Cuba’ former president and leader of Communist revolution Fidel Castro died at the age of 90, state TV has announced.
Fidel Castro ruled Cuba as a one-party state for almost half a century before handing over the powers to his brother Raul in 2008.
His supporters praised him as a man who had given Cuba back to the people. But his opponents accused him of brutally suppressing opposition.
The revolutionary and former president retreated from the public eye in 2006 following emergency surgery for intestinal bleeding. His health problems forced him to temporarily hand power to his younger brother, defense minister Raul Castro, who permanently took his place as president in 2008.
Castro’s death follows a historic thawing of relations between Cuba and the United States with the announcement in mid-December that the countries planned to restore diplomatic and economic ties.
Six weeks after that announcement, Castro made his first comments about the deal, writing that he backs the negotiations even though he distrusts American politics.
“I don’t trust the policy of the United States, nor have I exchanged a word with them, but this does not mean I reject a pacific solution to the conflicts,” he wrote in a letter to a student federation read at the University of Havana.
“We will always defend cooperation and friendship with all the people of the world, including with our political adversaries,” he wrote.
The elder Castro made his last public appearance in January, attending an art studio opening in Havana. He was photographed entering the studio hunched over and using a cane. Later that month, however, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon visited Castro and reported that then 87-year-old was “spiritually alert and physically very strong.”
Over the summer, Castro met with the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, as well as the Chinese president, Xi Jinping.
Since relinquishing power six years ago, Castro’s health had been the topic of intense speculation. On several occasions, media reported inaccurately that he was near death or had died. Once in 2012, Castro replied to the rumors himself in an article published on Cuba Debate, a state-run website, in which he boasted that he was not only alive, but didn’t “even remember what a headache is.”