Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro has died, his brother, Cuban President Raul Castro, announced on state-run media.
President Castro announced Fidel’s death in a televised address.
“At 10.29 in the night, the chief commander of the Cuban revolution, Fidel Castro Ruz, died,” he said.
“Ever onward, to victory.”
Castro had been in failing health for years, and had been the subject of death rumours for nearly as long.
His cause of death was immediately unclear.
The Cuban revolutionary was born Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz on August 13, 1926, in the small eastern village of Biran. His father was a wealthy sugarcane farmer; his mother worked as a maid to his father’s first wife.
Castro received a Roman Catholic education through high school. He later excelled as an athlete and went on to law school at the University of Havana, where he would find an interest in politics.
A more radical bent soon emerged, as Castro plotted and executed several attempts at overthrowing Cuban leaders and making an attempt at a bid for Cuba’s House of Representatives. Following a series of offensives, he seized power in 1959 from Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista. He did not look back.
Though he was admired by leftists worldwide, Castro was demonized by the US and many of its allies.
Castro moved quickly to nationalize businesses across the island, moving away from the US and toward the Soviet Union. The US officially cut all diplomatic ties with Cuba in January 1961.
After decades of political and military tumult, the tide began to shift in Cuba’s ruling class.
Cuba’s insular policies began to thaw a bit in 1998, when Pope John Paul II became the first pontiff to visit the nation. Pope Benedict would follow more than a decade later.
In 2003, Castro was confirmed as president for another five-year term. Then in the waning years of his rule, Castro oversaw several initiatives that led to a major crackdown on independent journalists, dissidents and activists, and a strengthening of ties with Venezuela.
The Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas was birthed from that, in which Cuba sent health professionals to Venezuela in return for discounted oil.
By 2006, Castro handed provisional control of Cuba to his brother, Raul, while Fidel reportedly recovered from a major intestinal surgery. That was the first time he surrendered control of his power in 47 years.
He did not return.
In 2008, when the National Assembly prepared to reconfirm Fidel as Cuba’s leader, he declined in a letter.
At that point, he hadn’t been seen publicly for nearly two years.
The letter was posted to the Communist Party’s website Granma, in which Castro said, “I do not bid you farewell. My only wish is to fight as a soldier of ideas.”
Castro made several more public appearances in 2010, but officially stepped down from the Communist Party of Cuba in 2011, leaving the younger Raul Castro to introduce possibly the most significant change in Cuba since the 1960s, reaching a deal with the Obama administration to reinstate diplomatic ties with the US.
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.