Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro dies aged 90

Published: November 26, 2016
President Raul Castro says Cuban revolution died at 22:29 hours Friday . PHOTO: REUTERS

President Raul Castro says Cuban revolution died at 22:29 hours Friday . PHOTO: REUTERS

HAVANA: Fidel Castro, the Cuban revolutionary leader who built a communist state on the doorstep of the United States and for five decades defied US efforts to topple him, died on Friday, state-run Cuban Television said. He was 90.

Castro, in poor health since an intestinal ailment nearly killed him in 2006.

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The 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.

He was demonised by the United States and its allies but admired by many leftists around the world, especially socialist revolutionaries in Latin America and Africa.

Transforming Cuba from a playground for rich Americans into a symbol of resistance to Washington, Castro outlasted nine US presidents in power.

He fended off a CIA-backed invasion at the Bay of Pigs in 1961 as well as countless assassination attempts. His 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.

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.

At 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.

In 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.

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Although 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 to re-establish diplomatic ties and end decades of hostility.

Six weeks later, Fidel Castro offered only lukewarm support for the deal, raising questions about whether he approved of ending hostilities with his longtime enemy.

In 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.

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Reader Comments (6)

  • Rao Amjad Ali
    Nov 26, 2016 - 12:18PM

    One of the greatest leaders of all time. RIP Fidel Castro.Recommend

  • junglee
    Nov 26, 2016 - 12:52PM

    No man is an island; but Cuba is Fidel. RIP.Recommend

  • Ch. Allah Daad
    Nov 26, 2016 - 6:34PM

    Many praise him but none would like to live in Cuba. The only real judge are Cubans who would prefer to leave on first boat they get hold on. Recommend

  • curious2
    Nov 26, 2016 - 8:15PM

    At least 1.4 Million Cuban’s fled his rule – he’s considered the Devil by the Cuban exile community. Recommend

  • Ruth
    Nov 27, 2016 - 6:50AM

    A visionary Leader ! RIP FIDEL CASTRO Recommend

  • Saad
    Nov 27, 2016 - 11:47AM

    Pakistani people can’t forget his immense support and help during the October Earthquake. He was a true friend of Pakistan and China. Recommend

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