They tried every possible way to eliminate him. Exploding cigars. Infected scuba diving suits. Ballpoint pens with hypodermic syringes pre-loaded with poison. Mafia-style killing attempts. Poison pills. They failed each time. 638 times it is rumored. He was the man who refused to die on someone else’s terms. Because that was how he had lived. And that was how he had taught his country to live. On their own terms.
Fidel Castro was a revolutionary who, with the support of his brother Raúl, Che Guevara and others, came to power by overthrowing the dictatorial, US Government-backed regime of Fulgencio Batista. The Batista regime had chosen to side with the Americans (in exchange for their support and wealth) while suppressed trade unions and further empowering the wealthy elite at home.
Castro immediately set about fulfilling his quest of improving the life of ordinary Cubans. Inspired by, and embracing, communist regimes like the USSR’s, he went about setting up classrooms, nationalizing healthcare, improving infrastructure and sanitation and constructing houses for the common people. He used radio to connect with the common man to understand their concerns and to address them.
In a short span of time, Castro’s proximity to the USSR irked America, leading them to attempt to depose him. Castro assumed charge of the military himself and in a short, sharp, guerrilla war, humiliated the mighty American forces in the Bay of Pigs. In time, his offer to the USSR to use Cuba as a nuclear base to deter American power in the region further angered the Americans, leading to the Cuban missile crisis and the imposition of economic sanctions against Cuba (which continue, albeit in reduced form, till date). His repudiation of American attempts to impose their authority, together with his attempts to improve people’s daily lives, made him immensely popular.
Despite opposition from what was considered the world’s greatest superpower and their allies as well as constant State sponsored attempts on his life, Castro never once lost sight of his ideal — a better quality of life for his people while remaining completely self-sufficient.
Fidel Castro was a leader of rare courage and character, who believed in his ideal and lived it till his death. Will you lead with your ideals?