Obama bunks Cas­tro fu­neral

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - National News/worldwide -

WASHINGTON — Pres­i­dent Barack Obama will not at­tend Fidel Cas­tro’s fu­neral, the White House said on Mon­day, de­mur­ring on the ques­tion of who would lead the US del­e­ga­tion.

“The pres­i­dent will not be trav­el­ling to at­tend the fu­neral of Fidel Cas­tro,” said White House spokesper­son Josh Earnest.

Obama has sought to thaw ten­sions with Cuba, but stopped short of meet­ing Cas­tro dur­ing a land­mark trip to Ha­vana ear­lier this year.

Mean­while, thou­sands of Cubans be­gan lin­ing up early near Ha­vana’s Plaza of the Rev­o­lu­tion on Mon­day car­ry­ing por­traits of Fidel Cas­tro, flow­ers and Cuban flags for the start of week-long ser­vices bid­ding farewell to the man who ruled the coun­try for nearly half a cen­tury.

One of the first in line was Ta­nia Jimenez, 53, a math­e­ma­ti­cian who ar­rived at 04:00 car­ry­ing a rose.

“Fidel is ev­ery­thing to us, the soul of this coun­try who gave ev­ery­thing, all his life,” Jimenez said in tears.

A nine-story image of a young Cas­tro joined the tow­er­ing im­ages of fallen guer­ril­las over­look­ing the mas­sive square where the gov­ern­ment said Cubans would “ren­der homage and sign a solemn oath to carry out the con­cept of the rev­o­lu­tion­ary ex­pressed by the rev­o­lu­tion­ary leader.”

Af­ter 10 years of lead­er­ship by Cas­tro’s younger brother Raul, a rel­a­tively cam­era-shy and low-key suc­ces­sor, Cuba finds it­self riv­eted once again by the words and im­ages of the leader who dom­i­nated the lives of gen­er­a­tions. Since his death on Fri­day night, state-run news­pa­pers, tele­vi­sion and ra­dio have been run­ning wall-to-wall tributes to Fidel, broad­cast­ing non-stop footage of his speeches, in­ter­views and for­eign trips, in­ter­spersed with adu­la­tory re­mem­brances by prom­i­nent Cubans.

“There’s a gen­uine feel­ing of mourn­ing, that’s not a for­mal­ity, that’s not showy, that’s not out­ward-fo­cused, but rather com­pletely in­ti­mate,” for­mer Na­tional As­sem­bly Pres­i­dent Ri­cardo Alar­con said on state tele­vi­sion on Sun­day.

Or­di­nary peo­ple have largely been stay­ing at home, off streets hushed by a pro­hi­bi­tion on mu­sic and cel­e­bra­tion dur­ing the nine days of of­fi­cial mourn­ing for Cas­tro. For some, par­tic­u­larly younger Cubans, Cas­tro’s death barely reg­is­tered.

Yankemell Bar­rera, a 20-year-old stu­dent, said Cas­tro wasn’t a strong pres­ence in his life and that he wasn’t much af­fected by his death or plan­ning to go to any of the me­mo­rial events. He said study­ing for fi­nal ex­am­i­na­tions would be a bet­ter use of his time.— News24.

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