A global farewell lauding the veracity and self-reliance Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz — the Caribbean’s El Commandante — bequeathed Cuba has all but dimmed the dominant spotlight United States media focused in Little Havana, Miami and Union City, New Jersey where anti-Castro revelers rejoiced the passing of the sole world leader to witness the inauguration of more than 11 United States presidents.
From Vatican City, Rome in Europe, Mexico City in Latin America, Beijing City in China, Sun City, South Africa and in many developing countries throughout the world, a counter reaction to the passing of the 90-year-old revolutionary leader resounded with great remorse that the arch-enemy of the USA and half century ruler passed.
Allegedly, he survived more than 600 assassinations, many orchestrated by the Central Intelligence Agency however after a long illness since 2006 succumbed on Nov. 25.
Here in New York, Harlem seemed central to grief and conversations surrounding the death of the Caribbean hero, colonial objector and freedom-fighter.
The uptown village was a haven for the revolutionary leader who with guerillas took charge of his country in 1959 and since then became a pariah to America.
Four months after he led a coup with his brother Raul, and Argentine comrade Che Guevarra, Castro visited the USA.
It was April 1959.
It wasn’t his first.
Reportedly he had honeymooned in New York City the previous year and even audited classes at Columbia University during his stay.
One year later, he returned leading the Cuban delegation to the United Nations in Sept. 1960.
At the UN, Castro delivered a record four-hour, 26-minute speech in which he expressed solidarity with oppressed Black people in Africa.
Castro is known for his unscripted, long and insightful speeches.
Again he stopped into the Apple in 1979 and afterwards Oct. 1995.
Here for the UN’s 50th anniversary, he spoke for only six minutes but reportedly received a much longer ovation than Pres. Bill Clinton.
“We lay claim to a world without ruthless blockades that cause the death of men, women and children like silent atomic bombs,” Castro said, referring to United States sanctions against Cuba and the embargo against Iraq.
The bearded Cuban, strongman visited five times, and is recalled for his stay at the Theresa Hotel where he met with Malcolm X, Adam Clayton Powell Jr. attended church at Abyssinia Baptist Church.
“This is the anniversary of my first visit to this neighborhood,” he said.
Harlem has always acknowledged his embrace of the underclass, minorities and the fact he was ahead of the USA in condemning apartheid in South Africa. He often donated blood to the countries in need and boldly took the lead in doing so when Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans.
Castro defied 10 United States administrations.
On his final visit here in 2000, the Cuban president gave a three-and-a-half hour speech at Riverside Church telling the overflow of more than 3,000 individuals that he loved the “real people” of New York.
“In Harlem is where I have my best friends,” he said.
Giuliani scoffed at his presence, branded him a “murderer” but Clinton spoke with him and shook his hand.
On Nov. 25 when Castro died international leaders from Asia, Africa, South America, the Caribbean flooded condolence messages to the country.
Prof. Hilary Beckles, vice-chancellor of The University of the West Indies said:
“The Caribbean sent him forth to free the oppressed of Latin America and Southern Africa. He sent men and women to battle to end apartheid and to abolish bigotry. As far as Vietnam, this Caribbean man sent left his spirit of freedom to reign supreme.
From the mountaintops of the Caribbean, we say to the world: Let freedom and justice prevail. Let all men and women of good nature celebrate this soul of our soil. Let our Caribbean world be forever a source of enlightenment for the world in its darkest times.
Regarded as a friend to the region, the English speaking Caribbean particularly found affinity with the leader. Perhaps the principal influence to a revolutionary government in Grenada, despite resistance from the United States, Castro forged a determined campaign to build an airport the country would be proud of.
Despite his status as head of a non-member country, CARICOM bestowed honorary status to his legacy.
“He generously shared his country’s expertise with other developing countries, and CARICOM member states have benefited significantly and continue to do so from Cuba’s contribution to their development. In recognition of his role in that regard, the CARICOM heads of government bestowed an honorary Order of the Caribbean Community on President Castro, the only such honor granted to a non-CARICOM citizen,” Chairman of the Caribbean Community and Prime Minister of Dominica Roosevelt Skerrit said.
In his message he added, “Viva Fidel! A true friend of the Caribbean Community.”
Jamaica benefitted from his generosity to the field of education, sports and medicine. Among the donations are Jose Marti High School and G.C. Foster College.
Immediately after hearing the news, Jamaica’s PM Andrew Holness dispatched a condolence letter saying Castro “will go down in the annals of history as one of the leaders who, though coming from a Caribbean island developing State, has had the greatest impact on world history.”
