Castro’s Legacy in Puerto Rico

A Story of Two Islands

People walks pass a graffiti of Cuba's late president Fidel Castro in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba December 3, 2016. Enrique de la Osa / Reuters

There were few causes closer to Fidel Castro’s heart—and none more likely to arouse the ire of his country’s superpower neighbor—than the status of Puerto Rico, which came under U.S. control after the Spanish–American War in 1898, the very same conflict that led to Cuba’s independence. Given Cuba’s own experience with Spanish rule and U.S. occupation, the Cuban leader was always ready to champion decolonization.

But with an increasing chorus of prominent individuals—from politicians such as Senator Bernie Sanders and Congressman Luis V. Gutiérrez, to celebrities such as Ricky Martin and Lin-Manuel Miranda—calling for President Obama to commute the sentence of Oscar Lopez Rivera, the alleged leader of the FALN (a militant Puerto Rican separatist group), Castro’s support for radical Puerto Rican “independistas” deserves renewed scrutiny.

Castro considered Cuba and Puerto Rico “two wings of the same bird,”

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