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Sorrow and celebration - mixed reactions to Castro death

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By Luke Barber
Sorrow and celebration - mixed reactions to Castro death

One man’s tyrant is another’s freedom fighter the old adage goes, and the death of Fidel Castro has sparked as much celebration as it has sorrow in many of his former subjects.

In Miami’s Little Havana neighbourhood – home to many Cuban exiles who hold strong anti-Castro views – the scenes were a strong contrast to those in the Cuban capital.

Crowds lined the streets, waving Cuban flags, banging pots and pans and chanting: “Cuba libre!” (Cuba is free), “el viejo murió” (the old man is dead), and “Fidel! Tirano! Llevate tu hermano!” (Fidel! Tyrant! Take your brother with you!).

Passing cars beeped their horns and residents were seen dancing in the streets, singing the Cuban national anthem – “La Bayamesa” – long into the night on Friday, even after it began to rain.

Maggie Perez, a Cuban-American resident of Miami, said: “I actually heard this morning, I woke up and I was like, ‘is this true?’ Because we have been hearing this rumor for years and years and then I said: ‘We have to go celebrate! We have to open a bottle of champagne, we have to drink something.’”

One journalist, however, tweeted that a large number of the revelers appeared to hold pro-Donald Trump views.

The president-elect responded to the death of “El Comandante” by denouncing Castro as “a brutal dictator who oppressed his own people for nearly six decades”.

An inflatable model of Trump – who narrowly won in Florida in the American Presidential election in early November – was seen at the celebration.

Pedro Guerra, who was out celebrating the news of the leader’s death, said: “I am not here to celebrate a man’s death, but I am here to celebrate the beginning of the crumbling down of a tyranny that has oppressed my people.”

However, the joy was not mirrored by many of Little Havana’s residents, some of whom feel that Castro’s death will not change a thing.

“I will be happy once the system goes down. No Castro, no anybody, when Cuba is free. That is when I am going to be happy,” one resident said.

The anti-Castro capital

Little Havana has long been the epicenter of America’s anti-Castro sentiment. Thousands fled the revolutionary leader’s regime, coming to the US to escape poverty and persecution.

When Cuba’s economy began to suffer after Castro came to power, many of his subjects travelled to Florida and the surrounding areas as part of programmes such as Operation Pedro Pan or the Mariel boatlift in 1980.

Castro had declared: “Anyone who wants to leave Cuba can do so.”

Although US-Cuban relations appeared to be warming following President Barack Obama’s visit to the country in 2015, the scenes in Miami show that the two nations are still at odds.

While the leader’s death has triggered national mourning in Cuba, in Miami, few tears have been shed.