Saturday, 26 November 2016

Fidel Castro Cuban Revolutionary who defied America dies aged 90.

What a year it's been, and it's not over yet, Fidel Castro, the Cuban revolutionary leader who built a communist state on the doorstep of the United States and for five decades defied U.S. efforts to topple him, died on Friday, sged 90.
Castro had been in poor health since an intestinal ailment nearly killed him in 2006 and he formally ceded power to his younger brother Raul Castro two years later.It was Raul Castro who announced his brother died on Friday evening:-"The commander in chief of the Cuban revolution died at 22:29 hours this evening," the president announced on national television just after midnight Friday (0500 GMT Saturday)."In compliance with Comrade Fidel's expressed will, his remains will be cremated early in the morning" on Saturday, said Raul Castro, who took power after his elder brother Fidel was hospitalized in 2006.
The government on Saturday decreed nine days of mourning.
From November 26 to December 4, "public activities and shows will cease, the national flag will fly at half mast on public buildings and military installations," a statement from the state executive said.
Castro's ashes will be buried in the southeastern city of Santiago on December 4 after a four-day procession through the country, it added. Santiago was the scene of Castro's ill-fated first revolution attempt in 1953.
The bearded Fidel Castro took power in a 1959 revolution and ruled Cuba for 49 years with a mix of charisma and iron will, creating a one-party state and becoming a central figure in the Cold War.
He was demonized by the United States and its allies but  admired by many around the world, especially socialist revolutionaries in Latin America and Africa.
Transforming Cuba from a playground for rich Americans into a symbol of resistance to Washington, Castro outlasted nine U.S. presidents in power.He fended off a CIA-backed invasion at the Bay of Pigs in 1961 as well as countless assassination attempts.His alliance with Moscow helped trigger the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, which resulted in a 13-day showdown with the United States that brought the world the closest it has been to nuclear war.
Wearing green military fatigues and chomping on cigars for many of his years in power, Castro was famous for long, fist-pounding speeches filled with blistering rhetoric, often aimed at the United States.In Cuba he got rid of capitalism and won support for bringing schools and hospitals to the poor. But he also created legions of enemies and critics, concentrated among Cuban exiles in Miami who fled his rule and saw him as a ruthless tyrant.
In the end it was not the efforts of Washington and Cuban exiles nor the collapse of Soviet communism that ended his rule. Instead, illness forced him to cede power to his younger brother Raul Castro, provisionally in 2006 and definitively in 2008. Raul since taking over has introduced market-style economic reforms and agreeing with the United States in December 2014 to re-establish diplomatic ties and end decades of hostility.
 Fidel Castro  himself offered only lukewarm support for the deal, raising questions about whether he approved of ending hostilities with his longtime enemy.He lived to witness the visit of U.S. President Barack Obama to Cuba earlier this year, the first trip by a U.S. president to the island since 1928.
Castro did not meet Obama, and days later wrote a scathing column condemning the U.S. president's "honey-coated" words and reminding Cubans of the many U.S. efforts to overthrow and weaken the Communist government.
In his final years, Fidel Castro no longer held leadership posts. He wrote newspaper commentaries on world affairs and occasionally met with foreign leaders but he lived in semi-seclusion.
His death - which would once have thrown a question mark over Cuba's future - seems unlikely to trigger a crisis as Raul Castro, 85, is firmly ensconced in power.
Still, the passing of the man known to most Cubans as "El Comandante" - the commander - or simply "Fidel" leaves a huge void in the country he dominated for so long. It also underlines the generational change in Cuba's communist leadership.
A Jesuit-educated lawyer, Fidel Castro led the revolution that ousted U.S.-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista on Jan 1, 1959. Aged 32, he quickly took control of Cuba and sought to transform it into an egalitarian society.His government improved the living conditions of the very poor, achieved health and literacy levels on a par with rich countries and rid Cuba of a powerful Mafia presence.
But he also tolerated little dissent, jailed opponents, seized private businesses and monopolized the media.Castro's opponents labeled him a dictator and hundreds of thousands fled the island.Many settled in Florida, influencing U.S. policy toward Cuba and plotting Castro's demise. Some even trained in the Florida swamps for the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion. But they could never dislodge him.
We should not forget  others who did not agree with him , dissidents, seen as usurpers of the Revolution,  imprisoned  without trial in the dungeons of Cabana Fortress and subjected to inhuman treatment and sometimes killed.Political activists some to the left of Castro imprisoned.Nor should we forget the injustice inflicted on homosexuals during his rule in the 60's and 70's,like other Cubans, including some priests, considered “ideological deviants,” homosexuals in the 1960s were sent to labour camps for re-education and rehabilitation. Discrimination continued in the 1970s, with gays, in particular gay artists and writers, disgraced, marginalised,  in some cases who were driven into exile.Later Castro would regret this that he himself did not pay enough attention to the plight of gays during an era of sabotage, armed attacks and assassination plots against him. Yes, there were moments of great injustice – great injustice,” Castro said.“I am trying to narrow my responsibility in all of this, because of course personally I have no such prejudice” against homosexuals, he said,
"If someone is responsible, it's me," In the 1960s and 70s, many homosexuals in Cuba were fired, imprisoned or sent to "re-education camps". In 1979, homosexuality was decriminalised and, more recently, there have been efforts to legalise same-sex unions.The situation has since thankfully  improved greatly for gays and lesbians in Cuba, where Castro’s niece Mariela – the daughter of President Raul Castro – heads the National Sex Education Centre and has been campaigning for years for greater rights for gays and transsexuals.
