuba is the Head of state of Cuba. According to the Cuban Constitution of 1976, the President is the chief executive of the Council of State of Cuba...

. In his first speech as Fidel's successor, he proposed to the National Assembly of People's Power that Fidel continue to be consulted on matters of great importance, such as defence, foreign policy and "the socioeconomic development of the country". The proposal was immediately and unanimously approved by the 597 members of the National Assembly. Raúl described his brother as "not substitutable". Castro had already given up the post of First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba on July 31, 2006.

Since his retirement, Castro has written a regular column in Granma called "Reflections", in which he writes on world affairs, and has occasionally made pre-taped appearances on television greeting visitors such as Hugo Chávez
Hugo Chávez
Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías is the 56th and current President of Venezuela, having held that position since 1999. He was formerly the leader of the Fifth Republic Movement political party from its foundation in 1997 until 2007, when he became the leader of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela...

 in his room. In July 2010, he made his first public appearance greeting workers at a science centre and gave his most prominent television interview since falling ill, on the Cuban program Mesa Redonda
Mesa Redonda Internacional
Mesa Redonda Internacional is a Latin American news analysis talkshow broadcast by teleSUR live from Havana, Cuba on Thursday nights...

 speaking for an extended period about tensions between the United States, Iran
Iran
Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

 and North Korea
North Korea
The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea , , is a country in East Asia, occupying the northern half of the Korean Peninsula. Its capital and largest city is Pyongyang. The Korean Demilitarized Zone serves as the buffer zone between North Korea and South Korea...

.

On August 7, 2010, Castro gave his first speech to the Cuban National Assembly in four years. He addressed the body for ten minutes on international affairs and then remained to listen and respond to questions for a further 70 minutes. In his comments he urged the United States not to go to war with Iran or North Korea and warning about the dangers of a nuclear holocaust
Nuclear holocaust
Nuclear holocaust refers to the possibility of the near complete annihilation of human civilization by nuclear warfare. Under such a scenario, all or most of the Earth is made uninhabitable by nuclear weapons in future world wars....

. When asked whether Castro may be re-entering government, Culture minister Abel Prieto
Abel Prieto
Abel Prieto Jiménez is a Cuban politician and the current Minister of culture of the country. He is also a published author of fiction.-External links:*...

 told the BBC
BBC
The British Broadcasting Corporation is a British public service broadcaster. Its headquarters is at Broadcasting House in the City of Westminster, London. It is the largest broadcaster in the world, with about 23,000 staff...

, "I think that he has always been in Cuba's political life but he is not in the government...He has been very careful about that. His big battle is international affairs."

On April 19, 2011, Castro resigned from the Communist Party
Communist Party of Cuba
The Communist Party of Cuba is the governing political party in Cuba. It is a communist party of the Marxist-Leninist model. The Cuban constitution ascribes the role of the Party to be the "leading force of society and of the state"...

 central committee, thus stepping down as leader of the party. Raúl Castro was selected as his successor.

Political thought



Castro has proclaimed himself to be "a Socialist, a Marxist
Marxism
Marxism is an economic and sociopolitical worldview and method of socioeconomic inquiry that centers upon a materialist interpretation of history, a dialectical view of social change, and an analysis and critique of the development of capitalism. Marxism was pioneered in the early to mid 19th...

, and a Leninist
Leninism
In Marxist philosophy, Leninism is the body of political theory for the democratic organisation of a revolutionary vanguard party, and the achievement of a direct-democracy dictatorship of the proletariat, as political prelude to the establishment of socialism...

". As a socialist, Castro believes strongly in converting Cuba, and the wider world, from a capitalist system
Capitalism
Capitalism is an economic system that became dominant in the Western world following the demise of feudalism. There is no consensus on the precise definition nor on how the term should be used as a historical category...

 in which business and industry is owned by private individuals and organisations, into a socialist system
Socialism (Marxism)
In Marxist theory, socialism, or the socialist mode of production, refers to a specific historical phase of economic development and its corresponding set of social relations that eventually supersede capitalism...

 in which all business and industry are owned by the state on behalf of the populace. In the former, there is a class divide between the wealthy classes who control the means of production
Means of production
Means of production refers to physical, non-human inputs used in production—the factories, machines, and tools used to produce wealth — along with both infrastructural capital and natural capital. This includes the classical factors of production minus financial capital and minus human capital...

 (i.e. the factories, farms, media etc) and the poorer working classes who labour on them, whilst in the latter, socialists argue, this class divide would be obliterated as society becomes more egalitarian.

Marxism is the socio-political theory developed by German sociologists Karl Marx
Karl Marx
Karl Heinrich Marx was a German philosopher, economist, sociologist, historian, journalist, and revolutionary socialist. His ideas played a significant role in the development of social science and the socialist political movement...

 and Friedrich Engels
Friedrich Engels
Friedrich Engels was a German industrialist, social scientist, author, political theorist, philosopher, and father of Marxist theory, alongside Karl Marx. In 1845 he published The Condition of the Working Class in England, based on personal observations and research...

 in the mid-19th century. It holds as its foundation the idea of class struggle; that society mainly changes and progresses as one socio-economic class takes power from another. Thus Marxists believe that capitalism replaced feudalism
Feudalism
Feudalism was a set of legal and military customs in medieval Europe that flourished between the 9th and 15th centuries, which, broadly defined, was a system for ordering society around relationships derived from the holding of land in exchange for service or labour.Although derived from the...

 in the Early Modern period as the wealthy industrial class, or bourgeoisie
Bourgeoisie
In sociology and political science, bourgeoisie describes a range of groups across history. In the Western world, between the late 18th century and the present day, the bourgeoisie is a social class "characterized by their ownership of capital and their related culture." A member of the...

