This Day In History: Castro Forms His First Government (1959)

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On this day in Cuba 1959,  the first government of Fidel Castro in Cuba is announced. On New Years Day 1959, the forces of Fidel Castro overthrew the regime of the Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista. Castro’s guerrilla movement launched a massive offensive from their rural strongholds aimed at Batista’s government, some weeks previous. For some time, Castro and his lieutenant Che Guevara had worn down the government of Batista with constant guerrilla attacks. When the Cuban revolutionaries launched an all-out attack on Havana the regime of Batista simply crumbled away, despite the support of the American government.  This forced Batista to flee Havana. When news of his departure broke many people took to the streets and celebrated. The fall of the government of Batista was very worrying for the American government as they were very concerned about the spread of Soviet influence in the Western hemisphere. The feared that given the strong anti-American feelings on the island that the Cuban revolution could result in Cuba drawing closer to Moscow. These forebodings in Washington were to prove to be justified.

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Castro with his trademark cigar

The US had strongly supported Batista. He was a former soldier and had been virtual dictator of Cuba from 1933 to 1944. At first, he had been popular and had implemented some reforms. He had stepped down from power in 1944 under pressure from America. In 1952 he seized power in a coup and his regime was despotic and corrupt. Soon he had lost any popular support that he once had.  Batista was seen as being too pro-American and during his time in power he allowed the Mafia to set up many operations in Cuba.  This meant that Castro and his fellow revolutionaries became more and more popular. They were seen as the only force capable of rescuing Cuba from American domination and a corrupt and authoritarian government. The Americans realized that Batista was unpopular and they slowly began to withdraw support for him. They hoped to find an alternative to Castro and to Batista. However, there was no viable alternative to Batista and Castro. By 1959 Castro was the most popular figure in Cuba, because of his charisma and his promises of meaningful change.

Batista and a small band of followers fled to the Dominican Republic. Thousands of Cubans who had served in his regime soon followed him into exile. After Castro entered into government he made himself head of state and he initiated a series of left-wing policies.  Castro went on to become one of the longest-serving heads of state in the world and was later to became a major figure in the Communist world. He was also a pivotal figure in the Cuban Missile Crisis.  Batista was given permission to settle in Spain by the dictator Franco. He later died in 1973 at the age of 1972.

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