Cubans Hold Finals Memorial for Fidel Castro in Eastern City Where Communist Revolution Started

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Cubans held one final public memorial for fallen dictator Fidel Castro on Saturday in this eastern city that served as the heart and the start of his communist revolution.

Pulled by a green military jeep, his ashes rolled throughout the colonial city, passing by the site of the army barracks Castro attacked to start his guerrilla war and crossing under the balcony in Céspedes Park where he declared victory for his revolution on Jan. 1, 1959.

Cuban President Raúl Castro, who fought alongside Fidel from the start of the revolution and took over the country when his brother fell ill in 2006, delivered a final eulogy Saturday night before thousands in the city’s Plaza of the Revolution Antonio Maceo.

Raúl recounted the major obstacles Fidel overcame throughout his 49 years ruling the island nation, from the failed U.S.-backed Bay of Pigs invasion to the “Special Period” of economic ruin that followed the fall of Cuba’s main benefactor, the Soviet Union. Raúl expressed no personal sense of loss or pain, instead promising to use his brother’s lessons to continue fighting Fidel’s revolution.

“He demonstrated that yes we could, yes we can and yes we will be able to overcome any obstacle, threat or turbulence in our commitment to build socialism in Cuba and guarantee the independence and sovereignty of the homeland,” Raúl Castro said.

Fidel Castro died Nov. 25 at age 90 in the capital city of Havana, which hosted a massive memorial that featured speeches by foreign leaders who hailed Castro as a revolutionary icon who stood up to the imperialist power of the United States. Castro’s ashes were then taken on a four-day trip east, retracing in reverse the route the Castro brothers took when they rolled into Havana in 1959 after winning their battle against former president Fulgencio Batista.

Saturday’s memorial in Santiago was far simpler, with a half-dozen Cubans delivering speeches praising Castro’s legacies in health care, education, science and women’s rights. Presidents from Bolivia and Nicaragua were there and former presidents of Brazil, but they did not speak, leaving the spotlight on Raúl Castro.

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SOURCE: USA Today, Alan Gomez and Maria Perez