If the death of any human being came decades too late but still offered hope for a better life for millions of people, Fidel Castro’s much-belated departure from this Earth at the age of 90 is one of those occasions. Castro, who seized power in Cuba from the dictator Batista, established a savage tyranny that repressed the civil rights of its people in pursuit of a communist state. Many Cubans choose to flee to the United States, changing the demographics of South Florida and American #politics in ways that cannot possibly imagined. Two prominent American politicians, Sen. Marco Rubio and Sen. #Ted Cruz, the past and maybe future candidates for president of the United States, are children of Cuban refugees.
Castro spent decades railing against “American imperialism” but, ironically, made his island nation a client state of the Soviet Union during the Cold War. He fomented terror and revolution in Latin America and, at one point, had deployed expeditionary forces numbering tens of thousands of men to sub-Saharan Africa during the 1970s and 1980s. In 1962, Castro helped bring the world to the brink of nuclear war by hosting Soviet missile bases during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
As bloody and repressive as his regime was, Castro had his admirers in the West, in particular among the radical left. With his unkempt beard and his faded military uniform, he cut a charismatic figure. His fiery anti-American rhetoric and his defiance of Washington’s various attempts to get rid of him, made him a hero to haters of the United States. He remained a throne in the sides of 11 American presidents. The Mariel Boatlift that flooded the United States with tens of thousands of political refugees, along with a general helping of criminals and the insane, helped to blight the last year of Jimmy Carter’s presidency. The state-sponsored kidnapping of Elian Gonzalez, a Cuban refugee boy, conducted by President Bill Clinton’s Attorney General Janet Reno, enraged Cuban Americans and likely delivered Florida to George W. Bush in the 2000 elections.
Castro remains a personification of the failures of socialism and the evils of tyranny. Under his rule, Cuba remained an economic basket case, partly because of an American economic embargo, but mostly because of mad cap socialist policies that repressed the private economy.
While days of official mourning have begun in Cuba, Little Havana in Miami has exploded in celebration. The monster is dead and, perhaps, at long last, the dream of Cuba Libre is at hand. But that day will not come right away. Castro’s brother Raul is still firmly in charge and, despite limited economic reforms and an opening to the United States under President Barack Obama, the communist state remains firmly in power. After Raul dies, Cuba enters an uncertain future, filled with the promise of a new dawn of freedom, but also with the possibility of more repression and economic malaise. #Foreign Affairs