Fidel Castro: One of the most influential leaders of our time
Fidel Castro and the U.S.
Cuba’s former leader, Fidel Castro presided over Cuba for almost 50 years, as the charismatic leader of the Caribbean’s largest island. Castro’s rise to power through leftist communism ideologies, sparked decades of rivalry between the U.S. and Cuba that spanned ten U.S. presidencies.
Castro first garnered international attention and notoriety, through a guerrilla campaign that he lead on January 1, 1959, where he ousted the then right-wing Cuban dictator, Fulgencio Batista Zaldívar.
After gaining control of Cuba, Castro brought dramatic, social and economic revolution that rapidly transformed the nation into a strong third world Caribbean nation.
Castro’s strong anti-U.S. stance, made him a target by the U.S. who wanted to topple his reign of power of Cuba, through alleged assassination plots and invasion attempts. It was reported that the CIA allegedly trained thousands of Cuban exiles to try and remove Fidel Castro from power in 1961.
New hostilities were formed when Cuba allowed the then Soviet Union to build a missile base in there. And this was during the peak of the Cold War, sparking a nuclear threat in the region. After talks between President John F. Kennedy and Soviet Union President Nikita Khrushchev, the Soviet Union agreed to end missile installations in Cuba.
As the U.S. tightened sanctions on Cuba, Fidel Castro forged relationships with the Soviet Union. As such, the Cuban government was directly affected by the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. After the Cuban Missile Crisis, Fidel Castro became America’s number one enemy. One bizarre plot included planting explosives in one of his coveted Cuban cigars.
Tensions rose again in 1999, when a Cuban 5-year-old castaway, Elian Gonzalez, became a topic of controversy between the two nations. Elian left behind his father and other family members in Cuba, who were staunch Castro supporters, and tried to bring back Elian to Cuba. However, because the U.S. was a safe haven for Cuabn castaways, relatives in the U.S. equally sought to keep him there. This sparked an international custody battle that stirred up tensions once again.
Elian Gonzalez was ultimately reunited with his Father in Cuba in 2000.
Fidel Castro and the Caribbean
Ties between the nations of the Caribbean community (CARICOM) and Cuba have remained cordial over the course of the later half of the 20th century. Formal diplomatic relations between the CARICOM economic giants: Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago have existed since 1972, and have over time led to an increase in cooperation between the CARICOM heads of Government and Cuba. At a summit meeting of sixteen Caribbean countries in 1998, Fidel Castro called for regional unity, saying that only strengthened cooperation between Caribbean countries would prevent their domination by rich nations in a global economy. Cuba, for many years regionally isolated, increased grants and scholarships to the Caribbean countries.
To celebrate ties between the Caribbean Community and Cuba in 2002 the Heads of Government of Cuba and CARICOM have designated the day of December 8 to be called ‘CARICOM-Cuba Day’. The day is the exact date of the formal opening of diplomatic relations between the first CARICOM-four and Cuba.
In December 2005, during the second CARICOM/CUBA summit held in Barbados, heads of CARICOM and Cuba agreed to deepen their ties in the areas of socio-economic and political cooperation in addition to medical care assistance. Since the meeting, Cuba has opened four additional embassies in the Caribbean Community. This development makes Cuba the only nation to have embassies in all independent countries of the Caribbean Community.
Fidel Castro’s health
Concerns over Fidel Castro’s health began in 2001, after fainting on stage at a mass rally in Havana. As a result of continuing health problems over the years, Fidel Castro handed over power to his younger brother, Raul Castro in 2006.
Fidel Castro continued to make limited public appearances, meeting with international political and religious leaders. The then Venezuelan President, Hugo Chavez, Russian Prime Minster Vladimir Putin, and Pope Francis, were included in some of his international visits.
Castro’s legacy will be debated by many historians. Though he was branded as a military dictator in his earlier years and by his actions, he also revolutionized Cuba through strong socio-economic reforms and political revolutions. Cuba’s free healthcare system became a model for many nations and the envy of the Caribbean. And the educational reforms were arguably one of the best in the world, and certainly in the Caribbean.
Despite bringing reform to Cuba, he was thought to be a very authoritative leader, suppressing many people in the country, where many of them risked their life in bold attempts to flee Cuba for exile in the U.S. His life and legacy will be debated now, and for many years to come. One thing is certain; that Fidel Castro was one of the most inluential and charismatic figures of his generation.