Castro's legacy: A changed Latin America

When Fidel Castro and his band of bearded rebels entered Havana just after New Year's Day 1959, Dwight Eisenhower was president of the United States, and few questioned American hegemony in Latin America. Two generations and nine U.S. presidents later, Castro is finally stepping down--widely admired, even if his policies are not widely emulated.

Even if they do not mirror Castro's policies, many of the region's leaders feel free to look elsewhere to ensure their countries' interests, and embrace the same defiant rhetoric that attacked an "oligarchy" servile to foreign interests.

Besides Chavez in Venezuela, former leftist rabble-rousers are in power in Nicaragua, Brazil, Bolivia and other countries.

Castro has been embraced--even by center-left leaders such as former President Nestor Kirchner of Argentina--as a grandfatherly symbol of Latin American independence.

"Fidel is the only living myth in the history of humanity," Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said this week. "The myth lives on."

[Excerpt of an article by Héctor Tobar, Los Angeles Times]

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