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US nemesis Fidel Castro dead

The death of 90-year-old Fidel Castro, arguably one of the most influential political leaders of the past 100 years, continues to stoke divisions on his accomplishments and legacy.

Throughout the world, Castro remains a symbol of anti-imperialist action and struggle and his death has elicited somber celebrations to his memory.

In the immigrant communities of Cuban refugees in the United States, such as little Havana in Miami, and across the world, many cheered the news and expressed hope for change in the island nation that lies 90 miles off the tip of Florida.

In a statement to the people of Cuba, current president and brother Raul Castro announced his brother’s death in a televised statement.

“I say to the people of Cuba, with profound pain I come here to inform our people, our friends and America and the world, that today, November 25, 2016, at 10:29 pm, died the chief commander of the Cuban revolution, Fidel Castro Ruz.”

Cuban-born, former television reporter Maria Antonia told Hispanic News, “I was still asleep early Saturday morning when my cell phone started making all kinds of noises, texts, and e-mails from family, and friends. … For 12 hours I kept hearing from people I know who wanted to talk about the news of Castro’s death. One friend in South Florida sent me a picture of the front page of the Miami Herald. One big headline in bold black letters simply said, “Castro Dead.”

Antonia’s aspirations for her native country are optimistic. “They still live under a cruel communist dictatorship that has a problem with human rights. The people of Cuba still are not free to do such simple things as voice their opinions, without risking getting thrown behind bars as political prisoners. Job opportunities and food are still scarce. The government still controls so many aspects of the lives of the Cuban people. Perhaps though, Fidel Castro’s death will bring Cuba one-step closer to freedom. Perhaps it’s the beginning of the end for all the oppression.”

Antonia added, “It’s no surprise that the Cuban population in Miami is celebrating. They are people who are very grateful that this country welcomed them, but by choosing to escape Cuba to find freedom here they also had to leave their families behind. ... Having to choose between family and freedom is painful.”

Cuban American Jose Somoza was born in Miami and described how he heard the news of Castro’s death. “I was awoken at midnight, Friday the 25th, by my wife Ximena, who is in Guadalajara tending to some family matters, and then my son Joe woke me at 2 a.m. to personally give me the news.

Somoza’s assessment is unforgiving. “Fidel Castro, to any middle class Cuban family circa 1950’s represents the very anti-Christ that ravaged families, usurped civil liberties, stole generations of traditions, repulsed all organized religions and desecrated the core of family values that made Cuba the Pearl of the Antilles.”

Somoza’s animosity to the Cuban leader dates back many years and was fueled by the anger of his grandfather, who reminded him of the loss of the family business when Castro took power. He has been studying Cuba’s history since his college days where he studied political economics.

“As a student of Political Economics … I wrote papers on the continuance for the Embargo and the hope for Fidel’s demise through U.S. intervention during the Reagan revolution. So, to hear of his death brings tears of joy for the living and great sadness for family and friends that never had the opportunity to breathe in a Free Cuba once again,” said Somoza.”

If there is one regret Somoza has he says it’s the memory of those that died unable to return or much less hear the news of Castro’s death.
“Sadly, most of family (aunts and uncles) has died yet a few cousins (I have never met) still survive either in Cuba or elsewhere. I think about them very often and thank God that I did not have to live in that regressive environment. I prayed for Cuba in Mass this past Sunday and feel very positive this time change will happen for the good!”

For him it is a matter of changing a mindset that fuels acceptance of the dictatorship.

“My hope is that the Cuban people begin to accept they are worth more as individuals and not as a worker for the central government. The only true form of communism is a utopia called “heaven.” We are on this earth to make ourselves independent thinkers, doers and creators.”

UMKC professor and president of The Cross Border Network Judy Ancel gave a different perspective on Castro.

“Americans should not be fooled by the overwhelming bias of the U.S. media against Fidel and the Cuban Revolution. Today, all over Latin America and especially in Cuba millions are mourning him. He along with Che Guevara were symbols of change for all Latin America. Castro stood up to the oligarchs who kept millions in peonage. Castro dared to defy the U.S., which since the Spanish American War has treated Latin America as its private possession, it’s playground, its source of cheap labor, commodities and minerals, in short, its empire.”

Ancel noted the many accomplishments of the Cuban revolution:

“I’d add that in so many places I’ve visited in Latin America, I met Cuban doctors volunteering in clinics for the poor. Cuba has done more to improve public health in so many countries than any other nation. Cuba is famous for its literacy programs, first wiping out illiteracy at home, and then bringing their training to other countries. They’ve aided in Africa, sending legions of doctors to fight Ebola.”

On the world stage, Castro was a strong supporter of liberation movements and particularly in Africa. Castro sent over 20,000 troops to battle the apartheid regimes of South Africa and Rhodesia, presently Zimbabwe. This occurred at a time when consecutive U.S. administrations refused to boycott the two governments over their human rights violations.

Those initiatives came with a harsh penalty especially after Castro declared Cuba a communist state. He survived countless assassination attempts, some with the tacit support and coordination of the U.S.

According to Ancel, “For nearly sixty years the U.S. has tried to strangle Cuba economically. It pushed them into the arms of the Soviet Union. It financed and participated in invasions, allowed terrorist attacks from our soil and even protected Luis Posada Carriles, the Cuban exile and ex-CIA agent who in 1976 bombed Cubana flight 455, killing 73 people. … In my view the enmity of the US to Castro and the Cuban Revolution over more than half a century has bordered on lunacy, but the U.S. stops at nothing to defend private property.”

Early this week the Havana’s Plaza of the Revolution was opened for mourners to pay respect to Castro.

A large banner of Castro as a young revolutionary was hung over Cuba’s National Library to overlook the plaza.

On Wednesday, Castro’s body began a journey throughout the island nation.

Castro’s funeral services are schedule to be held this coming Sunday in Santiago de Cuba, where the Castro-led Cuban revolution began.