On February 16, 1959, Fidel Castro is sworn in as prime minister of Cuba after leading a guerrilla campaign that forced right-wing dictator Fulgencio Batista into exile. Here are five things you didn't know about Fidel Castro.
Castro Originally Ran for Office in the Pre-Batista Cuban Government Prior to the Batista regime, Cuba was ruled by Carlos Prio Socarras, who had dumped Cuba back into a well of inefficiency and corruption. In 1952, the country was supposed to have an election in June, and Castro began a campaign to be elected president. Before the elections could take place, however, Batista deposed Prio. The elections were called off.
Despite Initial Support, the U.S. Slowly Came to Oppose Batista Batista was originally a U.S. ally. While Batista had overthrown the government before his, he was friendly to the U.S. The American government wanted to keep it that way, so they gave Batista support, including initially opposing Castro because of his Communist ideals. It helped that this was actually Batista's second term as Cuban leader; he originally governed form 1940 to 1944 and ran a fairly functional government then. However, over the next few years, Batista's new government slowly devolved into a more violent, oppressive dictatorship that sent turned many Cubans toward opposition leaders and revolutionaries. The U.S. was not happy with what Batista's government was doing, either, and so withdrew support.
Castro Was Nearly Killed When He Returned to Cuba After spending time in a Cuban prison, Castro was granted amnesty and went to Mexico, where he remained in exile for a couple of years. This is where he became involved with Che Guevara's revolutionaries, and all of them became involved in a plot to overthrow Batista. In December 1956, the group sent Castro and many armed men to Cuba to begin their attempt, but they were met with very heavy resistance that resulted in the death of most of the participants. Castro and a few others were lucky enough to escape into the mountains.
He Was Interviewed by Ed Sullivan The popular narrative about Castro is that he overthrew a U.S.-friendly government and led a Communist country that opposed the U.S. However, because the U.S. was distancing itself from Batista's regime and its increasing violence, Castro was actually kind of welcomed by Americans after he took over. In fact, Ed Sullivan, the TV show host, interviewed Castro in the town of Matanzas in January 1959. Sullivan was apparently impressed and reportedly was very positive about the future that Castro represented for Cuba.
Castro Was the Target of Some of the Weirdest Assassination Plots to Be Cooked up in the 20th Century Castro's time as the sweetheart of American international relations eventually ended, and he became a target for assassination. While many of the plots were fairly straightforward, or at least as straightforward as a clandestine plot can be, some of the suggested plans were plain bonkers. For example, Castro liked to scuba dive, so one plan involved planting an explosive seashell at his favorite diving spot. Others involved technology that seemed straight out of the Bond films (or maybe even Get Smart), such as poison delivered with tiny needles that didn't cause any sensation.