tv The Seventies CNN November 26, 2016 12:00am-1:01am PST
to sadly inform you, to our friends from our america and to the world, that today, november 25th, 2016, at 10:29 in the evening, the commander and leader of the cuban revolution, fidel castro died. following the explicit desires of leader fidel, his remains will be cremated in the early hours of tomorrow, saturday, the 26th. the organizing commission of the funeral will give our people detailed information about the organization of the posthumous tribute that we will give to the founder of the cuban revolution. until victory, always. >> raoul castro there giving the news in cuba. let's go to our dedicated correspondent on the ground, live this hour in havana, cuba, cnn's patrick otman is standing
by. patrick, you told us an hour ago that as this news is spreading and, you know, we are seeing celebrations in some places, in havana people are just starting to learn the news and many people learned the news from you. >> reporter: yes, we found out about it as the news was announced. came to the office very quickly, asked cubans along the way if they heard the news, nobody i encountered on the streets had. the streets were empty, it was quite late, almost 11:00 p.m. when the news was released by raoul castro. i found people listening to government radio stations and the news hadn't been broken there. watching the news in the last few hours, i have not seen it repeated. it has been repeated once or twice. a lot of the news sites here have not been update it. there's a surreal sense, the news is not being spread broadly. that will change, but a number of mind friends who are cuban journalists, you know, did not
know. it was very clear that raoul castro and the hierarchy of the cubanovernment kept it as a closely-guarded secret. they did not want it leaking in washington or miami ahead of time. around the world people are scrambling to react the the news and certainly here in havana. some of the staff came into the office later after me said they saw a military presence on the streets i did not see, that was just not there. there's a sense that the island is getting ready for a funeral for fidel castro, certainly a show of authority and strength by raoul castro, to make sure that any of the opponents to his government don't try to challenge him in these days, and that there are scenes of celebration. i suspect as people wake up in the morning, in just a few hours, they will learn of the news and we will have a variety of reactions. this is a man whose shadow for a very long time was omnipresent in cuba. he was somebody who had an
impact on millions of people's lives. many people, of course, fled cuba to escape from communicatism. many people are devoted followers. many cubans i talked to wonder what now, how will this affect their lives, how will it affect u.s./cuban relations, is there more hope for change in cuba now that fidel castro has passed away. >> patrick oppmann stay with us. i want to put this question, i want to get your sense because patrk was making it clear some people will wake up tomorrow morning and find out about this several hours after we found out, and it is obviously their country and their lives. can you give us any kind of sense, bring us into their heads and into the conversations that are going to be happening around that breakfast table tomorrow morning as cubans wake up and find out the news? >> the point has been made before that when you go to cuba and you talk to the people, you never really know if they're telling you the truth because the reality is that one of the
community watchers that the government has may be just a couple of steps away, listening in to what they're telling you. so you never really know if they're being completely honest with you. patrick will tell you that. any other correspondent who spent any time in cuba will tell you that. people can lose their jobs if they say something wrong, or even if they are perceived to be a little too friendly with -- >> but the conversations will be taking place behind closed doors, right? i mean within family circles. >> yes, definitely, and we also have to remember that there's a very healthy if not numerous opposition in cuba, people who have, some would argue, heroically have opposed the regime for many, many years, people who have spent time in jail, people who defied the government from time to time only to be stopped on the street by the military forces, to be
beaten up, to be -- have their government payment stopped, but they're still there. and so my assumption -- and, again, we can only assume at this hour because it is not the new day yet, is that there will be some rejoicing from those people. but, again, from the mainstream cuba, you won't be able to see a whole lot of that because it is still very dangerous to express your opinions in cuba. >> that will be hidden from public view? >> it will be very well hidden. >> let's bring in cnn's patrick oppmann to talk a bit about that from your time covering cuba, your conversations with people. do you get the sense that sometimes people are just a little concerned to give their frank feelings about this former leader? >> reporter: absolutely. when i first started coming here in the 1990s, 20 years ago, when people talked to you about fidel castro they wouldn't say his name. they would go like this, a movement of a beard, someone
stroking a beard. that has changed. now people are a little bit more open, not critical, but you can have certain conversations you couldn't have when i first started coming here. there is a lot of double speak, any kind of representation of fidel castro is very tightly controlled. i talked to his son just a few months ago, alex castro, he is a photographer who has documented the fin years of fidel castro's life. i said, why doesn't your father have more statues of him like there are of che caverro. he said, my father is a simple man, he doesn't want that. it is much more subtle. when you are a child in cuban school, of course you have to go to government school but it is the only school also cuban children are allowed to go to. you have to memorize many of fidel castro's speeches, his school of thought, his life.
