Castro dies amid uncertainty about U.S.-Cuba relations

Cuban-Americans gather in Miami's Little Havana after Fidel Castro's death. (Source: WSVN)
Cuban-Americans gather in Miami's Little Havana after Fidel Castro's death. (Source: WSVN)

Cuba’s former dictator Fidel Castro died at age 90 amid uncertainty about the future of relations between the United States and the island nation.

His brother Raul Castro, who succeeded him as president of Cuba in 2008, announced in a television broadcast that “our commander in chief of the Cuban revolution” died at 10:29 p.m. Friday.

Castro’s death follows statements by U.S. president-elect Donald Trump raising doubt about closer diplomatic and economic relations between the United States and Cuba, which President Barack Obama and Raul Castro initiated in December 2014.

The U.S. economic embargo against Cuba remains in place, however, and much of the liberalization of trade and travel between the two nations is based on executive orders by Obama that Trump could reverse.

Another unresolved issue involves thousands of claims to recover real estate and other property the Cuban government confiscated  following the Casto-led revolution almost 60 years ago.

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Castro died about eight months after President Obama’s historic three-day visit to Cuba in March, which followed the reopening of the U.S. Embassy in Havana in August 2015.

Along with Obama, a delegation of U.S. business executives also visited Cuba, including Jorge Perez, chief executive officer of Miami-based real estate development firm Related Group. Perez, once an adviser on Cuban policy to Bill Clinton, has long supported closer ties between the United States and Cuba. His parents are Cuban, and though he was born in Argentina, he lived on the island nation as a child before his family fled during the revolution in 1959 that brought Castro to power.

Raul Castro has promoted reforms of Cuba’s economy that include allowing Cubans to start small businesses. His older brother’s death could remove an obstacle to further economic reforms.

“Maybe Raul will have a freer hand now,” Jorge Castañeda, former foreign minister of Mexico, told the Wall Street Journal.

Arturo Lopez-Levy, a Cuba expert at the University of Texas, told the Journal that changes to Cuba’s Communist Party will be “the most important developments that we’ll see after Fidel’s death … Without Fidel’s charisma, the ruling party will now base its legitimacy on nationalism and economic results.” [Wall Street Journal] Mike Seemuth