As it did during the long and sprawling life of Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro, the world had a divided reaction to his death, hailing him as a liberator and cursing him as a dictator.
In Miami, the island’s exiles and their children and grandchildren took to the streets, banging pots and pans, waving American and Cuban flags, and celebrating in Spanish: “He’s dead! He’s dead!”
In the early-morning hours on Saturday in Havana, the streets remained quiet not long after Castro’s brother and successor, Raúl, announced that the former dictator at 10:29 p.m. Friday. He did not give a cause of death. There will be eight days of mourning, including a mass rally to be staged in Havana’s Plaza of the Revolution. His ashes will be interred Dec. 4 in the southern city of Santiago, Cuban state media reported.
In Havana, the popular Cuban blogger Yoani Sánchez tweeted, “the silence deepens, it is dawn, but fear is palpable in the air. Complicated days are coming . . .”
“He is not here, he’s gone, we have survived Fidel Castro.”
Cuban state TV began airing marathon documentaries about Castro’s life and times. He defied the will of 10 U.S. presidents before President Obama held out an olive branch this year that included a visit to Cuba and a resumption of travel from the United States. American tourists are now pouring in; there are direct flights from Miami.
President-elect Donald Trump’s response was succinct. He tweeted: “Fidel Castro is dead!”
In Miami’s Little Havana neighbourhood, celebrators outside of the Cuban restaurant Cafe Versailles chanted, “Fidel, take your little brother with you!
The Miami Herald reported the mood in “the cradle of the Cuban exile community was one of pure, raw emotion. This time, after decades of false alarms, Castro’s death was real.”
But across Latin America, leaders spoke mostly kind words. Some stirred with revolutionary passion; others employed more diplomatic language. All acknowledged the iconic role of the Castro in the region’s history.
Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto hailed Castro as “a friend of Mexico, a promoter of a bilateral relation based on respect, dialogue and solidarity.”
The president of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro, said that 60 years after Castro and small band of fighters set sail aboard a fishing yacht called Granma, from Mexico to Cuba, to launch the revolution, “Fidel has joined the immortals.”
Maduro — whose own revolution has imploded since the death of predecessor and Castro ally Hugo Chavez and the onset of hard economic times — said Castro’s death should inspire “all us revolutionaries to honour his legacy.”
“Hasta victoria siempre!” he typed, employing the popular slogan “ever onward, to victory!”
Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa tweeted: “A great man has left us. Viva Cuba! Viva Latin America!”
Social media users debated Castro’s legacy. Some focused on the inspiration he gave oppressed people in Latin America and praised Cuba’s health care and universal literacy. Others condemned Cuba’s lack of freedom and democracy, and its moribund economy.
“A dictator who sent gays, gypsies and political opponents in general to be killed behind walls or left to rot in Military Units to Aid Production without any right to defense,” Sao Paulo filmmaker Bruno Jorge wrote on Facebook. “I believe this is important information for anyone stuck between lucidity and the need to be accepted by an ideological group.”
Castro, who struggled for years with a mysterious ailment, prepared his people for his approaching death in April when he addressed the Communist Party of Cuba for the last time.
“I’ll be 90 years old soon,” Castro told his comrades. “Soon I’ll be like all the others.”
In the speech, Castro defended his legacy: “The time will come for all of us, but the ideas of the Cuban Communists will remain as proof on this planet that if they are worked at with fervour and dignity, they can produce the material and cultural goods that human beings need, and we need to fight without a truce to obtain them.”
Other leaders far from Cuba paid homage. South African President Jacob Zuma thanked Castro for his support to overthrow the country’s apartheid regime. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi called Castro “one of the most iconic personalities of the 20th century” and a “great friend” of India.
Palestinian diplomats posted photographs of Castro with former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.
Russian President Vladimir Putin sent a telegram to the Cuban president that read in part, “The name of this distinguished statesman is rightly considered the symbol of an era in modern world history.”
Spain’s foreign ministry expressed its condolences and called Castro “a figure of great historic importance. . . who marked a great turning point in the destiny of his country and had great influence across the region.”