Cubans mourn Fidel Castro, ponder life without him
People in Cuba have begun nine days of mourning declared over the death of the country’s revolutionary leader, Fidel Castro.
On Sunday, Cubans took to the streets of the capital, Havana, holding flags and portraits of the late revolutionary leader to mark the first day of the national mourning announced by the government.
Students held candlelight vigils to pay tribute to Castro, who ruled the Latin American country for five decades until 2006, when he ceded power to his brother, Raul.
Castro died on Sunday at the age of 90. His body is to be cremated in accordance with his will and his ashes will go on a four-day procession through the country before being buried in the southeastern city of Santiago on December 4.
A revolutionary life
Leading a Communist Cuba, Castro broke off diplomatic ties with the Capitalist United States in 1961 and expropriated US companies’ assets totaling more than one billion dollars.
In retaliation, Washington placed an official embargo against Havana in 1962, setting off a decades-long ideological feud with Cuba.
Castro continued to defy the US until his last day in office in 2006.
Under the rule of his brother, Raul, Cuba and the US engaged in 18 months of negotiations, which finally culminated in a deal, with historic proportions of its own, to restore diplomatic relations in July 2015.
The US acted to lift parts of the embargo but other portions remained in place as outgoing US President Barack Obama battled with a Republican-controlled Congress to have the embargo fully lifted.
President Obama, who visited Havana in March, expressed his condolences over Castro’s death and attempted to partially hold back his judgment of the legendary Cuban figure.
“History will record and judge the enormous impact of this singular figure on the people and world around him,” Obama said.
Ceremonies or marches were also held in Mexico, Venezuela, Angola, Peru, and Honduras, among other countries, in memory of the late Cuban figure.
In Castro’s absence, Cubans worry about a US under Trump
The iconic leader’s demise and the election of Donald Trump to the US presidency has, meanwhile, generated concern among some Cubans.
Trump, who will take office in January 2017, is known for his incendiary and often misinformed rhetoric on world matters. Following Castro’s death, the US president-elect described the Cuban figure as a “brutal dictator.”
“With ‘El Comandante’ gone, I am a little fearful of what could happen because of Trump’s way of thinking and acting,” said a Havana resident, using a popular reference for Castro.
“He could set back and block everything that’s been going on, all the things Obama has done, and he did a lot, managing to get the US closer to Cuba,” she added.
Another resident said, “Trump’s policies are very aggressive. We’ll have to see what he actually does. But it certainly looks like bad news for Latin America and for Cuba in particular.”
The US president-elect, earlier in his election campaign, had pledged that, if elected, he would close down the newly-reopened US Embassy in Havana.