Havana mourns as cremation planned
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.