Fidel Castro, the former President of Cuba and leader of the country’s Communist Party, died last week at the age of 90, leaving behind a contentious political legacy.
His death was followed by many world leaders paying tribute, with Irish President Michael D. Higgins calling him a ”giant among global leaders”.
However, there has also been condemnations of Castro’s time as leader of Cuba. President Higgins has been criticised for his comments while the United States of America’s President-Elect, Donald Trump, said that Castro was a “brutal dictator who oppressed his people for nearly six decades.”
“Fidel Castro’s legacy is one of firing squads, theft, unimaginable suffering, poverty and the denial of fundamental human rights,” Trump continued.
Castro was the driving force behind the Cuban Revolution of 1953-1959 which led to the fall of the then-President Fulgencio Batista. From the ousting of Batista in January of 1959, Castro assumed the role of Prime Minister (1959-1976) and then President (1976-2006).
He was a major player during the Cold War and, in particular, the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. On that occasion, Castro permitted the building of missile silos by the Soviets in Cuba in exchange for the Soviets importing sugar cane from Cuba, after the U.S. instilled a trade embargo on Cuba.
Castro was a hugely controversial figure throughout his years as the leader of Cuba. He was accused of human rights violations by the likes of Amnesty International.
“Fidel Castro’s forty-nine year reign was characterised by a ruthless suppression of freedom of expression,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas., Americas Director at Amnesty International.
However, Fidel Castro was also praised by Amnesty International for his progressive work in Cuba. “Access to public services such as health and education for Cubans were substantially improved by the Cuban revolution and for this, his leadership must be applauded” Guevara-Roasas said.
There were mixed reactions to Castro’s death among the Cuban people. A young Cuban woman told CNN that: “The Cuban people are feeling sad because of the loss of our commander in chief…..we wish him, wherever he is, that he is blessed, and us Cubans love him”.
There were polar opposite scenes in areas of Miami, Florida. One Cuban American told CNN: “This is a celebration, but not a celebration of death, but a beginning of liberty that we’ve been waiting for many years”.
Fidel Castro was succeed as Cuban President by his brother, Raul Castro, who has said that he will step down in 2018. However, with several other members of the Castro family holding roles in Parliament, the ghost of Fidel will remain through to the next generation.