Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro has died at age 90. Castro, who took power in the Cuban revolution in 1959, led his country for nearly 50 years. After undergoing intestinal surgery, Castro had ceded power in July 2006, to his younger brother Raul, who announced his death late Friday on Cuban state television.
Under Fidel Castro’s direction, Cuba became the one and only communist state in the Western Hemisphere.
One of the most prominent international figures in the last half of the 20th century, Castro inspired both passionate love and hate. Many who later lost faith in him can remember how they once admired the man who needed just a dozen men to launch the Cuban revolution.
“He was not a corrupt politician as in the past we used to have,” says Domingo Amuchastegui, who was a diplomat in Castro’s government until he fled Cuba in 1994. “He was a very promising, courageous, dedicated, intelligent kind of people; an excellent fighter, a man willing to risk his life for his ideas.”
When Castro’s brother Raul finally took over, he maintained the system that his older brother had built, but he did institute changes. Raul Castro opened up the economy a bit, allowing Cubans to own small private businesses. And in his most dramatic move, Raul Castro and President Obama announced in December 2014 that the two countries would move to normalize relations, including opening embassies in both countries.
Fidel Castro got involved in revolutionary politics while still a teenager. In his 20s, as a young lawyer, he began organizing a movement to overthrow Fulgencio Batista, Cuba’s military dictator.