“The commander in chief of the Cuban revolution died at 22:29 hours this evening,” his brother, President Raul Castro, his brother, announced with a shaking voice on national television.
Who is Fidel Castro and why is the U.S demonizing him?
Castro was born on August 13, 1926 to a Spanish immigrant father and a Cuban mother. Despite the mixed reactions to his death, one thing all could agree on was that this extraordinary figure had left his mark on history.
Castro famously led a guerrilla campaign that gained popular support and ousted US-backed Cuban dictator General Fulgencio Batista on January 1, 1959. He was then named prime minister. Leading a Communist Cuba, Castro broke off diplomatic ties with the Capitalist United States in 1961 and expropriated US companies’ assets totaling more than one billion dollars. Castro’s rejection of foreign interference in Cuba was a source of “pride” for the Cuban people.
The US began imposing crippling sanctions on Cuba, which the country survived even as poverty rose. Hostilities continued between the Cold War-era adversaries — although lately in words only — until July 2015, when the two countries resumed diplomatic ties and reopened embassies.
Castro ruled Cuba for five decades, until 2006, when he temporarily ceded power to his brother Raul because he had to undergo surgery. The transfer of power became official in 2008. During his revolutionary life, the United States’ spy agency, the CIA, attempted to assassinate him numerous times.
Castro himself said he survived 634 attempts or plots to assassinate him, mainly masterminded by the CIA or US-based exile organizations. Such attempts may have included poison pills, a toxic cigar, exploding mollusks, and a chemically tainted diving suit, among other things.
He has been a larger-than-life figure who inspired a revolutionary movement all over the world, especially in Latin America.
His government produced tens of thousands of doctors and teachers and some of the lowest infant mortality and illiteracy rates in the Western hemisphere. The US had tried for years to topple the Cuban government. Cuba stumbled along, even after the collapse of its chief sponsor, the former Soviet Union.
On December 17, 2014, Obama announced that the US planned to renew diplomatic ties with Cuba and loosen some trade and travel restrictions. As part of the deal he struck with Cuba, the US agreed to send three Cuban spies back to the island in exchange for jailed American development worker Alan Gross and Rolando Sarraff Trujillo, a Cuban agent who spied for the CIA.
Though the U.S. trying to demonize Fidel Castro, he will remain one of the most controversial figures of the twentieth century.
He fended off a CIA-backed invasion at the Bay of Pigs in 1961 as well as many assassination attempts. His alliance with Moscow helped trigger the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, a 13-day showdown with the US that brought the world closer to the brink of nuclear war than it has ever been.
The US had long counted on Castro’s mortality as a “biological solution” to communism in the Caribbean but, since officially succeeding his brother in 2008, Ra?l has cemented his own authority while overseeing cautious economic reforms, and agreeing the momentous deal to restore diplomatic relations between Cuba and the US in late 2014.
He will remain forever as the symbol of national dignity that has always stood on the side of the oppressed and who gave his support to all the peoples who fought for their emancipation.
Fidel Castro’s greatest legacy
His greatest legacy is free healthcare and education, which have given Cuba some of the region’s best human development statistics. But he is also responsible for the central planning blunders and stifling government controls that – along with the US embargo – have strangled the economy, leaving most Cubans scrabbling for decent food and desperate for better living standards.
The man who famously declared “history will absolve me” leaves a divided legacy. Older Cubans who remember brutal times under Batista tend to emphasise the revolution’s accomplishments. Younger Cubans are more likely to rail against gerontocracy, repression and lost opportunity. But even they refer to Castro by the more intimate name of Fidel.
Public Figures reaction
Pope Francis is the latest public figure to respond to the death of Fidel Castro. The leader of the Catholic church, who met Castro when he visited Cuba last year, described it as “sad news”, added: “I express to you my sentiments of grief.”