Fidel Castro has largely disappeared from the public eye, but his name still carries weight.
The retired Cuban leader celebrates his 86th birthday on Monday. Though reports indicate that Castro doesn't seem to have any plans for public appearances on his birthday, people are still interested in knowing about him. The curiosity has caused Castro's name to become a trending topic on several websites.
Castro, born Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz, has long been hailed a Cuban communist revolutionary. Born as the illegitimate son of a wealthy farmer on Aug. 13, 1926, a time when there was greater stigma surrounding children being born out of wedlock, Castro excelled in academics and sports. He particularly loved baseball. Castro entered college in 1945, studying law at the University of Havana and participated in student protests.
However, Castro's protests weren't limited to the school grounds. He also participated in foreign uprisings.
An avid believer in social justice, Castro found himself in the Dominican Republic where he participated in a failed coup to oust dictator and United States ally Rafael Trujillo. In 1948, Castro found himself in Colombia with friends, allegedly stealing guns from police, and was investigated in connection with a riot that caused the death of thousands following the assassination of popular leftist leader Jorge Eliécer Gaitán Ayala. Castro and other Cubans were cleared of any involvement in the killings.
Marriage And Presidency
In 1948, Castro married Mirta Diaz Balart. Together they produced a child named Fidelito but the marriage ended around 1955.
While married Castro's political aspirations stirred, and he pursued a seat in the Cuban parliament when dictator Fulgencio Batista seized power in 1952, who subsequently cancelled the congressional election. Castro set out to end that illegitimate reign and with his supporters Castro attacked military barracks in an attempt to send Batista packing.
Captured and convicted, Castro was given a 15-year prison sentence, but his name was making rounds in Cuba. An amnesty deal struck with the government in 1955 led to Castro's release. He was soon off to Mexico where he reportedly got guerrilla training, before returning to defeat Batista's army and send the former leader into exile four years later.
Castro, now a hero, was sworn in as prime minister in 1959 when Jose Miro Cardona resigned.
Under Castro, Cuba implemented many reforms, including a drastic push to end any U.S. economic power or influence on the island. After seizing power, Castro stated that he was a Marxist-Leninist, and his shift to communism wasn't welcome by the U.S.: the U.S. and Cuba have been at odds, basically ever since. An embargo was placed on Cuba and diplomatic relations ended. Castro was reportedly also a CIA target and there have been many attempts to overthrow him during his reign. Despite these efforts, Castro maintained his position as prime minister of Cuba from 1959 to 1976, and as president, from 1976 to 2008; in practice, Castro was dictator of Cuba.
As his health declined last decade, Castro finally relinquished the presidency in 2008, with his brother Raul assuming the office.