Cuba’s former president Fidel Castro, one of the world’s longest-serving and most iconic leaders, has died aged 90. His younger brother and successor as president Raul Castro announced the news on state television. 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. 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 him as a dictator. Fidel Castro was a hero of millions of people in the world who wanted to raise their voices against the vices of capitalist democracies and waged freedom struggle against imperialist forces. He had been an icon to students, labourers and even peasants. He breathed his last at the age of 90 on November 25, 2016.
Fidel Castro, the fiery apostle of revolution brought the Cold War to the Western Hemisphere in 1959 and then defied the United States for nearly half a century as Cuba’s maximum leader, bedeviling 11 American presidents and briefly pushing the world to the brink of nuclear war. In declining health for several years, Mr. Castro had orchestrated what he hoped would be the continuation of his Communist revolution, stepping aside in 2006 when a serious illness felled him. He provisionally ceded much of his power to his younger brother Raúl, now 85, and two years later formally resigned as president. Raúl Castro, who had fought alongside Fidel Castro from the earliest days of the insurrection and remained minister of defense and his brother’s closest confidant, has ruled Cuba since then, although he has told the Cuban people he intends to resign in 2018.
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.
- Fidel Castro dies
- Castro died at 10.29pm on November 25, 2016; his brother Raul Castro announced on Cuban state TV
- The controversial leader led Cuba for nearly half a century as both prime minister and president
- Vladimir Putin has branded him the ‘symbol of an era’ and a ‘distinguished statesman’
- French President Francois Hollande branded him a ‘towering figure’, but voiced concerns about human rights abuses in Cuba
- Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto said Castro was a “great friend” of Mexico, while to El Salvador’s President Salvador Sanchez Ceren he was an “eternal companion”.
- Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro said “revolutionaries of the world must follow his legacy”.
- The Soviet Union’s last leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, said: “Fidel stood up and strengthened his country during the harshest American blockade, when there was colossal pressure on him.”
- For French President Francois Hollande, Castro embodied Cuba’s revolution in both its “hopes” and its later “disappointments”.
- Pope Francis, who met Castro, an atheist, when he visited Cuba in 2015, called his death “sad news” and sent “sentiments of grief”.
- Castro made his last official appearance before the country’s Communist party in April and predicted that his death was near
- He claimed in the past to have survived 634 assassination attempts
- Castro was 32 when he overthrew dictator Fulgencio Batista’s government in 1959, becoming Cuba’s prime minister
- The US severed diplomatic ties in 1961, banning all exports to Cuba except for food and medicine
- Castro’s brother Raul and President Obama moved to restore diplomatic ties in December 2014
- As large crowds of Cuban exiles gathered in Miami to celebrate his death US Congress representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Cuban-American Republican from Miami, described Castro as a ‘tyrant’
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.
He dominated his country 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. A spotlight shone on him as he swaggered and spoke with passion until dawn. Finally, white doves were released to signal Cuba’s new peace. When one landed on Mr. Castro, perching on a shoulder, the crowd erupted, chanting: “Fidel! Fidel!” To the war-weary Cubans gathered there and those watching on television, it was an electrifying sign that their young, bearded guerrilla leader was destined to be their savior. Most people in the crowd had no idea what Mr. Castro planned for Cuba. A master of image and myth, Mr. Castro believed himself to be the messiah of his fatherland, an indispensable force with authority from on high to control Cuba and its people.
A master of image and myth, Mr. Castro believed himself to be the messiah of his fatherland, an indispensable force with authority from on high to control Cuba and its people. He wielded power like a tyrant, controlling every aspect of the island’s existence. He was Cuba’s “Máximo Lider.” From atop a Cuban Army tank, he directed his country’s defense at the Bay of Pigs. Countless details fell to him, from selecting the color of uniforms that Cuban soldiers wore in Angola to overseeing a program to produce a superbreed of milk cows. He personally set the goals for sugar harvests. He personally sent countless men to prison. But it was more than repression and fear that kept him and his totalitarian government in power for so long. He had both admirers and detractors in Cuba and around the world. Some saw him as a ruthless despot who trampled rights and freedoms; many others hailed him as the crowds did that first night, as a revolutionary hero for the ages.
