Fidel Castro, the iconic cigar-chomping communist who seized power in Cuba in 1959, survived a CIA-sponsored invasion and ruled with a repressive hand for five decades until poor health forced him out in 2008, died Friday. He was 90.
A bitter enemy of Washington, Castro remained silent after his successor, brother Raul, and President Barack Obama agreed in December 2014 to restore diplomatic and economic ties that had been severed for half a century. Finally, six weeks after the announcement, Fidel gave a lukewarm endorsement of the rapprochement.
"I don't trust the policy of the United States nor have I had an exchange with them, but this does not mean ... a rejection of a peaceful solution to conflicts or the dangers of war," he said in a statement published on the website of Cuba's Communist Party newspaper Granma. Full diplomatic relations were restored on July 20, 2015, the U.S. Embassy in Havana reopened a month later and in March 2016, Obama became the first U.S. president to visit to Cuba since Calvin Coolidge made the trip 88 years earlier.
Born out of wedlock, Castro was the son of Angel Castro, a wealthy sugar plantation owner. Fidel was born five years before Raul. Their mother, Lina Ruz Gonzalez, was the maid to Angel's first wife. Angel and Lina eventually married.
In 1945, Fidel entered the University of Havana law school and became involved in nationalistic and anti-imperialist politics. On July 26, 1953, he tried to overthrow the government of President Fulgencio Batista by leading an attack on the Moncada military barracks. The plot failed, and he was captured and eventually sentenced to 15 years in prison.
Castro was released in 1955 as part of an amnesty deal with the government. He went to Mexico, where he met Argentine revolutionary Ernesto "Che" Guevara, plotting to wage a guerrilla campaign against the dictatorial Batista. On Dec. 2, 1956, Castro led another attack, near the eastern city of Manzanillo. It also failed, but the Castro brothers escaped and fled to the mountains. They were able to build support and eventually capture important parts of the country.
Batista's government collapsed on Jan. 1, 1959, and the dictator sought exile in the Dominican Republic. Castro became prime minister a month later, initiating economic reforms including factory nationalizations and land reform that targeted wealthy property owners.
Most of the rest of his life was synonymous with his country's history. Click ahead to see some of the important moments.
—By CNBC's Marty Steinberg