By Olakunle Olafioye
The death of Fidel Castro, Cuba’s maximum leader known as much for his defiant posturing against the United States triggered a worldwide outpouring of emotions for a man who brought Cold War to the Western Hemisphere in 1959.
The Cuban leader came to power on January 8, 1959 after overthrowing Fulgencio Bastita and held on to power longer than any other living national leader except Queen Elizabeth II. He became a towering international figure whose importance in the 20th century far exceeded what might have been expected from the head of state of a Caribbean island nation of 11 million people.
Castro was perhaps the most important leader to emerge from Latin America since the wars of independence in the early 19th century. He was decidedly the most influential shaper of Cuban history since his own hero, José Martí, struggled for Cuban independence in the late 19th century. Castro’s revolution transformed Cuban society and had a longer-lasting impact throughout the region than that of any other 20th-century Latin American insurrection, with the possible exception of the 1910 Mexican Revolution.
His legacy in Cuba and elsewhere has been a mixed record of social progress and abject poverty, of racial equality and political persecution, of medical advances and a degree of misery comparable to the conditions that existed in Cuba when he entered Havana as a victorious guerrilla commander in 1959.
Even in death, Castrol remains a symbol of revolution throughout the world and an inspiration to many imitators. But beyond anything else, his obsession with the United States, and America’s obsession with him, shaped his rule. After he embraced Communism, America portrayed him as a devil and a tyrant and repeatedly tried to remove him from power through an ill-fated invasion at the Bay of Pigs in 1961, an economic embargo that lasted decades, assassination plots and even bizarre plans to undercut his prestige by making his beard fall out.
Born to a wealthy landowner in 1926, Castro studied law before pulling together a band of fellow revolutionaries with the aim of overthrowing Fulgencio Batista, Cuba’s dictator who had extensive links to the American mafia and other business interests. Castro, who had long been slowed down by illness since 2006, died on Friday at the age of 90.
Condoling with the government and people of Cuba, President Muhammadu Buhari described the death of Castro as sad.
In a statement by the Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, the President expressed delight that Cuba’s longest serving president and revolutionary icon lived to see improved ties with the United States.
According to the statement, the president offered deepest condolences to Cuban President Raul Castro, and the people of Cuba, noting that the legendary leader, passionately served his people for almost half a century.
He assured of the sympathy and solidarity of all Nigerians as “Cubans mourn the exit of this remarkable leader who against all odds stirred uncommon development in sports, education and healthcare sectors of his nation, even to the benefit of other nations.
“As a great friend to Africa, countries in the Global South and the Non-Aligned Movement, President Buhari believes that Castro’s place in history is assured, given his sustained successful commitment and towering role in the liberation and anti-colonialism struggles in Africa”, he said.
President Buhari said his prayers and thoughts are with Castro’s family, friends and many admirers as they go through this period of national mourning and exit of a truly admired selfless global leader.
In his reaction, a former Minister of Aviation, Femi Fani-Kayode described the former Cuban leader as a blessing to the oppressed people of the world and a friend to Africa.
“Under his leadership Cuba’s role in the struggle for black majority rule and the fight against apartheid in Zimbabwe and South Africa cannot be underestimated or downplayed. He played a similar role in the bitter struggle against colonialism and neo-colonialism in Angola, Mozambique and Namibia,” he stated
“He was a warrior to the core and a great leader. He was also a blessing to the Cuban people and they really loved him”, he stated