“The commander in chief of the Cuban revolution died at 22:29 hours this evening,” the president announced on national television just after midnight.
Raul Castro, who took power after Fidel Castro was hospitalised in 2006, said that his elder brother’s remains will be cremated early on Saturday, “in compliance with his expressed will.”
One of the leading world figures in the second half of the 20th century, Fidel Castro had outsized influence given the size of his small Caribbean island.
He was said to have survived countless US assassination attempts and had weathered many storms.
He held onto power as 11 US presidents took office and each after the other sought to pressure his regime over the decades following his 1959 revolution, which closed a long era of Washington's dominance over Cuba dating to the 1989 Spanish-American War.
And Castro’s dangerous liaison with the Soviet Union took the world to the edge of nuclear war in the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. It was sparked when Moscow sought to position nuclear-tipped missiles on the island just 144 kilometers off the US state of Florida.
After a tense standoff between the rival superpowers, the world pulled back from the abyss as Moscow agreed to keep the missiles off Cuban soil.
Castro had to hand over the reins to his brother in 2006 after following an emergency intestinal surgery in July 2006.
The new president, Raul Castro, ended his brother's antagonistic approach to Washington and shocked the world in December 2014 in announcing a rapprochement with US President Barack Obama.
- with AFP