Rejoice! Fidel Castro is finally dead! The Communist tyrant of Cuba dies at the age of 90. Born on August 13, 1926 as Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz, he led a Communist revolution seizing power in Cuba back on January 1, 1959. Fidel Castro ruled the Republic of Cuba until 2008, when he ′retired′ as president, appointing his brother Raul as his successor. Castro has suffered from poor health for many years, particularly since 2006 after surgery for internal bleeding. The news of the death of Fidel Castro caused celebration all night on the streets of Little Havana in Miami, Florida. Cuban-Americans are very happy that the long nightmare of oppression may soon draw to an end for their homeland.
Fidel Castro was born in Spain and moved to Cuba where his father worked for the American company, the United Fruit Company. Educated by Jesuits, Castro became interested in radical politics and student activism. By 1946, Fidel Castro began publicly speaking about anti-imperialism, attacking the United States. In 1947, he joined the Party of the Cuban People which opposed the government of President Ramon Grau. Later that year, Fidel joined a group to fight a US-backed, military junta led by Rafael Trujillo in the nearby island nation of the Dominican Republic. However, the 1,200-man force of radicals were stopped by Grau.
In 1948, Castro went to Columbia where a political battle between Conservatives and Communist-Liberals had become violent. He soon returned to Cuba and married into a wealthy family. Despite his new found comfort, Castro became more Marxist than ever and continued opposing the Cuban government. But, by 1950, he decided to finish school and got himself a law degree. In 1952, Castro ran for office as a candidate for the Cuban House of Representatives under the Ortodoxo Party. But, the elections were disrupted when General Fulgenico Batista seized power in a military coup. By July, Castro formed ′The Movement′ to oppose Batista.
Following several armed skirmishes with the government, Castro and many of his followers were arrested in July of 1953. Castro was sentenced to 15 years and sent to a prison near Santiago. While in prison, he divorced his wife after learning that she got a job in the Batista government in 1954. By then, Batista had held elections and won, though he ran unopposed. In May of 1955, as a gesture of good will, Batista granted amnesty to Castro and other political radicals. Shortly after, however, Castro and his brother regrouped and after a series of bombings and other violence, Fidel and Raul were forced to leave Cuba for Mexico.
While in Mexico, Castro met up with Ernesto ′Che′ Guevara. Together, they organized and trained a cadre of 81 fighters. In December of 1956, they arrived back in Cuba, prepared to lead a guerrilla war against Batista. Over the next 2 years, their force steadily grew challenging Batista for control of the Cuban countryside. In the summer of 1958, Batista launched a serious counterattack with a force of 10,000 men. But despite their numbers, Castro and his guerrillas soon gained the upper hand. By November 1959, Castro began his march on Havana.
A ceasefire was arranged by Batista′s army commander, General Eulogio Cantillo. Part of the deal was that Cantillo would assume power and hand over Batista for trial for his crimes against the people. But Batista learned of this betrayal and fled Cuba on December 31, 1958 with $300 Million dollars. Meanwhile, a Cuban Supreme Court Judge, Carlos Piedra, had Cantillo arrested and declared himself the new president. Castro′s forces entered Havana on January 2, 1959 while Fidel, himself, attacked and entered Santiago. A new government was quickly patched together with a puppet-president, Manuel Urrutia Lleo under the control of Castro.
At first, Fidel Castro denied being a Communist. When he became Prime Minister of Cuba in February of 1959, Castro launched a ′charm offensive′, attempting to curry support and financial aide from the United States and other nations. Over the next few months, Castro installed as many Marxists as he could into positions of power. When his puppet Urrutia began to balk, Castro organized a coup to oust him in July. A Marxist was appointed as president, Osvaldo Dorticos Torrado, who was also in Castro′s pocket. Meanwhile, old political foes were rounded up and executed or imprisoned in the thousands.
After a series of land reforms and public works projects, the situation in Cuba became more divided. Those of the former wealthy and Middle-Class began fleeing, many emigrating to Florida. This ′brain drain′ caused the Cuban economy to slow and become stagnant. By 1960, Castro began getting more cozy with the Soviet Union, and he started to nationalize companies and property owned by US interests. The outgoing President Eisenhower administration gave the CIA the ′green light′ to overthrow the Castro regime. This led to the Bay of Pigs invasion on April 16, 1961. The attack failed as the new US President, John F. Kennedy, choked, holding back much needed air support. This set the stage for direct involvement by the Soviet Union to protect Cuba, leading to the Cuban Missile Crisis in October of 1962.
Following the Bay of Pigs disaster, what remaining economic and diplomatic ties between Cuba and the United States also came to an end. There was no longer any reason for Fidel Castro to pretend that he was not a Communist. He did continue to rule Cuba as Prime Minister until 1976, when Castro finally was ′elected′ as President. By then, Cuba had infected a good deal of Central and South America with Marxism, and was going worldwide, sending troops to Africa and other ′hot spots′ of the Cold War.
But Cuba′s fortunes were soon to take another, deeper downward turn. By the end of the 1980s, the old Soviet Union was falling apart. The East Bloc nations in Europe were becoming Capitalist democracies. The Fall of the Berlin Wall marked the end of the Cold War. The Soviet Union collapsed shortly after. While the new Russia still maintained ties with Cuba, the days of free weapons, and other economic support ended. Castro tried to keep the game going, but its meager economy was hit hard. By 1994, a genuine anti-Castro movement was taking to the streets.
By 1995, Castro allowed some new reforms to take place. Much of the old, die-hard Communists retired from office. Tourism opened the doors for more cash flow and Castro even eased restrictions on religion. In 1998, Castro invited Pope John Paul II to visit Cuba, and granted the Catholic Church to operate more freely. Things improved in 2000 when Hugo Chavez became president of Venezuela. Other Latin American countries that made up the so-called ′Pink Tide′ also came in handy to boost Cuba′s economy and standing on the world stage.
Following the September 11 attacks on the United States in 2001, Castro actually condemned Al Qaeda. By 2002, another wave of reforms known as the Varela Project brought more religious freedom and some additional changes to improve the economy. Fidel Castro was in his late 70s by now and slowing down. His days as a trouble maker were numbered as his health began to decline. In 2006, he underwent surgery for intestinal bleeding. In February, 2008, Fidel Castro finally decided to retire, somewhat, and turned Cuba over to his brother Raul. Fidel continued to be an advisor and would appear in public on occasion, but his days as a ruthless dictator had come to an end.
Fidel Castro would pop up once in a while every couple of years for some event or award. He traveled a bit and often saw visiting dignitaries. Castro did not meet with Barack Obama during the visit to Cuba in March, 2015. But he did meet with the president of Iran, Hassan Rouhani, just this last September. Shortly after midnight today, Cuban TV announced that Fidel Castro had died. Hearing that Castro was dead sent much joy through the streets of Little Havana in Miami, Florida. Cuba will undergo 9 days of mourning. The big question now is how long will Raul Castro hold power?
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