Fidel Castro is Dead
Fidel Castro is dead at age 90.
Fidel Castro ruled Cuba for almost 50 years before handing over the powers to his brother Raul in 2008. It was Raul Castro who announced late Friday on state television that his brother had died.
Castro led a rebel army to victory in Cuba in 1959, embraced Soviet-style communism and defied the power of 10 U.S. presidents during his half-century rule. His reign over the island-nation 90 miles from Florida was marked by the U.S.-backed Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961 and the Cuban Missile Crisis a year later that brought the world to the brink of nuclear war.
The bearded revolutionary survived a U.S. trade embargo that lasted throughout his rule as well as dozens, possibly hundreds, of assassination plots. Fidel Castro is dead eight years after ill health forced him to formally hand power over to his younger brother Raul.
Castro overcame imprisonment at the hands of dictator Fulgencio Batista, exile in Mexico and a disastrous start to his rebellion before triumphantly riding into Havana in January 1959 to become, at age 32, the youngest leader in Latin America. For decades, he served as an inspiration and source of support to revolutionaries from Latin America to Africa.
Human rights advocacy groups criticized Castro's administration for committing human rights abuses. Human Rights Watch stated that his government constructed a "repressive machinery" which deprived Cubans of their "basic rights". Castro defended his government's record on human rights, stating that the state was forced to limit the freedoms of individuals and imprison those involved in counter-revolutionary activities in order to protect the rights of the collective populace. Despite Castro's claims, he was widely described as a dictator.
His commitment to socialism was unwavering, though his power finally began to fade in mid-2006 when a gastrointestinal ailment forced him to hand over the presidency, provisionally at first and then permanently. His defiant image lingered long after he gave up his trademark Cohiba cigars for health reasons and his tall frame grew stooped.