Once again, 2016 has delivered a blow with the death historic Cuban leader and some say dictator Fidel Castro, who has died at the age of 90. His death marks the end of a mixed legacy that bought the world close to nuclear war with the Soviet Union and material support and training with freedom fighters worldwide. When Nelson Mandela was freed from a South African prison, the two embraced as brothers during a global reception of world leaders. Castro came to power after overthrowing the corrupt US-backed regime of Fulgencio Batista. The famous movie Godfather 2 includes the role of the American mafia in Cuba and the overthrow of Batista as a pivotal plot element. Castro was born August 13, 1926 in Oriente province in eastern Cuba to a wealthy father who married his former maid. He went on to earn a law degree and was noted for performing free legal services for the poor.
When he was 25, he planned to run for the Cuban congress, but elections were canceled as Batista came to power in 1952. For years, the mafia had ties that were made running Cuban rum to the United States during prohibition. Infamous gangster Meyer Lansky gathered top mafia figures during the 1940s and 1950s in Cuba to create a mob controlled paradise. Cuba featured casinos and hotels such as the iconic Havana Hilton.
Only 90 miles from Florida, it allowed tourists to not only gamble but also intermingle with other races. The mafia controlled the casinos, nightclubs and brothels of Cuba, paying Batista for the privilege. The Cuban people were brutalized and murdered under the Batista regime. This inspired Fidel, his brother Raul and Che Guevara to wage a guerilla war from the Sierra Maestra mountains of Cuba that eventually spread to the provinces and cities and the Batista regime collapsed.
On January 1, 1959 the Castro regime and Cuba were recognized by the United States and the country entered a historic period of communist rule. Castro soon ordered the seizure of foreign-owned Cuban factories, plantations and other property. He seized the Havana Hilton as his government’s headquarters, enraging business leaders and the US government.
The Cuban government also began arresting the mafia leaders and taking millions in cash. Before Meyer Lansky fled Cuba, he was said to be worth an estimated $20M, that would be $163,685,121 in 2016. When he died in 1983, his family was shocked that his estate was less than $10K. Before he died Lansky said Cuba “ruined” him.
Castro and Che Guevara also wanted to spread the ideals of the Cuban revolution to other nations in South and Central America as well as Africa. With the backing of the Soviet Union, Cuba trained freedom fighters in various regions of the world under the Castro administration. In 1962, placement of Soviet nuclear missiles in Cuba created what is now known as the Cuban Missile Crisis. It was then that President John F. Kennedy instituted an embargo of Cuba that lasted more than 50 years. On July 20, 2015, President Barack Obama restored diplomatic relations with Cuba and later became the first sitting U.S. President to visit the communist nation. However, there are still commercial, economic, and financial embargos against Cuba.”
The Cuban government has announced that Castro’s funeral is scheduled for Dec. 4, 2016 to allow for nine days of official mourning.