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Cuba marks 97th birthday of Fidel Castro with commemorative events

The last time the "comandante" appeared in public was on his 90th birthday at a gala performance at the Karl Marx Theater in Havana, which attracted more than 5,000 spectators

HAVANA, August 14. /TASS/. On Sunday, Cuba celebrated the 97th anniversary of the birth of Fidel Castro, the main figure in the country’s 1959 revolution and long-time leader of the Caribbean island.

Residents and representatives of the country's leadership laid flowers at Castro's tomb in the Santa Ifigenia Cemetery in Santiago de Cuba.

The Cuban national flag and the black-and-red banner of the "26th of July Movement," once led by Castro, were abundantly displayed on government buildings. Television broadcasts featured shows and films highlighting key moments in the life of the founder of the Western Hemisphere’s first socialist state. "On the 97th anniversary of Fidel's birth, he inspires and motivates us to fight for justice every day... This is a day to celebrate, never forgetting that every day we must continue his work," Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel wrote on his X (formerly Twitter) social media page. The birthday of Fidel Castro has always been celebrated modestly in Cuba, without any official ceremonies. The last time the "comandante" appeared in public was on his 90th birthday at a gala performance at the Karl Marx Theater in Havana, which attracted more than 5,000 spectators.

Celebrations were also held in Cuba-friendly countries such as Venezuela and Nicaragua. "Celebrating the 97th anniversary of the birth of Fidel Castro Ruz, the eternal leader of the Cuban revolution, we remember him as a tireless fighter, intolerant of injustice, and a master of the impossible. Fidel calls on us to continue the struggle for the dignity of the people," Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro posted on the X social media platform (formerly Twitter).

A revolutionary’s path

Fidel Castro (full name: Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz) was born on August 13, 1926, at the Manacas estate near the village of Biran in eastern Cuba. He was the third of seven children in the family of Spanish immigrant and wealthy landowner Angel Castro Argiz. During his studies, Castro joined the Revolutionary Student Union, a radical student organization, which advocated for political reforms in Cuba and adhered to violent methods of struggle.

In early 1952, Castro was registered as a candidate for parliament in Havana province for elections that were supposed to take place in June of that year. However, on March 10 a coup d'etat took place in Cuba, bringing Fulgencio Batista to power. In 1953, a group of revolutionaries attempted an unsuccessful assault on the Moncada military barracks in Santiago de Cuba, where the second most important military garrison in the country was located. After that, Castro led the underground "26th of July Movement" and went to Mexico to prepare for an armed uprising in Cuba, where he met the Argentinean physician and revolutionary Ernesto "Che" Guevara.

After the revolution's victory in 1959, Castro led the Revolutionary Government and became the Commander-in-Chief of the Revolutionary Armed Forces. His policies, including the nationalization of US citizens' properties and companies in Cuba, as well as an independent foreign policy and attempts to "export" revolution to other Latin American countries, were a source of extreme dissatisfaction for the United States. His government then turned to cooperation with the Soviet Union, which started to buy Cuban sugar and supply the island nation with oil, food, equipment, agricultural machinery, and other vital goods. Close cooperation between Moscow and Havana in the military sphere also began. In 1961, Castro announced the socialist nature of the Cuban revolution, which furthered deepened Cuba’s burgeoning relationship with the USSR.

After falling ill in 2006, Fidel Castro handed over the reins of power to his younger brother, Raul Castro, who officially became head of the island nation in 2008. After that, Fidel rarely appeared in public, but occasionally held meetings with foreign leaders visiting Cuba and commented on the most pressing issues on the international and regional agenda through his own column in the newspaper "Granma." Fidel Castro died on November 25, 2016, at the age of 90. His ashes were placed in a niche carved into a huge granite stone, with a dark green marble plaque affixed to it bearing only one word - "Fidel."