cuban children are taught, he is the most important cuban figure. so it is a sense of monument built in people's heads, not quite brainwashing, but this is someone who became the center of life in cuba. you heard his speeches on the radio. even tonight we are seeing many of his appearances played again, and that's not unusual for cuba. for the government, fidel castro has been the main rallying tool they used to keep loyalty to the government because so many people in the beginning had respect, admiration, even love for him. but over the years with the economic difficulties, that really has changed. i think for the government, there has to be a sense that there will be a lot less passion for this government and that certainly the most important figure of this revolution, a man who had he not been born cuba would be a very different place, that with his passing it marks the end of a chapter.
i just keep going back to this. every cuban i talked to, when i told them this they changed physically. you could see they would remember for the rest of their lives when they learned this news, it is that big an event here. those kind of scenes will be going on in the hours to come. >> patrick oppmann, live for us in havana, cuba, our dedicated correspondent there on the ground and live this hour. patrick, stand by with us. we will be back with you to talk further throughout the hours. let's talk more, just a bit more about fidel castro. his death is stirring a mix of reactions and emotions, love, foyer instance, from the president of venezuela who tweeted the following. i talked with president raoul castro to transmit the solidarity and love for cuba before the departure of commander fidel castro. so love from madurro, but at the same time on the streets of miami a very different scene. here is what some people are saying this hour.
>> it is a moment we've been waiting for 55 years. the man who caused so much suffering, so much -- people to be sad in my country, already passed away. the dictatorship, the longest dictatorship in our country, he is dead. >> this is freedom. this is everything for your people. this is a huge thing for our community, and i think it is a lot of things, good things are coming for us. a lot of good things are coming for this country, for the relationship between us, and for the peace and the love that we always had in our country. glen garvin joins us on the phone from orlando, florida, a reporter with "the miami herald." glen, your reaction? >> well, i know this sounds improbable but i'm pretty surprised. as it happens i'm "the miami herald" reporter who wrote the
newspaper's obituary on fidel castro. i can tell you that thing has been sitting around for 15 years now. honestly, it began to appear to us he would never die. >> that's something we've been hearing also from other cubans, whether it was in cuba or whether it was in miami that, you know, fidel castro was immortal. but as you were saying, on the other hand i'm assuming there's the professional side of this for you, which is that you've had this sitting on your desk for a long time? >> reporter: yeah, well, i don't -- i don't want to say i was sitting around breathlessly cheering on someone's impending death, but it did seem very odd. the obituary was written in the summer of 2001 when castro had a fainting spell, fell down some steps, broke a couple of bones, and it really seemed that after many false alarms about the state of his health over the years that maybe he was in the
end game. but that end game lasted 15 years. my "miami herald" colleague, andros oppenheimer wrote a book called "castro's final hours," it was published 15 years ago and those final hours lasted a long time. >> that begs the question, what does it change for cuba now? if the passing of fidel castro had happened ten years ago or even earlier, there might have been change for the country. but is that going to be the case? his brother is now running the country and has been doing so for a decade. >> you raise a really interesting point i think. we used to always assume -- i say we, i mean journalists, people who follow cuba. we always assumed when fidel castro died there would be immediate and tumultuous change in cuba, people forecast gun
fire in the streets, maybe the army would divide against itself, there would be pro an-liberalization people, there would be years and years of pent-up frustrated ambitions on the part of less senior cuban officials that would certainly break into the open. >> and now that it has happened? >> reporter: well, what happened was we really had kind of a slow motion transition that nobody recognized as a transition for a while. in 2006 fidel castro became ill. there was a sort of two-year twilight zone there, and then one day we woke up and he was no longer the leader. meanwhile, his brother raoul, who it must be said for a long time was not a well-known figure and thought to be mostly a non-entity in cuba was actually in control.
