1. FIDEL AT 90

    "We were born in a free country that our parents passed on to us, and the island will first sink into the sea before we consent to being the slaves to anyone"
    Fidel Castro

    please use the keyboard arrows
    to navigate

    1. Fidel Castro: A Latin American Legend

      please use the keyboard arrows
      to navigate

    2. Fidel’s Early Years

    3. Fidel was born in 1926 during a period when then-President Gerardo Machado was cutting off the traditional elite from its long-held power and defending the island’s sovereignty from the United States.

      As a child, Fidel was sent to live in Santiago de Cuba, where he excelled more in sports than academia.

      His youth was marked by turbulent politics: Fulgencio Batista became president in 1940 and ruled the country until 1944 before returning to power through a coup in 1952. With the blessing and material support of the United States, he ruled Cuba with an iron fist until 1959 in what even John F. Kennedy once referred to as “one of the most bloody and repressive dictatorships in the long history of Latin American repression.”
      While studying law at the University of Havana, Fidel became increasingly involved in anti-imperialist activism. After traveling to the Dominican Republic and Colombia, Fidel sharpened his leftist politics and led protests against right-wing governments in both countries. Upon returning to Cuba, Fidel used his legal training to oppose the Batista regime while founding an underground revolutionary socialist group called “The Movement.”

    4. Armed Struggle

    5. The Movement staged a failed attack on the Moncada barracks, and many—including Fidel—were arrested.

      Prison was a time of learning for Fidel, who devoured authors ranging from Marx, Lenin and Marti to Freud and Shakespeare. It was during this time that Fidel made one of the most famous speeches in history, “History Will Absolve Me,” as part of his own defense in court.

      Released in 1955, Fidel left Cuba for Mexico, where he met and soon befriended the Argentine Ernesto "Che" Guevara. The Movement ultimately survived and reorganized in Fidel’s newfound country, eventually assuming the name “26th of July Movement” in honor of the Moncada attack.

      Fidel began his takeover of Cuba the next year, sailing to the island aboard the Granma. The few fighters soon multiplied and despite initial defeats against Batista forces, Fidel’s strategizing and sustained guerrilla attacks eventually resulted in the country being taken over piece by piece.

      Despite U.S. attempts to stop him, on Jan. 1, 1959, Fidel officially declared victory in what would be the final nail in the coffin of the Batista regime.

    6. Putting Words Into Action

    7. Fidel transformed the country from one terrorized by torture, killings and dispossession to one radically committed to wealth redistribution, education and universal health care.

      Domestically, he built his legacy on agrarian reform, establishing one of the world’s most ambitious literacy campaigns and developing a free, world-class health care system. He went on to nationalize companies, refineries and land and would serve as head of the Communist Party of Cuba from 1965.

      In Washington, he is known for opposing U.S. aggression, most prominently the CIA’s Bay of Pigs invasion of 1961, and being a major player in the 1962 Missile Crisis that marked the peak of the Cold War with the USSR. He is also believed to have survived at least 638 assassination attempts as well as countless attempts to destabilize the small Caribbean country.

      In Latin America, Fidel built the groundwork for a tight partnership between left-wing governments of the Caribbean and South America. Along with Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, he helped found ALBA, a socialist bloc opposed to privatization and liberalization which offers a vision of post-neoliberalism rooted in principles of social welfare and mutual economic aid.

      For the Global South, Fidel is a revolutionary icon who has consistently supported principles—and policies—of internationalism. He was a key figure in the Non-Aligned Movement, winning the respect of leaders across Africa, the Middle East and Asia, where thousands of Cuban troops, doctors, agricultural specialists and teachers have helped on humanitarian missions.

    8. Fidel’s Dawn

    9. On April 19, 2016, at the final session of the Cuban Communist Party’s 7th Congress, Fidel addressed his audience. “This may be one of the last times that I speak in this room,” he said, “but the ideas of the Cuban communists will remain as proof that on this planet, by working with fervor and dignity, we can produce the material and cultural wealth that humans need.”

      It was a rare public appearance for the 90 year old, who still nonetheless pens letters and articles on global issues, influencing strategic decisions in Cuba with his moral weight. His behind-the-scenes diplomacy has also helped establish peace between the FARC and the Colombian government, and now the U.S. and Cuba through the normalization of diplomatic relations.

