Fidel Castro

Fidel Castro
Fidel Castro - MATS Terminal Washington 1959 (cropped).png
Castro during a visit to the United States in 1959
First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba
In office
3 October 1965 – 19 April 2011
DeputyRaúl Castro
Preceded byBlas Roca Calderio
Succeeded byRaúl Castro
15th President of Cuba
In office
2 December 1976 – 24 February 2008[a]
Vice PresidentRaúl Castro
Preceded byOsvaldo Dorticós Torrado
Succeeded byRaúl Castro
16th Prime Minister of Cuba
In office
16 February 1959 – 2 December 1976
PresidentManuel Urrutia Lleó
Osvaldo Dorticós Torrado
Preceded byJosé Miró Cardona
Succeeded byHimself (as President)
7th and 23rd Secretary-General
of the Non-Aligned Movement
In office
16 September 2006 – 24 February 2008
Preceded byAbdullah Ahmad Badawi
Succeeded byRaúl Castro
In office
10 September 1979 – 6 March 1983
Preceded byJunius Richard Jayawardene
Succeeded byNeelam Sanjiva Reddy
Personal details
Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz

(1926-08-13)13 August 1926
Birán, Cuba
Died25 November 2016(2016-11-25) (aged 90)
Havana, Cuba
Resting placeSanta Ifigenia Cemetery, Santiago de Cuba
Political partyCommunist Party of Cuba (1965–2016)
Other political
Orthodox Party (1947–1952)
26th of July Movement (1955–1965)
Mirta Diaz-Balart
(m. 1948; div. 1955)

Dalia Soto del Valle (m. 1980)
Children11, including Alina Fernández, Fidel Castro Díaz-Balart
ParentsÁngel Castro y Argiz
Lina Ruz González
RelativesRaúl Castro (brother)
Ramón Castro Ruz (brother)
Juanita Castro (sister)
ResidenceSantiago de Cuba
Alma materUniversity of Havana
  • Presidential powers were transferred to Raúl Castro from 31 July 2006.

Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz (American Spanish: [fiˈðel aleˈxandɾo ˈkastɾo ˈrus]; 13 August 1926 – 25 November 2016) was a Cuban Communist revolutionary and politician who governed the Republic of Cuba as Prime Minister from 1959 to 1976 and then as President from 1976 to 2008. A Marxist–Leninist and Cuban nationalist, Castro also served as the First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba from 1961 until 2011. Under his administration, Cuba became a one-party communist state, while industry and business were nationalized and state socialist reforms were implemented throughout society.

Born in Birán, Oriente as the son of a wealthy Spanish farmer, Castro adopted leftist anti-imperialist politics while studying law at the University of Havana. After participating in rebellions against right-wing governments in the Dominican Republic and Colombia, he planned the overthrow of Cuban President Fulgencio Batista, launching a failed attack on the Moncada Barracks in 1953. After a year's imprisonment, Castro traveled to Mexico where he formed a revolutionary group, the 26th of July Movement, with his brother Raúl Castro and Che Guevara. Returning to Cuba, Castro took a key role in the Cuban Revolution by leading the Movement in a guerrilla war against Batista's forces from the Sierra Maestra. After Batista's overthrow in 1959, Castro assumed military and political power as Cuba's Prime Minister. The United States came to oppose Castro's government and unsuccessfully attempted to remove him by assassination, economic blockade and counter-revolution, including the Bay of Pigs Invasion of 1961. Countering these threats, Castro aligned with the Soviet Union and allowed the Soviets to place nuclear weapons in Cuba, sparking the Cuban Missile Crisis – a defining incident of the Cold War – in 1962.

Adopting a Marxist–Leninist model of development, Castro converted Cuba into a one-party, socialist state under Communist Party rule, the first in the Western Hemisphere. Policies introducing central economic planning and expanding healthcare and education were accompanied by state control of the press and the suppression of internal dissent. Abroad, Castro supported anti-imperialist revolutionary groups, backing the establishment of Marxist governments in Chile, Nicaragua and Grenada, as well as sending troops to aid allies in the Yom Kippur, Ogaden, and Angolan Civil War. These actions, coupled with Castro's leadership of the Non-Aligned Movement from 1979 to 1983 and Cuba's medical internationalism, increased Cuba's profile on the world stage. Following the Soviet Union's dissolution in 1991, Castro led Cuba through the economic downturn of the "Special Period", embracing environmentalist and anti-globalization ideas. In the 2000s, Castro forged alliances in the Latin American "pink tide" – namely with Hugo Chávez's Venezuela – and signed Cuba up to the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas. In 2006, Castro transferred his responsibilities to Vice President Raúl Castro, who was elected to the presidency by the National Assembly in 2008.