i think that will remain now. there will not be some big, shocking transition. raoul may feel a little more freedom to maneuver, though fidel castro hasn't really been much in control or even seemingly very lucid the last seven or eight years, he was still sitting there. he could still -- he was still -- i don't think anybody doubted he could create a fuss if he chose to do that. now, at last, that possibility is 100% removed. raoul will have a little bit more freedom to do as he chooses, but you're not going to see an abrupt change. if you do, it will be on the american side. president-elect trump was, you know, spoke very negatively of the u.s. relations with cuba during the last few weeks of his
campaign. if he follows through, if he reverses all of president obama's executive orders, that will set u.s. relations with cuba back to where they were the past 50 years. >> we will have to see what happens with that. of course, it is unknown, a lot of unknowns as to what trump's policy vis-a-vis cuba might be, the president-elect, a lot of unknowns as to what might go on in havana. many guests we've had on this evening been saying, the majority of guests and contributors have been saying there's not going to be a lot of change in havana. they've been preparing for a number of years. thank you very much. glen garvin, "miami herald" reporter. thank you very much. we appreciate it. >> let's dig a bit more into the background. we're getting some reaction on twitter to castro's death. the president of venezuela saying that he called cuba's
current leader who is fidel's brother. saying on twitter, i talked with raoul castro to transmit my solidarity and love for the cuban people upon the departure of commander fidel castro. also saying, i extend my deepest condolences to the government and people of cuba on the sad demise of fidel castro. may his soul rest in peace. >> he was one of the most iconic personalities of the 20th century. india mourns loss of the a great friend. >> cnn will continue to follow breaking news here. the death of fidel castro at 90 years old. stay with us. ♪
died. his life had been shrouded in secrecy for years now as he avoided the public eye more and more as he aged. >> there have been rumors of his death for many years often to be quickly disspelled. we can say with certainty he has died in havana at 90 years old. you can't tell the story of the 20th century quite frankly without this name that has been in the history books. fidel castro, again, dead at 90 years old. castro's death is stirring up a mix of reactions and emotions around the world. here though is what people are saying on the streets of havana. >> translator: it is a normal part of life. it is news that one is not ready to receive, even of the commander. >> translator: for the entire world, for everyone in this situation, it is something very painful. i have just learned about this news. >> translator: i am sad. regardless, he was a public figure that everyone loved and respected. so i feel bad.
