Former Cuban president Fidel Castro turns 90, a prompt for one of his customary birthday newspaper columns and perhaps a sighting of the venerable and ailing revolutionary.
His pronouncements and the rare appearances usually make headlines in the hemisphere, a testament to a polarizing legacy and his impact on his century. The United States-Cuba détente has thrust Fidel Castro's revolution deeper into history, but he turns 90 acknowledged as one of the most influential figures of his era.
The historic thaw between the old Cold War enemies was announced on Dec 17, 2014, in joint media conferences by U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro, Fidel's younger brother. Relations had been frozen since the early 1960s, when Washington broke links and imposed a trade embargo on Cuba.
He made a farewell speech at the Communist Party congress in April, an appearance that offered clues to the 90-year-old's state of health and mind, a closely-guarded secret. He said the congress would be his last, an acknowledgement of his frailty.
A newspaper column on his birthday might reveal whether his mind is on the future or in the communist island's past. If he chooses the future, he might refer again to Cuba's demand for compensation for the embargo and the return of Guantanamo, or perhaps warn Cubans in the aftermath of the détente with Washington against the embrace of capitalism as a betrayal of the revolution.
As a birthday present, the state-controlled Cuban media can be counted on to recall Castro's revolution in glowing terms. The undisputed high point was his protracted overthrow of General Fulgencio Batista, who had himself seized power in a bloodless coup d'etat in 1951.
The Fidel Castro biography in History.com observes that Castro's Cuba was the first communist state in the Western Hemisphere. He would retain control of it into the 21st century, according to the biography, outlasting nine United States presidents who opposed his rule with economic embargoes.
In Jul 2006, in poor health, he ceded power to his younger brother, Raul, stepping down officially in Feb 2008.
Date written/update: 2015-10-05