Fidel Castro, the harbinger of the 20th century Latin American communist wave and leader of the Cuban revolution, has died, the Associated Press reported Friday. He was 90.
Cuban President Raul Castro announced the death of his brother on state media.
Fidel Castro, who stepped down from power in 2008 permanently after nearly five decades as prime minister and president of the island, had made few public appearances in recent months. Sightings were increasingly bookended by rumors of his death, which often set social media abuzz for hours.
One of his last appearances was in April, meeting a group of Venezuelan visitors to Cuba, shortly before his brother, Raul, sat down with US President Obama to discuss the thawing of relations between the two countries, the first meeting of its kind since 1956.
In 1955, after a failed assault on the Moncada military barracks in the city of Santiago and a brief prison stint, Castro fled to Mexico City, where he assembled a group of 82 fighters, including the revolutionary icon Ernesto “Che” Guevara. After months of planning, the unit boarded the Granma boat in November the following year in the port city of Tuxpan and soon disembarked on the Las Coloradas beach, in southeast Cuba.
The group trekked into the Sierra Maestra mountain range, from where they fought then president Fulgencio Batista’s troops. After years of fighting, Castro’s forces seized control of Havana, declaring a socialist government.
“We will renounce wealth to sacrifice ourselves for the country, to sacrifice ourselves for the homeland, to save the Revolution that has many enemies — not many inside, but the ones it does have are powerful; many outside, and powerful, — that has many obstacles, because sometimes we ourselves, with our impatience, with our lightness, with our prejudices, are an obstacle to the Revolution,” said Castro when he took office in 1959.
The frequent target of American attempts to remove him from power in the early years of his reign — including the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961, which lead to his declaring Cuba’s alignment with the Soviet Union, and multiple assassination attempts — Castro managed to maintain a fierce grip on power throughout his time leading the country.
The economic embargo the US placed against Cuba in 1960 and expanded in the years after also didn’t manage to shake the former guerilla from his perch.