In wake of Castro’s death, his legacy is debated – Washington Post

 In World
Just as they were during the long and sprawling life of Fidel Castro, global leaders were divided Saturday over the legacy of the late Cuban revolutionary leader, with some hailing him as a liberator and others cursing him as a dictator.

In Miami, the island’s exiles and their children and grandchildren took to the streets, banging pots and pans, waving American and Cuban flags, and celebrating in Spanish: “He’s dead! He’s dead!”

On Saturday morning in Havana, the streets were quiet in the hours after Castro’s brother and successor, President Raúl Castro, announced that the former dictator died at 10:29 p.m. Friday. He did not give a cause of death.

There were no immediate public moments of mourning, but nine-day period of mourning has been declared, heavy with revolutionary symbolism. Cuban state TV began airing marathon documentaries about Castro’s life and times.

News of the death of Cuba’s longtime dictator at the age of 90 triggered celebrations on the streets of Miami where many Cuban exiles have made their home. (Reuters)

Castro’s enemies have long imagined that his death would potentially produce a crisis on the island. But the government has had years to prepare for Castro’s death. Ill health forced Castro to renounce his executive functions in 2006, and his brother, Raúl, 85, has been running Cuba since then.

Castro, who struggled for years with a mysterious ailment, prepared his people for his approaching death in April, while addressing the Communist Party of Cuba.

“I’ll be 90 years old soon,” Castro told his comrades. “Soon I’ll be like all the others.”

In the speech, Castro defended his legacy: “The time will come for all of us, but the ideas of the Cuban Communists will remain as proof on this planet that if they are worked at with fervor and dignity, they can produce the material and cultural goods that human beings need, and we need to fight without a truce to obtain them.”

Castro defied the will of 10 U.S. presidents before President Obama held out an olive branch this year that included a visit to Cuba and a resumption of travel from the United States. American tourists are now pouring in; there are direct flights from Miami.

President-elect Donald Trump, who has been critical of the normalization of relations with Cuba, responded early Saturday with a succinct tweet: “Fidel Castro is dead!”

He later issued a news release, calling Castro a “brutal dictator who oppressed his own people for nearly six decades,” and that his legacy is “one of firing squads, theft, unimaginable suffering, poverty and the denial of fundamental human rights.”

Trump said that he hoped the Cuban people could now move to a future of freedom.

“Though the tragedies, deaths and pain caused by Fidel Castro cannot be erased, our administration will do all it can to ensure the Cuban people can finally begin their journey toward prosperity and liberty,” Trump said.

Obama seemed to take the middle path. “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,” the president said in a statement.

Obama noted the long and acrimonious history. “For nearly six decades, the relationship between the United States and Cuba was marked by discord and profound political disagreements,” he said. “During my presidency, we have worked hard to put the past behind us, pursuing a future in which the relationship between our two countries is defined not by our differences but by the many things that we share as neighbors and friends — bonds of family, culture, commerce, and common humanity.”

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), however, said the focus should not be on Castro, but those who have suffered under the Castro regime.

“Now that Fidel Castro is dead, the cruelty and oppression of his regime should die with him,” Ryan said in a statement. “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.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) released a similar statement:

“While Fidel Castro is gone, sadly the oppression that was the hallmark of his era is not. It is my hope that the Cuban regime will use this opportunity to turn the page for the good of the Cuban people and for all those living in the Americas. Freedom and democracy are long overdue in Cuba.”

But across Latin America, leaders spoke mostly kind words. Some stirred with revolutionary passion; others employed more diplomatic language. All acknowledged the iconic role of Castro in the region’s history.

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto hailed Castro as “a friend of Mexico, a promoter of a bilateral relation based on respect, dialogue and solidarity.”

The president of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro, said that 60 years after Castro and a small band of fighters set sail aboard a fishing yacht called Granma, from Mexico to Cuba, to launch the revolution, “Fidel has joined the immortals.”

Maduro — whose own revolution has imploded since the death of predecessor and Castro ally Hugo Chávez and the onset of hard economic times — said Castro’s death should inspire “all us revolutionaries to honor his legacy.”

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