, took political and economic power from the traditional land-owning class, the aristocracy and monarchy. In the same process, Marxists predict that socialism will replace capitalism as the industrial working class, or proletariat
Proletariat
The proletariat is a term used to identify a lower social class, usually the working class; a member of such a class is proletarian...

, seize power from the bourgeoisie through revolutionary action. In this way, Marxism is believed by its supporters to provide a scientific explanation for why socialism should, and will, replace capitalism in human society.

Leninism refers to the theories put forward by Russian revolutionary, political theorist and politician Vladimir Lenin
Vladimir Lenin
Vladimir Ilyich Lenin was a Russian Marxist revolutionary and communist politician who led the October Revolution of 1917. As leader of the Bolsheviks, he headed the Soviet state during its initial years , as it fought to establish control of Russia in the Russian Civil War and worked to create a...

, the leader of the Bolshevik Party who was a leading figure in the October Revolution
October Revolution
The October Revolution , also known as the Great October Socialist Revolution , Red October, the October Uprising or the Bolshevik Revolution, was a political revolution and a part of the Russian Revolution of 1917...

 that overthrew the Russian capitalist government and replaced it with a socialist alternative in 1917. Taking Marxism as its basis, Leninism revolves around putting forward ideas for how to convert a capitalist state into a socialist one. Castro used Leninist thought as a model upon which to convert the Cuban state and society into a socialist form.

Influences



Castro has described two historical figures as being particular influences on his political viewpoints; the Cuban anti-imperialist revolutionary José Martí
José Martí
José Julián Martí Pérez was a Cuban national hero and an important figure in Latin American literature. In his short life he was a poet, an essayist, a journalist, a revolutionary philosopher, a translator, a professor, a publisher, and a political theorist. He was also a part of the Cuban...

 (1853–1895) and the German sociologist and theorist Karl Marx
Karl Marx
Karl Heinrich Marx was a German philosopher, economist, sociologist, historian, journalist, and revolutionary socialist. His ideas played a significant role in the development of social science and the socialist political movement...

 (1818–1883). Commenting on the influence of Martí he related that "above all", he adopted his sense of ethics because:
When he spoke that phrase I'll never be able to forget – 'All the glory in the world fits into a grain of corn' – it seemed extraordinarily beautiful to me, in the face of all the vanity and ambition that one saw everywhere, and against which we revolutionaries must be on constant guard. I seized upon that ethics. Ethics, as a mode of behaviour, is essential, a fabulous treasure.


The influence which Castro took from Marx on the other hand was his "concept of what human society is", without which, Castro argued, "you can't formulate any argument that leads to a reasonable interpretation of historical events."

On the Soviet Union and its leaders


Although a Leninist, Castro remained critical of Marxist-Leninist Joseph Stalin
Joseph Stalin
Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin was the Premier of the Soviet Union from 6 May 1941 to 5 March 1953. He was among the Bolshevik revolutionaries who brought about the October Revolution and had held the position of first General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union's Central Committee...

, who was the Premier of the Soviet Union from 1941 to 1953. In Castro's opinion, Stalin "committed serious errors - everyone knows about his abuse of power, the repression, and his personal characteristics, the cult of personality" and also held him accountable for "the invasion of the USSR" by Nazi Germany in 1941. At the same time, Castro also felt that Stalin "showed tremendous merit in industrializing the country" and "in moving the military industry to Siberia", things which he felt were "decisive factors" in the defeat of Nazism
Nazism
Nazism, the common short form name of National Socialism was the ideology and practice of the Nazi Party and of Nazi Germany...

.

On Israel and anti-Semitism


In September 2010, The Atlantic began publishing a series of articles by Jeffrey Goldberg
Jeffrey Goldberg
Jeffrey Mark Goldberg is an American journalist. He is an author and a staff writer for The Atlantic, having previously worked for The New Yorker. Goldberg writes principally on foreign affairs, with a focus on the Middle East and Africa...

 based on extensive and wide-ranging interviews by Goldberg and Julia E. Sweig
Julia E. Sweig
Julia E. Sweig is the Nelson and David Rockefeller Senior Fellow for Latin America Studies and Director for Latin America Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations and specializes in Latin America and U.S.-Latin America foreign policy. Sweig holds a B.A. from the University of California, Santa...

 with Castro, the first of which lasted five hours. Castro contacted Goldberg after he read one of Goldberg's articles on whether Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

 would launch an pre-emptive air strike on Iran
Iran
Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

 should it come close to acquiring nuclear weapons
Nuclear program of Iran
The nuclear program of Iran was launched in the 1950s with the help of the United States as part of the Atoms for Peace program. The support, encouragement and participation of the United States and Western European governments in Iran's nuclear program continued until the 1979 Iranian Revolution...

. While warning against the dangers of Western confrontation with Iran in which inadvertently, "a gradual escalation could become a nuclear war", Castro "unequivocally" defended Israel's right to exist and condemned antisemitism, while criticizing some of the rhetoric on Israel by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the President of Iran
President of Iran
The President of Iran is the highest popularly elected official in, and the head of government of the Islamic Republic of Iran; although subordinate to the Supreme Leader of Iran, who functions as the country's head of state...

