TIME Revolution

When Fidel Castro Took Power: How TIME Covered the News

The Jan. 26, 1959, cover of TIME
Fidel Castro on the Jan. 26, 1959, cover of TIME Cover Credit: BORIS CHALIAPIN

Castro was on the cover of the magazine three weeks after he seized control of Cuba

When Fidel Castro first ousted Fulgencio Batista at the turn of 1959, there weren’t many non-Cuban journalists there to see it happen — but TIME’s Bruce Henderson was there, and he was soon joined by Bernard Diederich, who would later cover the Caribbean for the magazine. Their presence meant that, throughout that January, TIME’s “Hemispheres” section carried up-to-the-minute news about the changes on the island.

As Diederich recalls in his book 1959: The Year That Changed Our World, the assignment was an unusual one:

Henderson assigned me to cover Fidel’s arrival in Havana. I leaped onto a tank with a group of 26th of July female fighters and rode in Fidel’s wake into Camp Columbia, once the bastion of Batista’s army. It was January 8. Rodríguez Echazábel was already at the camp headquarters when I arrived. My Santiago-issued laissez-passer did wonders too. I was introduced to bearded rebel comandante (Maj.)Maj. Camilo Cienfuegos to whom I explained my challenging assignment. Time would want a full description of Fidèl’s first night in Havana. Would the 26th of July leader choose to dance, date, or dive into bed after his arduous trip up the island from the Sierra Maestra to Havana. Camilo smiled broadly when I also told him that I needed to know the color of Fidèl’s pajamas—if he wore them!

Though those “female fighters” were the subject of a story in the Jan. 19, 1959, issue, Castro’s pajamas did not. (Actually, his blue cotton PJs did get their moment, but it wasn’t until that May.)

However, Castro got even more focus from TIME the following week, when he was featured on the cover of the magazine, in a story that focused on matters a lot more important than his sleepwear choices. Rather, the article opened with Castro pushing for the executions of those who had abetted the Batista regime:

…Castro was in no mood for mercy. “They are criminals,” he said. “Everybody knows that. We give them a fair trial. Mothers come in and say, ‘This man killed my son.’ ” To demonstrate, Castro offered to stage the courts-martial in Havana’s Central Park—an unlikely spot for cool justice but perfect for a modern-day Madame Defarge.

In the trials rebels acted as prosecutor, defender and judge. Verdicts, quickly reached, were as quickly carried out. In Santiago the show was under the personal command of Fidel’s brother Raul, 28, a slit-eyed man who had already executed 30 “informers” during two years of guerrilla war. Raul’s firing squads worked in relays, and they worked hour after hour. Said Raul: “There’s always a priest on hand to hear the last confession.”

Read the full 1959 cover story, free of charge, here in the TIME archives: The Vengeful Visionary

TIME conflict

U.S. Kills 3 ISIS Leaders in Iraq Strikes, Officials Say

ISIS Jihadi
A member loyal to ISIS waves an ISIS flag in Raqqa June 29, 2014. Reuters

The three killed were mid- to high-level leaders of ISIS

Three leaders of ISIS have been killed by American air strikes in Iraq in the past month and a half, U.S. defense officials said Thursday.

They were identified as Haji Mutazz, a deputy to the ISIS leader; Abd al-Basit, the top military commander; and Radwin Talib, who is in control of ISIS in Iraq. They were described as mid- to high-level leaders.

One official called the deaths of Mutazz and al-Basit in particular a “serious blow to ISIS command and control.” The official said that the setback may be temporary because ISIS has plenty of willing replacements…

Read the story from our partners at NBC News

TIME Palestine

Palestinians Set Deadline for Israeli Occupation

Switzerland Palestinians Geneva Convention
Swiss Ambassador and chairman Paul Fivat speaks to the media during a press conference following the Conference of High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention, in Geneva, Switzerland, Dec. 17, 2014. Salvatore Di Nolfi—‚AP

The resolution also welcomes the idea of holding an international conference to launch negotiations on reaching a peace agreement

(UNITED NATIONS) — Israel suffered back-to-back diplomatic setbacks in Europe on Wednesday, while the Palestinians at the United Nations set a deadline for an Israeli withdrawal from lands captured nearly 50 years ago by the end of 2017.

In Geneva, the international community delivered a stinging rebuke to Israel’s settlement construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, saying the practice violates Israel’s responsibilities as an occupying power.

The declaration adopted by the conference of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which governs the rules of war and military occupation, emphasized a prohibition on colonizing occupied land and insisted that international humanitarian law be obeyed in areas affected by the conflict between Israel and Palestinians. It called for “all serious violations” to be investigated and those responsible for breaches to be brought to justice.

“This is a signal and we can hope that words count,” said Swiss ambassador Paul Fivat, who chaired the one-day meeting. The U.S. and Israel did not take part.

Israel’s U.N. Mission blasted the gathering, saying: “It confers legitimacy on terrorist organizations and dictatorial regimes wherever they are, while condemning a democratic country fighting terrorism in accordance with international law.”

In Luxembourg, meanwhile, a European Union court ordered the Palestinian group Hamas removed from the EU terrorist list for procedural reasons but said the 28-nation bloc can maintain asset freezes against Hamas members for now.

The Islamic militant group, which calls for the destruction of Israel, hailed the decision, but Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed outrage.

“It seems that too many in Europe, on whose soil 6 million Jews were slaughtered, have learned nothing,” Netanyahu said, adding that Israel would continue to defend itself “against the forces of terror and tyranny and hypocrisy.”

The EU court ruled that the terrorist listing of Hamas was based on press and Internet reports and not on “acts examined and confirmed in decisions of competent authorities.”

The EU, which has two months to appeal, was considering its next step.

In New York, an Arab-backed draft resolution on ending Israel’s occupation of lands captured in 1967 was submitted Wednesday evening to the U.N. Security Council for a possible vote, Palestinian Ambassador Riyad Mansour said.

However, Mansour said the Arab-backed resolution does not close the door on further negotiations on the issue, including with the United States, “if they are ready and willing.” The U.S., as a permanent council member, often has vetoed measures targeting Israel in the past.

And Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki earlier said the actual vote might be put off, suggesting a compromise is in the works to avoid a clash in the council.

The draft, sponsored by Jordan on behalf of the Palestinians, sets the end of 2017 as a deadline for an Israeli withdrawal from war-won lands the Palestinians are seeking for a state. The deadline has been pushed back from that of November 2016 in the earlier draft.

Israel fiercely opposes any suggestions that the Security Council can set a framework for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, which broke down again in the spring after the two sides couldn’t agree on the ground rules.

The resolution also welcomes the idea of holding an international conference to launch negotiations on reaching a peace agreement.

The United States was scrambling Wednesday to avert a showdown at the Security Council. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was talking to European and Arab foreign ministers about a potential meeting this weekend in the Mideast, possibly with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the Obama administration is studying the EU’s court decision but the U.S. continues to consider Hamas as a terrorist organization.

The U.S. hasn’t said how it would respond to the Jordanian resolution, but Kerry took a hard line in meetings this week in Europe against any effort that could interfere with Israel’s elections in mid-March.

“We want to find the most constructive way of doing something that therefore will not have unintended consequences, but also can stem the violence,” Kerry told reporters in London on Tuesday. He said the situation marks “a particularly sensitive moment” given rising tensions between Israel and Palestinians.

Israel did one win diplomatic engagement in Europe on Wednesday, this one at the European Parliament. The lawmakers meeting in Strasbourg, France, stopped short of pushing for an outright recognition of a Palestinian state, urging renewed peace talks instead.

Legislators voted 498-88 in favor of a compromise resolution supporting “in principle recognition of Palestinian statehood” — but as part of a two-state solution with Israel. The resolution supports two states on the basis of 1967 borders, with Jerusalem as the capital of both.


Dahlburg reported from Brussels. Associated Press writers John Heilprin reported from Geneva, Mohammed Daraghmen in Ramallah, West Bank; Peter Enav in Jerusalem; Fares Akram in Gaza City, Gaza Strip; Angela Charlton in Paris; Cara Anna at the United Nations and Lara Jakes in Washington contributed to this report.

TIME conflict

Why Did the U.S. and Cuba Sever Diplomatic Ties in the First Place?

Fidel Castro cover
The Jan. 26, 1959, cover of TIME Cover Credit: BORIS CHALIAPIN

Diplomacy between the two neighbors has been strained for decades

On Wednesday, U.S. President Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro announced that the two nations are on their way to restoring diplomatic relations. Obama, speaking of the change, said that the two nations are not served by a policy rooted in events that took place a half century ago.

But what exactly did happen back then?

