Fidel Castro: Cuba announces 9 days of national mourning

The former Cuban president and leader of the communist revolution died on Friday night at the age of 90.

A supporter waves a Cuban flag in front of the country's embassy after it re-opened for the first time in 54 years on 20 July 2015 in Washington, DC. Picture: AFP

JOHANNESBURG – Cuba has announced nine days of mourning following the death of one of the world’s longest-serving and most iconic leaders Fidel Castro.

The former Cuban president and leader of the communist revolution died on Friday night from an unknown illness.
Castro ruled Cuba as a one-party state for almost half a century from 1959.

He stood down as president in 2008, having handed over power to his brother Raul, two years earlier due to health reasons.
His ashes will be laid to rest on 4 December.

At the same time, Pope Francis has also expressed his sentiment of sorrow at the passing of Castro.
He says the death of Cuba’s revolutionary leader is ‘sad’.

Pope Francis was one of the mediators between Havanna and the United State for the 2014 agreement to cast aside decades of hostility that began soon after Cuba’s 1959 revolution.

News of the Cuban leader’s death has triggered both celebrations and mourning across the globe.

Supporters grieved over the revolutionary while others welcomed his death, further polarising the memory of the man who had led Cuba for many decades.

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World leaders paid tribute on Saturday to Fidel Castro, the Cuban revolutionary leader who built a communist state on the doorstep of the United States, but in death just as in life he divided opinion, and critics labeled him a “tyrant”.
Mikhail Gorbachev, the final leader of the Soviet Union which had long acted as an economic and political prop for Cuba, said Castro left a lasting mark on his country and on world history.

“Fidel held his ground and strengthened his country at the time of the harshest American blockade, at the time of massive pressure on him,” Gorbachev was quoted by Interfax news agency as saying, “Nevertheless he led out his country from the blockade to the path of self-sustained and independent development.”

In a telegram of condolence to Raul Castro, Russian President Vladimir Putin called the late leader an “inspiring example for many countries”.

“Fidel Castro was a frank and tried and true friend of Russia,” the Kremlin quoted the message as saying.Chinese President Xi Jinping said in a statement that: “the Chinese people have lost a close comrade and a sincere friend”.

Xi hailed Castro for his contribution to the development of communism both in Cuba and around the world.

In Venezuela, a long-time ally of Cuba and staunch opponent of the political stance of the United States, President Nicolas Maduro said Castro had inspired and would continue to inspire his country.

“We will keep on winning and keep fighting. Fidel Castro is an example of the fight for all the people of the world. We will go forward with his legacy,” Maduro told television station Telesur by telephone.

In Bolivia, where Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara died in 1967 in a failed bid to export Cuba’s revolution, President Evo Morales said in a statement: “Fidel Castro left us a legacy of having fought for the integration of the world’s peoples ... The departure of Comandante Fidel Castro really hurts.”

Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa said: “A great has left us. Fidel has died. Long live Cuba! Long live Latin America!”

Additional reporting by Reuters