Cuba’s former president and revolutionary leader, Fidel Castro, has died at the age of 90, his brother and current Cuban President Raul Castro said. Fidel Castro, one of the most controversial leaders in recent history, struggled with health issues for more than a decade.
Born on August 13, 1926 to a Spanish immigrant landowner and a Cuban mother, Castro took power in a 1959 revolution, establishing a communist state after he overthrew the US-backed leader Fulgencio Batista. He managed to rule Cuba for 49 years.
During his leadership, he was known for improving the living conditions of the poor.
However, intransigent as he was, he jailed opponents, seized private businesses and monopolised the media.
Many of his opponents considered him a dictator. Under his orders summary executions, restrictions on freedom of speech, and other human rights abuses resulted in thousands fleeing the island.
At the height of the Cold War, when Castro was considered a communist icon, he allied Cuba with the Soviet Union, which protected the Caribbean island.
The alliance brought in $4 billion worth of aid annually, including everything from oil to guns, but also provoked the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis when the United States discovered Soviet missiles on the island.
Thinking that the United States would invade Cuba, Castro urged the Soviets to launch a nuclear attack.
However, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev and US president John F. Kennedy agreed the Soviets would withdraw the missiles in return for a US promise never to invade Cuba.
Castro claimed he survived hundreds of assassination attempts, including some plotted by the CIA as well as the disastrous US-backed Bay of Pigs invasion attempt in 1961.
In 1962, the United States imposed a damaging trade embargo that Castro blamed for most of Cuba's troubles.
The leader managed to hold onto power throughout the terms of 11 US presidents. One after another, they tried to take him down over the decades.
Finally, President Barack Obama acknowledged that decades of US sanctions could not bring down the regime and that it was time to try another way to help the Cuban people.
Castro stepped aside in 2006 to recover from an intestinal surgery and handed over power to his brother Raul Castro, who was the one to end the antagonism with US.
In April, in a rare public appearance at the Communist Party conference, Fidel Castro spoke about his imminent mortality.
"Soon I will be like all the rest. Our turn comes to all of us, but the ideas of the Cuban communists will remain," he said.
He was last seen in public at his 90th birthday celebration on August 13.