Fidel

Posted on December 1, 2010 by

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Fidel Castro

In the 1940s Cuba had a mixed population: white, black and everything in between. The indigenous population was missing after because they had been slaughtered long ago by los conquistadores.

Much racial and economical discrimination was present at the time with the poor being of darker skin and living far off from economic centres in the countryside. Although by 1940 the system of democracy was already in place, its form was highly immature. As a result, the political environment was very instable with coups d’état every other year. Added to that came were the vast amounts of corruption that made the whole governmental structure extremely inefficient and hated amongst the population.

The last successful coup before Castro was by Fulgencio Batista, who was known as The Man. He was in power for a total of 11 years, but fled on the 1st of January 1959, once Castro’s Cuban Revolution had overrun La Habana.

Fidel’s Childhood

Fidel was fortunate to be exposed to both sides of life from very early on. As a son of wealthy landowners he lived amidst Cuba’s poverty-stricken country-side, where he was confronted by the disparity between rich and poor every day. Even some of his own family-members belonged to those people living in chronic poverty, making it all very personal which made it very personal. As a result he developed a strong sense for of justice and equality early on.

He took that anger to university. There, as a young law student at the University of Habana, he started to speak publicly against against the Batista regime. He accused the government of backing US policy and corporatism, thus neglecting the interests of the Cubans.

Initially he was a lone fighter, isolated by the ruling factions at University. However, that didn’t last long. He quickly gained a reputation for being an excellent speaker and organizer. In addition, he he increased his credibility by offering free legal advice to the poor. Besides helping them to fight the political establishment he gained valuable insights into Cuba’s corrupt administration.

Revolutionary Struggle

In his mid-20s his political activity radicalized, making him take up arms. The Moncada Barracks (Batista’s largest garrison outside Santiago de Cuba) were his first military target. The attack ended as ended in disaster disaster with more than 60of the 135 revolutionaries wounding up dead. After the pitiful remaining few were captured, many more were murdered in prisons through exectutions executions and torture. With a stroke of luck, both Fidel and his brother Raul were spared and only received long prison sentences.

After 22 months of serving, Batista showed political goodwill and exiled him Fidel to Mexico. There he met El Che Guevara, who helped shaping his political worldview. Together with other exiled Cubans they formed a rebel group that planned to overthrow Batista by using guerrilla warfare tactics. On November 26, 1956 they set sail for Cuba.

Shortly after landing on the eastern shore of Cuba 62 of the 82 revolutionaries were eliminated. Fidel, Raul and El Che decided to retreat into  La Sierra Maestra, which is an inaccessible mountain range. There they started to organize a country-wide underground campaign to get rid of Batista. With the help of the local population they slowly gained the upper hand.

Fidel In Power – National Policies

As a whole the policies of the Castro regime in the first two decades were full of failures, which can often which most often could be blamed on mere ignorance. Neither Fidel, Raul, El Che nor any other revolutionary had any idea of how to run, let alone develop, a country. As a result the government often acted headless, relying on mere popularity to stay in power. Special mention must be given to El Che, who took on different positions as president of the National Bank, Minister of Industry and Diplomat. He might have been a great and idealistic fighter, but as a government official he did a really horrible job.  In the 60’s even Fidel realized that after having spent some time in denial.

Fidel himself also had his faults. The revolution provided him with an aura of invincibility, which became seriously scratched after one of his projects failed miserably. He wanted to push Cubans to land a record-produce of 10t million of sugar cane to repay national debt in order to to regain financial independence. Needless to say, that despite some extra effort, the project failed. In addition, the focus on sugar production made it necessary to relocate resources from other sectors, which deepened the crisis in Cuba at the end of the 60’s.

Such policy failures caused wealthy Cubans to turn their back on Castro. They had hoped for a decrease in corruption, but were confronted with a new problem: idealistic visionaries that lay their country into ruins. However, to do justice to Castro, not everything went down hill. Standards in health and education rocketed across delete across in every part of the country through the provision of a variety of special programs. In addition, Castro came close to providing everyone with electricity and running water.

Hence, on the one hand he crushed the hope of many for good leadership for Cuba due to his lack of experience, while on the other hand he energized people by making them feel included and appreciated. Truly a president of the extremes.

Fidel In Power – Global Powerplay

Internationally, Castro always understood how important Cuba’s image was. Therefore, throughout the years he has travelled all across the world to market his ideas. His first stations were the USA, Venezuela and a few other Latin American countries. Even today, Cuba is still well known among many, because of the popularity it reached during the Cold War due to its leftism. However, that was only partially Castro’s achievement. Another important reason reason was Cuba’s convienent convenient location. The island was well positioned to seriously annoy the United States with its political proximity to the Soviet Union.

After Castro turned increasingly to the Soviet Union, relations soured with the United States, resulting in a variety of planned coups led by the US army and the CIA. Luckily for Castro the USA proved incapable of taking over the little island. The most popular defeat was being the disaster of the Bay of Pigs in 1960. However, it wasn’t just diplomatic activity that was close to non-existent, economic activity came to a total halt in 1962 when the US announced a total trade embargo against Cuba.

Although Castro tried again and again to lift the embargo, progress was very limited. Even the little he achieved with Democratic presidents like Jimmy Carter was thrown overboard by the Republicans Reagan and G.H.W. Bush.

Until the end of the Cold War it helped Castro greatly to successfully confront the almighty US as a tiny island nation. However, with the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the dissolution of the conflict, he lost his international sphere of influence.

Conclusion

In the past two decades Castro has removed himself more and more from power, not just because of his age, but also maybe because he must have realized that even humane dictatorships aren’t necessarily a good answer. He did all he could to push to impose his visions of equality and justice on Cuba, helping to the island into one of the most healthy and highly educated countries in the world. However, he failed to be able to develop the opportunities an educated population requires to prosper, which is one of the main reasons why so many Cubans want to leave the island. Whenever presented with a loophole, scores of people run for it, as was the case with the Peruvian embassy loophole. Before the flow of vessels ended, more than 125,000 Cubans To keep control over the dissatisfaction comma Castro and his companions use repression. Only in 2010 the Cuban Human Rights Commission counted more than 800 cases of people being detained and sent home without charge.

Therefore, a good piece of advice to all sustainable development and holistically minded people.: although many of you adore Castro and his followers are being adored by the green left, you should not forgot that he killed to gain power and is greatly limiting individual freedom in Cuba in order to make his dream possible. Is it worth it? Do Castro’s achievements justify his means?

As a whole, Cuba might be a heaven for tourists, but for most locals it must appear more like a trap. Just like Hitler, Castro has pushed his ideals onto other people and not necessarily made Cubans happier. Although, those ideas are arguably more honourable than Hitler’s, he still uses some of his methodology.

Sources: Internet and Castro by Sebastián Balfo

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