Fidel Castro, Cuban revolutionary leader, dies

The bête noire of US presidents and iconic figure to many others has died aged 90.

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Fidel Castro, who led the communist revolution in Cuba and ruled the country for nearly 50 years, has died.

The news was confirmed by his brother, Raul Castro, who took over the presidency from him in 2008.

According to the BBC, Raul made a late-night broadcast to the nation on Friday night, where he said: "The commander in chief of the Cuban revolution died at 22:29 hours this evening."

He concluded his speech with the revolutionary slogan: "Towards victory, always!" There will now be a period of national mourning in Cuba. 

Castro, whom the CIA famously tried to assassinate multiple times, recently said he "never imagined" he would turn 90.

Under his rule, Cuba remained a communist country, even after communist regimes had crumbled elsewhere in the late 20th century.

Castro was lauded for his refusal to cave in to pressure from the giant on his doorstep, the United States.

The most famous stand off occurred in 1961-2, when the CIA backed a paramilitary group's attempt to invade and overthrow Castro. It failed, and Castro asked the Soviet Union to place nuclear missiles on Cuban soil, which led to fears of a nuclear war. 

The world stepped back from the edge, and in recent years, tourists flocked to the island to see a country famed for its vintage cars and live music.

But critics of the Castro regime pointed to the suppression of political dissidents and his willingness to trample on human rights, as well as the limits of a state-run economy. 

International reaction to his death has been divided. Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister of India, tweeted: "Fidel Castro was one of the most iconic personalities of the 20th century. India mourns the loss of a great friend." Mikhail Gorbachev, the final leader of the Soviet Union, described him as an "outstanding politician, an outstanding man" who took his country down an independent path of development.

But in Miami, American-Cubans, many who originally came to the US as exiles, celebrated in the streets.

Julia Rampen is the digital news editor of the New Statesman (previously editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog). She has also been deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines.