In response to the victory by Che Guevara at the Battle of Santa Clara, the U.S.-backed President Fulgencio Batista fled Cuba in the early morning of 1 January 1959. After Batista's fall, Raúl had the task of overseeing trials and execution of scores (between 30 and 70) of soldiers loyal to deposed president Batista convicted of war crimes.
Along with ensuring "revolutionary justice", the other key early platform of Guevara was establishing agrarian land reform. Almost immediately after the success of the revolution, on January 27, 1959, Guevara made one of his most significant speeches where he talked about "the social ideas of the rebel army".
The presidency fell to Castro's chosen candidate, the lawyer Manuel Urrutia Lleó, while members of the MR-26-7 took control of most positions in the cabinet. On 16 February 1959, Castro himself took on the role of Prime Minister. Dismissing the need for elections, Castro proclaimed the new administration an example of direct democracy, in which the Cuban populace could assemble en masse at demonstrations and express their democratic will to him personally. Critics instead condemned the new regime as un-democratic.
At a secret meeting in the Jinjiang Hotel in Shanghai dated March 25, 1959, Mao specifically ordered the party to procure up to one third of all the grain, much more than had ever been the case. At the meeting he announced that "To distribute resources evenly will only ruin the Great Leap Forward. When there is not enough to eat, people starve to death. It is better to let half of the people die so that the other half can eat their fill."
On April 4, 1959, Genovese was convicted in New York of conspiracy to violate federal narcotics laws. Sent to prison for 15 years, Genovese tried to run his crime family from prison until his death in 1969. Meanwhile, Gambino now became the most powerful man in the Cosa Nostra.
On June 12, 1959, Castro sent Guevara out on a three-month tour of 14 mostly Bandung Pact countries (Morocco, Sudan, Egypt, Syria, Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Burma, Thailand, Indonesia, Japan, Yugoslavia, Greece) and the cities of Singapore and Hong Kong.
At the Lushan Conference in July/August 1959, several ministers expressed concern that the Great Leap Forward had not proved as successful as planned. The most direct of these was Minister of Defence and Korean War veteran General Peng Dehuai. Following Peng's criticism of the Great Leap Forward, Mao orchestrated a purge of Peng and his supporters, stifling criticism of the Great Leap policies. Senior officials who reported the truth of the famine to Mao were branded as "right opportunists."
In July 1959 President Eisenhower sent Nixon to the Soviet Union for the opening of the American National Exhibition in Moscow. On July 24, Nixon was touring the exhibits with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev when the two stopped at a model of an American kitchen and engaged in an impromptu exchange about the merits of capitalism versus communism that became known as the "Kitchen Debate".
On 1 November 1959 Dominique Mbonyumutwa, a Hutu sub-chief, was attacked close to his home in Byimana, Gitarama prefecture, by supporters of the pro-Tutsi party. Mbonyumutwa survived, but rumours began spreading that he had been killed.