Schoolchildren in Havana on Nov. 30 await passage of the military vehicles carrying Castro’s ashes on a threeday journey to Santiago, Cuba

BY NEARLY EVERY AVAILABLE MEASURE, FIDEL Castro lived just a little too long. His was a death foretold by nearly everybody for decades, a demise anticipated for the political change it was widely assumed would surely follow. The prospect of Cuba without the man who turned it into a Soviet satellite so tantalized the U.S. government that its darker sectors set up a cottage industry aimed at hastening the day: according to a 1975 Senate investigation, the CIA set out plan after plan to assassinate Castro, most notoriously by poisoning a box of his favorite cigars. All any of it did was make him seem invincible—a swaggering dictator whose continued presence on the planet served as a rebuke to a Washington once so sure of its dominion over the hemisphere. The longer Castro lived, it seemed, the greater the legend grew.

But by the time Castro finally died, on Nov. 25, he had been out of power for a decade, and almost entirely overtaken by events—especially the cascade of changes that began in December 2014, when his kid brother and successor, Raúl, made peace with President Obama. Though Fidel grumped about trusting an archenemy in the rare speech and opinion column, the elder Castro was powerless to stop a U.S. ambassador from returning to the embassy on the Malecón, or to keep U.S. tourists from filing down the gangplank of cruise ships at Havana Harbor or to

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