Saluting Fidel - Sorrow, celebration, and slights greet news of Castro's death; Cuba to observe nine days of mourning
The death of 90-year-old Cuban fiery revolutionary leader Fidel Castro produced expressions of respect from across the world, cheers from his detractors and measured responses from governments that saw the devoted socialist as either a threat or an ally. He was honored and mourned by many present and former national leaders.
Ailing for more than a decade, Castro passed away at 10:29 p.m. on Friday.
His legacy in Cuba and elsewhere has been a mixed record of social progress and abject poverty, of racial equality and political persecution, of medical advances and a degree of misery comparable to the conditions that existed in Cuba when he entered Havana as a victorious guerrilla commander in 1959. That image made him both a symbol of revolution throughout the world and an inspiration to many imitators.
He defied the United States for nearly half a century as Cuba's no-nonsense leader, a thorn in the side of 11 American presidents.
Following his death, many Cubans on the island described Fidel Castro as a towering figure who brought Cuba free health care, education and true independence from the United States, while saddling the country with an ossified political and economic system that has left streets and buildings crumbling and young, educated elites fleeing in search of greater prosperity abroad.
For Cubans off the island, Castro's death was cause for celebration. In Miami, the heart of the Cuban diaspora, thousands of people banged pots with spoons, waved Cuban and United States flags in the air and whooped in jubilation.
The Cuban government declared nine days of mourning for Castro, including a three-day journey with his ashes from Havana to the eastern city of Santiago in a procession retracing his rebel army's victorious sweep from the Sierra Maestra to Havana.
State radio and television were filled with non-stop tributes to Castro, playing hours of footage of his time in power and interviews with prominent Cubans affectionately remembering him. Bars shut, baseball games and concerts were suspended and many restaurants stopped serving alcohol and planned to close early. Official newspapers were published yesterday with only black ink instead of the usual bright red or blue mastheads.
Castro's ashes are to be interred on Sunday, December 4 at the Santa Ifigenia cemetery.