Timeline Description: Fidel Castro (b. August 13, 1926), a Cuban politician and leader, used guerilla tactics to overthrow Cuba's Batista government in 1959. As prime minister, Castro implemented Marxist-Leninist economic programs and established a secret alliance with the Soviet Union, much to the dismay of the United States. This ultimately led to the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. Castro was elected president in 1976, and he ruled Cuba until 2008.
|August 13, 1926||Fidel Castro is born.
Fidel Castro is born on August 13, 1926 in the Oriente Province in southeast Cuba. He is one of seven children born to Angel Castro, a successful sugar planter, and Lina Ruz González, a maid who later marries Angel. Fidel grows up in wealthy circumstances and attends private Jesuit schools.
|1945||Castro begins law school.
After proving himself as an athlete in high school, Castro begins law school at the University of Havana in 1945. There he becomes interested in politics, particularly nationalism, socialism, and anti-imperialism, and he becomes involved in the violent gang culture of the university.
|June 1947||Castro joins an expedition to overthrow Trujillo in the Dominican Republic.
In June 1947, Castro learns that Dominican exiles are planning to overthrow the military junta of Generalissimo Rafael Trujillo, a U.S. ally, in the Dominican Republic. He joins the invasion force of around 1,200 troops, but the expedition collapses before they can invade. Castro evades capture but becomes increasingly involved in leftist, violent politics.
|October 12, 1948||Castro marries his first wife, Mirta Diaz-Balart.
On October 12, 1948, Castro marries his first wife, Mirta Diaz-Balart, who is from a wealthy family. The marriage exposes Castro to a wide network of political connections. They have one child together, Fidelito, but the marriage dissolves in 1955. He later marries Dalia Soto del Valle, with whom he has five sons, and he has several other children with other women, as well.
|March 1952||Castro turns to armed revolution.
After graduating from law school, Castro begins to practice law and becomes a member of the Cuban People's Party. Castro plans to run for a seat in the House of Representatives, but the elections are canceled when General Fulgencio Batista overthrows the government in March 1952. This leads Castro to reject democracy in favor of armed revolution.
|July 26, 1953||Castro and his brother lead an unsuccessful uprising.
When legal means fail to remove Batista from power, Castro and his brother Raúl lead an unsuccessful attack against military barracks on July 26, 1953. Castro is sentenced to 15 years in prison, but he and Raúl are released in a political amnesty in 1955. They flee to Mexico, where they organize Cuban exiles in a revolutionary group known as the 26th of July Movement.
|December 2, 1956||Castro and his brother launch a guerilla war against Batista
.Castro and his brother Raúl, along with an armed group of 81 men, land in Cuba on December 2, 1956. The Castro brothers, Ernesto "Che" Guevara, and nine men evade capture, and they launch a guerilla war against the Batista government. Over the next few years, Castro's forces attract more volunteers, they begin to defeat Batista's army, and political support for Batista's government decreases.
|January 1, 1959||Castro's army defeats Batista.
Castro's guerilla army of 800 men defeats Batista's 30,000-man professional army, and Batista is forced to flee the country on January 1, 1959. Castro enters Havana and is named commander-in-chief of the armed forces in Cuba's provisional government, headed by Manuel Urrutia. Castro begins to accumulate political power.
|February 16, 1959||Castro becomes prime minister of Cuba.
Castro becomes prime minister of Cuba on February 16, 1959, effectively becoming the head of the government. Manuel Urrutia formally resigns as president in July of that year. Castro nationalizes many industries and begins moving towards a socialist state. Despite his position as prime minister, Castro rules essentially as a dictator and ruthlessly suppresses the opposition.
|April 17, 1961||The Bay of Pigs invasion fails.
After imposing economic sanctions on Cuba to discourage its growing relationship with the Soviet Union, the U.S. sponsors a disastrous invasion of the Bay of Pigs on April 17, 1961 in an attempt to overthrow Castro. Relations subsequently deteriorate between Cuba and the U.S., and Castro invites the Soviet Union to secretly build sites for nuclear missiles in his country. This culminates in the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, which brings the world to the brink of nuclear war.
|January 1966||Castro founds an organization to promote communist revolutions.
Following the Tricontinental Conference, a meeting of leftist delegates from Asia, Africa, and Latin America, Castro founds the Organization of Solidarity with the People of Asia, Africa, and Latin America (OSPAAAL) in January 1966. The organization's goal is to promote communist revolutions in third-world countries, and Castro's government supports a number of revolutions throughout his rule.
|December 3, 1976||Castro is elected president.
Despite Castro's ruthless dictatorial style, he remains popular with the Cuban people, who benefit from his free education and healthcare programs. On December 3, 1976, the Cuban National Assembly elects him president of the State Council, a new position that replaces that of president and prime minister. Castro continues to exercise complete control over the government, retaining his brother Raúl as second in command.
|1991||Cuba enters an economic crisis.
From the 1960s to the 1980s, Cuba benefits from Soviet aid, especially as Castro's economic programs prove to be disastrous. As a result, the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 sends Cuba into an economic crisis. Castro reluctantly allows foreign investment, particularly in tourism and some free-market activity, while retaining tight control over the economy.
|February 19, 2008||Castro passes the presidency to his brother Raúl.
After years of failing health, Castro formally resigns from the presidency on February 19, 2008. He passes power to his brother Raúl, who previously led through a provisional presidency when Fidel was recovering from surgery. His announcement is published in the official Communist Party newspaper, Granma.
|March 22, 2011||Castro resigns as secretary-general of the Communist Party of Cuba.
After resigning as president, Castro continues to serve as secretary-general of the Communist Party of Cuba, and official photos are released to show him in good health. However, on March 22, 2011, he reveals that he has stepped down as secretary-general, putting Raúl in charge.