End of an era as Cas­tro dies; Amir sends con­do­lences

Kuwait Times - - FRONT PAGE -

Cuban rev­o­lu­tion­ary leader Fidel Cas­tro has died aged 90, prompt­ing mixed grief and joy yes­ter­day along with in­ter­na­tional trib­utes for the man whose iron-fisted rule de­fied the United States for half a cen­tury. One of the world’s long­est-serv­ing rulers and among mod­ern his­tory’s most strik­ing personalities, Cas­tro sur­vived 11 US ad­min­is­tra­tions and hun­dreds of as­sas­si­na­tion at­tempts. Fidel Cas­tro crushed op­po­si­tion at home from the mo­ment he took power in 1959 to lead the Caribbean is­land through the Cold War. He stepped aside only in 2006 af­ter in­testi­nal surgery.

For de­fend­ers of the rev­o­lu­tion, Cas­tro was a hero who pro­tected or­di­nary peo­ple against cap­i­tal­ist dom­i­na­tion. To op­po­nents, in­clud­ing thou­sands of Cuban ex­iles liv­ing in the United States, he was a cruel com­mu­nist tyrant. Cas­tro even­tu­ally lived to see the restora­tion of diplo­matic ties with Wash­ing­ton last year.

Pres­i­dent Raul Cas­tro, who took power af­ter his el­der brother Fidel was hos­pi­tal­ized in 2006, an­nounced the news on na­tional tele­vi­sion just af­ter mid­night Fri­day (0500 GMT yes­ter­day). “The com­man­der in chief of the Cuban rev­o­lu­tion died at 22:29 hours this evening,” Raul Cas­tro said in a solemn voice. He gave no de­tails of the cause of death. He said his brother would be cre­mated early yes­ter­day. The govern­ment de­creed nine days of mourn­ing.

From Nov 26 to Dec 4, “pub­lic ac­tiv­i­ties and shows will cease, the na­tional flag will fly at half­mast on pub­lic build­ings and mil­i­tary in­stal­la­tions,” said a state­ment from the state ex­ec­u­tive. Cas­tro’s ashes will be buried in the south­east­ern city of San­ti­ago on Dec 4 af­ter a four-day pro­ces­sion through the coun­try, it added.

Joy in Mi­ami, Grief in Ha­vana

In the streets of Mi­ami, home to the bulk of the Cuban-Amer­i­can com­mu­nity, eu­phoric crowds waved flags and danced, bang­ing on pots and drums and honk­ing their car horns. “It’s sad that one finds joy in the death of a per­son but that per­son should never have been born,” said Pablo Aren­cibia, 67, a teacher who fled Cuba 20 years ago. “Satan is now the one who has to worry,” he added, be­cause “Fidel is head­ing there and is go­ing to try to get his job.” Cas­tro was loathed by many for sti­fling dis­sent, but loved by oth­ers for pro­vid­ing free uni­ver­sal health­care and ed­u­ca­tion. “Los­ing Fidel is like los­ing a fa­ther - the guide, the bea­con of this rev­o­lu­tion,” said Michel Rodriguez, a 42-year-old baker in Ha­vana.

‘So­cial­ism or Death’

Fidel Cas­tro came to power in 1959 as a black-bearded, ci­gar-chomp­ing 32-year-old, in a rev­o­lu­tion against for­mer dic­ta­tor Ful­gen­cio Batista. “When this war is over, a much longer greater war will be­gin: the war that I am go­ing to wage against them,” the United States, he had said in 1958. “That will be my true des­tiny.” Liv­ing by the slo­gan “so­cial­ism or death,” Cas­tro kept the faith to the end, even as the Cold War came and went.

He en­dured more than 600 as­sas­si­na­tion at­tempts, ac­cord­ing to his aides, and the dis­as­trous US-backed Bay of Pigs in­va­sion at­tempt in 1961. “If I am con­sid­ered a myth, the United States de­serves the credit,” he said in 1988. Cas­tro was at the cen­ter of the Cuban Mis­sile Cri­sis in 1962, as the world stood on the brink of nu­clear war.

