Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro dies aged 90

By Reuters/Marc Frank   November 26, 2016 | 02:34 pm GMT+7
Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro dies aged 90
Cuba's President Fidel Castro gestures during a tour of Paris in this March 15, 1995 file photo. Ailing Cuban leader Castro said on February 19, 2008 that he will not return to lead the country, retiring as head of state 49 years after he seized power in an armed revolution. Photo by Reuters/Charles Platia

His death seems unlikely to trigger a crisis as Raul Castro, 85, is firmly ensconced in power. 

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

Castro had been in poor health since an intestinal ailment nearly killed him in 2006 and he formally ceded power to his younger brother two years later.

Wearing an olive coloured military uniform, Raul Castro appeared on state television to announce his brother's death.

"At 10.29 in the night, the chief commander of the Cuban revolution, Fidel Castro Ruz, died," he said.

"Ever onward, to victory."

Castro's remains will be cremated, according to his wishes. 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.

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Then Cuban President Fidel Castro looks at a news ticker flashing on the front windows of the U.S. diplomatic mission while visiting the construction site outside the mission in Havana in this January 25, 2006 file photo. Photo by Reuters/Claudia Daut/File Photo

He was demonized 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 U.S. 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.

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Cuba's former leader Fidel Castro and late Argentine revolution leader Che Guevara (L) during the May Day parade in Havana's Revolution Square in this May 1, 2013 file photo. Photo by Reuters/Desmond Boylan/File Photo

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.

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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Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro (L) holds up the arm of his brother, Cuba's President Raul Castro, during the closing ceremony of the sixth Cuban Communist Party (PCC) congress in Havana in this April 19, 2011 file photo. Photo by Reuters/Desmond Boylan/File Photo.

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