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Cuban revolutionary icon and former president Fidel Castro dies aged 90

The revolutionary built a communist state on the doorstep of the United States and for five decades defied US?efforts to topple him. Photograph: (Reuters)

WION Havana, Cuba Nov 26, 2016, 05.46 AM (IST)

Cuban revolutionary icon Fidel Castro, who ruled the Caribbean island nation for 49 years died on Friday, aged 90. 

His brother, Raul Castro, made the announcement on national television that "the commander in chief of the Cuban revolution died at 22:29 hours on Friday evening".

The Cuban leader, who built a communist state on the doorstep of the United States and for almost five decades defied US efforts to topple him, had been troubled by poor health since 2006. An intestinal ailment had nearly killed him then. 

In his final years, Castro no longer held leadership posts. Illness forced him to cede power to his younger brother Raul Castro, provisionally in 2006 and definitively in 2008.

The bearded Fidel Castro took power in a 1959 revolution and ruled Cuba with a mix of charisma and iron will for 49 years, creating a one-party state.

Cuban revolutionary Fidel Castro during an address in Cuba in 1959 after unpopular US-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista was forced to flee. (Getty)

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Famous for his long, fist-pounding speeches filled with blistering rhetoric aimed at the United States, Castro transformed Cuba from a playground for rich Americans into a symbol of resistance to Washington. 

Hailed by his admirers as a hero, and reviled by his critics as a dictator, the former Cuban president was a central figure in the Cold War. 

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.

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.

He was demonised by the United States and its allies. He created legions of enemies and critics, concentrated among Cuban exiles in Miami who fled his rule and saw him as a ruthless tyrant.

Fidel Castro (L) talks to his brother Raul Castro (R) during the Cuban Parliament's session in the Palacio of the Conventions December 23, 2004 in Havana, Cuba. (Reuters)

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But the leader was also admired by many leftists around the world, especially socialist revolutionaries in Latin America and Africa. At home, he swept away capitalism and won support for bringing schools and hospitals to the poor. 

Although Raul Castro always glorified his older brother, he has changed Cuba since taking over ending his brother's antagonistic approach to Washington. 

Raul shocked the world in December 2014, announcing a rapprochement with US President Barack Obama and ending decades of hostility. Six weeks later, Fidel Castro offered only lukewarn support for the deal.

Cuba has declared nine days of public mourning from  Saturday for Castro, and said his ashes will be buried at a ceremony on December 4 in Santiago de Cuba.

From November 26 to December 4, "public activities and shows will cease, the national flag will fly at half mast on public buildings and military installations," a statement from the state executive said.

Castro’s ashes will be buried in the historic southeastern city of Santiago on December 4 after a four-day procession through the country, it added. 


(WION with inputs from agencies)


 

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