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Text Box:  “I warn you, I am just beginning! If there is in your hearts a vestige of love for your country, love for humanity, love for justice, listen carefully... I know that the regime will try to suppress the truth by all possible means; I know that there will be a conspiracy to bury me in oblivion. But my voice will not be stifled – it will rise from my breast even when I feel most alone, and my heart will give it all the fire that callous cowards deny it... Condemn me. It does not matter. History will absolve me” - Fidel Castro 1953

Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz

(1926 -  )

Text Box: Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz (born August 13, 1926) is the current President of Cuba. After commanding the revolution that overthrew Fulgencio Batista in 1959, he held the title of Prime Minister[1] until 1976, when he became president of the Council of State as well as the Council of Ministers. Castro became First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba in 1965, and led the transformation of Cuba into a one-party socialist republic. As president he also holds the supreme military rank of Comandante in the Cuban military. On July 31, 2006, Castro temporarily transferred duties to his brother Raúl to recover from intestinal surgery. Castro first attracted attention in Cuban political life through his nationalist critiques of Batista and United States corporate and political influence in Cuba. He gained an ardent, but limited, following and also drew the attention of the authorities.[2] He eventually led the failed 1953 attack on the Moncada Barracks, after which he was captured, tried, incarcerated and later released. He then travelled to Mexico[3] [4] to organize and train for the guerrilla invasion of Cuba that took place in December 1956. Since his assumption of power in 1959 he has evoked both praise and condemnation (at home and internationally). Castro is frequently described by opponents as a dictator [5] [6] and accused of gross human rights violations, including the execution of thousands of political opponents, [7]. Other groups hail Castro as a charismatic liberator. [8]

Outside of Cuba, Castro has been defined by his relationship with both the United States and with the former Soviet Union. Ever since the failed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in 1961 by the United States, the Castro-led government has had an openly antagonistic relationship with the U.S., and a simultaneous closeness with the Soviet bloc. This was true until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, after which his priorities shifted from supporting foreign interventions to partnering with regional socialist figures such as Hugo Chávez in Venezuela and Evo Morales in Bolivia. Domestically, Fidel Castro has overseen the implementation of various economic policies which saw the rapid centralization of Cuba's economy - land reform, collectivization of agriculture, and the nationalization of leading Cuban industries. The expansion of publicly funded health care and education has been a cornerstone of Castro's domestic social agenda. Some credit these policies for Cuba's relatively high Human Development Index rating	.[9] Others see Castro and his policies as being responsible for Cuba's general economic depredation, and harshly criticize him for the criminalization of political dissent, free speech, and provoking hundreds of thousands of Cubans into fleeing the country

Childhood and education 
Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz was born on a sugar plantation in Birán, near Mayarí, in the modern-day province of Holguín – then a part of the now-defunct Oriente province. He was the third child born to Ángel Castro y Argiz, a Spanish immigrant who became relatively prosperous through hard work in the sugar industry and shrewd investments. His mother, Lina Ruz González, was a household servant.[3] Angel Castro was married to another woman until Fidel was 17, and thus Fidel as a child had to deal both with his illegitimacy and the challenge of being raised in various foster homes away from his father's house. Castro has two brothers: Ramón and Raúl, and three sisters: Angela, Juanita and Emma. All of them were born out of wedlock. Fidel was not baptized until he was eight, also very uncommon, bringing embarrassment and ridicule from other children.[10] [11] Ángel Castro finally dissolved his first marriage when Fidel was 15 and married Fidel’s mother. Castro was formally recognized by his father when he was 17, when his last name was legally changed to Castro from Ruz, his mother’s maiden name.[10] [11] At the same time, Fidel changed his middle name to “Alejandro” (Alexander) after reading about the Macedonian warrior in school. Although accounts of his education differ, most sources agree that he was an intellectually gifted student, more interested in sports than in academics, and spent many years in private Catholic boarding schools, finishing high school at Belen, a Jesuit school in Havana in 1945.[12]. In late 1945, he entered law school at the University of Havana.

