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Grief, joy erupt at Fidel’s death

HAVANA (AFP) – Havana plunged into mourning Saturday and celebrations erupted in Miami at the death of Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro, whose iron-fisted rule defied the United States for a half century.

One of the world’s longest-serving rulers and among modern history’s most striking personalities, Castro died Friday night at age 90 after surviving 11 US administrations and hundreds of assassination attempts.

Castro crushed opposition at home from the moment he took power in 1959 to the day he handed over to his younger brother Raul in 2006 amid a health crisis.

For defenders of the revolution, he was a hero who protected ordinary people from capitalist domination.

To opponents, including thousands of Cuban exiles living in the United States, he was a cruel communist tyrant.

After surviving the failed Bay of Pigs invasion, the Cuban Missile Crisis, a suffocating US embargo and the Cold War itself, Castro lived to see the restoration of diplomatic ties with Washington last year.

But he never stopped railing against the American ‘‘empire.’’

In the streets of Miami, home to the largest Cuban-American community, euphoric crowds waved flags and danced, banging pots and drums.