Tears and Cheers: Fidel Castro's Death and Its Impact Around The World

On Friday November 25, the father of the revolution, Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz died at the age of 90, as announced by his brother President Raul Castro. While 9 days of national grief have been declared in Cuba, the whole world seems to take the news with shock. However this shock is ambiguous. While Castro’s death is seen as a terrible loss for some, it is seen as the beginning of a brighter future for the people of Cuba by others.

Fidel Castro, known for his role in the overthrow of the former Batista dictatorship, was without a doubt one of the most controversial political figures in Latin America. His political ideology, along with his ties to the Soviets, made Cuba a communist nation in 1961. This marked the start of a longstanding conflict between Cuba and the United States, resulting in an economic embargo that would persist for half a century. His opposition to the US gained him the support of other notable Latin American leaders such as Hugo Chavez and Evo Morales. Castro’s reign was not only characterized by his will to lead “the only country that will not bow to the US” by nationalizing the agricultural sector and investing in the education system, but also by the lack of human freedom and basic necessities the Castro government failed to provide. The crippling embargo caused major economic shortages in Cuba and severe repressions following any form of opposition. Hence, many Cubans sought exile in the US, despite Castro’s opposition. More than 260,000 Cubans left the island between 1965 and 1973, with Florida being their prime destination.

Despite their history of bad blood, starting in 2014, President Obama worked towards lifting the embargo and establishing meaningful diplomatic relations with Cuba. Hence, Obama’s visit to Havana in March 2016 to meet Raul and Fidel Castro signified the beginning of a breakthrough in US-Cuba relationships.

The reactions to Fidel Castro’s death are as controversial as his life has been. In Cuba, memorial ceremonies are happening all around the country. At the University of Havana, where Castro attended law school 70 years ago, people placed flowers and photos by a statue on the main steps of the college. A young woman stated that “the Cuban people are feeling sad because of the loss of our commander in chief Fidel Castro Ruz, and we wish him, wherever he is, that he is blessed, and us Cubans love him" (CNN). Other Latin American leaders also offer their sincere condolences to the people of Cuba, as they also mourn the loss of their mentor.

In the West however, people are more divided. On the one hand, the French President Hollande salutes his fight for the revolution and Justin Trudeau announced his “admiration for Castro’s devotion to the people of Cuba and the progress he created in the education system” (Journal de Montreal). Obama's statement reads that “history will record and judge the enormous impact of this singular figure” (Business Insider). On the other hand, President-Elect Trump “hopes that Castro’s death marks a move away from the horrors endured for too long and towards a future in which the wonderful Cuban people live in the freedom they so richly deserve” (Journal de Montreal).

Despite these high-profile statements, it is the Cubans living in Miami who attract the most attention. Indeed, at the break of the news, celebratory protests have been taking place in the streets of Miami. In Little Havana, generations of Cuban Americans bashed metal pots, blasted car horns and waved Cuban and American flags through the night as they celebrated the death of the man they knew as el monstruo – the monster. “This day, for me, is the most beautiful day of my life, the happiest day,” said Felix Puentes, a Little Havana resident who spent six years as a political prisoner in Cuba before finally escaping to the United States more than a decade ago (The Guardian). The joy of these people is not for death in itself, but for what it means for Cuba. For Cuban Americans, Castro’s death is a new beginning and a possibility for Cuba’s opening itself to the world.


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