The longest-serving non-royal head of state in the 20th and 21st centuries, Castro polarized world opinion. His supporters view him as a champion of socialism and anti-imperialism whose revolutionary regime advanced economic and social justice while securing Cuba's independence from American imperialism. Critics view him as a dictator whose administration oversaw human-rights abuses, the exodus of a large number of Cubans and the impoverishment of the country's economy. Castro was decorated with various international awards and significantly influenced different individuals and groups across the world.


Youth: 1926–1947

Castro was born out of wedlock at his father's farm on 13 August 1926.[1] His father, Ángel Castro y Argiz, a veteran of the Spanish–American War,[2] was a migrant to Cuba from Galicia, Northwest Spain.[3] He had become financially successful by growing sugar cane at Las Manacas farm in Birán, Oriente Province.[4] After the collapse of his first marriage he took his household servant, Lina Ruz González – of Canarian origin – as his mistress and later second wife; together they had seven children, among them Fidel.[5] At age six, Castro was sent to live with his teacher in Santiago de Cuba,[6] before being baptized into the Roman Catholic Church at the age of eight.[7] Being baptized enabled Castro to attend the La Salle boarding school in Santiago, where he regularly misbehaved; he was next sent to the privately funded, Jesuit-run Dolores School in Santiago.[8] In 1945, Castro transferred to the more prestigious Jesuit-run El Colegio de Belén in Havana.[9] Although Castro took an interest in history, geography and debating at Belén, he did not excel academically, instead devoting much of his time to playing sports.[10]

Fidel Castro at Colegio de Belen 1943. Havana, Cuba

In 1945, Castro began studying law at the University of Havana.[11] Admitting he was "politically illiterate", Castro became embroiled in student activism[12] and the violent gangsterismo culture within the university.[13] Passionate about anti-imperialism and opposing U.S. intervention in the Caribbean,[14] he unsuccessfully campaigned for the presidency of the Federation of University Students on a platform of "honesty, decency and justice".[15] Castro became critical of the corruption and violence of President Ramón Grau's government, delivering a public speech on the subject in November 1946 that received coverage on the front page of several newspapers.[16]

In 1947, Castro joined the Party of the Cuban People (Partido Ortodoxo), founded by veteran politician Eduardo Chibás. A charismatic figure, Chibás advocated social justice, honest government and political freedom, while his party exposed corruption and demanded reform. Though Chibás came third in the 1948 general election, Castro remained committed to working on his behalf.[17] Student violence escalated after Grau employed gang leaders as police officers, and Castro soon received a death threat urging him to leave the university. However, he refused to do so and began to carry a gun and surround himself with armed friends.[18] In later years, anti-Castro dissidents accused him of committing gang-related assassinations at the time, but these accusations remain unproven.[19]

Rebellion and Marxism: 1947–1950

I joined the people; I grabbed a rifle in a police station that collapsed when it was rushed by a crowd. I witnessed the spectacle of a totally spontaneous revolution ... [T]hat experience led me to identify myself even more with the cause of the people. My still incipient Marxist ideas had nothing to do with our conduct – it was a spontaneous reaction on our part, as young people with Martí-an, anti-imperialist, anti-colonialist and pro-democratic ideas.

—  Fidel Castro on the Bogotazo, 2009[20]

In June 1947, Castro learned of a planned expedition to overthrow the right-wing government of Rafael Trujillo, a U.S. ally, in the Dominican Republic.[21] Being President of the University Committee for Democracy in the Dominican Republic, Castro joined the expedition.[22] The military force consisted of around 1,200 troops, mostly Cubans and exiled Dominicans, and they intended to sail from Cuba in July 1947. Grau's government stopped the invasion under U.S. pressure, although Castro and many of his comrades evaded arrest.[23] Returning to Havana, Castro took a leading role in student protests against the killing of a high school pupil by government bodyguards.[24] The protests, accompanied by a crackdown on those considered communists, led to violent clashes between activists and police in February 1948, in which Castro was badly beaten.[25] At this point, his public speeches took on a distinctly leftist slant by condemning social and economic inequality in Cuba. In contrast, his former public criticisms had centered on condemning corruption and U.S. imperialism.[25]

