News of the death of Cuban leader Fidel Castro has inspired reflections and debate about an ironic and controversial revolutionary leader.
Shortly after the Cuban government’s announcement of Castro’s Friday death, Cuban exiles in Miami, Florida, took to the streets in celebration. Some were draped in Cuban flags, other danced in the streets, some dazed in disbelief that this day – so long wished for – was finally here.
“Cuba si! Castro no!” people chanted in the streets, while others screamed “Cuba libre!”
Forty-year-old financial executive Gabriel Morales, whose parents left Cuba decades ago, said the news of Castro’s death “seems unreal.”
Carlos Lopez, in Miami, told the Miami Herald, “We are not celebrating one man’s death, but the death of an ideology. We are celebrating that little piece of liberty we got back today.”
“The day that the people, both inside the island and out, have waited for has arrived: a tyrant is dead and a new beginning can dawn on the last remaining communist bastion of the Western hemisphere,” U.S. Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who represents Florida’s 27th district, said in a statement.
On the Island
Reaction on the island, slow to emerge because many citizens were asleep at the time of the government’s announcement, was mixed.
“I am very upset. Whatever you want to say, he is public figure that the whole world respected and loved,” said Havana student Sariel Valdespino.
On Twitter, Gloria La Riva said, “His legacy will endure because he leaves a strong country of true revolutionaries, people who have given of themselves countless times as medical workers, as teachers, as construction workers, as combatants, all for humanity…”
World Marks Passing of 20th Century Icon
Reaction among world leaders was mixed.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon offered the support of the UN to the people of Cuba during spoken remarks at a sustainable transportation conference in Turkmenistan.
“Under the former president Castro, Cuba made advances in the fields of education, literacy and health. I hope that Cuba will continue to advance on a path of reform and greater prosperity,” Ban said.
Nicolas Maduro, president of Venezuela, said he spoke to Raul Castro, Fidel’s brother, to convey solidarity with the Cubans.
Spanish President Mariano Rajoy Brey gave his condolences to Cuba and called Castro “a figure of historical significance.”
Similarly, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi called Castro “one of the most iconic personalities of the 20th centruy.”
“India mourns the loss of a great friend,” Modi said on Twitter.
British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson tweeted to say, “Fidel #Castro’s death marks the end of an era for #Cuba & the start of a new one for Cuba’s people.”
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said “the world has lost a man who was a hero for many… his legacy will be judged by history.”
Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto said on Twitter, “I lament the death of Fidel Castro Ruz, leader of the Cuban revolution and emblematic reference of the 20th century.”
French President Francois Hollande called Castro a towering figure of the 20th century.
“I want, on the occasion of the death of Fidel Castro to again insist that the embargo that punishes Cuba should be lifted definitively (and that) Cuba should be fully regarded as a partner in the international community,” said Hollande during a summit in Madagascar.
Russian President Vladimir Putin also praised Castro as a symbol of an era.
“Free and independent Cuba, which he (Fidel Castro) and his allies built, became an influential member of the international community and became an inspiring example for many countries and nations. Fidel Castro was a sincere and reliable friend of Russia.”
Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev hailed Castro for “strengthening” his island nation.
“Fidel stood up and strengthened his country during the harshest American blockade when there was colossal pressure on him and he still took his country out of this blockade to a path of independent development,” Interfax news agency quoted Gorbachev as saying.
Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter said he and his wife Rosalynn “fondly remember our visits with him in Cuba and his love of his country.” In a statement, Carter said he wishes the Cuban citizens peace and prosperity in the years ahead.
“A brutal dictator” has died, U.S. President-elect Donald Trump said, citing what he called Castro’s legacy of “firing squads, theft, unimaginable suffering, poverty and the denial of fundamental human rights.”
Trump went on to praise the support of the Cuban-American group of veterans who fought in the failed CIA-backed attempted invasion of the Bay of Pigs in 1961. The episode has been considered a fiasco for U.S. policy ever since.
But then Trump suggested that Castro’s death marked a turning point and opened a future in which Cubans, “can finally begin their journey toward prosperity and liberty.”
At this time of Fidel Castro’s passing, we extend a hand of friendship to the Cuban people. We know that this moment fills Cubans – in Cuba and in the United States – with powerful emotions, recalling the countless ways in which Fidel Castro altered the course of individual lives, families, and of the Cuban nation. History will record and judge the enormous impact of this singular figure on the people and world around him. – U.S. President Obama