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Fidel Castro

Cuba Under Fidel Castro

This page is a case study of Cuba during the years Fidel Castro was in power.
by Callum Roberts.



Cuba is a small island in the Carribean sea and Atlantic Ocean first discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1462. Established as a Spanish colony, African slaves were imported to work on sugar plantations and coffee fields. Any attempts
to stage uprising or gain independance was swifty dealt with and cut down by Spanish rulers. However during the Spanish-American war 1898 America provided aid to the Cuban people and as a result were able to topple Spanish rule on the island. in 1902 Cuba declaired independance from America.

Demographic and Culture

Cuba's population is approximately 11,087,330 with the capital, Havana being home to 2.14 million Cubans. The literacy rate is very high amongst the Cuban people with the dominant religion being Catholosism. the official language of Cuba is Spanish. A survey in 2002 revealed the ethinicities that made up the island were approximately 65% White, 25% Milatto and 10% Black. although interesting to note is that there is a substantial Chinese minority, altogether only equating to approximately 1% of the total population, this is a result of heavy importation of Chinese labourers due to the abolition of Black slavery in the late 20th Century.

Cuban culture is one of hospitality. Doors to homes are left open and it is customery that guests are always welcomed. Sport is ecouraged and baseball is considered the national sport which was introduced to the Cubans in the 19th Century by American dock workers. This intererst in sports continues today is partly due to Castro during his time in power.

Fidel Castro

Early Life and Education

Fidel Castro, orignally Alejandro Ruz, was born a bastard child on August 13 1926. Son of Ángel Castro, owner of a sugar plantation and Lina Ruz Gonzalez, the maid of Ángel's first wife. Fidel was recognised as a true member of the wealthy Castro family at age 17 when his father re-maried to his mother was given the family name as his last.

Educated in private Jesiutboarding schools Fidel was removed from the squalor and poverty that the majority of Cubans lived in. After graduating he then studied law at the University of Havana where he first became interested and involved in politics. It was here that Fidel joined the anti-communist political party 'Partido Ortodoxo' through which Fidel met Cuban presidential candidate Eduardo Chibas. The party vowed to eradicate corruption within Cuban goverment and spread Nationalism. Chibas served as a role model to Castro even though his initial bid for presidency failed. Tragedy struck when Chibas was betrayed by allies who agreed to expose the current governments corruption in 1951. As a result Chibas shot himself dead on live Cuban radio claiming he had not kept his promise to the party and the Cuban people.

Castro married in 1948 to the already wealthy Mirta Diaz Balart. His marriage not only boosted his own status but also introduced Castro to a wealth of political contacts as the Balart family had powerful political ties which Castro then married into. Castro and Mirta had a son, Fidelito. Castro wished to be a part of Cuba's political regime and bid for a seat in parliament however in the same year Castro attempted to be elected, General Fulgencio Batista lead a coup de tat managing to overthrough the Cuban government and cancel any elections.

Cuban Revolution

Cuba's Flag

Batista's successful attempt to overthrow the Cuban government resulted in him being established as dictator of Cuba. Being denied the right to govern, Castro and other members of the Partido Ortodoxo planned a retalliation. Castro attempted to overthrow Batista overnight with an attack on a millitary barracks with an insurgency of 150 followers. The attempt was unsuccessful resulting in the inprisonment of Fidel Castro for fifteen years. Released after only two years Castro became famous for his actions and left Cuba for Mexico where he met Ernesto,'Che'Guevara. Castro devised a new stategy with Guevara to finally overthrow Batista. Guevara believed that a more violent approach than Castro's previous attempt needed to be taken in order to succeed. This time Castro would rely on guerilla tactics. Guevara would prove an important ally and a new role model for Castro. Fidel returned with Guevara to Cuba in 1952 when he lead another attack this time with fewer insurgants. Being heavily defeated with most of his either comrades killed or taken prisoner, Fidel fled with Guevara and Castro's younger brother, Raul Castro .

Retreating to the island's mountain ranges outside of major cities in Cuba, Castro and his guerilla strike teams continued to attack Batista's fortifications. Repeated assaults sparked a war between Batista's millitarised government and a band of rebels lead by Castro and Guevara. Eventually the guerilla fighters were victorious, as Batista's government collapsed (partly due to divisions in his millitary) and was forced to flee the country. Fidel set about implimenting his own parallel government he had constructed in the build up to toppling Batista. Although he initially chose Jose Miro Cardona, he resigned and Fidel Castro eventually became Cuban Prime Minister in 1959.

Early establishment and Staying in Power

Fidel Castro was in power for no less then 49 years. For almost half a century Castro had lead Cuba as a revolutionary symbol of change. These years however were frought with perils as Fidel faced Mass Emigrations and nuclear threat amongst other challenges to his rule including assassination attempts, proving his worth as leader of Cuba.

Cuban Exile

Fidel Castro was quick to rid Cuba of any political opposition. Executing any threat to his initial days in power and abolishing trade unions. As a result to these radical changes many thousands of Cubans fled the country, reffered to as the Cuban Exile of 1960. Again a year later many more Cubans abandoned the island and fled for America after Castro moved to nationalise Cuba's schools, hospitals, industrial factories and other assets which would effectively have the workers running their industries - typically a communist trait. The majority of Cubans who fled Castro's new regime believed he wouldn't last in power, leaving Cuba for what they assumed would be temporary, leaving assets like land and houses
in the care of friends and family on the island.