      Suffering from an undisclosed digestive illness in July 2006, Fidel announced the transfer of presidential duties to his brother, Raul, who was vice president at the time. But Cuba’s revolutionary hero has not exited the platform of ideas and he remains as influential as among those committed to the Caribbean nation’s anti-imperial and socialist principles.

    1. Q & A with Deena Stryker, author of Cuba: A Diary of the Revolution

      please use the keyboard arrows
      to navigate

    2. In 1963 Deena Stryker was an intrepid young journalist with both French and American citizenship when she traveled to Cuba determined to capture the day-to-day realities of a society in the process of radically remaking itself. Her recently reissued book, “Cuba: A Diary of the Revolution” takes the reader to the heart of those heady post-revolutionary days, as Stryker meets with Fidel Castro, Che Guevara and other luminaries of the era. She also reveals the lesser known but important roles played by such women as Celia Sanchez and Vilma Espin.

      She discusses her experiences in the following Q&A.

      How and why did you end up in Cuba four years into the Cuban revolution?

      After Paris-Match published excerpts from my first book I used the money to travel to Cuba on my French passport. This resulted in a ‘non-political’ portrait of Fidel and an internship in the French weekly’s editorial department. When Kennedy was shot, I immediately activated the Cuban government's invitation to return. I was in Havana by Dec. 5, discussing the assassination with Fidel in my hotel room sometime after midnight, his usual time for meeting with journalists. He was glad that Lee Harvey Oswald had not come to Cuba, as had been rumored. During the next year and a half, I interviewed all the members of the government to find out why they made the revolution and what they understood its program to be.

    3. Give us a few of your initial impressions at the time of a country that had undergone such a profound change.

      The first thing that struck me was the gentleness of the Cuban people together with their can-do attitude. Other Cuba watchers have underscored that at that time U.S. officials viewed the Cubans rather disparagingly as a people easily excitable and irresponsible. I did not find that to be the case.

      How readily accessible were the icons of the Revolution, Fidel Castro and Che Guevara when you first visited?

      There was no real system for journalists to reach members of the government, aside from the press office of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which, in my case, was notably lackadaisical, since I had no affiliation and was a woman. Finally, I figured I had nothing to lose and chewed out a junior bureaucrat, which motivated him to let someone know about my request. That same evening I received a phone call and a visit from Rene Vallejo, Fidel’s personal doctor trained in the US who was also his aide, and at midnight the two of them came to my room for the first of several long conversations.

    4. Can you give us a thumbnail sketch of both Fidel and Che as you first encountered them?

      These men were very different from each other. What they had in common was a "revolutionary spirit" and confidence in their actions. I was fortunate to hear descriptions of them by other members of the government as well. For example, Castro’s brother, Raul pointed out that once he himself has made a decision he delegates, while Fidel "follows, follows" personally overseeing the project. The picture the U.S. press painted of both at the time were little more than caricatures. And none that I saw mentioned the energetic sense of humor the two brothers shared. Che was notable for his intolerance of stupidity, yet was known for his profound humanism.
      Was the fact that you are a woman at the time helpful or a hindrance?
      While the press office almost torpedoed my story, being a youthful attractive woman was certainly an advantage. Although my father, who was a foreign affairs writer for the New York Sunday Times , was convinced I would not be safe at the hands of the barbudos (as the Cuban rebels were called at the time), they all behaved impeccably. Only Che saw me as "a woman who can’t stop interrupting," after making an exception to his policy of refusing interviews and my being “predictably late”.

    5. You also write about the significant but lesser known women who were a major part of the revolution, such as Celia Sanchez and Vilma Espin. Can you discuss their roles in the uprising?
      Celia and Vilma were with Fidel and Raul in the Sierra. Vilma, who spoke excellent English and French, was invaluable in meetings with foreigners. After the revolution she married Raul and headed the Organization of Cuban Women. Celia did everything from carrying messages to coordinating the work in the cities and that of sympathetic exiles with what was happening in the Sierra. She remained for Fidel his most trusted "right hand," a remarkable woman who shared many stories with me.

