Within half an hour of the Cuban government’s announcement of the death of the 90-year-old revolutionary leader, cheers were heard in Miami’s Little Havana. Thousands of people banged pots, waved Cuban flags and whooped in jubilation. “Cuba si! Castro no!” they chanted, while others screamed “Cuba libre!”
“Feels weird,” said Gabriel Morales, a 40-year-old financial executive in Miami, whose parents left Cuba after Castro came to power.
“Been waiting to hear this news all my life. Seems unreal,” Morales said in a text message to an AP reporter.
Famous anti-communist, the former World Chess Champion now chairman of the Human Rights Foundation, Garry Kasparov, echoed this sentiment in a tweet: “Fidel Castro was one of the 20th century’s many monsters. We should lament only that he had so long to inflict misery on Cuba and beyond.”
Fidel Castro was one of the 20th century’s many monsters. We should lament only that he had so long to inflict misery on Cuba and beyond.
— Garry Kasparov (@Kasparov63) November 26, 2016
However, Castro was mourned by some present and former leaders.
“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 telling the Interfax news agency.
Salvador Sanchez Ceren, the left-wing president of El Salvador, said he felt “deep sorrow … of my friend and eternal companion, Commander Fidel Castro Ruz.” Sanchez Ceren was a guerrilla leader in the Civil War in the 1980s marked by terror and death squads.
Mexican president Enrique Pena Nieto tweeted that “Fidel Castro was a friend of Mexico, promoting bilateral relations based on respect, dialogue and solidarity.”
Peter Hain, a former member of the British Cabinet and anti-apartheid campaigner, tempered praise for Castro with criticism of some aspects of his long rule.
“Although responsible for indefensible human rights and free-speech abuses, Castro created a society of unparalleled access to free health, education and equal opportunity despite an economically throttling USA siege,” Hain said. “His troops inflicted the first defeat on South Africa’s troops in Angola in 1988, a vital turning point in the struggle against apartheid.”
With reporting by Associated Press