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Former Cuban Leader Fidel Castro Dead at 90; Cuba Declares Nine Days of Mourning; Little Havana Cheers Castro's Death; A Look Back at Fidel Castro's Life. Aired 7-8a ET

Aired November 26, 2016 - 07:00   ET



[07:00:22] CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: We appreciate you being with us. Good morning, to you. I'm Christi Paul.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Martin Savidge in for Victor Blackwell. We welcome our viewers from the U.S. and those also from around the world. We begin with breaking news; from Cuba, former Cuban Leader, Fidel Castro, is dead at the age of 90, just heard the sounds of cheering from the streets of Little Havana in Miami as Cuban exiles who escaped his regime celebrated after hearing his death although a lot of them are the next generation.

PAUL: Very good point out. In Havana though, take a look at the scene there. The streets are quiet, people are finding out the Cuban revolutionary who (insole) the Communist Government in the country is no more. Fidel Castro's brother and Cuba's President, Raul Castro, made the announcement of his death on Cuban TV and Cuba has declared nine days of mourning which started just about an hour ago. The video you're looking at here is from his 90th birthday celebration that was back in August.

We want to go to Patrick Oppmann, now, he is there in Cuba. And Patrick, you -- I was just talking to Martin about this, you are going to have an interesting place in history for a lot of these people in Cuba because I know that you've been talking to them, it happened overnight and you ended up being the very person informing them that Fidel Castro had died. Help us understand what their reaction was?

PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You could see that they would remember that moment for the rest of their lives like all of us when we've witnessed history and for these Cuban's who have grown up their entire lives hearing about Fidel Castro whose speeches were the soundtrack of their lives. You're often obligated to go hear these four or five, six hour speeches, read the speeches that gave in the paper, they were printed in full that went on for pages. So there was really no escaping Fidel Castro, no matter how you felt about him.

And recent years, he has really kind of disappeared from the public view but he would always sort of emerge at crucial times, so this is somebody that never seemed to want to go into that night quietly and he fought against age, sickness, and -- just to a degree, a lack of relevancy and late last night when the news did break and I've again telling, all the Cubans that I could find, to try to gather reactions, it was really quite amazing, we just listened to some of that sound now of Cubans as we told them -- many of them learning for the first time that Fidel Castro has died.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All this is that we feel, we understand. I'm Cuban, wherever I am, and he will no longer be here, understand. It's something that hurts you. The Cuban people is feeling sad because of the loss of our Commander-in-Chief, Fidel Castro's (loss) -- and we wish him wherever he is, that he is blessed and as Cubans love him.


OPPMANN: And when I first came to Cuba in the mid-1990s, people wouldn't even say the name Fidel Castro if you engage them in the street and best stroked their face and sort of them, (panamanom) of a beard, that's how they talked about him. And in recent years living here for the past five years, people got a little bit more opened up but you will not hear criticism, you would not see so many celebrating as we saw last night. In Miami, there is still a fear of what would happen if you openly criticized him or his brother but certainly as Sun rises over Cuba without Fidel Castro, there is lot of expectations, lot of hope, perhaps a lot of fear of what the future brings and the Cuban Government as you said, has declared nine days of mourning, this is the historic leader of the Cuban revolution, a man who made a mark for better or worse on every Cuban and Cuba will surely never be the same.

PAUL: No doubt about it. Patrick Oppmann, thank you so much for sharing that perspective with us.

SAVIDGE: Fidel Castro was born August 13, 1926 in Biran, Cuba. He led the Cuban revolution in 1959 turning the island nation into the first communist regime in the Western Hemisphere. He ruled Cuba for nearly 50 years, first as Prime Minister, then President, known for his long fiery speeches, military (fatigues) and of course cigars.

PAUL: And he bought (so forth) reforms to Cuba but has been widely criticized for pressing human rights and freedom of speech. During his reign, thousands of Cubans fled for the U.S. Health problems finally forced Castro to resign the Presidency in 2008 and at that time he named his brother Raul as his successor and thousands escaped from Cuba during Fidel Castro's regime. Between 1965 and 1973 alone, more than six -- 260,000 left in a U.S. organized airlift, others left in these make-shift boats across straight to Florida.