      Both must have been role models for the next two generations of Cuban women, for when I returned to Cuba in 2011 for the presentation of the Italian version of my book at the Havana International Book Fair, I was struck by the self-assurance of the many women in positions of responsibility, and I remembered that Fidel had an uncanny ability to recognize leadership qualities in women and tap them for important jobs.
      What was the sense of support you found for the revolution and new government as you traveled throughout the island and met ordinary citizens?

      Cubans from all walks of life seemed enthusiastic about having a government that walked the walk, instead of one dreaded for its brutality and corruption. There was tremendous excitement about mapping out a new future.

    6. Were you able to meet any of the Cuban leaders in 2011?

      By then, five decades had passed and government was no longer being improvised. Also, I had not had time to set up anything in advance, though I would have had many subjects of conversation with Fidel and Raul. Watching Fidel on television in a six hour conversation with foreign writers was as close as I got to him this time around.
      How do you think the country will change now that Cuba has essentially been “opened up” to Americans who want to visit?
      Unfortunately, it has not only opened up to tourists curious to see a "communist" country up close. I fear a neoliberal takeover, sooner or later. Last year’s May Architectural Digest did a spread that showed, among other horrors, a revolutionary inscription affixed to the entrance to an upscale Havana restaurant.

    7. Do you anticipate, for example, McDonalds or other representations of U.S. economic influence on street corners in Havana now that U.S. companies can theoretically do business in Cuba?

      McDonald’s will be the least of it. I fear that the Cubans will lose their conviction that "stuff" is not what is important in life and turn into western-style consumers. The "new man" Che hoped the Revolution would create, was someone who first of all cared about others, as well as his country. Although the revolutionary leadership believed people needed to be committed to their tasks, they despised the "rat race" and everything it stood for. Several years ago, Fidel was the first world leader to say thAT global warming was our greatest challenge.

      What are some of the major myths about Cuba that you see in the US?

      A new book, “Reporting the Cuban Revolution” by Leonard Ray Teel, an American professor of Communication, implies that Fidel and Raul "manipulated" the dozen or so American journalists who covered the Sierra and the early days of the Revolutionary government when they claimed they were not Communists. My book was inspired by the polemic over whether, indeed, Herbert Matthews of the New York Times, who went to Cuba and interviewed Castro in 1957 had been lied to when he interviewed Fidel in the Sierra. My conversations with each individual member of the government focused on why they had joined the revolution and on their understanding of its program. By the time I had heard everyone’s story, including the input I got from Celia, Raul, Che and Fidel, I think I had a pretty accurate picture of how the Revolution had evolved from its early days in the Sierra. When I ran my interpretation by Celia she concurred.

    1. Fidel and His Comrades

      please use the keyboard arrows
      to navigate

    2. Fidel Castro made many enemies when he set out to free Cuba from the ironclad rule of Batista and U.S. imperialism.
      But he also made a lot of friends—among them some of the world’s leading thinkers, activists and sporting icons.
      In celebration of Fidel’s 90th birthday, teleSUR looks at these valuable friendships—some more unlikely than others—and what they say about the revolutionary leader.

    3. Nelson Mandela

    4. Fidel Castro and South African leader Nelson Mandela enjoyed a long and close relationship, forged by a joint struggle against inequality and oppression.

      When Mandela began a South African resistance militia to end racial oppression he looked to the Cuban Revolution for inspiration.

      In his autobiography “Long Walk to Freedom,” South Africa’s iconic leader described how the philosophy and success of the Cuban Revolution influenced his politics and ideology.

      “I read the report of Blas Roca, the general secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba, about their years as an illegal organization during the Batista regime,” he wrote. “I read works by and about Che Guevara, Mao Tse-tung, Fidel Castro.”

      “Any and every source was of interest to me.”

      After Mandela was released from prison in 1990, the two leaders grew closer.

      Mandela traveled to Cuba to meet his friend in person and thank him for sending soldiers to Angola during the 1970s and 1980s to fight apartheid regimes.

      “We have come here today recognizing our great debt to the Cuban people. What other country has such a history of selfless behavior as Cuba has shown for the people of Africa?” he said in his speech.

      In 1994, Mandela was elected the first Black president of South Africa—an historic moment marking the end of over 40 years of segregation, oppression and discrimination.
      Fidel was there to cheer him on.

