Fidel Castro, the man who defied the world’s largest superpower for more than five decades, died at the age of 90. Fidel Castro left his mark on history, with some even calling him the “Cuban Revolutionary.”
Fidel Castro was considered to be an intelligent, pragmatic, charismatic, yet intolerant leader by his supporters. He was seen as a visionary who stood up against the U.S. for the rights of the Latin America.
For his critics, he was a dictator who violated human rights, curtailed freedom in Cuba, banned opposition parties, jailed his critics and brought Cold War to the western hemisphere. Fidel Castro’s rise to power was a struggle that took place over several decades.
Fidel Castro’s First Big Act
Fidel Castro grew up in the eastern village of Biran. He was a privileged child, but spent his childhood with children of impoverished workers. Later on in life, he went on to study law at the University of Havana. He was a born leader and a famous Fidel Castro quote explains his position.
“Men do not shape destiny. Destiny produces the man for the moment.”
After finishing law, he decided to run for congress in 1952. But the U.S.-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista halted the elections and staged a coup. Following the failed elections, he attacked the Moncada barracks in the eastern city of Santiago de Cuba. He was captured along with his brother Raul Castro, and several of his followers lost their lives. During the trial, Fidel Castro was quoted as saying the following.
“Condemn me. It does not matter. History will absolve me.”
In 1955, after his release, he went into exile in Mexico and along with Raul Castro, trained a rebel band. Only 12 of the 82 rebel member survived the fight with Cuban troops. Following a long struggle and after a successful revolution, Fidel Castro came to power in 1959.
Fidel Castro Fueled Nuclear Missile Crisis
The U.S. considered him as an enemy even before he forced Batista to flee Cuba. The U.S. had supplied bomber aircraft that led to the loss of several of his rebel fighters. In 1961, CIA- backed Cuban exiles invaded Cuba at the Bay of Pigs, but Castro’s forces ensured his victory.
After this incident, he decided to side with the USSR. For Moscow, it was a chance to bolster an ally close to borders of USA. Moscow allegedly gave him billions of dollars in aid, to further build socialism.
In 1962, Moscow stationed nuclear missiles on the island and in response, the U.S. stationed nuclear missiles in Turkey, the incident was known as Cuban missile crisis.
Fidel Castro tried convincing Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev about a possible U.S. invasion on October 26, and advocated a preemptive nuclear strike. Khrushchev, keeping his trust in John F. Kennedy, did not take any action. After 13 days, Soviets withdrew the missiles and the crisis ended. The entire incident propelled Fidel Castro at the world stage. His animosity against the U.S. can be understood from one of the famous Fidel Castro quote, which reads as follows.
“I realized that my true destiny would be the war that I was going to have with the United States.”
Fidel Castro’s Legacy
Fidel Castro maintained his position for more than 50 years and survived about 638 assassination attempts. In spite of critics blaming him for keeping the Cuban people under poverty and hindering the progress of the country, he had truly done some amazing work for Cuba.
Fidel Castro is credited with building one of the most robust public health and education system in the world. The infant mortality and longevity rates in Cuba are better than developed countries in Western Europe. Castro’s vision developed a world-class biotech industry in Cuba. Drugs and vaccines supplied by Cuba save millions of lives across the world.
Cuba has a well-developed education system. It produces thousands of doctors every year and sends them to more than 60 countries to provide aid to the needy.
Fidel Castro’s legacy left a mark on the southern African countries too, as reported by BBC. Castro was the mastermind in the defeat of the South African army at the hands of Cuban forces. The victory of Cuito Cuanavale lead to Namibia’s Independence. Nelson Mandela had time and again attributed defeat of apartheid and his release from prison to the victory at Cuito Cuanavale.
After the Collapse of USSR, Cuba continued the communist rule under the leadership of Fidel Castro. In 2006, he informally transferred most of his powers to Raul Castro, before completely stepping down in 2008. Following the death of Fidel Castro, the Cuban Government has declared nine days of national mourning. As a famous Fidel Castro quote states, “A revolution is not a bed of roses. A revolution is a struggle between the future and the past.”
[Featured Image by Pool/Getty Images]