Late Friday night, Raul Castro announced his brother, former Cuban President Fidel Castro, died at the age of 90. The announcement was made via Cuban state television. Castro was known for leading the 1959 Cuban Revolution, which ended as dictator Fulgencio Batista fled the island.
Castro recruited Marxist sympathizer Ernesto “Che” Guevara and led the overthrow of the Batista dictatorship of Cuba in 1959. The coup made Cuba the first Communist country in the Western Hemisphere. While in office, Castro ordered the expropriation of major U.S. corporations such as Texaco, Shell Oil, and Sears Roebuck. President Dwight D. Eisenhower placed an embargo on all domestic products with Cuba which lasted, in part, until Oct. 2016. In addition to Eisenhower, Castro openly clashed with President John F. Kennedy and made global headlines after successfully defeating 1,400 CIA-trained operatives during the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion.
The 1966 Cuban Adjustment Act and a subsequent general policy under President Richard M. Nixon’s administration to end publicly known attempts to overthrow Castro led to a period of eased tensions with Cuba. However, Castro’s support of Communist and Marxist movements in the then-Soviet Union, Angola, Ethiopia and other nations derailed attempts to normalize U.S.-Cuba relations.
As a primary player in the Cuban Missile Crisis, Castro’s alliance with the Soviet Union made him a central figure during the Cold War of the ‘80s. Castro had been in declining health since 2008 when he officially stepped down from the Cuban presidency. Fidel Castro's official cause of death has not been disclosed. According to Reuters, Castro suffered from a colon condition called diverticulitis. In separate public statements, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro sent condolences to Castro's family and praised his leadership.
“We have worked hard to put the past behind us, pursuing a future in which the relationship between our two countries is defined not by our differences but by the many things that we share as neighbors and friends—bonds of family, culture, commerce and common humanity,” President Obama said in an official statement.
“Today, we offer condolences to Fidel Castro’s family, and our thoughts and prayer are with the Cuban people,” he continued. “The Cuban people must know that they have a friend and partner in the Unites States of America.”
President-elect Donald Trump had a more succinct reaction.
Fidel Castro is dead!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 26, 2016