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Malika Jafferjee

Rise and Rule of Single Party States: Fidel Castro

  • Rise:


  • After the Spanish American War (a military conflict between Spain and the United States that began in April 1898. Hostilities halted in August of that year, and the Treaty of Paris was signed in December) the Platt amendment was imposed.

  • Platt Amendment: -99 year lease on naval base in Guantamo Bay - U.S. could intervene anytime they felt needed if they felt there was corruption occurring - U.S. had to approve of Cuban foreign policy *NOTE: this goes back to ideas of the “father-like” or paternalistic relations between the U.S. and Latin America

  • At first the U.S. supported Machado but as soon as they saw that Machado was not effective and negatively affecting Cuba U.S. switched support to Batista

  • Batista agreed to rule under the condition that the Platt Amendment is removed first

  • The Platt Amendment was removed with the exception of the Guantanamo Bay (legal way to get rid of Guantanamo was if both U.S. and Cuba agreed- but the U.S. would not agree to give up a naval base)

  • Then from Batista rises Castro…..



  • Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz was born on August 13, 1926 (it is sketchy exactly when Castro was born)

        • on a sugar plantation in Birán, near Mayarí

        • Eastern part of the island

-This area was much less developed, backwards, country, not well respected…etc.

-in the modern-day province of Holguín (then a part of the now Oriente province).

  • Third child

  • Born to Ángel Castro y Argiz : a Galician (region in Spain that is still poor to this day) immigrant

- became relatively prosperous through work in the sugar industry and successful investing

-came to cuba to fight for the Spanish and stayed

-knew little English

-was a violent man

….and Lina Ruz González :

-household servant

- was also of Galician background

  • Castro was born as a “bastard child” (his father was married to Maria Luisa Argota when he was born), therefore Fidel as a child had to deal both with his illegitimacy and the challenge of being raised in various foster homes away from his father's house.

- this plays into the idea that Castro was always an outsider and was always looked down upon in elite society

  • Fidel was not baptized until he was 8, this is VERY uncommon,

- this contributed to the embarrassment and ridicule from other children.

  • Castro is a classic caudillo, according to Eis Eis Baby this is a Spanish strongman- someone who comes to power because they simply can…not due to ideology …etc.

-In addition, Eissler stated that a caudillo is a plantation conservative, tied to the military/ church

-According to Encarta dictionary a caudillo is: in a Spanish- speaking country, a military or political leader, especially a dictator

BEGINNINGS Castro’s Political Start
  • Attended law school at University of Havana, in late 1945

  • Became involved in the political culture at the university immediately (this was a reflection of the volatile politics in Cuba during this time) - students at the university were gangsters (not gangSTAS) - involved in organized crime. - since the fall of president Gerardo Machado (in the 1930s) student politics degenerated into a form of gangsterismo -Castro became implicated in shooting related to Rolando Masferrer’s MSR action group (Masferrer was a Cuban guerrilla leader, lawyer, congressman, newspaper publisher, member of the Cuban Communist Party and political activist) and apparently collaborated in an attempt on Masferrer’s life. Masferrer was in a paramilitary group les tigres, which later became an instrument of state violence under Batista and later hunted Castro seeking violent vengeance. - University of Havana campus became a source of power for the political leadership, often hired students as assassins…etc.

  • In 1947 Castro grew increasingly passionate about social justice; he joined the Partido Ortodoxo (formed by Eduardo Chibás: very charismatic figure, running for president against the current president Ramón Grau San Martín who had allowed rampant corruption during his term)

  • Castro considered Chibás as his mentor - The Partido Ortodoxo demanded government and social reform and publicly exposed corruption. - Its goals were:

          • to instill a strong sense of national identity among Cuban

          • establish Cuban economic independence

          • establish freedom from the United States

          • stop the power of the elite over Cuban politics

*(NOTE: these very closely resemble many of Castro’s goals as dictator)

Bogotazo Incident

  • Early April 1948 Castro traveled to Bogota for a political conference of Latin American students that coincided with the 9th meeting of the Pan- Amercian Union Conference - the Pan-American Union is an international organization, headquartered in Washington, D.C., United States. Its members are the thirty-five independent states of the Americas.

