Fidel Castro, revolutionary Cuban icon, dies
HAVANA: Former President Fidel Castro, who led a rebel army to improbable victory in Cuba, embraced Soviet-style communism and defied the power of 10 US presidents during his half century rule, has died at age 90.
Castro’s reign over the island-nation 90 miles from Florida was marked by the US-backed Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961 and the Cuban Missile Crisis a year later that brought the world to the brink of nuclear war. The bearded revolutionary, who survived a crippling US trade embargo as well as dozens, possibly hundreds, of assassination plots, died eight years after ill health forced him to formally hand power over to his younger brother Raul, who announced his death late Friday on state television.
Castro overcame imprisonment at the hands of dictator Fulgencio Batista, exile in Mexico and a disastrous start to his rebellion before triumphantly riding into Havana in January 1959 to become, at age 32, the youngest leader in Latin America. For decades, he served as an inspiration and source of support to revolutionaries from Latin America to Africa.
To Fidel Castro by Pablo Neruda.
Fidel, Fidel, the people are grateful
for words in action and deeds that sing,
that is why I bring from far
a cup of my country’s wine:
it is the blood of a subterranean people
that from the shadows reaches your throat,
they are miners who have lived for centuries
extracting fire from the frozen land.
They go beneath the sea for coal
but on returning they are like ghosts:
they grew accustomed to eternal night,
the working-day light was robbed from them,
nevertheless here is the cup
of so much suffering and distances:
the happiness of imprisoned men
possessed by darkness and illusions
who from the inside of mines perceive
the arrival of spring and its fragrances
because they know that Man is struggling
to reach the amplest clarity.
And Cuba is seen by the Southern miners,
the lonely sons of la pampa,
the shepherds of cold in Patagonia,
the fathers of tin and silver,
the ones who marry cordilleras
extract the copper from Chuquicamata,
men hidden in buses
in populations of pure nostalgia,
women of the fields and workshops,
children who cried away their childhoods:
this is the cup, take it, Fidel.
It is full of so much hope
that upon drinking you will know your victory
is like the aged wine of my country
made not by one man but by many men
and not by one grape but by many plants:
it is not one drop but many rivers:
not one captain but many battles.
And they support you because you represent
the collective honor of our long struggle,
and if Cuba were to fall we would all fall,
and we would come to lift her,
and if she blooms with flowers
she will flourish with our won nectar.
And if they dare touch Cuba’s
forehead, by your hands liberated,
they will find people’s fists,
we will take out our buried weapons:
blood and pride will come to rescue,
to defend our beloved Cuba.