The death of former Cuban political leader and iconic revolutionary Fidel Castro was announced late Friday evening on Cuban state television. Fidel’s broth, Raúl, who succeeded him as the country’s leader over a decade ago made the announcement of his brother’s death.
Born to a wealthy sugar planter, Fidel Castro seized power from Fulgencio Batista’s corrupt dictatorship on New Year’s Eve in 1959 with the promise of spreading the nation’s wealth amongst its poorest citizens. In the process, Fidel became a heroic, almost mythical symbol of of the political far left. But Fidel’s Communist rule was loved by some and hated by many more for his repressive policies–he banned free speech, freedom of assembly and a free press, executed or jailed thousands of political opponents and even banned Christmas as a holiday for almost 30 years.
In July of 2006 Fidel’s health began to decline and he passed on leadership of Cuba to his somewhat younger brother, Raúl, but only officially resigned as president in 2008.
While things remained somber in Havana late Friday evening and Saturday morning, the scene was notably different in Miami, Florida where many Cuban exiles have fled over the past few decades. Miami residents in Little Havana took to the streets banging pots and pans and cheering “Cuba Libre!”
The exact circumstances of Fidel’s death are not yet known.