Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Cubans Begin Massive Rally to Honor Fidel Castro

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Cubans Begin Massive Rally to Honor Fidel Castro

Article excerpt

HAVANA - Regional leaders and tens of thousands of Cubans filled Havana's Plaza of the Revolution Tuesday night for a service honoring Fidel Castro on the wide plaza where the Cuban leader delivered fiery speeches to mammoth crowds in the years after he seized power. The presidents of Mexico, Ecuador, Bolivia, Venezuela, Panama, South Africa and Zimbabwe, along with leaders of a host of smaller Caribbean nations, flew in to Havana to pay tribute to Castro, who died Friday night at 90.

"Cuba is going through a moment of profound shock," Bolivian President Evo Morales said when he arrived. "I came to be present during a moment of pain from the loss of my brother, my friend."

Cuban state media reported that an urn containing Castro's ashes was being kept in a room at the Defense Ministry where his younger brother and successor, Raul Castro, and top Communist Party officials paid tribute the previous evening.

During the day, lines stretched for hours outside the Plaza of the Revolution, the heart of government power. In Havana and across the island, people signed condolence books and an oath of loyalty to Castro's sweeping May 2000 proclamation of the Cuban revolution as an unending battle for socialism, nationalism and an outsize role for the island on the world stage.

"I feel a deep sadness, but immense pride in having had him near, said Ana Beatriz Perez, a 50-year-old medical researcher who was advancing in the slow-moving line with the help of crutches. "His physical departure gives us strength to continue advancing in his ideology. This isn't going away, because we are millions.

"His death is another revolution, said her husband, Fidel Diaz, who predicted that it will prompt many to "rediscover the ideas of the commander for the new generations.

Tribute sites were set up in hundreds of places across the island as the government urged Cubans to reaffirm their belief in a socialist, single-party system that in recent years has struggled to maintain the fervor that was widespread at the triumph of the 1959 revolution. …

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