In 1953, Fidel assaulted the Moncada barracks in Santiago de Cuba with 153 young revolutionaries to call for a popular insurrection against the dictator Fulgencio Batista (1952-1959).
Although this action was a military defeat, it gave the revolutionary movement great popularity, which was later heightened during the subsequent trial. There, Fidel made his self-defense plea "History Will Absolve Me," where he condemned unemployment, poverty, and other social problems.
Fidel was sentenced to 15 years in prison at the Modelo jail in Isla de Pinos. However, he only served two years of his sentence since Batista decreed an amnesty for all political prisoners in 1955 in response to the people’s demands.
After leaving prison, Fidel went into exile in Mexico to prepare a guerrilla group to fight against Batista in the Sierra Maestra mountain range. With a contingent of eighty-two men, he landed clandestinely in Cuba aboard the Gramma vessel on Dec. 2, 1956.
'Our country does not drop bombs on other people, nor does it send thousands of planes to bomb cities...instead our country will send doctors to the most lost corners of the world!' In 2020, Cuban doctors were active in 60+ countries fighting COVID-19.. #FidelCastropic.twitter.com/6hrXOBVdXr
Three days later, in their first confrontation with Batista’s army, the revolutionary forces were almost decimated. However, with the incorporation of farmers, the Sierra Maestra guerrillas were strong enough to carry out the occupation of Santiago de Cuba city two years later.
From there, Fidel launched an East-to-West military campaign, which was led by commanders Camilo Cienfuegos and Ernesto "Che" Guevara. This offensive forced Batista to leave the country on Jan. 1, 1959.
The revolutionary government
Once in tenure, Fidel dictated measures that favor the people. The 1959 Agrarian Reform Law, for instance, nationalized large-scale properties, and the 1961 Education law established free education for all citizens.He also led a mass literacy campaign, by which Cuba was declared an illiteracy-free territory.
The revolutionary government also nationalized sugar mills, large industries, banks, and oil refineries, most of which belonged to U.S. companies. These measures provoked the immediate hostility of the U.S. government, which imposed a blockade that has been in force since 1961.
Nevertheless, Cuba reached social achievements that set an example for developing countries. This Caribbean nation achieved schooling for all children and adolescents and provides care in hospitals and educational centers for young people with special educational needs. For the last three years, Cuba has kept having one teacher for every 36 inhabitants.
Cuba also has one of the most proactive primary healthcare systems. Its 452 polyclinics and family doctor’s offices prioritize the prevention and early detection of diseases. In 2020, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, this nation recorded an infant mortality rate of 4.9 and a life expectancy of 79.1 years.
On Nov.25, 2016, Fidel died at 90 in his residence in Havana. In referring to him, former Bolivian President Evo Morales said that the world recognizes Fidel's leadership as an epic unattainable to all humanity.
Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez also said that Fidel was the “Caesar of dignity and socialism, a father, a companion, a master of perfect strategy". Argentina’s football player Diego Maradonna said he has learned from Fidel that loyalty is priceless.
"Revolution is a sense of the historical moment, equality and freedom. It is to be treated, and to treat others, as human beings. It means to emancipate ourselves with our own efforts,” Fidel once stated.
The right-wing wants to implement in Cuba the recipe of destabilization through urban criminal groups (Guarimbas) used in Venezuela. pic.twitter.com/U0jIpVAew0