In this photo made available by the Cuban Government’s National Information Agency, AIN, Cuba’s leader Fidel Castro attends the presentation of his new book La Contra Ofensiva Estrategica, or The Strategic Counter Offensive, at Havana’s University on Friday, Sept. 10, 2010. Fidel Castro said Friday his comments about the Cuban economic model no longer working were misinterpreted by a visiting American journalist, taking back an admission that had caused a stir around the globe. (AP Photo/AIN, Omara Garcia)

Cuban exile, UD professor share thoughts on Castro’s death

The news that former Cuban President Fidel Castro has died was met with strong emotions and some celebration on Saturday as some exiles who live in Ohio looked back at his controversial legacy.

Castro, who died at the age of 90, has long been a divisive figure among current and former Cubans and their children.

Castro wanted to make all Cubans equal, and he succeeded in that, but not in the way he originally intended, said Bob Chabali, Dayton’s former assistant police chief, who fled Cuba as a child.

“He was extremely successful in making everybody equal — Unfortunately, he made everyone equally poor,” Chabali said.

Ohio is home only to about 8,225 people of Cuban ancestry, according to Census data analyzed by the Ohio Department of Development.

Castro was opposed by 11 U.S. presidencies and at least 2 million Cuban exiles in the United States, as well as unknown others within Cuba, said Juan Santamarina, an associate professor and chair of the history department at the University of Dayton.

Castro was the central, divisive figure in a decades-long struggle over Cuba’s identity and what the meaning of the Cuban experience ought to be and what Cuba’s future will hold, Santamarina said in an email.

His death raises questions about whether the country will move toward more open, democratic institutions of government and how economic models and social and cultural norms may change, Santamarina said.

“What that post-Castro future will look like will be determined by many forces and many actors both inside Cuba and beyond its borders,” he said.

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