INTERNATIONAL; Fidel Castro’s ashes embark on 500-mile journey across Cuba
HAVANA — Surrounded by white roses and drawn by a green military jeep, Fidel Castro’s ashes began a more than 500-mile journey Wednesday across the country he ruled for nearly 50 years.
Just after 7 a.m., an honor guard placed a small, flag-draped cedar coffin under a glass dome on a trailer behind the Russian jeep.
Thousands of soldiers and state security agents saluted the 90-year-old leader’s remains as they rolled slowly out of Havana’s Plaza of the Revolution.
Tens of thousands of Cubans lined the path of the funeral procession, which retraced the path of Castro’s triumphant march into Havana nearly six decades ago.
Cuba’s former president, one of the world’s longest-serving and most iconic leaders, has died aged 90. His younger brother and successor as President Raul Castro announced the news on state television on November 25.
Castro toppled the government in 1959, introducing a Communist revolution. He defied the US for decades, surviving many assassination plots.
His supporters said he had given Cuba back to the people. Critics saw him as a dictator.
Ashen and grave, President Castro told the nation in an unexpected late night broadcast on state television that Fidel Castro had died and would be cremated later on Saturday.
“The commander in chief of the Cuban revolution died at 22:29 hours this evening (03:29 GMT Saturday),” he said. “Towards victory, always!” he added, using a revolutionary slogan.
There is to be several days of national mourning on the island.
Barring the occasional newspaper column, Fidel Castro had essentially been retired from political life for several years.
In April, Fidel Castro gave a rare speech on the final day of the country’s Communist Party congress.
“I’ll soon be 90,” the former president said, adding that this was “something I’d never imagined”.
“Soon I’ll be like all the others, “to all our turn must come,” Fidel Castro said.
News of his death left some in Havana stunned.
(NY Daily News)