    5. Muhammad Ali

    6. Boxing icon Muhammad Ali had a special relationship with Cuba and its revolutionary leader, Fidel Castro.

      As a humanitarian and vocal activist against racial inequality in the United States, Ali considered Fidel a comrade.

      In 1996, Ali traveled to Cuba as part of a Red Cross mission to deliver medical supplies. He spent five days in Cuba and led the delegation to hand over US$500,000 worth of medical aid.

      To thank him for his efforts, Fidel invited Ali and his companions to a private meeting.

      According to photojournalist Hazel Hankin, the two exchanged jokes and jabs, with Fidel telling Ali, “Hit me here,” and pointing to his face.

      The moment was captured by Hankin and remains to this day a symbol of the unlikely friendship between two champions of two different arenas.

      Ali would continue his commitment to Cuba, returning in 1998 to deliver a donation of US$1.2 million in medical aid.

    7. Jesse Jackson

    8. In 1984, Rev. Jesse Jackson traveled to Cuba to oversee the freedom of U.S. prisoners. At the time, the move was described by the New York Times as a “dramatic exercise in personal diplomacy with President Fidel Castro of Cuba.”

      Castro later said he had released the prisoners ''as a result of Rev. Jackson's visit. I did it for him and for the people of the United States.''

      Jackson likewise praised Castro’s integrity and leadership, describing him as "the most honest and courageous politician I've ever met!”

      At an event in Havana, Rev. Jackson bellowed “Viva Fidel!” to an audience of over 300 people at the University of Havana. The two left the stage arm in arm.

    9. Gabriel Garcia Marquez

    10. One of the world’s greatest literary figures, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, was a longtime friend of Fidel.

      He stood by his Cuban friend despite harsh criticism and never betrayed their friendship.

      The two first met on Jan. 19, 1959, when Marquez arrived in Cuba to observe the trials of Fulgencio Batista. He was warmly met by Castro and from that moment on the two would build a strong and important relationship.

      Marquez joined Prensa Latina, a news service founded by Che Guevara to counter the power of U.S. media. Working as a journalist, the Nobel laureate helped shape the representation of Cuba in the international press.

      But while politics connected them, there was also a kinship for the arts.

      “Ours is an intellectual friendship,” he said in an interview with Claudia Dreifus in 1982.

      “It may not be widely known that Fidel is a very cultured man. When we’re together, we talk a great deal about literature.”

      While Marquez left Prensa Latina and began to focus on his literary career, he never forgot about his friend.

      In 1996, Marquez “dined with President Clinton and told him, ‘If you and Fidel could sit face to face, there wouldn’t be any problem left,” according to Mexican author Enrique Krauze.

    11. Diego Maradona

    12. Argentine soccer legend Diego Maradona holds Fidel Castro in such high esteem that he tattooed his face on his leg.

      "For me he is a god," Maradona said of the Cuban leader.

      Maradona and Castro have known each other from when Maradona first visited Cuba in 1986. Since then, the two have grown close, coming together through a shared love of football and radical politics.

      When the soccer star was struggling with a cocaine addiction, he turned to Cuba for help, making several visits to the island for treatment.

      And to dispel rumours of his death, Castro turned to Maradona, writing that he was well.

      Maradona read the letter out live on teleSUR, describing Castro as a “second father to me, because he has always cared for me and helped me get by. The truth is I only have appreciation for him.”

    13. And of course… Hugo Chavez

    14. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez looked to Fidel Castro as a mentor and father figure.

      Their unprecedented 18-year friendship began in 1994 when Chavez visited Cuba after being released from prison following a 1992 coup attempt against the corrupt Punto Fijo government.

      The two formed an instant connection, bonding over baseball and a shared mission to end U.S. hegemony in Latin America.

      With Fidel’s guidance and encouragement, Chavez honed his political ideology and grew to be one of the most important socialist leaders in Latin American history.

      The strong bond between Chavez and Fidel brought their two countries closer. Since Chavez became president in 1999, Cuba and Venezuela have signed over 300 trade and cooperation deals.

      And when Cuba was crippled by the U.S. blockade, it was Venezuela which came to the country’s aid. Between 2007 and 2013, Venezuela provided more than US$10 billion a year in economic relief.

      Upon Chavez’ death, Fidel penned a letter describing the Venezuelan leader as “the best friend the Cuban people have had in its long history.”

