Cubans gather to pay respects to Castro

Cubans are mourning the death of Fidel Castro, who ruled for half a century and resisted the United States throughout the Cold War.

HAVANA • Throngs of Cubans yesterday began paying their last respects to the late Fidel Castro in Havana's iconic Revolution Square, kicking off a week-long farewell to the divisive Cold War titan.

Hundreds of people, many of them lining up since before dawn, began filling the square where "El Comandante" gave many of his most famous marathon speeches, filing past a black-and-white picture of the father of the country's 1959 revolution.

Details of Castro's death on Friday, at the age of 90, have yet to be made public. But, as if performing a play that had been rehearsed for a decade, the government continued to roll out plans for what official statements have called a nine-day period of "Duelo Nacional", or national mourning.

Castro was cremated on Saturday and his ashes will be carried in a cortege to a final resting place in Santiago de Cuba, the city in eastern Cuba where he launched the revolution.

The government has invited people to Revolution Square for the two-day ceremony. The urn holding the late leader's ashes could be displayed.

Statements and articles in government news outlets have also been hailing Castro's life and achievements - "All Of Cuba With Fidel", said one headline - while warning that liquor sales would be limited nationwide until Sunday, when the mourning period is scheduled to end at noon.

Many predicted that the sombre mood on the island - both genuine and state-enforced - would continue until Castro's ashes were interred in Santiago de Cuba after a procession along the country's central highway.

Meanwhile, US President-elect Donald Trump has threatened to put an end to the thaw in ties with Cuba unless Havana makes concessions on human rights and opening up its economy.

"If Cuba is unwilling to make a better deal for the Cuban people, the Cuban/American people and the U.S. as a whole, I will terminate deal," Mr Trump said on Twitter yesterday.

NYTIMES, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 29, 2016, with the headline 'Cubans gather to pay respects to Castro'. Print Edition | Subscribe