Fidel Castro, the fiery apostle of revolution who defied the United States for nearly half a century as Cuba’s maximum leader, died on Friday. He was 90.
Fidel Castro had held on to power longer than any other living national leader except Queen Elizabeth II. He became a towering international figure whose importance in the 20th century far exceeded what might have been expected from the head of state of a Caribbean island nation of 11 million people.
He dominated Cuba with strength and symbolism from the day he triumphantly entered Havana on Jan. 8, 1959, and completed his overthrow of Fulgencio Batista by delivering his first major speech in the capital before tens of thousands of admirers at the vanquished dictator’s military headquarters.
Cuba’s Fidel Castro and Argentine Marxist Che Guevara shared a close friendship rooted in their shared radical ideals as they fought Cuba’s authoritarian government in the 1950s.
The father of communist Cuba
An accomplished tactician on the battlefield, he and his small army of guerrillas overthrew the military leader Fulgencio Batista in 1959 to widespread popular support.
Within two years of taking power, he declared the revolution to be Marxist-Leninist in nature and allied the island nation firmly to the Soviet Union.
Despite the constant threat of a US invasion as well as the long-standing economic embargo on the island, Castro managed to maintain a communist revolution in a nation just 90 miles (145km) off the coast of Florida.
Despised by his critics as much as he was revered by his followers, he maintained his rule through 10 US presidents and survived scores of attempts on his life by the CIA.
Fidel Castro had survived over 600 assassination attempts.
Wearing 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.
The father of communist Cuba had been in poor health since an intestinal ailment nearly killed him in 2006. He formally ceded power to his younger brother, Raul, two years later.
Wearing a green military uniform, a somber Raul, 85, appeared on state television on Friday night to announce Fidel’s death, 60 years to the day since the two brothers and dozens of supporters left Mexico on a boat to take revolution to Cuba.
Cuba has declared nine days of mourning, during which time Castro’s ashes will be taken to different parts of the country. A burial ceremony will be held on Dec. 4.