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Sunday 21 April 2019
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A timeline of Fidel Castro’s life

Key events in the life of longtime Cuban leader Fidel Castro, whose death at 90 was announced on November 25, 2016.

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  • August 13, 1926: Castro is born in Biran, eastern Cuba, the third of seven children, son of a Spanish immigrant landowner and a Cuban mother who had been the family housekeeper. A fine student, Fidel was sent away from the farm to be schooled by Jesuits in Santiago.
  • July 26, 1953: Leads a failed attack on Santiago de Cuba’s Moncada military barracks. Castro is arrested and dozens of his men are jailed.
  • December 2, 1956: After setting off from Mexico, lands in southeastern Cuba on the ship Granma with 81 fighters and launches a 25-month-long military campaign in the Sierra Maestra mountains.
  • January 1, 1959: Dictator Fulgencio Batista flees the country. Castro makes a victorious entry into Havana on January 8 and is appointed prime minister in February.
  • April 15-27, 1959: Meets US Vice President Richard Nixon in the United States.
  • 1960: Establishes diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union.
  • 1961: The United States severs diplomatic relations with Cuba.
  • April 17-19, 1961: Defeats 1 400 anti-Castro fighters in the US-backed Bay of Pigs invasion.
  • February 13, 1962: US President John F. Kennedy decrees an embargo against Cuba.
  • October 1962: The Soviet Union deploys missiles in Cuba but eventually agrees to withdraw them in exchange for guarantees the United States would not invade Cuba.
  • April 1963: Castro makes his first visit to the Soviet Union.
  • 1965: Castro founds the Communist Party of Cuba.
  • 1975: Sends troops to help Angola independence fighters.
  • 1980: Gives green light to refugee exodus of 125 000 on the so-called Mariel boatlift to the United States.
  • 1990: Cuba plunges into extreme economic difficulties following the collapse of the Soviet Union.
  • 1995: Castro visits China for the first time.
  • 1998: Welcomes Pope John Paul II on his historic visit to Cuba.
  • 1999: Launches a successful campaign for the return of six-year-old Cuban shipwreck survivor Elian Gonzalez from Florida.
  • March 2003: Orders the arrest of 75 opposition leaders.
  • July 31, 2006: Temporarily transfers power to his brother, defence chief Raul Castro, then 75, after what an official statement called delicate intestinal surgery.
  • Late November-December 3, 2006: Fails to appear during celebrations for his 80th birthday and the 50th anniversary of the landing of the Granma.
  • February 2008: Raul Castro is named president, taking the helm of government definitively.
  • March 22, 2011: Fidel Castro confirms he no longer holds any official title. Pens a series of columns over the following years.
  • December 17, 2014: Fidel Castro remains out of sight as Raul Castro and US President Barack Obama announce the normalisation of relations.
  • July 20, 2015: United States and Cuba reopen embassies in each other’s capitals.
  • November 25, 2016: Fidel Castro dies aged 90, Raul Castro announces.



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