A funeral ceremony for Cuba’s late revolutionary leader Fidel Castro has brought together leaders from regional nations as well as representatives from across the world in the capital, Havana.
Heads of states from Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Mexico and South Africa, along with leaders from Central American nations paid tribute to Castro in Havana’s Revolution Square on Tuesday.
Castro’s younger brother and successor, President Raul Castro, gave a speech to thank world leaders for their words of praise for his late brother, who passed away at the age of 90 on November 25.
President Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela, Evo Morales of Bolivia and Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua were among the foreign dignitaries who paid their respects to Castro.
Zimbabwe’s ailing President, Robert Mugabe, also arrived in Havana on Tuesday for the mourning ceremony. “Fidel wasn’t just your leader, Fidel was the leader of all revolutionaries,” Mugabe said.
South African President Jacob Zuma praised the late Cuban leader for his support for African independence struggles, saying Castro will be remembered as “a great fighter for the idea that the poor have a right to live with dignity.”
Representatives from Iran, Russia, and China were also present at the ceremony.
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras was the only European leader to attend the ceremony in person; German Chancellor Angela Merkel, UK Prime Minister Theresa May, and French President Francois Hollande had all sent representatives.
Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, whose late father, Pierre, was a friend of Castro’s, also didn’t attend but sent a message of condolences following his death.
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos was absent, too, but officials from his government as well as representatives from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) were in attendance.
The Colombian government had been negotiating a peace deal with the FARC rebel group for almost four years in Havana.
The United States, which ended decades of hostility with Cuba in July 2015, also sent high-profile representatives to the ceremony, namely President Barack Obama’s deputy national security adviser, Benjamin Rhodes, and the White House’s pick for ambassador to Cuba, Jeffrey DeLaurentis.
The Tuesday memorial was attended by thousands of ordinary Cubans. They held sings that read, “The Cuban Communist Party is the only legitimate heir of the legacy and authority of the commander in chief of the Cuban Revolution, comrade Fidel Castro.”
“Goodbye commander. Your ideas remain here with us,” said a 64-year-old attendee. “I feel great pain over his death. I owe my entire life to him. He brought me out of the mountains. I was able to study thanks to him.”
After the memorial event on Tuesday, an urn containing Castro’s ashes will be taken on a “caravan of freedom” across the country in a three-day rally.