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Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro died Nov. 25 at age 90. Castro was a hero for some Cubans, and a tyrannical dictator for others, so news of his death was met with varying reactions—some mourned while others celebrated.

Castro was born near Birán, Cuba. As a young man, he was part of anti-government groups. He was very interested in socialism but insisted he was not a Communist and was even
part of an anti-Communist group.

Castro married a woman from a rich political family (Mirta Díaz Balart) and wanted to run for congress in Cuba. But in March of 1952, Gen. Fulgencio Batista—a former president—led a COUP and took power. Batista canceled upcoming elections.

A year later, Castro and about 150 followers tried to topple Batista. Their attack failed, and Castro was jailed. When he was released in 1955, he went to Mexico and planned a revolution.

Returning to Cuba in 1956, Castro and his followers began organizing resistance groups and waging guerilla warfare. In February 1959, Castro took power.

Castro’s reforms led to government-run factories and farms. Former members of the government were jailed or executed. Criticism of Castro’s policies was not allowed, Cuba established ties with the Soviet Union and its relations with the United States became strained.

In January 1961, President Dwight Eisenhower cut diplomatic relations with Cuba, and in April over a thousand Cuban exiles—trained and armed by the U.S.—invaded the Bay of Pigs but failed to overthrow Castro. This helped lead to the Cuban Missile Crisis the following year, with the Soviet Union building a base in Cuba. Days of secret negotiations between Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev and President John F. Kennedy ended in the removal of the missiles, but U.S. problems with Cuba continue. 

Castro’s failing health had him turning over power to his brother, Raul, in 2008.

December 2016