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Castro Rise The Power Essay, Research Paper
Castro Rise The Power
Dr. Fidel Castro Ruz became involved with political protests as a young
student. After Batista s coup in 1952, he went to court and tried to have
the Batista dictatorship declared illegal. However, his attempt to
peacefully bring down the Batista government did not work, and so in 1953,
Castro turned toward violent means. On July 26, 1953, Castro led a group of
men to attack the Moncada military fortress. However, his little rebellion
was immediately crushed by the Batista army. In fact, the Roman Catholic
archbishop of Santiago had to make the government promise that the rebels
would live, if they would stop fighting and come down from the mountains.
Sure enough, the government kept its promise and Fidel Castro and his
followers were sentenced to three years of imprisonment. Batista, in order
to gain some popular support, released them after a few months.
Castro s rebellion failed, it sparked hopes of revolution everywhere in
Cuba. After a few years of exile in Mexico, Castro and a small band of about
eighty-five men returned to Cuba in December of 1956. Many of the men
perished during the initial landing, but a small group including Fidel
Castro and an Argentinian Marxist Ernesto “Che” Guevara, survived and went
into the mountains. During the next two years, Castro and Guevara fought the
Batista army continuously in small guerrilla wars. They called themselves
the Twenty-sixth of July Movement, after the earlier unsuccessful raid on
the Moncada barracks. Their group gained in numbers and popularity among
Cubans as the desire for political change in Cuba increased. Castro promised
sweeping changes including free elections, non-corrupt government, land,
improved educational systems, jobs and health care for all. Castro became
sort of like a Robin Hood for Cuba and many flocked to his banner. The final
blow to the Batista regime came when the United States withdrew its support
as Batista was falling from power. Seeing that a full scale war against him
was inevitable, Batista fled the country with his family and close friends
to the Dominican Republic. On January 8, 1959, the revolutionary forces
marched into Havana unopposed.
Tension between Cuba and the United States
Tension between Cuba and the United States increased dramatically after the
Castro takeover. The main reason was that Castro and Guevara were leading
Cuba toward communism. As a part of the sweeping reforms that Castro had
promise, he took all estates larger than one thousand acres and nationalized
it, meaning that it was made the property of the government. Most of the
seized land, including over 2 1/4 million acres owned by U.S. investors,
were made into large state-owned farms. The lost of sugar mills, banks,
hotels, utility companies, etc. totaled about $2 billion. By then, it became
clear that Castro was leading Cuba toward communism instead of his promise
toward democracy. This conclusion was further bolstered when the USSR signed
their first trade agreement with Cuba in February of 1960. Finally, in
January of 1961, only two years after the fall of Batista, the United States
severed diplomatic relations with Cuba and imposed an unilateral trade
embargo against the island country.
Even before the United States broke relations with Cuba, there had already
been plans made against the Castro regime. The U.S. supported Operation
Pluto, the secret name of an invasion on Cuba, in hopes of overthrowing
Fidel Castro. The Bay of Pigs Incident, as it was later known as, began on
April 15, 1961 with air raids on Cuba. Two days later, 1,500 U.S. trained
Cuban exiles landed on Cuba with weapons supplied by the United States. At
the time, the U.S. government was convinced that the Cuban people would join
the invading forces once they land and that the Castro army would disband.
However, this assumption was fatally wrong. The landing party were defeated
with forty-eight hours. About 120 people died and more than 1,200 captured.
The U.S. government had to pay $50 million in food and medical supplies to
The tension between Cuba and the U.S. grew to a climax during the Cuban
Missile Crisis of 1962. After the Bay of Pigs Invasion, Castro openly
admitted that he was committed to communism. “I am a Marxist-Leninist and
will be a Marxist-Leninist until the day I die,” he declared. In the summer
of 1962, U.S. spy planes saw that Cuba was receiving large amounts of
military equilpment from the Soviet Union. Photographs revealed that the
Soviets were building missile installations within Cuba. The U.S. felt
threatened because the missiles had a range of 1,000 miles and they were
capable of carrying nuclear warheads. With a nuclear threat only 90 miles
off the coast of Florida, President John F. Kennedy warned Americans of the
danger of a nuclear war. He further demanded that the Soviet Union dismantle
the missile installations or risk retaliation from the United States. Two
days later, on October 26, Premier Nikita Khrushchev of the USSR stepped
back and accepted the demands, effectively bring the world back from the
brink of nuclear destruction.
