Around 6:00 this morning, amid a flurry of news on the search for the Parisian gunmen, a curious rumor started to circulate on social media: Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro had died.
Initial reports appear to have come from the Diario Las Américas, an anti-Castro Cuban exile paper in Miami. Soon, German and British media picked up on the story. By 6:30 a.m., Twitter was filled rumors of the longtime Cuban leader’s demise.
This makes sense: News of Castro slipping into the great beyond is shovel-ready for Twitter. The 88-year-old Castro is known to be in poor health and is rarely seen in public, so his death wouldn’t be all that surprising. It also fits well into the current U.S.-Cuba thaw narrative. It would serve as a fitting end to the era of Cold War hostilities.
Perhaps most importantly, Castro’s passing would be sure to spark controversy. He remains a divisive figure for Cubans and Cuban exiles; his passing would ignite debate over whether he was Cuba’s savior or if he doomed the island nation to decades of poverty. What better place to hash this out than Twitter?
Unfortunately for the anti-Castro crowd, the rumor appears to be untrue. But it gained enough traction on social media that the Cuban government was forced to deny that it would hold a press conference to comment on reports.
This hasn’t stopped Twitter from speculating on Castro’s status. Using the hashtag #castrodead, some users have continued to speculate the Cuban has passed. My favorite Tweet was posted by the user @alibaverstock, who posted a very realistic (and tongue-in-cheek) picture of Castro in a casket.
The root of the rumor remains unclear. Some are speculating that anti-Castro Cubans in Florida have spread false information in order to get the Cuban government to admit to the status of Castro’s health.
But there’s another, less sinister, possibility. Earlier this week, the 41-year-old son of Kenya’s main opposition leader, Raila Odinga, was found dead in his home near Nairobi. His name was Fidel Castro Odinga.
Photo Credit: Sven Creutzmann/Mambo