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Fidel Castro

Fidel Castro was born in the village of Brian in Cuba on 13 August 1926 into a rich family, the son of Angel Castro, who was a Spanish immigrant, and his cook Lina Ruz Gonzalez.

In his early life Fidel Castro went to Jesuit schools and from there he attended the Jesuit preparatory school Colegio Belen in Havana.

In 1945 Castro went to the University of Havana to study law, he graduated in 1950. From 1950 to 1952 Fidel Castro used his training in law in a small partnership. Castro was intending to stand for parliament in 1952, but didn’t due to a cancellation in the election, by General Fulgencio Batista.

Castro charged Batista under the constitution, but Castro’s petition was refused. This infuriated Castro causing him to organise an armed attack on the Moncada Barracks in the Oriente province on 26 July 1953. In the attack, more than eighty of the attackers were killed. Castro was captured and sentenced to fifteen years in jail.

During his trial, Castro used those famous words “History will absolve me” in his closing speech. In 1955 Fidel Castro was freed from the prison in a general amnesty. After that Castro was sent to the United States, then to Mexico in exile.

Castro returned to Cuba around 1956. He took military action in Oriente province on 2 December 1956. The men who remained alive from the last attack on Oriente province fought with Castro’s followers, which consisted of over 800 men. On 24 May 1958, the Batista government launched seventeen battalions against what was now Castro’s small army.

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Castro’s men were greatly outnumbered but due to much surrender from Batista’s men, Castro and his army won the war. On New Year’s day 1959, Batista left the country, and Fidel Castro and his forces took Cuba. The following February, Castro became the Prime Minister of Cuba.

In April 1959 Castro went to the White House and spoke with Vice President Richard NixonPresident Eisenhower was playing golf on the day of the meeting and was unable to talk to Castro. Because of the now bad blood between Cuba and the United States, Cuba signed an agreement to buy their oil from the USSR.

To the United States concern, Cuban Prime Minister, Fidel Castro and the USSR Prime Minister became very close, and soon the USSR was sending great quantities of economic aid, as well as military aid, to Cuba.

On 17 April 1961, the United States sent a force of Cuban exiles trained by the CIA to south Cuba at the Bay of Pigs. The CIA assumed that this invasion would spark some interest in an uprising against Fidel Castro.

There was no uprising but instead, Castro’s forces apprehended the Cuban invaders, because President Kennedy backed out of the invasion at the last moment, depriving the invaders of much-needed support.

On 2 December 1961 Castro stated that Cuba was going to adopt Communism. Pope John XXIII excommunicated Castro.

In October 1962 the so-called Cuban Missile Crisis took place after the United States found that the Soviet Union was attempting to establish nuclear missile launch sites in Cuba.

In 1976, the Prime Minister of Canada, Pierre Elliott Trudeau went to Cuba and hugged Castro. Trudeau also gave Castro a $4 million gift, and loaned him another $10 million, making a speech which included the controversial sentiment, “long live Prime Minister and Commander-in-Chief Fidel Castro. Long live Cuban-Canadian friendship.”

In 1991 the Soviet Union lost power and Cuba lost a great deal of its economy because of its dependence on the Soviet Union.

Cuba regained its economy shortly after the fall of the Soviet Union when it was listed as the second most popular tourist attraction in the Caribbean, after the Dominican Republic.

In January 1996 the rapprochement between Cuba and the USA appeared to have progressed after a visit by Democratic members of the House of Representatives, although the US embargo was not lifted. In 1998 Castro invited the Pope to make an unprecedented visit to Cuba.

On 31 July 2006, Castro delegated his duties as President of the Council of state, President of the Council of Ministers, First Secretary of the Cuban Communist Party and the post of commander in chief of the armed forces to his brother Raúl Castro.

This transfer of duties was described at the time as “temporary” while Fidel recovered from surgery he underwent due to an “acute intestinal crisis with sustained bleeding”.

Fidel Castro was too ill to attend his belated 80th birthday celebrations, and his non-appearance fuelled reports that he had terminal pancreatic cancer and was refusing treatment.

Castro retired as President in 2008 stating that his health was a primary reason for his decision and that “It would betray my conscience to take up a responsibility that requires mobility and total devotion, that I am not in a physical condition to offer”.

His brother Raúl was named as the new President of Cuba.

In July 2010, Fidel Castro made his first public appearance in two years, greeting workers at a science centre and giving his most prominent television interview since falling ill.

He spoke on the Cuban program Mesa Redondo (World Affairs) for an extended period about tensions between the United States, Iran and North Korea.

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