A procession taking Fidel Castro’s ashes prepared to set out from Havana on Wednesday on an extended trek to a final resting place in Santiago de Cuba, where Castro claimed success in 1959 and where the first shots in the Cuban Revolution were fired.
Castro, who constructed a Communist state on the doorsill of America and ruled Cuba for half a century until 2008, died on Friday aged 90, dropping the Caribbean country into nine days of mourning.
He was cremated on Saturday. It is going to take the cortege taking his ashes three days to make the 550-mile (900-kilometer) journey eastward across the eyebrow-shaped isle to Santiago de Cuba, going back along the path taken by his bearded revolutionaries within their triumph march to Havana in 1959.
The interment will take place on Sunday
On Tuesday night, tens if not hundreds of tens of thousands of Cubans, along with leaders of Cuba’s leftist friends and other developing countries, assembled in Havana’s Revolution Square for a service commemorating “El Comandante” (The Commander).
“He more than fulfilled his mission on this particular world,” Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, whose government supports Cuba’s sickly market with petroleum sold on advantageous conditions, told the huge bunch.
“Few lives have been so whole, so smart. He’s left unconquered.”
Castro was respected by many around the planet, particularly in Latin America and Africa, for standing up to America, instituting health care and free education, and sending physicians all over the world on assignments of mercy.
But he was vilified by others as a dictator who destroyed the market with his type of socialism and refused Cubans fundamental human rights including freedom of speech. Some two million Cuban Americans live in America, the outcome of a constant flow of folks leaving the state for economical and political reasons.
With the typical state wages at $25 per month, many young Cubans seek out means to leave, seeing little future in their own birthplace.
A pall of quiet has settled over roads normally buzzing since the mourning period started. Officials have banned live music, and frozen sales of alcohol and the professional baseball season.
Nationally, Cubans have lined up to sign condolence books and pledges to honor Castro’s socialist ideology. State media continue to play with homage on a loop.
Tens of tens of thousands of Cubans are anticipated to line the route of the caravan taking Castro’s ashes toward Santiago, where he started his revolutionary movement with an assault on the Moncada barracks in 1953.
Afterwards, after his bearded guerrillas deposed U.S.-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista, they swept down from the Sierra Maestra mountains into Santiago, before making their success march westward towards the capital.
(Reporting by Sarah Marsh; Editing by Daniel Trotta and Simon Cameron-Moore)