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Born: August 13, 1926 (Some sources give 1927)

Castro was born on a farm in Mayari municipality in the province of Oriente. He attended good Catholic schools in Santiago de Cuba and Havana, where he took to the spartan regime at a jesuit boarding school, Colegio de Belen. In 1945 he enrolled at the University of Havana, graduating in 1950 with a degree in law. He married Mirta Diaz-Balart in 1948, but they were divorced in 1954. Their son, Fidel Castro Diaz-Balart, born in 1949, has served as head of Cuba's atomic energy commission. A member of the social-democratic Orthodoxo party in the late 1940s and early 50's, Castro was an early and vocal opponent of the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista. On July 26, 1953, Fidel led an attack on the Moncada army barracks that failed but brought him national prominence. At the time, his political ideas were nationalistic, anti-imperialist, and reformist; he was not a member of the Communist party.

Following the attack on Moncada, Fidel was tried and sentenced to 15 years in prison but was amnestied in 1955. He then went into exile in Mexico, where he founded the 26th of July Movement, vowing to return to Cuba in order to fight against Batista. In December 1956, he and 81 others, including Che Guevara, returned to Cuba and made their way to the Sierra Maestra, from which they launched a successful guerrilla war. Castro proved himself a strong leader, he also demonstrated shrewd political skills, convinced that he had a historic duty to change the character of Cuban society.

Seeing his army army collapse, and unable to count on the support of the United States, Batista fled on January 1, 1959, paving the way for Castro's rise to power. In its early phase, Castro's revolutionary regime included moderate politicians and democarts; gradually, however, its policies became radical. Castro remained unchallenged, and the masses--whose living conditions he improved dramtically--rallied and rally behind him.

   

  


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Fidel Castro

 

