Farewell, Dear Comrade, Farewell
Cubans Pay Their Respects to Fidel
Following the death on November 25 at 10:29 pm of the beloved leader of the Cuban people, Fidel Castro Ruz, the Council of State of the Republic of Cuba declared a nine-day period of National Mourning, from 6:00 am on November 26 to 12:00 am on December 4.
Fidel’s remains were cremated early on the morning of November 26, whereupon the people began arriving at the José Martí Memorial in Havana’s Plaza de la Revolución to pay their respects to Comandante Fidel Castro and pledge their commitment to continuing the process of building socialism by signing the oath to the “Concept of Revolution” articulated by Fidel Castro on May 1, 2000:
“Revolution means to have a sense of history; it is changing everything that must be changed; it is full equality and freedom; it is being treated and treating others like human beings; it is achieving emancipation by ourselves and through our own efforts; it is challenging powerful dominant forces from within and without the social and national milieu; it is defending the values in which we believe at the cost of any sacrifice; it is modesty, selflessness, altruism, solidarity and heroism; it is fighting with courage, intelligence and realism; it is never lying or violating ethical principles; it is a profound conviction that there is no power in the world that can crush the power of truth and ideas. Revolution means unity; it is independence, it is fighting for our dreams of justice for Cuba and for the world, which is the foundation of our patriotism, our socialism and our internationalism.”
In municipalities across the country, similar memorials were set up to enable citizens to pay tribute to Fidel and make their commitment to continuing his work. These memorials continued until the next day, followed by a mass tribute at the Plaza de la Revolución in Havana on the evening of November 29.
Full Honours for the Eternal Comandante
At 8:00 am on November 28, senior leaders of the Revolution performed a ceremonial guard in honour of Comandante en Jefe of the Cuban Revolution Fidel Castro Ruz, in the Ministry of the Revolutionary Armed Forces’ Granma Hall, where the Comandante’s ashes remained before being taken to Santiago de Cuba’s Santa Ifigênia Cemetery, via a journey retracing the historic 1959 Victory Caravan.
A minute of silence, presided over by Army General Raúl Castro Ruz, was held in honour of the historic leader of the Cuban Revolution.
Raúl was the first to approach the memorial, placing a white rose in front of the urn; after which he signed the book containing the oath to the “Concept of the Revolution” as articulated by Fidel on May 1, 2000.
Later, Comandantes of the Revolution Ramiro Valdés Menéndez and Guillermo García Frías paid their respects to the eternal leader; followed by the remaining members of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba in a gesture reaffirming their revolutionary commitment to continuing the ideas of their Comandante.
Mass Tribute in Havana
On November 29, at 7:00 pm, a mass rally was held in José Martí Revolution Square in Havana to honour the memory of Fidel Castro. The square and the avenue leading up to it were a sea of humanity, a mighty expression of the profound respect, gratitude and social love shared between the Cuban people and Fidel.
Heads of state and government and high-level government delegations attended from countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean as well as Europe. Canada was represented by Governor General David Johnston. The people listened attentively and responded as seventeen representatives of the peoples of the world spoke eloquently on the significance of Fidel’s life and work, highlighting the deep bonds of friendship between the Cuban people and the peoples of the world established under Fidel’s internationalist leadership. Following the presentations, on behalf of the Council of State and Ministers, the Communist Party and the Castro family, Army General President Raúl Castro Ruz closed the rally with a presentation titled From Here We Say: Hasta la Victoria Siempre!
A Victorious Return
The following morning, November 30, Army General Raúl Castro Ruz presided over the ceremony held at the Revolutionary Armed Forces Ministry as the caravan bearing the remains of the undefeated Commander in Chief Fidel Castro Ruz departed from Havana toward Santiago de Cuba.
The provinces of La Habana, Mayabeque, Matanzas, Cienfuegos and Villa Clara overflowed with respect, loyalty, and fidelity, along the historic route taken by the Caravan of Liberty in January of 1959, this time in reverse, toward Santiago de Cuba. As was the case 58 years ago, this was a triumphant march, and once again the people received Fidel with affection and commitment to his Concept of Revolution. The people poured out to meet the caravan bearing Fidel’s ashes and say their last farewell to their beloved leader.
The caravan reached Santiago de Cuba, the cradle of the Revolution, on the fourth day of its journey, December 3, visiting historic landmarks in the city.
Mass Tribute in Santiago De Cuba
The people of Santiago and adjoining provinces filled the Plaza de la Revolución Antonio Maceo 300,000 strong to bid Fidel farewell. The tribute began at 7:00 pm on Saturday, December 3, with Cuba’s national anthem.
