The Stream

Castro’s global legacy

From anti-colonial struggle to health care, how did Fidel Castro’s Cuba impact the world?

While Fidel Castro’s record at home in Cuba is the subject of bitter debate, the scale of his impact on the world stage is not. Since Castro took power in a socialist revolution against a military dictatorship in 1959, the small island nation of 11 million people has played an outsize role abroad. The apotheosis of this role was the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis between the United States and Soviet Union, which put the world on the brink of nuclear war. But less well known are a number of other ways Castro’s Cuba left a mark internationally.

In defeating US-backed forces at the Bay of Pigs, surviving hundreds of assassination attempts, and defying a decades-long economic embargo, Castro was a global symbol of anti-colonial resistance. He intervened in support of allied movements and governments, particularly in Africa. Cuban intervention in Angola helped win the country’s independence and ultimately help defeat South African apartheid. Cuban soldiers played a decisive role in the Somalia-Ethiopia conflict of the late 1970s, backing Ethiopia’s annexation of the Ogaden region. In Latin America, Castro was an ally of leftist governments battling right-wing foes in the 1970s and 1980s, and of the “Pink Tide” turn toward progressive politics that emerged in the late 1990s.

Aside from anti-colonial militarism, Castro also exported his country’s advances in medicine, sending tens of thousands of health workers and doctors to more than 100 countries. And under his leadership, Cuba played a key role in the Non-Aligned Movement, a grouping of more than 100 nations from the Global South. How did such a small country manage to play such a pivotal role around the world? On this episode of The Stream, we’ll hear from a panel with divided views on Cuba’s global impact.

Joining this conversation:

James Early
Board Member, Institute for Policy Studies

Dave Sandoval @delexilio
Cuban-American Musician

Yasmin Yonis @YasminYonis
Human Rights Advocate

Amalia Dache-Gerbino @amaliagerbino
Assistant Professor of Higher Education, University of Missouri

What do you think was Fidel Castro’s biggest impact on the world? Share your thoughts below.