About the Document The Cuban Revolution of 1959 not only had a tremendous impact on the lives of the Cuban people, but also proved to be one of the most pivotal moments in modern international relations. Fulgencio Batista dominated Cuban politics as a strongman from 1933–1940, as president from 1940–1944, and after 1952, as dictator. Many Cubans were very dissatisfied with Batista's policies, including a lawyer named Fidel Castro, who began to organize an armed uprising to overthrow the government. In July 1953, Castro and his revolutionaries failed in an attempt to seize Moncado Barracks. Castro was put on trial where, in his defense, he delivered his "History Will Absolve Me" speech. He was later imprisoned in a penal colony until his release in 1955.
Castro then recruited other revolutionaries to join with him in another attempt to overthrow the government. His force was unsuccessful in creating a revolution in 1956, and they retreated to the mountains of Cuba. Over the next two years, Castro built his forces from disenchanted peasants, employees, and teachers. He was seen by the outside world, including the United States, as a hero struggling against a corrupt dictatorship. The Eisenhower Administration cut off arms shipments to the Batista government in 1958, hoping to help Castro's revolution, but seemed unaware of Castro's leftist leanings. Many of Castro's most trusted aides, including Ernesto "Che" Guevara, were Marxists and had encouraged Castro to create a Marxist state. In December 1958, Castro defeated Batista's forces, and by January 1959, had placed himself as the head of the Cuban government.
Early in 1959, the United States attempted to reign in Castro, but he responded by nationalizing industries in Cuba that had long been dominated by U.S. companies including Standard Oil, IT&T, and United Fruit. Monetary losses to these and other American companies were staggering, and the United States began a policy of trying to remove Castro from power. The failed Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961 was a huge embarrassment to John F. Kennedy's administration, and Cuba became a flashpoint for U.S.–U.S.S.R. Cold War confrontations. To this day, Cuba remains a sore point in American foreign policy and continues to be the focus of an economic embargo. Despite, this, Castro has solidified his power and remains one of the last-standing Communist dictators that emerged during the Cold War.
The selection below is from Castro's impassioned defense in 1953. The "History Will Absolve Me" speech outlines what Castro was fighting for in his attempt to overthrow the Batista government and what changes he would have made if he had been successful in 1953.
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