1963 - Order of Lenin
1972 - Order of Lenin
1961 - Lenin Peace Prize
1975 - Jubilee Medal
Fidel Castro was one of the most prominent communist leaders of the last century. He was the Prime Minister, President and Commander-in-Chief of Cuba and made the country a one-party socialist state. Castro started off as a rebellion against right-wing governments in the Dominican Republic and Colombia and in a matter of time became the leader of the communist revolution and ruled Cuba for almost 6 decades. In his almost six-decade long career, Castro moved from the rank of being a ‘political illiterate’ to being a ‘pro politician’. Adopting anti-imperialistic politics, Castro led the Cuban Revolution and successfully overthrew Fulgencio Batista, the US-backed President of Cuba. He developed strong ties with the Soviet Union, which further irked the U. S. A, which US attempted to remove him, by economic blockade, assassination and counter-revolution but none of these had an impact on Castro and his rule remained strong. Castro implemented various socialistic reforms including introduction of the central economic planning and expansion of the healthcare and education. Castro also served as the Secretary General of the Non Aligned Movement and the First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba.
- Born to Angel Castro y Agrgiz and Lina Ruz Gonzalez, Fidel Castro was the illegitimate child of the couple and hence bore the surname Ruz for the first 17 years of his life. He was the third of the seven children of the couple.At the age of six, young Castro was sent to live with his teacher in Santiago de Cuba. As a child, he attended various schools, finally enrolling himself at the El Colegio de Belen in Havana.Academically, Castro was just an average student but he had a profound liking for sports and excelled in the same. He played for the school’s baseball team.Political Pursuits
- In 1945, Castro enrolled himself at the law school in the University of Havana. Although he was politically illiterate at the time of admission, he soon found himself immersed in the political climate of Cuban nationalism, anti-imperialism and socialism.He joined the University Committee, which opposed the intervention of the US in the Caribbean and fought for the Independence of Puerto Rico. Falling back upon honesty, decency and justice, Castro opposed corruption and openly associated it with US interference.With time, Castro gained prominence so much so that his speech on the corruption and violence of Grau’s regime earned him a place on the front page of every newspaper.In 1947, Castro joined the Party of the Cuban People, a socialist group headed by presidential candidate Chibas. An anti-communist political party, it aimed at securing an honest government and political freedom. It also paid significant importance to social reforms and economic independence.Additionally, Castro acquired the post of the president of the University Committee for Democracy in the Dominican Republic. The committee decided to invade the Dominican Republic and overthrow its right-wing president, Rafael Trujillo, who was an ally of the US.Led by Dominican exile General Juan Rodriguez, about 1200 men joined the rebellion and launched the invasion from Cuba. However, they were squashed in a matter of time by the US and Dominican forces. Castro luckily escaped the mass arrest.Though the mission turned out to be a failure, it did, however, strengthen Castro’s opposition to the Grau administration. Following this, Castro travelled to Venezuela and Panama, before visiting Bogota, Colombia. Insurgence and rebelliousness ruled the city as there was a riot between the governing Conservatives and the leftist liberals. Castro supported the liberals.With time, Castro rose to prominence among the public and openly protested against the government wrongdoings. It was during the end of the 1940s that Castro was exposed to the Marxism and was greatly influenced by the same.Castro realized that corrupt politicians were not the only problem of Cuba, it was the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie that was the problem. A visit to the poorest villages of Havana and the exposure to the social and racial inequalities prevalent there further solidified Castro’s belief who became active in the University Committee for the Struggle against Racial DiscriminationGraduating in 1950 as a Doctor of Law, Castro began his legal practice. He started a legal partnership with Jorge Azpiazu and Rafael Resende, focusing on helping poor Cubans assert their rights but poor finances let to the closure of the firm.Castro turned his interest to politics and became an active member of the Cuban Peace Committee. Still focussing his vision for Cuba around Chibas and the Party of the Cuban People, Castro envisioned himself as the heir to Chibas, following the latter’s death. Castro’s radical reputation, however, came in his way as the nominated candidate.General Fulgencio Batista’s return to power scrapped the slated presidential elections as he set himself up as a dictator. He got support from the military and Cuban elite and the US recognized his government.Baffled by this, Castro made plans to oust the government. Along with 150 supporters, he attacked the Moncada military barracks with an attempt to overthrow Batista. However, the 26 July plan failed and Castro was tried and imprisoned. Nevertheless, the incident raised the popularity of Castro amongst the Cubans.While in jail, Castro kept the rebellious sentiments alive and maintained control of the Movement. Meanwhile, Batista held the presidential election in 1954 but won the same as there were no opponents.Released two years later on May 15, 1955, Castro moved to Mexico, where along with Ernesto "Che" Guevara, he formulated a plan to overthrow the Batista government. In no time, Guevara became an ally and confidante of Castro. They devised a new strategy which was called guerrilla warfare.The Following year, forces led by Castro attacked the government forces but like earlier, failed in their attempt. Castro, along with Guevara and Raul (his brother) fled to the south-eastern coast.Subsequently, Castro organized a parallel government alongside that of Batista’s and started building resistance groups in cities and small towns across Cuba. He enforced some agrarian reforms and controlled provinces with agricultural and manufacturing production.In 1958, Castro, along with his group, launched military campaigns throughout the key areas of Cuba, which resulted into the collapse of the government and Batista fled to Dominican Republic.Castro emerged as a national hero. While Jose Miro Cardona was voted as the Prime Minister for Cuba, Castro became the commander-in-chief of the military. However, as a result of Miro’s sudden resignation, Castro became the Prime Minister of Cuba on February 16, 1959.Prime-Ministerial Years