In April 1948, Castro traveled to Bogotá, Colombia, leading a Cuban student group sponsored by President Juan Perón's Argentine government. There, the assassination of popular leftist leader Jorge Eliécer Gaitán Ayala led to widespread rioting and clashes between the governing Conservatives – backed by the army – and leftist Liberals.[26] Castro joined the Liberal cause by stealing guns from a police station, but subsequent police investigations concluded that he had not been involved in any killings.[26] Returning to Cuba, Castro became a prominent figure in protests against government attempts to raise bus fares.[27] That year, he married Mirta Díaz Balart, a student from a wealthy family, through whom he was exposed to the lifestyle of the Cuban elite. The relationship was a love match, disapproved of by both families, but Díaz Balart's father gave them tens of thousands of dollars, along with Batista,[28] to spend on a three-month New York City honeymoon.[29]

Marxism taught me what society was. I was like a blindfolded man in a forest, who doesn't even know where north or south is. If you don't eventually come to truly understand the history of the class struggle, or at least have a clear idea that society is divided between the rich and the poor, and that some people subjugate and exploit other people, you're lost in a forest, not knowing anything.

– Fidel Castro on discovering Marxism, 2009[30]

That same year, Grau decided not to stand for re-election, which was instead won by his Partido Auténtico's new candidate, Carlos Prío Socarrás.[31] Prío faced widespread protests when members of the MSR, now allied to the police force, assassinated Justo Fuentes, a socialist friend of Castro's. In response, Prío agreed to quell the gangs, but found them too powerful to control.[32] Castro had moved further to the left, influenced by the Marxist writings of Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, and Vladimir Lenin. He came to interpret Cuba's problems as an integral part of capitalist society, or the "dictatorship of the bourgeoisie", rather than the failings of corrupt politicians, and adopted the Marxist view that meaningful political change could only be brought about by proletariat revolution. Visiting Havana's poorest neighborhoods, he became active in the student anti-racist campaign.[33]

In September 1949, Mirta gave birth to a son, Fidelito, so the couple moved to a larger Havana flat.[34] Castro continued to put himself at risk, staying active in the city's politics and joining the 30 September Movement, which contained within it both communists and members of the Partido Ortodoxo. The group's purpose was to oppose the influence of the violent gangs within the university; despite his promises, Prío had failed to control the situation, instead offering many of their senior members jobs in government ministries.[35] Castro volunteered to deliver a speech for the Movement on 13 November, exposing the government's secret deals with the gangs and identifying key members. Attracting the attention of the national press, the speech angered the gangs and Castro fled into hiding, first in the countryside and then in the U.S.[36] Returning to Havana several weeks later, Castro lay low and focused on his university studies, graduating as a Doctor of Law in September 1950.[37]

Career in law and politics: 1950–1952

Castro intended to overthrow the presidency of General Fulgencio Batista (left, with U.S. Army Chief of staff Malin Craig, in 1938).

Castro co-founded a legal partnership that primarily catered to poor Cubans, although it proved a financial failure.[38] Caring little for money or material goods, Castro failed to pay his bills; his furniture was repossessed and electricity cut off, distressing his wife.[39] He took part in a high school protest in Cienfuegos in November 1950, fighting with police to protest the Education Ministry's ban on student associations; he was arrested and charged for violent conduct, but the magistrate dismissed the charges.[40] His hopes for Cuba still centered on Chibás and the Partido Ortodoxo, and he was present at Chibás' politically motivated suicide in 1951.[41] Seeing himself as Chibás' heir, Castro wanted to run for Congress in the June 1952 elections, though senior Ortodoxo members feared his radical reputation and refused to nominate him.[42] He was instead nominated as a candidate for the House of Representatives by party members in Havana's poorest districts, and began campaigning.[42] The Ortodoxo had considerable support and was predicted to do well in the election.[43]