SAVIDGE: And many of them now, of course, were in Little Havana which is in Miami where news of Castro's death was greeted by cheers and banging of pots and pans. CNN's Chris Moody joins us now live. And Chris, how are people reacting and why are they reacting this way?

CHRIS MOODY, CNN POLITICS SENIOR DIGITAL CORRESPONDENT: Well what's not long after the announcement of Fidel Castro's death that people here in Miami begin to pour into the streets here in the Little Havana neighborhood where so many Cuban exiles call home. It was a feeling of celebration, people were marching through the streets here, banging pots and pans, noise makers, drums, dancing, popping champagne bottles, I saw people holding up their phones during Facetime for family members who have moved maybe to Europe and abroad so that they could see this occasion that they have waited for, for so long.

We've talked to people, the reason that so many feel so joyed for is that for many people in this community of exiles here, they believed -- they feel that Fidel Castro took away their home, their livelihood and changed their country for the worst. They know that change is not necessarily going to happen immediately just because Fidel Castro who was no longer leading the country, his brother Raul is now leading the country. But just because he is gone doesn't mean that, check -- that Cuba is going to change but they are hope -- they are grateful that is chapter in Cuban history can be closed with his death.

PAUL: Chris, are they talking to you at all about what kind of change -- we know that it's not going to be particularly expeditious but I mean it's not (experienced) but do we know what kind of change they first want to see?

MOODY: Well, I think you can see this exemplified and the difference is, of the reaction here in Miami versus in Havana. You're not going to see a lot or anyone really protesting or celebrating in the streets of Havana and that speaks to the lack of freedom of expression and the lack also on another level -- lack of economic freedom that many of these people had before the Castro regime. They want to see economic freedom grow in their country, as well as having the freedom to speak their minds and criticize the government on that island, something that they have not been able to do for many, many decades.

SAVIDGE: Chris, we understand your wife is Cuban American, and then you travelled with her in a return what must have been a very emotional one to Cuba just -- what earlier this year?

MOODY: It absolutely was. I travelled with three generations of our family, including 84-year old (inaudible) grandmother, who had not returned in more than 50 years. She returned to her country that she barely recognized, it was a mixture of joy to be able to see her friends again, people she hadn't spoken to in so many decades, but also heartbreak to see how much the country has changed. She really did not recognize it as it was when she was young. She and her children were able to come to The United States and start a new life here. I anticipate that her children and my wife, as well, will be able to return and see if there will be change in Cuba in the future. Certainly, they are hopeful that over enough time that something will change there.

SAVIDGE: Chris Moody, thank you very much. Remarkably, (personal inch). Thank you.

PAUL: Yes, thanks, Chris. Well, President Elect Donald Trump is threatening to undo efforts by President Obama to bring U.S. and Cuba closer together. So what does Castro's death mean now for U.S. Cuban relations moving forward?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) PAUL: Welcome back, so grateful to have you with us here as we follow this breaking news this morning; the former Cuban leader, Fidel Castro has died. He was 90 years old, the U.S. and Cuba have had a long strange relationship but only recently started to normalize it seems.

SAVIDGE: Right. Going back to 1960, not long after Fidel Castro took power, you will remember the U.S. launch to A) trade embargo against the island nation. Through 1961 there was -- of course, the 'Bay of Pigs' invasion, a failed attempt to overthrow Castro. Tensions increased in 1962 with the Cuban Missile Crisis and that resulted in a nuclear stand-off between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. In 1980, some 125,000 Cubans fled to Florida in what would become known as The Mariel boatlift. And then in 2002, tensions remained high during the Bush administration with the opening of the Guantanamo Bay Prison Camp.

Castro's death comes with big change heading to the White House. President Elect Donald Trump is threatening to undo efforts by President Obama to bring the U.S. and Cuba closer together. Here is what Trump said about this in September;


DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT-ELECT: All of the concessions that Barack Obama has granted to Castro regime were done through executive order, which means the next President can reverse them, and that I will do unless the Castro regime meets our demands, not my demands, our demands. You know what the demands are? Those demands will include religious and political freedom for the Cuban people, and the freeing of political prisoners.


PAUL: I want to bring in One of Juan Carlos Lopez, Senior Political Correspondent for CNN Espanol. Juan Carlos, thank you so much for being with us. As we hear those words from Donald Trump, and we see now a new generation sort of speak even that Raul Castro, his brother is still in control but we see the possibility of change in Cuba. How likely do you think it is that the U.S. and Cuba will be able to work together?