- Castro accepted the position of the Prime Minister of Cuba with a condition that the powers of the Prime Minister should be increased.In his initial days as the Prime Minister, Castro launched various reforms which resulted in nationalization of factories and plantations. This move was mainly focussed to end the US economic domination. However, the reforms antagonised the US towards Cuba.Castro’s political tactics made him a favourite with lower classes, including workers, peasants, labors and so on, but he received opposition from the middle class comprising of doctors, engineers and professionals, which ultimately resulted into their mass-migration to the US, causing economic brain drain in Cuba.Though he denied being a Communist and argued of having Marxist-type governance, much of his policies reflect the Soviet-style control of economy and the communist influence on the governance.He was widely criticized for his reformative policies which led to the formation of anti-Castro groups. The group opposed the government, which was duly suppressed by Castro. Even journalists and writers who wrote against the government were forced to publish clarification at the end to every article that opposed the government, thus leading to press censorship.Castro worked towards strengthening the ties between Cuba and the Soviet Union and it agreed to organize Cuba’s defence committee.Furthermore, Cuba agreed to buy oil from Soviet, which led to expropriation of the U.S.-owned refineries in Cuba, when the latter refused to process the oil. Striking back, US cut short Cuba’s import of sugar.US-Cuba ties worsened with the passage of time and came to all-time low in 1961. Outgoing US President Dwight Eisenhower broke off all diplomatic relations with the Cuban government and Castro declared Cuba a socialist stateIn April 1961, thousands of exiles invaded Cuba at the Bay of Pigs in an attempt to overthrow the Castro regime. Despite being taken aback by this surprise attack, the military was able to restrict the insurgents. The toll of the number of dead went past hundreds.Capitalizing on this US-backed incident, Castro further strengthened his position by announcing the end of democratic elections and American imperialism. Thereafter, he clearly indicated to the world that he was a Marxist-Leninist and Cuba would follow the communist way.While US imposed economic ban on Cuba, the Soviet Union affirmed its base by giving Cuba economic and military aid. The increasing hold of Soviet Union over Cuba reached a new level when Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev conceived the idea of placing nuclear missiles in Cuba to avert US invasion.Discovering the plan, US asked Khrushchev to remove the missiles, which he agreed in exchange for the United States' public agreement not to invade Cuba and US removal of Jupiter missiles from Turkey.In 1965, Castro formed the Cuba Communist party. Serving as the head of the organization, he initiated a campaign which supported armed struggle against imperialism in Latin America and Africa.Slowly, he became the leading spokesperson of the Third World countries. Cuba became a member of the OAM (Organization of American States), with Cuba’s government being called first National Congress of the Cuban Communist Party.Cuba’s emergence as a socialist state meant abolishing the position of the President and the Prime Minister and adoption of a new constitution based on the lines of the Soviet Union.Castro was proffered with the position of the Presidency of both Council of State and Council of Ministers, which made him the head of state and head of governmentCastro's Presidency & Retirement
- Along with Cuban Presidency, Castro also remained the President of the Non-Aligned Movement until 1982. Under his rule, the literacy rate of Cuba increased to 98% as hundreds and thousands of new schools were opened. The infant mortality rate of the country also reduced dramatically to 1.1% under the Castro regime.Civil liberties, however, crumpled under his administration, as labor unions lost the right to strike. Independent newspapers were forced to shut down as were religious institutions.Anyone who stood at the opposite end of Castro was removed either through imprisonment or execution and sometimes forced emigration, which was prevalent in the 1980s when Castro opened the port of Mariel to allow Cubans who wished to move to the U. S.Though US initially agreed for a total of 3500 refugees, mass exodus took place resulting in almost 120, 000 Cubans seeking shelter in the US. Castro, astute as he was, filled the boats carrying the people with convicts, mental patients and socially undesirables.The economy of Cuba hit all-time low in 1999 as favourable trade from the Soviet Union crashed. In two years, the economy dipped over 40% with major food shortages, widespread malnutrition and lack of basic goods.Realizing the need for reforms, Castro announced a number of changes at the Fourth Congress of the Cuban Communist Party meeting, primary of which was his stepping down as the head of the government. He, however, retained his position as the head of the Communist Party and Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces.A number of economic reforms were brought to the forefront and emigration restrictions were relaxed. Apart from sugar industry, biotechnology and tourism were also selected to provide a boost to the economy.Castro even softened his arch-anti-religious sentiments, allowing people belonging to religious faith to join the Communist Party. He allowed people to choose their own religious faith and even organized a visit by Pope John Paul II to Cuba in 1998, a move that not only strengthened the position of Church but also Castro’s government in Cuba.The dawn of the 21st century brought to Cuba a ‘godsend’ opportunity in the form of Hugo Chavez, the President of Venezuela. Castro and Chavez developed economic ties, which solidified Cuba’s economy.On July 31, 2006, Castro transferred all his powers to Raul, his brother, on account of his failing health. However, with time, his health recovered and he took part in the important issues of the government.