Regional leaders and tens of thousands of Cubans filled Havana’s Plaza of the Revolution on Tuesday night for a service honoring Fidel Castro. (Nov. 29) AP
HAVANA — World leaders bid farewell to Fidel Castro on Tuesday night in a ceremony filled with solemn memorial for the fallen communist dictator and collective admonishment of imperialism and the United States.
Presidents, prime ministers and diplomats from Ecuador to China to South Africa took to a podium in Cuba’s Plaza of the Revolution, where Castro himself had delivered so many of his hours-long, fiery speeches before massive crowds of Cubans.
Castro was hailed as the father of Cuba’s communist revolution, who brought health care, education and military might to his people.
Majid Ansari, vice president of Iran, said Castro’s name would go down among the most important independence fighters in human history. Nicolas Maduro, the president of Venezuela, described El Comandante as a father figure who founded his country’s socialist ideals.
Bolivian President Evo Morales hailed Castro for successfully fighting back the United States and leaving the “anti-imperialist” people of the world ready to continue the fight.
“Fidel is more alive than ever, more necessary than ever. He’s alive, vigilant, contemplating our common cause,” Morales said. “The Cuban people are stronger than ever and ready to fight imperialism. And the anti-imperialists of the world are united like never before.”
Tuesday’s ceremony in Havana, filled with nearly four hours of speeches, marked the most high-profile event of a week full of services for the communist leader. On Wednesday, his ashes will begin a slow procession across the island, ending in the eastern city of Santiago de Cuba, where they will be interred alongside Cuba’s independence leader Jose Marti.
Many heads of state from allies around the world were absent on Tuesday, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Despite the recent diplomatic opening initiated by President Obama, he did not attend, sending a White House adviser and the chief of the U.S. mission in Havana in his place.
Still, the U.S. played a prominent role in the speeches delivered Tuesday as many praised Castro for his fight against the Yankees to the north.
Maduro accused former President George W. Bush of trying to assassinate former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.
Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa took specific aim at the Cuban-American community in Miami, which he referred to as “Cuba North” that had repeatedly tried, and failed, to take down Castro.
“They have not invaded Cuba because they can’t defeat an entire population,” Correa said to loud cheers from the crowd.
Raul Castro, who rose to power when Fidel fell ill in 2006, ended the night remembering the many times he and his brother celebrated victories in the Plaza of the Revolution. That included the times when Fidel stood in the face of U.S. aggression, declaring that in Cuba, “there’s a dignified people prepared to defend its independence and the common destiny of a liberated Latin America.”
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