  • The students planned to use this opportunity to distribute pamphlets protesting United States dominance of the Western Hemisphere.

  • A few days after the conference began, the populist Colombian Liberal Party leader and presidential candidate Gaitán was shot by an unknown young man

  • This therefore triggered massive riots in the streets in which many (mostly poor workers) were injured or killed.

  • This trend of rioting and looting spread to other cities in Colombia, beginning an era of turbulence that became known as "La Violencia".

  • The students were caught up in the violence and chaos taking over the city, and picked up rifles and began roaming the streets distributing anti-United States material and stirring a revolt.

  • When Castro was pursued by the Colombian authorities for his role in the riots, he took refuge in the Cuban Embassy and was flown back to Havana.

*(NOTE: Events such as this spread the word of Castro and played a part in his growing popularity. In addition this event helped stir about feeling of intense nationalism and anti- United States dominance- which are major concerns of Castro’s as he develops his leadership position)

It’s Revolution Time

  • When Castro returned to Cuba he married Mirta Diaz Balart - she was a student from a wealthy Cuban family - through this marriage Castro was exposed to the lifestyle of the Cuban elite (remember that as a child he was always the outcast and looked down upon by the elite)

  • In 1950 he graduated from law school with a Doctor of Laws degree and began practicing law in a small partnership in Havana. -By now Castro is well known for his passionately nationalistic views and his intense opposition to the influence of the United States on Cuban internal affairs.

  • In 1952 Castro had become a candidate for a seat in the Cuban parliament when General Fulgencio Batista led a coup d'état (successfully overthrowing the government of President Carlos Prío Socarrás and canceling the election.)

  • Batista established himself as de facto leader.

  • His government was formally recognized by the United States, strengthening his power.

  • Castro now became a politician without a legitimate platform and thus he broke away from the Partido Ortodoxo to marshal legal arguments based on the Constitution of 1940 to formally charge Batista with violating the constitution.

  • His petition, entitled Zarpazo, was denied by the Court of Constitutional Guarantees and he was not allowed a hearing. -*NOTE: This experience formed the foundation for Castro's opposition to the Batista government and convinced him that revolution was the only way to throw out Batista. Batista became very powerful, especially within the elite (who pretty much controlled society) and with the help of the United States.

SIDE BAR: 1940 Constitution of Cuba:

  • Was implemented in 1940 (duh!)

  • Implemented during the presidency of Federico Laredo Brú.

  • It was primarily influenced by the collectivist ideas that inspired the Cuban Revolution of 1933. Considered one of the most "progressive" constitutions in existence at the time, - it provided for:

          • land reform,

          • public education,

          • minimum wage

          • and other leftist ideas.

  • Introduced the role of prime minister

  • the executive branch converted to semi-parliamentary form, where half of its ministers could also be congressmen

  • Supreme Court justices were appointed by the president and confirmed by the senate

Cuban Revolution and Acquiring of Power

Moncada Barracks Attack:

  • Castro abandoned his law practice and formed an underground organization of supporters as dissatisfaction over Batista grew.

  • They actively plotted to overthrow Batista.

  • They collected guns and ammunition and finalized their plans for an armed attack on Moncada Barracks, Batista's largest garrison outside Santiago de Cuba.

  • On the 26th of July, 1953, they attacked Moncada Barracks. - chose July 26th because it is a specific harvest holiday, so they thought that the military would have been a bit more lax due to festivities and celebrations. - The July 26th movement illustrates the brutality of the Batista regime - was political propaganda picking such a date for the attack

  • The Céspedes garrison in Bayamo was also attacked as a diversion.

  • The attack proved disastrous and more than sixty of the one-hundred and thirty-five militants involved were killed. -Batista just had too many troops, and with sophisticated weapons provided by the US they just couldn’t be beat.

  • Castro and other surviving members of his group managed to escape to a part of the rugged Sierra Maestra Mountains (east of Santiago)

  • They were eventually discovered and captured. However they were not executed-there is evidence that an officer recognized Castro from his university days and spared them.

