Fidel Castro, who was born in 1926 as a tropical storm thrashed Cuba, will celebrate his 78th birthday today after Hurricane Charley has passed across the island he has led for 45 years.
Castro is expected to spend his birthday in regions affected by the hurricane, which tore through the Caribbean yesterday. Since Hurricane Flora in 1962, the communist leader has travelled to areas hit by tropical storms to lead operations amid rain and violent winds.
Castro has braved many political storms since his guerrilla overthrew dictator Fulgencio Batista in 1959.
He survived the US-backed Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961, the Cuba missile crisis that brought the Soviet Union and the United States to the brink of nuclear war in 1962, and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Castro has also lived through 10 US presidents and an economic embargo imposed by the United States for more than 40 years. US President George W Bush has introduced new restrictions against Cuba in an effort to hasten Castro’s demise.
Dissidents have held a hunger strike since August 1 to demand the release of political prisoners. The protest ends Friday.
“We are fighting for democracy and for human rights in this country, which they are violating, and for our imprisoned brothers,” said political dissident Carlos Miguel Lopez.
Castro’s supporters are preparing festivities that include music and cultural shows.
“The month of August brings a cultural blooming for children, young people and adults,” the weekly Tribuna de La Habana said. “The most beautiful of these proposals is the singing programme, especially on August 13, to celebrate the birthday of the commander in chief.”