Former Cuban Leader Fidel Castro Dead at 90

The New York Times reports that divisive Cuban leader Fidel Castro has died at 90. From law student and revolutionary, to communist leader who brought the world to the brink of a nuclear war, Castro’s death was announced by Cuban state television. From the Times:

He wielded power like a tyrant, controlling every aspect of the island’s existence. He was Cuba’s “Máximo Lider.” From atop a Cuban Army tank, he directed his country’s defense at the Bay of Pigs. Countless details fell to him, from selecting the color of uniforms that Cuban soldiers wore in Angola to overseeing a program to produce a superbreed of milk cows. He personally set the goals for sugar harvests. He personally sent countless men to prison.

But it was more than repression and fear that kept him and his totalitarian government in power for so long. He had both admirers and detractors in Cuba and around the world. Some saw him as a ruthless despot who trampled rights and freedoms; many others hailed him as the crowds did that first night, as a revolutionary hero for the ages. . . .

His legacy in Cuba and elsewhere has been a mixed record of social progress and abject poverty, of racial equality and political persecution, of medical advances and a degree of misery comparable to the conditions that existed in Cuba when he entered Havana as a victorious guerrilla commander in 1959.

In recent years, President Obama helped restore diplomatic relations between the US and Cuba, easing travel restrictions on Americans traveling to the country. Obama’s visit to Cuba this year — a meet with Raúl Castro, the current president, who is also Fidel Castro’s brother — was the first by a US president in 88 years. The elder, reclusive Castro wrote a 1,600-word letter criticizing the visit, stating “we do not need the empire to give us anything.”