  • Fall of 1953 Castro was trialed and sentenced to up to 15 years in prison.

  • During his trial Castro delivered his famous defense speech History Will Absolve Me -this speech basically declared his political views (love for justice, his country, humanity…etc) and upheld his rebellious actions.

  • He was held at prison on Isla de Pinos. While he was there he continued to plot Batista’s overthrow.

  • After having served less than two years, he was released in May 1955 due to a general amnesty from Batista who was under political pressure.

  • Castro went to Mexico to reorganize.

26th of July Movement:

  • Once in Mexico, Castro reunited with other Cuban exiles and founded the 26th of July Movement, named after the date of the failed attack on the Moncada Barracks.

  • The goal remained to overthrow Batista.

  • Castro had learned from the Moncada experience that new tactics were needed if Batista's forces were to be defeated. This time, the plan was to use underground guerrilla warfare tactics, (which were used by the Cubans the last time they attempted a populist overthrow of what they considered an imperialistic regime).

  • In Mexico, Castro met Ernesto "Che" Guevara (a proponent of guerrilla warfare, a nationalist leader, epitome of a communist, a revolutionary). Guevara joined the group of rebels and became an important force in shaping Castro's evolving political beliefs.

  • Guevara's observations of the misery of the poor in Latin America had already convinced him that the only solution lay in a violent revolution.

  • On November 26, 1956, Castro and his group of 81 followers, mostly Cuban exiles, set out from Tuxpan, Veracruz, aboard the yacht Granma for the purpose of starting a rebellion in Cuba. -*NOTE: the Granma can be viewed as evidence of Castro’s growing support, his supporters were the ones who pitched in and gave him money to buy this yacht

  • the rebels landed at Playa Las Coloradas on December 2, 1956.

  • In short order, most of Castro's men were killed, dispersed, or taken prisoner by Batista's forces.

  • it is typically agreed that no more than 20 of the original 81 men survived the bloody encounters with the Cuban army and succeeded in fleeing to the Sierra Maestra mountains. The group of survivors included Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, Raúl Castro, and Camilo Cienfuegos. Those who survived were aided by people in the countryside. They regrouped in the Sierra Maestra in Oriente province and organized a column under Fidel Castro's command.

  • From their encampment in the Sierra Maestra Mountains, the 26th of July Movement waged a guerrilla war against the Batista government. -In the cities and major towns also, resistance groups were organizing until underground groups were everywhere. -The strongest was in Santiago

  • As Castro's movement gained popular support in the cities and countryside, it grew to over eight hundred men.

  • In mid-1957 Castro gave Che Guevara command of a second column. -A journalist, Herbert Matthews from the New York Times, came to interview him in the Sierra Maestra, attracting interest to Castro's cause in the United States. -The New York Times front page stories by Matthews presented Castro as a romantic and appealing revolutionary, bearded and dressed in rumpled fatigues. -Through television, Castro's rudimentary command of the English language and charismatic presence enabled him to appeal directly to a U.S. audience.

  • In 1957, Castro also signed the Manifesto of the Sierra Maestra - in which he agreed to which was to call elections under the Electoral Code of 1943 within the first 18 months of his time in power -he also agreed to restore all of the provisions of the Constitution of 1940 that had been suspended under Batista.

  • Remember that by March of 1958 the U.S. cuts off support from Batista

Operation Verano

  • Launched in May 1958 aiming to crush Castro and other anti-government groups.

  • Although heavily outnumbered, Castro's guerrilla forces scored a series of victories, largely aided by mass desertions from Batista's army (they were poorly trained and uncommitted) -During the Battle of La Plata, Castro's forces defeated an entire battalion. -During the Battle of Las Mercedes, Castro's small army came close to defeat but he managed to pull his troops out by opening up negotiations with General Cantillo while secretly slipping his soldiers out of a trap.

  • When Operation Verano ended, Castro invaded central Cuba where they were strongly supported by rebellious elements who had long been operating in the area.

