Throughout the country, flags are at half-staff and the government has called for nine days of national mourning. Castro took power in 1959, persecuting and killing dissenters and isolating his country from much of the world. He also clashed with 10 American presidents and nearly sparked a nuclear war over the Cuban missile crisis.
The mood is quiet and subdued, as this island nation of 11 million people tries to come to terms with Castro’s death, reports “CBS This Morning” co-host Charlie Rose. For nearly half a century, he controlled just about every aspect of Cuban life.
Castro’s death marks the end of an era. Whether it is the start of a new one for Cuba remains to be seen.
Illness forced Castro to transfer his powers to his brother, Raul, in 2006. Even if his iron fist no longer ruled Cuba, the 90-year-old was still a potent symbol of the revolution.
“What was the best thing he did for the Cuban people?” Rose asked a Cuban man.
“For me, the education, health, completely free for the people,” he said.
“Will it change, without Fidel?” Rose asked.
“I don’t really worry about it. I don’t,” he responded.
After his 1959 revolution deposing Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista, Castro appeared on “Face the Nation.”
“What we want now is peace. What we want now is to pay attention to our things here,” Castro said.
Some Cubans wonder if Raul Castro will now pursue a modified capitalism and democratic reforms. Others are not so sure, including some wives and mothers of jailed dissidents.
“We are going to continue with the dictator, Raul Castro, who will do the same thing Fidel did,” Berta Soler said. “Those two did the same things together.”
President Barack Obama re-established diplomatic ties with Havana and loosened the travel ban in 2009. President-elect Donald Trump has said he might roll back some of those policies, which gave younger Cubans a taste of American-style freedoms.
The last time Rose was in Cuba, Diplo stood on stage in an electronic dance music concert watched by some 400,000 people. Tonight, a city is in mourning. There is less partying, and more a sense of remembering the man who founded the revolution.
“There could be change,” one man said, “or maybe things will remain the same.” But whatever the case, he believes the Cuban people will be ready.
The government has not released many details about Castro’s death. We still do not know the cause, for example. For his part, Raul Castro has said he intends to step down in 2018.