n Saturday November 26, Cuba announced the death of revolutionary icon Fidel Castro at the age of 90 – one of the best-known freedom fighters. A man whose name is synonymous with freedom struggles the world over and the most successful leader of a socialist state.
Given his age and ill-health his death was to be expected. Yet, when death came to the man who survived innumerable US attempted assassinations, it still left countries of the developing world in shock, disbelief and profound sadness. There were of course those Cubans who migrated to the US who danced in the streets when news of his death was made public.
Comrade Castro or el Comandante as he was fondly referred to was a pillar of strength to the peoples of the developing world struggling to overthrow the shackles of imperialism which kept them in slavery.
Castro will best be remembered not only for the leadership role he played during the Cuban revolution, but as the helmsman who guided his country safely through a US global economic and trade embargo -including a prohibition on the transfer of medical equipment and medicaments- freezing the country’s assets and an invasion of Cuba sponsored by the CIA.
Yet, despite the US embargo imposed on his country, Cuba was recognized by the UN as the country with the best healthcare system in the world.
At the time Castro and his band of revolutionaries seized power in Cuba, half of Cuba’s children did not attend school. Over a million adults in a population of eleven million were illiterate. More than 50% houses had no toilets of any kind. 85% had no running water. 91% had no electricity. There was only 1 doctor per 2,000 people in rural areas and 75% of rural houses were shacks made of
It was in this background, speaking at the UN General Assembly in 1960 -scarcely a year after capturing power- Castro wowed to wipe illiteracy from the country within a year… and wipe it out he did. So much so that within a short period of time, Cuba was sending voluntary doctors to countries the developing world over, including to Sri Lanka. And many of these volunteer doctors opted to work in the poorest areas of the country as for example
Castro’s younger brother Raúl Castro, who became President of Cuba in 2006 after Fidel fell desperately ill, announced the iconic leader’s death on television.
“..It is with profound sadness,” he said “I inform our people and our friends across [Latin] America and the world, that today, November 25, 2016, at 10.29 pm, Fidel Castro, the Commander in Chief of the Cuban revolution, died,”.
Jacob Zuma, the President of South Africa remembered the role of Castro during South Africa’s struggle against apartheid.
France’s Hollande described Castro as a towering figure of the 20th century who incarnated the Cuban revolution, in both its hopes and subsequent disillusionments. Not unexpectedly Castro had his share of detractors, media outlets spoke of expatriate Cubans living in Miami taking to the streets celebrating his death, singing, dancing, and waving Cuban flags chanting “Cuba Libre!” (Cuba is Free) and “el viejo murió” (the old man is dead).
However, the main body of Cuban people and people in developing countries mourn the passing away of the man who along with the late Ernesto Che Guvera embodied the spirit of freedom, steadfastly standing up to imperialist plots and
In Sri Lanka, people irrespective of their political beliefs heard the news with sadness, shock and disbelief. We are strengthened however by the legacy he bequeathed us – whether big or small, with or without many natural resources, the human spirit and will to stand up to international bullies and can conquer the wiles of the most powerful country in the world.
Today once again we salute Cuban leader Fidel Castro – the man who defied the most powerful nation in the world, to raise his country from poverty and illiteracy to the export of voluntary health-care and education worldwide.
Farewell Comrade, you left the world a better place to live in.