Saturday, November 6, 2010

Essay on Fidel Castro

Essay on Fidel Castro

On March 10, 1952 Fulgencio Batista seized power in Cuba, twenty years after the Revolt of the Sergeants. Batista then conquered and replaced the democratically elected Cuban president Carlos Prнo Socorras and christened himself dictator. The coup, led by Batista, took place only three months before upcoming elections that he would have no doubt lost; also involved in that election was a young, energetic lawyer named Fidel Castro. On March 27, 1952, the United States under President Dwight D. Eisenhower formally recognized the government of Fulgencio Batista, a move that would prove vital to the dictator’s success. With the United States at his back, Batista was able to initiate any form of changes he so desired. The revisions that Batista fabricated meant multiple alterations in the economic, political, and social lives of the Cuban people, enough to peak rising tensions into an outbreak of civil war.

Shortly following his recognition from the United States, Batista made clear that changes were coming. Though he explained that he remained completely loyal to Cuba’s constitution of 1940, he decided that constitutional guarantees would be temporarily suspended, most importantly that of the right to strike. In April, in The Cuban Revolution, Hugh Tomas writes, “Batista proclaimed a new constitutional code of 275 articles, claiming that the ‘democratic and progressive essence’ of the 1940 Constitution was preserved in the new law.” Batista, with his new articles, opened the door for immense gambling in Havana in order to harvest national riches. Under Cuba’s new leader, Cuba become extremely profitable for American business and organized crime. One critic dubbed Havana the ‘Latin Las Vegas,’ a place that paid little attention to democracy and came to neglect the rights of average Cubans. For a price, Batista granted contracts to many US corporations for large construction projects in Cuba. These projects included the Havana-Varadero highway, the Rancho Boyeros airport, new train lines and power companies, and a curios plot to dig a canal across Cuba. Popular unrest amongst the Cuban people on top of US requests, forced Batista to hold an election; Batista of course won in a phony election being, in reality, the only candidate. Nonetheless, Cubans were beginning not to trust Batista and were demanding new, legitimate elections.


Fidel Castro, on the other hand, began his career as a lawyer, deeply involved in political protest. Following Batista’s overthrow of President Socorras, Castro attempted unsuccessfully to declare the dictatorial government illegal through the Cuban courts. When legal methods failed, Castro turned to violence in order to change the corrupt government. On July 26, 1953, just over one year since Batista’s coup, Castro organized some 160 men to attack the Moncada military fortress and the Bayomo barracks. Like his legal efforts, this endeavor failed as well; the rebellion was crushed and Castro was imprisoned. Later, however, and in response to public pressure, Batista released Castro believing that he posed no threat to the regime.

Castro went to Mexico where he gathered a small band of men and for two years led sporadic guerilla attacks against Batista and his Cuban military. Though no significant means resulted from these raids, Castro, during this time, developed and released his Declaration of Sierra Maestra that including the following:
  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 civic institutions of the locality.
  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 demands highlighted the desire of change that the entire public of Cuba all held in common. His declaration included demands to end foreign interference in Cuban affairs, the retraction of any military organization, the separation of military from politics, and the holding of legitimate elections as stated in the text of the Constitution of 1940.

Rebels like Castro made several attempts to dethrone Batista permanently, including assassination attempts that failed only making the situation worse. Batista ordered his military commander of the district, General Martin Tamayo, to “kill ten rebels for every soldier killed.” This demand was quickly dubbed as the “ten-for-one” law, a concept that would distinguish the manner in which Batista operated throughout his entire tenure.

Economically, Cuba was entangled in the Mafia and was known as an international drug port. Cuban officials continued to get rich off the large-scale gambling and trafficking. Batista retained ten percent of nightly profits at the Trafficante Casinos, the Sans Souci, and the casinos in the hotels of Sevilla-Biltmore, Commodoro, Deauville, and Capri. Batista further received thirty percent of profits from other casinos, the Hotel Nacional, the Montmartre Club, funds that previously would have been delegated and distributed to Cuban education, public health, and city maintenance.

Nearing the end of the 1950’s, student riots and anti-Batista demonstrations became quite frequent. These uprisings were dealt with in a similar manner that was characteristic of the “ten-for-one” law and representative of the violent methods common to his military police. Most of these rebels were students at the University of Havana, students who took part in the peaceful march from the University that was brutally annihilated. Continued opposition from the University of Havana led to its temporary closing until 1959 when a revolutionary victory took place. The flow of student blood, however, did not stop. Batista’s police tracked down many opposing rebels and murdered them, provoking instantly strikes throughout Cuba.

The seeds of the revolution had been planted long before and from their roots sprouted a stronger, more determined movement. No longer would a Cuban nation of gangsters and corrupt politicians be tolerated. The US, at the end of 1958, began an arms embargo against the Batista regime. Before its friend, the US now made it clear that no longer would it support Batista’s government. Without the US support, it was obvious that with such internal opposition, Batista’s could not retain power. One final phony election was staged in 1958 before Fulgencio Batista resigned his position as president of Cuba and fled with his family; no provisions were made for the thousands of Cubans that worked under Batista. Fidel Castro, the energetic lawyer who stimulated the growth of the revolution, took full control of Cuba a few hours after Batista’s flight; one month later, he became Prime Minster. Ultimately, it was the intolerable changes instigated by Batista that altered the economic, political, and social lives of the Cuban people. These changes were unmanageable and unlivable and therefor had to be revolutionized.

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