The death of former Cuban dictator Fidel Castro on Friday Nov. 25 is yielding polarized reactions from international communities and political leaders. A leader of the 1959 Cuban Revolution, Castro died from natural causes at age 90. A drastically divided reaction comes from both supporters and critics of the political leader; Cuban citizens have expressed grief during a nine-day period of mourning in Havana and across the country, while “in the Little Havana neighborhood of Miami, home to Cuban exiles, revelers partied all day,” according to CNN. His decades-long communist regime caused both growth and decline on the Caribbean island.
As a socialist, Castro passed progressive legislation that benefited minority groups. Castro believed that, “the emancipation of women was intrinsically tied to the socialist revolution,” according to Latin American television network TeleSur. Castro’s regime denounced gender and racial discrimination, sentencing offenders up to two years in prison for infractions. Additionally, the regime installed universal health care, legalized abortion eight years before the United States and stressed the importance of paid maternal leave for working mothers.
Castro, however, was a flawed individual and contributed to the political oppression of many Cubans. Freedom of speech was suppressed and many activists, journalists and critics were imprisoned and censored. Cuba became—and is arguably still organized as—a police state that surveilled its citizens and violently repressed its opponents. Even his own administration faced execution if deemed necessary, according to New York Post.
No one nation can define its history in straightforward and simple terms. The U.S.—currently experiencing a legitimation crisis on part of its bipartisan political system—has a complicated and often shameful history both domestically and internationally. All political administrations will experience strife––and unfortunately––a dangerous changing-of-hands.
A mixed reaction to Castro’s death is both understandable and appropriate for his nuanced existence. Politics are neither black nor white, and we can acknowledge the positive aspects of Castro’s regime while severely condemning the negative ones.
Those who experienced and witnessed his transgressions—and his accomplishments—firsthand best define Castro’s history within Cuba. There are both groups of Cubans celebrating his death and mourning him; this divided reaction perfectly reflects the complexity of Castro’s presence and influence on Cuba, on the communist movement and on U.S. history.