In the final days of 1958, ragged rebels began the process of driving out forces loyal to Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista. By New Year’s Day, the nation was theirs, and Fidel Castro, Ché Guevara, Raúl Castro, Camilo Cienfuegos and their companions rode triumphantly into Havana and history.  Fidel Castro's 26th of July Movement and its allies against the right-wing[ authoritarian government of Cuban President Fulgencio Batista. The revolution began in July 1953, and continued sporadically until the rebels finally ousted Batista on 1 January 1959, replacing his government with a revolutionary socialist state.

Fulgencio Batista, who was President of Cuba from 1940-1944.

The 26th of July Movement later reformed along communist lines, becoming the Communist Party in October 1965. Castro’s organized attack set up on the eastern end of Santiago de Cuba against the military barracks ended in despair and failure due to government. Batista had been president from 1940-1944 and ran for president in 1952. When it became apparent that he would lose, he seized power before the elections, which were canceled. Many people in Cuba were disgusted by his power grab, preferring Cuba’s democracy, as flawed as it was. One such person was rising political star Fidel Castro, who would likely have won a seat in Congress had the 1952 elections taken place. Castro immediately began plotting Batista’s downfall.

Fidel Castro (far left) and Che Guevara (centre) lead a memorial march in Havana on 5 May 1960, for the victims of the La Coubre freight ship.

In late 1958 Castro divided his forces, sending Cienfuegos and Guevara into the plains with small armies: Castro followed them with the remaining rebels. The rebels captured towns and villages along the way, where they were greeted as liberators. Cienfuegos captured the small garrison at Yaguajay on December 30. Defying the odds, Guevara and 300 weary rebels defeated a much larger force at the city of Santa Clara on December 28-30, capturing valuable munitions in the process. Meanwhile, government officials were negotiating with Castro, trying to salvage the situation and halt the bloodshed.When legal means proved futile, Castro led 160 guerrilla fighters in laying siege to the Moncada military barracks in Santiago de Cuba. He failed to ignite a popular uprising. Instead, the majority of the rebels were killed and Castro arrested and sentenced to 15 years in prison. When a 1955 political amnesty freed Castro and his brother Raúl, the two fled to Mexico where, among other Cuban exiles, they organized the 26th of July Movement  marking the beginning of the campaign that would finally oust Batista.Batista and his inner circle, seeing that Castro’s victory was inevitable, took what loot they could gather up and fled. Batista authorized some of his subordinates to deal with Castro and the rebels.

The Cuban Revolution had powerful domestic and international repercussions. In particular, it transformed Cuba's relationship with the United States.

Fidel Castro and communist guerrillas during the fighting to overthrow the military junta of Cuban president Fulgencio Batista, 1957.

The people of Cuba took to the streets, joyfully greeting the rebels. Cienfuegos and Guevara and their men entered Havana on January 2nd and disarmed the remaining military installations. Castro made his way into Havana slowly, pausing in every town, city, and village along the way to give speeches to the cheering crowds, finally entering Havana on January 9.The Castro brothers quickly consolidated their power, sweeping away all remnants of the Batista regime and muscling out all of the rival rebel groups that had aided them in their rise to power. Raul Castro and Ché Guevara were put in charge of organizing squads to bring to trial and execute Batista era "war criminals" who had engaged in torture and murder under the old regime.

Russia's Nikita Khrushchev and Fidel Castro. 1962. After the establishment of diplomatic ties with the Soviet Union after the Cuban revolution of 1959, Cuba became increasingly dependent on Soviet markets and military aid, becoming an ally of the Soviet Union during the Cold War. In 1972 Cuba joined the COMECON, an economic organization of states designed to create cooperation among the socialist planned economies dominated by the large economy of the Soviet Union. Moscow kept in regular contact with Havana.

Dictator Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz August 13, 1926 – November 25, 2016) was a Cuban revolutionary and politician who governed the Republic of Cuba as Prime Minister from 1959 to 1976 and then as President from 1976 to 2008. Politically 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 socialist state, while industry and business were nationalized and state socialist reforms were implemented throughout society.
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