Fidel Castro, the Cuban leader who led his country for close to five decades and defied the might of United States, died at the age of 90 last Friday night. Castro’s death was announced by his brother Raul Castro, the incumbent president of Cuba on state television.
In his five-decade long political career, Castro became a symbol for resistance to the US, mostly during the Cold War era, when he almost triggered a nuclear conflict. After a gastro-intestinal ailment forced him to step down as president of the Latin American nation in 2006, Castro continued to make public appearances after handing over the reins of the country to his younger brother.
Here are 11 things you should know about the leader of Cuban revolution:
- Born on August 13, 1926, Castro studied law at the University of Hawana. During his college years, he developed keen interest in politics. In 1947, he joined Partido Ortodoxo, or party of the common people.
- Castro led an invasion of Moncando Barracks in 1953 as a first step towards overthrowing then Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista. However, the ambush failed and he was imprisoned for a year.
- Castro was released from jail in 1955 under an amnesty deal. He was successful in toppling the regime through his organisation The 26th of July Movement in 1959. He became Cuba’s Prime Minister and converted the country into a one-party socialist state.
- He survived several overthrow attempts allegedly by US-backed groups, the famous one taking place in 1961. Also known as Bay of Pigs Invasion, a CIA-backed group Brigade 2506 stood up against Castro’s regime. However, the group launched from Guatemala and Nicaragua could last only three days against the Cuban government.
- Castro claimed to have survived a total of 643 assassination attempts in his lifetime by the CIA and other opposition groups. During his tenure, the United States imposed several economic sanctions on Cuba as the Latin American country had close relations with Soviet Union.
- According to the United Nations website, Fidel Castro holds the record for the longest speech delivered to the UN, four hours and 29 minutes in 1960.
- Castro almost triggered a nuclear conflict between the United States and Soviet Union in 1962. Also known as Cuban missile crisis, the confrontation began after US satellite images showed Soviet ballistic missiles in Cuba which were at a striking distance from major US cities. After several days of tension, both the superpowers decided to dismantle their weapons.
- Castro served as Cuba’s prime minister from 1959 to 1976. Later, he was sworn in as president and went on to rule the country till 2008. He is the world’s third-longest serving head of state, the other two being Queen Elizabeth of England and King of Thailand. However, he had temporarily handed over the reins to his younger brother Raul in 2006, but he officially stepped down two years later.
- Fidel Castro was named among top 100 influential personalities of all-time by the Time Magazine in 2012.
- Castro has nine children from relationships with five women. His eldest son Fidel Castro Diaz-Balart was born out of his brief marriage to Mirta Diaz-Balart. He has five sons from his marriage to Dalia Soto del Valle. He also has another son and two daughters from other two women before he became the prime minister.
- Fidel Castro used to smoke cigars but later quit the habit in 1985.