2/19/2008

Fidel Castro steps down

I see that the Father of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro, has stood down as President and Commander in Chief of Cuba.



The new National Assembly is meeting for the first time on Sunday to pick the governing Council of State; Fidel has indicated that he will not be standing again.

“I will not aspire nor accept – I repeat I will not aspire or accept, the post of President of the Council of State and Commander in Chief,”

Thus ends his 50 years of rule in Cuba.

Fidel is a controversial character, loved by many and hated by many. This Cuban David has stood steadfast against the American Goliath for all this time and has survived nine US administrations, most of which have attempted to kill him.

Born Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz in 1926 to a wealthy family he did not start life as a socialist radical. He attended a private Jesuit school in Havana and trained as a Lawyer.

In the 40's he joined "Partido Ortodoxo" in the hope that he could free Cuba from her imperialist chains and her Uncle Sam playboys. When he qualified as a lawyer he represented the underprivileged.

Deciding to contest elections in 1952 was the beginning of a new chapter in his life. That same year General Fulgencio Batista, backed by the US, seized power in a coup and cancelled the elections.

On 26 July 1953 he led over 100 men and women in an attack on the Moncada Army Barracks. He was caught, imprisoned, sentenced to death and later released in an amnesty. He moved to Mexico in order to plan for a future revolution, it was there that "Movimiento 26 de Julio" was born and it was there that he first met Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara.

By 1956 he and 82 other revolutionaries came back to Cuba. After three long years of hard struggle they removed Batista and the Cuban Revolution was born. No longer would Cuba be a den for the American Mafia and wealthy capitalists. The brothels, casinos and seedy clubs were closed.

Cuba was no longer for sale!

The socialists implemented land redistributions, nationalised companies, expropriated properties from major US corporations, undertook a massive literacy crusade and abolished separate facilities for Blacks and Whites.

In the 1960's Cuba agreed to buy their oil from the USSR, when American owned refineries refused to process the oil they were nationalised.

In 1961 we had the disastrous US supported "Bay of Pigs", this rag tag bunch proved no match for the Cuban Army. After this undemocratic infringement of Cuban territorial integrity by the US and the CIA Cuba announced that it was on a Communist path.

1962 saw the start of the crippling US embargo shortly followed by the Cuban missile crisis.

Having been a constant thorn in the US side has led to a reported 638 assassination attempts on his life. They range from a poisonous cigar to a weird attempt to make his beard fall off.

The biggest challenge that has faced Cuba however has been the fall of the USSR.

That said they have managed to turn it around with the use of foreign tourism.

Cuba was transformed from a playground for wealthy Americans to exploit to an island that guarantees all its citizens basic requirements of cheap food, the right to employment, social security protections and free comprehensive healthcare and education.

There is one doctor per 165 inhabitants, boasting the best doctor-patient ratio in the world.

With the passing of Fidel from the political arena we are seeing the end of era. His place in history is assured however there is no doubt that historians will argue about him just as much as us.

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