Various representatives of the Cuban people spoke during the mass act in the city’s Plaza de la Revolución Antonio Maceo, with President Raúl offering the final, central remarks.
The first to speak was Ulises Guilarte de Nacimiento, Secretary General of the Cuban Workers’ Federation (CTC), who expressed the deep pain of Cuban workers on hearing the news of the death of the leader of the Cuban Revolution. “Fidel unconditionally defended revolutionary ideas and principles of social justice,” he noted.
Guilarte de Nacimiento emphasized that the Revolution fulfilled the objectives set out in Fidel’s famous defense, known as “History will absolve me” and that with the triumph of January 1, 1959, the working class became a protagonist in the construction of the new social project. “Fidel always encouraged consultation with the labor movement regarding the most important tasks of the Revolution,” he added.
He concluded that thanks to Fidel, Cuba is a dignified, independent, anti-imperialist and solidary country, and that he would live on in the hearts of all Cuban workers.
Rafael Ramón Santiesteban Pozo, President of the Association of Small Farmers (ANAP), noted that Fidel has marked the history of Latin America and the world. He added that the Comandante en Jefe combined word and action like no one else, and that those principles are defended at all costs.
He stressed that since the very beginning, the Cuban Revolution assumed Martí’s legacy of working for the poor of the earth. He recalled that Cuban campesinos also supported the insurrection forces before the January 1959 triumph. Santiesteban recalled the transformations promoted by Fidel to contribute to the development of agriculture on the island.
He concluded that Fidel’s work will always be a beacon and guide for Cuban campesinos, noting “He will always be present in the effort and sacrifice of every campesino,” and reaffirming the commitment of all campesinos to continue to build a sovereign, independent, socialist and prosperous nation.
Major General José Antonio Carrillo Gómez, President of the Association of Combatants of the Cuban Revolution, reported that the news of Fidel’s death moved everyone, as it was the reaction to the physical loss of the man who did the most for his country, who always provided exemplary courage and who knew how to interpret the ideas of Bolívar and Martí and translate them into the Revolution.
The Association of Combatants feels the loss of the Comandante en Jefe, undefeated in all battles of the Cuban people, Carrillo Gómez stated. He assured that they will never give up his legacy and that his teachings are present in every Cuban when we say “I am Fidel.”
“We have the challenge of being worthy of all those who fell for the Homeland,” he stated, highlighting that the best way to pay tribute to Fidel is to maintain unity at any cost.
Carlos Rafael Miranda, a member of the Party Central Committee and National Coordinator of the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR), noted that Fidel is Cuba because Fidel is the people who continue to love him. He added that Fidel is present in the work of builders, doctors, intellectuals and teachers, and that he is present “in the spirit of solidarity that he instilled in us.”
The National Secretary of the Federation of Cuban Women, Teresa Amarelle, stated that “with the conquest of a true emancipation, for the first time, Cuban women were protagonists of our own destiny.”
She stressed, “We Cuban women are the Revolution. Here, in the heroic Santiago, pioneers, campesinas, workers, artists, fighters, homemakers and retirees. “Raúl, you can count on Cuban women. Ever onward to victory!” she concluded.
Miguel Barnet, President of the National Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba, stated that this is the saddest occasion in his life as a writer and revolutionary. He noted that Fidel was a tireless fighter for peace. His work made him a paradigm of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries and none of his contemporaries can compare.
Fidel was the architect of unity during the revolutionary struggle. No one surpassed him, nor could his most powerful enemy defeat him, he noted. “Fidel articulated in a harmonious way Bolivarian, Martian and Marxist thinking, which gave the Cuban Revolution a singularity in the world.” His mobilizing capacity was unprecedented in Cuban history. In his historic words to intellectuals he designed the Cuban cultural policy with inclusive characteristics. “Cuba without Fidel would not be the Cuba it is today,” Barnet concluded.
The President of the University Students’ Federation, Jennifer Bello, stressed that Cuban students will continue to defend the Revolution. She noted, “Cuba is ours to take care of and defend. Each university classroom will be our Moncada,” adding, “We will be faithful followers of Martí and Maceo. Cuban students today say that Cuba is and will be an eternal Baraguá!”
Sucelys Morfa, Secretary of the Young Communists League, noted “Solidarity and internationalism make us grow as human beings.” She added that Fidel was a tireless fighter for the force of truth and ideas. She concluded her speech reaffirming that this generation aspires to be like Fidel. Thank you, dear Comandante, thank you, dear Raúl, for giving us this free and dignified country. Your children and young people have sworn allegiance and commitment. This youth is the fruit of your struggle, she stressed.