  • Castro's forces first surrounded the town of Guisa in Granma Province and drove out their enemies, then proceeded to take most of the towns that had been taken by Calixto García in the 1895-1898 Cuban War of Independence.

Battle of Yaguajay

  • In December 1958 they succeeded in occupying several towns, and then began preparations for an attack on Santa Clara, the provincial capital.

  • launched a fierce assault on the Cuban army surrounding Santa Clara

  • Defeated on all sides, Batista's forces crumbled.

  • The provincial capital was captured after less than a day of fighting on December 31, 1958.

  • After the loss of Santa Clara and expecting betrayal by his own army, Batista (fled to the Dominican Republic in the early hours of January 1, 1959. They left behind a junta headed by Gen. Eulogio Cantillo, recently the commander in Oriente province, the center of the Castro revolt.

  • The junta immediately selected Dr. Carlos Piedra, the oldest judge of the Supreme Court, as provisional President of Cuba as specified in the Constitution of 1940. Castro refused to accept the selection of Justice Piedra as provisional President and the Supreme Court refused to administer the oath of office to the Justice.

  • The rebel forces of Fidel Castro seized power throughout the island.

  • At the age of 32, Castro had successfully masterminded a classic guerrilla campaign from his headquarters in the Sierra Maestra and ousted Batista.

  • In 1959 Castro decides parliamentary democracy is not right for Cuba so he postpones it and implements the Fundamental Law of Republic (in Feb. of 1959)- this means that he moves all power into the executive branch, securing his place as dictator.

  • Castro came into power with goals of: - land redistribution -income redistribution - diversifying the economy -independence from the United States dominance

Rule of Fidel Castro (1959-now)
January 1, 1959- Fidel and his followers enter Havana; Batista flees to Miami, Florida

-Castro has the support of many different parts of Cuban society

A. This support comes from the following things that he demands happen:

1. Restoration of the Constitution of 1940

2. Land redistribution

3. Wealth shared

4. anti-US/Yankee sentiment


B. All of these factors help him win support of the poor, the workers, the farmers, and the middle class, all who are treated like crap under Batista’s regime.
C. During his rise, Castro never speaks of any socialism and is not a communist; US therefore does not freak out when he comes to power
Castro’s rule (1959-1962)

Fundamental Law of the Republic (Feb. 1959): Cuba will not be a parliamentary democracy and all legislative power is handed over to the executive branch

-This essentially makes Fidel a dictator

-free press suspended and University of Havana finally brought under governmental control

-executes and exiles many Batistianos (supporters of Batista)
July 1959: split between moderates and radicals in government; Fidel purges many of the moderates and moves closer to the Communist Party

Begins to socialize the Cuban economy

Reason: NATIONALISM; Cuba cannot be self sufficient or independent until it has control of its own industries and economy (over 80% of Cuba owned by US businesses)

  1. Castro nationalizes the sugar farms and their refineries from US owners

  2. Follows this in May 1960 by nationalizing the oil refineries based in Cuba when the US refused to process the crude oil Cuba bought from the USSR

  3. In response Ike set up and embargo on Cuba and by October of 1960 all US-Cuban trade had stopped

  4. Relations quickly sour between the two sides

  5. This allows the USSR to move in and secure Castro for their side of the Cold War

    1. NOTE: this happens because it is a bipolar world; you are either with the US or the USSR and few truly stray from this

    2. As Fidel angers the US, for survival reasons he has to go to the USSR for aid

    3. Brings up the question again of whether Castro was a nationalist, a communist, or just a Latin American strong-man (Caudillo/ Fidelista)

    4. This is good for analysis of the global implications/ impacts that Cuba has on the larger Cold War, as well as for the Rise and Rule part of the exam

Bay of Pigs (April 15, 1961)

For details, look in the Cold War outline
-Effects: makes Castro a hero to the Cuban people for defeating what they see as just another imperialist attack on their sovereignty

-allows Castro to arrest any dissidents in his country;

EXCUSE: they would try to overthrow him

-also makes the USSR become an ally of Castro (they don’t want to miss the opportunity to have an ally only 90 miles from the US)

This leads into the Cuban Missile Crisis (October 1962)