, under whom Iran–Israel relations have become increasingly hostile:
Asked by Goldberg if he would tell Ahmadinejad the same things, Castro responded, "I am saying this so you can communicate it". Castro "criticized Ahmadinejad for denying the Holocaust
Holocaust denial
Holocaust denial is the act of denying the genocide of Jews in World War II, usually referred to as the Holocaust. The key claims of Holocaust denial are: the German Nazi government had no official policy or intention of exterminating Jews, Nazi authorities did not use extermination camps and gas...

 and explained why the Iranian government would better serve the cause of peace by acknowledging the 'unique' history of antisemitism and trying to understand why Israelis fear for their existence."

Public image


By wearing military-style uniforms and leading mass demonstrations, Castro projected an image of a perpetual revolutionary. He was mostly seen in military attire, but his personal tailor, Merel Van 't Wout
Van 't Wout
Van 't Wout is the last name of a Dutch family that conducts its business through Indiana Finance BV , conducting 70 to 80 percent of Dutch trade with Cuba....

, convinced him to occasionally change to a business suit. Castro is often referred to as "Comandante", but is also nicknamed "El Caballo", meaning "The Horse", a label that was first attributed to Cuban entertainer Benny Moré
Benny Moré
Benny Moré , or Beny, was a Cuban singer. He is often thought of as the greatest Cuban popular singer of all time. He was gifted with an innate musicality and fluid tenor voice which he colored and phrased with great expressivity...

, who on hearing Castro passing in the Havana night with his entourage, shouted out "Here comes the horse!"

During the revolutionary campaign, fellow rebels knew Castro as "The Giant". Large throngs of people gathered to cheer at Castro's fiery speeches, which typically lasted for hours. Many details of Castro's private life, particularly involving his family members, are scarce as the media is forbidden to mention them. Castro's image appears frequently in Cuban stores, classrooms, taxicabs, and national television. Despite this, Castro has stated that he does not promote a cult of personality
Cult of personality
A cult of personality arises when an individual uses mass media, propaganda, or other methods, to create an idealized and heroic public image, often through unquestioning flattery and praise. Cults of personality are usually associated with dictatorships...

.

Personal life


One of Castro's biographers, the Briton Leycester Coltman (2003), described the Cuban as being "fiercely hard-working, dedicated[,] loyal... generous and magnanimous" but also noted that he could be "vindictive and unforgiving" at times. He went on to note that Castro "always had a keen sense of humour and could laugh at himself" but could equally be "a bad loser" who would act with "ferocious rage if he thought that he was being humiliated." In her study of the Cold War in the Caribbean, the British historian Alex Von Tunzelmann (2011) commented that "though ruthless, [Castro] was a patriot, a man with a profound sense that it was his mission to save the Cuban people", contrasting him strongly to his Haitian contemporary François Duvalier
François Duvalier
François Duvalier was the President of Haiti from 1957 until his death in 1971. Duvalier first won acclaim in fighting diseases, earning him the nickname "Papa Doc" . He opposed a military coup d'état in 1950, and was elected President in 1957 on a populist and black nationalist platform...

.

By his first wife Mirta Díaz-Balart
Mirta Diaz-Balart
Mirta Francisca de la Caridad Díaz-Balart y Gutiérrez was Fidel Castro's first wife, the daughter of Rafael José Díaz-Balart, a prominent Cuban politician and mayor of the town of Banes, and wife América Gutiérrez...

, whom he married on October 11, 1948, Castro has a son named Fidel Ángel "Fidelito" Castro Díaz-Balart, born on September 1, 1949. Díaz-Balart and Castro were divorced in 1955, and she remarried Emilio Núñez Blanco. After a spell in Madrid
Madrid
Madrid is the capital and largest city of Spain. The population of the city is roughly 3.3 million and the entire population of the Madrid metropolitan area is calculated to be 6.271 million. It is the third largest city in the European Union, after London and Berlin, and its metropolitan...

, Díaz-Balart reportedly returned to Havana to live with Fidelito and his family. Fidelito grew up in Cuba; for a time, he ran Cuba's atomic-energy commission before being removed from the post by his father. Díaz-Balart's nephews are Republican U.S. Congressmen Lincoln Diaz-Balart
Lincoln Diaz-Balart
Lincoln Rafael Díaz-Balart was the U.S. Representative for from 1993 to 2011. He is a member of the Republican Party. He previously served in the Florida House of Representatives and the Florida Senate...

 and Mario Diaz-Balart
Mario Diaz-Balart
Mario Rafael Diaz-Balart Caballero is the current U.S. Representative for , serving since 2011. A member of the Republican Party, he was elected in 2010 to succeed his brother, Lincoln Diaz-Balart. The district includes the city of Hialeah, along with several of Miami's southwestern suburbs...

, vocal critics of the Castro government.

Fidel has five other sons by his second wife, Dalia Soto del Valle: Antonio, Alejandro, Alexis, Alexander "Alex" and Ángel Castro Soto del Valle.

While Fidel was married to Mirta, he had an affair with Natalia "Naty" Revuelta Clews, born in Havana in 1925 and married to Orlando Fernández, resulting in a daughter named Alina Fernández-Revuelta
Alina Fernández
Alina Fernández Revuelta is the daughter of Fidel Castro and an outspoken critic of the Cuban communist regime. She lived under her father’s rule from when he took power in 1959 until she fled the country in 1993 with her daughter because of dissenting political views.As an illegitimate daughter...

. Alina left Cuba in 1993, disguised as a Spanish tourist, and sought asylum in the United States. She has been a vocal critic of her father's policies. Alina was assisted by Elena Diaz-Verson Amos, wife of AFLAC
Aflac
Aflac Incorporated is the largest provider of supplemental insurance in the United States, founded in 1955 and based in Columbus, Georgia. In the United States, Aflac underwrites a wide range of insurance policies, but is perhaps more known for its payroll deduction insurance coverage, which pays...

 founder John Amos. Alina lived with Elena in Columbus, Georgia, for several years.

