Cuba to give grand farewell to the great leader
NIGHTCLUBS closed, baseball games were suspended and booze was banned as Cuba prepared to send off revolutionary leader Fidel Castro with days of tributes and a cross-country funeral procession.
Cubans braced for a series of events to commemorate the life of the man who ruled the communist island for decades, played a major role in the Cold War and was loved or loathed by many.
Students left candles burning next to a portrait of the black-bearded communist firebrand during a vigil at Havana University.
A giant photo of Castro was hung outside the National Library on Revolution Square, where throngs of people are expected to pay their last respects starting yesterday.
The portrait shows a young Fidel carrying a backpack and rifle during the Cuban Revolution, which brought him to power in 1959.
A titan of the 20th century who beat the odds to endure into the 21st, Castro died late November 25 after surviving 11 US administrations and hundreds of assassination attempts. No cause of death was given.
President Raul Castro had said that his older brother’s remains would be cremated on November 26. There was no official confirmation of whether that had happened.
Dissidents who endured Fidel’s iron-fisted rule kept a low profile. The Ladies in White opposition group cancelled a regular Sunday protest in what they said was a show of respect for those mourning Castro.
The news of Castro’s death drew strong – and polarised – reactions across the world.
In Miami, just 370 kilometers (230 miles) away, crowds of celebrating Cuban-Americans danced in the streets to mark the occasion.
Some two million Cubans live in the United States, nearly 70 percent of them in Florida, where so many islanders have fled to since the 1959 revolution.
Castro’s ashes will go on a fourday island-wide procession starting tomorrow before being buried in the southeastern city of Santiago de Cuba on December 4. –