Speech at a Cuban Rallie

"Cuban workers, People of Cuba, we have let ourselves go a bit, and it would be well for us to come back down to earth. Nobody ever knows which public appearance will be the hardest for him. When he has felt that some of his appearances were hard, another will come along still harder. For me none has been as difficult as this one today, when I intend to disagree with our distinguished guest, Jose Figueres. I am afraid of expressing my disagreement and failing in the elemental courtesy due our guest. It is hard to speak to the people today, because every revolution is difficult and complex in itself, and this is aggravated when to the complex domestic problems of the country we must add complex international problems. Without going beyond our domestic problems, our task is a difficult one in itself, because (words indistinct) and because this is a true revolution, not just one more farce of the many America has witnessed; because this is a revolution, not a barracks coup; because it is (words indistinct); because it is a surgical operation, with amputation required, and an end to daubing on a little mercurochrome. We have big problems. We have a good proportion of those who have studied here, and they have studied because they are the only ones who had that privilege, because vested interests and (word indistinct) monopoly is almost the same thing, because vested interests and a monopoly of the organs for disseminating ideas are one and the same thing; because vested interests and the power to mobilize all resources created by man for the purpose of influencing other men are one and the same thing; because vested interests and old reactionary law are one and the same thing; because vested interests and (word indistinct) unluckily adapted to the situations that were established through the decades and the centuries by those vested interests are one and the same; because the vested interests of the national oligarchy and of the international oligarchy are the same, and because national and international reaction unite against the Cuban revolution; because the entire reactionary oligarchy of the hemisphere unites against the Cuban revolution; because the press campaigns emanating from the offices of the international news agencies have been echoed by the reactionary press of America; Because in every corner of the hemisphere it prints the slander and lies sent out by the news agencies; and in those countries it is the same interests or similar interests as those that are opposing the revolution here--interests like those that sustained and made possible the tyranny here; interests like the ones we are routing here; interests that do not want a revolution like this to take place in other countries of America. (And it is true that?) there is such a campaign, a campaign so great, so infamous, and so persistent that even men like Jose Figueres, whom we supposed free of fears and prejudice, have been influenced by these campaigns. And in this way an effort has been made to isolate us, to turn feeling against us, throughout the hemisphere; and in this way an effort has been made to turn the hatred (of more than two-thirds?) of the hemisphere against the most moral, honest revolution (word indistinct). More has been said about any war criminal who has been executed, in all newspapers of the hemisphere and in international dispatches, than about all the (20,000 crimes?) that Batista committed (words indistinct). (And what is their objective? To isolate us first and attack us afterward; to (undercut our domestic support?) and the sympathy felt for us by public opinion in the hemisphere, and then invade us through mercenary cliques, invade us with ships from Santo Domingo or Florida, with expeditions organized by the Trujillos, or Masferrers, or Venturas, or (name indistinct). All right. You say the people are with me. But you forget that people are susceptible to deceit and (word indistinct). You forget the age-old prejudices that inflame nations. You forget the resources and methods they have for causing us all sorts of domestic problems. You forget the little campaigns that are getting established against the revolution more or less openly. You forget those (false stories and caricatures?). You forget (rest of sentence indistinct) We have been too generous. (many words indistinct) We have been too noble, because there are some persons writing here who should not have a right to write (few words indistinct), because there are some already speaking here less than three months after the victory (few words indistinct). We have been too generous, and through our own generosity they are doing all the harm (they can?), and they are already trying to instill the idea of (war?), infamous slander, [Unreadable text], and doubts. And since this is a revolution that must overthrow interests, for otherwise it would not be a revolution, this revolution must untangle many tangled things and make a clean cut as Alexander for example cut the Gordian Knot, for there was no other way of undoing it. Reaction already has powerful allies. There are already campaigns, like the one to shut all apartments so nobody can rent a place (few words indistinct--ed.); like the campaign to throw all the employees out of the apartments; like the campaign to dismiss all girls working as servants; like the campaigns to stir up dissatisfaction by every possible means; like the international campaign carried on by the wire services against the Cuban revolution; in conjunction with the campaigns carried on in the United States against the Cuban revolution in conjunction with arms purchases, the purchase of planes by Trujillo, the passage of war criminals between Santo Domingo and Florida and Santo Domingo without the FBI having found--how odd, how odd--even a little pistol on the gangsters. You forget that the reaction knows the psychology of our people. It knows our people were used to bad governments and have a conditioned reflex against the word "government" (few words indistinct) that is easy to exploit, and our people have a nonconformism that is easy to exploit. It knows our government has enormous problems because we inherited 50 years of embezzlement, immorality, special privileges, low politics, and corruption of every kind. We have inherited a republic of six million souls with the same resources that hardly enabled us to live when we numbered only three million; a republic with 700,000 unemployed; a republic with 60 million pesos in monetary reserves, whereas the dictatorship took it over with 500 million. The reaction knows in what difficult circumstances the republic was left to us and that the people are impatient, and that there is despair, bitterness, and hunger among the people--despair that shows itself in acts that are unjustified, as in the case of the dismissed bus workers, 90 percent of whom were to be reinstated in the shortest possible time. Those men who had had to wait seven years unheeded, instead of taking hope when they say we had reinstated 90 percent of their fellows, on the day after the most revolutionary session held by our revolutionary cabinet, I open the paper and read how some interested agitator had started them on a hunger strike. Somebody confused those men; somebody found it easy to induce them to that step; surely this (few words indistinct) did not appear in the seven years of tyranny and so there was no hunger strike, and he comes to stir one up against the revolutionary government, the revolutionary government that did not have to be asked for (help?), the revolutionary government that from the first earned the hatred of the oligarchy and vested interests for its firm stand on behalf of the poor and lowly. If that is the case, if the reactionary national oligarchy has means of causing us economic difficulties, if international oligarchy, the enemy of our country, has in its power the means of creating economic difficulties for us, like that plan looming up to cut our sugar quota; if the national and international oligarchies both have means of sabotaging our program for industrializing Cuba, I am not far wrong in saying that we need the most determined and absolute support of all the people..."

-Fidel Castro (1959)

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