    1. What Fidel Can Teach Us in the Age of the War on Terror

      please use the keyboard arrows
      to navigate

    2. The war on terror, at least in terms of the way it’s been framed, leaves no room for heroes. On one side are the imperial powers, fighting to preserve their self-proclaimed “modern” order. On the opposite side of the spectrum are “bloodthirsty” jihadists, anti-modern and against “our essential values.” In this false and violent dichotomy, liberation fighters wanting to maintain their integrity cannot afford to be positioned on this lose-lose spectrum.

      “So why not start with somebody who actually did it right?” asks Dayan Jayatilleka, a former Sri Lankan diplomat and academic who became involved in radical politics from a young age, in an interview with teleSUR. “Fidel proves that this can be done. You can fight without losing your soul. Even if you lose militarily, you win morally and eventually politically.”

      Jayatilleka began studying Fidel Castro’s alternative philosophy of resistance in the 1980s. The lessons he discovered were such that he published his Ph.D thesis on the same topic in 2007, when support for the war in Iraq was largely winding down.

      “Fidel has universal value wherever people and movements are struggling,” said Jayatilleka. “Not merely a Latin American phenomenon, still less a merely Cuban phenomenon, still less a 20th century phenomenon. Fidel has contributed to universal values.”

    3. How to Win and Not Sell Your Soul

    4. The gist of what Jayatilleka terms Fidel’s “Third Zone” is to apply non-negotiable humanistic values on the battlefield and eventually in office. A couple of fundamental don’ts: no torturing of prisoners and a conscious rejection of targeting non-combatants. In short, as Fidel once told a Cuban soldier, “the life of an unarmed man must be sacred for you.”

      This does not mean that violence is renounced altogether. Far from it. But according to Fidel’s logic, the liberation and revolutionary fighter must exercise “conscious restraint,” writes Jayatilleka in “Fidel’s Ethics of Violence” while simultaneously drawing on a moral philosophy that “does not rest on culturally specific and circumscribed notions (such as those that inform many jihadist groups) or claims of self-evident (actually, self-referential) systemic superiority,” as is the case of western imperialist states. Instead, Fidel calls for an ethics that “springs from the wellsprings of modernity and universalism but stands for an alternative modernity.”

      Only by cultivating an ethical superiority, says Jayatilleka, can liberation fighters overcome their material disadvantage. Even with an hegemonic mainstream media against them, they will eventually win over hearts—or even, in the case of Vietnam, the “children of (the) bourgeoisie” that sent U.S. soldiers overseas.

      Should they compromise their values, liberation fighters, movement’s and states play into the hands of Empire, which swiftly demonizes its enemies as soon as they target civilians—however hypocritical the logic.

    5. Why Imperialism Can Never Occupy the Higher Moral Ground

    6. “Imperialism which does not target civilians would not be imperialism,” says Jayatilleka. “A system that imposes exploitation, extraction of natural resources, of oil, and the destinies of people in all parts of the world” cannot possibly be one of peace. Because imperial powers operate based on what lies within their self-interest, they are blind to such alternatives as Fidel’s Third Zone. Cuba was, after all, listed as a state sponsor of terrorism until last year.

      But just because they have a monopoly over terms like “terrorism,” however, doesn’t mean the definition of the term is absolute. States like the U.S. and Israel are “very selective” with their use of the term, says Jayatilleka. Those that oppose terrorism are not friends if they insist on asserting their autonomy—such as Libya—while “even fascism is not fascism if it is not threatening the U.S. or is somehow manipulable against Russia or China.”

      Liberation fighters must be selective, too, in how they treat imperialist countries.

      “They’re very fluid and should never be regarded monolithically as enemies,” says Jayatilleka. European social democrats, he points out, shift their platforms on foreign wars depending on the leader, the timing and whether they hold power or not. But at the same time they might have domestic policies in line with Fidel’s doctrine yet preach the opposite abroad.

    7. Listening and Not Listening to Fidel

    8. As much as anti-imperialists may want to challenge their opponent on every front, they shouldn’t do so blindly, says Jayatilleka. If they resist all systems of accountability, they are a step behind the “make-believe mechanisms of accountability” within, for example, the U.S. military. If they refuse to interact with the mainstream media, frowning at Fidel’s interview with Playboy—what Jayatilleka calls a “full-spectrum engagement with Western culture,” —they also miss an opportunity to reach people who do not share the politics of their country or movement.

