Memorial ceremonies for Fidel Castro begin in Havana
BY MIMI WHITEFIELD
Cubans will begin paying their respects Monday to former Cuban leader
Fidel Castro in an all-day tribute at Havana's Plaza of the Revolution,
a massive concrete expanse where papal masses have been celebrated and
Cubans have gathered at key moments in the island's history.
The plaza will be open from 9 a.m. until 10 p.m. and the tribute will
continue Tuesday before Castro's remains begin making a journey across
the island Wednesday that is the reverse of the route that Cuban
revolutionaries took in 1959 from eastern Cuba to Havana after the
triumph of the revolution.
By early Monday, Cubans on the island began to filter onto the streets.
Flag-waving students broke into a mass chant of "I am Fidel," Reuters
Government-run newspapers were printed in black ink to mourn Fidel,
instead of the usual red of the official Communist Party daily Granma,
and the blue of Juventud Rebelde (Rebel Youth), the paper of the
"For me, it's my mother first, my children, my father, then Fidel,"
father-of-five Rafael Urbay, 60, told Reuters as he manned a government
photo and printing store in downtown Havana, remembering his early years
spent on a remote island off the mainland with no drinking water.
"We weren't just poor. We were wretched," he said. "Then came Fidel and
the revolution. He gave me my humanity. I owe him everything."
As condolences continued to flow into Cuba Sunday from around the world
for the man who was both admired and reviled during his nearly half
century at Cuba's helm, workers prepared the plaza and unfurled a giant
banner of Castro as a young revolutionary over the National Library
building that overlooks the square.
Cuban television aired detailed instructions on the routes Cubans should
use to access and enter the plaza and the Cuban armed forces said there
will be simultaneous 21-gun salutes in both Havana and Santiago at 9
a.m. Monday and on Dec. 4 in homage to Castro.
The United States had not announced as of late Sunday whether a U.S.
delegation will attend Castro's funeral services, which are scheduled
for Dec. 4 in Santiago de Cuba, where the revolution was launched.
But former House Speaker Newt Gingrich tweeted Sunday: "Under no
circumstances should President Obama or VP Biden or Secstate Kerry go to
Cuba for Castro's funeral. He was a tyrant."
In her message of condolence, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet called
Castro "a leader for dignity and social justice in Cuba and Latin
America," and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canadians
"were united with the Cuban people in their mourning for the loss of an
extraordinary leader" who was "a revolutionary and a legendary orator."
Source: Memorial ceremonies for Fidel Castro begin in Havana | Miami