Cuba: The Castro Regime

The Castro Regime

Castro, supported by young professionals, students, urban workers, and some farmers, was soon in control of the nation. Despite its popular support, the revolutionary government proceeded with a severe program of political purges and suppressed all remaining public opposition. The new government soon initiated a sweeping reorganization patterned after the countries of the Soviet bloc. Among its successful policy goals have been the provision of adequate medical care and education to the majority of the population. Less successful have been its attempts to diversify agricultural production and achieve a self-sufficient economy.

The expropriation of U.S. landholdings, banks, and industrial concerns led to the breaking (Jan., 1961) of diplomatic relations by the U.S. government. That same year Castro declared his allegiance with the Eastern bloc. Opposition to Cuba's Communist alignment was strong in the United States, which responded with a trade embargo and sponsorship of the Bay of Pigs Invasion. The quick collapse of the latter was especially humiliating to the United States because of its direct involvement.

Cuba's significance in the cold war was further dramatized the following year when the USSR began to buttress Cuba's military power and to build missile bases on the islands. President Kennedy demanded (Oct., 1962) the dismantling of the missiles and ordered the U.S. navy to blockade Cuba to prevent further importation of offensive weapons. After a period of great world tension, Soviet Premier Khrushchev agreed to withdraw the missiles (see Cuban Missile Crisis).

Cuba's relations with other Latin American countries deteriorated quickly during this period because of its explicit intention of spreading the revolution to those countries by guerrilla warfare. In Feb., 1962, the Organization of American States (OAS) formally excluded Cuba from its council, and by Sept., 1964, all Latin American nations except Mexico had broken diplomatic and economic ties with Cuba. After the death (1967) of Guevara while engaged in guerrilla activity in Bolivia, Cuban attempts to encourage revolution in other countries diminished somewhat, and by the early 1970s several nations resumed diplomatic relations with Cuba.

In the late 1960s and 70s Cuba's government policies went through a significant reformulation, including an increased leadership role among less developed nations and a reorganization of its domestic political and economic systems. From 1961 to the late 1980s Cuba was heavily dependent on economic and military aid from the Soviet Union. Cuban support of Soviet foreign policy (notably its invasion of Afghanistan in 1979) caused difficulties in its chosen role as a leader of less developed countries. Cuba also sent large numbers of troops to Angola, where they supported the Soviet-armed government forces in the civil war.

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