February 16 1959: Fidel Castro sworn-in as Prime Minister of Cuba

February 16 1959: Fidel Castro sworn-in as Prime Minister of Cuba
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Fidel Castro was sworn-in as the Prime Minister of Cuba on February 16, 1959. Castro captured power after leading a guerrilla campaign that ousted right-wing dictator Fulgencio Batista. Batista, who was forced into exile, on January 1, 1959, fled to the Dominican Republic. Other rebel leaders did not have the kind of popular support Castro had and on February 16, he took over as the Prime Minister of the country. From 1976 till 2008, he served as the President of the country. Cuba, under Castro, was the first Communist state in the Western Hemisphere.

The United States initially recognized Castro. But the new dictator of Cuba antagonized the US by nationalizing US assets and launching a program of agrarian reform. Much to the discomfort of the US, Fidel Castro declared a Marxist government. Castro’s relations with the United States reached an all time low with an invasion of Cuba known as the Bay of Pigs. The invasion was launched by Cuban exiles with the support of CIA but ended in failure. The support of the Soviet Union to Cuba led to the Cuban Missile Crisis, which ended with the Soviet Union agreeing to remove its nuclear missile weapons in Cuba in exchange for US promise not to invade the country.

Castro ruled for nearly 50 years and outlasted 10 US Presidents. An intestinal surgery led him to temporarily cede power to his brother Raul, but with his illness continuing, he officially stepped down in 2008.

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