Fidel Castro's ashes interred in Cuba, ending nine days of mourning

A large drawing of Cuba's late President Fidel Castro is displayed in the Playa neighborhood of Havana, Cuba, November 29, 2016.
Reuters
A large drawing of Cuba's late President Fidel Castro is displayed in the Playa neighborhood of Havana, Cuba, November 29, 2016.

Fidel Castro's ashes were being interred in a private ceremony Sunday morning, ending nine days of mourning for the man who ruled Cuba for nearly half a century.

The military vehicle bearing his remains in a flag-draped cedar coffin left the Plaza of the Revolution in the eastern city of Santiago at 6:39 a.m. ET.

Thousands of people lined the two-mile route to Santa Ifigenia cemetery, waving Cuban flags and shouting "Long live Fidel!"

The Cuban military fired a 21-gun salute and crowds at the entrance to the cemetery sang the national anthem as the ashes entered about 40 minutes later. The ceremony lasted more than an hour and took place out of the public eye after Cuban officials made a last-minute cancellation of plans to broadcast the events live on national and international television. International media were also barred from the ceremony.

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Martial music could be heard outside the cemetery, where Ines de la Rosa was among the mourners gathered. She said she would have liked to watch the ceremony on television, but "we understand how they as a family also need a bit of privacy."

Fellow mourner Elena Vinales said she wasn't surprised that the images of the ceremony were not broadcast. "It seems to be a family moment," she said.

The decision to hold a private ceremony came the morning after Castro's brother, President Raul Castro, announced that Cuba would prohibit the naming of streets and monuments after the former leader, and bar the construction of statues of the former leader and revolutionary icon, in keeping with his desire to avoid a cult of personality.

"The leader of the revolution rejected any manifestation of a cult of personality and was consistent in that through the last hours of his life, insisting that, once dead, his name and likeness would never be used on institutions, streets, parks or other public sites, and that busts, statutes or other forms of tribute would never be erected," Raul Castro told a massive crowd gathered in the eastern city of Santiago.

Fidel Castro, who stepped down in 2006 after falling ill, kept his name off public sites during his near half-century in power because he said he wanted to avoid the development of a personality cult. In contrast, the images of his fellow revolutionary fighters Camilo Cienfuegos and Ernesto "Che" Guevara became common across Cuba in the decades since their deaths.