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Cuba

Cuba mourns revolutionary's death as Castro funeral set

Cubans have taken to the streets to bid farewell to Fidel Castro. The Cuban revolutionary leader and former president was last seen in public on his 90th birthday, on August 13.

Cuba has begun preparations to mark the passing of revolutionary leader Fidel Castro , who died late Friday at the age of 90 after surviving 11 US administrations, more than 600 assassination attempts and a Washington-backed invasion of the island.

Castro was cremated Saturday. His ashes will travel from Havana to Santiago, reversing his rebel army's 1959 sweep from the Sierra Maestra to the capital after ousting US-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista, and will be buried December 4 in the southeastern city.

Alcohol sales have been limited and baseball games have been canceled as part of nine days of official public mourning. On Monday, Cubans will converge on Havana's Revolution Square.

'We were wretched'

Castro ruled from 1959 until formally handing power to his brother Raul in 2008 after nearly dying of an intestinal ailment in 2006. Though Cubans suffered under a decades long embargo imposed by the US, under the Castro mantra "socialism or death" the country of 11 million became renowned for high education standards and world-class doctors.

"For me, it's my mother first, my children, my father, then Fidel," 60-year-old Rafael Urbay told the news agency Reuters in Havana. "We weren't just poor," he said. "We were wretched. Then came Fidel and the revolution. He gave me my humanity."

Castro continued to wield influence in the decade after he stepped down, regularly writing against US imperialism in the state press. Castro advised Cubans not to give in to the US.

Though many in Cuba and Latin America have publicly mourned the loss of a figure who stood up to the US assertion of hegemony in the region, exiles in Miami, 370 kilometers (220 miles) from Havana, have danced in the streets to celebrate Castro's death.

Among the cacophony of car horns, drums, loud music and singing in the city's Little Havana neighborhood, a chant rang out: "Fidel, you tyrant, take your brother too!"

Miami is home to a large number of the 2 million Cuban exiles who live in the United States. Following his death, Cuban-American politicians excoriated Castro, with Florida Senator Marco Rubio calling Castro an "evil, murderous dictator."

US President Barack Obama, who will leave office in January, and his successor Donald Trump expressed sharply different reactions to Castro's death. In 2014, Obama embarked on a historic rapprochement with the Castros, extending a capitalist "hand of friendship" to Cubans.

For his part, President-elect Trump has called Castro "a brutal dictator." It remains uncertain what will become of the improved relations under Trump, who has threatened to reverse course. His vice president, Mike Pence, also had harsh words for Castro.

Many Cubans have publicly worried about the fate of their country under a Trump-Pence administration in the United States.

mkg/jlw (EFE, Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)