- Title: Santiago de Cuba welcomes Fidel back at final farewell
- Date: 4th December 2016
- Summary: VARIOUS OF PEOPLE LEAVING PLAZA
- Embargoed: 19th December 2016 03:46
- Keywords: Fidel Castro Santiago de Cuba Raul Castro Cuban Revolution Moncada Barracks 1959
- Location: SANTIAGO, CUBA
- City: SANTIAGO, CUBA
- Country: Cuba
- Reuters ID: LVA0045BGV4G7
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: Tens of thousands of Cubans were on hand Saturday (December 3) as President Raul Castro defended the socialist legacy of his brother Fidel Castro, who died last week aged 90 and will be interred in the city where they launched the Cuban Revolution.
But Fidel Castro's image will not be immortalized with statues nor will public places be named after him, Raul Castro said, in keeping with his older brother's wishes.
His ashes will be entombed near the remains of Cuba's independence hero Jose Marti in a simple ceremony beginning on Sunday at 7 a.m. (1200 GMT), concluding nine days of national mourning.
Raul Castro was joined on the stage by leftist foreign dignitaries and the Cuban political leadership to bid farewell to the man known to most Cubans as "El Comandante" - the commander - or simply "Fidel."
After two days of events in Havana, Castro's funeral cortege departed on a three-day, 600-mile (1,000-km) journey east, retracing the route that the triumphant, bearded rebels took upon overthrowing the U.S.-backed Fulgencio Batista in 1959.
Raul Castro said "millions" had come out to pay tribute. Crowds have greeted the caravan along the whole route, with volunteers sprucing up bridges and houses with fresh paint in Castro's honour.
Residents of Santiago appreciated Castro's return back to the eastern part of the island.
"The greatest thing is that Fidel, was the wise decision taken by our commander-in-chief, to say his ashes were to terminate in Santiago de Cuba, because this is home. We are Fidel. Santiago is Fidel. Socialism is Fidel," said Cuban Isabel Belcacer.
They looked to embrace Fidel's political project.
"And this event has been an event of reaffirmation, commitment in fact, with his historical legacy, who as of this moment, we owe to continue precisely that legacy and look through all what he's written in his reflections to maintain everything. Everything he's dreamed about, and everything he's done for our nation," said Cuban citizen, Ileana.
Castro's critics have kept a low profile during the official nine-day mourning period that ends Sunday, but dissident writer Yoani Sanchez took to Twitter to criticize the hagiographical tributes.
Although billboards with Castro quotes stand throughout the country and his portrait hangs from numerous government buildings and in private homes, there are no statues or landmarks named after him.
With his brother at his side, Castro began his revolution on July 26, 1953, with a failed assault on the Moncada barracks in the eastern city of Santiago.
Castro's socialist government survived the fall of the Berlin Wall, but at the cost of more than a decade of great economic hardship that was relieved by the largesse of his political disciple, the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.
Over the past two decades a clutch of leftist governments rose to power in Latin America inspired by his ideas and fierce opposition to the United States. Several have now been defeated at the ballot box.
High-profile friends of Castro, including Bolivian President Evo Morales and former Brazilian Presidents Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff, arrived for the evening sendoff.
Lula was a close ally of Cuba when he was president from 2003 to 2010, as was his successor Rousseff until she was impeached this year.
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