Fidel Castro

Castro’s death resonates loudly in Latin America, where Cuba played outsized role

In this photo provided by the Bolivian Information Agency (ABI), Cuba's Fidel Castro, right, Bolivia's President Evo Morales, center, and Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro sit inside a van after Maduro and Castro picked up Morales at his hotel in Havana, Cuba, Thursday, Aug. 13 2015. Morales and Maduro were in Cuba to celebrate Castro's 89th birthday.
In this photo provided by the Bolivian Information Agency (ABI), Cuba's Fidel Castro, right, Bolivia's President Evo Morales, center, and Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro sit inside a van after Maduro and Castro picked up Morales at his hotel in Havana, Cuba, Thursday, Aug. 13 2015. Morales and Maduro were in Cuba to celebrate Castro's 89th birthday. AP

Fidel Castro’s death resonated across Latin America, where Cuba has played an oversized role in recent years — from brokering peace to forging political alliances and influencing ideology.

Cuba hosted more than four years of peace negotiations between Colombia and its largest guerrilla group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.

On Thursday, President Juan Manuel Santos and FARC Commander Rodrigo “Timochenko” Londoño signed a revised peace accord with Cuba and Norway as guarantors.

That signing also marked an end of an era: The FARC drew inspiration from the 1959 Cuban Revolution and the group was seen as, perhaps, the hemisphere’s last viable guerrilla army.

“Fidel Castro recognized at the end of his days that armed struggle wasn’t the path,” Santos wrote on Twitter. “He contributed to putting an end to Colombia’s conflict.”

The FARC’s chief negotiator, Iván Márquez, also thanked Castro for his “immense love for Colombia.”

“May the Havana peace accords be a final homage,” he tweeted.

In Venezuela, Cuba’s staunchest ally in the hemisphere, President Nicolás Maduro declared three days of mourning. The two nations have been close since late Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez forged deep personal and ideological ties with Fidel Castro.

“The invincible giant has gone on to meet with Che Guevara ... and the Eternal Commander Hugo Chávez,” Maduro wrote on Twitter.

In Venezuela, where the terms “Chávez and Fidel” were a trending topic on Twitter, some of the chatter paid homage to the two men while others skewered their legacy. Many in the Andean nation blame Cuba’s ideology and oversized influence for wrecking the national economy.

“Satan declares state of emergency in hell amid possible Chávez-Fidel alliance to overthrow him,” wrote one Twitter user.

In Bolivia, where Ernesto “Che” Guevara died in 1967 trying to export the Cuban revolution, President Evo Morales said Fidel had taught the region to fight for national “sovereignty and dignity.”

In Nicaragua, first lady and soon-to-be Vice President Rosario Murillo said she was “left mute” by the news. Murillo’s husband, President Daniel Ortega, was a commander of the Cuban-inspired Sandinistas, who helped topple the Somoza regime in 1979.

“We are deeply moved,” Murillo said. “We feel thousands of buildings fall on our roof.”

Ecuador’s Rafael Correa also took to Twitter to honor the late Cuban leader. “A great one has left us. Fidel has died,” he wrote. “Long live Cuba! Long live Latin America.”

At the U.S. Navy base at Guantánamo, which both Cuban presidents — Fidel Castro and Raúl Castro — have insisted should be returned to Cuban sovereignty, a spokesman said U.S. flags were still flying at half staff for the late Richard Nixon-era Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird, who died earlier this month in Florida at age 94.

The U.S. Southern Command, which supervises troops in Latin America and the Caribbean, had no comment Saturday morning after the passing of the elder Castro.

Despite Castro’s legacy in the region, his power had waned dramatically in recent years, experts said.

“Fidel Castro went from being one of the most influential figures in our hemisphere to one of the least influential,” Peter Schechter, with the Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center at the Atlantic Council, said in a statement. “His funeral will be a tribute to a relic of a bygone era of anti-colonialism and staring down the United States. Nobody in Latin America today believes that Cuba is a model to follow. With the exception of a few failing stalwarts like Maduro in Venezuela, the region has largely abandoned his political and economic vision.”

Miami Herald staff writer Carol Rosenberg contributed to this report.

  Comments