He ruled Cuba as a one party state for almost half a century. He handed over power to his brother Raul in 2008. Castro was born on August 13 1926 in Biran, a small town in eastern Cuba. His father a wealthy Spanish sugarcane farmer came to the Island during the Cuban war of independence.
Castro enrolled as a law student at the University of Havana where he became interested in politics. He joined the the anti-corruption Orthodox Party and participated in an aborted coup attempt against the brutal Dominican Republic dictator Rafael Trujillo.
In the year 1950 after graduating from the university he opened a law office and later ran for elections. The elections however never happened. He responded and planned an uprising.
In 1953, Castro led about 120 men in an attack on the Moncada army barracks in Santiago de Cuba. Castro was however captured and sentenced to 15 years impriosonment. In 1955 he was released as part of general amnesty. He went to Mexico where he met with fellow revolutionary Che Guevara and plotted his return.
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He also with Che, brother Raul and 81 others sailed into the eastern coast of Cuba. His forces were ambushed and they were left with 18 survivors. They once again began re-organising and by 1957 they had attracted several new recruits. In 1959 Castro arrived in Havana and took over as Prime Minister.
In 1960 he nationalised all US owned businesses which prompted the United States to end all diplomatic relations and impose a trade embargo.The following year around 1,400 Cubans in exile who were trained by the CIA landed near the Bay of Pigs with an intention of overthrowing Castro. They were however unsuccessful.
Late in 1961, Castro declared himself as a Marxist-Leninist. Cuba was increasingly dependant on the USSR for both economic and military support. In 1962, the US discovered that nuclear missiles had been stationed there, just 90 miles from Florida. This led to a standoff following which the then Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev agreed to remove the nukes against the wishes of Castro, who was left out of the negotiations. U.S. President John F. Kennedy publicly consented not to reinvade Cuba.
Castro was responsible for abolishing legal discrimination. He brought electricity to the country side and also provided for employment and health care. He was however harsh on newspapers run by opposition leaders and even jailed several of his opponents. He also limited the amount of land a person could own and also abolished private businesses.
Castro supplied military and financial aid to several leftist guerilla movements in Latin America and Africa. Gradually relations with several countries except the US began to normalise. The economy in Cuba however collapsed when the USSR fell in the 1990s.
In 2006 he temporarily gave control to his brother Raul as he had to undergo an intestinal surgery. In 2008 her permanently resigned and handed complete charge to his brother.