The aftermath of the Cuban Revolution is a period in Cuban history typically defined as starting in 1959 and ending in 1970. The period encompasses early domestic reforms, growing international tensions, and ending with the failure of the 1970 sugar harvest.
In 1959 in the immediate aftermath of the revolution, Fidel Castro would visit the United States to ask for aid and boast of land reform plans, which he believed the U.S. government would appreciate. Throughout 1960 tensions slowly escalated between Cuba and the United States due to the nationalizations of various American companies, retaliatory economic sanctions, and counterrevolutionary bombing raids. In January 1961 the U.S. cut off diplomatic relations with Cuba, and the Soviet Union started to solidify relations with Cuba. The U.S. feared growing Soviet influence in Cuba and backed the failed Bay of Pigs Invasion of April 1961. By December 1961 Fidel Castro for the first time openly expressed his communist sympathies. Castro's fears of another invasion and his new Soviet allies influenced his decision to put nuclear missiles in Cuba, triggering the Cuban Missile Crisis.
In the aftermath of the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, the United States promised not to invade Cuba in the future; in compliance with this agreement, the U.S. withdrew all support from the Alzados, effectively crippling the resource-starved resistance. The counterrevolutionary conflict, known abroad as the Escambray Rebellion, lasted until about 1965, and has since been branded the War Against the Bandits by the Cuban government.
During the first decade after the Cuban Revolution, various reforms in Cuban society tackled racial integration, women's equality, communications, healthcare, housing, and education. By the end of the 1960s, all Cuban children received some education, compared with fewer than half before 1959. Anti-discrimination legislation as well as general social reforms helped to improve the living standards of Afro-Cubans. After the issue of racial integration was considered resolved, the Cuban government passed legislation that counter-attacked past anti-discrimination legislation. This new law made it illegal to even mention discrimination or the topic of racial equality.
The equal right of all citizens to health, education, work, food, security, culture, science, and wellbeing – that is, the same rights we proclaimed when we began our struggle, in addition to those which emerge from our dreams of justice and equality for all inhabitants of our world – is what I wish for all.
Between 1959 and 1980, an estimated 500,000 Cubans left the island for the United States, for both political and economic reasons; 125,000 left in 1980 alone, when the Cuban government briefly permitted any Cubans who wished to leave to do so. By 2010, the Cuban American community numbered over 1.9 million, 67% of whom lived in the state of Florida.
The Cuban Revolution (Spanish: Revolución cubana) was a guerrilla campaign by Fidel Castro's revolutionary 26th of July Movement and others against the dictatorship of Cuban President Fulgencio Batista. The revolution started in July 1953, and continued to varying degrees until the rebels finally ousted Batista on 31 December 1958, creating a new revolutionary government.
After learning of Batista's flight the rebels immediately started negotiations to take over Santiago de Cuba. On 2 January, Cuban Colonel Rubido, ordered his soldiers to stand down, and the rebels took the city. The rebel forces under Guevara and Cienfuegos entered Havana at about the same time. The rebels met no opposition on their way from Santa Clara to Havana. Castro arrived in Havana on 8 January after a victory march. His first choice of president, Manuel Urrutia Lleó, took office on 3 January.
1959: Rebel victory
Our revolution is endangering all American possessions in Latin America. We are telling these countries to make their own revolution.
— Che Guevara, October 1962
during a visit to Washington, D.C., shortly after the Cuban Revolution in 1959
On 11 January 1959 Ed Sullivan would interview Fidel Castro in Matanzas and broadcast it on The Ed Sullivan Show. In the interview Ed Sullivan refers to the Castro and other rebels as "a wonderful group of revolutionary youngsters" and point out their admiration for Catholicism. Fidel Castro would deny the rebels affiliation with communism. Hours after the interview Fidel Castro would ride on captured tanks into the capital in Havana.
Hundreds of Batista-era agents, policemen and soldiers were put on public trial, accused of human rights abuses, war crimes, murder, and torture. About 200 of the accused people were convicted of political crimes by revolutionary tribunals and then executed by firing squad; others received long sentences of imprisonment. A notable example of revolutionary justice occurred after the capture of Santiago, where Raúl Castro directed the execution of more than seventy Batista POWs. For his part in taking Havana, Che Guevara was appointed supreme prosecutor in La Cabaña Fortress. This was part of a large-scale attempt by Fidel Castro to cleanse the security forces of Batista loyalists and potential non-Communist opponents (including high-ranking rebels such as Pedro Luis Díaz Lanz and Huber Matos) of the new revolutionary government. Though many were killed or imprisoned, others were dismissed from the army and police without prosecution, and some high-ranking officials of the Batista administration were exiled as military attachés. It is widely believed that those executed were guilty of the crimes of which they were accused, but that the trials did not follow due process.
