Fidel Castro, the controversial Cuban revolutionary turned head of state, has passed away at the age of 90.
Castro brought Communism to Cuba and led the island nation through a tumultuous five decades, partially retiring from public service and handing the reins to his brother Raul in 2008.
Raul’s administration issued an official statement confirming Fidel’s death just moments ago.
One of the few Marxist-Leninist leaders of the Western world, Castro was a widely distrusted figure in the US.
He remained ideologically at odds with the American government throughout his time in office, first Prime Minister of Cuba (from 1959 to 1976), then as the nation’s president (from 1976 to 2008).
Castro remained in power as First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba until 2011.
Throughout the majority of Castro’s reign, the United States government enforced a trade embargo with Cuba, a result of both anti-Communist sentiment in the States and lingering wariness over the Bay of Pigs invasion of 1961 and the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962.
Both incidents served as defining events of President John F. Kennedy’s brief time in office and helped to characterize Castro as a dangerous military presence operating just off the coast of Florida in the mind’s of America’s populace.
However, the reality of Castro’s reign was very different from the way his regime was portrayed in the American press.
Derided as an autocrat who trampled civil rights throughout his reign by some, Castro is still hailed as a hero by many who have lived under his power for the bulk of the past 60 years.
He cut a larger-than-life figure with his military fatigues and ubiquitous cigar and for many, his image is inextricably linked with the caricature of authoritarian strongmen.
Tensions between Cuba and the US ran so high in the decades after Castro assumed power that was only when the Obama administration began to lift regulations in 2015 that Americans were once again permitted to freely travel to and from Cuba.
Several embargo restrictions remain in place, and the future of relations between the two nations remains very much in question.
Castro’s legacy will no doubt be debated among historians and political scientists for many years to come.
But regardless of one’s feelings on the iconic leader’s politics, he was, and will no doubt remain, one of the most recognizable political figures of the 20th Century.