This paper provides a detailed account of Fidel Castro’s struggle and his rise to power and an analysis of his years in power covering his domestic and international policies. Fidel Castro is the former President and Prime Minister of The Republic of Cuba and current first secretary of the communist party of the republic. He is widely known for his unprecedented role in the Cuban revolution that took place on 1 January 1959 as the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista came to an end.
Castro held office first as the prime minister from 1959 to 1976 and then later in the year went on to serve as the President of the state of Cuba until 2008. He has also served as the commander in chief of Cuban army. The major reason for his popularity is his defiant nature that proved to be a vital characteristic when he along with Raul Castro and Che Guevara plotted to overthrow the government of President Batista and later on transformed his country into a socialist regime based on a single party.
He is also well known for his strong stance against the US foreign policies and its growing influence in South American region. Contrary to popular belief, Castro was born in a rich family and studied law at the University of Havana. It was at the university that he became politically active and his socialist and anti-US ideas gained regard. He had to face several failures and spend time in exile and jail before finally succeeding in his mission of transforming Cuba in a one party state.
Reasons behind Castro’s Struggle for Revolution
Fidel Castro’s inclination towards politics took strength during his university days when Cuban politics was going through a volatile period. At the university Castro found himself in the midst of student politics that was being run in a fashion usually associated with street gangsters. In 1947 he decided to follow Chibas whose manifesto comprised justice and social equality. Castro worked with Chibas and made effort to change the political landscape of the country and exposed rampant corruption within the government ranks.
He was strongly against the ever-increasing influence of the United States in the country and thought of president Batista as a mere puppet of US rather than a revolutionary leader. He was fed up with the lavish lifestyle of the elite in the midst of all the political chaos and social inequality that he had witnessed during his days at the university. These were the major reasons that made Castro decide that it was time to take action and plot a revolution that would make his native Cuba a socialist state.
Revolution and Rise to Power First step in the Castro’s quest to overthrow president Batista’s regime was a failed attempt on Moncada barracks. Castro and his brother Raul Castro organized a group of militants to attack one of the major safe houses of the president in 1953, but things didn’t go exactly as planned and the group was captured and many of the members of the group were tried and executed but Fidel Castro was spared his fate due to the political pressure and instead was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
He continued to scheme the revolution during his imprisonment and it was during that time that he delivered the ‘history will absolve me’ speech, which became the emblem of his political career. Political pressure on the president once again increased and Castro was released in 1955 nearly after 2 years. He then evaded to Mexico to make a better plan and began to gather support there. In Mexico his movement took a major step forward when he met Ernesto Che Guevara who had already made his reputation as a champion of Guerilla warfare and had similar revolutionary motives as that of Castro.
Che became part of Castro’s company and together they decided that the only way they could achieve their objective of transforming Cuba was a violent guerilla war. The result was the 26th of July movement that was named after the attacks on Moncada barracks on the same date in 1953. Gathering ammunition was a major difficulty, so they set off to US to gather funds from Cuban community living there who also believed in Castro’s ideas. After their plan was in shape, Castro along with his Brother Raul, Che Guevara and Camilo Cienfugos led a militant group of 81 to Cuba in order to initiate the revolution.
This expedition however also proved to be a failure as only 23 members of the group survived the clash with the Cuban army, but it successfully marked the start of a bloody revolution which was about to come. Surviving members of the group then regrouped in Sierra Maestra Mountains of Cuba and started to plan to bring this movement to the streets of Cuba. Frank Pais who was also spearheading a movement against dictatorship in Cuba joined Castro and it was at that time the revolution started in earnest. Strategy was to use violence and also hurt Cuba economically in order to bring down president Batista to his knees.
Next stage in this whole episode came in the form of operation Verano, which was a small war, waged against the rebels by President Batista to eliminate anti-government elements. But the lack of commitment and inferior training of the then Cuban armed forces proved to be a weakness, which made the rebels overcome these forces without much difficulty and operation Verano was turned into a nightmare for the President as the rebels started to take control of all the major cities of Cuba with immaculate planning and smooth execution.
Next and the most vital battle took place in the province of Villa Clara in 1958 when a battalion headed by Che Guevara invaded the provincial capital Santa Clara and defeated the Cuban army and finally took hold of the city. By this time it was virtually clear that President Batista’s regime was about to become extinct. And finally in 1959 Batista sensed that and fled the country leaving the most senior judge of the Supreme Court to take charge of his office. On January 5th, 1959 new government was put into place.
