Struggle for Power

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Part 1: The Struggle for Power

Dr. Fidel Castro Ruz was born in 1926 in the Oriente province. As a young student he became involved in political protest. After Fulgencio Batista had led a coup to overthrow the government, Castro as a lawyer tried to have the dictatorial government declared illegal in court; he didn't win. Later he turned to violent means to change the corrupt government. Fidel Castro with brother Raul and Che GuevaraCastro organized some 160 or so men to attack the Moncada military fortress and the Bayamo barracks, in 1953, on July 26. The rebellion was crushed by the military and Castro was captured and imprisoned. A few months later Batista released Castro in response to public pressure, thinking him not a threat.

Castro left for Mexico and organized a small band of 85 men as a fighting force of radical social revolutionists. They called themselves the July 26 movement after the date of Castro's previous offensive. They returned by boat to Cuba in 1956 and were nearly destroyed by the Cuban military. Only 12 survived, including Castro and an Argentinean Marxist doctor named Ernesto "Che" Guevara. For two years this small band fought guerilla warfare in the Sierra Maestra mountains.Their group grew in number and popularity. Castro promised change, including a non-corrupt government, free elections, improved educational systems, and health care. In 1957 he released a "Declaration of Sierra Maestra," a declaration for the movement:

  1. Immediate freedom for all political, civil, and military prisoners.
  2. Absolute guarantee of freedom of information, of the spoken word and written press and of all the individual and political rights guaranteed by the constitution.
  3. Designation of provisional mayors in all the municipalities prior to consultation with the civic institutions of the locality.Che was one of two primary field commanders
  4. Suppression of speculation in all its forms and adoption of measures to increase the efficiency of all organisms of the state.
  5. Democratization of labor policy, promotion of free elections in all unions and federations in industries.
  6. Establishment of a civil service.
  7. Immediate start of a campaign against illiteracy and for civic education, exalting the duties and rights which the citizen has in relation to society and the fatherland.
  8. Establishment of the foundations of agrarian reform, tending to the distribution of barren lands. Conversion of all the lessees- planters, partners, squatters who possess small parcels of land (private or public) with prior indemnification to the former owners- into proprietors.
  9. Adoption of a sound financial policy that safeguards the stability of Cuba's money and tends to use the credit of the nation in productive works.
  10. Acceleration of the process of industrialization and the creation of new jobs.

Castro's Declaration demanded an end to foreign interference in Cuban affairs, the repudiation of any type of military junta, the separation of theCamilo was the other field commander army from politics, and the holding of general elections under the terms of the 1940 Constitution.

There were several attempts to replace Batista. In March 1958, the Catholic Church in Cuba appealed to Batista to make way for a neutral government which could restore civil peace. Two attempts to stride Batista in 1957 and 1958 failed. There were also attempts to assassinate him. In summer of 1958 the Batista forces made their last major effort to destroy the rebels, and failed.

Towards the end of 1958, the US began an arms embargo against the Batista regime. Before the embargo, the U.S. was considered friendly with Fidel and Camilo in battle gearBatista, and it was when his regime clearly began to fall apart that the U.S. started the Embargo, which was interpreted as support for Fidel Castro. The U.S. ceased its supply of arms, but it still dominated Cuba's sugar industry and other economic interests. Batista fled to the Dominican Republic on Jan. 1, 1959 to escape the rebellion that had swept the country. This left Cuba for Castro's revolutionary forces which took control of Havana on January 8, 1959. Fidel Castro took full control of Cuba within a few hours after Batista fled. About a month and a half later Castro became prime minister.

Next go to Part II: The Transformation of Cuba.

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  Pictures on this page: the heros of the revolution--Fidel and his soldiers, Che, and Camilo.
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