|Children hold Cuban flags as they wait for Fidel Castro’s funeral procession that retraces his triumphant march into Havana nearly six decades ago, in Esperanza, Cuba. — AP/VNA Photo |Viet Nam News
HAVANA — A military jeep carrying the ashes of late leader Fidel Castro left Havana on a four-day journey across Cuba on Wednesday (Havana time), with hundreds of thousands of flag-waving islanders bidding farewell along the route.
After two days of tributes to Castro in Cuba’s capital, the "caravan of freedom" departed on a 950-kilometer trek retracing the route of his revolution’s victory tour of 1959.
The flag-covered urn rested on a small olive-green trailer behind the jeep, flanked by white flowers and protected by a glass case, as Havana bid farewell to the man who ruled the island with an iron fist for almost half a century.
The huge crowds chanted "I am Fidel!" and "Viva Fidel!" as the convoy headed on a long trip through the countryside that will end with a burial in the eastern city of Santiago de Cuba on Sunday.
"I come from a poor family. I am black. In another era, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to be who I am today," said Maria Gonzalez, a 31-year-old computer engineer.
Elsewhere along the route, a tearful Esperanza Pares, 86, said it was "moving to say goodbye to a person who meant so much but who lived long enough to accomplish what he wanted."
Senior officials of the government and Communist Party, as well as Castro’s longtime partner Dalia Soto del Valle, attended the farewell ceremony at the armed forces ministry before the caravan headed out.
Cubans were observing the fifth of nine days of mourning for Castro following his death on Friday at age 90. Castro ruled from 1959 until an illness forced him to hand power to his brother Raul in 2006.
The urn will be laid to rest at a cemetery in Santiago de Cuba, next to the mausoleum of 19th century independence hero Jose Marti. — AFP