Former Cuban President Fidel Castro has died at the age of 90. The news came via an announcement from his younger brother and successor as president Raul Castro on Cuban state television late Friday night. He also announced that his older brother will be cremated later today.
A period of mourning has been declared in Cuba until 4 December, when his ashes will be laid to rest in the city of Santiago.
“The commander in chief of the Cuban revolution died at 22:29 hours this evening (03:29 GMT Saturday),” President Castro said. “Towards victory, always!” he added, using a revolutionary slogan.
The big-bearded, cigar-smoking leader came to power after overthrowing the government in 1959 and introduced a Communist revolution. He flipped the middle finger to the American government for decades, foiling many assassination plans.
His supporters saw him as the people’s champ; others viewed him as a dictator.
The bad blood between Cuba and the US dates back to the year after Castro gained power and imposed hefty taxes on American imports. The United States, in turn, imposed a trade embargo on the island. Just last year, President Obama relaxed several of the prohibitions on trade and travel the two countries and called for Congress to lift the embargo that prevents travel or business in Cuba.
A few months back, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (whose decision not to stand during the National Anthem has made him more famous than actually playing ball) rocked a T-shirt with a picture of Fidel and Malcolm X’s meeting on the front to a post-game press conference.
— Kazeem Famuyide (@RealLifeKaz) August 27, 2016
Photos of Minister Malcolm and the Cuban leader were taken by Carl Nesfield at the Theresa Hotel in Harlem, NY during Castro’s visit to the US in 1960. Their meeting symbolized a popular belief that African Americans shared a commonalities between others, including Afro-Cubans, who had been oppressed abroad.
In a speech made by Fidel Castro on May 24, 1990, he said:
“We have always been in solidarity with the struggle of Black people, of minorities, and of the poor in the United States. We have always been in solidarity with them, and they have been in solidarity with us. We must fight to defeat the campaigns, the schemes, and the lies, all that is aimed at separating us.”
Cuba under Castro’s reign has had long ties with African Americans’ fight for equality and began his fight against inequality on his own soil by ending a racial divide between dark-skinned and lighter-skinned Cubans.
In the 1980s, before the end of the Cold War, Fidel sent more than 25,000 of his troops to fight in Angola in opposition to the then-apartheid South African government.
Additionally, Castro provided a place of refuge for Joanne Chesimard, best known as Assata Shakur, a then-leader in the Black Liberation Army who is still wanted in the 1973 killing of a New Jersey state trooper in a shootout. After conviction, she busted out of prison in 1979 and fled to Cuba.
Last December, on the same day that President Obama announced he would seek to normalize relations with Cuba, federal and New Jersey police officials reported an offer of $2 million for information leading to the capture of Shakur, making her the only woman on the FBI’s Most Wanted Persons list.
By Carlton Wade