To South Africans who suffered under apartheid, he was a beacon of freedom.
There is no in-between space where Castro can be ignored or dismissed. He was either loved or loathed. To his enemies, he was a dictator. But to South Africans who suffered under apartheid, he was a beacon of freedom.
The bonds between Castro and Mandela, between the Cuban and the South African people, go back to the late 1950s.
In 1956, the apartheid regime indicted 156 rights leaders, including Mandela, from all walks of life and every corner of the country on charges of high treason for mobilizing peacefully against white minority rule. The trial dragged on for four years, and South Africa remained trapped in a cycle of repression and resistance for more than 30 years.
On Jan. 1, 1959, we woke up to the news that the Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista had fled, that Castro and his July 26 Movement had triumphed. Although it had failed in its immediate goal, the Moncada Barracks attack became a recruiting tool and a major part of the success of the July 26 Movement.
Thus began the leadership of a man who indeed found no passion in playing small, who lived his life on an impoverished island at the doorstep of the mighty United States yet left an imprint on the history of the world.