The cremated remains of Fidel Castro will be interred at a Santiago de Cuba cemetery this morning during a private ceremony, marking the end of the nine-day national mourning period established after the former leader’s death.
Castro, who died at the age of 90, will be buried at the Cemetery Santa Ifigenia, the same resting place as Jose Marti, a Cuban national hero and father of Cuban independence.
Last night, a mass rally at the city’s Plaza Antonio Maceo in honour of Castro drew tens of thousands, along with foreign dignitaries from around the world.
Cuban President Raul Castro told the crowd that his government will prohibit the naming of streets or public monuments after his brother Fidel in keeping with the former leader’s desire to avoid the development of a personality cult.
The communist dictator’s remains had arrived hours earlier in Santiago de Cuba. It was here that Castro and his rebel forces launched the 1950s revolution and where Castro would later declare victory.
His remains, encased in a small flag-draped casket, had been carried in a flower-bedecked trailer pulled by a green military vehicle across the island. It was part of a four-day symbolic journey, starting in Havana, that reversed the path he took after his victory declaration against the country’s military dictator Fulgencio Batista.
A divisive figure
Thousands of Cubans, young and old, had stood roadside to catch a glimpse of the convoy.
During the first two days of the mourning period, people were able to pay their respects to Castro at a memorial set up inside the towering Jose Marti Memorial at Havana’s Plaza de la Revolucion square.
That was followed by the first mass rally in honour of Castro, similar to Saturday night’s event, which also drew massive crowds and featured speeches and eulogies from Castro’s political allies.
Castro’s remains had been kept at Cuba’s defence ministry in Havana before they were transferred Wednesday morning to the caravan to begin the 900-kilometre journey to Santiago.
Castro’s one-man and one-party rule kept him in power for 49 years, the longest of any head of government in the world. In life and in death, he has been a divisive political figure, attracting both effusive praise and fierce condemnation.
Supporters of Castro lauded his social and economic reforms that provided free health care and education to the island’s residents.
But his critics dismissed those actions. To them, Castro was a brutal dictator who carried out political executions on thousands, denied basic human rights and left the island’s economy in ruins through his Marxist ideology.