The reactions to the death of Cuban Dictator Fidel Castro continue to pour in. The avowed communist defied US Presidents for generations. Despite all the international static between the US and Cuba, Mobile has been able to establish links with the island nation. While they celebrated in the streets of south Florida, Mobile’s relationship with Cuba has always been more diplomatic.
A statue of one of Mobile’s founders, Pierre Le Moyne D’Iberville faces Havana. There’s one just like it in Cuba too. Castro’s regime made Cuba into the nation it is today.
“He is one of the most important people in Latin American history and world history,” said retired USA Professor Dr. Isabel Brown. She says the positives of Castro’s education and health care system also prompt discussion of Castro’s important negatives. Critics have called the Cuban leader a brutal dictator who suppressed dissidents among other crimes. Throughout history, Castro was a constant foil to the United States
“That he has stood up to the United States and he has been so defiant from a nationalistic point of view [Cuban citizens] are very proud of this,” said Dr. Brown. In 1993 civic leaders in Mobile established sister city ties with Havana. Mobile was the first American city to do so. The Society La-Habana was established to improve those relationships.
“And it just grew into this close relationship we have especially with the medical community we have,” said Society member Joe Thomas. Thomas has made at least 30 trips to Cuba and is a member of the society. He credits former mayor Mike Dow with taking a risk to establish those ties.
“The possibility of a close relationship with Cuba that otherwise we may not have had, they’re natural trading partners,” said Thomas. In recent years a Mobile city and county delegation traveled to Cuba as the US-Cuba relationship began to normalize. Port officials were hopeful the new relationship could mean more trade with Mobile.
Society La-Habana President Grey Redditt sent this e-mail to News 5:
Though his relevance had diminished in recent years, Fidel Castro remained as a leader who was either revered for the the universal health care and unmatched educational systems available to the Cuban people, or reviled by others for the loss of personal liberties, loss of property rights and the economic hardships suffered by everyday Cubans. Hopefully his passing with allow further movement from a state controlled government toward one that is more open and available for participation in by the Cuban people, as well as the continued development of an economic model that will improve their standard of living.