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  • People greet the arrival of the caravan carrying the ashes of Fidel Castro in Las Tunas, Cuba on Dec. 2, 2016.

    People greet the arrival of the caravan carrying the ashes of Fidel Castro in Las Tunas, Cuba on Dec. 2, 2016. | Photo: Reuters

Published 3 December 2016

"Fidel was always against the cult of personality until his dying days," Raul Castro told thousands of mourners in Santiago de Cuba.

As thousands joined Cuban President Raul Castro to say goodbye to his brother, Fidel, Saturday night, the younger brother imparted one of Fidel's dying wishes: that his image and name never adorn public places, from streets and parks to government institutions.

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"Fidel was always against the cult of personality until his dying days," said Raul Castro. "He was consistent with that attitude, insisting that after his death his name and figure never be used to name plazas, avenues, streets and other public places, as well as the building of statues."

The Cuban government will present a legal measure to the National Assembly which will forbid the use of his name and image being used for monuments and in other public places.

The announcement was made by Raul as he presided over the official public vigil held for Fidel in Santiago de Cuba's Plaza Antonio Maceo. Fidel's ashes will be formally interred in the Sana Ifigenia cemetery on Sunday, Dec. 4. beside Cuban National Hero José Martí.

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro, Bolivia's President Evo Morales, Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega and former presidents of Brazil Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff were among the world leaders in attendance to bid one last farewell to the revolutionary leader.

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At the ceremony, several Cuban civil society leaders took to the stage to say goodbye to the father of the Cuban Revolution. "Fidel showed us that another world is possible," said Ulises Guilarte, head of the Trade Union Confederation of Cuba.

"We will continue Fidel’s work with sacrifice and dignity," added Division General Jose Antonio Carrillo, from the Association of Combatants of the Cuban Revolution.

The speech by Teresa Amarelle of the Cuban Federation of Women was one of the most emotional as she acknowledged the role the revolution played in putting Cuban women in charge of their own destiny.

"Cuba is invincible, Cuban women are the revolution," said Amarelle. "Thank you, Comandante, for your example, for your unshakable faith in Cuban women."

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The event took place after Fidel's ashes left Havana on Nov. 30 , traveling over 500 miles through 13 provinces on a reverse journey of the 1959 victory, eventually arriving at the place of his birth and final resting place, Santiago de Cuba.

Arriving in Santiago on Friday Congolese President Denis Sassou N'Guesso, told Cuban television that Fidel was one of the truly great world leaders of the 20th Century, and highlighted the key role Cuba played in the liberation of his country, as well as South Africa, Namibia and Angola.

Angolan Vice President Manuel Vicente, who arrived Friday evening in Havana, offered condolences on behalf of his country, adding that Angola would be holding its own formal remembrance ceremony to honor the debt it owed to the late Cuban leader.

Also in Cuba for the funeral is Argentine football star Diego Maradona, who spoke emotionally on Cuban television about his friend and “second father,” Fidel Castro.

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"He was the greatest, without a doubt. But now his legend must survive in our hearts," the retired World Cup winner said. "Fidel is not dead."

Maradonna and Fidel formed a close friendship after the former Argentine national team coach first visited Cuba in 1987. In 2004, Maradona received treatment for his cocaine addiction in Cuba. "Fidel is the one who gave me advice, who talked to me frankly, who told me what I had to do, what I couldn't do," said Maradona, who has the late bearded leader's face tattooed on his left leg.

"I want to send a big greeting to all Cubans and tell them that my heart is with them. I feel Cuban. I am a Cuban soldier. I would give my heart and all my body for this flag, for Cuba, Fidel and Che,” he concluded.


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