Fidel Castro, Communist Former Leader of Cuba, Succumbs at 90

Fidel Castro, who established a communist regime in Cuba that survived the collapse of the Soviet Union, inspired revolutionary movements and brought two superpowers close to nuclear war before stepping down after 49 years in power, has died. He was 90.

The former leader died at 10:29 p.m. Friday local hour, two brothers, President Raul Castro, who has ruled the country since 2006, said here on country media Nov. 25. He will be cremated early on Saturday and the government defined a funeral for Dec. 4.

Reaction to Castros death, like his life, was deeply divided. World leaders including South Africas President Jacob Zuma, Indias Prime Minister Narendra Modi and several Latin American politicians issued statements and tweets highlighting Castros achievements and extolling his virtues.

President Barack Obama issued a statement offering condolences to Castros family, acknowledging the powerful emotions being experienced by Cubans, and said the U.S. widened a hand of friendship: the Cuban people must know that they have a friend and partner in the United States of America.

President-elect Donald Trump said Castros legacy is one of firing squads, steal, unimaginable agony, poverty and the denial of fundamental human rights.

Our administration will do all it can to ensure the Cuban people can finally begin their journey toward prosperity and autonomy, Trump said in a statement.

Venezuelan President Nicols Maduro tweeted: To all the revolutionaries of the world, we have to continue with his legacy and his flag of independence, of socialism, of homeland.

At the same time, crowd of exiled Cubans and their advocates collected on the street of Miami to celebrate the happen of a sometimes unyielding ruler who divided households and ruled with an iron fist. Havana, meanwhile, remained quiet.

Cuban Revolution

French President Francois Hollande wrote in a statement that Castro personified the Cuban revolution, in the hopes it had aroused and then in the disillusions it had provoked and carried his condolences to Raoul, his family and the Cuban people.

The Cuban government said public events to mark Castros death will begin Monday, with a rally a day afterwards at Plaza de la Revolucion in Havana and then a three-day procession to carry his ashes to Santiago de Cuba for a funeral on Dec. 4.

This strong and wise man always seemed with confidence to the future wrote Russian President Vladimir Putin, emphasizing the relationship between the two countries. In a telegram read on China Central Television, President Xi Jinping said Castro was the founder of Cuban communism, and a great figure in our times and history.

One of the worlds longest-serving political leaders, Fidel Castro led rebel forces that wrested control of Cuba from Fulgencio Batista in 1959. As prime minister and then chairperson, Castro boosted literacy and health care for the islands poor, while jailing thousands of dissidents, confiscating private property and triggering an exodus of Cubans who braved dangerous water on homemade rafts to reach U.S. shores.

Its not yet clear how Castros passing will impact the delicate detente between the U.S. and Cuba. Relations between the two countries have thawed since 2014, with President obama visiting Cuba this year and promising to ease sanctions that have crippled the islands economy for half a century. However, on the campaign trail President-elect Donald Trump blamed Obama for attaining concessions to the regime.

Fidel
Fidel Castro waves to a cheer crowd upon his arrival in Havana, Cuba in 1959.
Source: Bettmann Collection via Getty Images

The bearded Castro claimed a place on the world stage at the height of the Cold War by making Cuba an outpost of the Soviet Union merely 90 miles( 145 kilometers) from Florida. He pushed the superpowers toward nuclear war in the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 and dedicated military and political support to revolutionary groups and Marxist governments in Latin America and Africa, cementing his reputation as a foe of the U.S.

Deep Impact

Starting in the 1960 s, Cuba has been a huge player, disproportionate to its sizing, on the world stage and thats largely because of Fidel, said Geoff Thale, program director at the Washington Office on Latin America. Cuba and Fidel are the symbol of the little guy standing up against the hemispheric giant. People still have this romantic image of Cuba as a symbol of revolution.

His regime withstood a U.S.-sponsored invasion, known as the Bay of Pigs, in 1961, while he personally survived at least eight assassination plots by the Central Intelligence Agency.

Castro always defended the Cuban revolution.

I have not one iota of regret about what weve done in our country and the way weve coordinated national societies, he told author Ignacio Ramonet for Fidel Castro: My Life, an oral history published in 2006.

Castro,
Castro, left, confers with his brother Raul Castro in 1999.
Photographer: Adalberto Roque/ AFP/ Getty Images

That year, he started to ease his grip on power when he conceded temporary control to his younger friend, Raul, while retrieving from surgery. He resigned as chairwoman and commander-in-chief in favor of Raul on Feb. 19, 2008. The switching of leadership led to reform, though not the democracy that successive U.S. the chairmen and generations of Cuban-Americans had hoped for.

Recognizing Revolution

On Dec. 17, 2014, President Obama announced plans to restore diplomatic relations and ease the five-decade embargo on the island, steps many Cubans and Cuban-Americans supposed would never occur in Fidels lifetime.

The following month, Castro lent his support to a thaw in relations while remaining skeptical of U.S. motives.

I do not trust the policy of the United States nor have I exchanged a word with them, he wrote in a letter published by country media. This does not mean, however, that I would oppose a peaceful solution to conflicts or threats of war.

Obama
Obama visits Havana, Cuba in March 2016.
Photographer: Eliana Aponte/ Bloomberg

In March 2016, President Obama visited the island nation. I have come here to bury the last remnant of the Cold War in the Americas, he said.

Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz was born on Aug. 13, 1926, in Biran, Cuba, one of seven children parent by Angel Castro y Argiz, a Spanish immigrant laborer, with Castros mother, Lina Ruz Gonzales, a are part of private households staff.

Castro was sent to schools run by the Roman Catholic Marist and Jesuit religious orders. He was passionate about baseball and was named Cubas outstanding collegiate athlete in high school.

He told writer Ramonet that his rebellious streak developed early. I didnt like authority, because at that time there was also a lot of corporal punishment, a slap on the head or a belt taken to you, Castro said.

Law School

Fidel
Fidel Castro in his 1945 high school yearbook .
Source: AP Photo