Summarizing the life of Cuba’s iconic Marxist revolutionary leader Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz whose appeal transcended ideologies, and whose achievements were many is tough. The guerrilla revolutionary and communist idol was a holdout against history that turned tiny Cuba into a thorn in the paw of the mighty capitalist United States. Castro’s death at age 90 was announced Friday night by Cuban state television, outfoxed 11 United States.
Shortly after coming to power in 1959, Fidel Castro informed American journalist Edward R. Murrow that, ‘when we have fulfilled our promise of good government, I will cut my beard.’ For over half a century the Cuban people waited on the fulfillment of both those promises. However, his passion for constructing a more equal society was beyond doubt.
Castro’s confrontation with the US was lopsided from the very start, but the revolutionary leader stood firm, and refused to budge from his ideological foundations. Cuba has to bear the consequences of their leaders’ tough stance that came in the form of decades-long devastating economic blockade of Cuba enforced by the US, which still remain in place. But Castro to his credit did manage to keep Cuba afloat. The revolutionaries’ most important contribution for his country is one that is different from his usual image; Cuba’s healthcare system. The system has been held up by the World Health Organisation as a model for others, and is free and universal. For most Cubans, Castro has been the ubiquitous figure in their lives. Many love him and share his faith in communism, and even some who abandoned their political belief still respect him.
The global reaction after his passing away has been of respect and admiration (barring few exceptions like Donald Trump). US President elect Trump condemned Castro as ‘brutal dictator’ whereas across the border Canadian Prime Minister praised Fidel Castro as ‘remarkable leader’ and a ‘legendary revolutionary and orator’.
Across the rest of the world, Castro was showered with effusive praise by left-wing governments in France, Canada and neighbouring Venezuela who praised his revolutionary spirit. Francois Hollande, France’s deeply unpopular socialist president, hailed Castro as a ‘towering figure in the 20th century’ and called for the US trade embargo on Cuba to be lifted.
China’s president Xi Jingping also had kind words for Castro in a statement read out on state television: ‘The Chinese people have lost a good and true comrade. Comrade Castro will live forever.’
Vladimir Putin described Castro as “a sincere and reliable friend of Russia,” while Mikhail Gorbachev, the former Soviet leader, praised him for standing up to US pressure.
Pakistan also expressed deep grief and sorrow over the demise of Castro. In a statement Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz said that late President steered his nation through numerous daunting challenges with statesmanship, honour and dignity.
Under Castro’s leadership Cuba extended full support to Pakistan after the 2005-earthquake and sent over 2,400 physicians and paramedical staff and established 32 field hospitals and two relief camps in the North-West Frontier Province (now KP) and Azad Kashmir. The support extended by Castro to Pakistan in the hour of need will always be fondly remembered by Pakistanis.