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This Happened

This Happened—January 1: The Cuban Revolution Ends

On January 1, 1959, Cuba’s military dictator Fulgencio Batista fled the country and the rebels, led by Che Guevara and Fidel Castro, celebrated in Havana, ending the Cuban Revolution.

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Why did the Cuban Revolution take place?

The U.S. had been a major force in Cuba since the early 1900s. Much of the country’s business was owned by the U.S., including its main export, sugar. The Batista regime was unpopular with the Cuban people. However, he supported U.S. interests, so Washington in turn supported him.

Castro wanted to remove the chokehold the U.S. had over the Cuban economy and launch a Communist Revolution in the process.

How did the Cuban Revolution happen?

In November 1956, Fidel Castro and Che Guevara gathered 80 guerrilla fighters and sailed from Mexico on a small yacht. Batista learned of the attack and ambushed the group, but 20 men escaped, including Fidel and Raul Castro and Guevara. The group found refuge in the mountains, attracted new members, and started guerrilla warfare against Batista’s better-armed regime.

For the next two years, Cuba experienced civil war. In December 1958, Guevara’s forces defeated a larger army in the Battle of Santa Clara, where they captured a train full of arms and ammunition. By January 1, 1959, the rebels had reached the capital, Havana, and Batista fled.

What was the aftermath of the Cuban Revolution?

Batista lived in exile in Portugal until his death in 1973. Fidel Castro reached Havana on January 9 to take charge. Many Batista supporters were tried and executed. Although Castro had promised elections, he postponed them once he came to power.

The U.S. initially recognized the Castro government, but relations quickly broke down when Castro implemented a Communist regime. The U.S. broke off diplomatic relations with Havana in 1961. Tensions further increased in the following years, culminating in the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.

Fidel Castro remained in power until 2008, when he chose his brother Raul as successor.

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