'I'm celebrating hope': Cubans flood Miami streets after Castro's death
Curt Anderson, Ian Mader And Tamara Lush, The Associated Press
Published Saturday, November 26, 2016 1:39PM EST
Last Updated Saturday, November 26, 2016 7:56PM EST
MIAMI -- Wearing his "Bay of Pigs Veteran" shirt, 80-year-old Rafael
Torre stood amid hundreds of Cuban-Americans celebrating the death of
Fidel Castro and marveled that he remained in power for so long.
Cuban exiles such as Torre tried numerous ways to dislodge Castro after
he took power in 1959, including the failed 1961 CIA-backed invasion
memorialized on his shirt. Now, like many others, Torre is hopeful for
Cuba's future with the bearded revolutionary leader finally gone.
"We tried for more than 50 years but couldn't do it. Now he's dead, and
maybe things can change," Torre said. "It might take three or four
years. Maybe the revolution will be on the streets in three or four months."
Thousands of people took to the streets of Miami and nearby cities
Saturday shortly after the early morning announcement of Castro's death
at age 90, and kept the party going all day. They banged pots with
spoons, honked car horns, waved Cuban and U.S. flags in the air and
whooped in jubilation on Calle Ocho -- as Little Havana's 8th Street is
Police blocked off streets leading to Cafe Versailles, the
quintessential Cuban-American hotspot where strong cafecitos --
sweetened espresso -- were as common as a harsh word about Castro, the
nemesis of so many exiles for so long. Many said they recognize his
death alone doesn't mean immediate democracy or freedom for the
"We need for the people of Cuba to have the freedom we have in the U.S.,
but this changes nothing. There won't be change until the people
revolt," said Juan Cobas, 50, who came to the U.S. from Cuba at age 13.
Others saw Fidel's death as a sign that a generation that has ruled Cuba
for decades is passing from the world stage, many noting that his
brother, current President Raul Castro, is 85.
"I'm feeling this is the beginning of the end," said Alex Pineiro, 32.
"Fidel was the architect of what's going on. It's a mix of emotions, I'm
happy he's dead, but I'm celebrating hope."
There were no reports of violence or any arrests during the
demonstrations, Miami police spokeswoman Kenia Fallat said Saturday.
Miami-Dade County officials said there were no plans to activate the
emergency operations centre -- another sign of the more subdued reaction
to Castro's death than might have previously been expected.
"They are celebrating but in a very peaceful way," Fallat said of the
The U.S. Coast Guard was running regular patrols and not increasing
staffing levels or taking other emergency steps, said Petty Officer
Jonathan Lally. The Coast Guard has seen a sharp uptick recently in
Cubans attempting to arrive in Florida by sea, with at least 7,411
Cubans attempting to migrate over the Florida Straits in the fiscal year
that ended Sept. 30 compared with 4,473 in the same timeframe last year.
After Castro took power, Cubans fled the island to Miami, Tampa, New
Jersey and elsewhere. Some were loyalists of Fulgencio Batista, the
president prior to Castro, while others left with the hope they would be
able to return soon, after Castro was toppled. He never was.
Many other exiles believed they would never be free under Castro and his
communist regime. Thousands left behind their possessions, loved ones,
and hard-earned educations and businesses, travelling to the U.S. by
plane, boat or raft. Many Cubans died on the ocean trip to South
Florida. Some had land and possessions taken by the Castro government.
The ones that made it to Miami took a largely, and vehemently,
"He should not be revered. He should be reviled," said U.S. Rep. Ileana
Ros-Lehtinen, a Republican who was born in Cuba.
Some people said the election of Donald Trump as president could lead to
a tougher stance against the Havana government that might hasten change.
"I hope that Trump takes a hard line against the Castro regime," said
Henry Marinello, 60, who left Cuba as a child in 1961,
On New Year's Eve every year, Cubans in Miami utter a toast in Spanish
as they hoist glasses of liquor: "Next year in Cuba." But as the Cuban
exiles aged, and as Castro outlived them, and as President Barack Obama
eroded the embargo and younger Cubans returned to the island, the toast
rang silent in many households.
News of Castro's death was long anticipated and had been the subject of
countless rumours over the decades, so that it became something of a
running joke. This time, though, it was real.
"We're all celebrating, this is like a carnival," said 72-year-old Jay
Fernandez, who came to Miami when he was 18 in 1961 after he was jailed
twice by the Cuban government. He and his wife and another woman held up
a bilingual sign he'd made four years ago when Castro first became ill.
"Satan, Fidel is now yours. Give him what he deserves. Don't let him
rest in peace."
Lush reported from St. Petersburg, Florida, and Anderson from Fort
Lauderdale, Florida. Associated Press writers Adrian Sainz in Memphis,
Tennessee and Josh Replogle in Miami contributed to this story.
Source: 'I'm celebrating hope': Cubans flood Miami streets after
Castro's death | CTV News -