JUAN CARLOS LOPEZ, CNN ESPANOL SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It's been a very difficult process, it's complicated because Cuba doesn't see this as a capitulation, they see it as a negotiation between equals, they believe that the U.S. has to have a different approach and perspective towards Cuba and Latin America and that's why maybe we haven't seen the progress many expected. Now President Trump once in office could, as he said, do away with those executive orders. But so far there had been advances but not as much as many expected and Fidel Castro was already out of the picture, he was critical of the process even though he said there was only one revolution as Raul and he were one, but he didn't trust the U.S. , so this falls in -- this whole dynamic right now falls into what Fidel Castro had predicted saying that the U.S. wasn't the one to be trusted.

We'll see what happens when the new administration comes onboard and we'll see if the process is able to go forward but we have to keep in mind the embargo for example, only Congress can lift it, so that's not something that the White House could do, the White House can do more things like one of the most controversial issues right now between Cuba and the U.S. is that Cubans who reach U.S. soil immediately receive refugee status, that's creating controversy in Florida, many believe there are people taking advantage of that process, that is something that could be changed by the executive order, the government has said they (want to) do it, so we'll see what happens; there could be easily change that (Wetfood-Dryfood) Policy but the Government in the U.S. , the White House, has said that is not something they are planning and it's just going to be a matter of giving time and see what President Elect, Trump, wants to do.

SAVIDGE: Juan Carlos, do you think the death of Fidel in anyway changes the position of Raul Castro?

JUAN CARLOS LOPEZ, CNN ESPANOL SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: He was already in a process where he said he will finish his term and someone else will come onboard. They've been planning this for a long time, it is not a surprise. Speaking to analyst in Cuba and outside of Cuba, they told us -- they planned this all along, Fidel Castro planned this all along. Fidel Castro planned even his funeral, most of this was probably planned directly by him; that was the type of leader that he was. So Raul Castro is just following on a process, and Fidel being gone will just mean that the iconic figure of the revolution is gone but Raul is still there and there are still a lot of loyalist in power, so it will be just a change in not having Fidel around but they will still be in power.

PAUL: You know, Patrick Oppmann, who is there in Cuba, has been talking this morning about the surprise that people feel when he is telling them that Fidel Castro has passed away. And at one time Castro has declared that history will absolve him essentially, and I'm wondering, do you believe his legacy in immediate and immediate weeks here after his death will take a different shape as Cuba evolves after he has died?

LOPEZ: He is such an iconic figure, he is so controversial, he is so loved and hated at the same time that it's difficult to predict how it will play out in the coming days because you have those who live in the U.S. and other countries that has had to leave their country, that have their very painful experiences to tell; then you have people in the island who (revere) Fidel Castro, it's not going to be an easy process, they had anticipated that this would happen and we'll see. But an important part of what Cuba means to the U.S. is that once U.S. started normalizing relations with Cuba, it changed the whole dynamic of the relation with the rest of Latin America. So Latin America respected Fidel and Cuba, and this part helped the U.S. as it was portrayed by other countries in Latin America.

PAUL: Good point.

SAVIDGE: Juan Carlos Lopez, thank you so very much.

PAUL: Up next, we want to talk a little bit more about Fidel Castro's defiant legacy. We're going to look back at his multiple rise to power.


SAVIDGE: Breaking news this morning, former Cuban leader, Fidel Castro, dead at the age of 90. Castro's deviant legacy began in 1959 when he led the Cuban revolution.

PAUL: In 1976, he became President of Cuba. Now it's believed that during his rule Castro survived several assassination attempts. In 2008, after more than four decades in power, health problems finally forced him to resign and he named his brother Raul as his successor.

Let's bring in Philip Peters, an expert on Cuban and U.S. Cuban relations. So Philip, we've been watching Miami this morning here, overnight, there are -- lot of people in the streets there; many of them celebrating this -- I believe they've been shouting freedom. How quickly do you think we will see any sort of change in Cuba or really at the end of the day to be realistic, have we seen some change evolving since -- say 2008, even 2006 when Raul Castro really seems to take over the power there?

