Fidel Castro, Cuba’s former president and leader of the Communist revolution, has died aged 90, his brother has said.
“The commander in chief of the Cuban revolution died at 22:29 hours this evening (03:29 GMT Saturday),” President Raul Castro said.
Fidel Castro ruled Cuba as a one-party state for almost 50 years before Raul took over in 2008.
His supporters said he had given Cuba back to the people. But he was also accused of suppressing opposition.
Ashen and grave, President Castro told the nation in an unexpected late night broadcast on state television that Fidel Castro had died and would be cremated later on Saturday.
There would now be several days of national mourning on the island.
Raul Castro ended the announcement by shouting the revolutionary slogan: “Towards victory, always!”
Barring the occasional newspaper column, Fidel Castro had essentially been retired from political life for some time, the BBC’s Will Grant in Havana reports.
In April, Fidel Castro gave a rare speech on the final day of the country’s Communist Party congress.
He acknowledged his advanced age but said Cuban communist concepts were still valid and the Cuban people “will be victorious”.
“I’ll soon be 90,” the former president said, adding that this was “something I’d never imagined”.
“Soon I’ll be like all the others, “to all our turn must come,” Fidel Castro said.
Castro – who had survived many assassination plots – was the longest serving non-royal leader of the 20th Century.
Castro temporarily handed over power to his brother in 2006 as he was recovering from an acute intestinal ailment.
Raul Castro officially became president two years later.
Fidel Castro’s key dates
- 1926: Born in the south-eastern Oriente Province of Cuba
- 1953: Imprisoned after leading an unsuccessful rising against Batista’s regime
- 1955: Released from prison under an amnesty deal
- 1956: With Che Guevara, begins a guerrilla war against the government
- 1959: Defeats Batista, sworn in as prime minister of Cuba
- 1961: Fights off CIA-sponsored Bay of Pigs invasion by Cuban exiles
- 1962: Sparks Cuban missile crisis by agreeing that USSR can deploy nuclear missiles in Cuba
- 1976: Elected president by Cuba’s National Assembly
- 1992: Reaches an agreement with US over Cuban refugees
- 2006: Hands over reins to brother Raul due to health issues, stands down as president two years later
Throughout the Cold War, Fidel Castro was a thorn in Washington’s side.
An accomplished tactician on the battlefield, he and his small army of guerrillas overthrew the military leader Fulgencio Batista in 1959 to widespread popular support.
Within two years of taking power, he declared the revolution to be Marxist-Leninist in nature and allied the island nation firmly to the Soviet Union.
Yet, despite the constant threat of a US invasion as well as the long-standing economic embargo on the island, Castro managed to maintain a communist revolution in a nation just 90 miles (145km) off the coast of Florida.
Despised by his critics as much as he was revered by his followers, he outlasted 10 US presidents and defied scores of attempts on his life by the CIA.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi called Castro “one of the most iconic personalities of the 20th century” saying his country mourned his loss. Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto said Castro was a “great friend” of Mexico.
But in Miami, where there is a large Cuban community, there have been celebrations in some parts of the city.