Cas­tro’s ashes re­united with ‘Che’ Gue­vara

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Worldwide -

SANTA CLARA — Fidel Cas­tro’s ashes were taken yes­ter­day to a sym­bolic re­union with his fallen com­rade-in­arms Ernesto “Che” Gue­vara, in Santa Clara, the first stop in the late Cold War ti­tan’s last trip across Cuba.

Af­ter two days of tributes in Havana, hun­dreds of thou­sands of flag-wav­ing Cubans lined the streets to bid farewell as a mil­i­tary jeep be­gan a four-day jour­ney on Wed­nes­day morn­ing with the cedar urn in tow.

Crowds chanted “I am Fidel!” as the con­voy started re­trac­ing the vic­tory tour that Cas­tro’s gueril­las took in 1959 to celebrate their de­feat of US-backed dic­ta­tor Ful­gen­cio Batista.

The flag-cov­ered urn, which rested un­der a glass case on a small olive-green trailer, ar­rived in Santa Clara af­ter mid­night and en­tered a com­plex with a mau­soleum and mu­seum ded­i­cated to Gue­vara.

“It’s a his­toric meet­ing, two co­man­dantes who change the his­tory of Cuba and hu­man­ity,” said Ag­nier Sanchez, a 33-year-old med­i­cal imag­ing tech­ni­cian.

A som­bre gui­tar, song and dance show played across a gi­ant statue of Gue­vara as the “car­a­van of free­dom” paused a third of the way into its 950km trek across the is­land.

The con­voy re­sumed yes­ter­day morn­ing, head­ing to other cities be­fore a fi­nal cer­e­mony on Sun­day in the eastern city of San­ti­ago de Cuba, where Cas­tro’s ashes will be laid to rest next to 19th cen­tury in­de­pen­dence hero Jose Marti.

Cubans were ob­serv­ing the fifth of nine days of mourn­ing for Cas­tro fol­low­ing his death on Fri­day at age 90. Cas­tro ruled from 1959 un­til an ill­ness forced him to hand power to his brother Raul in 2006.

Dis­si­dents call Cas­tro a dic­ta­tor who jailed op­po­nents, but oth­ers in Cuba praise his legacy of pro­vid­ing free ed­u­ca­tion and health care to Cubans while de­fy­ing the US “em­pire”.

“I come from a poor fam­ily. I am black. In an­other era, I wouldn’t have had the op­por­tu­nity to be who I am to­day,” said Maria Gon­za­lez, a 31-year-old com­puter en­gi­neer.

Cas­tro met Gue­vara in 1955 while in ex­ile in Mex­ico, and the young doc­tor joined Fidel and Raul on the boat that took them to Cuba a year later.

Gue­vara won a cru­cial bat­tle in Santa Clara in 1958, de­rail­ing an ar­moured train and tak­ing the city.

Gue­vara was given high-rank­ing po­si­tions in the govern­ment, but he left in 1966 to lead a guer­rilla ex­pe­di­tion in Bo­livia, where he was cap­tured and ex­e­cuted a year later.

His re­mains were re­cov­ered three decades later and taken to Santa Clara, now home to a huge statue of Che and a mu­seum ded­i­cated to the rev­o­lu­tion­ary icon. — AFP

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