No one had a more important and enduring role in Florida politics in the last half century than the now-deceased Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, whose presence galvanized legions of voters and influenced the outcome of local, state and national elections.

His absence could hasten a change that’s already evident in South Florida, with younger generations of Cuban-Americans no longer automatically voting Republican because of the party’s stand on Cuba and more Floridians showing an interest in doing business and traveling to Cuba under a liberalization of relations implemented by President Barack Obama.

And the practice of politics in South Florida could change from the way it’s been done for decades. Although Fidel Castro’s brother, Raul, still runs the country, the figure who aroused the greatest passions – and political action – won’t be there to provide that fuel.

“The principal vessel or figure where all of the emotions and anger and bitterness were focused and concentrated on, that’s no longer on the scene. I think that in some respects, that might help people look at this issue in a new way,” said Fernand R. Amandi, a principal of the Miami-based public opinion research and communications consulting firm Bendixen & Amandi International and host of a weekday morning program on NewsRadio 610 WIOD.

The intensity that has marked South Florida politicians’ views was evident Saturday as political leaders noted – but in no way mourned – Castro’s death.

“Has it finally come? FIDEL IS DEAD! I pray this is beginning of a free and democratic Cuba. Wish my Abuelo & Abuela were alive to see this,” Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera wrote on Twitter.

At a news conference, U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, a Miami-Dade Republican whose district includes part of southwest Broward, said “the dictator Fidel Castro was 90-years-old and nature

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