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Fidel Castro: 1927—: President Biography

Born Into Privilege, Rejected Batista's Dictatorship, Instigated Revolution, Clashed With United States

Fidel Castro has ruled Cuba since his revolutionary forces overthrew dictator Fulgencia Batista in 1959. He introduced agriculture, medical, and education reforms to improve the quality of life for poor Cubans during the 1960s, but was criticized for suspending elections. His socialist philosophy and close ties to the Soviet Union led to tensions with the United States, reaching a pinnacle during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. During the late 1950s and early 1960s United States trade embargos greatly impacted the Cuban economy, leading Castro to rely on the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe as primary trading partners. Castro also attempted to cast himself upon the world stage by exporting Cuba's socialist revolution to Latin America and Africa during the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s.

The end of the Cold War in the late 1980s, along with a reduction in Soviet support, led to drastic changes in Cuba. The collapse of the economy between 1989-1993 persuaded Castro to introduce market-oriented reforms, and to seek investment from Canada, Britain, and Spain. The United States, meanwhile, maintained its embargo and continues to call for democratic reforms in Cuba. "Castro, perhaps as much as any major political figure of this century," wrote Peter G. Bourne in Fidel: a Biography of Fidel Castro, "could simultaneously raise to fever pitch feelings of love, hatred, loyalty, reverence, and contempt."

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