Fidel Castro’s death sparks celebrations on streets of Miami

Contrasting reactions to death as world leaders pay tribute to ‘revolutionary leader’

 

As in life, in death Fidel Castro was a deeply divisive figure.

In Miami, where the largest diaspora of Cuban exiles live, news of his death was greeted with celebrations, street parties, and flag waving. Those taking to the streets banged pots and pans and chanted “Cuba Libre!” (Cuba is Free) and “el viejo murió” (the old man is dead).

ut in Havana, news of his death, was treated with solemnity. The streets of the Cuban capital were reportedly quiet, following the announcement, which came late at night.

“I am very upset. Whatever you want to say, he is public figure that the whole world respected and loved,” Havana student Sariel Valdespino told Reuters.

Castro seized control of Cuba in a 1959 revolution and ruled Cuba for 49 years with a mix of charisma and iron will, creating a one-party state and emerging as a central figure in the Cold War, equally reviled and adored.

He had been in poor health since 2006, when intestinal bleeding almost killed him. He handed over the presidency to his brother Raul that year and had been seen in public increasingly rarely in recent years.

The announcement of his death was greeted by thousands online with celebration and condemnation of the “cruel dictator” and his repressive regime.

Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the most senior US representative from Florida, and who emigrated to the US from Cuba at the age of seven, said Castro’s death marked a potential watershed in Cuba’s development.

“The day that the people, both inside the island and out, have waited for has arrived: a tyrant is dead and a new beginning can dawn on the last remaining communist bastion of the western hemisphere. The message is now very clear to those who think they will continue to misrule Cuba through oppression and fear. Enough is enough. The Cuban people have been shortchanged for too long to continue down this reviled path.

New chapter

“We must seize the moment and help write a new chapter in the history of Cuba, that of a Cuba that is free, democratic, and prosperous.”

But others mourned the passing of “a fighter of US imperialism” and a “charismatic icon”.

Pakistan’s Imran Khan, the former cricket captain now chairman of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf political party, said of Castro’s passing: “Today the world lost an iconic revolutionary leader Fidel Castro who liberated his nation from all vestiges of imperialism.

“Castro reasserted the Cuban nation’s dignity & self worth that withstood US aggression & became a global leader for anti-colonial struggles,” he wrote on twitter.

Indian prime minister Narendra Modi offered his “deepest condolences to the Government & people of Cuba on the sad demise of Fidel Castro. May his soul rest in peace”.

He said India stood in support of the Cuban government and people “in this tragic hour”.

“Fidel Castro was one of the most iconic personalities of the 20th century. India mourns the loss of a great friend.”

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto said on Twitter: “I lament the death of Fidel Castro Ruz, leader of the Cuban revolution and emblematic reference of the 20th Century.”

There has not yet been any reaction to Castro’s death from the White House. The US, in particular the CIA, reportedly considered or launched more than 600 assassination attempts on Castro over decades, including using poison pills, toxic cigars and exploding molluscs. His eventual death was long considered by the US to be the “biological solution” to communism in the Caribbean country.

But in December 2014, President Obama and Raul Castro announced an extraordinary rapprochement in US-Cuban relations, promising to restore diplomatic ties and bring the two nations into a more congenial relationship.

An end to the US’s 58-year embargo of Cuba, however, is dependent on Congress, where many remain opposed to normalising relations with Havana as long as any Castro is in power.

Guardian