By an unnamed woman he had another son, Jorge Ángel Castro. Fidel has another daughter, Francisca Pupo (born 1953) the result of a one night affair. Pupo and her husband now live in Miami.

His sister Juanita Castro
Juanita Castro
Juana de la Caridad Castro Ruz is a sister of former Cuban President Fidel Castro and current President Raúl Castro. After working as a CIA agent in Cuba, she has been living in the United States since 1964.-Early life:...

 has been living in the United States since the early 1960s. When she went into exile, she said "I cannot longer remain indifferent to what is happening in my country. My brothers Fidel and Raúl have made it an enormous prison surrounded by water. The people are nailed to a cross of torment imposed by international Communism."

Religious beliefs



According to Washington Post, Fidel Castro's letters from prison suggest that he
" was a man of unusual spiritual depth – and a fervent believer in God. Addressing the father of a fallen comrade, he writes: " I will not speak of him as if he were absent, he has not been and he will never be. These are not mere words of consolation. Only those of us who feel it truly and permanently in the depths of our souls can comprehend this. Physical life is ephemeral, it passes inexorably. . . . This truth should be taught to every human being – that the immortal values of the spirit are above physical life. What sense does life have without these values? What then is it to live? Those who understand this and generously sacrifice their physical life for the sake of good and justice – how can they die? God is the supreme idea of goodness and justice.""

Castro was baptized and raised a Roman Catholic as a child but did not practice as one. In Oliver Stone
Oliver Stone
William Oliver Stone is an American film director, producer and screenwriter. Stone became well known in the late 1980s and the early 1990s for directing a series of films about the Vietnam War, for which he had previously participated as an infantry soldier. His work frequently focuses on...

's documentary Comandante
Comandante
Comandante is a political documentary film by American director Oliver Stone. In the film, Stone interviews Cuban leader Fidel Castro on a diverse range of topics. Stone and his film crew visited Castro in Cuba for three days in 2002, and the film was released in 2003, having its premiere at the...

, Castro states "I have never been a believer", and has total conviction that there is only one life. Pope John XXIII
Pope John XXIII
-Papal election:Following the death of Pope Pius XII in 1958, Roncalli was elected Pope, to his great surprise. He had even arrived in the Vatican with a return train ticket to Venice. Many had considered Giovanni Battista Montini, Archbishop of Milan, a possible candidate, but, although archbishop...

 excommunicated
Excommunication
Excommunication is a religious censure used to deprive, suspend or limit membership in a religious community. The word means putting [someone] out of communion. In some religions, excommunication includes spiritual condemnation of the member or group...

 Castro in 1962 after Castro suppressed Catholic institutions in Cuba. Castro has publicly criticized what he sees as elements of the Bible
Bible
The Bible refers to any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the individual books , their contents and their order vary among denominations...

 that have been used to justify the oppression of both women and people of African descent throughout history.

In 1992, Castro agreed to loosen restrictions on religion and even permitted church-going Catholics to join the Cuban Communist Party. He began describing his country as "secular" rather than "atheist". Pope John Paul II
Pope John Paul II
Blessed Pope John Paul II , born Karol Józef Wojtyła , reigned as Pope of the Catholic Church and Sovereign of Vatican City from 16 October 1978 until his death on 2 April 2005, at of age. His was the second-longest documented pontificate, which lasted ; only Pope Pius IX ...

 visited Cuba in 1998, the first visit by a reigning pontiff to the island. Castro and the Pope appeared side by side in public on several occasions during the visit. Castro wore a dark blue business suit rather than fatigues in his public meetings with the Pope and treated him with reverence and respect.
In December 1998, Castro formally re-instated Christmas Day as the official celebration for the first time since its abolition by the Communist Party in 1969. Cubans were again allowed to mark Christmas
Christmas
Christmas or Christmas Day is an annual holiday generally celebrated on December 25 by billions of people around the world. It is a Christian feast that commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ, liturgically closing the Advent season and initiating the season of Christmastide, which lasts twelve days...

 as a holiday and to openly hold religious processions. The Pope sent a telegram to Castro thanking him for restoring Christmas as a public holiday.

Castro attended a Roman Catholic convent blessing in 2003. The purpose of this unprecedented event was to help bless the newly restored convent in Old Havana
Old Havana
Old Havana contains the core of the original city of Havana. The positions of the original Havana city walls are the modern boundaries of Old Havana....

 and to mark the fifth anniversary of the Pope's visit to Cuba. The senior spiritual leader of the Orthodox Christian
Eastern Orthodox Church
The Orthodox Church, officially called the Orthodox Catholic Church and commonly referred to as the Eastern Orthodox Church, is the second largest Christian denomination in the world, with an estimated 300 million adherents mainly in the countries of Belarus, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Georgia, Greece,...

 faith arrived in Cuba in 2004, the first time any Orthodox Patriarch has visited Latin America in the Church's history: Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I consecrated a cathedral in Havana and bestowed an honor on Fidel Castro. His aides said that he was responding to the decision of the Cuban Government to build and donate to the Orthodox Christians a tiny Orthodox cathedral in the heart of old Havana. After Pope John Paul II
Pope John Paul II
Blessed Pope John Paul II , born Karol Józef Wojtyła , reigned as Pope of the Catholic Church and Sovereign of Vatican City from 16 October 1978 until his death on 2 April 2005, at of age. His was the second-longest documented pontificate, which lasted ; only Pope Pius IX ...

