Political leaders and other dignitaries from around the world are scheduled to arrive in Havana Tuesday to take part in a mass gathering during the second day of a week-long memorial tribute for former Cuban leader Fidel Castro.
Among leaders expected to take part: Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro, Ecuador’s Rafael Correa, Bolivia’s Evo Morales, Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega, Mexico’s Enrique Peña Nieto and King Juan Carlos, who will head the Spanish delegation.
Other allies such as Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that they will not travel to Cuba. The United States is likely to send a delegation but the White House said Monday it would not include President Barack Obama nor Vice President Joe Biden.
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On Monday, tens of thousands of Cubans, many sobbing while holding images of Castro, flowers and Cuban flags lined up well into the evening to pay their respects to “El Comandante” at Havana’s Plaza of the Revolution.
Inside the memorial to Cuban patriot José Martí that looms over the plaza, they filed past simple floral arrangements and a portrait of a young bearded Castro in fatigues with a rifle over his shoulder looking across the Sierra Maestra mountains that served as headquarters for the guerrilla campaign that ultimately led to the revolution’s triumph.
The overall mood was somber, respectful and reflective. Some openly wept, brushed away tears or kissed pictures of Castro. Others simply walked past as if fulfilling a duty.
"I was born under the Revolution. I was raised by the Revolution. I was trained by the Revolution," Wilson Vega, 51, a neurologist who lined up in his white doctor's coat told Bloomberg. "I am who I am because of Fidel Castro."
"He's our commander, and I wanted to say goodbye," Sofia Morales said, with little apparent conviction. Morales, 25, arrived by bus with other students from their teacher-training college, Bloomberg reported.
The two-day procession in Havana is the beginning of a week of services that will spread across the island, ending Sunday in Santiago de Cuba, where the revolution was launched.
The plaza, a massive concrete expanse where papal masses have been celebrated and Cubans have gathered at key moments in the island’s history, was open to mourners until 10 p.m. Monday and will open again Tuesday morning.
Cubans who passed by the memorial in the plaza were asked to sign a book of condolences and a “solemn oath” to fulfill the ideals of the revolution. The mass gathering, which VIPs will attend, is scheduled for 7 p.m.
On Wednesday, Castro’s ashes will begin making a journey across the island in a caravan that will follow a route that is the reverse of the one that a young Castro and other revolutionaries took in 1959 from eastern Cuba to Havana after the triumph of the revolution.
HAVANA Cubans across the island are being urged to pay tribute to Fidel Castro by signing oath upholding the late leader’s revolutionary ideals.
The oath contains Castro’s words outlining his vision of revolution, first pronounced in a May Day speech in 2000 at the height of the custody battle over 6-year-old castaway Elián Gonzalez.
Here is the Cuban government’s official English translation of the text from that speech:
“Revolution means to have a sense of history; it is changing everything that must be changed; it is full equality and freedom; it is being treated and treating others like human beings; it is achieving emancipation by ourselves and through our own efforts; it is challenging powerful dominant forces from within and without the social and national milieu; it is defending the values in which we believe at the cost of any sacrifice; it is modesty, selflessness, altruism, solidarity and heroism; it is fighting with courage, intelligence and realism; it is never lying or violating ethical principles; it is a profound conviction that there is no power in the world that can crush the power of truth and ideas. Revolution means unity; it is independence, it is fighting for our dreams of justice for Cuba and for the world, which is the foundation of our patriotism, our socialism and our internationalism.”