On His Own Terms

Cuban dictator Fidel Castro dies at 90 years old

At first, Fidel Castro charmed the world. Up in the Sierra Maestra mountains with his rebels, he looked and sounded like a freedom fighter. Castro, one of five children, grew up in a prosperous family that owned a sugar plantation. It was the poverty and inequality he saw around him that made him into a revolutionary. On New Year’s Day of 1959, after years of fighting the guerrillas, Cuban Dictator General Fulgencio Batista fled the country, and Castro–then 32, took control of Cuba. All seemed well until Castro began executing his political opponents and nationalizing farmlands, pushing U.S. influence out of the country. By the end of 1959, the revolution had become radicalized, with thousands of Cubans accused of treachery executed by firing squad alone and many more risking everything to escape. When an alliance with the Soviet Union was established, the U.S. responded with sanctions that still stand to this day. Things only got worse from there with the Cuban Missile Crisis and countless assassination attempts, Castro remaining a thorn in the U.S.’s side. Still, the revolution did have upsides, with hundreds of new schools built, the literacy rate nearly at 100%, and a universal health care system. When the Soviet Union collapsed and all the money was cut off, Cubans starving on the streets, Fidel Castro, ever the crafty survivor, did an ingenious thing: he legalized the dollar, meaning that if relatives in Miami sent you money, you could afford to eat. He also welcomed foreign industry that brings in thousands of tourists annually. In February 2008, on account of illness, he transferred the presidency to his younger brother, Raul. He died on November 25th of this year, at the age of 90. In the end, after tormenting eleven U.S. Presidents and his own citizens, Fidel Castro died on his own terms.

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