Pre-Revolutionary Cuba (04:26)
In the 1950s, many blamed Fulgencio Batista for Cuba's poverty gap. An estimated 20,000 dissidents were killed during his regime. In May 1957, Fidel and Raul Castro, and Che Guevara launched a guerrilla war from eastern Cuba.
Castro's Rise (03:37)
Castro earned a law degree and ran for Congress in 1952. After Batista's coup, he led an unsuccessful attack on Moncada barracks. He was released from prison under international pressure. In an interview, he explains motivation for leading a revolution.
Cuban Revolution (03:40)
In an interview, Castro says he wants a representative democracy and a well-planned economy. The U.S. withdrew support from Batista and embargoed arms for both sides. In 1959, the rebels took Havana and Batista surrendered; Castro's charisma attracted followers.
Political Retributions (04:00)
In a January 1959 interview, Castro criticizes the U.S. for selling arms to Batista. He executed nearly 500 Batista loyalists and defended the killings. He toured the Americas, gaining a populist reputation; in New York City, he denied communist leanings.
Stoking Cold War Fires (03:34)
Castro attempted to maintain good relations with the U.S. During a Washington, D.C. visit, he opposed dictators but Vice President Nixon was suspicious. Cuba needed money to survive; when the U.S. refused aid, Castro turned to the Soviet Union.
Nationalization and Trade Embargo (02:59)
President Eisenhower threatened to cut sugar quotas; the Soviet Union agreed to purchase one ton annually. Eisenhower banned Cuban sugar imports and Castro seized all U.S. companies. The U.S. halted exports to Cuba.
Bay of Pigs Invasion (03:43)
The U.S. secretly plotted to remove Castro from power by supporting Cuban exiles in a counter-revolution that failed due to lack of popular support. Cuban dissidents began fleeing to Florida, bringing news of Castro's arms deal with Premier Khrushchev.
Cuban Missile Crisis (04:00)
Hear President Kennedy's news brief of Soviet nuclear arms in Cuba. The U.S. began a naval blockade; Castro believed it was an attempt to topple the revolution. Kennedy and Khrushchev reached a non-aggression agreement without Castro; he was furious.
Cuban Revolution after 15 Years (04:07)
A 1974 report found marginally improved living standards and an entrenched ideology. Health and education systems improved, as an American journalist discovered during a medical emergency. The CIA continued assassination attempts. Castro tells Barbara Walters he desires friendship with the U.S.
Castro's Evolution and the Mariel Boatlift (04:54)
Castro sent soldiers and weapons to support the MPLA during the Angolan Civil War while the U.S. backed the National Liberation Front. In 1980, he allowed tens of thousands of Cuban dissidents to leave—overwhelming U.S. resources.
Challenging Castro's Regime (03:16)
President Reagan criticized Castro's censorship and Maria Shriver accused him of involvement in Kennedy's assassination. In interviews, Castro claims government transparency and laments losing Kennedy as an adversary.
Special Period (02:59)
During the 1980s, Castro insisted his revolution remained strong. When the Soviet Union collapsed, the economy plunged into crisis. Castro traveled to New York in 1995, using charisma to win over critics.
Elian Gonzalez (03:22)
In 1996, Cuba shot down two U.S. civilian planes assisting Cuban refugees; President Clinton increased sanctions by discouraging foreign investment. In 1999, a young refugee became involved in an international custody battle. Castro saw his return as a victory over the U.S.
Stepping Down (03:45)
Castro accused President Bush of falsifying elections; Bush called for free elections in Cuba to ease the embargo. Castro feared lifting the embargo would destroy Cuban ideology. In 2006, he underwent surgery and transferred power to Raul Castro who maintained communism.
Castro's Legacy (01:41)
For supporters, Castro will always be the revolutionary hero who defied the U.S. for 50 years. In a pre-revolution interview, he states the goal of establishing a representative democracy.
Credits: The Fidel Castro Tapes (00:47)
Credits: The Fidel Castro Tapes
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