Fidel Castro died at the age of 90, outlasting most of his Cold War adversaries. But he lived to see Cuba achieving normalized relations with the United States, something he didn’t seem to completely approve of. That was the doing of his brother Raul, to whom Fidel surrendered power ten years ago.
Fidel remains a romanticized and idealized figure for some on the left. (See, for example, the recent case of 49ers’ quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s Castro T-shirt.) But the Communist dictator was responsible for killing thousands of Cubans, including brutal repression of Christianity.
Fidel Castro, whose Cuban revolution turned his Caribbean island into a potent symbol of the world’s greatest ideological and economic divides of the 20th century, has died, Cuban state media announced early Saturday. He was 90.
The death was announced on Cuban state TV by Castro’s younger brother, Raul, who succeeded his brother years ago as the country’s leader.
The son of a prosperous sugar planter, Mr. Castro took power in Cuba on New Year’s Day 1959 promising to share his nation’s wealth with its poorest citizens, who had suffered under the corrupt quarter-century dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista.Mr. Castro, a romantic figure in olive-drab fatigues and combat boots, chomping monstrous cigars through a bushy black beard, became a spiritual beacon for the world’s political far left.
To his legion of followers, Mr. Castro was a hero who demanded a fair deal for the world’s poor and wasn’t afraid to point his pistol at the powerful to get it. His admirers said he educated, fed and provided health care to his own people, as well as to the poor in other countries, more fairly and generously than the world’s wealthy nations, most notably what he called the “Colossus to the North.”
But one of the world’s longest-serving heads of state was as loathed as he was loved. He was among the world’s most repressive leaders, a self-appointed president-for-life who banned free speech, freedom of assembly and a free press and executed or jailed thousands of political opponents.
He abolished Christmas as an official holiday for nearly 30 years. While he dispatched Cuban-educated doctors and Cuban-developed vaccines to the poorest corners of Latin America, Cubans in central Havana found pharmacy shelves empty of medicine, and many lived in apartments in which they used buckets in their kitchens as toilets.
Photo: Usuario discusión:Ecemaml/Diciembre 2007, Creative Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0.