Havana, Aug 13: Revolutionary Cuban leader Fidel Castro turned 90 on Saturday (Aug 13) and he reached the milestone in a country which resembled little the one he had ruled once with authority.
Castro, perhaps the last remaining icons of modern history, is both loved as a hero and loathed as a dictator but could never be ignored. The man, who had led the historic Bay of Bigs victory over a US-backed paramilitary group in April 1961, defied as many as 10 American presidents during his 48-year rule. [Roller breaks Guinness Record with 90m cigar, dedicates to Fidel Castro]
In 1962, the world had came to the brink of another major war when the US and the erstwhile Soviet Union came face to face over deployment of latter's ballistic missiles in Castro's Cuba.
However, all that is history now since his stepping down as the head of the state, Cuba has corrected its course and has grown a closeness with the US, a country which had enforced blockade against it for several decades. Early this year, even American President Barack Obama visited Cuba---the first occupant of the White House to do so in 88 years---a time frame which is similar to Castro's age.
Castro rose to prominence in the late 1950s when he led a rebel force to defeat US-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista and succeeded in doing so. While the rebel leader and his colleague Che Guevara fired the imagination of their supporters, Castro's communist ideology and harsh dealing of rivals found him an enemy among the Western powers.
But things are not the same anymore in the island nation in the Caribbeans. No public events have been organised to mark the frail leader's birthday and even there was no word from the man himself, who spends a reclusive life.
It is said today that Castro survived 600 attempts on his life, though it is difficult to confirm it.
But people, both his friends and enemies, are aware of the living history that Castro is and Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro was expected to visit the legend on his birthday, said an AFP report.
A birthday visit by Cuba's top regional ally, socialist President Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela, has not been ruled out.
State-run newspapers in Cuba have been publishing articles and pictures about Castro in the build-up to the occasion and concerts have also been held.
Castro was born as Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz in Cuba's Biran in 1926. His father was a migrant from Spain. He served as Cuba's prime minister between 1959 and 1976 and then as its president between 1976 and 2008. He had retired from public life in 2006 due to failing health and officially transferred the presidency to his brother Raul two years later.
Raul, also a octagenarian, opened up the country's economy and foreign relations and mended its democratic relations with the US---something which was unthinkable in the days of his elder brother.