Cuba bans naming monuments after Fidel Castro
After 4-day funeral trek, Cuba says goodbye to former president with mass rally
Cuban President Raul Castro says his government will prohibit the naming of streets or public monuments after his brother Fidel in keeping with the former leader's desire to avoid the development of a personality cult.
Castro told a crowd gathered to pay homage to his brother Fidel Castro in the eastern city of Santiago that the country's National Assembly would pass in its next session a law prohibiting the naming of "institutions, streets, parks or other public sites, or erecting busts, statues or other forms of tribute."
Thousands gathered for a rally in the city where Fidel Castro's ashes arrived after a four-day trek across the island that traced — in reverse — the Santiago-Havana route the former Cuban president took after his rebel army ousted the military dictator Fulgencio Batista in January 1959.
Castro, who died Nov. 25 at 90, kept his name off public sites during his rule because he said he wanted to avoid the development of a cult of personality.
His ashes will be interred Sunday morning in a private ceremony at the Cemetery Santa Ifigenia, where Cuban national heroes Jose Marti and Carlos Manuel de Cespedes are laid to rest.
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The event was attended by Bolivian President Evo Morales, Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega and Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, along with former Brazilian presidents Dilma Rousseff and Lula da Silva.
Many world leaders from Western countries, including Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and U.S. President Barack Obama, haven't attended any of the memorial events for Castro. Trudeau had sent Gov. Gen David Johnston to represent Canada at a commemoration event in Havana last Tuesday. Obama has sent deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes to Saturday's memorial in Santiago.
Dignitaries confirmed to have attended Saturday's rally:
- Former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva
- Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega
- Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro
- Former Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff
- Haitian President Jocelerme Privert (and first lady)
- U.S. deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes
- U.S. ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis
- Ethiopian President Mulato Teshome (and delegation)
- African Union President Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma
- Bolivian President Evo Morales
Notables who did not attend:
- Russian President Vladimir Putin
- French President François Hollande
- U.S. President Barack Obama
- Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
- British Prime Minister Theresa May
- German Chancellor Angela Merkel
Havana has not officially sanctioned events to mark the occasion, but the Federation of Students has invited students and workers to watch the rally live on the University of Havana's steps.
Castro's death has been followed by a nine-day national mourning period. Due to the restrictions placed on music during this time, the normally vibrant Havana has been relatively quiet.
The first two days of mourning were set aside for people to pay their respects to Castro at the towering Jose Marti Memorial in Revolution Square.
Thousands of people waited for hours under the hot sun for the chance to get a quick look at a display of flowers, wreaths, a picture of a young Castro in army fatigues and Castro's war medals.
One of the most divisive figures in modern history, Castro's one-man and one-party rule kept him in power for 49 years, the longest period of rule of any head of government in the world.
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To some, he was a revolutionary icon defending a socialist ideal against the encroachment of capitalism and imperialism. To others, he was a totalitarian dictator who ran a repressive government that quashed individual rights and carried out political executions.
Castro's social and economic reforms transformed the country; many residents now have easy access to health care and education. But much of Cuba is also in a prolonged state of economic collapse, and many struggle to earn a living under the stifling rules of the island's socialist system and planned economy.
With files from Mark Gollom and Adrienne Arsenault