Political beginnings
Castro became immediately fascinated by the politics on campus at the University of Havana. The campus atmosphere during that volatile period in Cuba's history was so aggressive that organized political gangs condoning violence had become an important tool for those students aspiring to be successful leaders. Politics centered around these political gangs and Castro participated in their often violent confrontations.[13] In 1947, growing increasingly passionate about social justice lacking under Cuba's current system, Castro joined the Partido Ortodoxos which had been newly formed by Eduardo Chibás. A charismatic and emotional figure, Chibás was running for president against the incumbent Ramón Grau San Martín who had allowed rampant corruption to flourish during his term. The Partido Ortodoxos publicly exposed corruption and demanded government and social reform. It aimed to instill a strong sense of national identity among Cubans, establish Cuban economic independence and freedom from the United States, and dismantle the power of the elite over Cuban politics. Though Chibás lost the election, Castro, considering Chibás his mentor, remained committed to his cause, working fervently on his behalf. In 1951, while running for president again, Chibás shot himself in the stomach during a radio broadcast. Castro was present and accompanied him to the hospital where he died.[12]

Bogotazo
Fidel Castro's role in this incident has been dogged by speculation and controversy but the following account seems to be generally agreed upon. In 1948 Castro traveled to Bogotá in Colombia for a political conference of Latin American students that coincided with the ninth meeting of the Pan-American Union Conference. The students had planned to use this opportunity to distribute pamphlets protesting United States dominance of the Western Hemisphere and to foment discontent. A few days after the conference began, the populist Colombian Liberal Party leader Jorge Eliecer Gaitán was assassinated, triggering massive riots in the streets in which many (mostly poor workers) were injured or killed. Rioting and looting spread to other cities in Colombia, beginning an era of turbulence that became known as "La Violencia". The students were caught up in the violence and chaos rocking the city, picking up rifles and roaming the streets distributing anti-United States material and stirring a revolt. When Castro was pursued by the Colombian authorities for his role in the riots, he took refuge in the Cuban Embassy and was flown back to Havana. [14] [15] It seems clear that experiencing the power of popular insurrection had an effect on Castro and influenced his subsequent political thinking.

Castro returned to Cuba and married Mirta Díaz Balart, a student from a wealthy Cuban family where he was exposed to the lifestyle of the Cuban elite. In 1950 he graduated from law school with a Doctor of Laws degree and began practicing law in a small partnership in Havana, mostly representing the poor and underprivileged. By now he had become well known for his passionately nationalistic views and his intense opposition to the influence of the United States on Cuban internal affairs. Increasingly interested in a career in politics, Castro had become a candidate for a seat in the Cuban parliament when General Fulgencio Batista led a coup d'état in 1952, successfully overthrowing the government of President Carlos Prío Socarrás and canceling the election. Batista established himself as de facto leader with the support of establishment elements of Cuban society and powerful Cuban agencies. His regime was formally recognized by the United States, buttressing his power. These events effectively ended Castro's chances of pursuing a legitimate political career in Cuba. Frustrated, Castro broke away from the Partido Ortodoxo and marshaled legal arguments based on the Constitution of 1940 to formally charge Batista with violating the constitution. His petition was denied by the Court of Constitutional Guarantees and he was not allowed a hearing. This experience formed the foundation for Castro's opposition to the Batista regime and convinced him that revolution was the only way to depose Batista.[16]