's death in April 2005, an emotional Castro attended a mass in his honor in Havana's cathedral and signed the Pope's condolence book at the Vatican Embassy. He had last visited the cathedral in 1959, 46 years earlier, for the wedding of one of his sisters. Cardinal Jaime Lucas Ortega y Alamino led the mass and welcomed Castro, who was dressed in a black suit, expressing his gratitude for the "heartfelt way the death of our Holy Father John Paul II was received (in Cuba)."

In his 2009 spoken autobiography, Castro went so far as to say that Christianity exhibited "a group of very humane precepts" which gave the world "ethical values" and a "sense of social justice", before relating that "If people call me Christian, not from the standpoint of religion but from the standpoint of social vision, I declare that I am a Christian."

Recognition and legacy


Various leftist governments across the world have granted Castro awards for his work in promoting socialism and providing international humanitarian aid. The Juche
Juche
Juche or Chuch'e is a Korean word usually translated as "self-reliance." In the Democratic People's Republic of Korea , "Juche" refers specifically to a political thesis of Kim Il-sung, the Juche Idea, that identifies the Korean masses as the masters of the country's development...

 government of North Korea
North Korea
The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea , , is a country in East Asia, occupying the northern half of the Korean Peninsula. Its capital and largest city is Pyongyang. The Korean Demilitarized Zone serves as the buffer zone between North Korea and South Korea...

 for instance awarded him "the Golden Medal (Hammer and Sickle) and the First Class Order of the National Flag", whilst Muammar al-Gaddafi
Muammar al-Gaddafi
Muammar Muhammad Abu Minyar Gaddafi or "September 1942" 20 October 2011), commonly known as Muammar Gaddafi or Colonel Gaddafi, was the official ruler of the Libyan Arab Republic from 1969 to 1977 and then the "Brother Leader" of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya from 1977 to 2011.He seized power in a...

's Arab socialist
Arab socialism
Arab socialism is a political ideology based on an amalgamation of Pan-Arabism and socialism. Arab socialism is distinct from the much broader tradition of socialist thought in the Arab world, which predates Arab socialism by as much as fifty years...

 government of Libya bestowed upon him a "Libyan human rights award". On a visit to South Africa in 1998 he was warmly received by President Nelson Mandela. President Mandela gave Castro South Africa's highest civilian award for foreigners, the Order of Good Hope. Last December Castro fulfilled his promise of sending 100 medical aid workers to Botswana, according to the Botswana presidency. These workers play an important role in Botswana's war against HIV/AIDS. According to Anna Vallejera, Cuba's first-ever Ambassador to Botswana, the health workers are part of her country's ongoing commitment to proactively assist in the global war against HIV/AIDS,

In Harlem
Harlem
Harlem is a neighborhood in the New York City borough of Manhattan, which since the 1920s has been a major African-American residential, cultural and business center. Originally a Dutch village, formally organized in 1658, it is named after the city of Haarlem in the Netherlands...

, Castro is seen as an icon because of his historic visit with Malcolm X
Malcolm X
Malcolm X , born Malcolm Little and also known as El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz , was an African American Muslim minister and human rights activist. To his admirers he was a courageous advocate for the rights of African Americans, a man who indicted white America in the harshest terms for its...

 in 1960 at the Hotel Theresa
Hotel Theresa
The Hotel Theresa was a vibrant center of black life in Harlem, New York City, in the mid-20th century. The hotel sits at the intersection of Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard and West 125th Street . The hotel was built by German-born stockbroker Gustavus Sidenberg , and designed by the firm of...

.

After the fall of apartheid and the independence of Namibia
Namibia
Namibia, officially the Republic of Namibia , is a country in southern Africa whose western border is the Atlantic Ocean. It shares land borders with Angola and Zambia to the north, Botswana to the east and South Africa to the south and east. It gained independence from South Africa on 21 March...

, the country's capital, the city of Windhoek
Windhoek
Windhoek is the capital and largest city of the Republic of Namibia. It is located in central Namibia in the Khomas Highland plateau area, at around above sea level. The 2001 census determined Windhoek's population was 233,529...

, renamed many streets, including one that now bears the name of Fidel Castro Street

Honours and awards


  • Hero of the Soviet Union
    Hero of the Soviet Union
    The title Hero of the Soviet Union was the highest distinction in the Soviet Union, awarded personally or collectively for heroic feats in service to the Soviet state and society.-Overview:...

  • Order of Lenin
    Order of Lenin
    The Order of Lenin , named after the leader of the Russian October Revolution, was the highest decoration bestowed by the Soviet Union...

    , three times; (Soviet Union) 1963, "for their successful struggle for freedom and independence of heroic Cuban people, who has made a worthy contribution to the great cause of peace and socialism and his great role in strengthening and development of the fraternal Soviet-Cuban"; 1972 and 1986 "for his contribution to the promotion of fraternal relations between the USSR and Cuba"
  • Lenin Peace Prize
    Lenin Peace Prize
    The International Lenin Peace Prize was the Soviet Union's equivalent to the Nobel Peace Prize, named in honor of Vladimir Lenin. It was awarded by a panel appointed by the Soviet government, to notable individuals whom the panel indicated had "strengthened peace among peoples"...

     for Strengthening International Peace Among Peoples (Soviet Union, 1961)
  • Commemorative Medal for the 30th Anniversary of Victory in the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945 (Soviet Union, 1975)
  • Order of the October Revolution
    Order of the October Revolution
    The Order of the October Revolution was instituted on October 31, 1967, in time for the 50th anniversary of the October Revolution. It was awarded to individuals or groups for services furthering communism or the state, or in enhancing the defenses of the Soviet Union, military and civil...