PHILIP PETERS, EXPERT ON CUBAN AND U.S. CUBAN RELATIONS: Well, Christy, I don't think there is going to be any major change just because of Fidel Castro's passing but there has been change going on -- quite important change because of the change from Fidel to Raul began in 2006, Raul Castro has a very different view of the economy and has been changing economic policy in Cuba so that the policies that are in place now are much more oriented towards markets and smaller government and more capitalistic blend with the socialist economy than anything that Fidel Castro would have envisioned.

SAVIDGE: So his death meeting Fidel's -- which nation does it impact most? Cuba, it seems like they've already moved on Raul, the United States, it appears has already focused more on opening relations. Had this death happened say 10 years ago it would have been huge, but now it just seems to be a natural progression of history at this moment.

PETERS: Right, because he left power 10 years ago. He's been out of power for 10 years. Now, he's been alive and I think had some influence, this economic reform I'm talking about has been sort of stalled and it's clear that there are some opposition and it's pretty clear that the opposition is from people who are most loyal to Fidel and have a more orthodox view of how the economy should be run. So if there is a change in Cuba perhaps, that that sector that wants to stand pat and not continue with the change is going to be weaker.

PAUL: So as we look at Donald trump, as we've been talking about, we just ran a (sound slide) of him saying that he does not agree with the concessions that were made, that he wants to see religious freedoms and political freedoms restored to the people there. How do you believe this will play out in terms of U.S. relations with Cuba as President Elect, Trump, takes his rightful place now in U.S. history?

PETERS: Well, we'll see if the President Elect thinks things through a little differently than the candidate. You know, the President Elect, Trump, when he was a candidate, the first position he took regarding Cuba was that he was perfectly fine with what President Obama has done, that he would have done it better he said but that he was fine with the idea of opening up to Cuba and allowing more travel and some business opportunities.

Later, when he started campaigning in Florida, he made a decision to switch and he did a 180 degree flip and he proffer the position that you had on the tape before that he is going to present demands to Cuba and if they don't comply then he will reverse everything that Obama did. I hope he thinks that through and I hope he doesn't do it because it really doesn't make whole lot of sense. Cuba's changing, our influence is much greater if we have the flow of people and ideas and information between United States and Cuba, and the idea of presenting demands to Cuba and increasing sanctions is something that we did for 50 years and it might be sort of a primal (scream) type of approach to foreign policy but it doesn't do anything, it doesn't get us anywhere, and it doesn't really do anything to maximize American influence in Cuba.

PAUL: So let me ask you this, we've been seeing all these images from Miami. I don't know if we can pop any of them up here, overnight, as people celebrating there in the streets. How influential are the families in Miami to what may happen in Cuba now? Are they at all?

PETERS: They are influential certainly but Miami's influential in much different way now. Generations ago the opinion of Cuban Miami was very, very clear; the immigrants that came early on and the revolution -- didn't want to go back, they wanted to have sanctions and that was the end of it. Now, even in the votes we see the last two elections, the vote is split about 50-50 between the Republican and the Democratic candidate. And Miami -- as younger people come and as more recent immigrants come, Miami Cubans are split; a lot of them travel to Cuba, a lot of them favor ending the embargo, that the polls show -- I believe a majority do, the travel has increased a great deal. And if President Trump would backtrack, what he would be doing would be cutting off a huge flow that's really beneficial to the private sector that's growing in Cuba because these people who travel, it's not just to have a visit where they're at; they're bringing money, they're bringing equipment, they're sending stuff so that these half a million people now that are working in small businesses in Cuba have the capital and the wherewithal to make their businesses run. So Miami is really split down the middle.

PAUL: All right. Philip Peters, so appreciate your insight today. Thank you for taking the time to share with us.

PETERS: My pleasure.

PAUL: Absolutely. And we'll be right back.


[07:30:00] PAUL: Will mortgage rate pick up this week? Here is a look.


PAUL: We are always so grateful to have your company. Good morning, I am Christi Paul.

SAVIDGE: And I am Martin Savidge in for Victor Blackwell. Cuba has declared nine days of mourning after former leader Fidel Castro died at the age of 90, his brother; the President, Raul Castro, announced his death last night and says that Castro will be cremated early this morning.


RAUL CASTRO, PRESIDENT, CUBA: Dear people of Cuba, with profound pain, I have to sadly inform you, to our friends from our America, and to the world that today November 25, 2016 at 10: 29 in the evening, the commander and leader of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro (Ruiz) died.