Attack on Moncada Barracks
As discontent over the Batista coup grew, Castro abandoned his law practice and formed an underground organization of supporters, including his brother, Raúl, and actively plotted to overthrow Batista. They collected guns and ammunition and finalized their plans for an armed attack on Moncada Barracks, Batista's largest garrison outside Santiago de Cuba. On the 26th of July, 1953, they attacked Moncada Barracks. The Céspedes garrison in Bayamo was also attacked as a diversion.[3] The attack proved disastrous and more than sixty of the one-hundred and thirty-five militants involved were killed. Castro and other surviving members of his group managed to escape to a part of the rugged Sierra Maestra[17] mountains east of Santiago where they were eventually discovered and captured. Although there is disagreement over why Castro and his brother, Raúl, were not executed on capture as many of their fellow militants were, there is evidence that an officer recognized Castro from his university days and treated the captured rebels compassionately, despite the unofficial order to have the leader executed.[3]. Castro was tried in the fall of 1953 and sentenced up to fifteen years in prison.[18] During his trial Castro delivered his famous defense speech History Will Absolve Me[19], upholding his rebellious actions and boldly declaring his political views:
“I warn you, I am just beginning! If there is in your hearts a vestige of love for your country, love for humanity, love for justice, listen carefully... I know that the regime will try to suppress the truth by all possible means; I know that there will be a conspiracy to bury me in oblivion. But my voice will not be stifled – it will rise from my breast even when I feel most alone, and my heart will give it all the fire that callous cowards deny it... Condemn me. It does not matter. History will absolve me”. While he was being held at the prison for political activists on Isla de Pinos, he continued to plot Batista's overthrow, planning upon release to reorganize and train in Mexico.[3] After having served less than two years, he was released in May 1955 due to a general amnesty from Batista who was under political pressure, and went as planned to Mexico.[20]

26th of July Movement
Once in Mexico, Castro reunited with other Cuban exiles and founded the 26th of July Movement, named after the date of the failed attack on the Moncada Barracks. The goal remained the overthrow of Fulgencio Batista. Castro had learned from the Moncada experience that new tactics were needed if Batista's forces were to be defeated. This time the plan was to use underground guerrilla tactics, at that time a form of combat unknown in Latin America.[3] In Mexico Castro met Ernesto "Che" Guevara, a theoretician of guerrilla warfare. Guevara joined the group of rebels and became an important force in shaping Castro's evolving political beliefs. Guevara's observations of the misery of the poor in Latin America had already convinced him that the only solution lay in violent revolution. Since regular contacts with a KGB agent named Nikolai Sergeevich Leonov in Mexico City had not resulted in the hoped for weapon supply,[21] they decided to go to the United States to gather personnel and funds from Cubans living there, including Carlos Prío Socarrás, the elected Cuban president deposed by Batista in 1952. Back in Mexico, the group trained under a Spanish Civil War Veteran, Cuban born Alberto Bayo[19] who had fled to Mexico after Francisco Franco's victory in Spain. On November 26, 1956, Castro and his group of 82 exiles returned to Cuba for the purpose of starting a rebellion, sailing from Tuxpan on the now famous yacht Granma.[22], The rebels landed in Los Cayuelos near the eastern city of Manzanillo on December 2, 1956. In short order most of Castro's men were killed, dispersed, or taken prisoner by Batista's men.[22] While the exact number is in dispute, it is agreed that no more than twenty of the original eighty-two men survived the bloody encounters with the Cuban army and succeeded in fleeing to the Sierra Maestra mountains.[23] The survivors, who were undoubtedly aided by people in the countryside, included Che Guevara, Raúl Castro, and Camilo Cienfuegos. They regrouped in the Sierra Maestra in Oriente province and organized a column under Castro's command. From their retreat in the Sierra Maestra mountains, the 26th of July Movement waged a guerrilla war against the Batista government. In the cities and major towns also, resistance groups were organizing until underground groups were everywhere. The strongest was in Santiago formed by Frank País.[24] [25]

In the summer of 1955, País’ organization merged with the July 26 Movement of Fidel. As Castro's movement gained popular support in the cities and countryside, it grew to over eight hundred men. In mid-1957 Castro gave Che Guevara command of a second column. A journalist, Herbert Matthews from the New York Times, came to interview him in the Sierra Maestra, attracting interest to Castro's cause in the United States. The NYTimes front page stories by Matthews presented Castro as a romantic and appealing revolutionary, bearded and dressed in rumpled fatiques.[26] [27] Castro and Matthews were followed by the TV crew of Andrew Saint George, said to be a CIA contact person.[28] Through television, Castro's rudimentary command of the English language and charismatic presence enabled him to appeal directly to a US audience.

