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democracy to a dictatorial police state. Batista fostered a strong relationship with
American crime syndicates and opened up the country to rampant corruption,
large scale gambling, prostitution, drug smuggling and money laundering. Further
antagonizing the average working class citizens was the fact that the vast majority
of Cuban industry was owned and controlled by large American business in-
From the social outrage, the seeds of a revolution were born. From 1953 to 1959,
led by a charismatic lawyer named Fidel Castro, a rag tag team of fighters en-
gaged in guerrilla warfare against the Batista regime. Despite a short incarcera-
tion, Fidel Castro, along with his brother Raul and the popular Che Guevara, with
the help of a small, ill-equipped army, eventually were victorious, and Batista re-
linquished power and fled Cuba in 1959.
Despite initially rejecting the position, Fidel Castro eventually became president
and implemented a series of popular social reforms and policies. The goal was to
nationalize most foreign and Cuban owned land and businesses, in order to re-
turn wealth to the Cuban people. While the United States was initially willing to re-
cognize the Castro government, it later chose not to do so, out of fear that the le-
gitimization might cause a spread of socialist uprisings throughout Latin America.
At the same time, most Cubans still resented the American government for its
earlier support of Batista's regime. After the Castro government nationalized all
American owned property on the island, the US government retaliated by freezing
all Cuban assets on American soil, severing diplomatic ties and implementing a
sweeping embargo against all exports to Cuba.
Following the American embargo, the Soviet Union became Cuba's main ally.
Strong political and economic ties developed. Cuba received a great deal of eco-
nomic support from the Soviet Union, enabling Castro's social revolution to pro-
ceed unhindered. Despite the communist inspired government, Cuba developed a
relatively high degree of wealth, and income disparity was greatly reduced. Free
education and healthcare was a tenet of the revolution and greatly increased the
social and economic standings of even the poorest citizens.
Upon the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, foreign aid was greatly limited and
Cuba experienced a severe depression, which Cubans refer to as El PerĂ­odo
Especial (The Special Period). The country lost approximately 80% of its imports,
80% of its exports and its Gross Domestic Product dropped by 34 percent. Fam-
ine and malnutrition was high, forcing the government to enact a radical series of
reforms to offer daily food rations and use tourism to boost the economy.
Throughout Cuba, old hotels were remodeled and new hotels were built, as infra-
structure was created to accommodate international tourists. Tourism, which had
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