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Distributed for Reaktion Books

Fidel Castro

Fidel Castro had ruled the island of Cuba for fifty-two years when ill health forced him to step down in 2008. Over the course of that time, he changed Cuba from a republic to a communist state and became one of the most divisive leaders in the second half of the twentieth century. For some, he is a champion of humanitarianism, socialism, and environmentalism. For others, he is a monster and dictator who perpetuated human rights abuses at home and abroad.
Providing a rare, evenhanded account of Castro’s life, journalist Nick Caistor brings together interviews with people who have known Castro with discussion of the ideas that drove him. Caistor follows Castro’s life from his birth as the illegitimate son of a wealthy farmer in 1926 to the developing of his leftist, anti-imperialist ideas at the University of Havana and his primary role in the Cuban Revolution in the 1950s. He explores Castro’s economic and military alliance with the Soviet Union and his hostile relationship with the United States while also looking at how he simultaneously introduced free health care and education while squelching freedom of the press and suppressing dissidents. As Caistor shows, Castro’s numerous writings on politics, capitalism, and other topics have influenced leaders from Nelson Mandela to Hugo Chávez, but allegations of corruption, human rights abuses, and dictatorship never ceased during his long career.
Using stories and opinions to enliven the debate about Castro’s choices, strengths, and weaknesses, this concise biography gives readers the opportunity to judge for themselves how they feel about the former Cuban president.

157 pages | 30 halftones | 5 x 7 7/8 | © 2013

Critical Lives

Biography and Letters

Latin American Studies

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 “History’s verdict on Castro is yet to come, but Caistor has done a fine job laying out the arguments both for and against his longstanding claims to absolution. A fascinating, highly readable, and extremely well-balanced account.”

Jon Lee Anderson, author of Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life

“As former BBC Latin America analyst Nick Caistor writes in this highly readable and refreshingly balanced biography, Fidel Castro is an inimitable and complicated figure who, for better or worse, has forged a place in the pantheon of consequential leaders in the modern era. . . . A book that packs an enormous historical and analytical punch, despite being only around 150 pages long.” 

Survival: Global Politics and Strategy

“For those interested in learning more about Cuban history and the man behind the cigar-smoking, bearded icon, Nick Caistor’s new biography Fidel Castro should be of interest. It’s brief, flows smoothly through six decades, and outlines the development of Castro’s political consciousness and official ideology, from nationalism to communism and back again.” 


Table of Contents

1. Down on the Farm
2. Defying the Dictator
3. Making the Revolution
4. Missiles and Marxism
5. Revolution and the State
6. Losing the Plot
7. The Special Period
8. Time’s Wingèd Chariot
Conclusion: The Great Survivor
Select Bibliography
Photo Acknowledgements

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