Finally, President Raúl Castro, delivered the central remarks in tribute to the leader of the Cuban Revolution, his brother Fidel.
Central Remarks by President Raúl Castro
Raúl began by highlighting the demonstrations of affection from the Cuban people all along the route of the funeral procession from Havana to Santiago de Cuba.
Raúl noted that tomorrow his ashes will be buried in a simple ceremony in the Santa Ifigênia cemetery, near national hero José Martí and his companions of the Moncada assault, the Sierra Maestra, the clandestine struggle and internationalist struggles. A few steps away are the tombs of Carlos Manuel de Céspedes and the legendary Mariana Grajales. There is also the pantheon with the remains of the unforgettable Frank País, assassinated by thugs of the tyranny aged barely 22, he noted.
He stressed that since the news of the death of the Historic Leader of the Cuban Revolution late on the night of November 25, pain and sadness seized the Cuban people, who demonstrated their integrity, patriotic conviction and discipline in organizing mass activities in tribute to Fidel and reaffirming their commitment to his concept of Revolution as stated on May 1, 2000.
On behalf of our People, the Party, the state and government and the family, I reiterate my deepest gratitude for the countless demonstrations of affection for Fidel, his ideas and his work that continue to come from all over the world, Raúl stated.
The Cuban President recalled key moments of the life and work of Fidel, his internationalist efforts, his dedication to the peoples of the world and his friendships with global leaders.
Raúl asserted that Fidel showed us that we could reach the coast on the Granma yacht, that we could resist the enemy, the hunger and the cold; organize a revolutionary army in the Sierra Maestra; that new guerrilla fronts could be organized in the East; that it was possible to defeat with 300 rifles the offensive of more than 10,000 soldiers; that one could repeat the epic feats of Maceo and Gómez with the columns of Che and Camilo towards the west of the island; that it was possible with the support of the whole people to defeat the Batista tyranny.
Fidel taught us that we could defeat in 72 hours or less the invasion at Playa Girón and continue the literacy campaign; that the socialist character of the Revolution could be proclaimed within 90 miles of the empire; that the principles of our sovereignty could be firmly maintained; that we needn’t fear the U.S. during the Missile Crisis; that solidarity could be sent to other sister nations in the struggle against colonial oppression and external aggression and racism; that it was possible to defeat the South African racists, saving the territorial integrity of Angola and ensuring the independence of Namibia.
Fidel demonstrated that Cuba could become a medical power and reduce child mortality to rates comparable to the first world. That we could transform Cuba into a great scientific center, advance in the modern and decisive fields of genetic engineering and biotechnology. That we could resist, survive and develop without renouncing the principles and achievements of socialism in the unipolar and transnational world that emerged after the collapse of the socialist camp of Europe and the USSR.
The permanent teaching of Fidel is that yes, we can; that man is able to overcome the harshest conditions if his will to win does not yield, he makes an evaluation of each situation and does not renounce his noble and just principles.
He showed that it was possible, that we could and can overcome any obstacle or threat in our firm commitment to build socialism in Cuba, to guarantee the independence and sovereignty of the country.
“Hasta la victoria siempre!” Raúl concluded, as the thousands gathered in the square cried, “Fidel is Raúl!”
The people of Santiago and adjoining provinces, including students and their teachers, held an all-night vigil in the square, as did the students in Havana and other cities.
Final Burial at Santa Ifigênia Cemetary
In the early morning of December 4, the people accompanied Comrade Fidel’s ashes to the Santa Ifigênia Cemetary, where a private ceremony was held. His ashes are interred near the monument to national hero José Martí and also Fidel’s fellow veterans of of the assault on the Moncada Barracks, his comrades-in-arms of the battle of the Sierra Maestra which led to the triumph of the Revolution on January 1, 1959, as well as participants in the internationalist struggles and many others. Also interred at the cemetary are Frank País, assassinated in 1957 by the Batista dictatorship, and historic fighters against slavery and for Cuban independence Carlos Manuel de Céspedes and Mariana Grajales.
Speeches at Mass Tribute in Havana
From Here We Say: Hasta la Victoria Siempre
Remarks by Army General Raúl Castro Ruz, First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba and President of the Councils of State and Ministers, during the massive posthumous tribute to Commander in Chief Fidel Castro Ruz, in Havana’s Plaza de la Revolución, November 29, 2016, Year 58 of the Revolution.
