Fidel Castro, Cuba's longtime revolutionary leader who defied the United States for nearly half a century, died Friday. He was 90 years old.
Castro had been suffering from declining health for several years. The communist dictator, known for bringing the Cold War to the Western Hemisphere in 1959, "devilling 11 American presidents and briefly pushing the world to the brink of nuclear war," as The New York Times reported, ceded his power to his younger brother, Raul Castro, due to an intestinal illness eight years ago. Fidel officially resigned as president in February 2008, and Raul took over permanently.
Raul announced his brother's death Friday on Cuban television. Following the news, many political figures, journalists and celebrities took to social media to share their reactions on Castro, who famously survived numerous assassination attempts by the CIA and anti-Castro exiles in the early 1960s. In 2002 he stated, "I have never been afraid of death. I have never been concerned about death."
Emilio Estefan, a Cuban-American musician and producer, released the following statement to ET on Saturday:
"To all political prisoners, many of those who died, and to their families; to the members of the Brigade 2506, who had the courage to fight from the beginning; to each family that were separated; to those who died in the Florida Straits; to the dissidents who struggle every day; to the victims of the attack on March 13, 1957; and to all who died seeking freedom -- We thank you and honor you for fighting for freedom and human rights for our homeland. Your sacrifice will NEVER be forgotten. Today, there is a new dawn filled with hope for our beloved Cuba."
His wife, Gloria, also released a statement on her social media platforms, which read, "Although the death of a human being is rarely cause for celebration, it is the symbolic death of the destructive ideologies that he espoused that, I believe, is filling the Cuban exile community with renewed hope and a relief that has been long in coming."
"And although the grip of Castro's regime will not loosen overnight, the demise of a leader that oversaw the annihilation of those with an opposing view, the indiscriminate jailing of innocents, the separation of families," her statement continued, "the censure of his people's freedom to speak, state sanctioned terrorism and the economic destruction of a once thriving and successful country, can only lead to positive change for the Cuban people and our world. May freedom continue to ring in the United States, my beautiful adopted country and may the hope for freedom be inspired and renewed in the heart of every Cuban in my homeland and throughout the world."
President-elect Donald Trump weighed in, releasing a statement that read, "Today, the world marks the passing of a brutal dictator who oppressed his own people for nearly six decades. Fidel Castro's legacy is one of firing squads, theft, unimaginable suffering, poverty and the denial of fundamental human rights."
"While Cuba remains a totalitarian island, it is my hope that today marks a move away from the horrors endured for too long, and toward a future in which the wonderful Cuban people finally live in the freedom they so richly deserve," he continued. "Though the tragedies, deaths and pain caused by Fidel Castro cannot be erased, our administration will do all it can to ensure the Cuban people can finally begin their journey toward prosperity and liberty. I join the many Cuban-Americans who supported me so greatly in the presidential campaign, including the Brigade 2506 Veterans Association that endorsed me, with the hope of one day soon seeing a free Cuba."
Trump also took to Twitter, simply writing, "Fidel Castro is dead!"
Vice President-elect Mike Pence supported Trump's words, tweeting, "The tyrant #Castro is dead. New hope dawns. We will stand with the oppressed Cuban people for a free and democratic Cuba. Viva Cuba Libre!"
President Obama offered a different approach in his statement, sending condolences to Fidel's family:
"At this time of Fidel Castro's passing, we extend a hand of friendship to the Cuban people. We know that this moment fills Cubans -- in Cuba and in the United States -- with powerful emotions, recalling the countless ways in which Fidel Castro altered the course of individual lives, families, and of the Cuban nation. History will record and judge the enormous impact of this singular figure on the people and world around him.
For nearly six decades, the relationship between the United States and Cuba was marked by discord and profound political disagreements. During my presidency, we have worked hard to put the past behind us, pursuing a future in which the relationship between our two countries is defined not by our differences but by the many things that we share as neighbors and friends - bonds of family, culture, commerce, and common humanity. This engagement includes the contributions of Cuban Americans, who have done so much for our country and who care deeply about their loved ones in Cuba.
Today, we offer condolences to Fidel Castro's family, and our thoughts and prayers are with the Cuban people. In the days ahead, they will recall the past and also look to the future. As they do, the Cuban people must know that they have a friend and partner in the United States of America."
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