Fidel Castro, the former leader of Communist Cuba, has died at age 90 following several years of ill health.
Castro, who lived to see a Communist sit in the White House in America, was implicated by at least some conspiracy theorists as responsible for the assassination of American president John F. Kennedy in 1963.
Relations with the U.S. were normalized to a degree last year by American President Barack Obama, believed by many to be a Communist himself. However, at the time of his death, Castro’s Cuba was still reeling from the effects of a long-term hostile American foreign policy toward the island nation that sits 90 miles off the coast of Florida.
Excerpt from Bloomberg
Fidel Castro, who established a communist regime in Cuba that survived the collapse of the Soviet Union, inspired revolutionary movements and brought two superpowers close to nuclear war before stepping down after 49 years in power, has died. He was 90.
The former leader died at 10:29 p.m. Friday local time, his brother President Raul Castro, who has ruled the country since 2006, said on state media Nov. 25. He will be cremated early on Saturday.
Reaction to his death, like his life, was deeply divided. World leaders including South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and several Latin American politicians issued statements and tweets highlighting Castro’s achievements and extolling his virtues.
“To all the revolutionaries of the world, we have to continue with his legacy and his flag of independence, of socialism, of homeland,” tweeted Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro.
At the same time, crowds of exiled Cubans and their supporters gathered on the streets of Miami to celebrate the passing of a sometimes unyielding ruler who divided families and ruled with an iron fist. Havana, meanwhile, remained quiet.
French President Francois Hollande wrote in a statement that Castro “embodied the Cuban revolution, in the hopes it had aroused and then in the disillusions it had provoked” and expressed his condolences to Raoul, his family and the Cuban people.
One of the world’s longest-serving political leaders, Fidel Castro led rebel forces that wrested control of Cuba from Fulgencio Batista in 1959. As prime minister and then president, Castro boosted literacy and health care for the island’s poor, while imprisoning thousands of dissidents, seizing private property and sparking an exodus of Cubans who braved dangerous waters on homemade rafts to reach U.S. shores.
It’s not yet clear how Castro’s passing will impact the delicate detente between the U.S. and Cuba. Relations between the two countries have thawed since 2014, with President Barack Obama visiting Cuba this year and promising to ease sanctions that have crippled the island’s economy for half a century. However, on the campaign trail President-elect Donald Trump criticized Obama for making “concessions” to the regime.
In 1962, U.S. President John F. Kennedy imposed a trade embargo, which was continued under successive U.S. leaders, depriving Cuba of its largest trade partner and starving the economy of dollars. In 2014, the government claimed the U.S. embargo had cost the island $117 billion.
From 1960 to 1965, the CIA mounted at least eight assassination plots against Castro, according to the 1975 report of a U.S. Senate committee headed by Senator Frank Church, a Democrat from Idaho.
“I’ve survived 600 attempts on my life,” Castro said in Cordoba, Argentina, in July 2006.
The Bay of Pigs invasion was authorized by President John F. Kennedy. On April 17, 1961, refugees armed by the CIA staged an amphibious landing at the bay on the island’s southwest coast with the goal of sparking an uprising. Castro’s forces killed more than 100 invaders and captured more than 1,100. He released the prisoners after securing a ransom from the U.S. of $53 million worth of food and medicine.
Eighteen months later, photographs taken by a U.S. spy plane showed Castro had allowed the Soviet Union to build nuclear-missile bases in Cuba. The discovery marked the start of the Cuban Missile Crisis, 13 days during which the world stared down “the gun barrel of nuclear war,” in the words of Kennedy speechwriter Theodore Sorensen.
Kennedy imposed a naval blockade on Cuba and ordered nuclear weapons loaded onto aircraft.
After almost two weeks of crisis, Kennedy offered to secretly withdraw U.S. missiles from Turkey and Italy if the Soviet Union withdrew its missiles from Cuba. The next day, Radio Moscow broadcast a statement by Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev that the weapons would be dismantled.
While Cuba’s economy stagnated over the next decades, Castro sent military forces to support guerrilla movements in developing countries throughout the 1970s and 1980s, often clashing with U.S.-backed governments.
During Castro’s period in power, tens of thousands fled Cuba, mainly to the U.S., where they established anti-Castro communities in South Florida and the New York area.
Castro’s most enduring legacy involves his turning the American state of Florida into an Hispanic enclave because of all the Cubans who fled the island who settled in Florida.
Castro is also symbolic of the Latin American strong man leader. Western democracy has never really taken root in Latin America, no matter what the political science professors say. Fidel was just another dictator. The difference is that he had the good fortune to avoid assassination and/or being overthrown by the CIA.