     (Soviet Union, 1976)
  • Star of the Republic of Indonesia, Fourth Class
  • Guerrilla Star (Indonesia, 1960)
  • Order of the Star of the Romanian Socialist Republic
    Order of the Star of Romania
    The Order of the Star of Romania is Romania's highest civil order. It is awarded by the President of Romania...

    , First Class (1972; "for special merits in the revolutionary struggle for national liberation and social development of Cuba, for the defense of national independence and sovereignty of the motherland socialism against imperialism, for the special contribution made to the expansion of multilateral relations of cooperation, international friendship and solidarity between the Communist Party of Cuba and the Romanian Communist Party, between the Republic of Cuba and the Socialist Republic of Romania, between Cuba and the Romanian people "
  • Order of the White Lion
    Order of the White Lion
    The Order of the White Lion is the highest order of the Czech Republic. It continues a Czechoslovak order of the same name created in 1922 as an award for foreigners....

    , First Class (Czechoslovakia, 1972)
  • Order of Georgi Dimitrov (Bulgaria, 1972)
  • Grand Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta, 1973)
  • Order of Courage (Libya) (1977)
  • Somali Order, First Class (1977)
  • Order of Jamaica
    Order of Jamaica
    The Order of Jamaica is the fourth of the five ranks in the Jamaican honours system. The Order was established in 1969, and is considered the equivalent of knighthood in the British honours system....

     (1977)
  • Order of Merit of Jamaica
  • Great Order of the Star Honor of Socialist Ethiopia, (1978), Cuban aid to victory in the Ogaden War
    Ogaden War
    The Ogaden War was a conventional conflict between Somalia and Ethiopia in 1977 and 1978 over the Ogaden region of Ethiopia. In a notable illustration of the nature of Cold War alliances, the Soviet Union switched from supplying aid to Somalia to supporting Ethiopia, which had previously been...

  • Jorge Dimitrov Prize for Peace (Bulgaria, 1980)
  • Order of the Gold Star, (Vietnam, 1982)
  • Hero of the People's Republic of Korea
  • Order of National Flag, First Class (North Korea, 1986)
  • Order of Karl Marx
    Order of Karl Marx
    The Order of Karl Marx was the most important order in the German Democratic Republic . Award of the order also included a prize of 20,000 East German marks....

     (German Democratic Republic)
  • Collar of the Order of the Aztec Eagle
    Order of the Aztec Eagle
    The Order of the Aztec Eagle is a Mexican order and is the highest decoration awarded to foreigners in the country.It was created by decree on December 29, 1933 by President Abelardo L. Rodríguez as a reward to services given to Mexico or humankind by foreigners...

     (Mexico, 1987)
  • Gold Medal of the Senate of Spain (1988)
  • Order of Klement Gottwald
    Order of Klement Gottwald
    The Order of Klement Gottwald was established by the Czechoslovak government in February 1953. The original name of the Order was "Order of building of socialist homeland"...

     (Czechoslovakia, 1989) "for outstanding personal merits for the expansion of fraternal and friendly partnership and cooperation between Cuban and Czechoslovak Communist parties, the two countries and their peoples"
  • Order Agostinho Neto, (Angola) 1992)
  • Order of Merit of Duarte, Sanchez and Mella
    Order of Merit of Duarte, Sanchez and Mella
    The Order of Merit of Duarte, Sanchez and Mella is the principal order of the Dominican Republic. It was established on 24 February 1931 as the Juan Pablo Duarte Order of Merit and renamed on 9 September 1954...

    , Grand Cross Gold Plate (Dominican Republic, 1998)
  • Order of Good Hope, First Degree (South Africa, 1998)
  • Grand Cross of the Order Mali National (July 1998)
  • Order of Prince Yaroslav the Wise
    Order of Prince Yaroslav the Wise
    The Order of Prince Yaroslav the Wise is an award of Ukraine. It is awarded for distinguished services to the state and people of the Ukrainian nation. The Order was instituted on August 23, 1995 by the Ukrainian President, Leonid Kuchma....

     (Ukraine, 2000) for medical assistance to victims of the Chernobyl disaster
    Chernobyl disaster
    The Chernobyl disaster was a nuclear accident that occurred on 26 April 1986 at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine , which was under the direct jurisdiction of the central authorities in Moscow...

  • Independence Medal of Qatar (15 September 2000)
  • Order of the Republic of Yemen (2000)
  • Grand Collar of the Order of the Liberator
    Order of the Liberator
    The Order of the Liberator is the highest distinction of Venezuela and is appointed for services to the country, outstading merit and benefits made to the community. For Venezuelans the order ranks first from other orders, national and foreign....

     (Venezuela, October 2000)
  • Grand Collar of the Order Agostura Congress (Venezuela, 2001)
  • Honorary Medal of the Algerian Liberation Army, (05/06/2001)
  • Supreme Order of the National Crown (Malaysia, 11/05/2001)
  • Medal of the City of Buenos Aires (2003)
  • Hero of Working with its Gold Medal for Hammer and Sickle (North Korea, 2006)
  • Order of National Flag First Class (North Korea, 2006) to "promote the reunification of the Korean peninsula and build socialism"
  • Amilcar Cabral Medal (Guinea Bissau, 2007) for "having contributed to the establishment and strengthening of Guinea Bissau"
  • Sports Merit Medal (Ministry of Sports of Ecuador, 2007)
  • Order of the ancient Welwitschia Mirabilis (Namibia, March 2008) "for his support of African liberation struggles"
  • Ubuntu Award (National Heritage Council of South Africa, 2008) "a life dedicated to solidarity and ethics, highlighting the importance of human values ​​and dedication to humanity"
  • Medal of Honor of Dominica, (November 2008) for "the support provided by Cuba and its leader since independence in Dominica"
  • General Order of Omar Torrijos Herrera Division of Great Extraordinary Cross (Panama, January 2009)
  • Grand Collar of the Order of the Quetzal
    Order of the Quetzal
    The Order of the Quetzal is Guatemala’s highest honor. Established in 1973, it is bestowed by the Government of Guatemala. The award acknowledges officials of nations, organizations and other entities whose artistic, civic, humanitarian, or scientific works merit special recognition....