Rev­o­lu­tion

Born Aug 13, 1926 to a pros­per­ous Span­ish im­mi­grant landowner and a Cuban mother of hum­ble back­ground, Cas­tro was said to be a quick learner and a keen base­ball player. His formed a guer­rilla op­po­si­tion to the US-backed govern­ment of Batista, who had seized power in a 1952 coup. Af­ter a failed up­ris­ing in 1953, Cas­tro was put on trial. In a self-de­fense speech he said de­fi­antly: “His­tory will ab­solve me.” Af­ter two years of prison Cas­tro went into ex­ile in Mex­ico and or­ga­nized fol­low­ers for their ul­ti­mately tri­umphant up­ris­ing.

On Dec 2, 1956 the rebels sailed to south­east­ern Cuba on the yacht Granma. Twenty-five months later, they ousted Batista and Cas­tro was named prime min­is­ter. He threw Cuba’s lot in with the Soviet Union, which bankrolled his regime un­til 1989, when the East­ern Bloc’s col­lapse sent Cuba’s econ­omy plung­ing.

Ceded Power

Fidel ceded power to his younger brother Raul, now 85, in July 2006. The rev­o­lu­tion­ary icon un­der­went in­testi­nal surgery and largely dis­ap­peared from pub­lic view. Cas­tro mar­ried three times and is known to have fa­thered eight chil­dren. He was last seen in pub­lic on his 90th birth­day on Aug 13. — AFP

This file photo taken on April 02, 1989 shows then Gen­eral Sec­re­tary of the Com­mu­nist Party of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gor­bachev (stand­ing left) and Cas­tro (stand­ing right) greet­ing on­look­ers en route from the air­port upon Gor­bachev’s ar­rival in Ha­vana.

This file photo taken in the 1960s shows Cas­tro (left) light­ing a ci­gar while lis­ten­ing to Ar­gen­tinian rev­o­lu­tion­ary Ernesto Che Gue­vara.

This file photo taken on Sept 04, 1986 shows Libyan leader Muam­mar Gaddafi (cen­ter) and Cas­tro walk­ing along with Nicaraguan Pres­i­dent Daniel Ortega (left) dur­ing the non-aligned coun­tries sum­mit, in Harare, Zim­babwe.

This file photo taken on Nov 16, 1999 shows Cas­tro try­ing on a pair of sun­glasses as he talks to the me­dia in Ha­vana dur­ing the IX Iberoamer­i­can Sum­mit.

This file photo taken on Dec 14, 1974 shows Palestine Lib­er­a­tion Or­ga­ni­za­tion (PLO) chair­man Yasser Arafat (right) walk­ing with Cas­tro dur­ing his visit to Cuba.

This file photo taken on Jan 8, 1989 shows a white dove land­ing on Cuban pres­i­dent Fidel Cas­tro’s shoul­der as he de­liv­ers a speech to Cuban youth at a cer­e­mony to com­mem­o­rate the 30th an­niver­sary of the Cuban Rev­o­lu­tion in Ha­vana. — AP/AFP pho­tos

This file photo taken on Sept 02, 1998 shows South African Pres­i­dent Nel­son Man­dela greet­ing Cas­tro as he ar­rives for the open­ing of the 12th Non-Aligned Move­ment sum­mit in Dur­ban.

This file photo taken on Sept 9, 1973 shows then Syr­ian Pres­i­dent Hafez AlAs­sad (left) speak­ing with Cas­tro dur­ing a meet­ing in Da­m­as­cus.

In this May 15, 1960 file photo, Amer­i­can nov­el­ist Ernest Hem­ing­way (right) stands with Cas­tro who holds a tro­phy af­ter win­ning the in­di­vid­ual cham­pi­onship in the an­nual Hem­ing­way Fish­ing Tour­na­ment in Ha­vana.

This Oct 13, 2016 photo shows Cas­tro (right) shak­ing hands with Al­ge­ria’s Prime Min­is­ter Ab­del­malek Sel­lal, in one of the last pic­tures taken of Cas­tro be­fore he died, in Ha­vana.

This file photo taken on July 11, 1972 shows Cas­tro (cen­ter) wear­ing a miner’s dress of Ko­tow­ice dur­ing his of­fi­cial visit to Poland.

This Jan 01, 1956 file photo shows Cas­tro stand­ing be­hind bars at the Miguel Schultz prison in the Mex­i­can colony of San Rafael in 1956, af­ter be­ing ar­rested by the Mex­i­can po­lice with the co­op­er­a­tion of then pres­i­dent of Cuba Ful­gen­cio Batista.

In this April 14, 1966 file photo Cas­tro stands in a sug­ar­cane plan­ta­tion in Cuba.

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