      “Imperialism always, always coordinates,” says Jayatilleka, “not only at the military level—at the political level, at the level of policy, at the level of education, cultural exchanges. At every possible level.”

      The biggest mistake of the international left, he adds, is its failure to focus on the building of truly long-term continental and South-South connections. This would entail organizing among leftist groups and movements even when they’re not in government. Fidel did this with the Tricontinental Conference with Asia and Africa in 1966 and the Latin American Solidarity Organization in 1967, which focused on building relationships and solidarity among leftist organizations and government delegations.

    9. That was Fidel’s strength, says Jayatilleka: he seamlessly transferred his rigorous ethics in his country into his foreign policy. In times of war, he boasted a flawless record of fighting in Vietnam and Angola, and in times of peace he upheld an ethical standing that makes it no wonder that the Colombia peace talks with the FARC are based in Havana.

      Latin America has been the most obvious inheritor of Fidel’s doctrine of violence, but Jayatilleka says that its leftist leaders should listen even more closely. Other states, and particularly those facing terrorist groups, should also borrow from his view that both poles share a “behavioural, moral and ethical symmetry.”

      The liberation fighter loyal to Fidel’s teachings can ultimately overcome and vanquish imperialism through “an asymmetric war that is total, fought with weapons of ethics and morality”—nothing more and nothing less. “It’s not only a way of fighting, but a larger way of being.”

    1. Fidel Castro, Anti-Colonialism and Liberation Struggles

      please use the keyboard arrows
      to navigate

    2. Liberation of Southern Africa

    3. While Angola won its independence from Portugal on Jan. 15, 1975, inner political conflicts escalated between the leftist People's Movement for the Liberation of Angola, MPLA, the National Liberation Front of Angola, FNLA, and the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola, UNITA.

      According to declassified documents, the U.S. sought to gain hegemony through a CIA operation which resulted in US$30 million in funding and support for the FNLA and UNITA. Apartheid South Africa supported the CIA operation by carrying out invasions, incursions and sabotages against Marxist forces within Angola.

      Under Fidel’s leadership, more than 25,000 troops and military advisers were deployed to Angola during the war and ultimately helped win the independence of the country.

      In 1988, the MPLA, with Cuban support, finally defeated the South Africans at the village Cuito Cuanavale after a six month battle. This battle was so vital to South Africa that the apartheid government considered using nuclear weapons against the MPLA and their Cuban allies.

      By defending the MPLA's control over large parts of Angola and supporting neighboring Namibia's independence, Cuba curbed the ambitions of white supremacist South Africa. And after the fighting, Cuba continued to assist Angola with teaching programs like “Yes, I can,” which has taught more than a million Angolans how to read and write, as well as provided medical and exchange programs.

    4. Apartheid South Africa

    5. While he was still alive, Nelson Mandela cited Cuban support for the war against C.I.A.-backed South Africa in Angola as a great anti-apartheid victory. According to the iconic South African leader, Castro’s Cuba helped destroy the myth of the invincibility of the white oppressor and inspired the Black population of his own country.

      "We admire the sacrifices of the Cuban people in maintaining their independence and sovereignty in the face of a vicious, imperialist-orchestrated campaign," Mandela said when he visited Cuba in the early 1990s. "We, too, want to control our own destiny."

      It was for this reason that Cuba was the first country outside of the African continent that Mandela visited after his release from prison. “Cubans came to our region as doctors, teachers, soldiers, agricultural experts, but never as colonizers. They have shared the same trenches with us in the struggle against colonialism, underdevelopment, and Apartheid,” said the legendary South African leader.
      When Mandela visited the U.S.in June of 1990, he was criticized for his support for Fidel by right-wing protesters from the Cuban-American community. He was told that if he supported communism he should go back to Africa. Mandela’s African National Congress party would never become communist, but his affection toward Fidel and the Cuban Revolution, "a source of inspiration to all freedom-loving people,” was unwavering.

      “Hundreds of Cubans have given their lives, literally, in a struggle that was, first and foremost, not theirs but ours. As Southern Africans we salute them. We vow never to forget this unparalleled example of selfless internationalism.”