In December 2014, President Obama used his executive powers to dial down the decades of antagonism between Washington and Havana by moving to exchange prisoners and normalize diplomatic relations between the two countries, a deal worked out with the help of Pope Francis and after 18 months of secret talks between representatives of both governments.
Though increasingly frail and rarely seen in public, Mr. Castro even then made clear his enduring mistrust of the United States. A few days after Mr. Obama’s highly publicized visit to Cuba in 2016 — the first by a sitting American president in 88 years — Mr. Castro penned a cranky response denigrating Mr. Obama’s overtures of peace and insisting that Cuba did not need anything the United States was offering. To many, Fidel Castro was a self-obsessed zealot whose belief in his own destiny was unshakable, a chameleon whose economic and political colors were determined more by pragmatism than by doctrine. But in his chest beat the heart of a true rebel. “Fidel Castro,” said Henry M. Wriston, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations in the 1950s and early ’60s, “was everything a revolutionary should be.”
Mr. Castro was perhaps the most important leader to emerge from Latin America since the wars of independence in the early 19th century. He was decidedly the most influential shaper of Cuban history since his own hero, José Martí, struggled for Cuban independence in the late 19th century. Mr. Castro’s revolution transformed Cuban society and had a longer-lasting impact throughout the region than that of any other 20th-century Latin American insurrection, with the possible exception of the 1910 Mexican Revolution.
His legacy in Cuba and elsewhere has been a mixed record of social progress and abject poverty, of racial equality and political persecution, of medical advances and a degree of misery comparable to the conditions that existed in Cuba when he entered Havana as a victorious guerrilla commander in 1959.
That image made him a symbol of revolution throughout the world and an inspiration to many imitators. Hugo Chávez of Venezuela considered Mr. Castro his ideological godfather. Sub commander Marcos began a revolt in the mountains of southern Mexico in 1994, using many of the same tactics. Even Mr. Castro’s spotty performance as an aging autocrat in charge of a foundering economy could not undermine his image.
But beyond anything else, it was Mr. Castro’s obsession with the United States, and America’s obsession with him, that shaped his rule. After he embraced Communism, Washington portrayed him as a devil and a tyrant and repeatedly tried to remove him from power through an ill-fated invasion at the Bay of Pigs in 1961, an economic embargo that has lasted decades, assassination plots and even bizarre plans to undercut his prestige by making his beard fall out. Mr. Castro’s defiance of American power made him a beacon of resistance in Latin America and elsewhere, and his bushy beard, long Cuban cigar and green fatigues became universal symbols of rebellion.
Mr. Castro’s understanding of the power of images, especially on television, helped him retain the loyalty of many Cubans even during the harshest periods of deprivation and isolation when he routinely blamed America and its embargo for many of Cuba’s ills. And his mastery of words in thousands of speeches, often lasting hours, imbued many Cubans with his own hatred of the United States by keeping them on constant watch for an invasion — military, economic or ideological — from the north.
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. He established a one-party state, with hundreds of supporters of the Batista government executed. Political opponents have been imprisoned, the independent media suppressed. Thousands of Cubans have fled into exile.
Some famous quotes of Fidel Castro
- A revolution is a struggle to the death between the future and the past.
- They talk about the failure of socialism but where is the success of capitalism in Africa, Asia and Latin America?
- I find capitalism repugnant. It is filthy, it is gross, it is alienating… because it causes war, hypocrisy and competition.
- Sorry, I’m still a dialectical materialist.
- I am a Marxist Leninist and I will be one until the last day of my life.
- I became a Communist by studying capitalist political economy, and when I had some understanding of that problem, it actually seemed to me so absurd, so irrational, so inhuman, that I simply began to elaborate on my own formulas for production and distribution.
- Every country must be absolutely free to adopt the type of economic, political and social system that it considers convenient.
- More than 820 million people in the world suffer from hunger; and 790 million of them live in the Third World.
- Someday, the capitalist system will disappear in the United States, because no social class system has been eternal. One day, class societies will disappear.
- Men do not shape destiny, Destiny produces the man for the hour.
- I think that a man should not live beyond the age when he begins to deteriorate, when the flame that lighted the brightest moment of his life has weakened.