Cuba has been much in the news the last few days and although Fidel Castro is no longer the man in charge, that honour goes to his brother Raul Castro, it is Fidel who ran the country for most of the past five decades.
Vilified by some as a Communist tyrant, adored by others as a Socialist revolutionary, Cuba under the rule of Castro's '26th of July Movement' was very much different to that which Cubans lived under in the previous regime but was he worse than what preceded him?
The Cuba in the pre-Castro years was ruled over by President Fulgencio Batista who ran for President in 1952 but facing electoral defeat, he led a military coup and took control of the country.
Over the next six years, Batista's Government became increasingly corrupt and repressive and he opened his country to the American Mafia who controlled the drug, gambling, and prostitution businesses.
High unemployment and falling living standards while he syphoned off millions to his personal bank account, growing discontent amongst the populace was met with widespread violent and oppressive crackdowns including torture and public executions resulting in the death of 20,000 citizens. Hundreds of mangled bodies were left hanging from lamp posts or dumped in the streets to serve as a warning against further insurrection.
In 1960 John F Kennedy said: Fulgencio Batista murdered 20,000 Cubans in seven years and he turned Democratic Cuba into a complete police state—destroying every individual liberty. Batista was destroying the last vestiges of freedom, and stealing hundreds of millions of dollars from the Cuban people. In the matter of the Batista regime, I am in agreement with the first Cuban revolutionaries'.
The first Cuban revolutionaries were Fidel, Raul and Che Guevara who overthrew 'one of the most bloody and repressive dictatorships in the long history of Latin American repression' as the American administration called the Batista regime.
Things turned sour when Castro's threw in their lot with the Soviets and critics say that the Cubans just swapped one tyrannical regime under Batista for another under Castro while others say he saved his country from a brutal and murderous dictator but that is for another post.