Episode 149: Fidel Castro: Revolutionary or Despot?

Fidel Castro

On this episode of the Sofa King Podcast, we talk about the life and times of the most famous man in Cuba, Fidel Castro. Castro was born in 1926 to an upper class sugar plantation family, and he was both intelligent and athletic from a young age. He was also a trouble maker, always questioning rules and even threatening to burn things to the ground at the age of 6. (Revolutionaries start at a young age, it seems…)

By the time he graduated college, he had already gotten involved in politics, and once he had his law degree, he started traveling the globe to participate in revolutions throughout the Caribbean and Americas. This led him to be a student under Eduardo Chibás who ran for president of Cuba in 1948. Chibás lost the race (in fact, shortly afterwards, he shot himself in the head and committed suicide on live radio), but Castro saw how politics worked and became a nationalist who wanted reform for his nation.

His first shot at reform came after General Fulgencio Batista took illegal control of the country, and Castro tried to overthrow him. Castro was caught and exiled to Mexico where he met Che Guevara, and eventually, they came back to Cuba to run a guerrilla revolution. Against impossible odds, Castro eventually seeded enough discord to overthrow Batista, and within a few months was Prime Minister of the country when he was only 32 years old.

At first, he seemed to be a good ruler, reforming education, putting true universal health care in place, building miles of new roads, and reducing infant mortality rates to their lowest numbers ever. However, he got obsessed with his own power at some point and formalized firing squads, forced labor camps, and a massive reduction of human rights, targeting everyone who spoke against him (and the religious and homosexuals as well…). With his death, Cubans around the world either mourned or celebrated the passing of a major historical figure.

Castro picked big fights with the United States and sided with the Soviet Union in the cold war, and this is what lead to some of the most important moments of the 1960s. From the Bay of Pigs Invasion to the Cuban Missile Crises, all of it involved Castro. So, how did he eventually die? How many times did the CIA attempt to assassinate him? What did he do that pissed off the US government so badly? What corporations did he screw over? How many people died at the hands of his firing squads, and how many Cubans fled the nation under his rule? Listen, laugh, learn.

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