In 1980 the most public Cuban Exodus occured when hundreds of home made rafts and floats were made to escape the island. First appealing to Cuba's Peruvian embassy demanding asylum. facing an inevitable mass emigration, Fidel Castro made a public announcement stating that any Cuban who wished to flee the island could do so without prosecution. allowing the Cuban people to leave, but at the same time absolving his duties as leader regarding immigration/emmigration laws.

Cuban Missile Crisis

Map showing Cuba's missile capabilities courtesy of the Soviet Union

Fidel Castro was about to face what could have been the worlds biggest crisis. As a result of alligning with the Soviet Union, Cuba's diplomatic ties to America were severed. Any remaining relation Cuba had with America was severely strianed. The Soviet Unions nuclear weaponry was inferior to America's especially when in came to the range a warhead could travel. To reverse the advantage held by America, the Soviet Union stocked Cuba with nuclear weaponry. Given Cuba's location, just below America, It was an ingenious move - The Soviet Union now had the same nuclear capabilities as its opposition. Cuba was keen to accomodate this new fire power as they recently witnessed America's attempted invasion of the Bay of Pigs. seeking some form of deterrant, Castro welcomed the missiles.

The result was the closest the world has ever come to nuclear war. America eventually found out about the secret project to build missile silos all along Cuba's shores and placed a naval quarantine around Cuba for fears more Soviet weaponry would be transported to the island. American President John. F. Kennedy announced that any missile launched by Cuba would be regarded as an attack on the United States by the Soviet Union, advising them to remove all weaponry from Cuba immediately.

The tensions between the United States and Soviet Union came to a head when Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev announced that the Union would remove its missiles from Cuba if the United States could assure them they would never attempt to invade Cuba. Days layer a second barter was offered by the Soviet Union: Have America remove their missile Silos from Turkey and they would remove any offensive Soviet weaponry from Cuba.

Fidel managed to stay in power after the crisis even though it was later revealed that throughout the ordeal Castro emplored Krushchev to strike first with nuclear weaponry should the U.S. attempt to invade Cuba. Fidel told an American journalist shortly after the crisis was resolved that he stood by his decision to house Soviet missiles after because it sent a clear message to America as well as the rest of the world that war with Cuba meant a war with the Soviet Union.


Castro has been reported as saying that if avoiding assassination attempts was an Olympic sport, he would have won gold medals.

Despite several crisis Castro managed to retain the Cuban peoples favour, be it through eliminating opposition or otherwise, and remained President of Cuba serving six consecutive terms in office. Much to America and the C.I.A's disapproval, who have failed at over 600 assassination attempts.

Castro the Dictator

Castro has been considered a dictator based on several factors.
  • He was not elected to rule, taking power after the revolution left a power vaccuum which Castro's ready made parliament was ready to fill. the chosen Prime Minister then resigned, allowing Castro to take his place
  • Although elections were run periodically, Castro has won six consecutive times. the question of legitimacy is raised.
  • Those who were not loyal to Fidel in the early stages of his reign were executed or put in prison, much like anyone who attempts to run against the longest serving President in an election.

Ideology/ Regime

America accused Castro of running a communist regime early in Fidel's term as Cuban leader but he repeatedly denied these claims.Castro was quick to propose radical changes to Cuba's institutions such as the Nationalization of schools and hospitals. However in 1961 he openly accepted the soviet unions policies and publically alligned his regime with thiers. Castro strongly believed that in his own theory of governance of having the poeple work for the betterment of all Cubans and not just the individual. Castro's 'new' theo
ry was essentially a lesser form of Socialism. December 2, 1961 Castro declares he is a Marxist Leninist stating that "Marxism or scientific socialism has become the revolutionary movement of the working class." going on to say that communism will indeed play a dominant role in Cuban policy, later stating that Cuba would adopt communist political policy alltogether.

Due to Castro's changes to the system, the poulations literacy skills surged on the island. with 1961 being dubbed 'the year of education' by Castro and Guevara. other changes made by his regime include the buy back of foreign owned land in Cuba, allowing Cuba to be run entirely by the Cuban people under Castro's regime.

Castro used extreme measures to secure his place in power when topplling previous dictator, Batista. Executions awaited any opposition in Castro's initial rule. In a speech delivered by Castro he stated that other countries have called him a terrorist. he denies such claims but replies that were the government of Cuba to ever engage in terrorist actions, he's confident they would be "very efficient" at it, to much applause. (See video)

Che Guevara was an influence on Castro and helped shape the manner in which he ruled Cuba. After unsuccesfully trying to overthrow Batista using legitimate means, Fidel turned to harsher methods. After heavy defeat and imprisonment it was his introduction to revolutionist Che Guevara that re-shaped the way Castro conducted his assaults. Guevara was much more aggressive than Fidel had been in previous attempts to topple Batista, proving that extreme violence was the key to taking Cuba. This violence continued once Fidel made it to power, as a means to secure his position.


Raul Fidel succeeded his brother, Fidel at age 74

in 1997 due to concern over Fidel Castro's health, he announced that long running second-in-command and brother, Raul Castro would be his successor. Castro temporarily handed power power over to Raul in 2006 when he underwent a serious operation. his health has only deterriorated since. in 2008 Fidel Castro stepped down as President of Cuba, letting his brother Raul take over. since this hand over of power Raul has set about making many reforms to Cuban laws regarding agriculture and the right to state-owned land, working towards a more liberal Cuba than that of his older brother, Fidel's.


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