It was actually over half a century ago that Fidel Castro led Cuban rebels against Cuba’s strongman leader Fulgencio Batista, if you count from when Castro led revolutionaries to the island in late 1956. (He had been involved in anti-Batista efforts for several years before that, too.) Though early reports on the movement speak of Castro and his supporters as underdogs with no hope of victory, as 1959 dawned, they proved victorious. America watched with interest, but it wasn’t long before it became clear that Castro’s Cuba would not be an easygoing neighbor to the United States.

As Castro purged Cuba of Batista supporters, he declined to institute the democratic reforms that many had hoped for. Initially, the revolution had not been overtly Communist, but Castro moved further toward that ideology as his rule went on. In the middle of 1959, he instituted wealth-distribution and land-confiscation programs; that July, TIME reported that a former Cuban official had said that “Cuba’s No. 1 Communist… is Fidel himself.”

In a Cold War world, the rise of Communism in a nation so close to Florida was not taken lightly. Though the U.S. ambassador to Cuba, Philip W. Bonsal, did finally manage to meet with Castro that September, their discussions — partly concerned with arrests of U.S. citizens in Cuba and the government confiscation of some U.S. investments in Cuba — proved fruitless.

In the United Nations, Cuba began to stand with Communist nations against the U.S.; in Cuba, the ruling regime encouraged anti-U.S. sentiments; in early 1960, the U.S.S.R. instituted a trade-and-aid deal with Cuba; U.S. sugar producers pushed for the nation to stop buying sugar from Cuba; Castro accused the U.S. of sabotaging a ship that blew up in Havana’s harbor. The details of changes in Cuba and the U.S. reaction to those developments are complicated and often conflicting, but suffice it to say that TIME called that period a “rapidly deteriorating situation that sees Cuban-American relations reach a new low each day.”

Eventually, in late October of 1960, the U.S. imposed a strict embargo barring two-thirds of American imports from Cuba, which before then had been buying a whopping 70% of its imports from the United States. As the two nations sparred over economics, Ambassador Bonsal was recalled from Cuba, after which point both embassies — Cuba’s in D.C. and America’s in Havana — were left to be headed by chargés, which meant, TIME pointed out, that “diplomacy between the two nations will become as difficult as commerce.”

In the weeks that followed, as rumors of a possible invasion by the U.S. spread throughout Cuba, people began to line up at the U.S. embassy seeking visas to leave the island. The daily lines became an embarrassment to the Castro regime but the rumors only increased as time went on. When Castro later demanded that the two countries have the exact same number of staffers in their respective embassies (11), the U.S. brought its entire staff home instead.

The crowds were still waiting when, early in January of 1961, the embassy closed its doors; there were more than 50,000 visa applications on file at the time. As TIME reported:

The crowd of desperate Cubans swarming around the U.S. embassy in Havana refused to believe that the doors were locked and that no more visas could be issued. One man hammered on the glass, waving his U.S. Army discharge papers. A woman with a broken leg was held up piteously to the scurrying U.S. staff workers inside. “But you are the humane people! You are the humane people!” a woman pleaded, grabbing a U.S. consular official as government photographers stood near snapping pictures of those who wanted to flee Castro’s Cuba.

The U.S. could not help them—at the moment. After two years of harassment. President Eisenhower ordered the State Department to break all diplomatic ties, at both the embassy and consular level, for the first time in the history of U.S.-Latin American relations. To most Americans the wonder was that the U.S. had stood it so long.

The only place in Cuba where a U.S. presence remained would be the naval base at Guantanamo Bay; a few weeks later, the U.S. announced a decision to all end travel to Cuba. Early 1961 proved to be the end of one phase of U.S.-Cuba relations, and the beginning of another, more openly combative, phase — and this week may well mark the beginning of the next.

Read TIME’s 1959 cover story about Fidel Castro’s rebellion, here in the TIME Vault: Fidel Castro

TIME Ukraine

As Ukraine Truce Holds, Russia Vows Economic Pain

Petro Poroshenko
Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko walks along the World War I Honour Roll during his visit to the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, Australia, Dec. 12, 2014. Lukas Coch—AP

The Kremlin wants to maintain leverage over its neighbor as a means of keeping it from ever joining NATO

(KIEV, UKRAINE) — Fighting in eastern Ukraine between government troops and Russian-backed separatist forces has ground almost to halt. That should be good news for Ukraine, but Russia looks intent to pile on the economic misery.

