Cuba's Fidel Castro Dies At 90, Remembered As Polarizing Revolutionary
FILE – In this Feb. 13, 1961 file photo provided by Cuba’s government, Cuba’s leader Fidel Castro cuts sugar cane in an unknown location in Cuba. Castro has died at age 90. President Raul Castro said on state television that his older brother died late Friday, Nov. 25, 2016. (Cuban Government via AP, File) (Associated Press)
Fidel Castro, former President of Cuba and one of the most controversial leaders in history, has died at age 90 – and has been just as polarizing as he was while he was alive.
His death was announced on Cuban state TV by younger brother and successor Raúl Castro. Fidel Castro’s cause of death has not been revealed yet, but he has had debilitating health for several years.
Fidel Castro was the leader of 1959’s Cuban Revolution, which ousted Cuban President Fulgencio Batista and put the country into a socialist state. He served 49 years as the Cuban president, the world record for any non-royal leader. BBC reports that he survived 638 assassination attempts.
Castro has been one of the world’s most complicated figures, with devotees and critics who are equally passionate.
His supporters have praised him as a revolutionary who championed for the poor, bravely fought against U.S. imperialism, and protected political prisoners like former Black Panther Party member Assata Shakur. His detractors have portrayed him as a tyrant who deprived Cubans of human rights like free speech and freedom of assembly, and who executed and imprisoned his political opponents. He formally resigned from office on Feb. 19, 2008.
After years of an embargo between the United States and Cuba, in December 2014, U.S. President Barack Obama and Raúl Castro announced that they were working to normalize relations between the two countries.
News of Fidel death continued such disparate perceptions of his legacy. “History will record and judge the enormous impact of this singular figure on the people and world around him,” President Barack Obama said in a statement, before acknowledging the United States’ contentious relationship with Castro and the country of Cuba. “During my presidency, we have worked hard to put the past behind us,” he wrote.
According to Associated Press, Russian President Vladimir Putin “called Castro ‘a sincere and reliable friend of Russia” who had built “an inspiring example for many countries and nations.'” Salvador Sanchez Ceren, president of El Salvador, said he felt “deep sorrow … of my friend and eternal companion, Commander Fidel Castro Ruz.” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, according to Reuters: “A legendary revolutionary and orator, Mr. Castro made significant improvements to the education and healthcare of his island nation. While a controversial figure, both Mr. Castro’s supporters and detractors recognized his tremendous dedication and love for the Cuban people who had a deep and lasting affection for “el Comandante.”
U.S. President-elect Donald Trump released a statement that read, in part: “Today, the world marks the passing of a brutal dictator who oppressed his own people for nearly six decades. Fidel Castro’s legacy is one of firing squads, theft, unimaginable suffering, poverty and the denial of fundamental human rights.” Vice President-elect Mike Pence tweeted, “The tyrant Castro is dead. New hope dawns. We will stand with the oppressed Cuban people for a free and democratic Cuba. Viva Cuba Libre!” Speaker of the House of Representatives Paul Ryan released a statement that read: “Now that Fidel Castro is dead, the cruelty and oppression of his regime should die with him. Sadly, much work remains to secure the freedom of the Cuban people, and the United States must be fully committed to that work. Today let us reflect on the memory and sacrifices of all those who have suffered under the Castros.”