Fidel Castro Dead at 90: What's Next for Cuba?
He Didn't Care What Others Thought
Cuba has been a tropical paradise for so long for so many, but there's another side to the island nation that members of the international community either selectively forget or cheerfully ignore. Fidel Castro's Cuba might be one of the most popular vacation destinations, particularly for those needing an escape from, say, Canada's frigid wintry climate, but it's also one in which people were executed for disagreeing with the Castro regime, denied basic human rights and not given some of the freedoms we in western society generally enjoy.
He also helped stamp out the legal discrimination that was occurring under the Batista regime, brought electricity to much of the countryside and improved medical facilities. These rather important and progressive steps for Cuba were "balanced" by the closure of any newspapers which dared oppose Castro, banned private businesses and didn't even attempt any guise of an election. Some in social media are questioning the labelling of Fidel Castro as an "iconic" leader, but whether we like it or not, in so many ways, the man was Cuba; he loved his country and didn't care what people thought of him personally, because he believed that he had a job to do, regardless of the rights he was stripping from his people.
There were significant housing shortages, in addition to a dearth of consumer goods, which in turn motivated thousands of Cubans to try and escape from Castro's Cuba, generally for Miami, which is currently packed with Cuban exiles who are celebrating Fidel Castro's death. While relations between the United States and Cuba were "normalized" in 2015, there were decades where it seemed as though Fidel Castro was effectively giving the world the middle finger, save for Russia, one of its strongest allies.
Fidel Castro didn't really concern himself with what the rest of the world thought of him. Back when he overthrew Batista - days where he counted revolutionary Che Guevara as one of his allies - he knew that the odds were against him, yet he was able to overthrow Batista with less than 100 men backing him. This is something that was no doubt incredibly empowering for a still-relatively young Fidel Castro, who would have been around 32 at the time when he took power. Small wonder he simply did what he thought was right for his country, human rights and decency be damned.
A Cuban Giant, A Cuban Dictator
Not Much May Change With A Castro Still At The Helm
Much as Cubans might be both celebrating and mourning Fidel Castro's passing, there are a lot of questions that will be answered in the coming days, weeks and months about how Cuba will transform now that Castro has died. There may not be much of a change, which might be good news in many respects, as Fidel Castro was such a huge figure that any monumental shift in the status quo might cause a bit of an upset for Cuba's daily operations.
There's still a Castro helming the country. Raul Castro, Fidel Castro's little brother, is still President of Cuba, a station he's held since 2008. He's worked tirelessly over the last eight years to implement social, economic and political reforms, and while some Cubans might feel as though the younger Castro's ideologies might not be a great fit for Cuba, the fact of the matter is, the restoration of diplomatic ties with the United States might be the biggest move Raul Castro has made in terms of Cuba's progress.
Yes, Fidel Castro's fingerprint is still all over Cuba, and that won't change for some time. It would be hard to imagine even how a Cuba without Fidel Castro would even look, but the simple truth is that Raul Castro has seemingly been working to be a little more diplomatic and gentle than big brother Fidel was. There could be significant image changes in the works for Cuba, thanks to his seemingly more progressive outlook.
Several on social media are lashing out at those who refer to Fidel Castro as a hero, or iconic, or whatever sort of glowing terms the news media is currently using. Humans, in general, tend not to speak ill of the dead, and it would seem that in the death of Fidel Castro, there is no exception. Those who question the terms that the media is using about him should recall that sometimes, we have a tendency to look at what people were like as they lived through rose colored glasses.
There's also the notion that one person's hero is another person's villain. While only history can truly judge the changes that the older Castro wrought in Cuba, it would seem that the court of public opinion continues to thrive with Fidel Castro's death.