Fidel Castro dies: Timeline of key events in Cuba under the former leader

Fidel Castro ruled Cuba as a one-party state for five decades 

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The Independent Online

The former President of Cuba, Fidel Castro, has died aged 90.

After taking power he defied 10 US presidents and enforced Soviet-style communism for half a century.

Castro ruled Cuba as a one-party state and here are some of the most important events of his five decades as leader:

1 January 1959: Castro’s rebels take power as dictator Fulgencio Batista flees Cuba.

June 1960: Cuba nationalises US-owned oil refineries after they refuse to process Soviet oil. Nearly all other US businesses were expropriated by October.

October 1960: Washington bans exports to Cuba, other than food and medicine.

16 April 1961: Castro declares Cuba socialist state.

17 April 1961: Bay of Pigs: CIA-backed Cuban exiles stage failed invasion.

Fidel Castro speaks with prisoners from the Bay of Pigs invasion at the sports stadium in Havana, Cuba (AP)

7 February 1962: Washington bans all Cuban imports.

October 1962: US blockade forces removal of Soviet nuclear missiles from Cuba. US President John F Kennedy agrees privately not to invade Cuba.

March 1968: Castro’s government takes over almost all private businesses.

April 1980: Mariel boatlift: Cuba says anyone can leave; some 125,000 Cubans flee.

December 1991: Collapse of Soviet Union devastates Cuban economy.

August 1994: Castro declares he will not stop Cubans trying to leave; some 40,000 take to sea heading for United States.

18 March 2003: 75 Cuban dissidents sentenced to prison.

31 July 2006: Castro announces he has had operation, temporarily cedes power to brother Raul.

19 February 2008: Castro resigns as president.

July 2010: Castro re-emerges after years in seclusion, visiting a scientific institute, giving a TV interview, talking to academics and even taking in a dolphin show at the aquarium.


Fidel Castro during a ceremony to pay homage to national hero Jose Marti in 2010 (Getty)

19 April 2011: Castro is replaced by his brother Raul as First Secretary of the Communist Party, the last official post he held. The elder Castro made a brief appearance at the Congress, looking frail as a young aide guided him to his seat.

19 April 2016: Castro delivers a valedictory speech at the Communist Party’s seventh Congress, declaring: “Soon I’ll be like all the others. The time will come for all of us, but the ideas of the Cuban Communists will remain.”

25 November 2016: Fidel Castro dies. The announcement of his passing was made by his brother Raul who ended the announcement by shouting the revolutionary slogan: “Towards victory, always!” 

Agencies contributed to this report