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1961: Victorious Castro bans elections

Cuba's prime minister, Dr Fidel Castro, has proclaimed Cuba a socialist nation and abolished elections.

Hundreds of thousands of Cubans attending a May Day parade in the capital Havana roared with approval when their leader announced: "The revolution has no time for elections. There is no more democratic government in Latin America than the revolutionary government."


"If Mr Kennedy does not like Socialism, we do not like imperialism. We do not like capitalism."

Fidel Castro

Dr Castro, who came to power in January 1959 after the overthrow of dictator Fulgencio Batista y Zaldívar, criticised America's fear of a new socialist republic so near US territory.

He said: "If Mr Kennedy does not like Socialism, we do not like imperialism. We do not like capitalism.

"We have as much right to complain about the existence of a capitalist imperialist regime 90 miles from our coast as he has to complain about a socialist regime 90 miles from his coast."

Dr Castro also announced that foreign Roman Catholic priests would be expelled and all Roman Catholic and private schools would be nationalised.

Cubans had reason to celebrate this May Day. Last month Castro's troops foiled an attempted invasion of the island by Cuban exiles supported by the USA. The invasion force of 1,300 men landed at Bahía de Cochinos (Bay of Pigs) but was rapidly defeated.

The days that followed saw thousands of anti-Castro rebels confined in makeshift prisons and at least 600 executed. The Cuban secret service, G2, is still interrogating possible "counter-revolutionaries".

According to BBC correspondent Erik de Mauny who arrived in Miami today by plane with Cuban refugees, Castro's revolution seems to be popular with the peasants if not with the wealthier classes who have seen their land and property confiscated.

Our correspondent says the failed invasion has strengthened Castro's hold on power and could inspire socialist rebels in other parts of the Americas. "The Castro regime has created a model to which many famished eyes throughout Latin America are inevitably drawn," he reports.

In Context
On 28 October 1962, the world came to the brink of nuclear war when the USSR positioned nuclear weapons capable of reaching the USA on the island. The so-called Cuban missile crisis was defused when the two superpowers agreed a deal whereby the missiles would be dismantled and a blockade on Cuba lifted.

US fears that the Cuban revolution would spread to other Latin American countries were not unfounded. In 1967 Castro's right-hand man Che Guevara was caught and killed in Bolivia.

In 1980, tens of thousands of Cubans arrived in the USA on makeshift rafts and boats after Castro encouraged dissidents to leave. Most were granted political asylum.

Although Cuba remained politically independent from the Soviet Union, the Cuban economy relied on billions of dollars in Soviet aid.

With the collapse of the USSR in 1991, the Cuban government had to open up the country to foreign investment and to promote tourism.

Castro remains a symbol of social justice for many Cubans.


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