Cuba's Dictator Dies

FIDEL CASTRO, THE FORMER LEADER OF CUBA; DIED LATE LAST WEEK AT 90 YEARS OLD, LEAVING HIS COUNTRY “OFFICIALLY” IN MOURNING. CASTRO HAD LED THE ISLAND NATION FOR ALMOST HALF A CENTURY.

CUBA IS LOCATED JUST 90 MILES OFF THE COAST OF THE UNITED STATES, AND IS THE CLOSEST PLACE TO US THAT IS RUN BY A COMMUNIST GOVERNMENT . COMMUNISM IS A TYPE OF GOVERNMENT IN WHICH INDIVIDUALS DO NOT OWN LAND, FACTORIES, OR MACHINERY. INSTEAD, THE GOVERNMENT OWNS THESE THINGS. COMMUNISTS ARE SOMETIMES CALLED “LEFTISTS.”
UNTIL RECENTLY, THE U.S AND CUBA HAD A TROUBLED RELATIONSHIP. THE U.S EVEN IMPOSED AN EMBARGO – WHICH MEANS THAT WE WOULDN’T TRADE WITH THEM, OR ALLOW TOURISTS TO VISIT. UNDER THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION THOUGH, THE U.S HAS EASED ITS EMBARGO.
UP NEXT, MARTIN SAVAGE TELLS US MORE ABOUT CASTRO -- AND HOW OPINIONS ARE STILL SPLIT ON WHETHER HIS LEGACY WAS GOOD -- OR BAD.

DEPENDING ON WHOM YOU TALK TO, FIDEL CASTRO WAS A REVERED REVOLUTIONARY LEGEND, OR A DESPISED TYRANNICAL DICTATOR. THERE'S LITTLE MIDDLE GROUND. CASTRO CAME TO POWER IN 19-59 IN A WIDELY POPULAR REVOLUTION OVER-THROWING CUBA'S THEN DICTATOR FULGENCIO BATISTA. THE NEW GOVERNMENT QUICKLY GAINED THE RECOGNITION OF THE UNITED STATES. BUT IT WASN'T LONG BEFORE THE BEARDED REBEL'S LEFTIST IDEOLOGY PUT HIM ON A COLLISION COURSE WITH AMERICA, ESPECIALLY WHEN HE ALLIED HIMSELF WITH THE SOVIET UNION. SEEING A NEW THREAT JUST 90 MILES OFF SHORE, THE U-S DECIDED TO ACT. FIRST LAUNCHING A TRADE EMBARGO, FOLLOWED BY THE FAILED, C-I-A BACKED, BAY OF PIGS INVASION AND SEVERAL ASSASSINATION ATTEMPTS ON CASTRO. ALL THIS, WHILE THE CUBAN LEADER ALLOWED THE SOVIET UNION TO SECRETLY BUILD NUCLEAR MISSILE BASES ON THE ISLAND. WHEN THEY WERE DISCOVERED BY THE U-S IN 19-62, THE SO CALLED CUBAN MISSILE CRISIS BROUGHT THE WORLD TO THE BRINK OF NUCLEAR WAR. AS CASTRO TURNED MORE AND MORE TO SOCIALISM, THOUSANDS OF HIS WELL TO DO CUBANS FLED THE COUNTRY. THE MILLIONS LEFT BEHIND BECAME PART OF HIS NEW SOCIAL EXPERIMENT, A ONE-PARTY COMMUNIST STATE LED BY ONE MAN, HIMSELF. Miriam Leiva, Dissident: "He imposed the idea that those who didn't like it could leave. He divided families." MANY SAW POSITIVES, EDUCATION AND HEALTH CARE FOR ALL, RACIAL INTEGRATION... Jose Fernandez, Cuban Vice President: "What Fidel achieved in the social order of this country has not been achieved by any poor nation and even by many rich countries, despite being submitted to enormous pressures." BUT CRITICS SAY IT CAME AT A TERRIBLE COST. Vladimiro Roca, Dissident: "The dreams of freedom that they'd given the Cuban people were turned into the nightmare we live today, because we have a totalitarian regime in which all basic liberties have been abolished. WHAT CASTRO NEVER MANAGED TO ACHIEVE WAS ECONOMIC PROSPERITY EVEN WITH YEARS OF SUBSIDIES FROM THE SOVIET UNION. FOR THAT CASTRO ALWAYS BLAMED THE UNITED STATES AND ITS EMBARGO. BUT MANY BLAMED THE MAN HIMSELF, POINTING TO HIS UNWAVERING BELIEF IN AN OUTDATED AND INEFFICIENT SOCIALIST MODEL. CASTRO HAD LITTLE TOLERANCE FOR DISSENT. OPPONENTS WERE OFTEN DISMISSED AS TRAITORS, IMPRISONED OR EXILED. AS MORE AND MORE DISSIDENTS ENDED UP UNDER ARREST, CASTRO BECAME THE TARGET OF INTERNATIONAL CONDEMNATION. BUT LIKE SO MANY TIMES BEFORE, CASTRO NEVER BACKED DOWN, PROUDLY DEFENDING HIS RECORD ON HUMAN RIGHTS. CALL IT PRIDE OR SELECTIVE REASONING BUT CASTRO NEVER LOST FAITH IN THE REVOLUTION. OPPONENTS CONCEDE CASTRO'S POPULARITY DIMINISHED AS HIS BEARD GREW WHITER, BUT HIS INTELLIGENCE AND SHREWDNESS CONTINUED TO COMMAND FEAR AND RESPECT. HE WOULD EVENTUALLY OUTLIVE MANY OF HIS CRITICS AND OUTLAST 10 U-S ADMINISTRATIONS. IN THE END, IT WAS ILLNESS, NOT WASHINGTON, THAT FORCED HIM TO RETIRE, PASSING CUBA'S LEADERSHIP TO HIS YOUNGER BROTHER RAUL. IN HIS LAST YEARS, CASTRO APPEARED ONLY OCCASIONALLY MOSTLY IN PHOTOS LOOKING FRAIL. AT TIMES HE TRIED TO PLAY THE ROLE OF ELDER STATESMAN BUT MORE AND MORE HE SIMPLY SEEMED INCONSEQUENTIAL.

Instructional Links

Encyclopedia Article: World Book Student, Fidel Castro (1926-2016)

http://www.worldbookonline.com/student/behindheadline?p=31469

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Timeline: BBC, Fidel Castro: Cuba's Revolutionary Leader

http://www.bbc.co.uk/timelines/zttpfg8

Website Article: National Geographic, Cuba Facts

http://travel.nationalgeographic.com/travel/countries/cuba-facts/

Interactive Map: PBS American Experience, Fidel Castro, Destination Cuba

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/castro/maps/index.html

Website Article: ProCon.org, Should the United States Maintain Its Embargo against Cuba?

http://cuba-embargo.procon.org

Website Article: Newsela, Cuba and the United States are beginning to make peace

https://newsela.com/articles/cuba-entrepreneurs/id/7683/

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Dictionary Definition: Kids.Net.Au, Embargo

http://dictionary.kids.net.au/word/embargo

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