Former President Fidel Castro is dead. The resilient revolutonary who led a rebel army to improbable victory in Cuba, embraced Soviet-style communism and defied the power of 10 U.S. presidents during his half century rule.
A man who was a thorn in the side of the United States for decades was a leader many loved to hate, while many admirers saw him almost in demi-god proportions.
Castro's reign over the island-nation 90 miles from Florida was marked by the embarrasing U.S.-backed Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961 and the Cuban Missile Crisis a year later that brought the world to the brink of nuclear war.
The sometimes mysterious,often outspoken and unrepentantly stubborn 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 his younger brother Raul, who announced his death late Friday on state television.
A complicated and difficult past that proved his resilient stance and leadership potential. Castro overcame imprisonment at the hands of dictator Fulgencio Batista, exile in Mexico and a disastrous start to his rebellion before triumphantly riding into Havana in January 1959 to become, at age 32, the youngest leader in Latin America.
And because of his success, Castro became a handbook for susequent rebel groups across the world. For decades, he served as an inspiration and source of support to revolutionaries from Latin America to Africa.
The Unshakeable force eventually bowed to ill heath in his early eighties. His commitment to socialism was unwavering, though his power finally began to fade in mid-2006 when a gastrointestinal ailment forced him to hand over the presidency to Raul in 2008, provisionally at first and then permanently. His defiant image lingered long after he gave up his trademark Cohiba cigars for health reasons and his tall frame grew stooped.
His famous quote "Socialism or death" remained Castro's rallying cry even as Western-style democracy swept the globe and other communist regimes in China and Vietnam embraced capitalism, leaving this once bustling island of 11 million people an economically crippled Marxist curiosity, with a rapidly decaying history.
He softened his political stance in his old age. 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.
Fidel Castro Ruz was born Aug. 13, 1926, in eastern Cuba's sugar country and rose to be a defiant force in world politics as a young man, until his death recently.