Operation Verano
In May of 1958 Batista launched Operation Verano aiming to crush Castro and other anti-government groups. It was called "la Ofensiva" by the rebels (Alarcón Ramírez,1997). Although on paper heavily outnumbered, Castro's guerrilla forces scored a series of victories, largely aided by mass desertions from Batista's army of poorly trained and uncommitted young conscripts. During the Battle of La Plata, Castro's forces defeated an entire battalion. While pro-Castro Cuban sources later emphasized the role of Castro's guerrilla forces in these battles, other groups and leaders were involved, such as escopeteros (poorly-armed irregulars). During the Battle of Las Mercedes, Castro's small army came close to defeat but he managed to pull his troops out by opening up negotiations with General Cantillo while secretly slipping his soldiers out of a trap. Castro later had Cantillo imprisoned and shot. When Operation Verano ended, Castro ordered three columns commanded by Guevara, Jaime Vega and Camilo Cienfuegos to invade central Cuba where they were strongly supported by rebellious elements who had long been operating in the area. One of Castro's columns moved out onto the Cauto Plains. Here they were supported by Huber Matos, Raúl Castro and others to the eastern most part of the province. On the plains Castro's forces first surrounded the town of Guisa in Granma Province and drove out their enemies, then proceeded to take most of the towns that were taken by Calixto Garcia in the 1895-1898 Cuban War of Independence.

Battle of Yaguaja
In December 1958, the columns of Che Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos joined with other anti-Batista forces already in the guerrilla stronghold in the Sierra Maestra mountains. Although they were greatly outnumbered by Batista's forces, they enjoyed enormous popular support. They succeeded in occupying several towns, and then began preparations for an attack on Santa Clara, Cuba the provincial capital of Las Villas. The rebel guerrillas, led by Fidel Castro, launched a fierce attack on the Cuban army surrounding Santa Clara, and a vicious house-to-house battle ensued. The capture of Las Villas was a key step before the advance on the capital of Havana.[29]Guevara's column derailed an armored train which Batista had sent to aid his troops in the city while Cienfuegos won the Battle of Yaguajay. Defeated on all sides, Batista's forces crumbled. The provincial capital was captured after less than a day of fighting on December 31, 1958.  With the loss of his wife Clara and expecting the betrayal of his own army, Batista and president-elect Andres Rivero Agüero fled Cuba in the early hours of January 1, 1959, initially to the Dominican Republic and then to Francisco Franco's Spain. He left behind a junta headed by Gen. Eulogio Cantillo, recently the commander in Oriente province, the center of the Castro revolt. The junta immediately selected Dr. Carlos Piedra, the oldest judge of the Supreme Court, as provisional President of Cuba as specified in the Constitution of 1940. Castro refused to accept the selection of Justice Piedra as provisional President and the Supreme Court refused to administer the oath of office to the Justice.[30]. The rebel forces of Fidel Castro moved swiftly to seize power throughout the island.[30] At the age of 32, Castro had successfully masterminded a classic guerrilla campaign from his headquarters in the Sierra Maestra and ousted Batista.

