On March 10, 1952, General Fulgencio Batista overthrew the president of Cuba, Carlos Pržo SocarrŠs, and canceled all elections. This angered the young lawyer Fidel Castro, and for the next seven years he attempted to overthrow Batistas government. On July 26, 1953, Castro led an attack against the military barracks in Santiago, but he was defeated and arrested. Although Castro was sentenced to 15 years in prison, Batista released him in 1955 in a show of supreme power. Castro did not back down and gathered a new group of rebels in Mexico. On December 2, 1956, he was again defeated by Batistas army and fled to the Sierra Maestra. He began using guerrilla tactics to fight Batistas armed forces, and with the aid of other rebellions throughout Cuba, he forced Batista to resign and flee the country on January 1, 1959. Castro became the Prime Minister of Cuba in February and had about 550 of Batistas associates executed. He soon suspended all elections and named himself "President for Life", jailing or executing all who opposed him. He established a communist government with himself as a dictator and began relations with the Soviet Union.
At the beginning of his rule, the United States supported Castro. However, once he embraced communism, the U.S. attempted to overthrow him. Cuban exiles, armed and trained by Americans, formed an army known as La Brigada and invaded Cubas Bay of Pigs on April 17, 1961. The army was crushed by Castro after President Kennedy refused to directly involve the U.S. armed forces, and 1200 of the invaders were captured. The United States was forced to give $53 million worth of food and supplies to Cuba for the release of the captives. Due to Kennedys lack of involvement in the Bay of Pigs invasion, Nikita Khrushchev, the leader of the Soviet Union, felt that the U.S. would do little to resist Soviet Expansion. So, in July 1962, Khrushchev began installing missile sites in Cuba. When this was discovered, Kennedy completely blockaded Cuba and threatened to invade. The U.S.S.R. promised to withdraw from Cuba if the U.S. did not invade, and the conflict known as the Cuban Missile Crisis was resolved. After the Crisis, Soviet aid represented 75% of Cubas economy. The United States had issued a trade embargo around the time of the Bay of Pigs invasion, so when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, so did Cubas economy. Strict rations were imposed on food and supplies and Castros regime continues to be on the verge of collapse.
The Cuban revolution was a turning point in recent history. With Castros regime in place, Cuba became an important player in the global power of the Soviet Union and the severity of the Cold War. Castro was involved in unsuccessful rebellions in Venezuela, Guatemala and Bolivia, which caused Cuba to isolate itself from the surrounding world. The communist regime in Cuba gave the U.S.S.R. an ally neighboring the United States during the Cold War, thus bringing the threat of nuclear war to an all time high. Castro presents no immediate danger to the U.S. today, but his status as dictator is still highly opposed by many nations because of the violations of human rights practiced under his rule.
Sites for further Information
Castro - History Will Absolve Me"
"The Fidel castro Speech Database"
http://www.lanic.utexas.edu/la/cb/cuba/castro/ Note: Not in HTML format. However, it has a transcript of most - if not all, his speeches.
"Fidel Castro en Internet"
http://spin.com.mx/~hvelarde/Cuba/fidel.htm Note: In Spanish
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