Sun | Sep 24, 2017

Briefing | Castro: A friend of Jamaica

Published:Wednesday | November 30, 2016 | 11:00 AMDr Andre Haughton
Fidel Castro salutes during a speech in Havana, Cuba, on May 20, 2005.

 

Why was Fidel Castro important to Jamaica?

 

Castro was the political leader of Cuba from 1959 to 2008. He transformed Cuba into the first Communist country in the Western Hemisphere for more than six decades. Former Prime Minister of Jamaica and leader of the People's National Party, Michael Manley, was good with Castro. They shared similar views and ideologies regarding socialism, the market mechanism and the allocation of resources among economic agents. Many expansionary fiscal policies that Jamaica embarked on in the 1970s were parallel to Castro's expansionary policies in Cuba under the socialist ideology. Castro believed in equality. He extended social services to all classes in his society. He made education and health care free of cost to everyone and every adult was guaranteed employment. He was a global leader who represented small, vulnerable countries in international affairs.

Castro and Cuba have contributed health care and education to many countries around the world, including Jamaica. Cuban doctors, nurses and teachers are always sharing their expertise. Jamaican medical practitioners have also benefited from free training in Cuba. Cuba has donated four educational institutions to Jamaica - the G.C. Foster College, JosÈ Marti High School, Garvey Maceo High School and the Montpelier School, now known as the Fidel Castro campus of the Anchovy High School. Castro died on November 25.

 

Who was Fidel Castro?

 

Fidel Alejandra Castro Ruz was born on August 13, 1926 in Biran, Cuba. He grew up in a better-than-average lifestyle. His father was a wealthy businessman from Spain who had a contract to supply sugar. Castro's mother, Lina Ruz Gonzales, was his father's servant whom he later married and had seven children with. As a child, Castro was an outstanding athlete; he played baseball, basketball and did track and field for his catholic high school. He entered the School of Law in 1945. In 1947, Castro and his confederates made a failed attempt to invade the Dominican Republic and overthrow Gen Rafael Trujillo. In 1948, he took part in riots in Bogota, Colombia. After completing his law degree in 1950, he joined the Cuban People's Party.

 

Why did he come to prominence?

 

Castro and more than 150 men attacked the Moncada military barracks in Santiago de Cuba on the July 26, 1953. Most of the men were killed, but he, his brother Raul and others were arrested. They were tried and sentenced to prison for 15 years. They were released in 1955 in an amnesty deal with the Batista government. They fled to Mexico, where they met Che Guevara and formed their group called the 26th of July movement.

On December 2, 1956, Castro and approximately 80 confederates returned to Cuba with guns and ammunition. Most of them were killed by Batista's army but Fidel, Ra?l, Che Guevara and a few others escaped into the Sierra Maestra Mountain to regroup. From 1956 to 1958, Castro's army gradually increased in numbers. His steadily growing forces waged a guerrilla war against the Batista government. Through efficient organising of resistance groups in cities and small towns across Cuba, Castro was able to establish a government parallel to Batista's, which he used to conducted agrarian reform and controlled provinces with agricultural and manufacturing production. Castro's guerrilla army grew to approximately 800 men, which he used to defeat the Cuba's 30,000-man army. Batista fled the country on January 1, 1959. Castro came to full power in July 1959 and created a one-party dictatorship government.

 

What effect did the Cuban embargo have on the

 

 

economy?

 

The United States Proclamation 3447, signed on February 3, 1962, established an embargo against Cuba to reduce its trade and economic relationships with most of the world. Notwithstanding this, annual average gross domestic GDP growth rate was estimated to be 2.7 per cent. In recent times, GDP per capita is approximately US$6,000. The GDP composition can be broken down into the following: household consumption is approximately 58.3 per cent, Government consumption 36.9 per cent, investment in fixed capital 9.3 per cent. Exports make up 21.1 per cent of GDP, while imports are 19.2 per cent of GDP.

 

What is the Bay of Pigs?

 

On April 14 1961, Castro declared Cuba a socialist state. A few days later, the Bay of Pigs was invaded by Cuban exiles who wanted to overthrow Castro. The result was futile; many were killed and more than 100 captured. Cuba depended heavily on preferential treatment from the Soviet Union to sustain its exports. Their relationship with the Soviet Union increased after the Bay of Pigs, but declined after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Castro gave up presidency on February 19, 2008, due to his deteriorating health and medical conditions.