Assumption of power
On January 8, 1959, Castro's army, having defeated the American-backed Batista government, rolled victoriously into Havana.[31] As news of fall of the government spread through Havana, The New York Times described the scene as one of jubilant crowds pouring into the streets and automobile horns honking. The black and red flag of the 26th of July Movement waved on automobiles and buildings. The atmosphere was chaotic.[30] Soon after, the Castro-led revolutionary government embarked on a systematic purge of adversaries that saw the judicial and extra-judicial executions of thousands. Castro called a general strike in protest of the Piedra regime. He demanded that Dr. Urrutia, former judge of the Urgency Court of Santiago de Cuba, be installed as the provisional President instead. The Cane Planters Association of Cuba, speaking on behalf of the island's crucial sugar industry, issued a statement of support for Castro and his movement.[32] Law professor José Miró Cardona created a new government with himself as prime minister and Manuel Urrutia Lleó as president on January 5. The United States officially recognized the new government two days later.[33] Castro himself arrived in Havana to cheering crowds and assumed the post of Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces on January 8.In February Miró unexpectedly resigned and on February 16, 1959, Castro was sworn in as Prime Minister of Cuba.[1]. Soon friction with the US developed as the new government began expropriating property owned by major U.S. corporations (United Fruit in particular) and planned to base the compensation on the artificially low property valuations that the companies themselves had kept low so their taxes would be negligible.[32]
Between April 15th and 26th, Castro and a delegation of industrial and international representatives visited the U.S. as guests of the Press Club. This visit was perceived by many as a charm offensive on the part of Castro and his recently initiated government; the fact that Castro hired one of the best public relations firms in the United States adds to that conclusion. Castro answered impertinent questions jokingly, ate hotdogs and hamburgers. His rumpled fatigues and scruffy beard made him seem an authentic hero.[34] He was refused a meeting with President Eisenhower. Rebuffed, he soon joined forces with the Soviet leader, Nikita Khrushchev.[31]. In the fourth month of his prime ministership, on May 17, Castro signed the First Agrarian Reform Law, which limited landholdings to 993 acres (4 sq.km) per owner and forbade foreign land ownership.[35] [36].

Years in power
In February 1960 Cuba signed an agreement to buy oil from the USSR. When the US-owned refineries in Cuba refused to process the oil, they were expropriated, and the United States broke off diplomatic relations with the Castro government soon afterward. To the concern of the Eisenhower administration, Cuba began to establish closer ties with the Soviet Union. A variety of pacts were signed between Castro and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, allowing Cuba to receive large amounts of economic and military aid from them. In June 1960, Eisenhower reduced Cuba's sugar import quota by 7,000,000 tons, and in response, Cuba nationalized some $850 million worth of US property and businesses. The revolutionary government grabbed control of the nation by nationalizing industry, expropriating property owned by Cubans and non-Cubans alike, collectivizing agriculture, and enacting policies which it claimed would benefit the population. While popular among the poor, these policies alienated many former supporters of the revolution among the Cuban middle and upper-classes. Over one million Cubans later migrated to the US, forming a vocal anti-Castro community in Miami, Florida. (See Cuban-American lobby.). President Dwight Eisenhower broke off ties on January 3, 1961, saying Fidel Castro had provoked him once too often.[37] As early as July 1959 Castro's intelligence chief Ramiro Valdés contacted the KGB in Mexico City.[38] Subsequently, the USSR sent over one hundred mostly Spanish speaking advisors, including Enrique Líster Forján, to organize the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution. By 1961 the US Government was engaged in a semi-secret campaign to remove Castro from power. The unsuccessful Bay of Pigs invasion in April 1961 – an attempt to topple Castro by supporting an armed force of Cuban exiles to retake the island – is one of the most well-known examples of this campaign.

