Analyse the conditions and actions that helped Castro in his bid for power

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  1. Analyse the conditions and actions that helped Castro in his bid for power.

Hanna Kansanen

The aim of this text is to ‘’Analyse the conditions and actions that helped Castro in his bid for power’’. Overall the conditions facing Cuba and the historical context play a significant role in Fidel Castro’s rise to power in Cuba but the actions of Castro and his guerrilla troops especially in mountains of Sierra Maestra contributed the most to the increasing popularity of Castro in the 1950’s.

Fulgencio Batista had ruled Cuba as a president in 1933-44 and again as a dictator in 1952-59. Batista had the support from the US – that practically was in charge in Cuba because of the Platt Amendment of 1901 – and was a very right-wing ruler. In 1944 Batista introduced war taxes to help the US in its war effort. This was not very popular action amongst the Cubans – especially the poor part of the population which was more than half of the whole population.

The opposition to Batista’s government – Fidel Castro and his small number of ideological comrades – attacked Moncada barracks in Santiago de Cuba in 26th of July 1953. The attack was a failure but it helped Castro to spread his ideas and gain support for example with the speech he gave in the trial following the attack. Castro and his brother Raùl were imprisoned but rather quickly released.

As a tribute to the failure in Moncada barracks Castro formed the 26 July movement. Castro and his group went to Mexico to plan a revolution where Castro met Ernesto ‘’Che’’ Guevara who was to become an important player in the revolution. In Mexico Castro started to train his ‘’army’’ but soon led his group of 81 revolutionaries to Sierra Maestra in Cuba where Batista’s forces were to meet them.

Only 16 members survived and started to organize a campaign of guerrilla warfare which was to be a sort of a trademark for Castro. In Sierra Maestra the revolutionaries recruited many new members and the group grew in size. American reporter Herbert Matthews wrote stories about Castro’s revolutionary plans which also contributed to the growing number of troops.

Castro’s troops finally announced a war in February 1958 and in May Batista attacked the revolutionaries. They fought back and Batista lost many men which led to the retreat of Batista: Castro was now the ruler of Cuba with a guerrilla army of 50,000 men.

The Moncada attack played a significant role in Castro’s rise. It was very similar to Adolf Hitler’s Munich Putch in 1923 which also proved to be a failure. As well as Hitler, Castro knew how to take advantage of the failure: 61 of the 165 young men were slaughtered in the attack by Batista’s forces which got quite a lot of attention in the media. In the trial following the attack Castro gave a famous ‘’history will absolve me’’ speech which became a manifesto for the Fidelistas. With this attack in Santiago de Cuba, Castro got positive attention.

In Mexico Castro met Che Guevara. Guevara rose to be a kind of a symbol to the revolution and played a big role in overthrowing Batista by being the third leader of the revolution next to the Castro brothers. One of the biggest reasons for Castro’s rise was the quality of his commanders: a small revolutionary group needs powerful figures in its lead. In Sierra Maestra Castro started to really train his troops. The location of this operation was important because Sierra Maestra was an area with only a few Rural Guard – police force – outposts.

This guerrilla warfare and recruiting of new revolutionaries were major factors contributing to the rise of Castro. Sierra Maestra was a rural area where poorer people had been terrorized by the Rural Guard commanders for decades which made them eager to join Castro. Historian Isaac Saney emphasizes the role of the poor population in the Cuban revolution. The troops of Castro’s grew in size from 165 in 1953 to 50,000 in 1958 which shows the success of the guerrilla warfare which at the end of 1958 fought back to Batista’s forced and compelled him to flee with his family.

As a conclusion the role of the actions of Castro and his troops was really important in his rise to power in 1959. Especially the time in Sierra Maestra was significant: there he increased the size of his army to be able to fight back to Batista. Of course the background played a role as well but in my opinion it was Castro’s brothers and Che Guevara who were the reason the revolution was finally a success – revolution has to be led by right people and fought with right tactics. That’s what Castro was able to do.

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