>> under fidel castro's watch cuba was not a welcome place to some of the world's foremost leaders, but things started changing in recent years under fidel's brother raoul. pope francis visited in 2015 and called on the communist nation to open itself to the world. he prays one major step in that direction, restoring diplomatic ties with the uted states. this historic visit with president obama ace years ago. for decades it was close to americans, and look at this -- that's not the holdover from the cold war, the country being closed to americans is the holdover. but this tick purchase, obama's visit marked progress above all, a new way of doing things in a new era. both the u.s. and cuba shut the door on a long-standing feud and opened their own doors to one another. >> let's bring in cnn correspondent rafael romo live
onset. he has many years of cover politics in latin american. talk to us about the ramifications of knowing this former leader of cuba is dead. >> when you think about what is going the happen next, a lot of people are trying to figure out what is next for cuba. the reality is that ten years ago when fidel castro first got sick and he had his brother raoul take power, that's when the success plan start. if you take a look at the new congress, the communist congress in cuba, all of the new leaders, albeit younger, follow the exact same political persuasion. so for those people who think that the -- castro's death may mean an overnight change in terms of the regime or the politics of cuba, it may take a bit longer than that because the reality is that a lot of the young people venezuela have been
indoctrinated on this type of political persuasion from the time they go to elementary school. i was mentioning a little earlier the case of elian gonzales, if you remember back in -- it was actually thanksgiving day 1999 when he was found alive after a number of cuban migrants including his mother had died trying to get to the united states. several months later, go to june 2000, he is sent back to cuba, and last october we did a story on him. now he is about to finish college. he is one of the most-known figures in cuba, a spokesperson for the revolution, purely indoctrinated and he is about to join the military. that gives you an idea of the kind of information, propaganda that cuban young people grow up with. they always hear the same thing. patrick oppmann was telling us
before that from first grade, starting in elementary, they hear that the greatest historical figure in the world has been fidel castro and that's what they hear year after year after year. so all of those people composing the communist congress in cuba follow, like i said before, the same political persuasion. >> but, you know, rafael, as i hear you explain it to us the question it raises for me is how long can the system continue as it is in cuba? i understand that the politics of cuba are bigger than one man, but when that person casts such a long shadow over the entire contrary history of a country and he passes away, there comes a point -- and his brother is elderly now. there comes a point where the system doesn't perpetuate itself as much or if at all, when, you know, the founder is gone. >> a lot of people thought the system was going to collapse under its own weight after the ussr collapsed in the early
1990s. but what happened was there was this period that cuba calls a special period in which cubans were asked to ration their food, to minimize their consumption, and this incomes huge ow chavez of venezuela with all of the oil in the world, a lot of money to give and essentially the cuban system was rescued by venezuela. so it gave oxygen to the cuban regime for another 10, 15 years, and the reason they're still there is one big factor was that hugo chavez was in power. the reality is that change happens very, very slowly in cuba because that was precisely fidel castro's decision from the very beginning of the revolution. >> we are talking about an historic moment, the death of fidel castro. while we're talking about it and if our director is able to bring
up the live images if we still have them in miami, we are seeing people celebrating in the streets. we're seeing history happen right now. many people in miami who are relieved, who are thrilled to hear this news, to see this headline that the former cuban leader is dead at 90 years old, rafael. >> i can't stop thinking about -- i have many friends who are cuban american, who were born in this country but their parents had to flee cuba because of the castro regime. i cannot stop thinking about those people, people who came to the united states in the late '60s, in the early '70s, and they thought they would be here for just a few years. they said castro cannot stay in power forever. after that happens, we're going to go back and we're going to raise our children back in cuba. that never happened, and all of those people who died waiting, that's what happened in reality, and who now have children who are americans and who are seeing this and trying to understand
what is happening and what is going to happen in the future with cuba. it is just amazing. >> rafael, look a this, we're looking at this ariel image outside of the versailles restaurant. i've been there, you have been there, we have covered stories, we have spoken to people. it is a place where people gather to talk politics. look at the crowd and the many people showing up at 3:25 in the morning, people who heard this news and came together to celebrate. >> what we hear is people banging pots and pans, but in the background every so often you hear the same chants, freedom, freedom. it is something that we have heard in miami from the exiled community for decades. this is nothing new. this is something that people have been talking about, this is something that people have been dreaming about for a long, long time. there are radio stations in miami dedicated to this, dedicated to speaking about the fall of fidel castro. i can only imagine that all of
those people must be celebrating right nows as we see these images from miami. >> just to be clear, i understand the emotional impact of this, and given the personality and the mark on history that fidel castro will have left, regardless of what you think of him, regardless of the politics. but the people who are in the street right now, presumably they're not looking for substantive change in the short term? >> they would certainly hope so, i can tell you that. they would certainly hope that. >> but in terms of realistic expectations? >> realistic expectations, i'm of the opinion it is going to take some time for cuba to see real change. we were talking to a columnist from "the miami herald" who would like to think otherwise but agrees with the same assessment, it is going to take a long time before we see real change in cuba. >> all right. rafael romo, cnn correspondent.