Starting in March 1959 Fidel Castro announced in a speech he would attempt to end racial discrimination in Cuban society. He detailed a plan to bring black and white Cubans together in shared schools and other institutions, via equal opportunity. In a later televised discussion Castro claimed his plans were mostly to improve economic conditions for black Cubans and that he is not encouraging total social integration. Social clubs were to be totally integrated, private beaches opened, and schools totally nationalized.
Private schools that once had majority white student bodies were now nationalized and faced an influx of new black and mulatto students. Social clubs were told to integrate as early as January 1959. White and black social clubs began to dissolve. Racism became branded as counterrevolutionary and critics of the government were often branded as racists.
Some white Cubans were fearful of integration, while some black Cubans were fearful of the closing of black social clubs and its affects on Afro-Cuban cultural life.
On 15 April 1959, Castro began an 11-day visit to the United States, at the invitation of the American Society of Newspaper Editors. Fidel Castro made the visit in hopes of securing U.S. aid for Cuba. While there he openly spoke of plans to nationalize Cuban lands and at the United Nations he declared Cuba was neutral in the Cold War. He said during his visit: "I know the world thinks of us, we are Communists, and of course I have said very clear that we are not Communists; very clear."
According to geographer and Cuban Comandante Antonio Núñez Jiménez, 75% of Cuba's best arable land was owned by foreign individuals or foreign (mostly American) companies at the time of the revolution. One of the first policies of the newly formed Cuban government was eliminating illiteracy and implementing land reforms. Land reform efforts helped to raise living standards by subdividing larger holdings into cooperatives. Comandante Sori Marin, who was nominally in charge of land reform, objected and fled, but was eventually executed when he returned to Cuba with arms and explosives, intending to overthrow the Castro government.
In March 1959, Castro had already ordered rents for those who paid less than $100 a month to be halved. Productivity in the country would later decrease, and the country's financial reserves were drained within only two years.
After appointing himself president of the National Institute of Agrarian Reform (Instituto Nacional de Reforma Agraria – INRA), on 17 May 1959, Castro made law the First Agrarian Reform, limiting landholdings to 993 acres (4.02 km2) per owner. Cuba would also forbid further foreign land-ownership. Large land-holdings were broken up and redistributed; an estimated 200,000 peasants received title deeds. To Castro, this was an important step that broke the control of the well-off landowning class over Cuba's agriculture. Though popular among the working class, it alienated many middle-class supporters.
Although Castro refused to initially categorize his government as 'socialist' and repeatedly denied specifically being a 'communist', Castro appointed advocates of Marxism-Leninism to senior government and military positions. Most notably, Che Guevara became Governor of the Central Bank and then Minister of Industries. Appalled, Air Force commander Pedro Luis Díaz Lanz defected to the U.S.
Former Batista associates had fled the island in the immediate aftermath of the revolution, but as property slowly became nationalized professionals in various nationalized businesses would begin to emigrate from Cuba to the United States.
1960: Developments in Cuba
Journalists and editors began to criticize Castro's left-ward turn, the pro-Castro printers' trade union began to harass and disrupt press actions. In January 1960, the government proclaimed that each newspaper need to publish a "clarification" by the printers' union at the end of every article that criticized the government. These "clarifications" signaled the start of press censorship in Castro's Cuba.
Cuba-United States relations were heavily strained after the explosion of a French vessel, the La Coubre, in Havana harbor in March 1960. The ship carried weapons purchased from Belgium, and the cause of the explosion was never determined, but Castro publicly insinuated that the U.S. government was guilty of sabotage. He ended this speech with "¡Patria o Muerte!" ("Fatherland or Death"), a proclamation that he made much use of in ensuing years.
The United States was already suspicious of Fidel Castro after he enacted the Agrarian Reform Law banning foreigners from owning land and his appointment of communist Nuñez Jimenez as head of the reform program. U.S. President Eisenhower refused any aggressive action against Cuba knowing it would push Cuba towards an alliance with the Soviet Union in the Cold War.
Fidel Castro made a trip to New York City starting September 18 to attend the United Nations general assembly. While there, international tensions were much higher than during his 1959 trip and he was restricted to only staying on Manhattan island. Castro checked in to the Shelbourne Hotel then checking out a few hours later, complaining that the Shelbourne had asked for a $10,000 cash advance. Castro would then threaten the United Nations that he would camp in Central Park if he couldn't find lodging, eventually checking into the Hotel Theresa in Harlem. While there Castro would meet with various interviewers with African-American newspapers, and other notable people such as Malcolm X, Langston Hughes, Nikita Khrushchev and Allen Ginsberg. During his stay various Castro supporters and opponents would crowd the outside of the hotel, often fighting. Various sensationalist stories came out about Castro at the time, rumors claimed his entourage were harboring prostitutes in the hotel and that Castro was originally kicked out of the Shelbourne for keeping live chickens in the room. By September 26 Castro would finally speak at the U.N. and would speak for over four hours in denouncing United States foreign policy. Two days later Castro would return to Cuba in a Soviet jet, after his jets were repossessed at the airport.
