The news of Castro’s death is weird, because he’s one of those figures who seems like he should have been dead for a long time already. After all, this is a guy who first came to power when Dwight Eisenhower was President, TV was a new form of entertainment, and Chuck Berry and Elvis ruled the radio. Castro became a geopolitical figure when he played a central role in the Kennedy Administration with the Bay of Pigs and the Cuban Missile Crisis. He seems like an anachronism from a long-dead era.
There seems to be no middle ground when you are talking about Castro. He overthrew a corrupt and dictatorial regime, and some liberals tout some of his policies — such as the apparent quality and low cost of health care in Castro’s Cuba. During the tumultuous ’60s, at least, he and his cohort Che Guevara had some of that revolutionary cachet and radical chic. But Castro also was a died-in-the-wool communist, and there is no doubt that his regime was both brutal and repressive, clamping down on freedoms we take for granted and keeping Cuba in the dark ages economically. People who have visited Cuba since the American embargo has been eased describe a struggling, impoverished country that seems to have stopped its progress in the 1950s.
Castro obviously was a significant historical figure, but how he will be perceived by history remains an open question. Some of that perception will depend on how Cuba fares, now that some semblance of normal relations with non-communist countries is likely, and some of it will depend on what we learn about the inner workings of the Castro regime, and just how cold-blooded and terrible it was.