Bay of Pigs
A timeline released by the National Security Archives shows the US began planning to overthrow the government of Cuba in October, 1959.[39] On April 17, 1961, approximately 1,400 members of a CIA-trained Cuban exile force landed at the Bay of Pigs, while the United States denied any involvement. Documents released by the National Security Archive show that the CIA expected the Cuban people to welcome a U.S.-sponsored invasion, spontaneously rising up against the Castro regime. It expected Cuban military and police forces to refuse to fight against the CIA's 1400-man mercenary invasion force.[40] President Kennedy had withdrawn support for the invasion at the last minute by canceling several bombing sorties that could have crippled the entire Cuban Air Force.[41] The brief military invasion ended in total failure and quickly became a foreign policy debacle for Kennedy. He had approved the plan just three months into his presidency.[42] .Castro had repelled the invaders, killing many and capturing a thousand. On May 1, 1961, as hundreds of thousands celebrating May Day roared their approval, Castro announced: “The revolution has no time for elections. There is no more democratic government in Latin America than the revolutionary government. ... If Mr Kennedy does not like Socialism, we do not like imperialism. We do not like capitalism.” In a nationally broadcast speech on December 2, 1961, Castro declared that he was a Marxist-Leninist and that Cuba was adopting Communism. On February 7, 1962, the US imposed an embargo against Cuba. This embargo was broadened during 1962 and 1963, including a general travel ban for American tourists.[44]
Many theories are offered for the failure of the U.S. operation. Some argue that Kennedy's last minute decision to withdraw air support caused the invasion to fail[citations needed]. Others argue that the Americans misjudged Cuban support for Castro[45]. They had believed the testimonies of the Cuban exiles, who told them that Castro was not well supported by the Cuban people when, in fact, Castro at this time enjoyed wide popular support. The idea that Cubans would rise up against Castro was simply a misconception on the part of the Eisenhower, and then Kennedy administrations. As well, the CIA-trained force of 1,400 armed only with light arms faced a Cuban force of tens of thousand armed with tanks and artillery.[citation needed] In addition, the covert placement of dozens of Cuban intelligence officials in the invasion force gave the Cuban government detailed information on the operation

Cuban Missile Crisis
Tensions between Castro and the U.S. heightened during the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, which nearly brought the US and the USSR to direct confrontation. Khrushchev conceived the idea of placing missiles in Cuba as a deterrent to a U.S. invasion and justified the move in response to US missile deployment in Turkey. After consultations with his military advisors, he met with a Cuban delegation led by Raúl Castro in July in order to work out the specifics. It was agreed to deploy Soviet R-12 MRBMs on Cuban soil; however, American Lockheed U-2 reconnaissance discovered the construction of the missile installations on 15 October 1962 before the weapons had actually been deployed. The US government viewed the installation of Soviet nuclear weapons 90 miles south of Key West as an aggressive act and a threat to US security. As a result, the US publicly announced its discovery on 22 October 1962, and implemented a quarantine around Cuba that would actively intercept and search any vessels heading for the island. Nikolai Sergeevich Leonov, who would become General in KGB Intelligence Directorate,[47] and Soviet KGB deputy station chief in Warsaw, was the translator Castro used for contact with the Russians.
In a personal letter to Khrushchev dated 27 October 1962, Castro urged Khrushchev to launch a nuclear first strike against the United States if Cuba were invaded, but Khrushchev rejected any first strike response.[48] Soviet field commanders in Cuba were, however, authorized to use tactical nuclear weapons if attacked by the United States. Khrushchev agreed to remove the missiles in exchange for a US commitment not to invade Cuba and an understanding that the US would remove American MRBMs targeting the Soviet Union from Turkey and Italy, a measure that the US implemented a few months later. The missile swap was never publicized because the Kennedy Administration demanded secrecy in order to preserve NATO relations and protect Democratic candidates in the upcoming elections.
Assassination Attempts
It has been estimated that there have been over 600 attempts on Castro's life committed by the CIA. Fabian Escalante, who was long tasked with protecting the life of Castro has calculated the exact number of assassination attempts by the CIA to be 638. Some such attempts have included an exploding cigar, a fungal-infected scuba-diving suit, and a mafia-style shooting. Some of these plots are depicted in a documentary entitled 638 Ways to Kill Castro.[49]

