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article imageCuba: six decades of Castro power

By AFP     Apr 18, 2018 in World

Sixty years ago, on January 1, 1959, Fidel Castro took power in Cuba after a socialist revolution.

Here is a look back at the Castro years:

- 'Revolution begins now' -

On New Year's Day in 1959, dictator Fulgencio Batista flees Cuba, defeated by 26 months of guerrilla warfare spearheaded by the Castro brothers.

Fidel declares victory in the southern city of Santiago de Cuba, pronouncing "The revolution begins now" before heading to the capital.

The regime begins moving toward communism in May, enacting the first agrarian reform law to allow the expropriation of land.

- Rupture with US -

In 1960, Cuba nationalizes US companies in response to Washington's decision to limit oil exports to the island and reduce imports of Cuban sugar.

A year later, the United States breaks diplomatic relations with Cuba. In 1962, Washington cuts off most trade with the island.

- Bay of Pigs -

In April 1961, around 1,400 anti-Castro Cubans -- trained and financed by the CIA -- land at the Bay of Pigs in a bid to overthrow the communist regime. The endeavor ends in failure.

- Socialism proclaimed -

Castro proclaims the socialist character of the Cuban revolution on April 16, 1961. In a speech on May 1, he declares the regime has adopted a socialist system and has "no time for elections."

In 1965, the Communist Party of Cuba is created. It has ruled the island ever since.

- Missile crisis -

In October 1962, the United States identifies facilities for Soviet Union nuclear missiles installed on Cuba.

For two weeks, the world is gripped by fears of nuclear war between the two superpowers until negotiations bring an end to the Cuban Missile Crisis.

- Death of 'Che' -

A hero of the Cuban revolution and brother-in-arms to the Castros, Argentina's Ernesto "Che" Guevara is executed by the Bolivian army in 1967.

His death brings an end to a scheme to spread the Cuban revolution across Latin America, starting with Bolivia.

- Soviet sphere -

In 1970, Cuba fails to meet its promised objective of a harvest of 10 million tons of sugar to be sold to the Soviet Union at preferential prices.

It becomes indebted to the Soviet Union, increasingly moving under its influence and going on to join the communist trading bloc COMECON in 1972.

- Troops to Angola -

Starting in 1975, Cuba sends troops to Angola to support the first post-independence government of the communist MPLA party in a civil war against the US-backed UNITA movement.

Thousands of Cuban troops are deployed as part of the operation, which runs for 16 years, and extends to conflicts in Ethiopia and elsewhere in Africa.

- Raul takes charge -

On July 31, 2006, an unwell Fidel Castro provisionally hands power to his younger brother Raul, until then his number two in government.

Raul officially becomes president in 2008 and undertakes a slow program of reforms to "update" the Soviet economic model that is on its last legs.

Fidel dies on November 25, 2016, aged 90.

- Thaw with US -

In December 2014, then US president Barack Obama and Raul Castro announce plans to normalize US-Cuba ties after 53 years of hostilities. The process comes to fruition the following year.

The thaw is later slowed by the arrival of Donald Trump in the White House in 2017.

- End of the Castro era -

On April 19, 2018, Miguel Diaz-Canel, a 58-year-old technocrat, succeeds Raul Castro, being the sole candidate in a National Assembly vote.

Ending six decades of rule by the Castro brothers, he becomes the first Cuban president born after the revolution.

- New constitution -

On July 22, 2018, Cuba's parliament approves a new draft constitution that will recognize for the first time the role of the market and private sector. Presidential terms will last five years with the possibility of renewal for one term.

A referendum on the text will be held on February 24.

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