Fidel Castro, former leader of Cuba, dead at age 90

Fidel Castro, former leader of Cuba, dead at age 90

Former ruler of Cuba Fidel Castro has died at the age of 90.

Castro had been in poor health since an intestinal ailment almost killed him in 2006.

The bearded Fidel Castro took power in a 1959 revolution and ruled Cuba with a mix of charisma and iron will for 49 years, creating a one-party state. After losing most of his group in a bungled landing - only 12 of the group survived, including Fidel, Raul and Ernesto "Che" Guevara - he rallied support in Cuba's eastern mountains. He made Cuba the first communist nation in the western hemisphere. "Socialism or death! We shall overcome!"

Fidel Castro at May Day Parade Fidel Castro observes the May Day parade at the Revolution Square in Havana, Cuba May 1, 1998.

The United States has variously been infuriated, embarrassed and alarmed at Castro's defiance, and intensely frustrated by his survival in power despite the economic embargo Washington hoped in vain would spark rebellion.

Fidel Castro, who seized power in 1960, killing former politicians and members of the middle class and turning the island of Cuba into a communist country, died Friday.

Castro's death was reported by Cuban state television, according to NBC's Jesse Rodriguez.

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Transforming Cuba from a playground for rich Americans into a symbol of resistance to Washington, Castro outlasted nine U.S. presidents in power.

October 1962 US blockade forces removal of Soviet nuclear missiles from Cuba. Never had the world felt so close to nuclear war.

Tensions between Cuba and the U.S. 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. More than 260,000 Cubans left in a USA -organized airlift between 1965 and 1973.

April 1980 Mariel boatlift: Cuba says anyone can leave; some 125,000 Cubans flee. Before resigning February 19, 2008, he was the world's longest-ruling head of government, and leader of one of world's last five communist states.

In the 1980s, Castro reportedly married Dalia Soto del Valle, with whom he had five children: Angel, Antonio, Alejandro, Alexis and Alex.

Mexico's president Enrique Peña Nieto called Castro a friend of Mexico, who had promoted bilateral relationships based on "respect, dialogue and solidarity".

His brother also said that Castro would be cremated early Saturday, following his request. "I was at death's door, but I came back", Castro told the paper.