Little Bits of History

February 16

Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 16, 2017

1959: Fidel Castro becomes the 16th Prime Minister of Cuba. He was born in 1926 in Biran, Oriente Province, Cuba. He was eventually sent to live with a teacher in Santiago de Cuba and it was there he was baptized Catholic when he was eight. This allowed him to be educated at the La Salle boarding school in Santiago. He went on to a more prestigious Jesuit run school. He was not an excellent student and spent most of time playing sports. In 1945 he entered law school at the University of Havana and there began his interest in politics. He joined the violent gang culture of the university and decried US involvement in the Caribbean and the corruption of Cuban politics.

In June 1947, Castro joined an expedition to invade the Dominican Republic and overthrow Rafael Trujillu, but the Cuban president was pressured to stop the invasion. Castro was not arrested but when he returned to college, he took a more active leadership role in campus politics as it intersected with the government. In 1948 he married the daughter of a wealthy family and while neither family was overjoyed, the couple was treated to a three month honeymoon in New York City. Upon return to Cuba, Castro opened a law practice catering to the legal issues of the poor. The business was a financial failure. He wanted to run for Congress in the June 1952 elections under the Ortodoxo party, but leaders were fearful of his radical reputation and refused to nominate him. He was nominated by Havana’s poor to run for a seat in the House of Representatives.

While campaigning, Castro met General Fulgencio Batista, a former president who was returning to politics. They were polite but not mutually supportive. In March 1952, Batista seized power and declared himself President. Castro formed a group amongst the poor to fight Batista’s power grab. Castro declared himself a revolutionary socialist and refused the communist name. The revolt he planned was a failure and Castro was eventually captured. He acted as his own lawyer, unsuccessfully, and was imprisoned. After his release, he once again planned an overthrow of the dictator. A guerilla war ensued and eventually Batista was routed. His abdication was announced on January 1, 1959.

A provisional government was set up and Castro put himself into a position of power. While Manuel Urrutia Lleo was declared president, Castro had a great deal of power and called himself Representative of the Rebel Armed Forces of the Presidency. He set up programs to increase literacy and decrease corruption as well as ridding the government of any Batista leftover followers. One of his first acts after being made Prime Minister was to visit the US in order to open channels of communication. He met President Nixon and did not like him. He then went on a larger good will tour of the Americas. On his return home he instituted several new policies helping the impoverished and repeatedly called himself a socialist and refused the label of communist.

The revolution is a dictatorship of the exploited against the exploiters.

A revolution is a struggle to the death between the future and the past.

I am not a communist and neither is the revolutionary movement.

I find capitalism repugnant. It is filthy, it is gross, it is alienating… because it causes war, hypocrisy and competition. – all from Fidel Castro

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