During his campaign, Castro met with General Fulgencio Batista, the former president who had returned to politics with the Unitary Action Party. Batista offered him a place in his administration if he was successful; although both opposed Prío's administration, their meeting never got beyond polite generalities.[44] On 10 March 1952, Batista seized power in a military coup, with Prío fleeing to Mexico. Declaring himself president, Batista cancelled the planned presidential elections, describing his new system as "disciplined democracy"; Castro was deprived of being elected in his run for office by Batista's move, and like many others, considered it a one-man dictatorship.[45] Batista moved to the right, solidifying ties with both the wealthy elite and the United States, severing diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union, suppressing trade unions and persecuting Cuban socialist groups.[46] Intent on opposing Batista, Castro brought several legal cases against the government, but these came to nothing, and Castro began thinking of alternate ways to oust the regime.[47]

Other Languages
Afrikaans: Fidel Castro
Ænglisc: Fidel Castro
العربية: فيدل كاسترو
aragonés: Fidel Castro
asturianu: Fidel Castro
Aymar aru: Fidel Castro
azərbaycanca: Fidel Kastro
Bân-lâm-gú: Fidel Castro
беларуская: Фідэль Кастра
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Фідэль Кастра
Bikol Central: Fidel Castro
български: Фидел Кастро
Boarisch: Fidel Castro
bosanski: Fidel Castro
brezhoneg: Fidel Castro
čeština: Fidel Castro
Cymraeg: Fidel Castro
Deutsch: Fidel Castro
ދިވެހިބަސް: ފިޑެލް ކާސްޓްރޯ
dolnoserbski: Fidel Castro
Ελληνικά: Φιντέλ Κάστρο
español: Fidel Castro
Esperanto: Fidel Castro
euskara: Fidel Castro
føroyskt: Fidel Castro
français: Fidel Castro
Gaeilge: Fidel Castro
galego: Fidel Castro
गोंयची कोंकणी / Gõychi Konknni: Fidel Castro
հայերեն: Ֆիդել Կաստրո
hornjoserbsce: Fidel Castro
hrvatski: Fidel Castro
Ilokano: Fidel Castro
Bahasa Indonesia: Fidel Castro
íslenska: Fidel Castro
italiano: Fidel Castro
Basa Jawa: Fidel Castro
ქართული: ფიდელ კასტრო
Kiswahili: Fidel Castro
Kreyòl ayisyen: Fidel Castro
kurdî: Fidel Castro
Кыргызча: Фидель Кастро
Ladino: Fidel Castro
لۊری شومالی: فیدئل کاسترو
latviešu: Fidels Kastro
Lëtzebuergesch: Fidel Castro
lietuvių: Fidel Castro
Limburgs: Fidel Castro
lingála: Fidel Castro
lumbaart: Fidel Castro
magyar: Fidel Castro
македонски: Фидел Кастро
Malagasy: Fidel Castro
მარგალური: ფიდელ კასტრო
مازِرونی: فیدل کاسترو
Bahasa Melayu: Fidel Castro
Mirandés: Fidel Castro
မြန်မာဘာသာ: ဖီဒယ်လ် ကက်စထရို
Nāhuatl: Fidel Castro
Nederlands: Fidel Castro
नेपाल भाषा: फिदेल कास्ट्रो
norsk nynorsk: Fidel Castro
occitan: Fidel Castro
oʻzbekcha/ўзбекча: Fidel Castro
پنجابی: فڈل کاسٹرو
polski: Fidel Castro
português: Fidel Castro
română: Fidel Castro
Runa Simi: Fidel Castro
संस्कृतम्: फिदेल कास्ट्रो
Seeltersk: Fidel Castro
sicilianu: Fidel Castru
Simple English: Fidel Castro
slovenčina: Fidel Castro
slovenščina: Fidel Castro
ślůnski: Fidel Castro
Soomaaliga: Fidel Castaro
српски / srpski: Фидел Кастро
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Fidel Castro
Basa Sunda: Fidél Castro
svenska: Fidel Castro
Tagalog: Fidel Castro
татарча/tatarça: Фидель Кастро
Türkçe: Fidel Castro
українська: Фідель Кастро
vèneto: Fidel Castro
Tiếng Việt: Fidel Castro
Volapük: Fidel Castro
Winaray: Fidel Castro
Yorùbá: Fidel Castro
粵語: 卡斯特羅
Zazaki: Fidel Castro
Zeêuws: Fidel Castro
žemaitėška: Fidel Castro