Fidel Castro- The last of the Greats

fidel.jpgHistory will absolve me” – the famous words of a 26 year old Fidel Castro.

The name Fidel Castro inspires varied reactions from different people, ranging from love and respect bordering on reverence to fear and hatred. All his contemporaries have long receded to the glorious skies; be it Polpot, Tito, Kadar or Franco.

Now, after the longest reign in recent history i.e. 49 years, Castro has decided to step down as the president of Cuba, handing over power to his younger brother Raul Castro. Fidel Castro, born as Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz, is Cuba’s fiery revolutionary patriarch and an international icon of rebellion. He finally resigned as president on February 19, 2008, in a letter in La Granma, the state run newspaper in Cuba.

I will not aspire nor accept — I repeat I will not aspire or accept, the post of President of the Council of State and Commander in Chief,” he wrote.

Ironically, a dictator himself, Fidel Castro assumed power in the year 1959 after overthrowing another dictator by the name of Batista. Furthermore, the still standing tiff with the United States of America started in 1960 when Cuba started nationalizing the properties of American corporations. In the initial two years of power, Castro tried to play the diplomatic card and said that he was not a communist. However, with the years, he became forcefully vocal and Cuba officially adopted communism in the year 1961. It was in the following year that U.S, under the aegis of Eisenhower, declared an economic embargo against Cuba due to its proximity with the U.S.S.R. Under this, no trade could take place between Cuba and America. Hence basically, Cuba was placed in isolation from the rest of the Western world. Power has changed hands many-a-times since then in America but the embargo still stands.

Castro is described by his compatriots as a magnetic leader but a dictator nonetheless. He ruled Cuba over the past 49 years with an iron fist. His best quality was his ability to attract followers from not only his country, but from all over the world. He was the perfect Machiavellian who controlled people politically, physically and psychologically. His detractors were silenced immediately and competition was nipped in the bud. People who deviated from his political moral or social beliefs were captured and put into prison. In the year 2005, Forbes magazine put him in the list of the world’s richest people with a net worth of $ 550 million (no proof was given). Amazing, considering, Castro wrote a letter to President Roosevelt at the age of 12, asking him for a $10 bill.

Right from the time he assumed power till recent times, it is said that there were 638 attempts to assassinate him, out of which the most were by the CIA.

He is a man who has been loved by many yet hated by many more. However, he could not be ignored by anyone. He is not just a man. He is a movement in himself, a man who brought Latin America together. He is someone who changed the face of Cuba from a country known merely for its Havana cigars and sugar to a country which has been able to stand face to face against Uncle Sam.

A tribute to Fidel Castro – a commie, an atheist dictator, an enigma; the last of the greats.

Akanksha Bali

[image courtesy:]