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Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro dies at 90

Fidel Castro and then Guyana Prime Minister, Forbes Burnham.

Fidel Castro and then Guyana Prime Minister, Forbes Burnham.

REUTERS: Fidel Castro, the Cuban revolutionary leader who built a communist state on the doorstep of the United States and for five decades defied U.S. efforts to topple him, died on Friday, his younger brother announced to the nation. He was 90.

(Guyana and Cuba established diplomatic relations in 1972. Since then, that Spanish-speaking nation has provided thousands of scholarships to Guyanese and also deployed Cuban medical personnel to work across this country.)

A towering figure of the second half of the 20th Century, Castro had been in poor health since an intestinal ailment nearly killed him in 2006. He formally ceded power to his younger brother two years later.

Wearing a green military uniform, Cuba’s President Raul Castro appeared on state television to announce his brother’s death.

“At 10.29 at night, the chief commander of the Cuban revolution, Fidel Castro Ruz, died,” he said, without giving a cause of death.

“Ever onward, to victory.”

The streets were quiet in Havana, but some residents reacted with sadness to the news, while in Miami, where many exiles from the Communist government live, a large crowd waving Cuban flags cheered, danced and banged on pots and pans, a video on social media showed.

“I am very upset. Whatever you want to say, he is public figure that the whole world respected and loved,” said Havana student Sariel Valdespino.

Castro’s remains will be cremated, according to his wishes. His brother said details of his funeral would be given on Saturday.

Cuban President Fidel Castro (R) shakes hands with Guyana Cooperative Republic's President Bharrat Jagdeo (L), Wednesday, 01 February 2006, at the Revolution Palace in Havana, Cuba, during his official welcoming ceremony. EPA/ALEJANDRO ERNSTO

Cuban President Fidel Castro (R) shakes hands with then Guyana President Bharrat Jagdeo (L), Wednesday, 01 February 2006, at the Revolution Palace in Havana, Cuba, during his official welcoming ceremony. EPA/ALEJANDRO ERNSTO

The bearded Fidel Castro took power in a 1959 revolution and ruled Cuba for 49 years with a mix of charisma and iron will, creating a one-party state and becoming a central figure in the Cold War.

He was demonized by the United States and its allies but admired by many leftists around the world, especially socialist revolutionaries in Latin America and Africa.

“I lament the death of Fidel Castro Ruz, leader of the Cuban revolution and emblematic reference of the 20th Century,” Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto said on Twitter.

Transforming Cuba from a playground for rich Americans into a symbol of resistance to Washington, Castro outlasted nine U.S. presidents in power.

He fended off a CIA-backed invasion at the Bay of Pigs in 1961 as well as countless assassination attempts.

His alliance with Moscow helped trigger the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, a 13-day showdown with the United States that brought the world the closest it has been to nuclear war.

Wearing green military fatigues and chomping on cigars for many of his years in power, Castro was famous for long, fist-pounding speeches filled with blistering rhetoric, often aimed at the United States.

At home, he swept away capitalism and won support for bringing schools and hospitals to the poor. But he also created legions of enemies and critics, concentrated among Cuban exiles in Miami who fled his rule and saw him as a ruthless tyrant.

In the end it was not the efforts of Washington and Cuban exiles nor the collapse of Soviet communism that ended his rule. Instead, illness forced him to cede power to his younger brother Raul Castro, provisionally in 2006 and definitively in 2008.

Although Raul Castro always glorified his older brother, he has changed Cuba since taking over by introducing market-style economic reforms and agreeing with the United States in December 2014 to re-establish diplomatic ties and end decades of hostility.

Six weeks later, Fidel Castro offered only lukewarm support for the deal, raising questions about whether he approved of ending hostilities with his longtime enemy.

He lived to witness the visit of U.S. President Barack Obama to Cuba earlier this year, the first trip by a U.S. president to the island since 1928.

Castro did not meet Obama, and days later wrote a scathing column condemning the U.S. president’s “honey-coated” words and reminding Cubans of the many U.S. efforts to overthrow and weaken the Communist government.

In his final years, Fidel Castro no longer held leadership posts. He wrote newspaper commentaries on world affairs and occasionally met with foreign leaders but he lived in semi-seclusion.

  • Emile_Mervin

    Truly, the end of an error!

    • rudeo

      An error?…..verryyyy interesting

  • Col123

    Cuban doctors all over the place killing off folks..Freddie needs to do a full report on this..and he should use some real big words…and reference them Greek mythological literature. I have to now get down to Miami to party with them religious folks , gloating over the death this Cuban icon!

    • rudeo

      coolie and blackman picknee dem who nah gat money foh go usa…..How sad your commentary….karma is a bitch…..watch out for those doomsayers and naysayers against Cuban relationships

      • Col123

        Hey r… the great LFS…made that possible!

  • Lance Vance

    i don’t have to hang my head in shame,Fidel Castro was the greatest revolutionary in the world,Cuba have more doctors in the world helping poor country than the UN ,they give scholarship so people can go to study & go back to there country,u must go to to Miami, lots of Cuban did well but lots of them is in crime, like thieving,drugs prostitution walking & begging on the street living in shacks,don’t forget the EMBARGO on Cuba & America has the worst immigration problem in the world.U CAN SINGH ALL U WANT U WILL STILL SOUND LIKE AN BLABBER WHITE MOUTH AIR HEAD COWARD.

  • Lance Vance

    I forget to mention ,A$$ singh go to Gutenberg,NJ & see your Cubans sisters there, u can get a B job for $10.