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In Havana, music stops as Cubans mourn ‘father’

This file photo taken on Jan 8, 1989 shows a white dove landing on Cuban president Fidel Castro’s shoulder as he delivers a speech to Cuban youth at a ceremony to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Cuban Revolution in Havana. – AP/AFP photos
This file photo taken on Jan 8, 1989 shows a white dove landing on Cuban president Fidel Castro’s shoulder as he delivers a speech to Cuban youth at a ceremony to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Cuban Revolution in Havana. – AP/AFP photos

World leaders pay  tribute to Castro

HAVANA: Cubans will likely forever remember where they were when Fidel Castro’s death was announced. The music stopped across the dance-happy city and people rushed to awaken loved ones with the news. Parties shut down and the bustling streets emptied after President Raul Castro, Fidel’s 85 year-old younger brother, made the announcement on state television around midnight Friday.

“Everyone was stunned. It was a very sad moment,” said Yaimara Gomez, who was working in a hotel at the time. Unlike various occasions over the years, this time it was not a hoax: the man most Cubans grown up with as their country’s leader had died. “With great pain I appear before you to inform our people and our friends in the Americas and the world that today, November 25 at 10:29 pm, the Commander in Chief of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro, passed away,” the president said.

He gave no details of the cause or circumstances of the death. It was assumed Castro died at his Havana home where he lived after stepping aside from power in 2006 following intestinal surgery. Car washer Marco Antonio Diez, 20, was out at a party when the music suddenly stopped. “I went home and woke up everyone, saying: ‘Fidel has died,'” he said. “My mother was astonished.”

‘Like losing a father’
As the news spread, crowds danced and celebrated in the streets of Miami, home to the largest Cuban exile community and their descendants. But in Havana, locals mourned. “Losing Fidel is like losing a father – the guide, the beacon of this revolution,” said Michel Rodriguez, a 42-year-old baker. He was still in his shop late at night when he heard the news on the radio. The government decreed nine days of mourning and ordered flags to be flown at half-mast.
Castro’s ashes will be buried in the historic southeastern city of Santiago de Cuba on December 4 after a four-day procession through the country, it added. Santiago was the scene of Castro’s ill-fated first revolution attempt in 1953. As the news spread around the world, local media seemed taken by surprise: Even the state newspaper Granma took about five hours to put the story on its website.

‘Never forgotten’
Castro was loathed by many for stifling dissent, but loved by many others for providing free universal healthcare and education. He came to power in 1959 as a black-bearded, cigar-chomping 32-year-old in a revolution against former dictator Fulgencio Batista. Seventy percent of people in this island of 11 million people have known no other leader than Fidel. “I was born under this revolution and I am truly sad,” Micaela Consuegra, a street-sweeper of 55.
“He was a unique man, with his faults and his virtues. It is a great loss.  He is a man who will never be forgotten, by his friends or his enemies.” Blanca Cabrera, a 56-year-old housewife, came out into her garden to smoke a cigarette after hearing the news. “It is hard to believe that Fidel has gone,” she said, her face clearly showing her distress. She recalled Castro’s last public speech, to the Communist Party congress earlier this year, when he forecast that his “turn” to pass away was coming. “Soon I will end up like everyone does,” Castro said at the congress in April. “He prepared the people for this moment,” Cabrera said. “But he will still be with us for years to come. That soothes the pain.” – AFP

World leaders pay  tribute to Castro

US President Barack Obama in a statement yesterday offered his condolences to Fidel Castro’s family and added that history would judge Castro’s impact on Cuba and around the world. “At this time of Fidel Castro’s passing, we extend a hand of friendship to the Cuban people,” Obama said. “History will record and judge the enormous impact of this singular figure on the people and world around him.” Obama added that during his own presidency he had worked to “put the past behind us,” while working on a future that was built on those things that were in common.

Pope Francis:
The leader of the world’s Roman Catholics sent a telegram saying he was “praying to the Lord that he (Castro) may rest in peace”.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon:
“Under former president (Fidel) Castro, Cuba made progress in the areas of education, literacy and health,” the UN secretary-general told journalists.

Russian President Vladimir Putin:
“The free and independent Cuba, built by him and his comrades, has become an influential member of international society and served as an inspiring example for many countries and people. Fidel Castro was a frank and tried and true friend of Russia. He has make a great contribution into establishing and developing of Russo-Cuban ties, close strategic cooperation in all the spheres,” the Kremlin said, citing Putin’s condolences telegram to Raul Castro.

Former leader of USSR Mikhail Gorbachev:
Mikhail Gorbachev, the final leader of the Soviet Union which had long acted as an economic and political prop for Cuba, said Castro left a lasting mark on his country and on world history. “Fidel held his ground and strengthened his country at the time of the harshest American blockade, at the time of massive pressure on him,” Gorbachev was quoted by Interfax news agency as saying. “Nevertheless he led out his country from the blockade to the path of self-sustained and independent development.”
Chinese President Xi Jinping:
Chinese President Xi Jinping said in a statement that: “the Chinese people have lost a close comrade and a sincere friend”. Xi hailed Castro for his contribution to the development of communism both in Cuba and around the world.

