Fidel Castro, 87, has appeared at an art gallery opening after months of seclusion. Castro the ex-leader of Cuba was seen in Havana after a long absence from public view. After nearly 50 years as the Cuban leader, Castro handed over power to his brother, Raul Castro, in 2006. Castro cited ill-health which many news outlets reported as a possible battle with cancer, however the Cuban media never confirmed any specific medical information. In 2008 Raul Castro officially took control of Cuba as its president.
Cuban media reported a full recovery for the Cuban leader but Castro never returned to power. Questions resurfaced about his health when no word was heard from him after the death of his close ally, Nelson Mandela was officially reported. In Dec. 2013 pictures surfaced of Castro after a meeting with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro which reassured the world population that the Cuban ex-leader was still alive.
Castro has not been seen in public since April of 2013 when he attended the inauguration of a school in Havana with his wife Dalia Soto del Valle. Recently he attended the opening of world renowned Cuban artist Alexis Leyva Machado’s studio. Leyva is a critically acclaimed artist from Cuba who gained international attention and awards for his work. Castro appeared after months of seclusion as a lover of the arts and to celebrate Leyva’s accomplishments
Castro appeared weak and frail in photographs and was often assisted by an aide and the use of a cane. He was not the image of the powerful Cuban leader that defied the governments of the western world for decades.
He was a figure who was both loved and vilified throughout the world. The son of wealthy sugar planter, Castro would attend law school in Havana and begin his political life in 1952. His aspirations to run for leadership of the Cuban government were cut short when General Fulgencio Batista took control of the country and cancelled elections.
Castro denounced democracy and attempted a military overthrow of Batista with his brother Raul. The attempt was unsuccessful. Fidel and Raul were sentenced to prison for their actions. Shortly after his incarceration Castro was granted amnesty and fled to Mexico, where he was joined by Argentinean Marxist Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara.
In 1956 Guevara and Castro landed on the beaches of Cuba with a small rebel army and began a guerrilla movement against the Batista-led government. In 1958 an attack was launched forcing Batista out of power. Castro became Prime Minister in 1959 and began a social program based on Marxist-Leninist ideals. Castro was immediately at odds with the U.S. government as thousands of Cubans fled the country and landed in the U.S.
By the 1960’s Castro aligned himself closely with Russia while allowing them to build missile bases on Cuban soil. This placed Russia within quick striking distance of America as the tension between the two countries reached a fevered pitch. The Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 brought the U.S. and Russia to the brink of war. Many may well remember the resulting ‘duck and cover’ drills conducted in public schools throughout America.
In 1961 the U.S failed at an attempt to take over the Cuban government in a CIA-led operation called “The Bay of Pigs.” The failure was considered by many to be a military blow to the powerful U.S. government. It was rumored that Castro announced that he would remain in power long after U.S. Presidents had come and gone. Castro was quoted as saying, “If surviving assassination attempts were an Olympic event, I would win the gold medal.”
Although considered a ruthless dictator by U.S. standards, the people of Cuba enjoyed the benefits of a free education system and free healthcare. The mid 1960s to early 1970s brought economic prosperity to the country as Russia became a significant financial contributor to the country. In 1976 the Cuban electorate elected Castro as President of Cuba. The country would enjoy decades of what some would consider an age of enlightenment and prosperity. However, in 1991 economic aid from Russia ceased leading Cuba into financial crisis. Tourism opened up in Cuba as an offset to the loss of financial support.
In 2008, his health declined, prompting Castro to begin the transition of power to his younger brother Raul. Castro has lived a very private life for many years as rumors of his ill health and even of his death filled the media, until recently when Castro appeared in public after months of seclusion and with little information on his health and welfare.
By Anthony Clark