Op-ed: 2016 has been one hell of a year for celebrity and famous deaths. Some had their three scores years and ten and more while others died way too young.
The latest Friday is two elderly political figures. One is Fidel Castro who has died aged 90.
Castro’s younger brother Raúl announced the revolutionary leader’s death on television Friday night saying “With profound sadness I am appearing to inform our people and our friends across [Latin] America and the world that today, 25 November 2016, at 10.29pm, Fidel Castro, the commander in chief of the Cuban revolution, died. In accordance with his wishes, his remains will be cremated.” Raúl Castro concluded his address with the famous revolutionary slogan: “Onwards to victory!”
Castro was a famous figure during the 50s and 60s as a revolutionary leader in the true sense in Cuba.
He established the first communist state in the Western Hemisphere after leading a successful overthrow of the military dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista in 1959.
You may have expected the West to applaud the overthrow of a military dicatorship but it was the days of "better dead than red" in the USA.
"Soon after the success of the Cuban Revolution, militant counter-revolutionary groups developed in an attempt to overthrow the new regime. Undertaking armed attacks against government forces, some set up guerrilla bases in Cuba's mountainous regions, leading to the six-year Escambray Rebellion. These dissidents were funded and armed by various foreign sources, including the exiled Cuban community, the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and Rafael Trujillo's regime in the Dominican Republic" Wikipedia.
Wikipedia also claims "In August 1960, CIA contacted Cosa Nostra in Chicago with the intention to draft a simultaneous assassination of Fidel Castro, Raul Castro and Che Guevara. In exchange, if the operation succeeded and that a pro-American government was restored in Cuba, the United States agreed that the Mafia gets their " monopoly on gaming, prostitution and drugs."
On February 16, 1959, Cuba's revolutionary leader Fidel Castro became the country's youngest ever premier.
Long standing US sanctions against Cuba hit the ordinary people over many decades but there was no surrender. On February 19, 2008, Fidel Castro resigned the Cuban presidency handing over to his younger brother Raul but he will step down in 2018.
What next for Cuba?
In August 2015 the U.S. embassy in Havana finally reopened with US Secretary of State John Kerry attending the ceremony.
A thaw in U.S. Cuba relations after deacades.
But former revolutionary leader Fidel Castro was cautious and in August 2015 published an open letter on Cuba Debate.
The following is a translation via Google of Fidel Castro's open letter; apologies for the translation which is far from perfect but has all the relevant points;
"Writing is a way to be useful if you consider that our suffering humanity should be more and better educated at the incredible ignorance that surrounds us all, except for researchers seeking in science a satisfactory answer. It is a word that implies few letters in his infinite content.
Everyone in our youth we hear ever of Einstein and, especially, after the outbreak of the atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which ended the cruel war unleashed between Japan and the United States. When those bombs were dropped after the war unleashed by the attack on the US base at Pearl Harbor, the Japanese empire was already defeated. United States, the country whose territory and industries remained outside the war, became the richest and best armed of the earth, in a world shattered, full of dead, wounded and hungry.
Together, the USSR and China had lost over 50 million lives, coupled with enormous material destruction.
Almost all the world's gold went to the coffers of the United States.
Today it is estimated that all the gold and currency reserves of that nation reaches 8000 133.5 tons of the metal. However, shattering the commitments made at Bretton Woods, United States, unilaterally declared that they would not honor the obligation to support the Troy ounce of gold to the value of their paper money.
Such a measure ordered by Nixon violated the commitments made by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt."
The open letter was posted the day after Fidel Castro celebrated his 89th birthday on August 13, 2015.
The second death Friday from the world of politics is in the UK and Labour peer Lord Taylor of Blackburn, 87, who died after being seriously injured when his mobility scooter collided with a van outside Parliament during rush hour the previous week.
BBC News reports;
He was the Labour leader of Blackburn Council in the 1970s before being made a life peer in May 1978 and becoming a businessman.
Both elderly statesman who will be missed by colleagues.
Both men had long lives.
One however, Fidel Castro, stayed true to his political beliefs. He may have been a divisive political figure to some but he was a political giant and game-changer.