A LEG­END DIES, BUT HIS LEGACY LIVES ON

Rev­o­lu­tion­ary’s in­flu­ence still felt in Cuba and across Latin Amer­ica

China Daily (USA) - - FIDEL CASTRO - By XIN­HUA

Fidel Castro, the rev­o­lu­tion­ary leader and for­mer Cuban pres­i­dent, was born on Aug 13, 1926, into a wealthy fam­ily in Bi­ran, north­east­ern Cuba.

The son of Span­ish landowner An­gel Castro and Lina Ruz, a young ser­vant, he demon­strated ath­letic abil­i­ties, out­stand­ing in­tel­li­gence and a pas­sion for de­fend­ing so­cial jus­tice from an early age.

He at­tended pri­vate school be­fore en­rolling at the Univer­sity of Ha­vana to study law in 1945. Five years later, when he grad­u­ated, he had ac­quired a po­lit­i­cal aware­ness that led him to de­velop anti-im­pe­ri­al­ist ideas closely re­lated to Marx­ist val­ues.

In 1953, he was sen­tenced to 15 years in prison af­ter a mil­i­tary oper­a­tion he launched on July 26 against then-Cuban dic­ta­tor Ful­gen­cio Batista failed, but he was re­leased due to a pres­i­den­tial par­don in­May 1955.

A four-hour speech he made in court dur­ing his trial, later pub­lished as His­tory Will Ab­solve Me, be­came the man­i­festo of Cuba’s rev­o­lu­tion­ary move­ment and made him a lead­ing fig­ure in that move­ment.

On his re­lease, Castro or­ga­nized the 26th of Ju­lyMove­ment and fled to Mex­ico, where he was joined by other ex­iled rev­o­lu­tion­ar­ies, in­clud­ing his brother Raul, Ernesto “Che” Gue­vara and Camilo Cien­fue­gos. To­gether, they formed a guer­rilla force to over­throw Batista.

In De­cem­ber 1956, he re­turned to Cuba along with 81 other men aboard a small Granma yacht. Castro and 11 oth­ers then headed for the Sierra Maes­tra moun­tains, where they started the Cuban rev­o­lu­tion­ary war.

In Jan­uary 1959, when the rev­o­lu­tion­ary forces marched into Ha­vana, the cap­i­tal, Batista fled for Spain.

Af­ter be­com­ing the head of the rev­o­lu­tion­ary govern­ment and armed forces, Castro launched a series of re­forms, in­clud­ing the na­tion­al­iza­tion of in­dus­tries and banks, land re­form, a na­tion­wide lit­er­acy cam­paign, and the ex­pro­pri­a­tion of com­pa­nies from the United States.

In 1961, he de­clared Cuba a so­cial­ist coun­try, and in 1965, he be­came first sec­re­tary of the Com­mu­nist Party of Cuba, which merged the 26th of July Move­ment and other po­lit­i­cal and rev­o­lu­tion­ary groups.

His poli­cies met with strong op­po­si­tion from the US, which sev­ered diplo­matic ties with the is­land na­tion, or­ga­nized mil­i­tary of­fen­sives and im­posed sanc­tions. Castro sur­vived sev­eral at­tempts by the US to as­sas­si­nate him.

In 2006, af­ter lead­ing Cuba for nearly half a cen­tury, he stepped down as pres­i­dent for health rea­sons. He was suc­ceeded by Raul Castro.

Fidel Castro spent the fi­nal years of his life largely out of the public eye, writ­ing ed­i­to­ri­als on world af­fairs for Granma, Cuba’s of­fi­cial daily newspaper, and re­ceiv­ing dig­ni­taries at his home in­Ha­vana.

He is cred­ited with in­spir­ing a new gen­er­a­tion of po­lit­i­cal lead­ers in­Latin Amer­ica, in­clud­ing in Bo­livia, Venezuela and Ecuador.

His legacy can also be seen in Cuba’s univer­sal health­care and ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem, as well as its world-class biotech­nol­ogy and phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal in­dus­try.

hold flow­ers in front of a por­trait of Fidel Castro at the Cuban em­bassy in Bo­gota, Colom­bia, on Satur­day.

GUILLERMO LEGARIA / AFP

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