After years of dealing with failing health, Fidel Castro, leader of the Cuban revolution who steered the country through decades of a US economic blockade, has died, state media report.
Castro died in Havana on Friday at 10:29pm local time, Cuban television said. His death was announced by his brother Raul, who took the reins after Fidel stepped down.
“According to the will expressed by comrade Fidel, his body will be cremated”, Raul said.
Castro led the country from 1959 to 2006, when an intestinal condition nearly led to his death. He ceded power to his brother first provisionally, and then formally in 2008. In his last years, he mostly stayed out of the public eye, only occasionally providing commentary on events in Cuba.
His passing marks the end of an era for many. Castro was the last remaining leader from the group of old school communist leaders including Chinese Mao Zedong, Korean Kim Il-sung and Soviets Nikita Khrushchev and Leonid Brezhnev.
Dictator or national hero, Castro was called many things along the way, as he rose from being a student activist protesting against oppressive regimes to becoming the president of Cuba.
In February 1959, the Cuban Revolution brought Castro to power as the prime minister. He was backed by the so-called 26th of July Movement, and Latin American revolutionary Che Guevara. Together, they managed to oust US-backed President Batista.
After failing to maintain ties with Washington, Cuba became isolated from its neighbor as the US chose to cut all trade links with the Caribbean state. In 1961, the island nation fended off a CIA-backed invasion known as the Bay of Pigs.
Upon taking office, Castro quickly found a new ally, as the Soviet Union supplied Cuba with arms, cars, and industrial equipment to keep it running.
But the nations’ alliance brought more than mutual benefits. Cuba and Russia became key players in the Cuban Missile Crisis – arguably the most dangerous confrontation of the Cold War, which almost ended in a nuclear show-down.
In October 1962, Castro agreed to house Soviet nuclear missiles on Cuban territory, a move that followed the deployment of US missiles in Turkey. Washington was furious over the development, and pledged to use force if necessary to prevent it. The countries’ leaders, Kennedy and Khrushchev, eventually agreed to a compromise.
The US government has always been open about its feelings toward communist Cuba. It remains unknown how many times the CIA tried to assassinate Castro, but some Cuban officials set the number as high as 600. This figure includes the notorious incident when Castro’s cigarettes were found to be stuffed with explosives.
After passing power to his brother Raul, Fidel was still considered the main moral authority in Cuba. Occasionally, he also met with foreign dignitaries like Pope Francis in 2015 and Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill in February.
Under Raul’s leadership, Cuba has experienced a slow transformation as he has introduced some market-style economic reforms in the largely socialist country. He also agreed to restore diplomatic ties with the United States in December, taking a step away from decades of rivalry. Fidel was skeptical about the rapprochement, but did not oppose it.
9 Instances of Fidel Castro and Cubans Helping Black People Fight Colonialism and White Supremacy
Cuba Prevented South African Apartheid Regime From Taking Over Angola
In October of 1975, South Africa invaded Angola with the support of the U.S. government to overthrow the left-wing Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) in the soon-to-be independent country.
In 1988, Cuban troops intervened again and also convinced the Soviet Union to back the People’s Armed Forces for the Liberation of Angola (FAPLA) offensive against UNITA, which was supported by South Africa.
The impact of the victory of Black Cuban and Angolan soldiers resonated far beyond the battlefield and is credited to have lead to the overturning of white minority rule in southern Africa and the later collapse of the Apartheid Regime in South Africa, ultimately shattering of the illusion of white invincibility.
Cuba Provided Assistance in ANC’s Fight Against Apartheid
Cuba under Castro opposed apartheid and supported the African National Congress (ANC). While in Angola, the Caribbean country provided a territorial base of support to the military wing of the African National Congress (ANC), which was exiled by the Apartheid regime. By 1990, succumbing to increased international pressures, South African President F. W. de Klerk reinstated the ANC and released Nelson Mandela.
Cuba Provided Amnesty to Assata Shakur
Fidel Castro granted amnesty to Joanne Chesimard, known now as Assata Shakur, because she stood up against racial oppression and injustice in the U.S., where she is still wanted for the 1973 killing of a New Jersey state trooper, Werner Foerster. Shakur was convicted under highly questionable procedures in 1979, but with the help of comrades, she managed to break out of prison and flee to Cuba, where she remains protected from the U.S. government.
Castro Supported Black American Business
When he came to New York in 1960 for a United Nations meeting, Castro got upset at the management of the hotel where he was staying, the Shelburne. Dissatisfied, the Cuban leader packed his bags and stormed out of the hotel with his entourage. They went to the Theresa Hotel in Harlem, where he thought people would be more sympathetic with his cause. He drew large crowds of Harlemites as he famously leaned out of the window of the hotel and waved to Black residents.
Cuba Backed Venezuela Against U.S. Sanctions
Even post-Castro Cuba stood up against white supremacy by backing Venezuela and galvanizing opposition throughout Latin America against Washington’s sanctions and threats against the government of President Nicolás Maduro. The Cuban leadership, under Fidel’s brother Raul, forced the Obama administration to back off its harsh position against the Venezuelan people.
Cuba Offers Free Medical School to Blacks
In 2000 Castro announced that Cuba would provide free medical training to hundreds of low-income Americans. The late Rev. Lucius Walker, former executive director of the Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization, the New York-based group that facilitates the program stateside, said Castro’s scholarship offer wouldn’t be necessary if American medical schools opened their doors wider to disadvantaged minorities.
“Cuba didn’t create the discrimination against Black people [by] U.S. medical schools,” Walker said. “That’s a U.S. phenomenon.”
Cuba Sent Troops to Fight Against U.S. Invasion of Grenada
Cuban soldiers were deployed in Grenada during the invasion of the tiny Caribbean island by U.S. troops in 1983. The Cuban government sent troops there to support the Black power and socialist inspired government ran by Maurice Bishop, leader of the New Jewel Movement, which brought about improvements to Grenada’s social and economic infrastructure. The U.S. felt threatened by this movement of Black self-determination and moved to overthrow the New Jewel Movement in Grenada
Cuban Medical Internationalism Provides Medical Personnel to the Developing World
Cuban Medical Internationalism is the Cuban program, since the 1959 Cuban Revolution, of sending Cuban medical personnel overseas, particularly to Latin America, Africa and, more recently, Oceania. Cuba provides more medical personnel to the developing world than all of the G8 countries combined. The program was started by sending medical personnel to help support the anti-colonial wars in Algeria, Guinea-Bissau, Angola and other African nations.
When natural disasters strike, Cuba provides humanitarian efforts all over the world, including helping with the medical crisis in Haiti due to the 2010 earthquake. In response to Hurricane Katrina, Cuba prepared to send 1,500 doctors to the New Orleans where the victims were predominantly African-Americans, although the offer was refused by the U. S. government. While western governments appeared more focused on stopping the epidemic at their borders, Cuba lead the fight against Ebola in West Africa, according to an Oct.