Cuba mourns revolutionary icon
> Mass memorials, four-day procession planned for Castro
HAVANA: Cuba mourned its revolutionary leader Fidel Castro yesterday, as the communist island prepared to bid farewell to the towering giant of its modern history with memorials and a four-day funeral procession.
After the stunned commotion triggered by Saturday’s announcement that Castro, 90, had died, yesterday was set to be a day of preparations ahead of a flurry of events to mark his passing.
Castro, a titan of the 20th century who beat the odds to endure into the 21st, died late Friday after surviving 11 US administrations and hundreds of assassination attempts. No cause of death was given.
President Raul Castro said that his older brother’s remains would be cremated Saturday, the first of nine days of national mourning. There was no official confirmation on whether this had yet happened.
A series of memorials will begin today, when Cubans are called to converge on Havana’s iconic Revolution Square.
Castro’s ashes will then go on a four-day island-wide procession before being buried in the southeastern city of Santiago on Dec 4.
Santiago, Cuba’s second city, was the scene of Castro’s illfated first attempt at revolution in 1953 – six years before he succeeded in ousting US-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista.
Adored by supporters as a savior and reviled by enemies as a tyrant, Castro ruled Cuba from 1959 until he handed power to his brother Raul in 2006 amid a health crisis.
Even in retirement Castro wielded influence behind the scenes, and regularly penned diatribes against American “imperialism” in the state press.
The news of Castro’s death drew strong – and polarised – reactions across the world.
In Miami, crowds of Cuban- Americans danced in the streets for a second night, celebrating Castro’s death.
Among the cacophony of car horns, drums and music in Miami’s Little Havana neighbourhood, a chant rang out: “Fidel, you tyrant, take your brother too!”
Some two million Cubans live in the US.
Cuban-American politicians excoriated Castro, with Florida Senator Marco Rubio calling him an “evil, murderous dictator who inflicted misery and suffering on his own people”.
But Russian President Vladimir Putin hailed Castro as “the symbol of an era,” and China’s Xi Jinping said “Comrade Castro will live forever”.
There were sharply different US reactions from outgoing President Barack Obama and President-elect Donald Trump.
Obama, who embarked on a historic rapprochement with Cuba in 2014, said the US extended a “hand of friendship” to the Cuban people.
But Trump dismissed Castro as “a brutal dictator”. – AFP