Obama bunks Castro funeral
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.