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Former Cuba President Fidel Castro has died at 90, state media announced Friday.
Castro, 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 on state media late Friday.
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 rallying cry, “Socialism or death,” held strong as Western-style democracy swept the globe and other communist regimes in China and Vietnam embraced capitalism, leaving the island of 11 million people an economically crippled Marxist curiosity.
His brother Raul Castro negotiated an opening with U.S. President Barack Obama in 2014, when Washington and Havana announced they would move to restore diplomatic ties for the first time since they were severed in 1961. The elder Castro cautiously blessed the historic deal after a long silence on the matter.
Key events in Cuba under Fidel Castro:
Jan. 1, 1959 — Castro’s rebels take power as dictator Fulgencio Batista flees Cuba.
June 1960 — Cuba nationalizes U.S.-owned oil refineries after they refuse to process Soviet oil. Nearly all other U.S. businesses expropriated by October.
October 1960 — Washington bans exports to Cuba, other than food and medicine.
April 16, 1961 — Castro declares Cuba socialist state.
April 17, 1961 — Bay of Pigs: CIA-backed Cuban exiles stage failed invasion.
Feb. 7, 1962 — Washington bans all Cuban imports.
October 1962 — U.S. blockade forces removal of Soviet nuclear missiles from Cuba. U.S. President John F. Kennedy agrees privately not to invade Cuba.
March 1968 — Castro’s government takes over almost all private businesses.
April 1980 — Mariel boatlift: Cuba says anyone can leave; some 125,000 Cubans flee.
December 1991 — Collapse of Soviet Union devastates Cuban economy.
August 1994 — Castro declares he will not stop Cubans trying to leave; some 40,000 take to sea heading for U.S.
March 18, 2003 — 75 Cuban dissidents sentenced to prison.
July 31, 2006 — Castro announces he has had operation, temporarily cedes power to brother Raul.
Feb. 19, 2008 — Castro resigns as president.
July 2010 — Castro re-emerges after years in seclusion, visiting a scientific institute, giving a TV interview, talking to academics and even taking in a dolphin show at the aquarium.
April 19, 2011 — Castro is replaced by his brother Raul as first secretary of the Communist Party, the last official post he held. The elder Castro made a brief appearance at the Congress, looking frail as a young aide guided him to his seat.
April 19, 2016 —Castro delivers a valedictory speech at the Communist Party’s seventh Congress, declaring that “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.”
Nov. 25, 2016 — Fidel Castro dies.
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