dictator and rode tanks and jeeps into cuba's capital, havana. >> and for decades after that he ruled cuba with an iron fist, creating a one-party state and bringing the cold war to the western hemisphere. aligning his country with the soviet union and denouncing the united states. he swept away capitalism in cuba, abandoned and expanded education and healthcare, but he clamped down on religious freedom and banned free speech and executing or jailing thousands of political opponents. >> patrick oppmann joins us live from havana, the cnn correspondent in cuba. of course, patrick, you find yourself in a peculiar situation because you have been the one for the last three hours or so more often than not breaking this news to cubans. what is going on now? >> reporter: that often happens here with international events, but it is really the first time i remember in five years of
living and reporting here i was informing cubans of such a massive event that has such implications and creates such emotions for them. most people just sort of froze, and you could tell they would remember for the rest of their lives how they learned this. in the last half an hour or so we've seen more live reporting on cuban tv and online about the death, informing cubans at this late hour about the death of cuban leader fidel castro. i think many people will wake up to only then learning the news if they're not getting calls from relatives in miami who are already aware. of course, this is an island where many people do not have internet still, so it is a bit of an information vacuum. but, again, when people have learned about this, there's so much emotion. this is a day they've really lived with, expecting, and to have it finally come, even though fidel castro was so ill,
90 years old, but for so many years there were the false reports. this was a monday who survived dozen of assassination attempts against him. when i lived in miami there was the sort of black joke that he was immortal until proven otherwise. well, that has happened in the last hours as finally the news that was rumored for so many years and disproven has been proven, that fidel castro has died. certainly, when the sun comes up in the cuban capital just a few hours behind me it will be a very different day here in havana. >> patrick, we are certainly getting reaction around the world. but right there in havana, i know your team is on the ground gathering reactions, getting information, but talk to us just about the plan in place. what happens in the coming day? we understand that the former leader will be cremated? >> reporter: yes. raoul castro tonight in the short statement that he read announcing his brother's death, fidel castro of course was called in the last years the historic leader of the
revolution. raoul castro said that fidel castro would be cremated as were his wishes and that planning is beginning for a state funeral. typically when there's an event, a tragic event or someone who has been a revolutionary icon like fidel castro of course was, that you see sort of force warning across the country. i can tell you with hugea shaf easy, a friend with cuba, at my children's school they wouldn't let them sing and bars and restaurants were closed. nothing is sort of allowed that would show any kind of celebrations or happiness. these moments, i was here with che guerra, the revolutionary, was brought back, and hundreds of people, whether they wanted to, had to march past his coffin. you will see the large-scale events of mourng, and when fidel castro swept into power many 'em
loved him because he forced a hated dig traitor out. but over years many people lost hope and faith, and for many of the cubans i did speak with on the phone or i've seen the post on social media now, there's sort of -- not ambivalence, but exhaustion and they want to know how this improves their future and if this will lead to something better because cuba has suffered through so much. there's still u.s. economic sanctions on the island. the economy is in very poor shape, and many people want to hear new ideas, new solutions to problems that have now existed for many decades of fidel castro's revolution. >> but at this hour and several hours after learning this news on the streets of havana, a sense of quiet as people start to understand this very important fact that has happened, that the former leader of cuba has died at 90 years old. patrick oppmann, cnn's dedicated correspondent in havana live with us. patrick will be with us
throughout the next few hours, through the next few days i'm sure. thank you, patrick, for your reporting. stay with us. >> we've been getting reaction with patrick in cuba, the reaction in miami. over the next 24 hours we will be getting you as the world wakes up to this news the reaction across the world. cnn's matt rivas joins us from beijing. matt, it would be very interesting to know if there has been any official reaction in beijing at this very early stage. there mig not have been yet. if not, how do you think this is going to go down where you are? >> reporter: well, no official reaction from the chinese government yet or state media. frankly, typically we see these kind of things come out in chinese state media where the media outlets run by the government will post a generic statement. that i think is what we can expect when that does happen. i think when it does happen you are going to hear the chinese government give a relatively favorable view, probably speak
