Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro turns 90 on Saturday in an island transformed from the one he led for half a century.
Both loved as a hero and hated as a dictator, Castro is one of the giant figures of modern history. He defied 10 US presidents during his 48 years in power, but in the decade since he stepped aside Cuba has become a different world. His sworn foe, the United States, is no longer officially Cuba’s enemy.
Now white-bearded and frail, Castro was a strapping 32-year old in green fatigues when he led a rebel force that drove out dictator Fulgencio Batista in 1959.
His image as a revolutionary warrior storming down from the mountains, rifle in hand, stirred his admirers’ imagination. His communist policies and iron-fisted treatment of rivals drew the hostility of the United States and other Western powers.
His voice used to boom out over Havana in speeches that lasted hours. Nowadays he is rarely heard from, though his face still smiles out from countless billboards across the Caribbean island.
No official public events were scheduled to mark his birthday and there was so far no word from the former president himself, who spends his days out of sight at home. But his friends and enemies on the streets of Havana and beyond are fully aware of the significance of the date.
A birthday visit by Cuba’s top regional ally, socialist President Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela, has not been ruled out. “We will be celebrating the 90th birthday of that immortal man,” Maduro said.
State newspapers on the communist island have for days been printing pictures and articles about him to mark his 90th year. Concerts have been played in his honor.
Source: News Agencies,