Grief and joy erupt as Castro dies at 90
MOURNING descended on Havana and celebrations erupted in Miami at the death of Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro, whose iron-fisted rule defied the US for half a century.
One of the world’s longest-serving rulers and among modern history’s most striking personalities, Mr Castro died on November 25 at age 90 after surviving 11 US administrations and hundreds of assassination attempts.
Mr Castro crushed opposition at home from the moment he took power in 1959 to the day he handed over to his younger brother Raul in 2006 amid a health crisis.
For defenders of the revolution, he was a hero who protected ordinary people from capitalist domination.
To opponents, including thousands of Cuban exiles living in the United States, he was a cruel communist tyrant.
After surviving the failed Bay of Pigs invasion, the Cuban Missile Crisis, a suffocating US embargo and the Cold War itself, Mr Castro lived to see the restoration of diplomatic ties with Washington last year.
But he never stopped against the American “empire”.
President Raul Castro announced the news on national television.
“The commander in chief of the Cuban Revolution died at 22:29 hours on Friday [3:29am GMT Saturday],” he said in a solemn voice giving no details on the cause of death.
There were starkly different reactions on either side of the Florida Straits. In the streets of Miami, railing home to the largest Cuban-American community, euphoric crowds waved flags and danced, banging pots and drums.
“It’s sad that one finds joy in the death of a person – but that person should never have been born,” said Pablo Arencibia, 67, a teacher who fled Cuba 20 years ago.
“Satan is now the one who has to worry,” he added, because “Fidel is heading there and is going to try to get his job”.
In Havana, bustling streets emptied and parties ground to a halt as Mr Castro’s admirers sank into grief.
“Losing Fidel is like losing a father – the guide, the beacon of this revolution,” said Michel Rodriguez, a 42-year-old baker.
Mr Castro was cremated on November 26, the first of nine days of mourning.
A series of memorials will begin today, with Cubans converging on Havana’s iconic Revolution Square.
Mr Castro’s ashes will then go on a four-day procession through the country, before being buried in the city of Santiago on December 4.
Mr Castro’s death drew strong reactions across the world.
“The name of this distinguished statesman is rightly considered the symbol of an era in modern history,” said Russian President Vladimir Putin said a telegram to Raul Castro.
“Comrade Castro will live forever,” said Chinese President Xi Jinping in a message read on television. “History and people will remember him.”