Cuba's African Adventure

In 1959 Fidel Castro came to power in Cuba after a masterly campaign of guerrilla warfare. Drawing on this success, Castro and his followers, including Che Guevara, sought to spread their revolution, as Clive Foss explains.

Since his student days Fidel Castro had been an enthusiastic revolutionary, inspired by Cuba’s great patriot José Martí and by Karl Marx. From a remote base in the Sierra Maestra mountains, he defeated the armies of the dictator Fulgencio Batista and took control of Cuba on New Year’s Day 1959. Castro’s immediate aims were to consolidate the revolution and transform Cuba’s society and economy. He was also determined to secure its independence against what Martí had called the ‘colossus of the north’ – the United States. As the revolution became more radical and US suspicion hardened into hostility, Castro needed friends. He naturally turned to the Soviet Union, enemy of his enemy and leader of the Communist world. Increasing ties with the Soviets, combined with extensive seizure of US-owned property and the growing dominance of Communists in the Cuban government, led to the Bay of Pigs fiasco in April 1961, when Cuban exiles backed by President Kennedy met defeat on a Cuban beach. Castro now announced that his revolution was socialist; then, in December, that he was a committed Marxist. That got him thrown out of the Organization of American States whose governments he violently denounced. His need for allies accelerated still further after the crisis of October 1962 when the Soviet premier Khrushchev withdrew the nuclear missiles he had installed in Cuba without even consulting Castro, whose faith in the Soviets was badly shaken.

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