The death of Fidel Castro reverberated throughout South Florida this weekend, and one expert said it could lead Cuban Americans to reevaluate their positions on the island.
Guillermo Grenier, one of the lead researchers in charge of the FIU Cuba Poll, said the coming weeks and months “will be a time for reevaluation.” Some Cuban Americans, he said, will be faced with deciding whether to double down or take steps to reshape the country.
“The diaspora of Cuban Americans … have an incredible opportunity to influence Cuba,” he said. “Fidel outlived my father, he outlived a lot of presidents. (Now that) Fidel is gone, do you take the opportunity to recognize you can reshape Cuban society.”
The Associated Press reported President Raul Castro announced on state television his older brother died at 10:29 p.m. He died 10 years after a life-threatening illness led him to turn over power to his brother.
“You have this death that has been forecast for many many times and rumored for many others that is actually happening,” said Grenier, who was in Miami’s Little Havana on Saturday morning. “There is jubilation. There is ambivalence. There is mourning. There is all kind of things.”
Grenier was born in Havana, and came to the United States when he was very young. He said his 95-year-old mother is “very happy today.” Grenier, however, said he doesn’t “share that happiness and I don’t share that hate.”
“For me, he’s been not around for a long time. He was alive, but not relevant,” he said. “For me it was just an inevitable moment. It’s one of those moments I talked about with my friends for a long time.”
But Grenier said much has changed in the 10 years since Castro has been out of power, and many of those changes “would not have taken place if he had been in power.”
It is unclear what impact Castro’s death will have on U.S. relations with the small island nation. In 2014, President Barack Obama announced the United States and Cuban would move to restore diplomatic ties for the first time since 1961.
The 2016 FIU Cuba Poll showed a majority of Cuban-American residents in Miami-Dade County favored increasing economic relations with the island. The survey also found 69 percent of respondents supported the decision to open diplomatic relations with Cuba.
But Grenier said many respondents who came to the United States in the 1960s and 1970s still say they would not support relations “until Fidel and Raul are dead.”
“Fifty percent of the equation is gone, and the other 50 percent has turned its back on the initiatives of Fidel,” said Grenier. “Not only is Fidel dead, but a lot of his attitudes are dying. It’s all symbolism. With Fidel out of the way … we have to reevaluate.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report, reprinted with permission.