Castro Fidel 1926 - 2016 (90)
On his own words
Fidel Castro (1926-2016) was a Cuban revolutionary and politician who came to power in 1961 and ruled Cuba authoritarianly until 2006, denying any kind of liberalization or opposition. Born on August 13, 1926 in the city of Biran in eastern Cuba, his father was a Spanish landowner and his mother was originally the family maid. He was very good in sports, especially in baseball, in 1944 he won an award in a national competition. He started in a boarding school from which he was expelled due to his behavior, continued in a Jesuit school, and eventually received a law degree from the University of Havana. In 1946, while still a student, he spoke out against US interventionist policies and their corrupt allies in Cuba, which had a major impact.
In 1948 he married a fellow student, the daughter of a wealthy family, and together they had a son; his wife divorced him when she found love letters that Castro had send to another woman. With that other woman, Fidel had a daughter, who fled Cuba in 1993, pretending to be a tourist, and has since criticized her father. Fidel had five more boys with his second wife.
In 1953, Batista seized power in Cuba in a coup (after losing the elections) and young Fidel organized an armed struggle against him. They attacked the Moncada barracks, but the attack failed, Fidel was arrested and sentenced to 15 years in prison. After two years he was given amnesia and released. He was exiled to Mexico where he assembled a small army and, together with Ernesto Che Guevara, landed on the south coast of the country in 1956. They were defeated by Batista's men, and they fled to the hills of Sierra Maestra, where he managed to reorganize his army, with which in August 1958 launched a major attack that would culminate in the overthrow of Batista's regime on January 1, 1959. Castro seized the power and will keep it for 46 years.
Castro's revolution was supported by the poor masses, the majority of the population; it was also supported by several middle-class intellectuals, in a society that until then was controlled by a minority of Cubans and Americans. At the beginning of his rule, Castro tried to establish diplomatic and trade relations with the United States, but he did not succeed. His reforms in the economic and agricultural sectors, as well as its reconstruction according to the Soviet model, caused the dissatisfaction of the USA, which proceeded to the severance of its trade relations with Cuba.
In 1961 Castro nationalized 29 companies owned by US citizens and the assets of 382 large Cuban-owned companies as well as all banks. The Americans reacted by supporting and arming a group of Cuban opposition, which aimed to overthrow Fidel Castro and attempted a 1961 invasion of the Gulf of Pigs, without success.
Castro opened alliance with the USSR, receiving financial and military assistance, while the US cut all ties with Cuba. The "missile crisis", as it went down in history a year later, was described as the biggest conflict of the Cold War between USA and USSR. The occasion was the installation of Soviet missiles in Cuba. The world in the summer of 1962 was on the brink of nuclear war, but in the end, Nikita Kruchev agreed to disarm the missiles and take them back to his country, while the US guaranteed that it will not invade Cuba.
US-Cuban relations remained hostile, while Cuba came closer to the USSR by receiving financial aid as from the other countries of the Eastern bloc. In 1980, Castro allowed Cubans, who wished to leave the island, to leave, 125,000 people left. In 1982 the US stepped up sanctions, banning flights and tourism to the island.
With the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Cuban economy collapsed, and in 1992 the situation worsened as well US blockade intensified. The General Assembly of the United Nations in November 1992 made a decision, calling for the lifting of the embargo, to no avail. The same year Constitutional changes were attempted in Cuba, which strengthened the powers of the President and enabled him to take full control of the army. Since then he will rule even more authoritarian. On July 31, 2006, Castro was forced to hand over power to his brother Raul after undergoing serious surgery. He died on November 25, 2016, in Havana, at the age of 90.