Cuban leader Fidel Castro has been a revolutionary icon for many. He freed the people of Cuba from dictatorship, held on to a strong stance against and defied the United States even as he faced multiple trade embargoes and survived many assassination attempts. His rise to power was not an easy one.
Born in a small town of eastern Cuba, Fidel Castro got interested in politics while studying at the University of Havana. There he joined the anti-corruption Orthodox Party and also participated in a coup that was meant to overthrow the Dominican Republic dictator Rafael Trujillo. This set the tone for his political career, launching him on the path of becoming one of the most iconic revolutionaries in modern history.
Beginnings of the military career
Initially, after graduating from university, he started a law firm for poor Cubans. However, soon after Fulgencio Batista seized power through a military coup and declared himself President of a disciplined democracy which translated to his dictatorship. Batista also cancelled the state elections in which Castro was also contesting.
The Cuban Revolution
Following Batista’s rise to power and dictatorship, Castro began the revolution to overthrow the government, which was then backed by the US. In July 1953, Castro led 120 men and attacked Moncada army barracks in Santiago de Cuba. Castro had instructed them to not use any bloodshed until there was armed rebellion.
Most of his men, however, were gunned down by machine guns. Castro was quick to order a retreat. Many others were found, tortured and executed without trial.
Batista imposed the martial law and imposed strict media censorship. The rebellion failed and Castro ended up being captured. Many who were a part of the rebellion were killed. He was subsequently sentenced to 15 years in prison. However, Batista wanted to shed a little of his authoritarian image and released Castro on amnesty grounds. He went to Mexico where he met who would be his partner in revolution, Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara. Together, they both planned a return to Cuba.
As he returned to Cuba, men started organising themselves for another revolution which eventually became the Guerrilla war between 1956 and 1959 and by 1957, had started with smaller victories against Rural Guard Patrols. The Guerrilla war grew, much to the dismay of Batista who launched a full military attack from all sides in 1958. The rebels, however, held their ground, and eventually overthrew the dictatorship in 1959. Very soon after, Castro took over as Prime Minister and served as such until 1976.
Che and Castro, the friendship
Castro met Che Guevara in Mexico and joined Castro’s movement. He worked his way up and became popular among the rebellions, rising to be the second in command after Castro. Both of them were the front runners of the revolution in Cuba. They were the closest of friends. After Castro took over political power, Guevara was involved in land reform and literacy programs.
In April 1965, he resigned from all his governmental posts and left for Bolivia to stir revolution there – reportedly on instructions from Castro himself. In his letter to Castro, he said he was proud of him and was leaving for more revolutions with the ideologies that he learned from Castro. “I carry to new battlefronts the faith that you taught me, the revolutionary spirit of my people, the feeling of fulfilling the most sacred of duties: to fight against imperialism wherever it may be,” he wrote.
A failed revolution first in Kinshasa and then in Bolivia ended up with him getting captured by CIA-back Bolivian officials who eventually executed him.
Later reports say that a much older Castro talked about Che as if he were still alive. Che Guevara’s son told Mail Online in a 2014 report, “Sometimes when I speak to him about my dad, I have a smile on my face because Fidel doesn’t realise he’s talking about my father in the present tense. I pointed this out to him once and Fidel’s response was: “But your father’s here, right now”.”
Military Career Ends
Castro’s military career ended with his being elected as Prime Minister after which he attended to the people as a government official. His rule as Prime Minister was fraught with curves and edges but he is still remembered as one of the greatest revolutionaries of the 20th century.