Fidel Castro, the revolutionary Cuban leader who ushered in a communist regime in the country and reigned for about five decades, died on November 25, 2016 at the age of 90.
His brother and current Cuban President Raul Castro announced the news on Cuban state TV. He officially became president in 2008, two years after a temporary transfer of power because of Fidel's illness in 2006.
"At 10.29 at night, the chief commander of the Cuban revolution, Fidel Castro Ruz, died," the 85-year-old president said. He did not give any cause of death.
"Ever onward, to victory," he concluded the address using the Cuban revolution slogan.
Castro's father was a rich sugar plantation owner, but he chose to spend his life fighting for the cause of poor. He took power in 1959 by toppling the former military regime in Cuba, and ruled for the next 47 years as the head of the state. He transformed the country into a one-party state and promised to serve the poorest people who were oppressed under the previous governments.
When the Cold War came to an end around 1990, the country lost its financial support from the communist regime in Eurasia. Within years, its economy declined by about half. It became a challenge for Castro to maintain the centrally controlled and closed economy. He loosened economic restrictions which were symbolic of his communist rule for over three decades.
Though Castro opened the country to foreign investments and private sectors after the end of the Cold War, he later repealed many of the laws which favored capitalism.
His brother, the new president, has embraced the communist ideology but at the same time opened the country to economic reforms and even sought to renew diplomatic relations with the US in 2014.
However, the Cuban government has failed to initiate any reforms in religious freedom and persecution of Christians has increased in recent years.
Christian Solidarity Worldwide reported as many as 1,606 separate religious freedom violations this year, which includes demolition of churches, destruction of church properties, arbitrary detention of religious leaders and seizure of their properties, among many other forms of harassment.