Fidel Castro, revolutionary leader of Cuba and American nemesis, dies at 90

He is a legend in his own right, surviving over 600 US assassination attempts.

 |  4-minute read |   26-11-2016
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Fidel Castro, the lodestar of Communism and Cuba’s revolutionary leader, who ruled the tiny country for 49 years but gave America a run for its cultural and political currency, has died. He was 90.

Castro has a legendary presence in global history, and it’s hardly going to be diminished by his death, which occurred on November 26, 2016, the Cuban state television announced.

The Cuban president had survived almost 600 assassination attempts on him by successive American governments, and a crippling trade embargo imposed by the US. The only exception has been the current Barack Obama presidency, of the top achievements of which has been to reopen diplomatic channels with Cuba after half a century, and lift the trade sanctions.

castrobd_112616123714.jpg The Cuban president had survived almost 600 assassination attempts on him by successive American governments.

In fact, legend has it that the Castro obituary has been ready and only updated almost every day in major American newspapers, because there have been a number of rumoured deaths of the leader, which he had hitherto squashed by appearing on Cuban TV with clockwork precision almost every time.

But the revolutionary icon had been battling illness for a long time now and this was expected. In 2008, he passed over the powers of the one-party state rule to his brother Raul.

Castro has been a leading figure in the communist revolutions of Latin America and he was a “commandante” – a guiding spirit of armed struggle across the developing world, fighting American capitalism and its neoliberal variants in various parts of South America and elsewhere.

Along with Che Guevara, Castro remained the revolutionary legends for their opposition to American hold on world economy and foreign policy for 50 years now.

castrobd1_112616123635.jpg Fidel Castro (left) with Che Guevara.

Castro has divided people as fiercely as any leader possibly can. While his resistance to US hegemony has been lauded by many, several critics have pointed out that within Cuba, he suppressed dissent, much like Joseph Stalin, and did not brook any opposition.

Born in 1926 in the southeastern Oriente province of Cuba, Castro took to revolutionary ideals early. In 1953 he was imprisoned after leading an unsuccessful campaign against the infamous Batista regime, but in 1955 he was released.

Castro continued the guerilla warfare against the government, along with Che Guevara, and in 1959 defeated the Batista regime, and then was quickly sworn in as the prime minister of Cuba. He was only 33 years old at that time.

The young and dashing Fidel cut a dream-like figure and even though America was to become a sworn enemy – the CIA-sponsored Bay of Pigs invasion soon followed in 1960 which Castro fought off and in 1962, the notorious Cuban missile crisis brought America, under John F Kennedy, at further loggerheads with the USSR-Cuba combine.

After Kennedy’s assassination and Lyndon’s Johnson’s presidency, it was enmity as usual, though things intensified under Ronald Reagan.

In 1976, Castro was elected president by Cuba’s National Assembly, a post he held for 32 years at a stretch, stepping down in 2008 because of health issues.

Che’s early death in the jungles of Bolivia – he was probably murdered by the CIA – left Castro much the sadder. He cut a phantasmagorical, brooding figure, engulfed in the smoke of his cigars, lighting the spark of communist revolution long after the fall of the USSR, holding fort.

Castro has been a friend to India, particularly charming his way with first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru and then sharing a particularly cordial relationship with Indira Gandhi. Castro’s elevation to presidentship occurred under the heights of Emergency in India, and parallels were drawn between the Iron Man and the Iron Lady.

The Caribbean island nation of about 11 million people, Cuba has always been on the world map, thanks to Castro, and his undying swagger.

Rest in peace, Comrade Castro.

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