Institute researcher and academic Salim Lamrani gives his view of the late Cuban leader

Fidel Castro: Hero of the disinherited

Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez in Havana 2006

Institute  researcher and academic Salim Lamrani of the University of La Réunion (DIRE), gives his view of the late Cuban leader

This article will appear in the forthcoming issue of the International Journal of Cuban Studies

A controversial figure in the West where he is strongly criticized, Fidel Castro is however revered by the peoples of Latin America and the Third World. They consider him a symbol of resistance to oppression and a defender of the aspirations of the countries of the south that struggle for independence, sovereignty and self-determination. A legendary rebel during his own lifetime, he has entered the pantheon of the great liberators of the Americas. The prestige of the former guerrilla of the Sierra Maestra has overflown the continental borders of Cuba to become the archetype of twentieth century anti-imperialism and a vector of a universal message of empowerment.

What is it that explains this discrepancy between the negative Western media image of Fidel and the enthusiasm he generates in Latin America and the Third World? Is it not to be expected that his commitment to the poor and his fight for the preservation of Cuban and Latin American identity might be perceived by the peoples of the south as a universal struggle? Did his commitment to Latin American integration through the creation of ALBA in 2004 not reflect the efforts of Simón Bolívar and José Martí to unite a continent in solidarity in order to build the “Patria Grande”?

Three aspects characterize the figure of Fidel Castro. First of all, he is the architect of national sovereignty, the person who restored dignity to the people of the island by realizing the dream of the Apostle and National Hero José Martí for an independent Cuba. Secondly, he is a social reformer who has taken up the cause of the humble and the humiliated. Finally, he is an internationalist who extends a generous hand to needy people everywhere and places solidarity and integration at the center of Cuba’s foreign policy.

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Fidel Castro, hero of the disinherited