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Castro, Fidel (1926/1927–)

Fidel Castro Ruz may be the most famous Latin American of the past century, though he has ruled only a Caribbean island about the size and shape of the state of Tennessee in the United States. He became Cuba's undisputed commander-in-chief in January 1959 by overthrowing his military predecessor in a 2-year guerrilla war. By mid-2006, when major surgery forced him to temporarily step down in favor of his brother, Raúl Castro Ruz (1931–), he had held power longer than any other current leader in the world.

Even before 1959, Castro's declarations and activities attracted world attention, and for many he soon became what the BBC in 2006 called a “world icon.” Many others in the Miami exile community of more than one million, and others ...

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