Castro visits Vice President Nixon: 1959
Cuban premier Fidel Castro talks with U.S. Vice President Richard Nixon as he leaves Nixon’s Washington, D.C. office April 19, 1959 after a two hour twenty minute meeting behind closed doors that was scheduled for 15 minutes.
Both Nixon and Castro emerged from the meeting smiling. When reporters asked Castro about the meeting he replied it was “very friendly.”
Later at the Cuban Embassy, Castro said he was “very pleased” at his talks with Nixon.
Castro, who led the Cuban revolutionary forces to victory earlier in January, came to the United States seeking ties and business relations between the two countries and was greeted by enthusiastic crowds on several of his unscheduled outings in Washington, D.C.
The Castro-led revolution that ousted corrupt dictator Fulgencia Batista enjoyed considerable support in the United States until the new Cuban government began nationalizing the property of U.S. corporations in August 1960.
President Dwight Eisenhower froze Cuban assets in the United States and severed diplomatic ties. A long period of hostile relations followed that included several U.S. backed invasions of Cuba, the Cuban missile crisis and the Cuban government’s export of criminals to the United States when the U.S. opened its doors to all Cuban exiles.
The Castro-led government instituted a number of reforms including medical facilities, health, housing, and education that nearly eliminated illiteracy and substantially reduced unemployment. The collapse of the sugar industry, the fall of the Soviet Union and American boycott of Cuba contributed substantially to stagnant economic progress of the tiny island nation.
The government was criticized after its victory for executing former members of the Batista regime and others after quick trials. Most observers did not fault the guilty findings, but found that the trials lacked due process and criticized the excessive use of the death penalty.
Castro stepped down as head of the Cuban government in 2008 and resigned from the Communist Party central committee in 2011.
U.S. President George Bush commented on Castro’s recovery from illness in 2008 and said,
“"One day the good Lord will take Fidel Castro away". Hearing about this, the atheist Castro with more than a touch of humor replied, "Now I understand why I survived Bush's plans and the plans of other presidents who ordered my assassination: the good Lord protected me."
Castro died of natural causes in 2011.
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The photographer is unknown. The image is an Associated Press photograph housed at the D.C. Library Washington Star Collection.