P.J. Patterson, former prime minister of Jamaica, in his reaction to Fidel Castro’s death, characterized him as “indisputably, one of the greatest political and world leaders of our time.”
He always saw Jamaica as a friend.
“To his family and the people of Cuba, I say, be strong as he played a great inning while he was at the wicket.”
Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Keith Rowley extended condolences to Cuba saying, “the passing of Fidel Castro marks an end of an iconic period of history not only for the Caribbean and Latin but the world.”
Pope Francis offered “my sense of grief to your excellency and family.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose country was Cuba’s main ally and supporter during the Soviet era, called Castro “a sincere and reliable friend of Russia” who had built “an inspiring example for many countries and nations.”
Chinese President Xi Jinping said Castro “made immortal historical contributions to the development of socialism around the world.”
“With his death, the Chinese people have lost a close comrade and a sincere friend,” Xi said in a telegram to Raul Castro.
“His glorious image and great achievements will be recorded in history forever.”
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said he had vivid memories of meeting Castro in January 2014 and having “a lively discussion that covered developments around the world as well as sustainable development and climate change.”
“Under former President Castro, Cuba made advances in the fields of education, literacy and health,” Ki-moon said. “I hope Cuba will continue to advance on a path of reform and greater prosperity.”
Salvador Sanchez Ceren, the president of El Salvador, said he felt “deep sorrow… of my friend and eternal companion, Commander Fidel Castro Ruz.”
Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto said that “Fidel Castro was a friend of Mexico, promoting bilateral relations based on respect, dialogue and solidarity.”
Venezuelan Pres. Nicolas Maduro recalled Castro’s departure from Mexico on the yacht Granma with his brother Raul and several dozen supporters to start their revolution.
“Sixty years after the Granma sailed from Mexico, Fidel sails toward the immortality of all those who fight their whole lives,” Maduro said: “Onward to victory, always!”
A statement from the Spanish government hailed Castro as “a figure of enormous historical importance.”
“As a son of Spaniards, former president Castro always maintained close relations with Spain and showed great affection for his family and cultural ties.”
Turkey’s foreign ministry commended the “legendary leader of the Cuban Revolution” for “instituting many deep reforms in his country from health care to education, art to science.”
“The struggle to which he dedicated his life echoed not just in Cuba but across the world, and has awakened respect even in other political camps.”
“India mourns the loss of a great friend,” Indian Prime Minister Nerendra Modi said.
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras sent a message on social media saying: “Goodbye, commandante. Until the peoples’ eternal victory.”
“Fidel Castro in the 20th century did everything possible to destroy the colonial system, to establish cooperative relations,” former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev was quoted as saying.
Guyanese Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo said Castro shared his island’s resources with any nation that dared ask for help.
The Castro government sent thousands of doctors and nurses to work in remote Caribbean areas where local and other foreign medical personnel had refused to go, Nagamootoo said.
“His and Cuba’s contribution to humanity and the Caribbean is unmatched by any other nation in terms of brotherly and sisterly relations. He was an international gift to humanity,” he said.
Throughout Africa, the passing of Fidel Castro was also acknowledged with remorse. He was firmly devoted to independence for all nations.
Castro’s commitment to the resistance struggles in Angola, Zimbabwe, Namibia is legendary.
In West Africa, it was the Cuban medical staff that stabilized the Ebola epidemic.
Castro’s early embrace of Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress has also been documented as the most distinct contributor to expediting the end of apartheid in South Africa.
Former Pres. Jimmy Carter said he and his wife Rosalynn “remember fondly our visits with him in Cuba and his love of his country.”
The couple visited Cuba in 2002.
Pres. Barack Obama tempered his statement by avoiding divisions from the two divergent factions of immigrant groups residing in Florida, New York and New Jersey. Although he extolled the virtues of the defiant opposition leader who until his death remained “suspicious of United States politicians” to his political convictions he was cautious about infusing controversy.
He said although “discord and profound political disagreements” signified the relationship between the US and Cuba for nearly six decades, Americans were extending “a hand of friendship to the Cuban people” during their time of grief.
“History will record and judge the enormous impact of this singular figure on the people and world around him,” the historic leader to make inroads to repair relations between the countries said.
In contrast, his successor Donald J. Trump offered caustic criticisms of the former communist dictator.
“One thing is clear, history will not absolve Fidel Castro; it will remember him as an evil, murderous dictator who inflicted misery and suffering on his own people.”
Allegedly, Trump will reverse his campaign promise to reinstitute an embargo against Cuban trade.
The father of the Cuban revolution was cremated on Nov. 26 and a nine-day period of national mourning is now in effect on the Spanish-Caribbean island.
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