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Fidel Castro

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Though he has a negative connotation in the American political perspective for being a Leninist/Marxist and for provoking such incidents as the Cuban Missile Crisis, Fidel Castro was a positive leader in Cuba and made many improvements to Cuban society after the Cuban Revolution that he led in 1959. Due to such incidents, many of Castro’s social reforms in Cuba are ignored (or dismissed as completely communistic and therefore without any merit to the United States), especially reforms that he made between the start of the revolution and 1990. As any newly instated leader would, Castro made mistakes in his rule and misjudged some situations, especially in the political playground. However, he made many contributions to his country and to the status of living to Cubans in his long reign as the main authority power in Cuba.

After graduating from the School of Law of the University of Havana in 1950, Fidel Castro began to practice law. He joined the Cuban People’s Party, sometimes called the Ortodoxos, and was their candidate for the Cuban House of Representatives in the Havana district for the June 1952 elections.

In March 1952, General Fulgencio Batista y Zalvidar overthrew current government of President Carlos PrÐ"­o SocarrÐ"ÐŽs. In a previous 1933 revolt, Batista organized a coup that overthrew a provisional regime under Carlos Manuel de CÐ"©spedes. CÐ"©spedes’ government had replaced the dictatorship of Gerardo Machado y Morales. Up until 1944, Batista established a strong and efficient government in Cuba. He cultivated army support, civil service, and organized labor. Ruling through associates between 1930 and 1949, he was then elected president in 1940. He retired from office in 1944 to travel, and then settled in Florida.

In the next eight years after Batista’s retirement, there was a resurrection of corruption in Cuba’s government. Batista then led a second military revolt in March 1952, where he was widely accepted as a hero and savior of the people under and oppressive government. However, his second term in power was vastly different from his first one. After coming back into power, Batista promptly canceled the June 1952 elections and proclaimed himself the dictator of Cuba. This second term where he ruled as a dictator was marked by corruption, brutal leadership, jailing of many political opponents, and methods of ruling that bordered on being terroristic. Batista took control of the University of Havana, the press, and the Congress. Embezzlement became a huge problem, as Batista guzzled huge quantities of his funds from Cuba’s elevated economy. These funds made Batista himself even richer, while he also sent money to his close cabinet, heads of state, and other associates.

On July 26, 1953, Fidel Castro led an unsuccessful attack on Batista’s forces at Santiago de Cuba. Santiago de Cuba was an army post and military barracks. He led about 160 men against the Moncada Barracks, where they were largely outnumbered. The operation was almost doomed to failure. Eventually, almost all of his men were killed, and Castro himself was arrested. He acted as his own defense lawyer in his trial, where he conducted an “impassioned defense.”

Castro gained many supporters from his speech entitled “History Will Absolve Me.” During his trial for his involvement in the July attack on the Moncada Barracks, he made this speech defending his actions and criticizing the new government under Batista. To Castro, it seemed that former-President SocarrÐ"ÐŽs and General Batista were ruining Cuba and that the idea of the Republic was indeed a joke, as the rulers were violating the Constitution that made it a Republic; he spoke openly about this in his speech. Another part of his speech protested the sentence he was facing: usually the crimes that he was being acquitted of would give him a three to five year prison sentence, but under Batista’s influence on the courts, he was stuck facing a possible 26 year sentence. He spoke of how he and eight other young men with no military experience (naming all but two who were neither dead nor imprisoned) plotted the attack at Santiago de Cuba. However, his general passion was what gained him the most support. As he wrote:

“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 I will be silenced for many years; I know that the regime 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.”

Despite his passionate defense, Castro was sentenced to fifteen years in prison. Two years later, however, in 1955, Fidel was pardoned in a political amnesty. After being released from prison, he and his brother RaÐ"Ñ"l were exiled to Mexico. There, they continued to campaign against the second Batista regime. In Mexico, Castro found overwhelming support in many other Cuban exiles living in Mexico, who he used to form the 26th of July movement group: a revolutionary group opposed to Batista’s regime in Cuba. In Mexico, Castro also became friends with Ernesto “Che” Guevara, who later became one of Castro’s closest advisors and generals in his attempts to take Cuba.

On December 2, 1956, armed men from the 26th of July movement landed on the coast of Cuba from a yacht. All 81 men who went on this expedition were killed or captured except for Castro, his brother RaÐ"Ñ"l, Che Guevara (who agreed to come on the expedition as a doctor), and nine other men. The few men that were not apprehended by Batista’s forces or killed fled to the Sierra Maestra region in southwestern Cuba. They proceeded to gather more forces across the island and employ guerrilla warfare tactics against Batista’s forces. To gain more support around Cuba, Castro began to employ propaganda efforts, and internal political support of Batista had already wavered significantly since his return to power. With more support, Castro’s forces were able to win a string of victories over the government’s poorly led forces. As Batista was able to gather less political support and Castro’s forces grew, defeating his military more, Batista was forced to flee Cuba on January 1, 1959. At this point in time, Castro had over 800 guerrillas under his control, while they were able to defeat Cuba’s provisional army force of 30,000 trained men.

Upon Batista’s flee from Cuba,



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