this is a special edition of "nightline." "breaking news. the former cuban leader and revolutionary, fidel castro, has died at the age of 90. just hours ago, his brother announcing his death on cuban state television. now the world pauses to remember one of the past century's most controversial figures. to some the inspiring face of a revolu revolution, towering figure in cuba, never wavering in his beliefs. >> do you know there's a heaven or a hell? >> no. >> to others a ruthless dictator that brought the west to the brink of nuclear war. now his legion of faithful followers mourning. but his detractors celebrating in the streets. his death galvanizing the
cuban/american diplomacy resumes. >> this special edition of "nightline" will be right back. ?? ?? nobody likes a dog with bad breath. that's why there's oravet dental hygiene chews. oravet's dual action approach cleans teeth and gets to the underlying cause of bad breath by blocking bacteria to help prevent plaque and tartar.
facto dictator of cuba, dead tonight at the age of 90. the announcement made this even big cuba's president, castro's younger brother raul. no word yet on the cause of death. barely a whisper on the streets of cuba. since the announcement was made on state television. but a very different scene here in the u.s. take a look at miami's little havana at this hour. cars lining the street. young and old waving the cuban flag. honking car horns. chants of "freedom." to his supporters, cas hero of the world war, a socialist with swagger. to his enemies and there were many in the west, he was a cold-blooded kill history ruled by force, who crushed the dreams of cuba's people for generations. more now from abc's jim avila. >> reporter: for a half century, fidel castro ruled cuba while the world changed around him. 50 years of isolation finally ended only after he left power.
castro remained skeptical and suspicious of the u.s. right up to his death. defiantly commenting after president obama's historic visit that cuba will never forget the bay of pigs invasion, and does not need america. his defense of his communist revolution never faltering. >> translator: i am a communist. a marxist socialist communist. i am not afraid to say i'm a communist. sxwrb are. >> reporter: fidel castro born in 1926 out of wedlock to a wealthy cuban landowner and his maid. he went to catholic schools then studied law. his passions were baseball, he was very good at it, and politics. he became an activist for the poor and working class. in 1956 after being expelled by cuba's american-supported dictator fulgencio batista, castro returned secretly with brother raul, argentinean marxist leader che guevara, and
they hid out in the mountains and waged a guerilla war. >> the road to havana paved with glory for rebel chieftain fidel castro -- >> reporter: castro finally expelled batista and took over. fidel promised democracy but squashed all dissent with jail or expulsions, even executions. he nationalized all u.s. businesses. in 1961, president john f. kennedy, just elected, approved a cia-trained invasion force of 1,300 cuban exiles who went ashore at the bay of pigs. castro demolished them. a huge propaganda victory. in 1962, american spy planes discovered castro had let the soviets put nuclear missiles in cuba. >> it shall be the policy of this nation to regard any nuclear missile launched from cuba against any nation in the western hemisphere as an attack by the soviet union on the united states. >> translator: yes, we were very close to the nuclear war.
>> reporter: ultimately the soviets removed the missiles. fidel continued to promote leftist movements in latin america where he remained popular until his death. even castro's critics praised his advances in health care and in education. but the inefficiency of cuba's soviet-style economy produced dissent. in 1980, more than 125,000 cubans, some expelled, many allowed to just leave, braved rough seas and dehydration to come to the united states in the mariel boat lift. in the early 1990s, the fall of the ussr cost cuba billions of dollars in soviet aid and trade, leading to widespread shortages and rationing. >> translator: with the demise of the soviet union, we have suffered the equivalent to a treason. we have felt betrayed. >> reporter: castro fought back by courting tourism and business. in 2006, just before intestinal surgery, he gave up power temporarily to his younger
he never took the reins again. made it official in 2008. but he was not totally gone. started writing newspaper columns, receiving visitors, including hugo chavez of venezuela. suddenly, summer of 2010, he began displaying his indomitable drive again in public, giving tv interviews, laying flowers at the tomb of the fallen, exhorting the communist youth, addressing the cuban parliament. now the world will see how a new changes his island home. with fidel castro gone and the americans gradually returning, it may no longer be fidel castro's cuba. >> thanks to jim avila for that report. when we come back, rare insight into the man and myth who was fidel castro. our own barbara walters gained unprecedented access to the
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no american journalist has come closer to fidel castro than our convenient owe barbara walters. she interviewed the cuban dictator twice in her career. i sat down with her to talk about her times with castro and what it took to get that first iconic interview. 1977. you sit down, the first american journalist to sit down with fidel castro.
translator named juanita who was with him at all times. and he talked and talked and talked. >> for hours. >> for hours. >> this was the get of all gets, right? one of the most important figures on earth to talk to. how'd you get it? >> i had gone to cuba when i was working for another network. and met him very briefly. i went with a whole bunch of reporters and said to him then, would you do an interview? it took us many years to actually get it. for a man who likes to talk, he does very few interviews. when he finally sat down, it was for me memorable. and to a large degree because we crossed the bay of pigs together. >> is it true that we are the first americans to cross the bay of pigs in 16 years? >> as i remember, it's the first time. >> what was your sense of the man? >> your feeling is that he's
he's a big bear of a man. he was always in uniform. i shouldn't say always. the last time i saw him, he was not. he was wearing a business suit. to me, he was almost unrecognizable. because he loved walking around in his khaki uniform. he was funny. the crew loved him. we traveled throughout the country, throughout the sierra maestra been a guerilla when he had been trying to take over for batista, get rid of batista, who was a dictator. the word charismatic was made for him. you would have liked him, i would have liked him. then you had to stop and say, just a minute. this is a man who does not believe in freedom of the press, he told me, does not believe in democracy as we know democracy, had political prisoners. but when you were with him, he
forthcoming. >> how did you balance that notion that certainly charming, but knowing what he was capable of, knowing this is a man as you know despised certainly by generations of cuban-americans in this country, despised quietly in corners of his own country? >> when i came home, i knew he was despised but i realized when i got threatening letters myself, for a very short time had a bodyguard for my famil because there was such, and probably still is, such anger towards him. you know, when you do an interview, you have to put -- you're in that position. whether it's fidel castro or, i don't know, yasser arafat, or vladimir putin. when you're in it, you're not there to judge. you're there to get your questions answered and the way to do it for me is to counterattack, maybe, but not to challenge.