Embargo
This article or section needs a complete rewrite for the reasons listed on the talk page.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Cuba was left bankrupt and isolated by the disintegration of the Soviet bloc. Eighty-five percent of its markets had disappeared, along with the subsidies and trade agreements that had supported its economy. The situation became desperate. Daily life was a struggle with extended gas and water outages, severe power shortages, and dwindling food supplies available for rationing.[50]. Castro denounces the US embargo against Cuba. The embargo has united the Cuban people for over 40 years.[51] A former Prime Minister of Spain has written that the embargo is Castro's greatest ally, as it perpetuates the government and, if lifted, Castro would lose his presidency in three months.[52] Many have condemned the embargo ranging from Pope John Paul II (in 1998 and 2005)[53][54], to Steven Spielberg[55] for humanitarian reasons. By 1994 the island's economy, which had survived over 30 years of sanctions by the US, teetered on the brink. Cuba was plunged into what is called their "Special Period" during which there were shortages of everything. To survive, Cuba legalized the US dollar and turned to tourism. Even as late as 2004, Castro was forced to shut down 118 factories, including steel plants, sugar mills and paper processors for the month of October to deal with the crisis in fuel shortages.[56]. After the massive damage caused by Hurricane Michelle in 2001, Castro proposed to the U.S. a one-time cash purchase of food after declining a U.S. offer of humanitarian aid.[57] The U.S. authorized the shipment of food in 2001, the first since the embargo was imposed in 1962, because of the devastation caused by the hurricane.[58]

Castro and the Soviet Union
Following the establishment of diplomatic ties to the Soviet Union, and after the Cuban Missile Crisis, Cuba became increasingly dependent on Soviet markets and military and economic aid. Castro was able to build a formidable military force with the help of Soviet equipment and military advisors. The KGB kept in close touch with Havana, and Castro tightened Communist Party control over all levels of government, the media, and the educational system, while developing a Soviet-style internal police force.
Castro's alliance with the Soviet Union caused something of a split between him and Guevara, who took a more pro-Chinese view following ideological conflict between the CPSU and the Maoist CPC. [citation needed] In 1966, Guevara left for Bolivia in an ill-fated attempt to stir up revolution against the country's government. On 23 August 1968 Castro made a public gesture to the Soviet Union that reaffirmed their support in him. Two days after the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia to repress the Prague Spring, Castro took to the airwaves and publicly denounced the Czech rebellion. Castro warned the Cuban people about the Czechoslovakian 'counterrevolutionaries', who "were moving Czechoslovakia towards capitalism and into the arms of imperialists". He called the leaders of the rebellion "the agents of West Germany and fascist reactionary rabble."[59] In return for his public backing of the invasion, at a time when many Soviet allies were deeming the invasion an infringement of Czechoslovakia's sovereignty, the Soviets bailed out the Cuban economy with extra loans and an immediate increase in oil exports.

In 1971, despite a Organization of American States convention that no nation in the Western Hemisphere would have a relationship with Cuba (the only exception being Mexico, which had refused to adopt that convention), Cuban President Fidel Castro took a month-long visit to Chile, following the re-establishment of diplomatic relations with Cuba. The visit, in which Castro participated actively in the internal politics of the country, holding massive rallies and giving public advice to Allende, was seen by those on the political right as proof to support their view that "The Chilean Way to Socialism" was an effort to put Chile on the same path as Cuba.[60]. On November 4, 1975, Castro ordered the deployment of Cuban troops to Angola in order to aid the Marxist MPLA-ruled government against the South African-backed UNITA opposition forces. Moscow aided the Cuban initiative with the USSR engaging in a massive airlift of Cuban forces into Angola. On Cuba's role in Angola, Nelson Mandela is said to have remarked "Cuban internationalists have done so much for African independence, freedom, and justice."[61] Cuban troops were also sent to Marxist Ethiopia to assist Ethiopian forces in the Ogaden War with Somalia in 1977. In addition, Castro extended support to Marxist Revolutionary movements throughout Latin America, such as aiding the Sandinistas in overthrowing the Somoza dictatorship in Nicaragua in 1979. It has been claimed by the Carthage Foundation-funded Center for a Free Cuba[62] that an estimated 14,000 Cubans were killed in Cuban military actions abroad.[63]
	
