The main reason Castro came to power in 1959 was because of Batista´s mistakes



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Jenni Koponen

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2) "The main reason Castro came to power in 1959 was because of Batista´s mistakes" To what extent do you agree with this statement?

Fidel Castro’s rise to power occurred between 1953 and 1959, following Fulgencio Batista’s flee from Cuba. There are a multitude of reasons as to why Castro rose to power such as historical context or the condition of the economy, however the failures of his opposition, Fulgencio Batista, played a major role in his rise.


Fulgencio Batista, who dominated Cuban politics between 1934 and 1959, first rose to power in 1933 following a ‘sergeants’ coup. It was then when his positive relations with the US increased as they persuaded him into appointing so called ‘puppet presidents’, which would protect US economic and political interests. These puppet presidents ruled throughout the 1930s and could only impose policies approved by both Batista and the US. This reliance on the US was unfavourable, as there was a resentment towards the amount of American influence in the country that had been present since 1898.
Batista’s failures following both the Moncada attacks and guerrilla warfare led by Castro added to his decrease in popularity. He was known for his brutal and corrupt ways and following the attack, he slaughtered any suspect as well as forcibly cleared peasants from the mountains of Sierra Maestra, resorting to bombers and paramilitary death squads. This increased the support for Castro’s guerrillas coupled with spontaneous uprisings against Batista. The intense repression also meant there was no other way than armed opposition to take over Batista’s rule, however with a weak, corrupt, and unreliable army they would slowly begin to lose the ability to withstand any opposition. On the other hand, Batista also failed in balancing his power and repression as he was too lenient on Castro, which led to his release in May of 1955 – having spent only 2 years out of the sentenced 15 – and consequently allowed Castro and the Fidelistas to go to Mexico and begin their plans for a revolution, known as the 26 July Movement.
As well as being corrupt and brutal, Batista did not implement any changes in the political systems in Cuba. He had taken over the military and ruled as a dictator but hadn’t carried out any reforms. As historian Hugh Thomas states, Batista “spent a lot of time dealing with his private affairs and his foreign fortunes, leaving himself too little time for affairs of state.” He neglected the state and therefore lost the support of the public.
The final component of Batista’s failure came from the US, who decided that it would be necessary for Batista to resign and for a caretaker government to take his place. Batista refused, which led to a loss of support from the US government, and therefore weakened Batista’s rule and allowed for the emergence of Castro and his forces.
As can be seen, Batista’s failures were numerous and seem to form a path for Castro’s takeover. The retreat to Sierra Maestra gave Castro’s men an upper hand as they were in a secluded area where the Rural Guards rarely frequented and the excessively brutal tactics such as torture or executions meant Batista became increasingly despised.
In conclusion, Batista’s failures in gaining popularity through increased repression and brutality along with strategic inabilities played a major role in paving the way for Castro’s rise to power.


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