Fulgencio Batista y Zaldivar took power following a September 1933 officer coup. Later he was elected president in 1940 but voted out of office in 1944. He ran for office again in 1952 but only three months before the vote was supposed to take place he staged a military coup, suspended the elections, and began to rule as a dictator. The move antigonized many in Cuba who wanted the country to abide by the 1940 democratic constitution.
On July 26, 1953, Fidel Castro led an attack on the Moncada army barracks in Santiago de Cuba. The attack failed and after a public and open trial in which Castro defended himself, he was jailed and later went into exile in Mexico. He then began to plan the "26 of July" Movement and army with the goal of creating a socialist revolution to overthrow Batista. Castro had the support of many Cuban liberals, students, urban workers and intelectuals. In 1956 Castro attempted another attack on the Batista regime and began fighting a guerrilla war with the help of Ernesto "Che" Guevarra, one of socialism's biggest ideologues and a champion of lower-class rebellion. Castro and 82 others landed in western Cuba and while their numbers were easily cut down by Batista's forces, they were still able to establish themselves in the Sierra Maestra Mountains. At this point the conflict developed into a full-fledged guerrilla war, with Castro's forces relying on local peasants for support. This led to Batista's forces attacking any pro-Castro towns with ruthless force, pushing many locals to Castro's side, a typical guerrilla tactic. Batista planned to force a final and decisive battle with the rebels with Operation Verano, which was launched on May 24, 1958. Though Batista's forces entered the mountains with superior numbers and weapons, they were unaccustomed to fighting against guerrilla tactics and took heavy losses which in turn resulted in dessertion and lower moralle.
Eventually the United States withdrew its military support to the Batista in 1958. This proved to be the last straw for Batista and his generals who decided that they could no longer continue the fight and on January 1, 1959 Batista fled the country. Castro was soon able to consolidate control of the country and founded a revolutionary government. Despite the popular support that the Castro regime carried with it, there were severe purges and any opposition was supressed. The measures that the new government initiated resembled those of other Soviet bloc countries. While the new government was successful in improving medical care and education, programs geared at improving agricultural production and the economy were less successful. Most significantly, when one considers the Cold War context, Castro's government expropriated US landholdings, banks and other such things detremental to US business interests. However most troubling to the US was Castro declaring his allegiance with the Soviet bloc in 1961, quite litterally putting a socialist state on America's doorstrep. The United States responded with a trade embargo and sponsored the Bay of Pigs Invasion.
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