Manuel Urrutia Lleo took charge of presidency while Fidel Castro took charge of the armed forces as the Commander in chief. Castro still was not satisfied with the current regime and kept attacking President Lleo and Premier Jose Cardona until both left their positions and Castro took responsibility of the premier’s office. He would later remain in that office for nearly 16 years. Domestic Policies Fidel Castro’s domestic policies have always been closely correlated with its international policies.
His relationship with the United States government has always been a strained one, which meant that he had to face the adverse consequences of alienating the US government and faced several embargos. Castro opted to make strong ties with the USSR government, which was one of the major super powers at that time. USSR provided vast military and economic support to Cuba as a result of which the relationship of the US with Cuba further deteriorated.
Castro who came to power claiming that he would restore democracy started to nationalize all the major industries especially the oil refineries controlled by the US government as they refused to process oil for the domestic use. Castro who was against the dictatorship rule and favored the restoration of democratic system, on the contrary, started to drive Cuba in the direction of communism by nationalizing all the major industries. He nationalized education sector and the healthcare department.
He made policies that could make wider distribution of wealth possible and provide benefits to the poor. And he has been quite successful in implementing those policies in Cuba. But many factions of the society were unhappy as Castro didn’t keep his promises of making Cuba a fully functioning democracy and instead drove the country towards communism and finally in 1961 made his intentions clear by announcing that Cuba would now be communist state.
This system ran quite well until 1991 because of the support which Cuba had from the USSR, but after the collapse of the USSR, Cuba’s support vanished and Castro faced a windy phase in which its economy practically weakened and that was the time people thought that Castro’s rule would also end but he managed to survive till 2008. Relations with other Countries & Contribution to International Peace Fidel Castro has been an active player in the international political scenario.
He was heavily involved in Marxist wars in Africa and aided several countries by sending Cuban troops to the far off African countries mainly to aid Soviet Union in its mission there. Ethiopia and Angola are the two major countries that benefited from Castro’s support. Nelson Mandela widely hailed Castro for his support in Africa. Castro’s relationship with the Caribbean countries has been quite strong; a great deal of trade pacts and scholarship programs has been exchanged and four embassies have been opened so far in the islands.
Apart from that his relationship with the neighboring Mexico has been quite strained and that is due to Castro’s view that Mexico is heavily influence by US policies. Among other neighbors, the most vocal admirers of Castro have been Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and Evo Morales of Bolivia. Both are strong allies of Castro mainly because they share a similar view towards the foreign policies of the US and its role in South America. Castro, while being highly controversial, has also managed to get praise for his efforts for restoring peace and aiding other countries in tough times.
Castro has made a lot of effort in the recent years to fight HIV in the African countries, mainly Botswana. South Africa granted Castro with its highest civil award for his efforts there. Libya and North Korea have also given away their highest civil awards to Castro as a mark of their respect for him. Human Rights Issues Fidel Castro has been no stranger to controversy especially when it comes to human rights issue. He has been accused of suppressing the voice of his enemies within the country, those who are against the one party system that Castro has established in Cuba.
He has shut down the TV stations, and incarcerated teachers, professors and students who tried to raise the voice against his dictatorship. Moreover, he openly opposed homosexuality and perceived them to be agents of the west who want to pollute young minds. His relationship with the EU, which is the biggest trading partner of Cuba, went through a troublesome period when he issued orders for the execution of three men accused of hijacking and imprisonment of 76 anti-communism campaigners. Although born to Christian parents, but Fidel Castro declared himself to be a non-believer and considered religious practices to be suspicious.
When he came to power he tried to suppress the voices of those who practiced. However, lately his stance towards religion has changed and he even allowed the catholic to join the communist party and announced that he would like Cuba to be viewed as secular country where every faith is tolerated rather than an atheist state. Conclusion Fidel Castro stood up against the dictatorship of President Batista half-century ago but ended up being a dictator himself. He ruled the country for well over 40 years, first as the prime minister and then as the president.
He also got away with forgetting his promise of bringing democracy to Cuba and has had his fair share of controversy throughout his life. But the support he got from the other Marxist regimes in the world made him rule for so long and this has established himself as an icon figure in the communist world and he managed to survive several setbacks. He was involved in violent battles during his young days, survived severe criticism and tough economic circumstances and found himself in the middle of some popular verbal clashes with leaders around the world.
His determination during all this time remained intact and that is precisely why he is both loathed and respected by his enemies and friends alike. And now after all these years in power, he has transferred Cuba to his bother Raul in quite a healthy state than most people thought he would. That is also one of the reasons that there is a growing belief among the world leaders that communism is perhaps a better form of government than democracy for the smaller countries. The leaders of Cuba’s neighbors Venezuela and Bolivia and North Korea are following Castro’s example and seem quite determined to prove that notion right.