“Es deplorable que se aplauda así a un hombre que esclaviza a su pueblo desde hace más de 40 años, esta solidaridad con el verdugo del pueblo cubano” ― Huber Matos, referring to Fidel Castro in 2003
Recently, a friend of mine kindly requested me for information about Cuba and how the Revolution affected the people. He wanted to educate his child about socialism, from the voice of someone who lived it. The information is intended to be given to middle school kids. These are the five paragraphs that I wrote for him:
“First, to really understand the transcendence of the Cuban Revolution, I think it is essential to understand a bit of Cuban history. Cubans have a long history of war against colonialism and the power of foreign nations. The first war of independence against Spain officially started in 1868 and lasted for ten years without success. Then, in 1895, a second war began again, and this time the Cuban armies finally won the battle. But the US government intervened in 1898 and settled in Cuba until 1902, leaving the country as a Democratic Republic. From 1902, Cuba celebrated elections every four years, having several presidents with different levels of popular support. It is important to say that during these years, the Cuban economy grows to become one of the most important in Latin America, with considerable progress in many aspects of economic and technological development. At that time, Cuba was a very rich country, but the wealth was not well distributed. In 1952, a military named Batista took the presidency by force, receiving some support from the US government. In 1959, the Cuban Revolution triumphed, and Batista exiled to the US.
Having said this, I’ll refer to the Cuban Revolution from my opinion (the children will not be able to find this part on Wikipedia). First, the Cuban Revolution was necessary because Batista was not an elected president but (arguably) a military imposing a regime of fear and terror. This is the main reason why the Revolution, led by Fidel Castro, triumphed in 1959. Cuban guerrillas have everything they need to succeed in its battle: local support from the people, a well-defined leader, and good reasons to change the current regime. When Fidel Castro arrived at La Habana in 1959 with his army, they were received as heroes of liberty, and that was the beginning of the end for Cuban people.
The new Cuban government basically stole all the properties from rich Cubans and used that money to finance the new regime and made some social concessions, such as education and health to everyone, in order to gain popular support. Then Fidel Castro established a centralized government and pushed Cuba towards a full-fledged Communist system modeled on the USSR. Fidel Castro, with his military allies inside Cuba and the support of the USSR, basically took control of everything and everyone in the country. After years with this Communist regime, Cuba degenerated from being a prosperous country in the mid of 1940 into an impoverished nation by the end of 1990.
The figure of Fidel Castro is one of the most important aspects of the Cuban Revolution. I think he was one of the most successful dictators in human history for several reasons. I’ll mention just a few here. First and foremost, he took power and never let it go until his death in 2016 (49 years is a lot for a dictator). Second, he faced the US government (very close geographically) many times and was not defeated. Third, he managed to control the situation in Cuba during very critical circumstances, e.g., when the USSR collapsed in 1991, the country faced a severe economic downturn resulting in critical effects such as food and energy shortages. Fidel Castro was able to control the situation all these years because he removed several liberties to Cubans: the freedom to speak, the free market, the freedom to emigrate, the political freedom to celebrate elections, even the freedom to think critically because he changed the Cuban history, as well as the mind of people according to his own interests.
The Cuban Revolution represented the end of Batista’s dictatorship and the beginning of one dictator even worse. Today, more than ten years after the death of Fidel Castro, Cuba is still under the control of the Castro family. Cubans have an extreme lack of several civil rights and serious problems to find basic things such as food or medicines. Communist ideology devastated the Cuban nation. Fidel Castro pushed Cuba 30 years behind the rest of the world in terms of technology. Nowadays, Cubans cannot change the situation because the country is thoroughly militarized, and the current government ensures that no Cuban have the money to do anything else than survive a daily basis. The only solution that Cubans of my generation foresee is trying to emigrate to foreign countries such as the US or Europe for a better future, and that’s precisely what I did :)”