The death of Fidel Castro has triggered a wave of tributes to the political legacy of a larger-than-life figure. Those mourning his passing have expressed solidarity, admiration and respect for his legacy, but they have refrained from expressing a desire to imitate the road Fidel chose to rise to power ,or the political and economic model he offered Cuba.
Fidel Castro is indisputably the most important 20th-century political leader from Latin America. The 1958 Cuban revolution redefined the United States’ relations with the region. A small island that had been treated by the US as its own backyard successfully revolted against the most powerful nation on earth. The idealism of the revolutionaries captured the imagination of a generation of young leaders from Latin America who aspired to deliver social justice, dignity, development and to reduce poverty in the region. In 1959 — and for a good part of the 1960s and 1970s, when several Latin American countries were ruled by right-wing dictatorships — the Cuban Revolution stood as a beacon of hope for many who believed that the underdevelopment in the region had been caused by US imperialism and that capitalism ought to be replaced with socialism.
By siding with the Soviet Union, Castro also mounted a direct challenge to the Monroe Doctrine. After more than a century of Washington’s political hegemony in the region, the Cuban Revolution delivered a heavy blow to the United States at a time when the Soviet Union was well on its way toward increasing its influence around the world. In forging an alliance with the Soviets, Cuba brought the Cold War to Latin America. Several guerrilla organizations formed in different Latin American countries were directly inspired by Fidel Castro and Ernesto “Che” Guevara.
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