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Contributing Factors to the Rise of Fidel Castro

By ZStardust May 24, 2015 999 Words
Contributing Factors to the Rise of Castro

On the first day of 1959, President Fulgencio Batista of Cuba boarded a plane

to leave his country forever, surrendering Cuba’s government to a force of

revolutionaries lead by Fidel Castro. The country was soon a host to one of the most

hostile moments in the Cold War, the Cuban Missile crisis. This small Mid-Caribbean

island became the focal point of Soviet and Western superpowers within four years

of Castro’s coup of the Cuban government. How was he able to rise and seize control

of a country to become one of the world’s most influential political leaders of the

Cold War? Factors that contributed to Fidel Castro’s ascent in Cuban government

include his promises to improve living standards, the people’s discontent with their

dictators, and the revolutionary support from fellow Cubans.

The Cuban economy fell into a bust during the 1920s; banks were foreclosing

on loans, causing people to lose their land and source of income, and go into

starvation; the country’s largest export, sugar from the sugarcane, was at a record

setting low price; Havana workers went on a general strike for several months; and

public employees went unpaid. Throughout riots and revolts, the country’s leaders

turned a blind eye on their people in turmoil, raising taxes and borrowing huge

amounts of money from foreign countries. While Castro was born into a wealthy

family, he was exposed to what his less-fortunate peers were enduring throughout

his childhood. He took improving living standards as a cause to fight for, as he would

not accept this as the life that many Cubans were bound to live. A strong leader was

needed, one that did not ignore the poor, Castro believed. He promised to

redistribute the land to the poor and focus on employment to restore the economy.

In a 1959 speech, Castro says, “The more we produce on all types of necessary

articles, the sooner our living standards will rise. Our strategy must be to put all

unemployed to work.” This reinforcement that he will lift Cubans out of poverty

won him many supporters in the peasantry of Cuba, which enabled his revolution to

continue without being debunked.

Dictatorship was a continuous theme throughout the twentieth century in

Cuban government. Gerardo Machado y Morales was elected president of Cuba in

1924. He became popular by proposing extensive public work projects to give

‘needy’ Cubans jobs, but instead poured money into expanding Cuba’s army.

Growing dissatisfaction with Machado resulted in a revolt, which forced him to

resign. Ramon Grau San Martin became president in 1944, which then sparked

widespread riots by political groups opposing the regime. Fidel criticized Grau on

his breaking of his promise to supply the poor with land, and permitting most of the

country’s wealth to be controlled by foreigners. General Fuglencio Batista later

became president, again giving hope for reform and new jobs. Batista stayed in

power by using violence and bribery, and jailing his opponents. The people’s

discontent with these constant dictators provoked them to turn to a leader who

displayed real motivation to follow through with their promises.

A suitable choice for leadership when considering who will back up what

they stand for was Fidel Castro. For example, he made attempts at using the legal

system to declare Batista’s seizure of the government was unconstitutional, rather

than using only violence. He was also arrested in 1953 and taken to court after an

attempt to attack military barracks, Moncada, in Santiago de Cuba. During the trial,

he presented a speech entitled “History Will Absolve Me” which lasted more than

two hours. In the speech he said, “if the [Cuban] soldiers slay and oppress the

people, betray the nation and defend on the interests of one small group [of the

wealthy], then the Army deserves not a cent of the Republic’s money and Camp

Columbia should be converted into a school with ten thousand orphans living there

instead of soldiers.” These passionate exhibits of protest convinced Cubans that

Castro was adamant in his stance on revolution for the poor.

Fidel Castro would not have been successful without the numerous people

supporting and fighting in his movement. The Cuban people were as unhappy with

their situation as Castro was; the average yearly income for a family of six was

$590.75; 88% of educated people dropped out by the third grade; and there were

too few jobs for too many people. Fidel first gained supporters when he joined the

Cuban People’s Party, who campaigned against political corruption, unemployment,

and poverty. The surviving members of the military campaign to attack Moncada

followed him in exile to Mexico City, where Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara and other

volunteers joined them in combat training. In 1956, Castro and his 81 men returned

to Cuba and hid in the Sierra Maestre mountains. The troops were able to survive by

the peasants who Castro gained the trust of; they supplied them with food and

medical attention. Batista’s army was demoralized after many defeats from the

revolutionary army made up of ‘Fidelistas’ and a growing number of volunteers. By

the end of the campaign, Cuban soldiers were surrendering to Castro’s troops

because they knew that Batista’s government was not far from collapsing. The

dedication of the many volunteer soldiers and suppliers of aid were essential in

Castro’s eventual victory, as he would not have withstood the Cuban army and

government without a number of supporters to oppose them.

Castro was able to rise through his loyalty to the poor, opposition of Cuba’s

dictators, and his many supporters. He gathered followers by giving attention to the

needs of the masses, earned their confidence by showing determination in his cause,

and was boosted by devoted revolutionaries. Without these key elements, Castro

would not have flourished in the eyes of the Cuban people. As a result of failing to

meet these necessities, Batista was forced to cede control of Cuba. Thus, the

revolution was a victory for Fidel and for communism.

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