What is Fidel Castro's legacy?

After the death of the revolutionary leader Fidel Castro, the Cuban government has ordered nine days of national mourning. Commentators are optimistic about Cuba's future.

Open/close all quotes
Le Monde (FR) /

Castro never understood his country

Cuba has come one big step closer to freedom with Castro's death, French-based Cuban writer Zoé Valdès writes enthusiastically in Le Monde:

“The world insists on selling us this stale marketing product invented by Castro I and swallowed by the entire planet: him and his revolution. Consumers, of course, have confused Castro with Cuba. They believed, and still do, that the tyrant invented the 'fiesta'. And when they speak of Cuba they only refer to this glorious island and its gaudy, ridiculous 'fiesta' that leftists the world over associate with my country. No, Cuba is not Castro. Castro never understood what Cuba is. ... I draped my Cuban flag from my balcony and, with my daughter by my side, shouted with all my might: 'Viva Cuba libre!'”

El País (ES) /

A bright future for Cuba

Cuba faces a bright future now that Castro has died, writes Joaquín Villalobos, former Salvadoran guerilla leader turned politician, in El País:

“Fidel Castro's death faces Cuba with the dilemma of the choice between an orderly transition or collapse. … Right now two powerful factors are pushing Cuba towards an orderly transition. The first is that the post-revolutionary generation will soon take power on the island. … It experienced the disastrous economic model of the revolution, observed China and Russia's swing towards capitalism, saw the Berlin Wall come down and is now watching Venezuela's failure. It is impossible that the new generation will choose to continue as before. The second factor is the radical change in the class structure brought about by the half a million small businesses known as 'cuentapropistas' that now exist in the country. These business owners are now hiring employees, taking out loans, and, in as far as the dramatic reality of the Cuban economy allows, they represent an improvement as regards the range of goods and services available to the people. The market is not just an economic instrument but also a political institution that demands the creation of rules and standards.”

The Irish Independent (IE) /

Don't glorify "el lider maximo"

Purely positive depictions of the deceased leader like that by Irish President Michael D. Higgins don't tell the whole story and should be avoided, the Irish Independent observes:

“The President of the Irish Republic was clearly unbothered by, for instance - just to name a few things that have raised eyebrows over the years - the hundreds of brutal executions after the revolution, the persecution of clergy, gays and political and other dissidents, the hundreds of thousands of refugees who fled to America, and his decision to permit the Soviet Union - which subsidised Cuba - to build launching sites for nuclear missiles capable of reaching America, which led to a confrontation between America and Russia in 1962 that over 13 terrifying days the world feared was escalating into nuclear war.”

Pravda (SK) /

Both myth and tragedy

"El Comandante" Fidel Castro was able to exploit the romantic myth surrounding his own person and his revolution right to the end, Pravda writes:

“This myth functioned perfectly as long as Cuba progressed. The success of the country's health and education systems can't be denied. The dramatic drop in the infant mortality rate can be corroborated statistically. ... Nevertheless Castro's dictatorship of the proletariat was just that: a dictatorship. There was no room either for a political opposition or for free opinion and culture on the 'island of freedom'. Critics of the regime were arrested 'pre-emptively' and incarcerated for political motives. ... However, the embargo harmed not just millions of Cubans. It was also dumb, since it allowed Castro to justify his human rights violations in the eyes of the world.”

El Periódico de Catalunya (ES) /

A gifted propagandist

Castro managed to create a myth surrounding his own person that was intended to divert attention from the Cuban people's misery, El Periódico de Catalunya observes:

“The deceased Cuban leader will go down in history above all for his skilled approach to political propaganda. All the things that surrounded his public persona - the cigars, the beard, the olive green uniform, and even the pensioner's track suit - were aimed at strengthening his leadership, exalting the values of the revolution and creating emotions among the Cubans. … All this secured him more support than he could ever have expected from a society subjected to enormous privation, while abroad the image of the human face of Marxism, compatible with rum and rumba, was sold. Faced with the arrogance of Uncle Sam, the 'bearded one' developed into the leader of the non-aligned states despite the collapse of the communist bloc.”

Cumhuriyet (TR) /

An outstanding social policy

Fidel Castro's policies were hugely successful, Cumhuriyet believes:

“Fidel was a great revolutionary who fought in the 20th century for a more just world. ... With the Cuban revolution he turned the world on its head. ... Today Cuba is a country without luxury but with level-headed people. A country with unparalleled living space, food, free and high quality education, healthcare and political participation. Unemployment lies at 2.5 percent, and almost half of the parliamentarians are women. A Cuba without Fidel doesn't mean that his values will collapse in the face of American capitalism. A legacy that has left such indelible marks on Cubans and mankind's collective consciousness cannot be swept away so easily.”

Delo (SI) /

New era awaits Cuba

A new era will begin in Cuba with Castro's death, Delo predicts:

“The departure of Fidel Castro, the father of the revolution and supreme commander, reverberates throughout the world even though Fidel - a symbol of the Cold War - stepped down almost a decade ago. ... What will happen now on Cuba? The process of unavoidable reforms that started a quarter of a century ago has progressed quickly in recent years. Like other Latin American nations, the Cubans are divided. Much has changed, only the party remains in power - and alongside it the army, which won't be easily dislodged. If the US remains cool-headed there won't be any major upheavals. But if it starts throwing its weight around that is exactly what we will see.”

Der Standard (AT) /

A first acid test for Trump

Fidel Castro's death is the first major test for US president-elect Donald Trump:

“With the Cuban revolutionary's death, the last protagonist of the Cold War has passed away. And precisely at a moment when many people, faced with a new world order, yearn for a return to the bipolar 'idyll' of the nuclear confrontation between the Americans and the Soviets, because at least it would provide them with a framework for interpreting the seemingly unfathomable course the world is now taking. … The Obama administration completed the process of opening up the US to Cuba long ago. Despite the continuation of the dictatorship under Fidel's brother Raúl, the Cubans are now better off after several years of a more open economy, not least because of the money transfers from relatives living in the US that are now allowed. … Castro's death is a first test for the US president-elect Donald Trump. It is up to him to decide whether to reinforce the dictatorship in Cuba through confrontation or to continue with the process of opening up to Cuba.”