Fidel Castro, who led a rebel army to improbable victory in Cuba, embraced Soviet-style communism, and defied the power of 10 US presidents during his half-century rule, has died at age 90. With a shaking voice, his younger brother, Raul Castro, announced on state television that his brother died at 10:29pm on Friday night, reports AP. Castro's reign over the island-nation 90 miles from Florida was marked by the US-backed Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961 and the Cuban Missile Crisis a year later that brought the world to the brink of nuclear war. The bearded revolutionary, who survived a crippling US trade embargo as well as dozens, possibly hundreds, of assassination plots, died eight years after ill health forced him to formally hand power over to Raul.
The BBC sums up the life of Castro thusly: "His supporters praised him as a man who had given Cuba back to the people. But his opponents accused him of brutally suppressing opposition." Castro overcame imprisonment at the hands of dictator Fulgencio Batista, exile in Mexico, and a disastrous start to his rebellion before triumphantly riding into Havana in January 1959 to become, at age 32, the youngest leader in Latin America. For decades, he served as an inspiration and source of support to revolutionaries from Latin America to Africa. "Socialism or death" remained Castro's rallying cry even as Western-style democracy swept the globe and other communist regimes in China and Vietnam embraced capitalism, leaving this island of 11 million people an economically crippled Marxist curiosity.