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Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz is a Cuban communist revolutionary and politician who was Prime Minister of Cuba from 1959 to 1976, and President from 1976 to 2008. He also served as the Commander in Chief of the Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces from 1959 to 2008, and as the First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba from 1961 until 2011. Politically a Marxist-Leninist, under his administration the Republic of Cuba became a one-party socialist state; industry and businesses were nationalized, and socialist reforms implemented in all areas of society. Internationally, Castro was the Secretary-General of the Non-Aligned Movement, from 1979 to 1983 and from 2006 to 2008.

The illegitimate son of a wealthy 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 the United States-backed military junta of Cuban president Fulgencio Batista, and served a year's imprisonment in 1953 after a failed attack on the Moncada Barracks. On release he traveled to Mexico, where he formed a revolutionary group with his brother Raúl and friend Che Guevara, the 26th of July Movement. Returning to Cuba, Castro led the Cuban Revolution which ousted Batista in 1959, and brought his own assumption of military and political power. Alarmed by his revolutionary credentials and friendly relations with the Soviet Union, the U.S. governments of Dwight D. Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy unsuccessfully attempted to remove him, by economic blockade, assassination and counter-revolution, including the Bay of Pigs invasion of 1961. Countering these threats, Castro formed an economic and military alliance with the Soviets, and allowed them to place nuclear weapons on the island, sparking the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.

In 1961 Castro proclaimed the socialist nature of his administration, with Cuba becoming a one-party state under Communist Party rule; the first of its kind in the western hemisphere. Socialist reforms introducing central economic planning and expanding healthcare and education were accompanied by state control of the press and the suppression of internal dissent. Abroad, Castro supported foreign revolutionary groups in the hope of toppling world capitalism, sending Cuban troops to fight in the Yom Kippur War, Ogaden War, and Angolan Civil War. Following the Soviet Union's dissolution in 1991, Castro led Cuba into its economic "Special Period", before forging alliances in the Latin American Pink Tide – namely with Hugo Chávez's Venezuela – and joining the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas in 2006. Due to failing health, in 2006 he transferred his responsibilities to Vice-President Raúl Castro, who formally assumed the presidency in 2008.

Castro is a controversial and divisive world figure, lauded by his supporters as a champion of socialism, anti-imperialism, humanitarianism, and environmentalism, but viewed by his critics as a dictator who has overseen multiple human-rights abuses, an exodus of more than one million Cubans, and the impoverishment of the country's economy. Through his actions and his writings he has significantly influenced the politics of various individuals and groups across the world.


Panel #126
Fidel Castro (1926 - 1926)
First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba

In office June 24, 1961 – April 19, 2011

King of Kings - by Lewis Lavoie