February 19, 2008 / 8:26 AM / 12 years ago

FACTBOX: Facts about Fidel Castro

Cuba's President Fidel Castro addresses the audience at the Karl Marx theater in Havana in this July 26, 2005 file photo. Ailing Cuban leader Castro said on February 19, 2008 that he will not return to lead the country, retiring as head of state 49 years after he seized power in an armed revolution. REUTERS/Claudia Daut

HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuba’s Fidel Castro announced his retirement on Tuesday after almost half a century as leader of his country.

Here are some facts about him:

* Fidel Castro was the world’s third longest-serving head of state, after Britain’s Queen Elizabeth and the King of Thailand. He was not been seen in public since illness forced him to hand over day-to-day control of the country to his brother Raul Castro in July 2006.

* Castro holds the Guinness Book of Records title for the longest speech ever delivered at the United Nations: 4 hours and 29 minutes, on September 29, 1960. His longest speech on record in Cuba was 7 hours and 10 minutes in 1986 at the III Communist Party Congress in Havana.

* Castro claims he survived 634 attempts on his life, mainly masterminded by the Central Intelligence Agency. They allegedly included poison pills, a toxic cigar, exploding mollusks, and a chemically-tainted diving suit as well as powder to make his beard fall out so as to undermine his popularity.

* Despite the CIA plots, a U.S.-backed exile invasion at the Bay of Pigs and four and a half decades of economic sanctions, Castro outlasted nine U.S. presidents, from Eisenhower to Clinton, and faced increased hostility under President George W. Bush, who tightened enforcement of financial sanctions and a travel ban.

* Castro, once a cigar-chomping guerrilla fighter, gave up cigars in 1985. Years later he summed up the harm of smoking tobacco by saying: “The best thing you can do with this box of cigars is to give them to your enemy.”

* Castro has at least eight children. His eldest son Fidel Castro Diaz-Balart, who is the image of his father and is known as Fidelito, is a Soviet-trained nuclear scientist. Daughter Alina Fernandez, the result of an affair with a Havana socialite when Castro was underground in the 1950s, escaped from Cuba disguised as a tourist in 1993 and is a vocal critic of her father’s rule from her Miami radio program. Castro has five sons with his second wife Dalia Soto. Their names all begin with A. The youngest, Antonio, is the national baseball team’s doctor.

* One of Castro’s pet projects was a cow called Ubre Blanca, or “White Udder”, that produced prodigious quantities of milk and became a propaganda tool for Cuba’s collectivized agriculture in the 1980s. Ubre Blanca is in the Guinness Book of Records for the highest milk yield by a cow in one day: 110 liters.

Reporting by Anthony Boadle; Editing by Kieran Murray

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