In a detailed op-ed piece Monday, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev painted a grim forecast of Russian economic blockades ahead as Ukraine embarks on closer integration with Europe.

“The Ukrainian government has made its choice. And even if our neighbors have a poor understanding of the ultimate price they will have to pay, that is their right,” Medvedev said.

Those ominous words came as a renewed truce in east Ukraine called for by President Petro Poroshenko isholding — barring sporadic violations — since it began last week.

More than 4,700 people have been killed since the conflict broke out in mid-April, U.N. rights investigators estimate — and more than a quarter of those deaths came after a cease-fire in September that was routinely ignored.

Ukrainian authorities are hopeful, saying more peace talks are on the horizon.

The intensity of attacks on government-held areas has reduced notably and is now limited to mortar and small arms fire, military spokesman Andriy Lysenko said Monday. Separatists who have often accused government forces of breaking the truce agreed that violence has reduced dramatically.

Changes on the ground appear to reflect shifts on the diplomatic front.

While supporting the separatists, Moscow has said it accepts the rebellious east should remain part of Ukraine. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told the state news agency RIA-Novosti last week that pro-Russian separatists were prepared to re-enter a “common economic, humanitarian and political space” withUkraine.

That position reflects the Kremlin’s desire to maintain leverage over its neighbor as a means of keeping it from ever joining NATO.

Although the separatist leadership in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions publicly deny that they taking orders from Moscow, rebel officials privately concede the Kremlin plays a direct role in their decision-making. Lavrov’s comments suggest an easing of staunch secessionist positions.

A few weeks ago, rebel leaders were vowing to expand the territory under their control. But last week, separatists in Luhansk made a show of withdrawing heavy weaponry from the front line.

The next expected development is a prisoner exchange, which a senior rebel leader in Donetsk, Alexander Khodakovsky, suggested Monday could begin on Dec. 25.

Poroshenko has expressed satisfaction with the reduced carnage.

“I positively assess the cease-fire regime. This has enabled the strengthening of Ukrainian positions and resupply of servicemen on the line of defense,” he said.

But peace on the military front may serve only as prelude to economic hostility.

In his 5,600-word opinion piece Monday in the Moscow-based newspaper Nezavisimaya Gazeta, Medvedev outlined a new “pragmatic” chapter in relations with Ukraine.

“In plain Russian, dealing with Ukraine ‘pragmatically’ means giving it no quarter. Russia’s economicapproach to Ukraine will get tougher,” Dmitry Trenin, who heads the Carnegie Moscow Center, wrote in a Twitter post.

Medvedev wrote that Ukraine has been unhealthily reliant on Moscow for too long; adding that as of last spring, Russian orders from Ukrainian companies were valued at $15 billion, or 8.3 percent of Ukraine’sGross Domestic Product.

“Nobody in Ukraine has explained to us, or themselves, how these orders will be replaced,” he wrote.

Ukraine remains heavily dependent on Russian natural gas and industries in eastern Ukraine are still tightly intertwined with those in western Russia. Ukraine has had to go cap in hand to Russia recently for electricity supplies, as its power plants lack enough coal.

Medvedev also said a closer eye will be paid to Ukrainian citizens traveling to Russia for work — an ominous suggestion that this economic lifeline could be drastically tightened.

Ukrainian officials have put a brave face on those veiled threats.

“Everything that was possible to cut off has already been cut off by Russia,” said Valeriy Chaliy, deputy head of the Ukrainian presidential administration.

He said Ukraine has been pressing hard to diversify the markets for its exports.

“Not all roads lead to Russia,” Chaliy said. “Ukraine has other neighbors with which collaboration is possible without fear of getting stabbed in the back at any moment.”

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden spoke by phone with Poroshenko on Monday to discuss “Ukraine’s financial and energy situation and developments in eastern Ukraine,” according to a readout released by Biden’s office.

Biden said the United States remains committed to working with international partners “to ensure thatUkraine will have the macroeconomic support it needs” to implement its reform program.

TIME Ukraine

‘Fragile’ Ukraine Truce Leads to First Casualty-Free Day

Petro Poroshenko
Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko places a poppy in the World War I Honour Roll during a visit to the Australian War Memorial in Canberra on Dec. 12, 2014 Jason Reed—AP

The Ukrainian President called for a long-standing truce after a cease-fire signed in September failed

A tentative truce between government forces and pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine has resulted in the first 24 hours free from deaths and injuries since a civil conflict began in February, the Ukrainian President said Friday.

