While critically important, remittances and tourism accentuated the differences in society between those with and those without dollars and deepened racial tensions, since most dollars are received by Cuba’s white population.
At the Fifth party Congress in 1997, Castro reaffirmed his opposition to the United States and his unwillingness to relinquish power, even after thirty-eight years at the helm of this troubled island. In February 1999, he introduced the most severe legislation Cuba has ever experienced, condemning dissidents, journalists, and others who deviate from the party line to twenty to thirty years of prison.
In 2006 he fell ill and was forced to relinquish power. His brother Raul, the longest serving Minister of Defense in the world became Prime Minister and General Secretary of Cuba’s Communist Party.
For more than four decades Castro led the Cuban Revolution. Supervising projects, making decisions, traveling constantly, Castro has conducted his government in a highly personal style, exercising totalitarian control. A vague ideologist himself, he transformed the island into a Communist State aligned with the worst enemies of the United States. He defied the United States' power and brought the world to the brink of a nuclear holocaust. A determined revolutionary, he has made the shock waves of the Cuban Revolution felt not only in Latin America but also throughout the world. Despite economic difficulties after the end of the Soviet era, he maintained tight political control by clamping down on enemies and by allowing potential foes to leave the island. A hero to some, a traitor to others, a criminal demagogue to still others, Fidel Castro is undoubtedly one of the most controversial political leaders.