    6. Salvador Allende’s Chile

    7. During the 1970s, the left-wing Salvador Allende took power in Chile and began to transform the economic and social foundations of the country, nationalizing natural resources, building homes for the poor and improving access to health and education.

      In 1971, Chile under Allende defied the United States and an Organization of American States protocol which prohibited states in the western hemisphere from having diplomatic relations with Cuba.

      This resulted in Fidel taking a month long journey to Chile where he developed ties with Allende while also meeting workers, students, peasants and attending left-wing rallies.

      Later in 1973, Fidel told Allende to beware of fascism in Chile, warning him against placing too much trust in the military.

      Castro had advised Allende to arm the workers. “If every worker and every peasant had had a rifle like that in their hands, there would never have been a fascist coup," he remembered later. "That is the great lesson to be learned for revolutionaries from events in Chile.”

      It was around this time that Fidel famously gave Allende an AK-47, which he would reportedly use to defend the La Moneda presidential palace during the last moments of his life.

      Fidel and Allende kept close correspondence up until 1973, when the latter was deposed in the infamous C.I.A.-backed coup led by Augusto Pinochet. The two wrote letters to each other on how to improve the political process in their respective countries. Fidel is known to have advised members of the Popular Union, Allende’s political party.

      After the Sept. 11 coup that toppled Allende, Fidel delivered a speech in which he praised the left-wing leader for having “more dignity, more honor, more courage and more heroism than all the fascist military together.”

    8. Sandinistas Against Imperialism

    9. The success of the Cuban revolution in the 1960s sparked a surge in leftist social movements and guerrilla movements who fought against right-wing dictatorships and U.S. imperialism in Central America. Many of these groups were not only inspired by the Cuban example but received direct support from Fidel’s Cuba including groups in the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Panama—and of course, Nicaragua.

      Formed in the 1960s, Nicaragua’s Sandinista National Liberation Front overthrew Anastasio Somoza’s U.S.-backed dictatorship in 1979, instituting campaigns of mass literacy and health care and drastically improving gender and economic equality in the country. But as with so many other examples in Latin America, by the early 1980s the C.I.A. had begun funding right-wing death squads in the country, known as the Contras.

      Fidel’s Cuba had begun assisting the Sandinistas in the late 1960s, training guerilla leaders. In the post-revolution period, this support increased to the spheres of education and health care. With U.S. involvement and right-wing violence increasing, Cuba also provided arms and logistical support to the Sandinistas in the fight against imperialism.

    10. Bolivarian Revolution

    11. Late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez helped bring Latin America into the 21st century. After becoming president in 1999, Chavez was key in the region’s so-called “Pink Tide,” delivering radical social policies that transformed millions of lives while opposing U.S. imperialism across the continent.

      The Bolivarian Revolution led by Chavez spread rapidly throughout Latin America, inspiring the world’s first Indigenous president in Evo Morales and Rafael Correa in Ecuador, among other progressive leaders. And crucially, Chavez once described Fidel as his “mentor.”

      Today, Cuba and Venezuela have bilateral relations in virtually all industries and sectors, from energy management to cooperation in social programs in health, education and agriculture. One such program that perfectly illustrates the ideals of the Cuban—and now Bolivarian—revolution is Operation Milagro. Launched in 2004 by the governments of both countries, Operation Milagro has provided free medical treatment for people with vision impairment in both countries as well as 34 others across the Global South.

      “This is such a powerful mission, which has become so widespread across the continent and beyond, including in Africa, that the goal set by Fidel and Chavez of 6 million patients is a goal that we are close to meeting,” said Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro back in 2015.

      In 2008, Maduro, then serving as foreign minister, echoed Chavez’s sentiments when he described the Cuban Revolution of 1959 as influencing “the path” for “real political, economic, social and cultural independence” in both the 20th and 21st centuries.

      Maduro made the comments as he led a delegation in Cuba as part of the Cuba-Venezuela Political Consultation Body. “Our relation is a profound, longstanding, strategic fraternity by which we have become a single people, a single nation, as dreamed by the liberating fathers.”

    1. FIDEL, A LIVING LEGEND

      please use the keyboard arrows
      to navigate