Grief and joy erupt as Cas­tro dies at 90

The Myanmar Times - - World -

MOURN­ING de­scended on Ha­vana and cel­e­bra­tions erupted in Mi­ami at the death of Cuban rev­o­lu­tion­ary leader Fidel Cas­tro, whose iron-fisted rule de­fied the US for half a cen­tury.

One of the world’s long­est-serv­ing rulers and among mod­ern his­tory’s most strik­ing per­son­al­i­ties, Mr Cas­tro died on Novem­ber 25 at age 90 af­ter sur­viv­ing 11 US ad­min­is­tra­tions and hun­dreds of as­sas­si­na­tion at­tempts.

Mr Cas­tro crushed op­po­si­tion at home from the mo­ment he took power in 1959 to the day he handed over to his younger brother Raul in 2006 amid a health cri­sis.

For de­fend­ers of the revo­lu­tion, he was a hero who pro­tected or­di­nary peo­ple from cap­i­tal­ist dom­i­na­tion.

To op­po­nents, in­clud­ing thou­sands of Cuban ex­iles liv­ing in the United States, he was a cruel com­mu­nist tyrant.

Af­ter sur­viv­ing the failed Bay of Pigs in­va­sion, the Cuban Mis­sile Cri­sis, a suf­fo­cat­ing US em­bargo and the Cold War it­self, Mr Cas­tro lived to see the restora­tion of diplo­matic ties with Wash­ing­ton last year.

But he never stopped against the Amer­i­can “em­pire”.

Pres­i­dent Raul Cas­tro an­nounced the news on na­tional television.

“The com­man­der in chief of the Cuban Revo­lu­tion died at 22:29 hours on Fri­day [3:29am GMT Satur­day],” he said in a solemn voice giv­ing no de­tails on the cause of death.

There were starkly dif­fer­ent re­ac­tions on either side of the Florida Straits. In the streets of Mi­ami, rail­ing home to the largest Cuban-Amer­i­can com­mu­nity, eu­phoric crowds waved flags and danced, bang­ing pots and drums.

“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”.

In Ha­vana, bustling streets emp­tied and par­ties ground to a halt as Mr Cas­tro’s ad­mir­ers sank into grief.

“Los­ing Fidel is like los­ing a fa­ther – the guide, the bea­con of this revo­lu­tion,” said Michel Ro­driguez, a 42-year-old baker.

Mr Cas­tro was cre­mated on Novem­ber 26, the first of nine days of mourn­ing.

A se­ries of memo­ri­als will be­gin to­day, with Cubans con­verg­ing on Ha­vana’s iconic Revo­lu­tion Square.

Mr Cas­tro’s ashes will then go on a four-day pro­ces­sion through the coun­try, be­fore be­ing buried in the city of San­ti­ago on De­cem­ber 4.

Mr Cas­tro’s death drew strong re­ac­tions across the world.

“The name of this dis­tin­guished states­man is rightly con­sid­ered the sym­bol of an era in mod­ern his­tory,” said Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin said a tele­gram to Raul Cas­tro.

“Com­rade Cas­tro will live for­ever,” said Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping in a mes­sage read on television. “His­tory and peo­ple will re­mem­ber him.”

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