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Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz (1926 - )

The Order of the Companions of O.R. Tambo in

Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz (1926 - ) Awarded for:
His contribution to the eradication of racism, colonialism, apartheid and inequality in human society.

Profile of Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz

Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz was born on 13 August 1926. An intellectually gifted student, he finished high school at El Colegio de Belén in 1945. Later in the same year he entered law school at the University of Havana where he immediately became embroiled in the political culture at the university, a reflection of the volatile politics in Cuba during that era. He graduated from law school in 1950 with a doctor of law degree and began practising law in a small partnership in Havana.

Castro wanted to run for Parliament in 1952 but General Fulgencio Batista overthrew the government and cancelled the election. Castro first opposed the Batista regime in court, but in 1953 he led a revolution in Santiago, using an unsuccessful rebel force. He was arrested, tried and jailed until 1955. His defence at this trial is known by its concluding words, History will absolve me.

He was exiled in 1955, and he next went to Mexico to organize a new force – the 26 of July Movement. In 1956, he landed on the Cuban coast with 82 men, including Che Guevara, and again met a bloody defeat with only 12 men surviving. He launched successful guerrilla operations from the Sierra Maestra Mountains, and in December 1958 led a march on Havana. General Batista fled and on 1 January 1959, Castro triumphantly took power.

He became commander-in-chief of the armed forces of Cuba on 8 January 1959. After the sudden resignation of Prime Minister Miró, Castro was sworn in on 16 February 1959. In 1965 he became first secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba and led the transformation of Cuba into a one-party socialist republic.

He forged close political ties with the then Soviet Union during the Cold War. In 1976, he became president of the Council of State as well as of the Council of Ministers.

In the poorest areas of Latin America and Africa, Castro is seen as a hero, the leader of the Third World and the enemy of the wealthy and greedy. On a visit to South Africa in 1998, he was warmly received by former President Nelson Mandela who awarded him (the then) highest South African civilian award, the Order of Good Hope.

Following surgery, he transferred his responsibilities to the First Vice-President, his younger brother Raúl Modesto Castro Ruz, on 31 July 2006. On 19 February 2008, five days before his mandate was to expire, he announced he would neither seek nor ac-cept a new term as either President or Commander-in-Chief. On 24 February 2008, the National Assembly elected Raúl Modesto Castro to succeed him as the President of Cuba.

Fidel Castro has led his tiny island country, Cuba, to freedom and has since he assumed power championed the cause of free-dom for the people of the world, often at the expense of his own country. His contributions to Southern African development and freedom are legendary notably his country’s pivotal intervention in the Angolan civil war in which Cuban troupes came up against South African led millitary forces in the time of apartheid leaders BJ Foster and PW Botha. He has sought to fight racism, economic exploitation and colonialism and neo-colonialism throughout his leadership of the Cuban revolution.