Fidel Castro, Cuban revolutionary icon, dies at 90; world leaders condole

Fidel Castro ruled Cuba as a one-party state for almost half a century.

Fidel Castro, Cuban revolutionary icon, dies at 90; world leaders condole
FILE - In this April 19, 2016 file photo, Fidel Castro attends the last day of the 7th Cuban Communist Party Congress in Havana, Cuba.

Havana: Fidel Castro, Cuba`s socialist icon and father of his country`s revolution, died late Friday in Havana aged 90.

Making an announcement on national television in shaky voice, the Cuban revolutionary icon's brother, President Raul Castro, said: "The commander in chief of the Cuban revolution died at 22:29 hours this evening."

Raul Castro, who took power after his older brother Fidel was hospitalized in 2006, said that the revolutionary leader`s remains will be cremated early on Saturday.

"In compliance with Comrade Fidel`s expressed will, his remains will be cremated early in the morning" on Saturday, said Raul Castro.

"The funeral organizing commission will provide detailed information to the people on the holding of a posthumous homage that will be paid to the founder of the Cuban Revolution."

Raul ended the announcement by shouting the revolutionary slogan: "Towards victory, always!"

The Cuban President made the announcement just after midnight Friday (0500 GMT Saturday).

Later, Cuba declared nine days of public mourning on Saturday for Fidel Castro, and said his ashes will be buried at a ceremony on December 4 in Santiago de Cuba.

One of the world`s longest-serving rulers and modern history`s most singular characters, he defied 11 US administrations and numerous assassination attempts.

During half a century in power, Fidel Castro crushed opposition at home to lead the communist Caribbean island through the Cold War before stepping aside in 2006 after intestinal surgery.

For defenders of the revolution, he was a hero who defended the ordinary people against domination.

For his opponents, including thousands of Cubans resident in the United States, he was a cruel tyrant.

He eventually lived to see the historic restoration of diplomatic ties with Washington last year.

World leaders react to Fidel Castro's death

  • Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi sent his "deepest condolences" to Cuba. "India mourns the loss of a great friend," he wrote on Twitter.
  • Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, Cuba`s main ally in the region, said on Twitter: "It is up to us to continue his legacy and carry his flag of independence."
  • The leaders of Mexico and El Salvador hailed Castro in messages on Twitter in the hours after the announcement.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin praised Fidel Castro as the "symbol of an era". "The name of this distinguished statesman is rightly considered the symbol of an era in modern world history," Putin said in a telegram to Cuban President Raul Castro cited by the Kremlin.
  • Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev hailed Castro for "strengthening" his island nation despite the US blockade. Gorbachev said in a message: "Fidel stood up and strengthened his country during the harshest American blockade, when there was colossal pressure on him and he still took his country out of this blockade to a path of independent development".
  • Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued a statement, saying: "It is with deep sorrow that I learned today of the death of Cuba`s longest serving President. Fidel Castro was a larger than life leader who served his people for almost half a century. A legendary revolutionary and orator, Mr. Castro made significant improvements to the education and healthcare of his island nation".
  • Imran Khan, Pakistan`s Tehreek-e-Insaf party chief and former cricketer, tweeted: "Today the world lost an iconic revolutionary leader Fidel Castro who liberated his nation from all vestiges of imperialism. Castro reasserted the Cuban nation`s dignity & self worth that withstood US aggression & became a global ldr for anti colonial struggles...We in Pakistan will always remember with gratitude Cuba`s support on the ground in the aftermath of the 2005 earthquake."

In Cuba, news was just getting around.

Also Read: Timeline of Fidel Castro's life

The bearded, cigar-puffing leader, renowned for trademark army fatigues and hours-long public tirades, grabbed power in a January 1, 1959 revolution.

Living by the slogan "socialism or death," he kept the faith to the end, even as the Cold War came and went.

He endured hundreds of assassination attempts, according to his aides, and the disastrous US-backed Bay of Pigs invasion attempt in 1961.

Castro was at the center of the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, as the world stood on the brink of nuclear war until the Soviet Union blinked in its bid to station strategic missiles on Cuban soil.

Well into his old age, Castro unleashed furious diatribes against Washington until he was slowed by surgery in July 2006.

An energetic symbol of defiance for developing countries and a driving force behind the Non-Aligned Movement, Castro proved even a small sovereign nation could thumb its nose at the world`s biggest superpower.

He was last seen in public on his 90th birthday on August 13.

"Soon I will end up like everyone does," he said. "We all have our turn."

(With Agency inputs)

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