PAUL: And look at what Castro's death prompted to erupt overnight in Miami; people there filling the streets were many Cuban exiles view him as an enemy of human rights. They were popping champagne, they were cheering, they were waiving the Cuban flag and they were chanting freedom.

SAVIDGE: Here is a look back at Castro's life and how he transformed Cuba over the decades.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Depending on whom you talk to, Fidel Castro was a revered revolutionary legend or a despised tyrannical dictator, there is little middle ground. Castro came to power in 1959 in a widely popular revolution overthrowing Cuba's then dictator, Fulgencio Batista. The new government quickly gained the recognition of the United States. But it wasn't long before the bearded rebel's leftist ideology put him on a collision course with America, especially when he allied himself with the Soviet Union, seeing a new threat just 90 miles offshore the U.S. decided to act first launching the trade embargo, followed by the failed CIA backed 'Bay of Pigs' invasion and several assassination attempts on Castro, all this while the Cuban leader allowed the Soviet Union to secretly build nuclear missile bases on the island. When they were discovered by the U. S 1962, the so-called Cuban Missile Crisis, brought the world to the brink of nuclear war.

As Castro turned more and more to socialism, thousands of his well-to- do Cubans fled the country. The millions left behind became part of his new social experiment, a one party communist state led by one man; himself.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He imposed the idea that those who didn't like it could leave. He divided family.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Many saw positives, education and healthcare for all, racial integrations.

UNIDENITIFIED MALE: What Fidel achieved in the social order of this country has not been achieved by any poor nation, and even by many rich countries despite being submitted to enormous pressures.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But critics say it came at a terrible cost.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dreams of freedom that he'd given the Cuban people were turned into a nightmare we live today, because we have a totalitarian regime in which all basic liberties have been abolished.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What Castro never managed to achieve was economic prosperity, even with years of subsidies from the Soviet Union. For that Castro always blame the United States, and its embargo. But many blame the man himself, pointing to his unwavering belief in an outdated and inefficient socialist model. Castro had little tolerance for (disasters), opponents were often dismissed as traitors, imprisoned or exiled. As more and more dissidents ended up under arrest, Castro became the target of international condemnation, but like so many times before, Castro never back down, proudly defending his record on human rights.

FIDEL CASTRO, EX-PRESIDENT, CUBA: There hasn't been a single case of death squads here, never has a person disappeared in Cuba which has been common practice all over Latin America. So we feel proud of our clean record with relation to this problem.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Call it pride or selective reasoning, but Castro never lost faith in the revolution. Opponents concede Castro's popularity diminished as his beard grew whiter but his intelligence and shrewdness continued to command fear and respect. He would eventually out-live many of his critics and out last 10 U.S. administrations. In the end it was illness, not Washington that forced him to retire, passing Cuba's leadership to his younger brother, Raul.

In his last year's Castro appeared only occasionally, mostly in photos looking frail. At times, he tried to play the role of elder statesman but more and more he simply seemed inconsequential.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Cuban government has been very agile, it has slowly removed him from the scene. It would have been one thing if he abruptly died back on July 31, 2006, instead his image and importance has slowly faded.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Castro always insisted death was not something he feared.

FIDEL CASTRO: I have never been afraid of death; I have never been concerned about death. I have nor feel attached to the positions or (inaudible) which is called power.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That letter statement seems ironic; coming from a man who almost single-handedly dictated over Cuba for nearly half a century.


PAUL: Joining us now, an expert in Cuban history and national politics, Lisandro Perez. SAVIDGE: He is a Professor of Sociology at Florida International

University. Thank you very much for joining us this morning. First let's get your personal thoughts on the death of Fidel Castro.

LISANDRO PEREZ, PROFESSOR, CITY UNIVERSITY, NEW YORK: Well, first of all I wanted to correct, I'm at the City University of New York, a Professor at the City University of New York at (02: 34) college. When I woke up to the news this morning, I slept through it, I'm afraid and it's momentous event from a historical opponents view in Cuba, certainly. I don't think it will have a great deal of impact on Cuba itself on the course of the government and the revolution, because - of course, his succession has already taken place. But I think that it does lift this moral or the perception that Fidel Castro represents the voice of the revolution and I think it may be able to enable his brother to do more reforms possibly than if he were alive.

