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Fidel Castro, Former President of Cuba Has Died at Age 90

Fidel Castro, Former President of Cuba Has Died at Age 90

Fidel Castro died on Saturday, November 25, 2016. Cuban citizens were made aware when Raul Castro, Fidel’s brother and current president of Cuba, announced the news on state television. With his health worsening ten years prior, Fidel stepped down after an intestinal illness threatened his life.

Fidel's passing will do little to change  U.S. Cuba relations. Tensions between the two countries run deep. Starting with the coup Fidel led in 1959 to overthrow former Cuban president Fulgencio Batista (supported by the U.S. government), to the failed U.S. Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961, U.S. – Cuba relations have remained highly complicated for decades. After the overthrow of Batista, Fidel controlled Cuba for nearly 50 years, before relinquishing authority to his brother, Raul.  

From the perspective of many Cubans exiled in the U.S., Fidel was an unbearably harsh despot who compelled their departure. Most Cuban exiles in the U.S. were from wealthier backgrounds and were fortunate to own land. They largely opposed Fidel’s revolution and believed “Castro stole their farms” (amongst other property). This view of the former president is not shared worldwide. Americans are usually surprised to learn the enigmatic figure was beloved across the globe, especially for his hatred of racial divisions and work to terminate the practice in Cuba. Castro courageously offered asylum to foreign revolutionaries like Joanne Chesimard, known today as Assata Shakur,  fighting injustice and police brutality in their home countries. Younger generations of Cuban-Americans share a view more akin to Cubans still living in Cuba - one of appreciation and understanding of the ideals he carried to the grave.

Recognizing the failure of a half century’s long trade embargo, President Obama and his administration worked tirelessly to normalize relations with the island nation. Younger Cuban-Americans support Obama's normalization efforts, as many remain closely connected to their families still living abroad. As mentioned above, Castro still has many detractors (mostly former members of the bourgeoisie who lost land and power during the coup) that will never forgive the revolution. But this remains a minority position. Except in the U.S., Castro will be remembered as a revolutionary.

At this time, the cause of death is unknown.  Raul ended his message in the video with a nationalistic call, “Ever onward, to victory!”

*Note: The embedded video is a recording of Raul Castro informing Cuba and the world of his brother Fidel's death. 

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