The hostility between the two counties continuous today. U.S. citizens are
not permitted to travel to Cuba. The unilateral trade embargo of Cuba is
still effective. While the rest of the world has moved on to a policy of
engagement with Cuba, the United States is still stuck in the Cold War mode
trying to isolate the island nation. The most recent legislation against
Cuba is the so called Helms-Burton Law, which punishes third-country
businesses that invest in Cuba. Most businesses are unimpressed by the
threat, the opposite, they are very angry. Most businesses acknowledge that
Helms-Burton Law will probably slow investment in Cuba, but more investment
will continue as long as profits can be made. Even our allies, such as
Canada and Mexico have expressed deep regret in the passage of the
Helms-Burton legislation. So while the rest of the world move on and look to
the future, U.S.-Cuban relations continue to deteriorate.
The Cuban Economy
The Cuban revolution actually improved the standard of living from that of
pre-Castro times. When Fidel Castro took over, he guaranteed free education
and health care to all Cubans. In fact, Cuba s education is free at every
level, from elementary schools to the universities. It has the highest
education budget in all of Latin America, and literacy rate is virtually
100% in Cuba. Much of this was possible due to Soviet help. Cuba aligned
itself with the Soviet Bloc as Castro committed Cuba to communism. With
that, the USSR bought Cuban sugar at a highly inflated price. A ton of
sugar, which has the equivalent value of 1.4 tons of oil, was being bought
by the Soviet Union at the price of eight tons of oil to one ton of sugar.
The subsidy effectively pumped $5.7 billion into the island economy
However, due to mismanagement and inefficiencies, unemployment went up
during the 1970s. In 1980, 125,000 Cubans fled from Cuba to Florida, seeking
for a better life. As the Soviet Union itself declined, Cuba s economy
plunged with it. In 1987, domestic production declined 3.2% from the year
before. When the Soviet Union broke up in 1989, Cuba lost its much needed
economic support from the former Soviet Bloc. Castro himself admitted,
“[Cuba] have lost 70 percent of its purchasing power” after the breakup of
the Soviet Union.
The free fall of the economy finally stopped in 1995 after numerous economic
reforms. In 1993, Castro did something that was unthinkable, he let Cubans
to own and spend dollars and hold dollar denominated back accounts. In 1994,
Castro authorized Cubans to own small private businesses, a departure from
his policy of state controlled economy. But the most important reform
happened in 1995 when foreign investors were allowed to own Cuban
enterprises outright, not just in tourism, but in basically all sectors of
the economy. These reforms generated much needed foreign investment which
total about $5 billion as of 1996. While this money is not nearly enough to
make a significant difference in the Cuban economy, it has helped the
economy to rebound. After a decline of about 40% between 1989 to 1994, the
economy grew 2.5% in 1995. The price of the dollar dropped from 125 pesos to
25 pesos in mid-1994. Clearly, these reforms represent steps toward a market
economy, and as the desire for improved living standards increase, the Cuban
economy will undoubtably continue to open up.
Road To Political Change
Fidel Castro keeps a tight grip of the political scene in Cuba. The
Communist Party is the only legal party in Cuba. There are no opposition
parties or any kind of official political opposition. Fidel Castro, being
the President, basically have a monopoly of power in Cuba. Every decision
must go through him in order to be valid. Cubans have enjoyed free municipal
elections since the 1970s. The election is done by secret ballot, and
remarkable, you do not have to be a member of the Communist Party to run.
Yet these local elections do not affect anything on the national level.
National and international issues are handled by the National Assembly. In
the National Assembly, the equivalent of the American Congress, members are
appointed instead of elected.
However, the political grip loosened in 1993 when for the first time,
members of the National Assembly were elected by popular vote. The elections
were tightly controlled and only one candidate could vie for each seat.
Although as an election, this was a farce, it the high voter turnout rate
shows that Cubans were eager to legitimize the government s attempt at
reforms. This eagerness shows that Cubans are ready for political change and
they are willing to take an active role in making this happen. As more
economic reforms improve the economy, pressure for political change will
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