November 26, 2016 1:49 am
Updated: November 26, 2016 11:48 am

Fidel Castro, former Cuba president, dies at age 90

WATCH ABOVE: The Cuban revolutionary who went on to become the president of Cuba and a key figure in the Cold War has died. Cuban President Raul Castro announced the death of his brother Fidel Castro on Cuban state media on Friday. Eric Sorenson looks back on the life of iconic political leader.

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Longtime Cuban leader Fidel Castro has died at the age of 90.

With a shaking voice, President Raul Castro said on state television that his older brother died at 10:29 p.m. Friday. He ended the announcement by shouting the revolutionary slogan: “Toward victory, always!”

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Castro led the country as a one-party communist state and first governed the Republic of Cuba as prime minister from 1959 to 1976 and then as president from 1976 to 2008, after helping to overthrow the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista in 1952.

Under his rule, relations between Cuba and the United States seized during the Cold War as Cuba maintained friendly ties with the communist Soviet Union.

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Antagonism came to a head in in 1961 with U.S.-backed Bay of Pigs invasion, and a year later during the Cuban Missile Crisis, as the world was brought to the brink of nuclear war.

His supporters lauded him for creating the first communist nation in the western hemisphere and carrying the party into the 21st century, while his detractors have targeted him for suppressing opposition and sending many citizens into political prisons and labour camps.

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His policies also caused hundreds of thousands of wealthy and middle-class Cubans to flee for the shores of the United States, with many settling in Florida.

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The bearded revolutionary, who survived a crippling U.S. 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 in 2008.

He survived long enough to see Raul Castro negotiate an opening with U.S. President Barack Obama on Dec. 17, 2014, when Washington and Havana announced they would move to restore diplomatic ties for the first time since they were severed in 1961. He cautiously blessed the historic deal with his lifelong enemy in a letter published after a month-long silence.

In April, he gave a rare speech to the Communist Party, saying he would die soon.

“I’ll be 90 years old soon,” Castro said in his most extensive public appearance in years. “Soon I’ll be like all the others. The time will come for all of us, but the ideas of the Cuban Communists will remain as proof on this planet that if they are worked at with fervour and dignity, they can produce the material and cultural goods that human beings need, and we need to fight without a truce to obtain them.”

With files from Associated Press

© 2016 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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