how come? i didn't do that. >> when will your country and my country have normal relations? [ speaking spanish ] >> translator: i believe that that depends on the good will of both parties. and i believe that it also depends on time. >> i understand that you have a note in spanish on your wall at home from fidel castro, from may 20th, 1977, at morning, and it says, for barbara, as a remembrance of the most difficult interview that i've had in all the days of my life. why was it so difficult? >> because it was endless. and because i was able to ask him questions, he did so few interviews that very few people had asked. i was able to ask about his feelings about democracy, which as i noted, he does not see it as we do. but i also asked him personal
doesn't usually respond to. i don't know that much about him. i asked if he was married. i kept pushing it, he kept saying, why do you want to know? i said, people want to know. [ speaking spanish ] >> translator: what is the importance of my being married or not? and who cares whether i'm married or not? >> and he finally said what we translated to be formally, no. we hear he has something like five children. we hear he has grandchildren. but as a person, we know very little about him. >> i understand that day with him, you went to several locations. >> well, what we did mostly was travel through the mountains with him as he drove his own jeep. i sat next to him with his gun in my lap. why did he need his gun -- why am i asking that now? and hard candies because he would stop along the way to children and he would give them hard candies.
personification. there are no pictures of castro as you go along the way. there are not -- the way it is, for example, when i went to beijing and you saw pictures of mao. i'm going back a few years. >> sure, sure. saddam hussein and -- yeah. >> saddam hussein. you do not see this. he does not -- he did not want it to be one man, but obviously everybody knew who he was. >> is that modesty? because the perception of him is big ego. >> i think it was whole business about, this is for the country, this is not the man. but, you know. he just -- i never said to him, how come there are no pictures? but it was not in his personality. >> so you do this long interview with fidel castro, and i read where he wanted to be paid? >> no, this was -- when we finished this endless thing, he said, okay, you should pay me. i said, why should we pay you? he said, because i produced this. he negotiated with cuban
at first they wanted a great deal of money, castro himself brought them down to size. he said, you should pay am me. i said, we're not going to pay you as a producer. he said, you should pay me as an interview. i said, you're not that good. you could do this with him. finally we said, we'll pay you as a driver. we gave him $5 and we all signed it. it was a strange trip. because there was this good humor. and afterwards he took us inside and made us grilled cheese sandwiches. by the way, the next time i saw him, which was here in this country when he was visiting, he grilled lobsters for us. so, i mean, there was a strange kind of, you know, good-natured, yet we have to say to ourselves, this was a man who was our enemy up until this minute. and that's strange. usually it's much -- as you know, it's much more cut and
know you pushed him, did you see some of that edge, some of the darker side of fidel castro? >> you do when you talk to him about freedom of the press. you do when you talk to him about democracy. his eyes narrow. and he said, my idea of democracy is not yours. you cannot insult socialism. you cannot take apart our system. >> translator: if you ask us if a paper could appear here against socialism, i could say honestly, no, it cannot >> you see the toughness of the man. we were not allowed to see political prisoners. and he would turn the tables and talk about our own discrimination. then you got into a whole other discussion. >> you talked to him, interviewed him a second time in 2002. nearly 30 years later. how had he changed? >> well, first of all, he wasn't wearing a uniform. and i said to him in all these years i've gotten blonder and
it wasn't as important an interview, i didn't think. it was an exciting interview because a lot had happened and we'd learned a great deal about him that we hadn't known. i'd been trying to do an interview with him since, with raul. and for a man who likes to talk, because castro would talk for -- i mean, the original interview that we did ran five hours and they ran all of it in cuba. up next, diane sawyer with fidel castro and questions about the existence of heaven and hell.
later years. still bombastic but much more reflective on life and his leadership. on heaven and hell. >> do you believe there's a heaven or a hell? [ speaking spanish ] >> translator: no. unfortunately. because it would be a great encouragement to fight for heaven. and i admire very much those who fought so much for that. you know, i do not conceive that hell could be invented. for one philosophical reason. i do not conceive that a god could be capable of creating something like hell. i think the commission of human rights would never agree with the conception of hell and the existence of hell.
that hell cannot exist. and that heaven would be a surprise for all of us. >> if you were inventing heaven, what would you make sure you had there? >> translator: i would build a socialist society. >> i guess george bush and ronald reagan wouldn't go to heaven, then. [ speaking spanish ] >> translator: perhaps they could get used to it, you know? >> for many hell on earth. we'll have much more on the death of fidel castro later this morning on gma. thank you for watching abc news. as always we're online at abcnews.com and our "nightline" facebook page. thanks for the company, america.
couple split. plus it ji beauty and the record breaker. how disney's newest block buster is breaking record and what it has to do with "50 shades of grey." big stars, big hollywood. celebrity page tv starts now. welcome to celebrity page. james is on the west coast. what do you have for us today? >> within on one with plus, getting back to the community with carlos santana in a minute. thank you. can't wait for that. first, kick things off with the hollywood rap. kendall jenner turns 21. celebrating with friends and family at delilah's in los angeles. jenner rocking a dangerously low-cut teeny tiny silver dress, arriving with haley baldwin. kylie jenner, only member of the