The Life and Times of Fidel Castro

Cuba's Fidel Castro came into power in 1959 after leading an overthrow of the military dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista. Castro transformed the country into the first communist state in the Western Hemisphere, handing off power to his younger brother Raúl Castro in 2008.

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FILE---Cuban President Fidel Castro replies to President Kennedy's naval blockade via Cuban radio and television on October 23, 1962. To defuse the Cuban missile crisis, President Kennedy promised not to invade the island nation, but newly declassified documents show he later retreated from the pledge, fearing Cuba could become an ``invulnerable base.'' The change of heart meant that the U.S.-Soviet understandings that resolved the 1962 crisis were never made permanent. (AP Photo/file)
Fidel Castro came into power in Cuba in 1959, transforming the country into the first communist state in the Western Hemisphere. Born on Aug. 13, 1926, the dictator was the country's Prime Minister from 1959 to 1976 and President from 1976 to 2008. Click through to see more from the life and times of Fidel Castro.
In 1947 Castro joined an expedition to the Dominican Republic in a failed attempt to overthrow dictator Rafael Trujillo. Castro also became an advocate for the independence of Puerto Rico and opposed U.S. intervention in the Caribbean.
In 1953, Castro and roughly 150 supporters of the left wing Ortodoxo Party made an attempt to overthrow the government of General Fulgencio Batista. Castro was captured, tried and sentenced to 15 years of prison. His opposition made Castro famous throughout Cuba.
Castro, the young anti-Batista Guerilla leader, center, is seen with his brother Raul Castro, left, and Camilo Cienfuegos, right, while operating in the mountains of eastern Cuba on March 14, 1957.
Raul Castro (left) embraces Ernesto "Che" Guevara, who became second-in-command during the Cuban Revolution. By 1958, the guerrilla had made a series of successful military campaigns throughout Cuba, causing the fall of Fulgencio Batista's government. In 1959, a new government was created with Fidel as prime minister.
In 1960, Cuba and the Soviet Union began trading, as Castro bought oil from Premier Nikita Khrushchev. After U.S. refineries in Cuba refused to refine Soviet oil, Castro expropriated the refineries, creating tension between Cuba and the U.S.
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Castro harvests sugar cane in a Cuban field on Oct. 10, 1962. This occurred six months after the Cuban government begun rationing food.
IMAGNO/Austrian Archives (AA)
Che Guevara (right) and his daughter Aleida appear with Castro in this photo taken around 1963.
In this photo, Castro replies to President Kennedy's U.S. naval blockade of Cuba via radio and television on Oct. 23, 1962. The conflict, known as the Cuban missile crisis, started after aerial photos showed the Soviet Union was deploying nuclear missiles in Cuba to bolster Castro, and to be able to strike the U.S.
This outdoor portrait of Castro was taken in Cuba in 1966, around the time he proclaimed that "revolutionaries in any corner of the world" can count on the assistance of Cuban fighters at a conference of solidarity with the peoples of Africa, Asia and Latin America.
According to Fabian Escalante, a former security chief who was in charge of protecting El Commandante, there have been 638 attempts on Castro's life since he came to power in 1959. Castro was attributed with saying that "if surviving assassination attempts were an Olympic event, I would win the gold medal."
In 1980, Castro announced that Cubans wishing to emigrate to the U.S. are free to board boats at the port of Mariel, launching the Mariel Boatlift. The first of 125,000 Cuban refugees from Mariel reached Florida the next day.
Castro, Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev and Raul Castro stand at attention during a gun salute at the Jose Marti Airport in Havana on Sunday, April 2, 1989. Gorbachev made his first visit to Cuba in order to meet with Castro.
Nelson Madela joins Castro in the city of Matanzas for the celebrations hat marked the 38th anniversary of the revolution on July 27, 1991.
Castro visits China's Tiananmen Square on Dec. 2, 1995.
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Castro meets with Japanese Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama in Tokyo in 1995. Murayama advised Castro to improve his human rights record in order to improve Cuban relations with Japan.
Castro greets Pope John Paul II as he arrives at Jose Marti Airport on Jan. 21, 1998.
Castro met with brother Raul during a meeting of the Cuban National Assembly in 1999. The assembly debated and resolved that Elian Gonzalez, the boy who survived a boat accident when he tried to leave Cuba with his mother, should be returned to Cuba. The incident was controversial when his Miami relatives sought to keep him in the U.S.
In 2001, hurricane Michelle caused major damage in Cuba. Castro declined U.S. humanitarian aid, but proposed a one-time cash purchase of food. George W. Bush's administration complied, authorizing the shipment of food.
Castro talked with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez at a rally to dedicate a new economic project to help poor fishermen. Cuba and Venezuela have kept close diplomatic relationships. Both leaders have also been outspoken against the influence of the U.S. in Latin America.
In 2006 a Forbes magazine report called Castro one of the world's wealthiest rulers, estimating Castro's personal wealth to be $900 million, according to The Associated Press. Castro publicly denied this on various Cuban news outlets.
In 2006, after undergoing intestinal surgery, Fidel Castro temporarily relinquished his presidential powers to his brother Raul.
After nearly a half-century in power, Castro announced his resignation as president on Feb. 19, 2008, handing off power to his brother Raul. After that decision, Cuba begun a series of economic reforms, allowing Cubans in certain private activities to hire people other than their relatives.
Castro stands next to unidentified people during a visit to the National Center for Scientific Investigation in Havana on July 7, 2010.
Pope Benedict XVI, on his visit to Cuba on March 2012, meets with Castro in Havana.
In early 2012, Castro met with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Havana.
During his retirement, Castro had taken to writing an opinion column called "Reflections of Fidel." But from mid-November to early January of 2012, Castro stopped publishing, which sparked rumors about his declining health. A Venezuelan doctor claimed in October that Castro had suffered a stroke, The Associated Press reported.
Castro votes at a polling station during parliament elections in Havana, Cuba, Feb. 3, 2013. Castro, who appears in public only occasionally, was among more than 8 million islanders eligible to vote and approve 612 members of the National Assembly and over 1,600 provincial delegates.
Castro attends the inauguration of the cultural center, Studio Kcho Romerillo, Laboratory for Art, in Havana, Cuba, on Jan. 8, 2014. It was his first public appearance in nine months.
Castro, right, speaks with China's President Xi Jinping in Havana, Cuba, Tuesday, July 22, 2014.
Cuba's Fidel Castro, center, meets with Russia's President Vladimir Putin, right, in Havana, Cuba, Friday, July 11, 2014.
Children dressed as Cuban revolutionaries attend a caravan tribute marking the 56th anniversary of the original street party that greeted a triumphant Fidel Castro and his rebel army, in Regla, Cuba, Thursday, Jan. 8, 2015. Castro ended his long silence over his country's decision to restore diplomatic ties with the U.S., writing that he backs the negotiations even though he distrusts politics in Washington.
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