Castro’s reign over the island-nation 90 miles from Florida was marked by the U.S.-backed Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961 and the Cuban Missile Crisis a year later that brought the world to the brink of nuclear war. The bearded revolutionary, who survived a crippling U.S. trade embargo as well as dozens, possibly hundreds, of assassination plots, died eight years after ill health forced him to formally hand power over to his younger brother Raul, who announced his death late Friday on state television.
Castro overcame imprisonment at the hands of dictator Fulgencio Batista, exile in Mexico and a disastrous start to his rebellion before triumphantly riding into Havana in January 1959 to become, at age 32, the youngest leader in Latin America. For decades, he served as an inspiration and source of support to revolutionaries from Latin America to Africa.
His commitment to socialism was unwavering, though his power finally began to fade in mid-2006 when a gastrointestinal ailment forced him to hand over the presidency to Raul in 2008, provisionally at first and then permanently. His defiant image lingered long after he gave up his trademark Cohiba cigars for health reasons and his tall frame grew stooped.
“Socialism or death” remained Castro’s rallying cry even as Western-style democracy swept the globe and other communist regimes in China and Vietnam embraced capitalism, leaving this island of 11 million people an economically crippled Marxist curiosity.
“I’ll be 90 years old soon,” he said at an April 2016 communist party congress where he made his most extensive public appearance in years, Breitbart added. “Soon I’ll be like all the others. The time will come for all of us, but the ideas of the Cuban Communists will remain as proof that on this planet, if one works with fervor and dignity, they can produce the material and cultural goods that human beings need and that need to be fought for without ever giving up.”
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News of his death spread quickly on social media, where many celebrated:
— Senator Melissa Melendez (@senatormelendez) November 26, 2016
Flags are coming out now "Libertad! Libertad!" pic.twitter.com/FwlubQLVaK
— Vera Bergengruen (@VeraMBergen) November 26, 2016
Some said Castro’s death would hit Barack Obama especially hard:
Obama so broken up by the news of Fidel Castro dying he may actually skip golf this weekend. https://t.co/kunMAwosFR
— Razor (@hale_razor) November 26, 2016
Castro was reportedly worth some $900 million — even as the people of Cuba live in abject poverty…
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