Fidel Castro, the
Cuban revolutionary leader who built a communist state on the doorstep
of the United States and for five decades defied U.S. efforts to topple
him, died on Friday, his younger brother announced to the nation. He was
figure of the second half of the 20th Century, Castro had been in poor
health since an intestinal ailment nearly killed him in 2006. He
formally ceded power to his younger brother two years later.
Wearing a green military uniform, Cuba’s President Raul Castro appeared on state television to announce his brother’s death.
10.29 at night, the chief commander of the Cuban revolution, Fidel
Castro Ruz, died,” he said, without giving a cause of death.
“Ever onward, to victory.”
streets were quiet in Havana, but some residents reacted with sadness
to the news, while in Miami, where many exiles from the Communist
government live, a large crowd waving Cuban flags cheered, danced and
banged on pots and pans, a video on social media showed.
am very upset. Whatever you want to say, he is public figure that the
whole world respected and loved,” said Havana student Sariel Valdespino.
Castro’s remains will be cremated, according to his wishes. His brother said details of his funeral would be given on Saturday.
bearded Fidel Castro took power in a 1959 revolution and ruled Cuba for
49 years with a mix of charisma and iron will, creating a one-party
state and becoming a central figure in the Cold War.
was demonized by the United States and its allies but admired by many
leftists around the world, especially socialist revolutionaries in Latin
America and Africa.
lament the death of Fidel Castro Ruz, leader of the Cuban revolution and
emblematic reference of the 20th Century,” Mexican President Enrique
Pena Nieto said on Twitter.
Cuba from a playground for rich Americans into a symbol of resistance
to Washington, Castro outlasted nine U.S. presidents in power.
He fended off a CIA-backed invasion at the Bay of Pigs in 1961 as well as countless assassination attempts.
alliance with Moscow helped trigger the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, a
13-day showdown with the United States that brought the world the
closest it has been to nuclear war.
green military fatigues and chomping on cigars for many of his years in
power, Castro was famous for long, fist-pounding speeches filled with
blistering rhetoric, often aimed at the United States.
home, he swept away capitalism and won support for bringing schools and
hospitals to the poor. But he also created legions of enemies and
critics, concentrated among Cuban exiles in Miami who fled his rule and
saw him as a ruthless tyrant.
the end it was not the efforts of Washington and Cuban exiles nor the
collapse of Soviet communism that ended his rule. Instead, illness
forced him to cede power to his younger brother Raul Castro,
provisionally in 2006 and definitively in 2008.
Raul Castro always glorified his older brother, he has changed Cuba
since taking over by introducing market-style economic reforms and
agreeing with the United States in December 2014 to re-establish
diplomatic ties and end decades of hostility.
weeks later, Fidel Castro offered only lukewarm support for the deal,
raising questions about whether he approved of ending hostilities with
his longtime enemy.
lived to witness the visit of U.S. President Barack Obama to Cuba
earlier this year, the first trip by a U.S. president to the island
not meet Obama, and days later wrote a scathing column condemning the
U.S. president’s “honey-coated” words and reminding Cubans of the many
U.S. efforts to overthrow and weaken the Communist government.
his final years, Fidel Castro no longer held leadership posts. He wrote
newspaper commentaries on world affairs and occasionally met with
foreign leaders but he lived in semi-seclusion.
His death – which would once have
thrown a question mark over Cuba’s future – seems unlikely to trigger a
crisis as Raul Castro, 85, is firmly ensconced in power.
the passing of the man known to most Cubans as “El Comandante” – the
commander – or simply “Fidel” leaves a huge void in the country he
dominated for so long. It also underlines the generational change in
Cuba’s communist leadership.
Castro vows to step down when his term ends in 2018 and the Communist
Party has elevated younger leaders to its Politburo, including
56-year-old Miguel Diaz-Canel, who is first vice-president and the heir
Others in their 50s include Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez and economic reform czar Marino Murillo.
reforms have led to more private enterprise and the lifting of some
restrictions on personal freedoms but they aim to strengthen Communist
Party rule, not weaken it.
don’t think Fidel’s passing is the big test. The big test is handing
the revolution over to the next generation and that will happen when
Raul steps down,” Cuba expert Phil Peters of the Lexington Institute in
Virginia said before Castro’s death.
lawyer, Fidel Castro led the revolution that ousted U.S.-backed dictator
Fulgencio Batista on Jan 1, 1959. Aged 32, he quickly took control of
Cuba and sought to transform it into an egalitarian society.
government improved the living conditions of the very poor, achieved
health and literacy levels on a par with rich countries and rid Cuba of a
powerful Mafia presence.
But he also tolerated little dissent, jailed opponents, seized private businesses and monopolized the media.
Castro’s opponents labeled him a dictator and hundreds of thousands fled the island.
settled in Florida, influencing U.S. policy toward Cuba and plotting
Castro’s demise. Some even trained in the Florida swamps for the
disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion.
But they could never dislodge him.
of Latin American leftists applauded Castro for his socialist policies
and for thumbing his nose at the United States from its doorstep just 90
miles (145 km) from Florida.
Castro claimed he survived or evaded hundreds of assassination attempts, including some conjured up by the CIA.
1962, the United States imposed a damaging trade embargo that Castro
blamed for most of Cuba’s ills, using it to his advantage to rally
years, he expanded his influence by sending Cuban troops into far-away
wars, including 350,000 to fight in Africa. They provided critical
support to a left-wing government in Angola and contributed to the
independence of Namibia in a war that helped end apartheid in South
He also won
friends by sending tens of thousands of Cuban doctors abroad to treat
the poor and bringing young people from developing countries to train
them as physicians
‘HISTORY WILL ABSOLVE ME’
Born on August 13, 1926 in Biran in eastern Cuba, Castro was the son of a Spanish immigrant who became a wealthy landowner.
at social conditions and Batista’s dictatorship, Fidel Castro launched
his revolution on July 26, 1953, with a failed assault on the Moncada
barracks in the eastern city of Santiago.