Fidel Castro is best known for his role as the leader of Cuba between 1959 and 2008. He was also a revolutionary before he gained control of the government, and was a strong advocate of the communist movement. Interestingly, he was able to inspire others by strengthening the Cuban economy, which resulted in their belief that the communist system would be able to meet the needs of citizens. Throughout his life, Castro remained committed to the needs of the Cuban people, and the political alliances that he formed were designed to strengthen the status of Cuba as a communist country.
A majority of the negative press that Cuba receives is due to the fact that the United States had disagreements with the country during the Cold War. Russia and Cuba were both communist governments who aimed to work together to support the communist message. Likewise, although the Cold War was a competition between Russia and the United States, it was valuable for Russia to recruit Cuba as a part of their mission because it would provide them with strategic proximity to the United States. Thus, to fully understand Fidel Castro’s contributions to society, it is necessary to examine his accomplishments through an unbiased lens.
Fidel Castro is known for transforming the status of Cuba and strengthening its economy (Castro). His widespread support led to his decision to avoid allowing future elections in a move that he thought would be in the best interest of the country (Castro). Castro was first known as a baseball player, but later became involved in a revolution against the government (Britannica). The revolution against Batista led to Castro’s leadership (Encyclopedia.com). Once he and his followers became successful, he declared himself the dictator of Cuba as well as the end of democracy in Latin America (Britannica). When Castro spoke out against elections in 1961, he reportedly indicated that “The revolution has no time for elections. There is no more democratic government in Latin America than the revolutionary government” (Britannica). Thus, Castro’s major impact on relations between the United States and Cuba was one of negativity; the U.S. decided to uphold its dedication towards democracy by rejecting trade and friendly relations with Cuba.
An advantage of Castro’s leadership was that the economy improved while Castro was in power (Encyclopedia.com). “Under the Batista regime, the United States dominated the economy, social services suffered, poverty, and illiteracy were widespread, and the bureaucracy was flagrantly corrupt. It was at this point that Fidel Castro came on the scene” (Encyclopedia.com). Thus, one of Castro’s aims was to reverse the poor economy. By exerting direct control of fiscal policies, he was able to increase the quality of life enjoyed by his citizens. Thus, although the United States was at a disadvantage due to Castro’s actions, many Cuban people benefitted.
Fidel Castro’s involvement in the Cold War is what provides people with a negative view of him. Furthermore, the United States’ general dislike of countries that implement communist policies played an important role here. One defence that Castro provides of communism is delivered in a speech he gave soon after taking control of Cuba, “Art, culture, university professions, opportunities, honors, elegant clothes were only the privilege of a small minority, a minority represented today with that grace and humor shown by some worker federations in their imitations of the rich… And so one can see today the unity of the humble people who are fighting for the poor” (Castro). Ultimately, Castro is stating that countries that do not implement communist modes of government are not interested in the rights of their people. Only communism allows for true equality between people. Castro celebrates the idea that communism is present in the company because now the rights of all members of society will be upheld. This contributed to Castro’s role in the Cold War as well as Russia’s nuclear threat because a nuclear bomb could be launched from Cuba and hit the United States. The United States was interested in deterring this threat, but they were also concerned that their actions as Russia’s competitor may have triggered an attack as well.
Interestingly, the historical impact of the Cold War has meant that U.S. and Cuban relations did not exist for the past several decades. Even though Castro died in 2008, the United States was unwilling to enter discussions with Cuba or to change trade laws, assuming that Castro’s government continued to threaten the American government even after the end of the Cold War. Today, while Russia and the United States still have a negative relationship, the United States has started communications with Cuba once again. This is beneficial to the economies of both countries as well as for the safety of the United States.
Overall, Castro’s leadership had a valuable impact on the quality of life of people living in both the United States and Cuba. His policies were beneficial for Cuba and Russia, but posed a nuclear threat to the United States. However, even though Castro has a negative impression on individuals living in the United States, individuals in Cuba were relatively satisfied with the changes that Castro’s leadership brought to the country. Increased economic stability was the main outcome of this relationship. Now that the United States and Cuba are in communication today, they will be able to move forwards towards a positive relationship and eventually, be able to open dialogue about governmental organization that will result in greater freedom for Cubans.
- Britannica. “Fidel Castro”. Encyclopedia Britannica, 2017, https://www.britannica.com/biography/Fidel-Castro.
- Encyclopedia.com. “Cuba Facts, Information, Pictures”. Encyclopedia.Com, 2017, http://www.encyclopedia.com/places/latin-america-and-caribbean/cuban-political-geography/cuba.
- Fidel Castro. “Fidel Castro Speech, May 2, 1961”. Historyofcuba.Com, 1961, http://www.historyofcuba.com/history/speech1.htm.