French President Francois Hollande:
French President Francois Hollande mourned the loss of a major figure on the world stage and welcomed the rapprochement between Havana and Washington, while noting concerns over human rights under the Castro regime. “Fidel Castro was a towering figure of the 20th century. He incarnated the Cuban revolution, in both its hopes and subsequent disillusionments,” Hollande said in a statement. “France, which condemned human rights abuses in Cuba, had equally challenged the US embargo on Cuba, and France was glad to see the two countries re-establish dialogue and open ties between themselves,” added the Socialist party leader. Hollande met Fidel Castro in May, 2015 during the first ever visit by a French head of state to Cuba since the Cuban revolution.

Spanish PM Mariano Rajoy
The Spanish prime minister sent his condolences to Cuba’s government and people, via Twitter, where he described Castro as “a figure of historic significance”.

Indian PM Narendra Modi
India’s prime minister sent his “deepest condolences” to Cuba. “May his soul rest in peace,” he tweeted. “Fidel Castro was one of the most iconic personalities of the 20th century. India mourns the loss of a great friend.”

UK Foreign Minister Boris Johnson:
“The UK expresses its condolences to the government and people of Cuba, and to the former President’s family. Fidel Castro’s death marks the end of an era for Cuba and the start of a new one for Cuba’s people. Fidel Castro’s leadership of the 1959 Cuban Revolution marked him out as an historic if controversial figure. The UK will continue to work with the government of Cuba on a wide range of foreign policy priorities, including on human rights.”

EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker:
“Fidel Castro was one of the historic figures of the past century and the embodiment of the Cuban Revolution. With the death of Fidel Castro, the world has lost a man who was a hero for many. He changed the course of his country and his influence reached far beyond. Fidel Castro remains one of the revolutionary figures of the 20th century. His legacy will be judged by history.”

Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro:
In Venezuela, a long-time ally of Cuba and staunch opponent of the political stance of the United States, President Nicolas Maduro said Castro had inspired and would continue to inspire his country. “We will keep on winning and keep fighting. Fidel Castro is an example of the fight for all the people of the world. We will go forward with his legacy,” Maduro told television station Telesur by telephone.

Bolivia President Evo Morales:
In Bolivia, where Ernesto “Che” Guevara died in 1967 in a failed bid to export Cuba’s revolution, President Evo Morales said in a statement: “Fidel Castro left us a legacy of having fought for the integration of the world’s peoples … The departure of Comandante Fidel Castro really hurts.”

Ecuador President Rafael Correa:
Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa said: “A great has left us. Fidel has died. Long live Cuba! Long live Latin America!”

South African President Jacob Zuma:
South African President Jacob Zuma had warm words, thanking the Cuban leader for his help and support in the struggle to overthrow apartheid. “President Castro identified with our struggle against apartheid. He inspired the Cuban people to join us in our own struggle against apartheid,” Zuma said in a statement.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau:
“A legendary revolutionary and orator, Mr. Castro made significant improvements to the education and healthcare of his island nation. “While a controversial figure, both Mr. Castro’s supporters and detractors recognized his tremendous dedication and love for the Cuban people who had a deep and lasting affection for “el Comandante”, Trudeau said in a statement.

Vietnam PM Nguyen Xuan Phuc and President Tran Dai Quang:
In a letter to the Cuban people: “In the hour of this infinite suffering, the Communists and the people of Vietnam again reaffirm the solidarity and steadfast fighting spirit with the Communists and the Cuban brothers.” “The bright life and immortal career of comrade Fidel Castro will forever live in the glorious revolutionary mission of the Cuban people and other nations striving to build a fair, civilized, democratic, prosperous and happy life.”

Syria President Bashar Al-Assad: 
Assad said in a telegram to the Cuban leadership: “Cuba, our friend, managed under his leadership to withstand the strongest sanctions and oppressive campaigns witnessed in our recent history, becoming a beacon of liberation for the people of South America, and the people of the entire world.  Fidel Castro’s name will live forever in the minds of generations and will inspire those aspiring to true independence and liberation from the yoke of colonialism and hegemony.”

Turkish Foreign Ministry statement:
The Turkish foreign ministry said Castro “left a legacy of values and ideals that will set a path for the young generations in Cuba”. “The struggle to which he dedicated his life aroused respect, even in different political camps, and resounded not just in Cuba but around the world. He stood up against global injustice and worked for the establishment of a world with greater equality and solidarity,” it said in a statement.

Lebanese President Michel Aoun:
In a telegram to Raul Castro: “The commander of the Cuban Revolution left for almost a century a mark on the world’s conscience thanks to his long experience, his power to persuade and the esteem with which he was beheld, so that his political attitudes and national debates became a unique approach of its own. Fidel Castro’s memory will remain an impetus for Cuba’s present and future.”

Kenya Opposition leader Raila Odinga:
Veteran Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga, whose son born in 1973 was named Fidel Castro Odhiambo Odinga in honor of the Cuban leader, said in a statement: “In many ways, Castro was a great friend and true friend of Africa and other parts of the world that had to fight long and bitter wars to attain freedom from colonialism.
“Castro stood very firmly on the side of Africans who were fighting for the continent’s liberation from colonialism especially in Congo (now DRC), Angola, Mozambique, Namibia and South Africa. “In the case of Apartheid South Africa, Castro was one of the very few voices to speak against that system that was founded on a false sense of racial superiority with dire economic consequences for black people.” Odinga’s son Fidel died in 2015. – Agencies

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