By Jason Ajiake, News Editor
Posted 1:25 PM EST, Sat., Nov. 26, 2016
Fidel Castro, former prime minister of Cuba and longtime revolutionary leader, has died at the age of 90.
“The commander in chief of the Cuban revolution died at 10:29 p.m. this evening,” said Raul Castro, younger brother and successor of Fidel, during an official announcement on Cuban state television Friday evening. Castro died on Friday, Nov. 25.
Although the exact cause of death is not yet known, Castro reportedly suffered from diverticulitis, a colonic disease, for as long as almost a decade.
In an official statement, President Barack Obama offered condolences to Castro’s family, as well as thoughts and prayers with the Cuban people.
“At this time of Fidel Castro’s passing, we extend a hand of friendship to the Cuban people,” said Obama. “We know that this moment fills Cubans – in Cuba and in the United States – with powerful emotions, recalling the countless ways in which Fidel Castro altered the course of individual lives, families, and of the Cuban nation. History will record and judge the enormous impact of this singular figure on the people and world around him.”
During an address to the Cuban congress in April, Castro announced that he was approaching death, while also defending his legacy.
“Soon I’ll be like all the others. The time will come for all of us,” he said. “But the ideas of the Cuban Communists will remain as proof on this planet that if they are worked at with fervor and dignity, they can produce the material and cultural goods that human beings need — and we need to fight without truce to obtain them.”
Beginning in 1953, Castro led a revolution against the authoritative government of President Fulgencio Batista. With success of leading an overthrow of Batista in 1959, Castro established the first communist state in the Western Hemisphere.
During his nearly five decade regime, Castro reduced illiteracy and improved public health care, but was widely criticized for suppressing economic and political freedoms. Today, the Cuban literacy rate stands at 99.8 percent and both healthcare and education are free.
Perhaps one of the most intriguing elements of his life was his solidarity with the African diaspora. Castro actively supported the struggle for African liberation, intervening in at least 17 African nations under European colonialism.
In 1984, he granted political figure Assata Shakur political asylum in Cuba and refused to negotiate her extradition to the United States. After Hurricane Katrina hit the United States in 2005, Castro offered to send more than 1,600 doctors and at least 83 tons of supplies to help the victims; however, the U.S. never responded. When Ebola began to quickly spread throughout West Africa, Cuba was one of the first countries to send medical staff.
Although considered a controversial figure to many, as evidenced by the CIA’s 638 assassination attempts against him, Castro undeniably left a mark on the world.
“Condemn me. It does not matter,” he once famously said. “History will absolve me.”