Many times, during my period as the Minister of Foreign Affairs, came the news from trustworthy sources of the death of Fidel Castro, then refuted by public statements or appearances by the commander-in-chief.
This time it is true: Fidel Castro is dead. Last night, Cuba went through its “Black Friday” when President Raúl Castro announced the death of his brother, commander-in-chief of the Cuban revolution for 42 years. There will be a flow of articles, analyses and historic narrations about his life and legacy, but no one will dare denying him his place in the history of Cuba, Latin America and the world.
I did not meet him personally, but I did take an interest in his personality, vision and political action. It is impossible to write about Fidel Castro without making reference to his main distinguishing feature: his revolutionary vocation, his will to change and transform an unfair and dramatic reality. His “revolution” already belongs to the list of the greatest revolutions of human history.
His bravery in challenging power and the great powers, symbolised in his ongoing struggle against “Yankee imperialism”, put him at the centre of USA attacks and turned him into the super-power’s major enemy. All attempts to get rid of him failed: neither the more than sixty operations which apparently the CIA tried to carry out, nor the invasion of the Bay of Pigs in 1961, nor the missile crisis in 1962, nor the American blockade and embargo on the island, surprisingly still ongoing, managed to divert the commander-in-chief from his determination to move the revolution forward.
Fidel Castro was clearly a major player in the Cold War, and it was this context of ideological and political struggle which marked his engagement for a “Castrist revolution”. His ideal was to build the “Cordial Republic” fostered by the great dream of his patriotic reference, José Martí.
His struggle was the defence of the motherland, his nation, which led him also to seek its independence even from the Soviet Union. There was a famous popular refrain sung by most of the Cuban population at the end of the missile crisis which said: “Nikita… Faggot… Giving is giving, taking back is stealing…” That same national proud and dignity were shown in the 90s when Gorbachev’s perestroika forced them to resist American pressures, heroically isolated.
Yes, Fidel Castro lived and endured bipolarity and that is why he attempted to lead a third way to find a space of greater autonomy. Together with other world leaders in the 60s, who rejected the Manicheism between the Soviet Union and the USA, he created the “Non-Aligned Movement”, an initiative ahead of its time, imitated today by emerging countries and the “Bricks”.
His vision and commitment concerning Africa cannot go unnoticed. In a continent controlled by outdated colonialism. the revolutionary commander-in-chief wished to ascertain his international solidarity and took sides by supporting all African liberation movements. Angola, Namibia, South Africa and Ethiopia are aware of and recognise Fidel Castro’s historical contribution in favour of their independence and development. Today, Cubans are very much appreciated in many parts of the world, particularly its doctors, teachers and nurses, who immediately run to the appeal for solidarity after natural disasters and mortal epidemics. All this endeavour was conceived and executed by Fidel Castro.
It is also worth underlining his contradictory relations to the Catholic church, since his ideological atheism did not prevent him from understanding the relevance of the Cuban Catholic church, and John Paul II’s visit paved the way for the crucial role played recently by the Vatican in the reconciliation with the USA and the process of internal political dialogue in the island.
For us Spaniards, Fidel Castro Ruz, son of Ángel Castro and Lina Ruz, always was an inseparable link to our country. He was a “Galician”, hence the good relationship he always had with Spanish politicians from that region. I recall Manuel Fraga Iribarne telling me about his travels to Cuba and the admiration he showed towards Fidel before my visit to the island in 2007.
Here in Spain, his figure and his path have always been the subject of strong and passionate political debates, but what nobody can deny is that Fidel Castro always tried to privilege Cuba’s relationships with Spain. This was symbolised in the personal and respectful relationship he maintained with His Majesty the King Juan Carlos I.
Today, his brother Raúl Castro, President of Cuba, wants to pursue this close relationship between our nations. He is well aware that he has ahead a huge task of reforms and adaptation to the new times and, as he has always told me, he wishes to advance in the construction of Cuba’s future with Spain’s and the Spaniards’ solidarity and support. Today, our message to Cuba and Cubans can only be that written by a Spanish poet: “Cuba, to love you from afar, it’s enough to be Spanish”.
Article published in ElEspañol.com