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"I began revolution with 82 men. If I had to do it again, I would do it with 10 or 15 and absolute faith. It does not matter how small you are if you have faith and plan of action."—Fidel Castro
Born in 1926 to a sugar plantation owner, Fidel Castro involved himself in revolutionary politics during his days as a law student in Havana. He participated in the attempt to overthrow the Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo in 1947, as well as the first, unsuccessful attempt to overthrow Fulgencio Batista, the American-backed dictator of Cuba. He then fled to Mexico, where he met Che Guevara and together they led an uprising against Batista, finally managing to topple him in 1959.
Castro set up a Communist regime with himself as the Glorious Leader, transformed Cuba into a one party communist state and ruled the country as dictator until 2008, when he officially stepped down due to ill health. He was succeeded by his brother, Raul.
The CIA tried in various ways to get rid of Castro, including multiple assassination attempts, the Bay of Pigs Invasion on 1961, and an economic embargo since 1962 (this is still in effect). Castro was also excommunicated by Pope John XXIII, but he didn't care.
Through the Cold War, Cuba relied on Soviet support, and when that was cut off Cuba faced a major economic crisis (mostly due to a lack of oil). Still, Castro managed to overcome these difficulties through a rigorous re-structuring of the country's economy. Cuba is now a major tourist destination for non-Americans (Americans are forbidden to go to the island by the US government) and much of its economy is based around tourism.
Although Cuba remains a poor country with very limited political and economic freedom, Castro's regime has done much to improve public education, sports and particularly public health. Cuba still exports doctors to many Latino-American countries and has an average life expectancy on par with your average first world country. On the other hand, a lot of basic living commodities are rationed, many buildings are in a poor state of repair and the human rights record of the government is poor (though it has slowly improved over the years). The country does have a good rating on the sustainable development index, though this likely has more to do with the poverty than conscious government policy (i.e. they waste little resources because many things are in short supply, and their living standards are low so they don't consume much anyway).
Not as much is known about Castro's personal life, but one of Castro's biographers described the Cuban as being "fiercely hard-working, dedicated, loyal... generous and magnanimous" but also noted that he could be "vindictive and unforgiving" at times. He went on to note that Castro "always had a keen sense of humor and could laugh at himself" but could equally be "a bad loser" who would act with "ferocious rage if he thought that he was being humiliated."
He's known as a cigar fan, but stopped smoking them on the advice of his doctors in 1985.
Castro is the author of several political books, most of them dealing—as you'd expect—with his problems with capitalism and American foreign policy.
Since Castro is a controversial figure, with many fans and detractors, please use the Rule of Cautious Editing Judgment when editing this page.
- Affably Evil: Gets this treatment sometimes, such as in The Simpsons.
- Arch Enemy: John F. Kennedy, for a while, but the United States of America in general.
- Ironically, his rapprochment with Kennedy shortly before the assassination has led to Castro looking back on Kennedy and his family as a "friend", and the best hope Cuba had for normalised relations with the U.S.
- Banana Republic: Cuba before he took power, and arguably afterward as well.
- Better the Devil You Know: Most Cubans, even those opposed to him, feel uncertain about Cuba's future without him. He's simply ruled for so long that it's difficult to imagine anyone else taking over his role.
- Big Brother Is Watching: Cuba became a Police State under his rule, with omnipresent surveillance by community-based "Committees for the Defense of the Revolution".
- Cigar Chomper: His love of cigars is so legendary that the CIA once tried to assassinate him with an exploding cigar.
- Commie Land: Cuba, obviously.
- Corrupt Politician: A popular image of him in the West. He was accused by Forbes of having a personal fortune of over $900 million dollars.
- No-one has actually managed to come up with concrete proof of this, though.
- Crapsack World: When he's not accused of turning Cuba into this, the US embargo is.
- Culture Police: Has shown contempt of foreign influences on Cuban culture and the Party heavily censors most artists, filmmakers and musicians.
- Darkest Hour: After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Cuba lost its main international supporter and donor. There was speculation his regime might not survive, but it did thanks to the "Special Period" of austerity.
- Determinator: The guy deserves credit for at least one thing: he did rule Cuba for over four decades.
- Dirty Communist: The American portrayal of him. Except for hard-core liberals, people see this as pretty justified.
- Draco in Leather Pants: Along with Che Guevara. "He just needs to be understood".
- Everything Trying to Kill You: Quite a reasonable assumption for him to make, considering the number of (often quite improbable) attempts on his life.
- Evil Old Folks: Usually gets this treatment in Western media.
- Fire-Forged Friends: With Che Guevara.
- Fountain of Expies: Chances are that any fictional Latin American communist dictator will be at least partly based on Fidel Castro.
- Genius Bruiser: A lawyer by profession before he became a revolutionary, and extremely well-read. He has also authored several books on global politics.
- Glorious Leader: One of the most famous examples.
- Hero with Bad Publicity: Depending on your viewpoint.
- Just The First Comrade: The Cuban state media cultivates this image of him in public.
- La Résistance: The Cuban revolutionaries before taking power.
- The Last DJ: One of five remaining Communist leaders, who will very likely be dead soon.
- He isn't really the leader anymore - now that position belongs to his brother, Raul.
- Made of Iron: Has survived over 638 assassination attempts, mostly by the CIA, which has led to plenty of incredulous reactions.
- Motive Rant: Famous for his four-hour speeches (in the blazing hot Cuban sun, no less). In his elder years, this was no mean feat.
- A literal example is "History Will Absolve Me", the speech he made in his own defense in court against the charges brought against him after leading the attack on the Moncada Barracks in 1952.
- Nice Hat: His green pillbox cap is sometimes called "the Castro hat" and has become something of a fashion statement in Punk Rock culture.
- Pet the Dog: Even his critics often acknowledge Cuba's healthcare system is very good, considering how poor the country is. The education system isn't half bad, either - though it's also rather Orwellian.
- People's Republic of Tyranny: Surprisingly averted for a Communist country; the official name of Cuba is simply República de Cuba (Republic of Cuba). It was always named that way since independence.
- Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: The revolutionaries, at first.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Fond of giving them to the leaders of capitalist countries.
- Rebel Leader
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: Red to his brother Raúl's Blue.
- Red Scare: Most Americans see this as quite justified.
- The Revolution Will Not Be Civilized: A frequent criticism of his regime, which was more brutal in its early days (especially towards homosexuals). He has since apologized for his regime's treatment of LGBT people.
- It should be pointed out that during the revolution, Fidel Castro was not the only one who set policy - and many sources show him being a soft-touch and pragmatic, compared to a violent and judgemental Che Guevara. For example, Fidel Castro had a policy of sparing captured enemy soldiers, wheras Che would shoot captives on sight. Much of the post-revolution executions can be put down to the initiative of Guevara and Raul Castro, as opposed to Fidel.
- Utopia Justifies the Means
- Villain with Good Publicity: Depending on your viewpoint.