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Cuba mourns revolutionary leader Fidel Castro, though not anticipating reforms

November 29, 2016, 13:27 UTC+3 HAVANA

The ceremony, attended by representatives of the top leadership and the Communist Party, was led by Fidel Castro’s brother Raul

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©  AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko

HAVANA, November 29. /TASS/. A casket containing the ashes of late Cuban leader Fidel Castro has been placed in the Granma hall of the country’s Ministry of Revolutionary Armed Forces in Havana, where a farewell ceremony took place on Monday, local television reported. 

The ceremony, attended by representatives of the top leadership and the Communist Party, was led by Fidel Castro’s brother Raul, who has been Cuba’s president since February 2008.

Cuba began paying its last respects to the revolutionary leader at 9 a.m. on Monday with gun salutes in Havana and Santiago de Cuba. Fidel Castro, the founder of the first socialist state in the Western hemisphere, died on November 25, aged 90.

The Jose Marti Memorial in Plaza de la Revolucion (Revolution Square) in the country’s capital of Havana is hosting the main ceremony. No special security measures have been undertaken.

At least 25 foreign leaders will attend the commemoration ceremony for Fidel Castro, Cuba’s Foreign Ministry said. Russia’s delegation will be led by State Duma (lower house of parliament) Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin.

Starting from November 30, Castro’s ashes will go on a four-day procession from Havana to the southeastern city of Santiago de Cuba, reversing the route Fidel Castro took when the Caravan of Freedom toppled dictator Fulgencio Batista in 1959. The ashes will travel across 13 out of the country’s 15 provinces. A mass rally is due to be held on December 3 on the Antonio Maceo Square in Santiago de Cuba.

Castro's ashes will be interred at the Santa Ifigenia cemetery in the city of Santiago de Cuba, known as the cradle of the Cuban Revolution, at 7 a.m. local time on December 4. Cubans lined up to sign an oath pledging loyalty to the revolution’s ideals. During the mourning period, the sale of alcohol is banned and all entertainment events are cancelled.

Cuba will not abandon its system

Havana established its own system of state institutions in 1959, which proved to be efficient in many areas - both in fight against emergencies and countering aggressive media campaigns, political scientist Iroel Sanchez told TASS commenting on the possible consequences of Fidel Castro’s death. "Why should Cuba’s citizens abandon it? So that the country becomes the same as any other one to the south of the United States? What is the future of Mexico, which has all the necessary characteristics of a market economy and representative democracy but at the same time young people run more risks of being killed than surviving?"

The expert added that Cuba is not rejecting the need for some changes. He reiterated that a process called "the update" of Cuba’s economic model was launched in 2011 after a discussion involving millions of citizens.

The Western media have a "stereotyped approach" when covering the situation in Cuba, he added. "They thought that the Cuban revolution should have been brought to an end with the collapse of the Soviet Union, but this had not happened even 25 years after that," Sanchez stressed. The country did not abandon its development model even 10 years after Fidel Castro had resigned.

Cubans remain true to revolution’s ideas

Fidel Castro’s death does not mean that his ideals are forgotten, Cubans believe. "This is not a loss for us as that’s a physical death but not the disappearance of his ideas and his model," said Cristina Valdivia, a health department employee in Havana. "We will defend the revolution and Cuba far more vigorously."

The people of the Freedom Island suffer from a huge pain but are united and confident that they are strong.

"Everyone knows what we want and that we want to defend freedom, independence and our rights," Valdivia stressed. "Life will be better as great people and ‘giants’ do not disappear, and now the personality of Fidel Castro has become more far-reaching," she said.

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