NAME: Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz.
TITLES: Former president of Council of State and Council of Ministers, first secretary of Communist Party of Cuba, commander in chief of Cuba’s Revolutionary Armed Forces. Before resigning Feb. 19, 2008, he was the world’s longest-ruling head of government, and leader of one of world’s last five communist states. Had been off public stage for year and half after provisionally ceding power to his brother Raul following emergency intestinal surgery.
BIRTHDATE: Officially listed as Aug. 13, 1926, in Cuba’s Oriente province, although some say he was born a year later.
EDUCATION: Attended Roman Catholic schools and University of Havana, where he earned law and social science degrees.
BEFORE THE REVOLUTION: Launched his revolutionary fight with July 26, 1953, attack on military barracks in eastern city of Santiago. Was arrested, later freed under amnesty. Traveled to Mexico to form a rebel army, and returned to Cuba with followers aboard small yacht. Most were killed or captured, but Castro and a small group escaped into eastern mountain strongholds. Took power when dictator Fulgencio Batista fled New Year’s Day 1959.
AFTER THE REVOLUTION: Emerged as head of new government and quickly gained nearly absolute power. All American businesses eventually expropriated and Cuba was declared socialist state in April 1961, on eve of disastrous U.S.-backed Bay of Pigs invasion by Cuban exiles. United States cut all trade with Cuba as island allied with Soviet Union, leading to October 1962 missile crisis that brought world to brink of nuclear war. For three decades, Cuba was Soviet ally and remained alienated from United States after communism collapsed in eastern Europe. The two countries began to move toward full diplomatic relations after a surprise announcement by President Barack Obama and Raul Castro on Dec. 17, 2014.
FAMILY: Married Mirta Diaz-Balart in 1948; son, Fidel Felix Castro Diaz-Balart, born in 1949; divorced in 1955. Although Castro never confirmed remarrying, reportedly wed former schoolteacher Dalia Soto del Valle and had five sons. Also reportedly had several other children out of wedlock.
QUOTE: “Homeland or death! Socialism or death! We shall overcome!”
Related Coverage: Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro dies at 90