Havana: Former President Fidel Castro, who led a rebel army to improbable victory in Cuba, embraced Soviet-style communism and defied the power of 10 US presidents during his half century rule, has died at age 90.
He will be cremated with full state honours on Saturday.
Castro’s reign over the island-nation 90 miles from Florida was marked by the US-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 bearded revolutionary, who survived a crippling US 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.
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.
For decades, he served as an inspiration and source of support to revolutionaries from Latin America to Africa.
As communist regimes collapsed across the world, Castro kept the red flag flying right on the doorstep of his greatest enemy, the United States.
A divisive figure his supporters praised him as a champion of socialism, the soldier-politician who had given Cuba back to the people.
But he faced accusations of brutally suppressing opposition and pursuing policies that crippled the Cuban economy.
Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz was born on 13 August 1926, the illegitimate son of a wealthy farmer, Angel María Bautista Castro y Argiz, who had emigrated to Cuba from Spain
His mother, Lina Ruz González was a farm servant who became his father's mistress, and later, after Fidel's birth, his wife.
Castro attended Catholic schools in Santiago before going on to the Jesuit-run El Colegio de Belen in Havana.
However, he failed to excel academically, preferring to spend his time in sporting activities.
It was while studying law at Havana University in the mid-1940s that he became a political activist, honing his skills as a passionate public speaker.