Shortly after taking power, Castro also founded a revolutionary militia to expand his power base among the former rebels and the supportive population. Castro also founded the informant Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDRs) in late September 1960. Local CDRs were tasked with keeping "vigilance against counter-revolutionary activity", keeping a detailed record of each neighborhood's inhabitants' spending habits, level of contact with foreigners, work and education history, and any "suspicious" behavior. Among the increasingly persecuted groups were homosexual men.
On 13 October 1960, the US government then prohibited the majority of exports to Cuba – the exceptions being medicines and certain foodstuffs – marking the start of an economic embargo. In retaliation, the Cuban National Institute for Agrarian Reform took control of 383 private-run businesses on 14 October, and on 25 October a further 166 US companies operating in Cuba had their premises seized and nationalized, including Coca-Cola and Sears Roebuck. On 16 December, the US then ended its import quota of Cuban sugar.
By the end of 1960, the revolutionary government had nationalized more than $25 billion worth of private property owned by Cubans. The Castro government formally nationalized all foreign-owned property, particularly American holdings, in the nation on 6 August 1960.
1961: Continuing tensions
In January 1961, Castro ordered Havana's U.S. Embassy to reduce its 300 staff, suspecting many to be spies. The U.S. responded by ending diplomatic relations, and increasing CIA funding for exiled dissidents; these militants began attacking ships trading with Cuba, and bombed factories, shops, and sugar mills. Both Eisenhower and his successor John F. Kennedy supported a CIA plan to aid a dissident militia, the Democratic Revolutionary Front, to invade Cuba and overthrow Castro; the plan resulted in the Bay of Pigs Invasion in April 1961. On 15 April, CIA-supplied B-26's bombed three Cuban military airfields; the U.S. announced that the perpetrators were defecting Cuban air force pilots, but Castro exposed these claims as false flag misinformation. Fearing invasion, he ordered the arrest of between 20,000 and 100,000 suspected counter-revolutionaries, publicly proclaiming that "What the imperialists cannot forgive us, is that we have made a Socialist revolution under their noses". This was his first announcement that the government was socialist.
The CIA and Democratic Revolutionary Front had based a 1,400-strong army, Brigade 2506, in Nicaragua. At night, Brigade 2506 landed along Cuba's Bay of Pigs, and engaged in a firefight with a local revolutionary militia. Castro ordered Captain José Ramón Fernández to launch the counter-offensive, before taking personal control himself. After bombing the invader's ships and bringing in reinforcements, Castro forced the Brigade's surrender on 20 April. He ordered the 1189 captured rebels to be interrogated by a panel of journalists on live television, personally taking over questioning on 25 April. 14 were put on trial for crimes allegedly committed before the revolution, while the others were returned to the U.S. in exchange for medicine and food valued at U.S. $25 million. Castro's victory was a powerful symbol across Latin America, but it also increased internal opposition primarily among the middle-class Cubans who had been detained in the run-up to the invasion. Although most were freed within a few days, many left Cuba for the United States and established themselves in Florida.
The CIA contemplated the idea of staging the second coming of Christ to destabilize Cuba. However, they did not go through with the plan.
In 1961, the Cuban government nationalized all property held by religious organizations, including the dominant Roman Catholic Church. Hundreds of members of the church, including a bishop, were permanently expelled from the nation, as the new Cuban government declared itself officially atheist. Education also saw significant changes – private schools were banned and the progressively socialist state assumed greater responsibility for children.
The Cuban government also began to expropriate from mafia leaders and taking millions in cash. Before Meyer Lansky fled Cuba, he was said to be worth an estimated $20M ($163,685,121 in 2016, accounting for inflation). When he died in 1983, his family was shocked to find out that his estate was worth about $57,000. Before he died, Lansky said that Cuba "ruined" him.
In July 1961, the Integrated Revolutionary Organizations (IRO) was formed by the merger of Fidel Castro's 26th of July Movement, the People's Socialist Party led by Blas Roca, and the Revolutionary Directorate of 13 March led by Faure Chomón.
On 26 March 1962, the IRO became the United Party of the Cuban Socialist Revolution (PURSC) which, in turn, became the modern Communist Party of Cuba on 3 October 1965, with Castro as First Secretary. Castro remained the ruler of Cuba, first as Prime Minister and, from 1976, as President, until his retirement on February 20, 2008. His brother Raúl officially replaced him as president later that same month.
In April the country began a massive eight-month long effort to abolish illiteracy in Cuba. It began in April 1961 and ended on December 22, 1961, successfully raising Cuba's literacy rate to nearly one-hundred percent.
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