PAUL: Professor Perez, one of the things that is so extraordinary as we heard in that piece is, is his tenure, how long he has been in power. As he - as is said, there are 11 U.S. Presidents had to deal with him.


PAUL: So when we talk about his power even in his death; how influential is what he has done going to be in the midst of the change that so many people are hoping they're going to see now?

PEREZ: Well, it's a - like I said, it's a very important point even though again he is not been exercising power per say, but it's a very important point because this man single-handedly led this revolution, that did for the first time in Latin America, really very effectively defied the U.S., he confronted the many ways, and did this revolution which of course have so many detractors and so many supporters. And I think people are going to see that in the days ahead to the leading up to the funeral how divided the Cuban nation is, and how divided opinion is on him, there has already been celebration in Miami, we'll see how the reaction is in Cuba on those (stands); whether we're going to see a very large funeral but if he has had an influence that has been divisive and people did have to feel that they left the - they had to leave the country. There is opposition in Cuba, he did many controversial things, he confronted the U.S. but he stayed true to his message, and he managed to do something that had not been done previously in Latin America.

SAVIDGE: The legacy, I guess, you could say, is divided between those who look at Fidel Castro as a remarkable leader, a hero in some respects, and those who despise him as a dictator, there is no sort of grey area here it seems?

PEREZ: That is exactly right, there is absolutely no grey area. Because his influence was so profound in the course of the Cuban nation, and of course the (inaudible), it's very important that part of the reason that this is such a big international - is because he projected a way beyond - [Technical Difficulty].

PAUL: I think we're having some audio trouble. Lisandro Perez, we thank you so much for your insight. You gave us an awful lot to think about here in terms of his legacy, and his power, and how it may continue to work out there in Cuba and especially when we talk about U.S. and Cuban relations.

SAVIDGE: At the end there he was making the point about how Fidel - despite a small island in the Caribbean with only 11 million people, he was able to project it as this sort of counter to a superpower which was of course, The United States.

PAUL: Yes, well - again, we want to thank Professor Perez for his insight there. Listen, a lot of Cubans as we know fled the island nation; one of them, the family of our (Boris Sanchez); and he is graciously sharing his personal story with us next.


SAVIDGE: We're showing you live pictures now of Miami, that's where many exiled Cubans created a community after leaving the island nation of Cuba and many of them or their families are now feeling hopeful after the death of communist leader, Fidel Castro.

PAUL: In mid 1960s or early 1970s, more than 260,000 Cubans left during the U.S. organized airlift, and then in 1980, Castro lead another 125,000 leave; some of them criminals, creating a violent crime wave in Florida.

SAVIDGE: Then there were those who were so desperate to escape, they left in or on make-shift boats. One person who can help us better understand why people left is our own CNN's Boris Sanchez.

PAUL: Yes, he was born there and fled with his family. So Boris, talk to us about what you remember? Do you remember much about Cuban and the stories that your family tells of their time there?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Unfortunately, I personally don't remember much of Cuba. We landed in Miami the day that I turned three but the stories that they told, I mean it's a life, you know, the reason we moved to the United States was because my grandfather was a political prisoner, and I've heard you guys noting several times this morning; there is no grey area when you talk about Fidel Castro, some people exalt him as this hero that stood up to American imperialism, was perceived as American imperialism, and others saw him as a tyrant, my grandfather was one of those people.

My grandfather (fund) the Cuban Revolution, not alongside Fidel, he was in a different faction, but he fought to bring democratic elections to his country and have Cuba guide itself to have the people of Cuba guide their own country. And when the revolution ended and things took a turn and Fidel made it clear the direction that he was heading by arresting any dissidents and by putting many of my grandfather's friends in front of firing squads. He decided to organize against him, because of that my grandfather was sentenced to 20 years in prison, basically for speaking out, for refusing to be silenced; he considered his of fate a lucky one compared to many of his friends. And so sadly, you have generations of people, like my grandfather, like my parents, that have been waiting for this moment to celebrate, to have some kind of relief because so much of their lives was taken away from them.

