By Andrea Sosa Cabrios and Guillermo Nova (dpa)
Photos: Juan Súarez
HAVANA TIMES – With a long succession of speeches, leaders of different countries paid tribute to Fidel Castro before hundreds of thousands of Cubans on Tuesday evening in the Plaza de la Revolution in Havana. Then on Wednesday morning his ashes began a four-day journey east to be buried in Santiago de Cuba.
A four-hour ceremony that began at 7:00 p.m., closed with the speech of President Raul Castro. It gathered hundreds of thousands of people on the night of Havana and was the official farewell ceremony of foreign dignitaries for Castro, who died on Friday at age 90.
Many waved Cuban flags and displayed images of Fidel Castro dressed in his traditional green uniform that characterized him as commander in chief.
“For the sake of everyone, I am the last speaker,” Raul Castro said at the beginning of his speech. “Fidel devoted his entire life to solidarity and led a socialist revolution of the humble, humble and humble,” he said and recalled historical moments of the Cuban Revolution as the implementation of agrarian reform and the national literacy campaign.
Traditional allies of the Cuban government, such as Venezuelan Nicolas Maduro, Nicaraguan Daniel Ortega, Bolivian Evo Morales, and Ecuador’s Rafael Correa, as well as Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, South African Jacob Zuma and Vice-President of China, Li Yuanchao, among others, extolled The figure of Castro.
The United States and Russia sent smaller delegations. On behalf of Barack Obama were Jeffrey DeLaurentis, the unconfirmed ambassador, and one of his top national security advisers, Ben Rhodes, who played a key role in the US-Cuba rapprochement. Russia, a key ally of Cuba during the Cold War, sent the president of the Duma, Viacheslav Volodin.
The cry of “Viva Fidel!” And “Gracias Fidel”, rang out in the symbolic square. When people were getting tired of several hours of waiting and speeches, Maduro took the stage and gave a pep talk.
“Fidel, Fidel, what has Fidel …?” exclaimed the Venezuelan. Attendees completed the traditional phrase with a “What does Fidel have that the imperialists cannot defeat him?”
“We have come here to this sacred place to honor the eternal youth, the eternal dreamer, the eternal rebel,” Maduro said. ”
Sixty years ago, in 1956, Fidel and Raul Castro, along with 80 other revolutionaries, sailed from the Mexican port of Tuxpan to disembark on the island and start the Revolution against dictator Fulgencio Batista, which would triumph on January 1, 1959.
Patricia Bisbe, 36, wanted to participate in the homage with her family, especially her three young children, so they could learn the relevance of the historical figure of Castro, who retired from power in 2006.
“It hurts me that they had not known him, that’s why I brought them to see how a person can be loved by so many people,” said Patricia, who is the great-granddaughter of Jose Manuel Bisbe, who after the revolutionary triumph of 1959 was appointed Cuban ambassador to the UN.
Her husband Joan Manuel Bejerano Ameijeiras, 32, of a family linked to the Revolution, said that “it was clear that Fidel was not going to be eternal” and affirmed that it is likely that after his death some changes will occur.
“I think that Fidel was a key figure, and it is indisputable that without the presence of him, some things change, but the basic principles are going to be maintained, in health, education, independence; I think there may be changes, but I do not know what magnitude. This country would have needed 10 or 12 men like him. ”
The first head of state to intervene was Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa, who emphasized the historical figure of Fidel Castro. “A minority hated you, but nobody could ignore you,” said Correa to applause from the audience.
Bolivian President Evo Morales said Fidel Castro has not died because ideas do not die. “Fidel teaches us that the only path for our peoples is unity and integration. That’s the way to build peace and social justice,” he said.
Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto recalled that Fidel and Raul Castro chose Mexico as “the starting point of their revolutionary struggle” and said that the late Cuban leader was “one of the emblematic figures” of the twentieth century.
For his part, the Greek Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras, had previously stated that Castro “leaves a valuable legacy to all peoples because he inspired political and social changes in Latin America, created the basis for regional integration and cooperation between Cuba and the West”.
Also present were the President of Panama, Juan Carlos Varela, and El Salvador, Salvadoran Sánchez Cerén, as well as former Uruguayan President José “Pepe” Mujica.
The place of the homage, the emblematic Revolution Square, contains the two illuminated giant images of the guerrillas Ernesto “Che” Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos.
After the journey east, on Sunday, December 4, Fidel’s the ashes will be buried in the Santa Ifigenia cemetery in Santiago de Cuba, the city considered the birthplace of the Revolution and where the remains of the national hero Jose Marti rest.
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