     (February 2009) "in appreciation for the more than 17 million consultations and more than 40,000 operations of the Operation Miracle Eye, made by Cuban doctors for the benefit of the Guatemalan people"
  • Order of Oliver Reginald Tambo, Fellow in Grade Gold South Africa
    South Africa
    The Republic of South Africa is a country in southern Africa. Located at the southern tip of Africa, it is divided into nine provinces, with of coastline on the Atlantic and Indian oceans...

     "for his contribution to the eradication of racism, colonialism, apartheid and inequality in human society"
  • Order of Honour and Glory (Russian Orthodox Church, October 19, 2008) - for his contribution to strengthening inter-religious cooperation in connection with the consecration of the church of Our Lady of Kazan in Havana
    Havana
    Havana is the capital city, province, major port, and leading commercial centre of Cuba. The city proper has a population of 2.1 million inhabitants, and it spans a total of — making it the largest city in the Caribbean region, and the most populous...

  • Order of the Eagle of Zambia, First Degree (Zambia, September 2009) "for having inspired many to fight for dignity and equality"
  • Order of Merit
    Order of Merit (Ukraine)
    The Order of Merit first, second or third class, is the Ukrainian award, given to individuals for outstanding achievements in economics, science, culture, military or political spheres of activity...

    , first grade, (Ukraine, March 2010) "for his important contribution to restoring the health of the children of Chernobyl, after an accident in 1986 in the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic"
  • General Eloy Alfaro Award (Ecuador, May 2010) for its "exceptional merit and dignity"
  • East Timor Order, Great Collar(November 2010) "for Cuban support in health and education "


Dictatorship


Many observers refer to Castro as a dictator and his rule was the longest to-date in modern Latin American history.

Human rights abuses


The Human Rights Watch
Human Rights Watch
Human Rights Watch is an international non-governmental organization that conducts research and advocacy on human rights. Its headquarters are in New York City and it has offices in Berlin, Beirut, Brussels, Chicago, Geneva, Johannesburg, London, Los Angeles, Moscow, Paris, San Francisco, Tokyo,...

 organization has suggested that Castro constructed a "repressive machinery" which "continues to deprive Cubans of their basic rights".

Castro's 49-year regime remains one of the most controversial in the history of Latin America. Scholar R. J. Rummel
R. J. Rummel
Rudolph Joseph Rummel is professor emeritus of political science at the University of Hawaii. He has spent his career assembling data on collective violence and war with a view toward helping their resolution or elimination...

 estimates the casualties of his regime to 73,000, with one study estimating over 119,000 and several others suggesting significantly lower figures.

Allegations of mismanagement


In their book, Corruption in Cuba, Sergio Diaz-Briquets and Jorge F. Pérez-López Servando state that Castro "institutionalized" corruption and that "Castro's state-run monopolies, cronyism
Cronyism
Cronyism is partiality to long-standing friends, especially by appointing them to positions of authority, regardless of their qualifications. Hence, cronyism is contrary in practice and principle to meritocracy....

, and lack of accountability have made Cuba one of the world's most corrupt states". Servando Gonzalez, in The Secret Fidel Castro, calls Castro a "corrupt tyrant".

In 1959, according to Gonzalez, Castro established "Fidel's checking account", from which he could draw funds as he pleased. The "Comandante's reserves" were created in 1970, from which Castro allegedly "provided gifts to many of his cronies, both home and abroad". Gonzalez asserts that Comandante's reserves have been linked to counterfeit
Counterfeit
To counterfeit means to illegally imitate something. Counterfeit products are often produced with the intent to take advantage of the superior value of the imitated product...

ing business empires and money laundering
Money laundering
Money laundering is the process of disguising illegal sources of money so that it looks like it came from legal sources. The methods by which money may be laundered are varied and can range in sophistication. Many regulatory and governmental authorities quote estimates each year for the amount...

.

As early as 1968, a once-close friend of Castro's wrote that Castro had huge accounts in Swiss banks. Castro's secretary was allegedly seen using Zürich
Zürich
Zurich is the largest city in Switzerland and the capital of the canton of Zurich. It is located in central Switzerland at the northwestern tip of Lake Zurich...

 banks. Gonzalez wrote that Cuba's paucity of trade with Switzerland contrasts oddly with the National Office of Cuba's relatively large office in Zurich. Castro has denied having a bank account abroad with even a dollar in it.

Allegations of wealth


A KGB
KGB
The KGB was the commonly used acronym for the . It was the national security agency of the Soviet Union from 1954 until 1991, and was the premier internal security, intelligence, and secret police organization during that time.The State Security Agency of the Republic of Belarus currently uses the...

 officer, Alexei Novikov, stated that Castro's personal life, like the lives of the rest of the Communist elite, is "shrouded under an impenetrable veil of secrecy". Among other things, he asserted that Castro has a personal guard of more than 9,700 men and three luxurious yachts.

