“He towered over his Caribbean island for nearly five decades, a shaggy-bearded figure in combat fatigues whose long shadow spread across Latin America and the world,” as the Miami Herald is reporting.
“According to the Associated Press, on late Friday night Raul Castro announced that Fidel Castro is dead. He was 90.
“Millions cheered Fidel Castro on the day he entered Havana. Millions more fled the communist dictator’s repressive police state, leaving behind their possessions, their families, the island they loved and often their very lives. It’s part of the paradox of Castro that many people belonged to both groups.
“Few national leaders have inspired such intense loyalty — or such a wrenching feeling of betrayal. Few fired the hearts of the world’s restless youth as Castro did when he was young, and few seemed so irrelevant as Castro when he was old — the last Communist, railing on the empty, decrepit street corner that Cuba became under his rule.
“He held a unique place among the world’s leaders of the past century. Others had greater impact or won more respect. But none combined his dynamic personality, his decades in power, his profound effect on his own country and his provocative role in international affairs.
“He ended American domination of the island’s economy, swept away the old political system and the traditional army, nationalized large and small land holdings and brought reforms in education and healthcare.
“He also was a ruthless dictator, the Maximum Leader who reneged on his promise of free elections, executed thousands of opponents, imprisoned tens of thousands, installed a Communist regime and made his island a pawn in the Cold War. His alliance with the Soviet Union brought the world to the brink of nuclear war in 1962.
“The Cuban Missile Crisis was neither Castro’s first nor last confrontation with the United States, though it was certainly the most epic. No other individual has ever tormented Washington more or longer. At age 12, Castro wrote to Franklin Delano Roosevelt, congratulating him on his third inauguration as president and impudently asking for a dollar. By the time he was 35, two American presidents had devoted a considerable amount of time and effort to killing him.
“Faced with hostility from the United States, which sponsored an invasion by Cuban exiles in 1961 and relentlessly (if sometimes comically) plotted his assassination, Castro turned the island into a fortress guarded by one of the region’s most powerful military machines.”
The rest of the article is here.