Foreign relations
Cuba and Panama have restored diplomatic ties after breaking them off in 2005 when Panama's former president pardoned four Cuban exiles accused of attempting to assassinate Cuban President Fidel Castro. The foreign minister of each country re-established official diplomatic relations in Havana by signing a document describing a spirit of fraternity that has long linked both nations.[65] Cuba, once shunned by many of its Latin American neighbours, now has full diplomatic relations with all but Costa Rica and El Salvador.[65]
Although the relationship between Cuba and Mexico remains strained, each side appears to make attempts to improve it. In 1998 Fidel Castro apologised for remarks he made about Mickey Mouse which led Mexico to recall its ambassador from Havana. He said he intended no offense when he said earlier that Mexican children would find it easier to name Disney characters than to recount key figures in Mexican history. Rather, he said, his words were meant to underscore the cultural dominance of the US.[66] Mexican president, Vicente Fox, apologised to Fidel Castro in 2002 over allegations by Castro that Fox forced him to leave a United Nations summit in Mexico so that he would not be in the presence of President Bush, who also attended.[67]At a summit meeting of sixteen Caribbean countries in 1998, Castro called for regional unity, saying that only strengthened cooperation between Caribbean countries would prevent their domination by rich nations in a global economy.[68] Caribbean nations have embraced Cuba's Fidel Castro while accusing the US of breaking trade promises. Castro, until recently a regional outcast, has been increasing grants and scholarships to the Caribbean countries, while US aid has dropped 25% over the past five years.[69] Cuba has opened four additional embassies in the Caribbean Community including: Antigua and Barbados, Dominica, Suriname, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. This development makes Cuba the only country to have embassies in all independent countries of the Caribbean Community.[70]

In the poorest areas of Latin America and Africa, Castro is seen as a hero, the leader of the Third World, and the enemy of the wealthy and greedy.[71] On a visit to South Africa he was warmly received by President Nelson Mandela.[72] President Mandela gave Castro South Africa's highest civilian award for foreigners, the Order of Good Hope.[73] Last December Castro fulfilled his promise of sending 100 medical aid workers to Botswana, according to the Botswana presidency. These workers play an important role in Botswana's war against HIV/AIDS. According to Anna Vallejera, Cuba's first-ever Ambassador to Botswana, the health workers are part of her country's ongoing commitment to proactively assist in the global war against HIV/AIDS,[74]. The president of Venezuela Hugo Chávez is a grand admirer of his and Bolivian president Evo Morales called him the "Grandfather". In Harlem he is seen as an icon because of his historic visit with Malcolm X in 1960 at the Hotel Theresa.

Personal
By his first wife Mirta Díaz-Balart, Castro has a son named Fidel "Fidelito" Castro Díaz-Balart. Mirta and Castro were divorced in 1955, and Mirta now lives remarried in Madrid. Fidelito was later returned to Cuba, where he ran Cuba's atomic-energy commission before being removed from the post by his father.[116]. Fidel has five other sons by his second wife, Dalia Soto del Valle: Alexis, Alexander, Alejandro, Antonio, and Angel.[116]. While Fidel was still married to Mirta, he had an affair with Naty Revuelta resulting in a daughter named Alina Fernández-Revuelta[116]. Alina left Cuba in 1993, disguised as a Spanish tourist [117], and sought asylum in the United States. She has been a vocal critic of her father's policies. During his days in the Sierra, Castro was linked romantically with fellow rebel Celia Sánchez, though support for this theory isn't as common as it was.

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Beliefs and Commentaries

 

“All faith is FALSE, all faith is TRUE.

TRUTH is the shattered mirrors strewn In myriad bits; while each BELIEVES

His LITTLE BIT the whole to own.”

 

From “The Kasidah of Hji Abu el-Yezdi”, as translated by Sir Richard F. Burton