In 2005, American business and financial magazine Forbes
Forbes
Forbes is an American publishing and media company. Its flagship publication, the Forbes magazine, is published biweekly. Its primary competitors in the national business magazine category are Fortune, which is also published biweekly, and Business Week...

 listed Castro among the world's richest people, with an estimated net worth of US$550 million. The estimates, which the magazine admitted were "more art than science", claimed that the Cuban leader's personal wealth was nearly double that of Britain's Queen Elizabeth II
Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom
Elizabeth II is the constitutional monarch of 16 sovereign states known as the Commonwealth realms: the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, Barbados, the Bahamas, Grenada, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Belize,...

, despite anecdotal evidence from diplomats and businessmen that the Cuban leader's personal life was notably austere. This assessment was drawn by making economic estimates of the net worth of Cuba's state-owned companies, and used the assumption that Castro had personal economic control. Forbes later increased the estimates to US$900 million, adding rumors of large cash stashes in Switzerland. The magazine offered no proof of this information, and according to CBS News
CBS News
CBS News is the news division of American television and radio network CBS. The current chairman is Jeff Fager who is also the executive producer of 60 Minutes, while the current president of CBS News is David Rhodes. CBS News' flagship program is the CBS Evening News, hosted by the network's main...

, Castro's entry on the rich list was notably brief compared to the amount of information provided on other figures. Castro, who had considered suing the magazine, responded that the claims were "lies and slander", and that they were part of a US campaign to discredit him. He declared: "If they can prove that I have a bank account abroad, with US$900m, with US$1m, US$500,000, US$100,000 or US$1 in it, I will resign." President of Cuba's Central Bank, Francisco Soberón, called the claims a "grotesque slander", asserting that money made from various state owned companies is pumped back into the island's economy, "in sectors including health, education, science, internal security, national defense and solidarity projects with other countries."

Authored works


Fully or partially by Fidel Castro
  • Capitalism in Crisis: Globalization and World Politics Today, Ocean Press, 2000, ISBN 1876175184
  • Che: A Memoir, Ocean Press, 2005, ISBN 192088825X
  • Cuba at the Crossroads, Ocean Press, 1997, ISBN 187528494X
  • Fidel Castro: My Life: A Spoken Autobiography, Scribner, 2008, ISBN 1416553282
  • Fidel Castro Reader, Ocean Press, 2007, ISBN 1920888888
  • Fidel My Early Years, Ocean Press, 2004, ISBN 1920888098
  • Fidel & Religion: Conversations with Frei Betto on Marxism & Liberation Theology, Ocean Press, 2006, ISBN 1920888454
  • How Far We Slaves Have Come! South Africa and Cuba in Today's World, by Nelson Mandela
    Nelson Mandela
    Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela served as President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999, and was the first South African president to be elected in a fully representative democratic election. Before his presidency, Mandela was an anti-apartheid activist, and the leader of Umkhonto we Sizwe, the armed wing...

     & Fidel Castro, Pathfinder Press, 1991, ISBN 087348729X
  • Playa Giron: Bay of Pigs : Washington's First Military Defeat in the Americas, Pathfinder Press, 2001, ISBN 087348925X
  • Political Portraits: Fidel Castro reflects on famous figures in history, Ocean Press, 2008, ISBN 1920888942
  • The Declarations of Havana, Verso, 2008, ISBN 1844671569
  • The Prison Letters of Fidel Castro, Nation Books, 2007, ISBN 1560259833
  • War, Racism and Economic Justice: The Global Ravages of Capitalism, Ocean Press, 2002, ISBN 1876175478

See also


  • 2006–2008 Cuban transfer of presidential duties
  • July 26 Movement
  • Cuban dissident movement
  • Left-wing nationalism
    Left-wing nationalism
    Left-wing nationalism describes a form of nationalism officially based upon equality, popular sovereignty, and national self-determination. It has its origins in the Jacobinism of the French Revolution. Left-wing nationalism typically espouses anti-imperialism...

  • Politics of Cuba
    Politics of Cuba
    Cuba is constitutionally defined as a "socialist state guided by the principles of José Martí, and the political ideas of Marx, the father of communist states, Engels and Lenin." The present Constitution also ascribes the role of the Communist Party of Cuba to be the "leading force of society and...



In other media:
  • 638 Ways to Kill Castro
    638 Ways to Kill Castro
    638 Ways to Kill Castro is a Channel 4 documentary film, broadcast in the United Kingdom on November 28, 2006, which tells the story of some of the numerous attempts of the Central Intelligence Agency to kill Cuba's leader Fidel Castro.-Production:...

  • Comandante
    Comandante
    Comandante is a political documentary film by American director Oliver Stone. In the film, Stone interviews Cuban leader Fidel Castro on a diverse range of topics. Stone and his film crew visited Castro in Cuba for three days in 2002, and the film was released in 2003, having its premiere at the...

  • Fidel (2001 documentary)
    Fidel (2001 documentary)
    Fidel: The Untold Story was a documentary released in 2001 by Estela Bravo.The film featured interviews with:*Phillip Agee*Muhammad Ali*Harry Belafonte*Ramsey Clark*Angela Davis*Elián González*Nelson Mandela*Gabriel García Márquez*Ted Turner...

  • Fidel (film)
    Fidel (film)
    Fidel is the name of a mini-series by David Attwood that describes the Cuban revolution and political career of Fidel Castro. The total duration of the series is about 3 hours and 20 minutes, but the video-version is shorter.-Plot:...

  • My Life (Fidel Castro autobiography)
    My Life (Fidel Castro autobiography)
    My Life - A Spoken Autobiography by Fidel Castro and Ignacio Ramonet was published in Spanish in 2006 , and English in 2007...



External links


By Fidel Castro

Images

About Fidel Castro
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