Fidel Castro's Death: What the Communist leader's passing means for US-Cuba relations

Fidel Castro's Death: What the Communist leader's passing means for US-Cuba relations
Source: Getty Images
Source: Getty Images

In the wake of physical ailments, Fidel Castro ceded power to his younger brother, Raúl Castro, in 2008, hoping that he would continue the legacy of hard-line communism in Cuba and the Americas. Soon after he took office, the younger Castro decided to leave behind the days when his brother bedeviled U.S. presidents and pushed the world to the brink of nuclear war. Instead, Castro made a historic decision, alongside President Barack Obama and Pope Francis, to thaw U.S.-Cuba relations in 2014. 

The new chapter in U.S.-Cuba relations did not please El Comandante. In an op-ed for Cuban newspaper Granma titled "Brother Obama," Fidel Castro wrote that the United States "empire did not need to give away anything to Cuba" since "this noble country will not renounce its glory, rights and spiritual wealth that has earned thanks to the development of education, science and culture." 

Although Fidel Castro did not remain in power in the last eight years, his death raises new questions about the future of U.S.-Cuba relations. While Obama offered condolences to the Castro family while providing a "hand of friendship" to the Cuban people, President-elect Donald Trump simply tweeted, "Fidel Castro is dead!" 

Meanwhile, Vice President-elect Mike Pence wrote on Twitter that "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!"

Monday, Trump added on Twitter that "If Cuba is unwilling to make a better deal for the Cuban people, the Cuban/American people and the U.S. as a whole, I will terminate deal [to restore bilateral relations]" 

A recent appointment poses a threat to U.S.-Cuba relations.

Trump named Mauricio Claver-Carone, a harsh critic of Obama's efforts to improve bilateral relations with the island, to join the transition team for the U.S. Department of the Treasury, where he was an attorney-adviser until 2003. Claver-Carone runs U.S.-Cuba Democracy Political Action Committee, which actively promotes the Cuban embargo. He is also the executive director of Cuba Democracy Advocates, a nonprofit that describes itself as an "organization dedicated to the promotion of a transition in Cuba towards human rights, democracy and the rule of law."   

A woman kisses the image of Fidel Castro as she waits in line to pay tribute to the late leader in Havana, Cuba.
Source: 
Natacha Pisarenko/AP

Since Obama eased travel restrictions to Cuba, the amount of U.S. tourists visiting Cuba has increased by 50 percent, according to the Washington Post. The new travel measures have also allowed visitors to bring unlimited quantities of rum and cigars, and companies such as Airbnb have already established businesses in Cuba. 

With a Republican majority in Congress, however, the hopes of lifting the embargo in its entirety might be fading away, as legislative action is required to remove all sanctions. Cuban-American congressmen have opposed an Obama-driven detente, among them Republican Sens. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, as well as Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez. Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Alex Mooney, Carlos Curbelo and Mario Díaz-Balart, have also rejected any change in U.S. Cuba relations

When it comes to immigration, Cubans may face dire consequences. Trump have previously expressed opposition to the 1996 Cuban Adjustment Plan, which allows Cubans seeking asylum to enter the U.S. legally. A stronger stance on immigration may pose a humanitarian crisis to thousands of Cubans who are now trying to cross the U.S. Mexico border instead of navigating the treacherous Florida Straits.

Cuba is in a shadow of uncertainty.

Raúl Castro pledged to relinquish power by 2018, which could force the island to adopt new economic reforms swiftly. Meanwhile, Venezuela, Cuba's strongest ally in the Americas, is grappling with socioeconomic turmoil and is unable to provide more economic stimulus to the island. For now, Cubans are pondering whether history will absolve one of the Cold War's last symbolic figures. 

How much do you trust the information in this article?

Robert Valencia

Robert is a news staff writer based in New York. His writing has appeared in the World Politics Review, Fusion, and the Miami Herald. He's a frequent guest in English- and Spanish-speaking media, including CNN, Univision, Al Jazeera, Public Radio International, and Voice of America. You can reach him at rvalencia@mic.com

MORE FROM

Hundreds rally in Times Square to protest Donald Trump’s transgender military ban

“I’m out here to support my trans brothers and sisters who have been serving our military for years and years and years."

Several Republicans are strongly denouncing Trump’s military transgender ban

“Anybody who wants to serve in the military should serve in the military. I don’t agree with the president.”

Worried Trump might pardon himself? Blame Alexander Hamilton.

Hamilton might not have been "thinkin' past tomorrow" when he pushed for broad executive privileges.

Harry Truman desegregated the military 69 years ago. Today, Trump banned transgender troops.

Truman wanted to end discrimination in the military "as rapidly as possible."

Here is a timeline of Donald Trump’s relationship with Jeff Sessions

Trump continued his Twitter attacks on Sessions Wednesday — reportedly while the embattled attorney general was in the White House.

How many transgender people serve in the U.S. military?

There's no exact number, but here's what research shows.

Hundreds rally in Times Square to protest Donald Trump’s transgender military ban

“I’m out here to support my trans brothers and sisters who have been serving our military for years and years and years."

Several Republicans are strongly denouncing Trump’s military transgender ban

“Anybody who wants to serve in the military should serve in the military. I don’t agree with the president.”

Worried Trump might pardon himself? Blame Alexander Hamilton.

Hamilton might not have been "thinkin' past tomorrow" when he pushed for broad executive privileges.

Harry Truman desegregated the military 69 years ago. Today, Trump banned transgender troops.

Truman wanted to end discrimination in the military "as rapidly as possible."

Here is a timeline of Donald Trump’s relationship with Jeff Sessions

Trump continued his Twitter attacks on Sessions Wednesday — reportedly while the embattled attorney general was in the White House.

How many transgender people serve in the U.S. military?

There's no exact number, but here's what research shows.