Castro Rise The Power Essay Research Paper

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

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

ransom them.

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