Fidel Castro, the communist dictator who ruled Cuba for nearly half a century, is dead at age 90 according to Cuban state television. Castro rose to power during the Cuban Revolution, toppling Fulgencio Batista's regime in 1959 alongside his brother Raul and Che Guevara. He then transformed the nation into a single-party, communist state and installed himself as dictator. In recent years Castro had largely retreated from the public eye, rarely appearing in public since relinquishing power to his brother Raul in 2008.
Despite repeated American attempts to assassinate the communist dictator, Castro led Cuba throughout ten American presidential administrations and before his death had clung to power longer than any national leader on earth save Queen Elizabeth. During the presidency of John F. Kennedy, Castro brought the world to the brink of nuclear war by allowing the Soviet Union to place nuclear warheads on the island and instigating the Cuban Missile Crisis, a two-week long confrontation between the United States and Soviet Union that nearly escalated the Cold War into a full-scale nuclear conflict.
Castro's death arrives just months after a thawing in US-Cuban relations, which have been fraught for half of a century. In July of 2015, President Obama announced the re-opening of an American embassy in Havana for the first time since President Eisenhower severed diplomatic ties with the nation in 1961. In that time, the Obama administration has further relaxed travel and import restrictions with Cuba, despite the persistence in law of a trade embargo with the island nation. Castro blasted the warming of relations and President Obama's visit to Cuba in a column for the state-run newspaper Granma, insisting, "We don't need the empire to give us anything."
It is difficult to calculate how many Cuban political dissidents and innocent civilians Castro killed throughout his fifty-year "revolutionary" reign, but Cuba Archive President Maria Werlau estimates 78,000 innocents have died trying to flee slavery under Castro; 5,300 peasant farmers and their children in the Escambray Mountains and at the Bay of Pigs; 14,000 in Fidel's escapades abroad; 5,600 dissidents in front of firing squads; 1,200 in "extrajudicial assassinations"; and 2,199 documented political prison deaths. Welau notes, however, that these numbers are conservative estimates, and the actual casualties may number an order of magnitude more.
The InterAmerican Human Rights Commission noted on April 7, 1967:
"On May 27, [1966,] 166 Cubans -- civilians and members of the military -- were executed and submitted to medical procedures of blood extraction of an average of seven pints per person. This blood is sold to Communist Vietnam at a rate of $50 per pint with the dual purpose of obtaining hard currency and contributing to the Vietcong Communist aggression.
"A pint of blood is equivalent to half a liter. Extracting this amount of blood from a person sentenced to death produces cerebral anemia and a state of unconsciousness and paralysis. Once the blood is extracted, the person is taken by two militiamen on a stretcher to the location where the execution takes place."
Given Castro's impoverishment of Cuba's economy, enslavement of the Cuban people, and myriad human rights abuses, one imagines Fidel's Habano will be aflame for eternity.
A parting thought:
Chalk one up for capitalism.