Fidel Castro (1926-2016)

The former Cuban president one of the world’s longest-serving and most iconic leaders, has died aged 90. – his dramatic life makes his longevity all the more surprising

80 rebels landed with him on Cuba to launch the revolution

32 was his age when he came to power, toppling Fulgencio Batista

49 years as Cuban president, a record for a non-royal leader

638 assassination attempts he reportedly survived

 

He temporarily handed over power to his brother in 2006 as he was recovering from an acute intestinal ailment. Raul Castro officially became president two years later.

News of his death left some in Havana stunned.

“I always said it couldn’t be,” said one woman, a government employee. “Even though they said it now, I say it can’t be.”

 

Cuba’s former president Fidel Castro, His younger brother and successor as president Raul Castro announced the news on state television.

Castro toppled the government in 1959, introducing a Communist revolution. He defied the US for decades, surviving many assassination plots.

His supporters said he had given Cuba back to the people. Critics saw Fidel Castro as a dictator.

 

 

Ashen and grave, President Castro told the nation in an unexpected late night broadcast on state television that Fidel Castro had died and would be cremated later on Saturday.

“The commander in chief of the Cuban revolution died at 22:29 hours this evening (03:29 GMT Saturday),” he said. “Towards victory, always!” he added, using a revolutionary slogan.

A period of official mourning has been declared on the island until 4 December, when his ashes will be laid to rest in the south-eastern city of Santiago.

 

Although the announcement of Fidel Castro’s death caught many Cubans unawares, it can’t be said that they weren’t partly expecting it. In a sense, they have been preparing for this moment, a post-Fidel Cuba, for several years now as he retired from public life and largely disappeared from view.

But now that it has actually arrived, some are asking whether it will make any political different to Cuba’s trajectory.

Cubans gather in front of a portrait of Fidel Castro

Cuba began economic reforms when Castro was still alive

It’s unlikely to, mainly because Raul Castro has already been implementing economic changes intended to attract foreign direct investment and ease the tight restrictions on ordinary Cubans. Plus, of course, there is the new rapprochement with Washington.

While it’s still not clear what a Trump presidency will mean in that regard, those changes are unlikely to be reversed because of Castro’s death. Nor will Cuba change its one-party political system in his absence.

Politically, Fidel Castro’s legacy lives on.

Fidel Castro
Fidel Castro

Fidel Castro’s key dates

Media captionIn April, Castro made a rare appearance at Cuba’s Communist Party congress

1926: Born in the south-eastern Oriente Province of Cuba

1953: Imprisoned after leading an unsuccessful rising against Batista’s regime

1955: Released from prison under an amnesty deal

1956: With Che Guevara, begins a guerrilla war against the government

1959: Defeats Batista, sworn in as prime minister of Cuba

1961: Fights off CIA-sponsored Bay of Pigs invasion by Cuban exiles

1962: Sparks Cuban missile crisis by agreeing that USSR can deploy nuclear missiles in Cuba

1976: Elected president by Cuba’s National Assembly

1992: Reaches an agreement with US over Cuban refugees

2006: Hands over reins to brother Raul due to health issues, stands down as president two years later

Cuba’s revolutionary leader

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