By Jennifer Amspacher
Fidel Castro was 90 years old when he died on November 25, 2016. He was frail and sickly, yet his death still came to the world as a shock. Fidel Castro was President of Cuba from December 2, 1976 to February 24, 2008, when he resigned and gave power to his brother, Raúl Castro. Not only did he hold Presidency in Cuba for 47 years, Castro was first a law student at University of Havana– then rebel, revolutionary, self-proclaimed anti-imperialist and pro-soviet socialist; labeled as a fearsome dictator by critics and as an everlasting legend and icon by his supporters. The late Fidel Castro, no matter how you view him, was indubitably one of the most politically influential figures in Latin American history.
Fidel Castro has always held an interesting position in world politics– one of seclusion and defiance. This status of isolation stemmed from Castro’s obsession with the United States, and the States’ reciprocal obsession with him. The United States found itself consumed with extinguishing the threat of a spreading of communism into the Western Hemisphere, especially as Cuba was the first communist state within the Western Hemisphere. Once, when posed with the question of how Castro would respond to United States’ President Ronald Reagan’s statement that Castro was a “ruthless dictator”, Castro responded “If his power includes something as monstrously undemocratic as the ability to order a thermonuclear war, I ask you,who then is more of a dictator, the president of the United States or I?”. Fidel Castro consistently maintained a challenging and critical view of the United States throughout his reign, and this resistant attitude caused what has been called “ the most dangerous moment in human history”, the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, when Fidel Castro allowed the construction of Soviet nuclear missile bases in Cuba. Though the crisis fizzled out quickly, the world was left shaken at what seemed to be a close brush with nuclear war.
Cuba, now, finds itself dazed and confused. On the day of Castro’s death, the once lively streets of Havana were quieted. Cubans were neither found celebrating or lamenting Castro’s death, but rather seemed tentative, cautious, and uncertain. A Cuba under Castro was all that many have ever known. A local 51 year old woman of Havana, G raciela Martinez, gives insight to the way that Cubans had viewed Castro, stating that “ … for those who loved him, he was the greatest. For those who hated him, there was no one worse”. Cuban exiles in the Little Havana neighborhood of Miami, however, were seen c elebrating the death of Fidel Castro. Many videos on social media featured Cuban-Americans and Cuban exiles popping bottles of champagne in a toast to the event, starkly contrasting the solemn atmosphere in Havana, Cuba.
Many world leaders have reacted to the death of Fidel Castro — President-elect Donald Trump released an initial statement acknowledging Castro’s death, followed by another statement saying, “it is my hope that today marks a move away from the horrors endured for too long, and toward a future in which the wonderful Cuban people finally live in the freedom they so richly deserve”. Mike Pence has also made a statement on the matter, posting on Twitter, “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!”
One of the more controversial reactions to the death of Fidel Castro was that of Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau. Trudeau r eleased a statement mourning the loss of a “remarkable leader”, which sparked several angry reactions– most notably f rom United States Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Marco Rubio (R-FL), who are both of Cuban descent. Rubio retorted to Trudeau’s statement, “Is this a real statement or a parody? Because if this is a real statement from the PM of Canada it is shameful & embarrassing”, while Cruz labeled the Canadian Prime Minister’s statement as “disgraceful”, then going further by providing a link to a website of an organization that condemns the human rights violations of communist regimes and provides support for their victims.
Now that Fidel Castro has passed, Raúl Castro has come out with the statement that he will step down from power in 2018. Who the next president will be still remains uncertain. Many who follow Raul Castro closely suspect that the future President of Cuba m ay be one of six close connections in Raul Castro’s inner circle. These connections include Alejandro Castro Espin, Raúl Castro’s son, and General Luis Alberto Rodriguez Lopez-Callejas, powerful president of a holding company closely involved in the Cuban military’s interests. General Luis Alberto Rodriguez Lopez-Callejas also happens to be the father to two of Raúl Castro’s grandchildren.
Whilst there is much uncertainty with the future of Cuba, there is one thing that is certain– and that is that the death of Fidel Castro c ould lead to a potential turning point for Cuba. The proposition of the removal of the Cuban embargo via attempts by President Obama
to better U.S.-Cuban relations, with actions in 2014 such as lifting travel restrictions, and his v isit to Cuba in March of 2016 point to the potential thawing of relations between the two countries.
However, President-elect Donald Trump criticized Obama’s take on Cuba, calling the 2014 agreement to restore U.S.-Cuban relations “ very weak”. With the Presidential transition of Donald Trump, we can only wait and see what the future stores– and it certainly seems as though Trump will be taking a much more firm stance on U.S.-Cuban relations than that of President Obama.