My grandmother owned land in Cuba, she also owned a store, and after Castro took power suddenly that didn't belong to her anymore, all her hard work was now Fidel Castro's. So there is certainly a level of relief, I don't think that - at least my parents who are still around, my grandparents and no longer around; I don't think my parents believes that things are suddenly going to change on the island, they saw Fidel at this point as mostly a symbolic figure. But this is certainly a moment for them to remember, I know that my grandmother was waiting for this moment as long as I have been alive, she kept an obscenely huge Cuban flag under her bed and a bottle of wine in the house ready for today, so that she could celebrate when Fidel passed away. She is not with us anymore but I know wherever she is, she is waving that flag.

PAUL: I was just going to say, I wonder what they're thinking now and what do you think their hopes are? Have you talked to your parents this morning and what their hopes are for Cuba? Do they want to go back? Do you still have family there?

SANCHEZ: Sure. I have some extended family there. I actually called my mom last night as soon as I found out, both my parents were half asleep in bed, dozing off watching TV. And - you know, I could tell she had a very emotional response because this is - as I said, this is our story, this is a part of our identity; I joked actually with my mom about me visiting Cuba maybe next year at the early start of the year and she made a face the let me know she wouldn't be too happy about that, she feels like not just was her country taken away from her but everything that could have been in her life was made obsolete because of Fidel. I tell you what - my mom was hoping to someday be a journalist in Cuba, and that dream never came true as part of the reason I'm sitting here with you right now.

PAUL: I was going to say, Boy! How proud you have made her, no doubt about it. Boris Sanchez, I know it is very personal. Thank you so much for sharing it with us.

SANCHEZ: Thank you guys for having me.

PAUL: Always.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From a Catholic to a communist, Fidel Castro's relationship with the church allowed him to welcome three Pope's to Cuba, that helped our relations with the U.S.



PAUL: We're following breaking news, that former Cuban leader, Fidel Castro, has died, he was 90 years of age.

PAUL: Yes, before he was a communist revolutionary though, he was a Jesuit, that's an order of religious man within the Catholic Church of course, and as Cuba's leader, he welcomed three Pope's to the island, most recently, Pope Francis, also a Jesuit. He was instrumental in (drawing) the relationship between the U.S. and Cuba.

I want to go now live to Rome with CNN Senior International Correspondent, Ben Wedeman. Ben, I understand that you've got some new information for us from The Vatican.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes Christi, The Vatican has published a telegram that it sent to Raul Castro, the brother of Fidel, and the President of Cuba, expressing its condolences and sadness over the death of the Former Cuban Leader. Now it's interesting, you mentioned that Fidel Castro was a Jesuit, he actually went to a Jesuit secondary school but by the time he was in college, he was already showing definite left-wing tendencies.

Now the relationship between The Vatican and Fidel Castro was rocky to say the least, in 1961 when Cuba declared itself a socialist country, it closed down the main Catholic University, it shutdown 350 Catholic schools, it expropriated hundreds of Catholic Churches, and in fact in 1969, it banned Christmas as a paid holiday; at that time Fidel said, it was to allow people to come to work on the sugar cane harvest; at that time nonetheless after the fall of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s Cuba found itself in a very difficult situation, and it was The Vatican, under Pope John Paul II, which really did extend the hand of friendship. In 1996, Fidel Castro visited Pope John Paul II at The Vatican; two years later, the Pope made his historic visit to Cuba and since then, in total actually, Pope John Paul II met five times with Fidel Castro. Benedict XVI met once and of course, Pope Francis, who is the first Latin American Pope, met last year in September, when he visited Cuba, met with Fidel Castro for a 40 minute visit.

So despite the obvious ideological differences, relations never were cut between Cuba and the Vatican; and of course, it was The Vatican that played a critical role as an intermediary between Cuba and the United States which led to the reestablishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

SAVIDGE: Did indeed. Ben Wedeman, thank you very much for that update from Rome.

PAUL: And we have so much more news to talk to you about this morning.

SAVIDGE: The next hour of your NEW DAY starts right after this break.


PAUL: We are always so glad to have you with us on our Saturday morning. Good morning to you, I am Christi Paul.

SAVIDGE: And I am Martin Savidge in for Victor Blackwell. We welcome our viewers from the U.S. and around the world.

We begin with breaking news, out of Cuba. Former Cuban leader, Fidel Castro, is dead the age of 90. His brother and Cuba's President, Raul Castro, made that announcement on Cuban TV. This video was from his 90th birthday celebration, which was back in August.