In pictures: A look back at the life of Cuban revolutionary Fidel Castro

Today, Cuba said goodbye to its longest serving leader - Fidel Castro. The revolutionary leader who led the country between 1959 and 2008, after overthrowing the dictator Fulgencio Batista, passed away at the age of 90.

A skilled orator and staunch communist, Castro was the primary architect of the Cuban revolution. On seizing power, he turned the small island-nation into a thorn in the US' side, surviving over 600 assassination attempts to outlast 10 US presidents, all the while serving as proof that a viable alternative to the US' capitalist system was possible.

His unending defiance, even penning a letter denouncing the US when Obama visited Cuba in 2016, the first visit by an American leader in 88 years, made him the focal point of the anti-America resistance. The fire and passion with which he spoke led him, the leader of a tiny nation of just 11 million, to become a global icon. He met celebrities and world leaders alike, all enamoured by his charisma.

Castro does have his share of critics for his authoritarian ways. He undoubtedly trampled over many rights, controlled the media and ruled with an iron fist. However, his rule was not that of a man driven to amass untold riches for himself and his peers, but an aggressively egalitarian vision of social justice. It's this vision that has ensured Cuba now has many benchmarks of progress that would be considered impressive even in the developed world.

Cuba today has the best education system in Latin America and the Carribean, on par with most developed countries. Universal access to quality healthcare is another major achievement while universal access to clean drinking water and basic sanitation is also a reality in Cuba. All of these are reasons why, while the West will continue to demonise him, a large part of Cuba will mourn his passing.

(Photos curated by Priyata Brajabasi, text by Ranjan Crasta)

 
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