The cease-fire began on Tuesday after President Petro Poroshenko called for a “day of silence,” the Associated Press reports.

“This is only 24 hours — everything is so fragile,” he said. “But I pray that we should continue this process. And if we will be united, we will win, no doubt.”

The Ukrainian President made the comments during a three-day visit to Australia.

More then 4,300 people have been killed and hundreds of thousands displaced in the conflict.


TIME conflict

How TIME Covered the ‘Date Which Will Live in Infamy’

Franklin D. Roosevelt
President Franklin D. Roosevelt (wearing black armband) signing declaration of war as others look on, following Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor Thomas D. McAvoy—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty

It was on Dec. 8, 1941, that the U.S. declared war on Japan

President Franklin Roosevelt’s words to Congress at what would be the start of the U.S.’s entry into World War II turned out to be a self-fulfilling prophecy: “”Yesterday, Dec. 7, 1941—a date which will live in infamy…”

On that date, the U.S. had been attacked by Japan at Pearl Harbor — and on this date, Dec. 8, the U.S. declared war. The news came, as TIME noted in the next issue of the magazine, “after 22 years and 25 days of peace.”

Here’s what TIME had to say about FDR’s speech:

When he said: “Always will our whole nation remember the character of the onslaught against us,” the room roared with a cry of vengeance. “No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion,” continued the President, “the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory.” At this, the biggest cheers of the day. “We will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost but will make it very certain that this form of treachery shall never again endanger us. . . . We will gain the inevitable triumph—so help us God. I ask that the Congress declare . . . a state of war. . . .” The President left the House. Members began roaring impatiently: “Vote! Vote! Vote!” The Speaker gaveled for order. The Senate left.

The President had arrived at 12:12 p.m. At 1 p.m. exactly the Senate passed the declaration of war, 82-to-0. (There were 13 absentees, Washington-bound by train and plane, and one vacancy.)

The House, listening with marked impatience to get-right speeches by the G.O.P.’s Leader Joe Martin and Ham Fish, received with a whoop the identical Senate bill, adopted it as a substitute. The vote: 388-to-1.

Read the full article here, in the TIME Vault: National Ordeal

TIME Syria

Syria Claims Israel Made Two Air Strikes Near Damascus

The minarets of mosques and the steeples of churches are seen towering above rooftops in the Syrian capital, Damascus, on June 26, 2013 Louai Beshara—AFP/Getty Images

Munitions warehouse could have been the target according to U.K.-based observer group

Syria accused Israel of carrying out two air strikes near its capital Damascus on Sunday.

The Syrian army made a statement on state television claiming that Israeli aircraft dropped bombs close to Damascus airport as well as on the nearby suburb of al-Dimas, the Associated Press reports.

The Israeli military has not admitted to the strikes and said on Sunday it would not rely on “foreign reports.”

At least 10 explosions were heard in the area, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, based in London. The organization also said an airport warehouse apparently targeted by bombs contained weapons, but it is not clear whether the weapons belong to the Syrian army or to militant group Hizballah.

Israel has launched several air strikes in Syria since the civil war began there in 2011, specifically targeted at weapons it believes are being supplied to Hizballah.

TIME conflict

This Vintage Map Shows What Happened After Pearl Harbor

A look at the first issue of TIME published after the World War II attack


On a desktop, roll over to zoom. On mobile, click.

The Dec. 15, 1941, issue of TIME must have gone to press just a day or two after the Dec. 7 attack on Pearl Harbor, and the task facing those who had to write about the event was, in some ways, the same task facing the rest of the nation: figuring out how to understand what had happened. “In every part of the U.S. the terse, inadequate words gave outward and visible signs of the unfinished emotions within,” as TIME put it.

The issue goes on to describe President Franklin Roosevelt’s speech of Dec. 8, 1941, about that “date which will live in infamy,” and the details of what had happened in Hawaii. But it also looks at what happened in the days after the attack. The map above will remind modern readers that while Pearl Harbor was the target we remember, it was not alone. Locations throughout the South Pacific were involved in the events of early December 1941 — and, as TIME’s editors couldn’t have yet known, those of the weeks and months and years to follow.

Read the full issue here, in the TIME Vault: Dec. 15, 1941

Photos from LIFE: After Pearl Harbor

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