The remains of former Cuban leader Fidel Castro were buried in eastern Cuba early Sunday morning after nine days of nationally-mandated mourning across the island.
The ceremony at Santa Ifigenia Cemetery in Santiago de Cuba was made private at last minute, barring journalists from around the world from witnessing the service."
Casto, a polarizing leader who was celebrated by some Cubans as a champion of the poor and harshly criticized by others as a tyrant who wrecked the country's economy and violated human rights, died on November 25 at age 90, after years of declining health.
Fidel Castro's ashes arrived Saturday afternoon in Santiago de Cuba, the city where he started the Cuban revolution in 1953. The procession followed in reverse the route Castro and his rebels fighters took as they advanced on the capital from the Sierra Maestra mountains before taking power in January 1959.
The ashes, held in a wooden box draped with the Cuban flag, encased in glass and pulled on a trailer by an army jeep, left from Havana last week. Hundreds of thousands of Cubans mourning, cheering or chanting "I am Fidel!" lined the streets as the cortege rolled through towns along the 900-km route.
Cuban President Raul Castro told tens of thousands of onlookers gathered for a rally in his brother’s honor in Santiago de Cuba Saturday evening that the government will honor Fide’s wish that no monuments or public venues be named after him.
"This is the unconquered Fidel who calls us with his example," Raul Castro, dressed in his four-star general's uniform, told the crowd, which had burst into chants of "I am Fidel."
Castro allies, including Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and football (soccer) champion Diego Maradona, attended the event.
Current and former world leaders expected to attend the funeral also include Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, Bolivian President Evo Morales, and past Brazilian presidents Luis Inacio Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff.
Raul Castro assumed office in February 2008 and has pledged to step down in 2018.