For details, look at the outline on the Crisis
Castro’s economic plans continued:

Cuba was lucky in its revolution as all infrastructures remained in tact when Castro came to power

-allows them to bring change rather quickly because they did not have to build their country from the ground up
Biggest desire of Castro was to redistribute land and wealth to the rural and poor regions of the country (classic socialist ideals)
May 1959: Law of Agrarian Reform allowed the government to seize land from private owners if they needed it with compensation to the owners based on their need

  1. Land was redistributed in small plots to ordinary farmers or through cooperatives

  2. All of this was administered by the Institute of Agrarian Reform (INRA)

  3. 85% of land was under control of reform law

Initially wealth redistribution was a success

  1. incomes increased 40% in first 3 years

  2. unemployment wiped out

  3. most of aid went to the rural areas rather than the cities

Food rationing begins in March 1962 when shortage fears come to the forefront

  1. Cuba had enough food, but did not want to have any long term problems

  2. He also did not want to have to raise prices for fears of losing support

Castro also tries to diversify the economy in this time

  1. Sugar put out of focus slightly for others to be created

    1. Cotton

    2. Beans

    3. Soy

    4. And some others

  1. All Cuban economy was overseen by JUCEPLAN (basically the Cuban version of Soviet Union’s GOSPLAN) est. 1961

  2. ran into problems because Castro liked to try to micromanage things and did not care for details

    1. this meant that if he wasn’t in the mood to work on something, no one else was going to do it

    2. therefore things were very slow

  3. As a response, the National Association of Small Farmers was created to oversee small farms with reference to the overall national goals

  4. 1962-1970: a huge portion of Cuban GDP went to rural investment, but it was largely ineffective in terms of the amount of money spent

Ten-Million-Ton Harvest (1970)

  1. Castro’s personal plan to create 10 million tons of sugar in one year

  2. Plan fails as resources were tight and much of the industry was outdated US equipment

  3. only 8.5 million tons was produced and to get to that point, the farms and refineries were on the verge of being worn out

  4. This is one of Castro’s biggest setbacks (very embarrassing as it was his own plan)

  5. Castro apologizes personally to the Cuban people and promises reform in the government

Effects: Castro finally realized that his government and economy were not in good shape and reforms must take place

Cuba (1970-1975)

Castro begins to reform the government structure

  1. Breaks the Communist Party away from the army and bureaucracy

  2. Militia merged into army

  3. Military structured with a traditional layout (officers, generals, rank and file, etc.)

  4. Economy is reformed as well:

    1. Economic incentives are offered

    2. Incentive offered is that the workers are no longer paid according to need by rather to their productivity and skill

  5. Effects are HUGE:

    1. Cuban economy expands at 10% annually between 1971-1975

Feb. 1976: Party creates Cuba’s first socialist constitution

  • this is done so that the government can respond more effectively to the peoples’ demands

  • also to help make the government run more effectively

Included in it is the right to vote in local elections

  1. The people elected are part of the National Assembly of Peoples’ Powers

    1. The catch: Communist party members the only ones that run

    2. Non-communists are a very small minority

    3. Allows Castro to remain firmly in power

  2. 1992: National Assembly allows for religious protection in Cuba

There were still problems in Cuban economy:

  1. By 1980, GDP slowed to only 4% a year growth

    1. Caused by the lack of professional management

    2. Cuba still heavily dependent on sugar exports

    3. USSR pays Cuba about 1 billion dollars every year to keep economy afloat

      1. Also buys huge portion of sugar

      2. 1960: 425,000 tons

      3. 1961: 1 million tons

    4. In addition, the USSR was absorbing the losses of the Cuban economy

      1. This amounted to over $1 billion every year

      2. 1990-1991: this caused problems for Cuba when USSR collapsed and Russia no longer covered the losses

  1. April to Sept. 1980: 125,000 Cubans flee to escape economic hardships; most go to US

  2. To respond to new problems, Cuba began to diversify exports

    1. Included re-exports of Soviet oil

    2. GDP increased again to 7.6% growth a year

    3. 1980-1985: Cuban economic growth 2nd highest in Latin America

Cuban Adventurism (1960s-fairly recently)

