Cuba mourns rev­o­lu­tion­ary icon

> Mass memo­ri­als, four-day pro­ces­sion planned for Cas­tro

The Sun (Malaysia) - - NEWS WITHOUT BORDERS -

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

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