Nov. 26, 2016
Fidel Castro has died at the age of 90, Cuban state television announced on Saturday, ending an era for the country and Latin America.
The revolutionary icon, one of the world’s best-known and most controversial leaders, survived countless US assassination attempts and premature obituaries, but in the end proved mortal after suffering a long battle with illness.
The announcement was long expected, given the former president’s age and health problems, but when it came it was still a shock: the comandante – a figurehead for armed struggle across the developing world – was no more. It was news that friends and foes had long dreaded and yearned for respectively.
Cuba’s former president Fidel Castro attends the closing ceremony of the seventh Cuban Communist Party (PCC) congress in Havana, Cuba, in this handout received The father of communist Cuba, Fidel Castro, died on Nov. 25, 2016, at the age of 90. The controversial and divisive world figure received several international awards and is recognized as a champion of socialism, anti-imperialism, and humanitarianism. Let’s take a look at the life of the revolutionary who ruled Cuba for almost five decades.
The Communist party and state apparatus has prepared for this moment since July 2006 when Castro underwent emergency intestinal surgery and ceded power to his brother, Raúl, who remains in charge.
Fidel wrote occasional columns for the party paper, Granma, and made very occasional public appearances – most recently at the 2016 Communist party congress – but otherwise remained invisible.
Confirmation of his death will trigger celebrations in Miami, the centre of Cuba’s exile community, and mourning among leftwing admirers around the world. For many Cubans on the island who grew up in his shadow, simultaneously respecting and resenting him, it will be a moment of profound ambivalence.
Fidel Castro speaks from a makeshift balcony draped with Cuban flags in Santa Clara en route to victorious entry into Havana.© Provided by Guardian News Fidel Castro speaks from a makeshift balcony draped with Cuban flags in Santa Clara en route to victorious entry into Havana.
One thing all could agree on was that this extraordinary figure left his mark on history.
More than half a century ago, his guerrilla army of “bearded ones” replaced Fulgencio Batista’s corrupt dictatorship with communist rule that challenged the US and turned the island into a cold-war crucible.
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, Raúl 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, ending more than five decades of hostility.
By Raúl’s own admission, however, Fidel is irreplaceable. By force of charisma, intellect and political cunning the lawyer-turned-guerrilla embodied the revolution. Long before his passing, however, Cubans had started to move on, with increased migration to the US and an explosion of small private businesses.
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.
A Havana man is reflected in a mirror hanging on his wall covered with photographs of (L to R) Raul Castro, Fidel Castro, and fellow revolutionary Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara.© Provided by Guardian News A Havana man is reflected in a mirror hanging on his wall covered with photographs of (L to R) Raul Castro, Fidel Castro, and fellow revolutionary Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara.
Since largely vanishing from public view he has been a spectral presence, occasionally surfacing in what became a trademark tracksuit, to urge faith in the revolution. It was a long goodbye which accustomed Cubans to his mortality.
Exiles in Florida, the heart of the diaspora which fled communist rule, are expected to celebrate. Previous false reports of Castro’s death triggered cavalcades of cheering, flag-waving revellers.
Latin America’s leftist leaders, in contrast, will mourn the passing of a figure who was perceived less as a communist and more as a nationalist symbol of regional pride and defiance against the gringo superpower. The funeral is expected to attract numerous foreign heads of state, intellectuals and artists.