  1. Castro put great efforts into achieving communist revolutions in other parts of the world

  2. This is true especially in Latin America and Africa

    1. Che Guevara independently heads on expeditions in Congo and Latin America

      1. He is killed in Bolivia in 1967

    2. Other areas that Cuba is involved with include

      1. Angola (1960s-late 1980s)

      2. Congo

      3. Many countries in Latin America

Overall accomplishments of Castro regime:

  1. lowest unemployment in Latin America

  2. high worker standards: laid off workers still received 60% of pay

  3. poor benefited from low prices set by communist policies

    1. included in rent

    2. food

  4. 80% of Cubans owned their own homes

  5. Almost no beggars on streets

  6. though food was rationed, no one starved

  7. Education and healthcare second to none; and it to this day is COMPLETELY FREE to all people

    1. Cuba one of the highest spenders on education in the world; over 7% of its entire GDP

    2. Cuban doctors are some of the best in the world, respected world-wide, and are sent to many parts of Latin America and Africa to help people

  8. Many of these helped to alleviate the overall economic hardships suffered by Cuba initially after the fall of the USSR (1990-1991)

  9. By 1990s, economy still dependent on sugar, but tourism become huge part as well

    1. In 1994, tourism overtook sugar in terms of money brought in that year

      1. Tourism reached $850 million to $800 million for sugar

      2. Also invested in new sugar producing technology

      3. Continued to expand industry

    2. also began to have oil explorations of its coast

  10. Maintains good relations with most countries in the world

    1. US not one of them

      1. US has been under rising pressure to end the embargo, which includes medicine and food

  11. Cuba has improved its relations with much of the world

    1. 1989: voted onto the Security Council (as one of 10 temporary members)

Overall analysis of Fidel Castro

Fidel Castro is one of the more interesting leaders of the single party states as no definite title will likely ever be given to him that is agreed upon by everyone. For some he is a communist, for others he is a nationalist, and for the rest he can be seen as simply another Caudillo, or Latin American strong-man/ dictator who cam to power simply because he had the power to do it.

Each of these titles has merit, as Castro has aspects of them all.

  1. For the communist label, Castro does indeed enact many plans and policies often associated with communist ideas.

    1. These include things such as land redistribution

    2. Free medical care and education

    3. Wealth equality

    4. Nationalization of property to be owned by the government

  2. Many of these are also policies of common socialist governments, Castro might also be considered a socialist rather than a communist, especially now that there are the beginning stages of free markets and overseas trade with almost all of the world

  3. For those who consider Fidel a nationalist

    1. He comes to power preaching anti-US ideas

    2. Takes control of all industry on Cuba

      1. Oil refineries

      2. Sugar/crop plantations

      3. Other businesses

    3. also he tries to make Cuba self-sufficient and not needing help from other countries

    4. this is a common nationalist goal: (we are the best because we are [insert nationality] and we don’t need anyone else’s help)

  4. For those who call him a Caudillo

    1. He comes to power by means of a revolution

    2. This usually involves lots of fighting (which it did in Cuba’s case)

    3. He establishes a dictatorship; common in every Latin American countries’ history

    4. He uses at times harsh tactics to keep out opposition

      1. Arrests

      2. Executions of Batista supporters

      3. Exiles many people

Overall, Castro can probably be considered more of a nationalist by looking back at the history of his rise and rule. For example, he says nothing about communism or socialism in his rise to power; all he wants is to restore the 1940 Constitution and bring true independence to the Cuban people free of foreign intervention (i.e. The US)

  1. He only seems to become communist when he loses the support of the US by nationalizing the industries on the island (all of which are owned by US businesses)

  2. Because of the time period (the Cold War) the world is divided into 2 camps: the Capitalist and the Communist.

    1. This means that when he loses the support of one, then he has no choice for his survival but to go to the side of the other, who gladly takes him in even though they never really understand why he says he’s a communist (ideological reasons)

Keep all this in mind when writing the analysis of Castro and you should be fine.

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