Columbia: With the death of Fidel Castro, the United States has lost its last great Cold War enemy, a leader who long ago passed the baton to his brother and sat on the sidelines during his country`s historic rapprochement with its old foe.
The loss of the firebrand who flouted America`s superpower status under 11 US presidents comes as Washington is poised to undergo a major transition from the administration of Barack Obama to that of the brash Republican billionaire Donald Trump.
Trump called Fidel a "brutal dictator" on Saturday as Obama asserted that "history will record and judge" the Cuban revolutionary leader`s impact on the world.
While several European leaders have paid their respects to Fidel during recent visits to Cuba, the United States has largely pretended the aging revolutionary didn`t exist -- dealing only with his younger brother Raul, even after the warming of relations announced on December 17, 2014.
That is, until his death Friday.
Since then, an outpouring of sentiments -- from bitter vitriol to conciliatory, measured condolences -- have poured forth from a range of politicians.
"Today, the world marks the passing of a brutal dictator who oppressed his own people for nearly six decades," Trump said.
He made no mention of his earlier threats to reverse the historic rapprochement carried out by the two countries under Obama, saying only "our administration will do all it can to ensure the Cuban people can finally begin their journey toward prosperity and liberty."
Obama, in turn said the United States was extending "a hand of friendship to the Cuban people" following Castro`s death.
Despite the re-establishment of diplomatic relations in the summer of 2015 and Obama`s historic visit to Cuba in March, relations between the
United States and the communist island located just 90 miles (150 kilometers) off the coast of Florida are far from normalized.
For starters, the Republican-controlled US Congress has refused to lift the economic embargo imposed by the United States since 1962.But relations have always been rough between the United States and Castro`s Cuba. A failed US-backed invasion in the Bay of Pigs to overthrow the nascent
Castro regime in 1961 and the Cuban missile crisis, which brought the globe to the brink of a third world war in 1962, marked only the beginning of the two foes` bitter relationship.
"What the imperialists cannot forgive is the triumph of a socialist revolution right under the nose of the United States," Fidel Castro said in the 1960s.
He was the Cuban counterpart to 11 US presidents, from Dwight Eisenhower to Barack Obama, never ceasing to prove a stubborn bulwark against capitalism and a challenger of America`s status as the world superpower.
With a few rare exceptions -- such as during Democrat Jimmy Carter`s presidency from 1977 to 1981 -- all presidents tried to bring Cuba to its knees by reinforcing economic and trade retaliation as well as supporting Cuba`s opposition in exile. All in vain.
Before Obama`s announcement of a successful rapprochement, furtive behind-the-scenes approaches on behalf of a number of American presidents had failed. Meanwhile, the Cuba issue took on a distinctly domestic flavor, as the Cuban exile community in the United States exerted its force on politics, particularly in Congress.
That pressure was still on view Saturday as a number of Cuban-Americans from Congress weighed in on Castro`s death.
"A tyrant is dead and a new beginning can dawn on the last remaining communist bastion of the Western hemisphere," Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a conservative Cuban-American who represents southern Florida`s 27th district where many Cuban exiles live, wrote on her website.
Texas Senator Ted Cruz -- whose father is Cuban -- said on Facebook that Castro`s death "cannot bring back his thousands of victims, nor can it bring comfort to their families."
For Democrats, the Cuban rapprochement and the Iranian nuclear deal will remain the Obama administration`s enduring diplomatic legacies -- assuming Trump does not undo them after he takes office on January 20, as he has previously threatened.
When Obama visited the island nation in March, he said that "change is going to happen here and I think that Raul Castro understands that," but added that those changes were not going to happen "overnight."