Massive rally begins honoring Fidel Castro
HAVANA — Regional leaders and tens of thousands of Cubans filled Havana's Plaza of the Revolution Tuesday night for a service honoring Fidel Castro on the wide plaza where the Cuban leader delivered fiery speeches to huge crowds in the years after he seized power.
The presidents of Mexico, Ecuador, Bolivia, Venezuela, Panama, South Africa and Zimbabwe, along with leaders of a host of smaller Caribbean nations, flew in to Havana to pay tribute to Castro, who died Friday night at 90.
South African President Jacob Zuma praised Cuba under Castro for its record on education and health care and its support for African independence struggles.
Castro will be remembered as “a great fighter for the idea that the poor have a right to live with dignity,” Zuma told the crowd.
The rally began with black-and-white revolution-era footage of Castro and other guerrillas on a big screen and the playing of the Cuban national anthem. Castro's younger brother and successor, President Raul Castro, saluted.
Cuban state media reported that an urn containing Fidel Castro's ashes was being kept in a room at the Defense Ministry where Raul and top Communist Party officials paid tribute the previous evening.
During the day, lines stretched for hours outside the Plaza of the Revolution, the heart of government power. In Havana and across the island, people signed condolence books and an oath of loyalty to Castro's sweeping May 2000 proclamation of the Cuban revolution as an unending battle for socialism, nationalism and an outsize role for the island on the world stage.