very, very nicely about fidel castro. but if this had happened, you know, 30, 40 years ago that might not have been the case. even though both countries were communist countries, they both went through revolutions in the middle part of the 20th century, china and cuba did not have the best relationship for a long time. in fact, they didn't establish formal diplomatic ties until 1993. it was in an interview in the late '70s actually that fidel castro gave that he said while he agreed with chairman m mao ze dun of china, he agreed with him but he said mao's ego was detrimental for the chinese. he was very critical of chairman mao and that at that time was not a way do get ties with china. in 1993 things eased, diplomatic relations were formally established between both sides. since then what you've seen is a cuban economy that has come to increasingly rely on the chinese
economy. in fact, last year china was the single -- largest single country trading partner with cuba. in fact, only the european union collectively had a bigger total trade value with cuba. so the fact today china and cuba have a much better relationship, it was in september that the second in charge here, premiere li ka chong went and visited fidel castro in his home, late in september. it was just two years ago that made a visit to cuba himself visiting with castro. it is an interesting relationship what has evolved over the course of fidel castro's life in cuba which started out hostilely. even though they were ideologically similar, it evolved over time. >> mat rivers thank you very much. matt rivers in beijing with the china/cuba relations. of course, it will be interesting to watch how every country reacts to this, the death of one of the most
prominent figures of 20th century history, into 21st century, especially because the way countries react is linked to, you know, their own internal and domestic politics. >> yes. >> so in china, run by the communist party, it is interesting to see how they're reacting. they've had ambivalent relations with raoul castro, matt rivers was telling us. we want to show you the last public photo taken of fidel castro. it was november 15th, just ten days ago, in havana. he was meeting at the time with vietnamese president tram di quon. >> we are bringing reaction from around the world. let's bring in a former ambassador to the u.n. from singapore and is now live on the line here on cnn from singapore. sir, thank you for being with us. so you met with fidel castro in person. first of all, talk to us about that meeting. before that give us your
reaction to what happened here. >> well, i met him in cuba in 1979, and this was during the non-aligned meeting. what was interesting about that time was singapore and cuba were on the opposite side. cuba was a friend of the soviet union and singapore was a friend of the united states. and quite remarkably, and so we actually to be completely candid, singapore and cuba had a very big fight in 1979 in cuba. but despite decades of fighting we became friends because we respected each other, and certainly there's a lot of respect for fidel castro as the leader globally. >> at the same time though a very different scene we're seeing in places like miami. there are many people who hated fidel castro, who call him a dictator, who call him a person who murdered families,
imprisoned people. >> yes, i think if you look at fidel castro through the lens of miami, you see it through a very distorted lens. there's one simple statistic i give to people, which is 7.3 billion people on planet earth and 3 or 12% live in the west and 88% live outside the west. for the 88% who live outside the west, who watch the story of cuba and this amazing small country that was able to stand up for decades to the most powerful country in the world, it was a david and goliath fight and everyone expected david to be crushed and david kept surviving. that why there's a lot of global admiration for fidel castro even among those who don't agree -- didn't agree with his ideas. >> i have to with all due respect push back on your -- the polling suggestion. it is still unclear, you know. certainly there are people who did appreciate the former leader
and there are those who hated him as well, but i would like to get your thoughts, your personal reaction. you met the man. when you herald thard this news what did you feel? what were you thinking? >> well, i mean certainly he is a very charismatic figure wherever he went. i mean people treated him with a great amount of respect. i actually visited his brother's farm outside havana and i saw how ordinary cubans were living. and, you know, they seemed to be quite happy from the people that i met over there. you know, i must emphasize that i don't agree with the views of -- i'm not a communist. i don't agree with the views of a communist society, but it is nonetheless a fact that the poor people in cuba were much better off than the poor people off than the people in in latin
