Facts about Fidel Castro – Cuba’s bearded, cigar-smoking romantic revolutionary

Fidel Castro, the Cuban leader, who led a rebel army to improbable victory in Cuba, embraced Soviet-style communism and defied the power of 11 US presidents during his half-a-century rule, died on November 25, 2016 at the age of 90.

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.

To many, Castro was a romantic revolutionary, a persuasive and moving speaker who had the affection of his people. He was known as a charismatic, hands-on politician, with a history of violent, forceful politicking.

Image credit: David Hume Kennerly | Getty Images

Image credit: David Hume Kennerly | Getty Images

The following are some facts about former Cuban leader and revolutionary icon Fidel Castro:

  • Fidel Castro led Cuba for five decades and was the world’s third longest-serving head of state. Castro held on to power longer than any other living national leader after Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom and the King of Thailand.
  • He is known to have survived 634 assassination attempts. They may have included poison pills, a toxic cigar, exploding mollusks, and a chemically tainted diving suit.
  • Despite the plots, a US-backed exile invasion at the Bay of Pigs and five decades of economic sanctions, Castro outlasted nine US presidents (Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Carter, Reagan, George H W Bush, Clinton), stepping down while George W. Bush was in office. However, illness had forced him to relinquish power in 2006.
  • While Castro was often seen with a cigar in his mouth, for 21 or his 49 years in power but he gave up the habit in 1985 saying “The best thing you can do with this box of cigars is give them to your enemy.”
  • According to the United Nations, he delivered the longest ever speech at the organisation on 26 September 1960, a mere 4 hours and 29 minutes, on Sept. 26, 1960
  • The family man had nine children from five women. One of his daughters Alina Fernandez escaped Cuba disguised as a tourist in 1993, moving first to Spain and then Miami and has been a vocal critic of the Castro regime.
Fidel Castro life timeline graphic. Photo: AFP

Fidel Castro life timeline graphic. Photo: AFP