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Fidel Castro

On July 26, 1953, a revolt against Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista broke out as about 130 young men attacked an army barracks. The leader of the revolt was a twenty-six year old lawyer named Fidel Castro. The revolt was a failure. Some of the attackers were massacred, other were imprisoned. Castro escaped to the mountains, but was captured and sentenced to fifteen years in prison. Batista later pardoned Castro, which turned out to be a mistake that would end his dictatorship.

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Castro attacked again in 1956. Castro promised he would replace Batista’s dictatorship with free elections. He also promised to end government corruption. During Batista’s regime, many American criminals were involved in Cuba’s thriving tourist industry. Bribes were a common way of doing business in that era. Cuban business leaders, landowners, and Roman Catholic bishops persuaded the United States to withdraw its support from Batista and end arms sales to Cuba. On January 1, 1959, Batista and his family fled to Florida, taking with them a substantial portion of the Cuban treasury.

Castro’s government initially had the backing of most of the Cuban people, but many of his supporters were soon alienated. Castro seized agricultural estates, factories, and utilities. It soon became apparent that Castro was setting up a one-party Communist government. From 1945 to 1990, the United States and the Soviet Union were the two strongest military powers in the world. Each fought for control of the developing nations of the world in what was known as the “Cold War.” Shortly after Castro took power, Cuba severed its ties to the United States and formed a close relationship with the Soviet Union.

Many Cubans left the island to resettle in the United States, mostly in south Florida. The Cuban exiles sought American support in overthrowing Castro’s dictatorship. The American government helped organize and finance an invasion of Cuba by about 1500 exiles. The exiles landed at the Bay of Pigs, on Cuba’s southeastern coast, in 1961. They were soundly defeated.


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The following year, American spy planes discovered the Soviet government was building launching pads for nuclear missiles in Cuba. If the Soviets completed their project, nuclear missiles would be pointed at America from less than one hundred miles away. President John Kennedy threatened to invade Cuba, and the world came close to nuclear war. Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushev agreed to remove the missiles on the condition that the United States promise not to invade Cuba.

The following year, American spy planes discovered the Soviet government was building launching pads for nuclear missiles in Cuba. If the Soviets completed their project, nuclear missiles would be pointed at America from less than one hundred miles away. President John Kennedy threatened to invade Cuba, and the world came close to nuclear war. Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushev agreed to remove the missiles on the condition that the United States promise not to invade Cuba.

In 1980, thousands of Cuban citizens begged for a way to leave the country. American president Jimmy Carter agreed to accept the people who wanted to leave Cuba. Castro opened the port of Mariel to anyone who wanted to leave, but he was surprised and embarrassed by the number of people who accepted his offer.

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Castro saw an opportunity. He kept his agreement to allow citizens to leave from Mariel, but he insisted they take everyone. Castro emptied his prisons and discharged some of the sickest people from his hospitals. The Americans could either turn away exiled Cubans who had been waiting to embrace their families, or they could take the bad along with the good. America chose the second course, and accepted more than 125,000 Cubans. Castro stopped the exodus, but families continue to attempt to leave. They often resort to any boat or raft that could get them to the United States. Many perished at sea.

In 2015, the United States and Cuba restored diplomatic relations, and in March 2016, American Presidengt Barack President Barack Obama became the first American President to visit the island nation in 80 years.


Fidel Castro (born 1926) has been a leader of the Cuban government since 1959.





Fulgencio Batista
Fulgencio Batista y Zaldívar (1901 - 1973) was dictator of Cuba until he was overthrown in a 1959 revolution.





Cuba - Life Magazine article on the Bay of Pigs invasion
Life Magazine article on the Bay of Pigs invasion.





Cuba - The world came close to nuclear war over the Cuban Missile Crisis
The world came close to nuclear war over the Cuban Missile Crisis





Cuba - More than 125,000 Cubans crowded into boats to make the journey to America in 1980.
More than 125,000 Cubans crowded into boats to make the journey to America in 1980.





Cuba - American president Jimmy Carter
American president Jimmy Carter (born 1924) agreed to accept the people who wanted to leave Cuba in 1980.







Barack Obama and Raul Castro meet

Cuban President Raul Castro (who replaced his ailing brother in office) greets American President Barack Obama in 2015.

Resources:

Download this lesson as Microsoft Word file or as an Adobe Acrobat file.

Mr. Donn has an excellent website that includes a section on the Caribbean.





To cite this page (MLA):

Dowling, Mike. "Fidel Castro ."   www.mrdowling.com.  Updated July 12, 2016 .  Web.  Date of Access. <http://www.mrdowling.com/710-castro.html>

Copyright © 2016 by Mike Dowling. All rights reserved.
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