Fidel Castro, Cuba’s former president and leader of the Communist revolution, has died aged 90, according to reports.
Fidel Castro ruled Cuba as a one-party state for almost half a century before handing over the powers to his brother Raul in 2008.
His supporters praised him as a man who had given Cuba back to the people. But his opponents accused him of brutally suppressing opposition.
Politically a Marxist–Leninist and Cuban nationalist, he also served as the First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba from 1961 until 2011.
Under his administration Cuba became a one-party communist state; industry and business were nationalized, and state socialist reforms implemented throughout society.
Born in Birán as the son of a wealthy farmer, Castro adopted leftist anti-imperialist politics while studying law at the University of Havana.
After participating in rebellions against right-wing governments in the Dominican Republic and Colombia, he planned the overthrow of Cuban President Fulgencio Batista, launching a failed attack on the Moncada Barracks in 1953.
After a year’s imprisonment, he traveled to Mexico where he formed a revolutionary group, the 26th of July Movement, with his brother Raúl Castro and Che Guevara.
Returning to Cuba, Castro took a key role in the Cuban Revolution by leading the Movement in a guerrilla war against Batista’s forces from the Sierra Maestra.
After Batista’s overthrow in 1959, Castro assumed military and political power as Cuba’s Prime Minister.
The United States was alarmed by Castro’s friendly relations with the Soviet Union, and unsuccessfully attempted to remove him by assassination, economic blockade, and counter-revolution, including the Bay of Pigs invasion of 1961.
Countering these threats, Castro formed an alliance with the Soviets and allowed them to place nuclear weapons on the island, sparking the Cuban Missile Crisis—a defining incident of the Cold War—in 1962.
Adopting a Marxist-Leninist model of development, Castro converted Cuba into a one-party socialist state under Communist Party rule, the first in the Western hemisphere.
Reforms introducing central economic planning and expanding healthcare and education were accompanied by state control of the press and the suppression of internal dissent.
Abroad, Castro supported anti-imperialist revolutionary groups, backing the establishment of Marxist governments in Chile, Nicaragua, and Grenada, and sending troops to aid allies in the Yom Kippur War, Ethio-Somali War, and Angolan Civil War.
These actions, coupled with Castro’s leadership of the Non-Aligned Movement from 1979–83 and Cuba’s medical internationalism, increased Cuba’s profile on the world stage and earned its leader great respect in the developing world.
Following the Soviet Union’s dissolution in 1991, Castro led Cuba into its “Special Period” and embraced environmentalist and anti-globalization ideas.
In the 2000s he forged alliances in the Latin American Pink Tide—namely with Hugo Chávez’s Venezuela—and signed Cuba to the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas.
In 2006 he transferred his responsibilities to Vice-President Raúl Castro, who formally assumed the presidency in 2008.