Fidel Castro

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Though he has a negative connotation in the American political perspective for being a Leninist/Marxist and for provoking such incidents as the Cuban Missile Crisis, Fidel Castro was a positive leader in Cuba and made many improvements to Cuban society after the Cuban Revolution that he led in 1959. Due to such incidents, many of Castro’s social reforms in Cuba are ignored (or dismissed as completely communistic and therefore without any merit to the United States), especially reforms that he made between the start of the revolution and 1990. As any newly instated leader would, Castro made mistakes in his rule and misjudged some situations, especially in the political playground. However, he made many contributions to his country and to the status of living to Cubans in his long reign as the main authority power in Cuba.

After graduating from the School of Law of the University of Havana in 1950, Fidel Castro began to practice law. He joined the Cuban People’s Party, sometimes called the Ortodoxos, and was their candidate for the Cuban House of Representatives in the Havana district for the June 1952 elections. In March 1952, General Fulgencio Batista y Zalvidar overthrew current government of President Carlos Prío Socarrás. In a previous 1933 revolt, Batista organized a coup that overthrew a provisional regime under Carlos Manuel de Céspedes. Céspedes’ government had replaced the dictatorship of Gerardo Machado y Morales. Up until 1944, Batista established a strong and efficient government in Cuba. He cultivated army support, civil service, and organized labor. Ruling through associates between 1930 and 1949, he was then elected president in 1940. He retired from office in 1944 to travel, and then settled in Florida. In the next eight years after Batista’s retirement, there was a resurrection of corruption in Cuba’s government. Batista then led a second military revolt in March 1952, where he was widely accepted as a hero and savior of the people under and oppressive government. However, his second term in power was vastly different from his first one. After coming back into power, Batista promptly canceled the June 1952 elections and proclaimed himself the dictator of Cuba. This second term where he ruled as a dictator was marked by corruption, brutal leadership, jailing of many political opponents, and methods of ruling that bordered on being terroristic. Batista took control of the University of Havana, the press, and the Congress. Embezzlement became a huge problem, as Batista guzzled huge quantities of his funds from Cuba’s elevated economy. These funds made Batista himself even richer, while he also sent money to his close cabinet, heads of state, and other associates. On July 26, 1953, Fidel Castro led an unsuccessful attack on Batista’s forces at Santiago de Cuba. Santiago de Cuba was an army post and military barracks. He led about 160 men against the Moncada Barracks, where they were largely outnumbered. The operation was almost doomed to failure. Eventually, almost all of his men were killed, and Castro himself was arrested. He acted as his own defense lawyer in his trial, where he conducted an “impassioned defense.” Castro gained many supporters from his speech entitled “History Will Absolve Me.” During his trial for his involvement in the July attack on the Moncada Barracks, he made this speech defending his actions and criticizing the new government under Batista. To Castro, it seemed that former-President Socarrás and General Batista were ruining Cuba and that the idea of the Republic was indeed a joke, as the rulers were violating the Constitution that made it a Republic; he spoke openly about this in his speech. Another part of his speech protested the sentence he was facing: usually the crimes that he was being acquitted of would give him a three to five year prison sentence, but under Batista’s influence on the courts, he was stuck facing a possible 26 year sentence. He spoke of how he and eight other...
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