Ha­vana mourns as cre­ma­tion planned

China Daily (USA) - - FIDEL CASTRO - By XIN­HUA

De­spite his ad­vanced years, the an­nounce­ment of Fidel Castro’s death late on Fri­day caught many Cubans by sur­prise.

“This is shock­ing news,” said David Martinez, 19, who was lis­ten­ing to mu­sic with friends in the Avenue of the Pres­i­dents in cen­tral Ha­vana, the na­tion’s cap­i­tal, when he heard.

He de­scribed the rev­o­lu­tion­ary leader as a fa­ther fig­ure. “We would have had noth­ing that we have now with­out him,” he said.

“Al­though he was 90, and it’s the cy­cle of nature, it (Castro’s death) still comes as a sur­prise to ev­ery­one,” added the cello teacher, who works at the Con­ser­va­to­rio Guillermo Tomas. “I’m sure there will be events as the day (of his cre­ma­tion) comes, and prayers, too.”

Castro’s body will be cre­mated on Satur­day, at his re­quest, and an or­ga­niz­ing com­mis­sion in charge of fu­neral af­fairs would pro­vide de­tails on pay­ing homage to the found­ing fa­ther of the Cuban Rev­o­lu­tion, his brother and suc­ces­sor, Raul Castro, said in a state­ment.

Af­ter news of the death spread, many Cubans re­turned home and the city streets were emp­tier than usual. Night­clubs closed their doors out of re­spect.

“He (Castro) wasthe big­gest per­son for Cubans. He was the man that al­ways took care of Cubans, pro­tected them, and al­ways thought about Cuba,” Ha­vana res­i­dent Juan Ro­driguez said.

Yoslan Fuentes added: “May he rest in peace. I hope Cuba will move for­ward, and we will con­tinue to fight for this coun­try.”

At the land­mark Rev­o­lu­tion Square, peo­ple could be seen sat at bus stops, dis­cussing the news.

For­eign me­dia or­ga­ni­za­tions in Cuba have been told that lo­cal em­bassies will fast-track visa ap­pli­ca­tions for jour­nal­ists who plan to cover Castro’s fu­neral.

On Satur­day, in an of­fi­cial state­ment pub­lished by Granma, the Com­mu­nist Party of Cuba newspaper, the fu­neral or­ga­niz­ing com­mit­tee said the late leader’s ashes will be in­terred in San­ti­ago de Cuba on Sun­day.

In Ha­vana, Cubans will be able to pay homage at the Jose Marti Me­mo­rial on Mon­day and Tues­day.

Castro’s ashes will be­gin their jour­ney on Wed­nes­day along the route that com­mem­o­rates his vic­tory in 1959. The jour­ney will end on Satur­day in San­ti­ago de Cuba. His in­tern­ment cer­e­mony will take place at 7 amon Sun­day.

The Cuban State Coun­cil has de­clared a pe­riod of na­tional mourn­ing, from 6 amon Satur­day un­til noon on Sun­day.

Dur­ing that time, all cul­tural shows will be sus­pended while flags at public build­ings and mil­i­tary es­tab­lish­ments will be flown at half-mast.

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