Despite this for generations of Latin American  people Castro  has been applauded for his socialist policies and for thumbing his nose at the United States from its doorstep just 90 miles (145 km) from Florida.Castro claimed he survived or evaded hundreds of assassination attempts, including some conjured up by the CIA.In 1962, the United States imposed a damaging trade embargo that Castro blamed for most of Cuba's ills, using it to his advantage to rally patriotic fury.
Over the years, he expanded his influence by sending Cuban troops into far-away wars, including 350,000 to fight in Africa. They provided critical support to a left-wing government in Angola and contributed to the independence of Namibia in a war that helped end apartheid in South Africa.
He also won friends by sending tens of thousands of Cuban doctors abroad to treat the poor and bringing young people from developing countries to train them as physicians Fidel  was  also a staunch advocate of the Palestinian quest for freedom and independence. The PLO and Cuba were natural allies, as both championed what their leaders saw as a struggle against imperial and colonial powers.Indeed, Castro conflated Cuba's "strife to fight imperialism" with the Palestinian quest for independence from Israel's occupation.Palestine has now lost one its oldest and closest friends and few leaders, with the exception of the late South African leader Nelson Mandela, gave such vocal and unstinting support to the Palestinian people and their decades-long struggle for justice.
Born on Aug 13, 1926 in Biran in eastern Cuba, Castro was the son of a Spanish immigrant who became a wealthy landowner.Angry at social conditions and Batista's dictatorship, Fidel Castro launched his revolution on Jul 26, 1953, with a failed assault on the Moncada barracks in the eastern city of Santiago."History will absolve me," he declared during his trial for the attack.He was sentenced to 15 years in prison but was released in 1955 after a pardon that would come back to haunt Batista.
Castro went into exile in Mexico and prepared a small rebel army to fight Batista. It included Argentine revolutionary Ernesto "Che" Guevara, who became his comrade-in-arms.
In December 1956, Castro and a rag-tag band of 81 followers sailed to Cuba aboard a badly overloaded yacht called "Granma".Only 12, including him, his brother and Guevara, escaped a government ambush when they landed in eastern Cuba.Taking refuge in the rugged Sierra Maestra mountains, they built a guerrilla force of several thousand fighters who, along with urban rebel groups, defeated Batista's military in just over two years.
Early in his rule, at the height of the Cold War, Castro allied Cuba to the Soviet Union, which protected the Caribbean island and was its principal benefactor for three decades.The alliance brought in $4 billion worth of aid annually, including everything from oil to guns, but also provoked the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis when the United States discovered Soviet missiles on the island.Convinced that the United States was about to invade Cuba, Castro urged the Soviets to launch a nuclear attack.Thankfully cooler heads prevailed. Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev and U.S. President John F. Kennedy agreed the Soviets would withdraw the missiles in return for a U.S. promise never to invade Cuba. The United States also secretly agreed to remove its nuclear missiles from Turkey.
When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, an isolated Cuba fell into a deep economic crisis that lasted for years and was known as the "special period". Food, transport and basics such as soap were scarce and energy shortages led to frequent and long blackouts.
Castro undertook a series of tentative economic reforms to get through the crisis, including opening up to foreign tourism.The economy improved when Venezuela's socialist leader Hugo Chavez, who looked up to Castro as a hero, came to the rescue with cheap oil. Aid from communist-run China also helped, but an economic downturn in Venezuela since Chavez's death in 2013 have raised fears it will scale back its support for Cuba.Plagued by chronic economic problems, Cuba's population of 11 million has endured years of hardship, although not the deep poverty, violent crime and government neglect of many other developing countries.
For most Cubans, Fidel Castro has been the ubiquitous figure of their entire life.Many still love him and share his faith in a communist future, and even some who abandoned their political belief still view him with respect.Solidarity with the people of Cuba in their time of mourning.
Goodbye Commandante flawed and authoritarian as he may have been, Castro stood up to the world's biggest bully for almost six decades,  and certainly leaves his mark on history.Charismatic, outspoken, defiant who did try to  devote his life, his knowledge and his struggle not only to the Cuban people but to all the people of the world.Fidel's commitment to internationalism leaves a lasting legacy around the World.Fidel Castro is beloved by the free people of Africa, Asia and South America because he always stood with them against the tyranny of Empire.While Britain and America were supplying arms to help Africa's apartheid regimes, Cuba was busy sending its men to fight them.Under Castro, Cuba had the best literacy rate in the world because it spent five times as much on education than war - the opposite of what America does. In fact, Cuba achieves the same health care system outcomes as the United States at only 5% the cost.Lest we forget, Cuba was the biggest single provider of healthcare workers to the Ebola crisis in West Africa, more than all richer nations. Cuba has sent more doctors throughout the world to minister to the poor than even the World Health Organization despite Cuba's small size and meager resources.
From Cubas support fighting Apartheid in South Africa, to training doctors from Latin America and its international medical brigades caring for the victims of earthquakes from Pakistan to Haiti, Cuba's model has shown that another world is possible. Condolences to the family and friends of Fidel Castro in their time of mourning. The best tribute we can now make is to continue the struggle to end the immoral and unjust blockade of Cuba and for the return of the illegally occupied land at Guantanamo Bay. R,I,P

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