STORE

Cuba: six decades of Castro power

Cuba's Fidel Castro and Argentina's Ernesto Che Guevara, seen here in the 1960s, were brothers in arms who wanted to spread the revolution across Latin America
AFP

Havana (AFP) – The departure of Cuba’s President Raul Castro brings to an end his family’s six-decade grip on power, which began with his late brother and revolutionary hero Fidel.

Here are some highlights.

– Revolution –

On New Year’s Day in 1959, dictator Fulgencio Batista flees Cuba, defeated by 26 months of guerrilla warfare spearheaded by the Castro brothers. 

Fidel declares victory in the southern city of Santiago de Cuba, pronouncing “The revolution begins now”, before heading to the capital.

The regime begins its move towards communism in May, enacting the first agrarian reform law to allow the expropriation of land.

– US rupture –

In 1960, Cuba nationalizes US companies in response to Washington’s decision to limit oil exports to the island and reduce imports of Cuban sugar. 

A year later, the United States breaks diplomatic relations with Cuba. And in 1962, Washington cuts off most trade with the island.

– Bay of Pigs –

In April 1961, around 1,400 anti-Castro Cubans — trained and financed by the CIA — land at the Bay of Pigs with the intention of overthrowing the communist regime, an endeavor that ends in failure.

– Socialism –

Castro proclaims the socialist character of the Cuban revolution on April 16, 1961. In a speech on May 1, he declares the regime has adopted a socialist system and has “no time for elections”.

In 1965, the Communist Party of Cuba is created, which has ruled the island ever since. 

– Missile crisis –

In October 1962, the United States identifies facilities for Soviet Union nuclear missiles installed on Cuba.

For a fortnight, the world is gripped by fears of nuclear war between the two superpowers until negotiations bring an end to the Cuban Missile Crisis.

– Death of ‘Che’ –

A hero of the Cuban revolution and brother-in-arms to the Castros, Argentina’s Ernesto “Che” Guevara is executed by the Bolivian army in 1967.

His death brings an end to a scheme to spread the Cuban revolution across Latin America, starting with Bolivia.

– Soviet sphere –

In 1970, Cuba fails to meet its promised objective of a harvest of 10 million tons of sugar which the Soviet Union is buying at preferential prices.

It becomes indebted to the Soviet Union, increasingly moving under its influence and going on to join the communist trading bloc COMECON in 1972.

– Troops to Angola –

Starting in 1975, Cuba sends troops to Angola to support the first post-independence government of the communist MPLA party in a civil war against the US-backed UNITA movement. 

Thousands of Cuban troops are deployed as part of the operation, which runs for 16 years, and extends to conflicts in Ethiopia and elsewhere in Africa. 

– Raul takes charge –

On July 31, 2006 an unwell Fidel provisionally hands power to his younger brother Raul, until then his number two in government. 

Raul officially becomes president in 2008 and undertakes a slow program of reforms to “update” the Soviet economic model that is on its last legs. 

Fidel dies on November 25, 2016, aged 90.

– Thaw with US –

In December 2014, then US president Barack Obama and Raul Castro announce plans to normalize US-Cuba ties after 53 years of hostilities. The process comes to fruition the following year.

The thaw is later slowed by the arrival of Donald Trump in the White House in 2017.

.