In 1952, after an unsuccessful run for the presidency of Cuba, Fulgencio Batista Zaldívar Batista staged a coup and seized power. He outlawed communism, ran a corrupt government, permitted police brutality, and showed gross indifference to the economic, health and educational needs of the Cuban people. Further antagonizing the Cuban people were private American companies dominating Cuba’s economy while the U.S. government strengthening the Batista dictatorship through a weapons assistance program. The country of Cuba was under great duress and a revolution was imminent. Enter Fidel Castro, a University of Havana law student with leftist anti-imperialist views.
On July 26, 1953, a small group of revolutionaries led by Fidel Castro launched an unsuccessful attack on the Moncada Barracks in Santiago. To commemorate the beginning of a revolution against Batista, the movement was named 26 Julio.
As Batista’s corrupt government became increasingly unpopular with the Cuban people, the Soviet Union began secretly supporting Castro while the U.S. supported Batista. By 1956, Castro’s 26 Julio movement began operating from the forested mountain range of Sierra Maestra. He, his brother Raul and Che Guevara led their revolutionaries to launch guerilla attacks against Batista’s forces for two years. Earning the trust of locals, they soon joined Castro’s army.
While Batista sought to defeat Castro’s army, many innocent people were tortured and publicly executed by Batista’s police. It is said that under Batista’s rule, up to 20,000 Cubans had been killed. In response, the U.S. stopped selling arms to Cuba, which indirectly strengthened Castro’s army and leading to Batista’s fall. When the news of Batista’s fall spread through Havana, crowds poured into the streets waving 26 Julio flags. Soon after Fidel Castro became the Prime Minister of Cuba.
Alarmed by Castro’s friendly relations with the Soviet Union, the United States unsuccessfully tried to assassinated him and conduct a counter-revolution, including the Bay of Pigs invasion of 1961. In response to these threats Castro, allowed the Soviet Union to place nuclear weapons on the island and became a defining incident of the Cold War. The event also signified Cuba’s place on the world stage through the formidable leadership Fidel Castro . While to this day, Castro remains a controversial and divisive figure: on one hand he is admired for his humanitarianism and on the other, loathed for overseeing human rights abuses—but inarguable that had it not been for him, Cuba may have never been returned to its people.