Fidel Castro, the controversial ruler who took power during the Cuban revolution in 1959 and led his country for nearly half a century, died in Havana, Cuba, at age 90.
Castro lived through 10 U.S. presidents who were determined to overthrow him, as NPR’s Tom Gjelten reported, in addition to surviving the collapse of the communist alliance that bolstered his success.
In a short, televised message, an emotional President Raul Castro announced that his older brother had passed at 10:29 p.m. late Friday night, as NPR’s Carrie Kahn translates:
With profound pain I share with our people and the friends of America and the world that today, on the 25th of November at 10:29 p.m., the head commander of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro Ruz died. In following the wishes expressed by the Companero Fidel, his remains will be cremated.
In the early hours of tomorrow, Saturday the 26th, the funeral organizing commission will provide the people detailed information about the organization of a posthumous tribute to the founder of the Cuban Revolution. Towards victory forever.
Castro’s rule was marked by his relationship with two global power: the Soviet Union as his ally, the U.S. as his adversary, Tom tells our newscast.
The Eisenhower Administration initially welcomed Castro to power; but as a nationalist he was determined to assert Cuba’s independence from the United States, and by early 1960, Castro was reaching out to the Soviet Union for support. Before long, the U.S. government was helping Cuban exiles who wanted to overthrow Castro or even have him assassinated.
The Soviet Union meanwhile gave Castro billions of dollars per year — enough to support health and education programs that won Cuba praise around the world. Castro lost that help when the Soviet Union collapsed; Cuba soon became impoverished.
Relations with the U.S. never really improved during the time he was in charge, and Fidel Castro will be remembered as much for what he survived as for what he achieved.
The death of the polarizing former president has set off both mourning and celebration across the world.
Silence has swept much of Cuba. Foreign allies are paying tributes and expressing sorrow on Twitter, including Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, who said Castro “was a friend” of Mexico.
El Salvador’s President Salvador Sanchez Ceren called him an “eternal companion.”
Venezuela’s socialist President Nicolas Maduro said “revolutionaries of the world must follow his legacy.”
Meanwhile, just some 200 miles from Havana, the Cuban exile community in Miami, Florida’s Little Havana, are spilling into the streets in jubilation, waving Cuban flags, cheering and dance.