Fidel Castro, former president of Cuba, has died at the age of 90, his brother President Raul Castro announced late on Friday, November 25, according to the Associated Press.
The politician and former revolutionary governed Cuba as prime minister from 1959 to 1976 and then served as president for 32 years before he was succeeded by his brother Raul in 2008.
A Cuban nationalist who also served as the first secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba for 50 years until 2011, Castro converted Cuba into a one-party socialist state under the rule of the Communist Party — the first in the Western hemisphere.
Castro was a controversial leader; seen by his critics as a dictator he was honored by several countries including the former USSR, Jamaica, Indonesia, Mexico and Spain for his struggle for freedom and independence. During his rule more than one million Cubans fled the small island, seeking asylum in the U.S. and other countries.
His allegiance with the Soviet Union led to a confrontation with President John F. Kennedy in 1962 that nearly erupted into nuclear war with the Cuban Missile Crisis.
In 2006, he underwent surgery for intestinal bleeding and delegated his presidential powers to his brother Raul, the vice president. Castro stepped down two years later but continued to give occasional public lectures, write a newspaper column and tweet.
In 2015, he commented on the increasing normalization of relations between Cuba and the U.S., saying that while it was a positive move for establishing peace in the region, “I don’t trust the policy of United States.”
Castro did not meet with President Barack Obama during his historic three-day visit to Cuba in March this year, instead writing a 1,500-word letter that declared that Cuba “has no need of gifts from the [U.S.] empire.”