The death of the infamous Cuban leader Fidel Castro sparked a wide range of reactions.
In the United States, it was marked by widespread celebration. Many Americans understood Castro in the context of the brutal violence and oppression he inflicted upon the Cuban people. During his rule, he ordered the deaths of thousands of Cuban citizens via extra-judicial orders and was responsible for a number of human rights abuses. Many of the Cubans who had fled to the U.S. during his regime viewed his death as closure for both their suffering and the suffering of their friends and family.
In addition, Cubans now living in America viewed Castro as a wicked man who lied to them about the possibility of making their lives better under communism. Following the Cuban Revolution, Castro had used his passion, charisma, and promises of prosperity to rally the Cuban people after overthrowing the U.S.-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista. As it turns out, a number of Castro’s policies did more to harm the Cuban people than to help them. As former Florida Governor Jeb Bush argued, Cuba in the absence of Castro can now be “truly free and democratic.”
However, several international figures, such as French President Francois Hollande, mourned Castro’s death, praising him as a “towering figure in the 20th Century.” Vladimir Putin of Russia, Jacob Zuma of South Africa, Rafael Correa of Ecuador, Evo Morales of Bolivia, Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela, and former U.S.S.R. leader Mikhail Gorbachev have also publicly displayed their appreciation for Castro. In particular, his supporters praise him as a champion of socialism and anti-imperialism whose revolutionary regime secured Cuba's independence from American domination.
The question that remains: do the people of Cuba still admire and support Castro as much as they did during his revolution 57 years ago? It might appear so. Reports from Cuba have produced only messages of mourning and sadness over the death of their beloved “Commandante.” But, the Cuban state controls the media, so it is likely that dissenting opinions would be quashed.
Moving forward, the United States can allow its strained relations with Cuba to die alongside Castro. After giving the Cuban people time to mourn their “Commandante,” U.S. leaders should attempt to foster friendlier relations and help the country move in a more positive direction. As a result of Castro’s anti-globalization policies, Cuba is still stuck in the 1960s. With the help of America and the rest of the world, it can finally enter the 21st century.