It’s the end of an era. Cuban Communist leader Fidel Castro has died.
Long the of face Western communism and a thorn in the side of the United States, Castro died yesterday at the age of 90, his brother, President Raul Castro, announced on Cuban state-run television. Both admired and reviled, Castro’s death brings both shock and relief across the globe, as reported by the BBC.
After leading an unsuccessful 1953 uprising against then-Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista, Castro was jailed, then released. In 1956, he joined forces with Marxist revolutionary Ernesto “Che” Guevara. By 1959, their “guerrilla war” had overthrown the U.S.-backed Batista regime.
Hailed as a hero by idealistic Cuban youth, Castro quickly became an iron-fisted dictator who suppressed all opposition, jailing dissidents by the thousands.
Tiny Cuba wielded international influence far out of proportion to its size and stature, thanks to its strategic proximity to the U.S. and Castro’s continuous flirtation with the Soviet Union.
In 1961, Castro fought off the CIA-sponsored Bay of Pigs invasion. In 1962, he sparked the Cuban missile crisis by allowing the USSR to deploy nuclear missiles in Cuba.
In the wake of his early reign, half a million Cubans fled for Miami, seeking political asylum in the U.S. After 1980, the refugee base became more economic than political, with another 700,000 Cubans escaping poverty, oppression, and deprivation.
Today, Cubans still attempt the 90-mile crossing in tiny and treacherous watercraft, according to another article from The New York Times. The refugee count nearly doubled in 2015 as Cubans feared the softening of U.S.-Cuba relations might cause a tightening of the preferred immigration status Cubans hold here.
There will be several days of state-sponsored mourning in Cuba as the world awaits signs that a post-Fidel Cuba will continue to welcome recently established diplomatic ties with the U.S.
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