america. he was exporting doctors and services to latin america, and it was amazing he could do that. >> is that still the case? you were telling us the poor people of cuba were better off than the people of other countries in latin america. is that still the case? does it still hold true? >> i think they've had a very rough time in recent years. frankly, cuba should have collapsed when the cold war ended, because when the soviet union collapsed, as you know, a lot of proceed soviet regimes in east europe collapsed and i expected cuba to collapse, too. i was stunned they didn't do so. i said, wow, it is a remarkable regime that could lose the support of its patron and keep ongoing. that showed the resilience of the man and of his system that he created. >> at the same time, sir, though cuba has not collapsed, there are many people in america, in
miami specifically, who are not happy with the fact that relations have improved. >> but i must emphasize to you that miami is a very distorted lens. this is a small group, people who obviously left cuba -- >> with all due respect, i have to push back -- >> if you use miami to judge cuba, of course you're going to get a negative -- >> i do have to gently push back against the idea it is a small group because, again, when we see the live images in miami you do see many, many people on the streets who have a different take. it is important also to bring in your take as well. i want to ask you, sir, as we see this happening in miami, as we see people starting to get the news in cuba, what are your thoughts moving forward now that a new u.s. president will be coming in and will be dealing with raoul castro without the shadow of fidel castro? >> well, i think it is very important to carry on the policy of engagement that president obama has started. i think that's a very wise
policy because i think the united states tried sanctions and isolation for over 50 years, and ironically that helped the regime to survive. so if you really want to engineer change in cuba and you want to actually bring about a more open society, the best way to achieve a more open society in cuba is to follow president obama's policy and engage cuba and not isolate. and once you open up cuba, once you send in thousands and thousands of tourists, then it will change the chemistry of the society dramatically. >> the former singapore ambassador to the united nations on the line with us. sir, we appreciate you being with us and lending your voice to us. we may come back to you as we continue to cover this, so please stand by with us. for viewers, again, breaking news, fidel castro dead at the age of 90 years old.
time, and feeling about him as we've been seeing in our coverage for the last three hours were very mixed. here is martin savage with a look back at castro's life and how he transformed cuba over the decades. >> reporter: depending on whom you talk to, fidel castro was a revered revolutionary legend or a despised tyrannical dictator. there's little middle ground. castro came to power in 1959 in a widely popular revolution, over throwing cuba's then dictator batista. the new government gained the recognition of the united states. but it wasn't long before the bearded rebels leftist ideology put him on a collision course with america. especially when he allied himself with the soviet union. seeing a new threat just 90 miles off-shore the u.s. decided to act. >> i have directed the armed forces -- >> first launching a trade
embargoed followed by the failed cia-backed bay of pigs invasion and attacks on castro, all of this why the soviet union secretly built missile bases on the island. when they were discovered in 1962, it brought the world to the brink of nuclear war. as castro turned more and more to socialism thousands of well to do level the country. a one party communist state led by one man, himself. >> translator: he imposed the idea that those who didn't like it could leave. he divided families. >> reporter: many saw positives, education and healthcare for all, racial integration. >> translator: what fidel achieved in the social order of this country has not been achieved by any poor nation and even by some rich countries despite being submitted to ee
norm usa pressure. >> reporter: but critics say it came at a terrible cost. >> translator: the dreams of freedom given the cuban people were turned into the nightmare we live in today. >> reporter: what castro never imagined to achieve was economic prosperity, even with years of subsidies from the soviet union. for that castro blamed the united states and its embargo. but many blame the man himself, pointing to his unwaiving belief in an outdated and inefficient socialist model. castro had little sol rans for dissent. opponents were offer dismissed as traitors, imprisoned or exiled? as more dissidents ended up under arrest, he became the target of condemnation. like many times before, he never backed down, defending his record on human rights. >> there hasn't been a case of death squads, which has been america.ractice all over latin