* * *
Esteemed heads of state and government;
Gentlemen, leaders of delegations;
Dear people of Cuba:
Although it will be my responsibility to present the final speech, this coming December 3, when we gather in Antonio Maceo Plaza de la Revolución in Santiago de Cuba, I wish to express, at this time, in the name of our people, Party, and government, as well as the family, our sincere gratitude for your presence here at this event [applause], for the moving words you have expressed, and also for the extraordinary, innumerable demonstrations of solidarity, affection, and respect received from the entire planet, in this hour of pain and commitment.
Fidel dedicated his life to solidarity and led a socialist revolution “of the humble, by the humble, for the humble” that became a symbol of the anti-colonial, anti-apartheid, anti-imperialist struggle, for the emancipation and dignity of peoples.
His vibrant words resound in this Plaza today, as they did in the gathering of campesinos July 26, 1959, in support of the agrarian reform, which was like crossing the Rubicon and unleashed a death sentence of the Revolution. Here Fidel reaffirmed, “The agrarian reform is going ahead.” And we did it. Today, 57 years later, we are honouring the person who conceived it and led it.
In this place, we voted to approve, together with him, the First and Second Declarations of Havana, in 1960 and 1962, respectively. [Applause] Faced with aggression by the Organization of American States (OAS), Fidel proclaimed that “behind the Homeland, behind the free flag, behind the redeeming Revolution … there is an honourable people,” ready to defend its independence and “the common destiny of a freed Latin America.”
I was with Fidel in the building now occupied by the MINFAR, that is, the Ministry of the Revolutionary Armed Forces, [on one side of the Plaza] when we heard the explosion of the French ship La Coubre, which had brought the first and only weapons we were able to purchase in Europe, and we left for the docks to aid the victims — because we knew that that explosion could only have come from the ship that was unloading those weapons — [and] a few minutes after our arrival, a lethal trap, a second explosion occurred. The two together caused 101 deaths and numerous injuries.
Here, with him, the Declaration of Cuba as an Illiteracy Free Territory, in December of 1961, was made, [applause], at the conclusion of the Literacy Campaign carried out by more than 250,000 teachers and students, which did not stop; while this same year, veterans of the Rebel Army and the nascent National Revolutionary Militias battled the mercenaries at Playa Girón, and in mountainous areas, armed bands infiltrated from abroad, which among many other vile acts, murdered 10 young literacy teachers. A victory was won in Girón, and at the same time, the entire country learned to read and write [applause], to ensure that, as Fidel said at that time, “The young have a future in their hands.” [Applause]
With great emotion, precisely here, we heard the Comandante en Jefe in this Plaza, during the solemn wake of October 1967, to pay tribute to the unforgettable Comandante Che Guevara, and returned here again, 30 years later, during the most difficult stage of the Special Period, to commit ourselves, before his remains, to follow his immortal example.
Moved and indignant, we attended the painful farewell to the 73 persons murdered by state terrorism in the bombing of the Cubana Airlines aircraft over Barbados, among them the young winners of all the gold medals in the 4th Central American and Caribbean Fencing Championships. On that occasion, we repeated with him, “When an energetic and virile people weeps” [shouts of: Injustice trembles!]. Exactly, “Injustice trembles!” [Applause]
This is the Plaza of important May Day marches in the capital: in 1966, against the Helms-Burton Act, which is still in effect; the enormous march of 1999, and the open tribunal of youth, students, and workers of 2000, when Fidel presented his conception of Revolution, which millions of Cubans have made their own with their signature, over the last few days, in a sacred act of commitment. [Applause]
This is the place where we have come to support the agreements reached at our Congresses of the Communist Party of Cuba.
In this same spirit, the people have come over these last few days, with much participation from youth, to render heartfelt tribute and swear loyalty to the ideas and work of the Comandante en Jefe of the Cuban Revolution. [Applause]
Alongside the monument to José Martí, national hero and intellectual author of the assault on the Moncada Garrison, where we have gathered for over half a century in moments of extraordinary pain — and to honour our martyrs, proclaim our ideals, revere our symbols, and consult the people regarding important decisions — precisely here, where we commemorate our victories, we say to you, alongside our self-sacrificing, combative, heroic people: Hasta la victoria siempre! [Shouts of Siempre! and applause]
[Shouts of: “Viva Fidel! Viva Raúl!”]
(Photos: Granma, Cuba Debate, Estudio Revolucion, Periodica Escambray, Telesur, University of Havana, UCI, Prensa Presidencial Venezuela, A. Montero Reyes, On Cuba, R. Segura, A.P. Janset, Periodica Vanguardia, ACN, Ahors, M. Hernandez.)
Source: TML Weekly, Supplement – No. 47, December 4, 2016
Principles are worth more than life itself – Fidel Castro, 1994