Ask an average 20 year old who Fidel Castro was and most will tell you he was a Military dictator who seized power in one of the Caribbean countries. Although not entirely wrong, but that man had numerous facets to him. He generally identified only with Marxism and Che Guevara. He single handedly overthrew many governments and triggered the cold war between USA and the Soviet Union in 1961. Also, he initiated the Non Alignment Movement along with our very own Jawaharlal Nehru. This man left our world for the other on the night of November 25th 2016 at the age of 90.
Born Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz to a farmer in Cuba, he went on to study Law at the University of Havana. Here he soon got embroiled in political activities, emerging a leader at a very young age. Castro eventually governed the Republic of Cuba as Prime Minister from 1959 to 1976. He then became the President from 1976 to 2008, ceding much of his power to his younger brother and vice president Raul.
A thorough advocate of the communist way of life, Castro took great inspiration from the writings of socialist thinkers Friedrich Engels, Vladimir Lenin and of course, Karl Marx. In an interview in 2009 he said:
“Marxism taught me what society was. I was like a blindfolded man in a forest, who doesn’t even know where north or south is. If you don’t eventually come to truly understand the history of the class struggle, or at least have a clear idea that society is divided between the rich and the poor, and that some people subjugate and exploit other people, you’re lost in a forest, not knowing anything..”
Needless to say, Castro left no stone unturned in applying the Marxist-Leninist model to the Republic of Cuba. He disbanded all other political parties and turned the country into one party socialist state under the Communist Party Rule.
In March 1952 Fungelico Batista, an ex president of Cuba seized power in a military coup with the President fleeing to Mexico. Declaring himself president, Batista cancelled the planned presidential elections describing his new system as “Disciplined Democracy”. Ironically enough, it was this control of the media and gross violation of Human rights that Castro protested against. And when he came to power after 7 years, his own regime was no less tyrannical.
He introduced many reforms in central economic planning and expanding healthcare and education. These reforms included state control of the press and the suppression of internal dissent and numerous human rights violations. All other political parties were done away with and all forms of media were dealt with an iron fist. He was often said to have wielded power like a tyrant. Thus, controlling every aspect of the island’s existence. He was Cuba’s “Máximo Lider”. From atop a Cuban Army tank he directed his country’s defense at the Bay of Pigs.
His closeness to the Soviet Union was always a cause of sleepless nights to more than two American Presidents. So when in 1962 he allowed the Russian leader Khurschev to position Nuclear missiles in Cuba a mere 90 miles from the American coast, it sparked off the Cuban Missile Crisis. To this, America retaliated in full force and positioned their own Nuclear missiles in Turkey and Italy. Castro was Always a threat to the USA due to an even bigger reason – he was making Cuba an example for other countries. This was especially true for the Latin American countries who always had an air of mild dissent to the treatment meted out to them by the USA.
Throughout his life, Castro continued to support revolutions throughout the Globe. He even allowed many militant and gorilla groups (The most famous being the one led by Guevara) to train in Cuba. He also sent reinforcement to many militant armies in Algeria, Peru and Congo to name a few.
While his critics label him a dictator, he was a revolutionary to many. One of his many atypical steps for betterment included secondary schools in Cuba. Here he ordered all students and teachers to educate the illiterate population of the country for a year. By the end of the year, the literacy rate in the country increased drastically.
Whether good or bad, his presence in shaping the world politics is quite prominent and affluential. Fidel Castro held onto power longer than any other living national leader. Well, except Queen Elizabeth II. He became a towering international figure whose importance in the 20th century far exceeded expectations from the head of state of a Caribbean island. A nation of 11 million people.
This man was worthy of the awe he inspired.
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