we feel proud with our clean record to relation to this problem. >> reporter: call it pride or selective reasoning, but he never lost faith in the revolution. opponents concede his popularity diminished as his beard grew whiter, but he continued to command fear and respect. he would eventually out live many of his critics and out last ten u.s. administrations. in the end, it was illness, not washington, that forced him to retire. passing cuba's leadership to his younger brother, raoul, in his last year he only appeared occasionally, mostly in photos looking frail. at times he tried to play the role of elder statesman, but more and more he simply seemed inkons can kwen shal. >> translator: the cuban government has been very ago aisle. it has slowly removed him from the scene. it would have been one thing had he abruptly died back on july 31st, 2006. instead his image and importance
slowly faded. >> reporter: castro insisted death was not something he feared. >> translator: i have never been afraid of death. i have never been concerned about death. i have learned not to feel attached, attachment to that which is called power. >> reporter: that latter statement seems ironic, coming from a man who almost single-handedly dictated over cuba for nearly half a century. >> martin savage reporting for us. thank you. let's bring in cnn's rafael romo who again has been covering geo politics of latin america for many years. let's just talk about the situation in cuba as it is now for people. what is the latest from human rights watch? what are the facts and figures? >> it is a very good question. essentially based on what our previous guest was telling us, that, you know, a lot of people in the world admire fidel
castro, but what human rights watch says -- and this is the most recent report, is the cuban government continues the repress, dissent and discourage public criticism. it now relies less on long-term prison sentences to punish i think citizens but short-term arres arrests. other repressive tactics, employed, by the government include beatings, public acts of shaming and the termination of employment. we were talking about this before, how if anybody dares say anything that might be perceived not threatening but unfriendly to the government, they may lose whatever benefits they can get under the government. a previous guest was talking about the fact that cuba sends its doctors to all four corners of the world. my question is at what cost? if you're a doctor in cuba, you're essentially a slave and
you work at the pleasure of the government, where the government wants you to work, in whatever conditions the government wants you to work in, for anywhere from $20 to $30 a month. so we also have to look at the cost, and the cost in terms of many lives that had to flee, many people who had to flee over the decades, millions of cubans who either because they were hungry or because they were the victims of political repression, that have to leave. i would suggest, again, a previous guest to talk to any of those people to see how they really feel about what has happened in cuba for the last 60 years. >> rafael, do you feel that that is the legacy of fidel castro today? >> the legacy of fidel castro is -- in miami, is in new york, is in houston, is in all of those places around the united states where cuban-americans live. many of my friends who are
second generation cuban-americans, who are still in a way affected by what their parents lived, by people who had to flee cuba with nothing but whatever they could carry, people who had to find clever ways to leave because if they tried the normal way they would be shot on the spot. i was mentioning people like hubert martes who fought alongside fidel castro at the beginning of the revolution, but at the moment he became a markist he did not want to have anything to do with him. what happened to him? 20 years in prison. he was freed in 1979. he lived in the united states for a while and lived in costa rica, he died in 2014. he never was able to go back to cuba. so it is very emotionally charged, and i understand people who see fidel castro, his endurance. he had to deal with -- think of
this. 11 u.s. presidents had to deal with fidel castro. if you put the numbers together, that's almost a quarter of all of the chief executives in u.s. history. that's a lot of presidents with the same problem. it is amazing. >> it is interesting, the last guest, the former singapore ambassador to the u.n., i did have to push back on his suggestion that what we're seeing in miami is a small, distorted reaction because, n, it is important. it is important to point out millions of people fled cuba, fled cuba to get to the united states. many people in miami, if we can take a look at these images, many people are reacting. they are celebrating in the streets this hour, at 3:55 in the morning on the u.s. east coast, gathered there just outside the versailles restaurant. the very famous restaurant for cuban americans to gather to talk politics, and on this day to mark history, the death of fidel castro at 90 years old. cnn will continue to follow the
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4:00 a.m. on the u.s. east coast. welcome back to our viewers in the united states and around the world. we are following the breaking news this hour, the death of fidel castro at 90 years old. >> the former president and revolutionary leader was 90 when he passed away. for years he'd been out of the public eye. his brother, current president raul castro, making the announcement on television. >> translator: dear people