Fidel in D.C.
Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz was a Cuban communist revolutionary and politician who governed the Republic of Cuba as Prime Minister from 1959 to 1976 and then as President from 1976 to 2008.

A Marxist–Leninist and Cuban nationalist, Castro also served as the First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba from 1961 until 2011. Under his administration, Cuba became a one-party communist state, while industry and business were nationalized and state socialist reforms were implemented throughout society.

Born in Birán, Oriente as the son of a wealthy Spanish farmer, Castro adopted leftist anti-imperialist politics while studying law at the University of Havana.

After participating in rebellions against right-wing governments in the Dominican Republic and Colombia, he planned the overthrow of Cuban President Fulgencio Batista, launching a failed attack on the Moncada Barracks in 1953.

After a year's imprisonment, Castro traveled to Mexico where he formed a revolutionary group, the 26th of July Movement, with his brother Raúl Castro and Che Guevara. Returning to Cuba, Castro took a key role in the Cuban Revolution by leading the Movement in a guerrilla war against Batista's forces from the Sierra Maestra.

Castro led the Cuban revolutionary forces to victory in January 1959. He then traveled 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.

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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