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Lakhs of people paid homage to their dear and great leader during the journey of convoy from Havana to Santiago which carried the mortal remains of revolutionary genius Fidel Castro. In this sea of people, comrades who are holding responsibilities for the changes and reforms of Cuba were also seen. The distance between Havana and Santiago is 800 km. All the way through, large numbers of people stood on either side of the road, to see off their leader.
Fidel Castro had coincidentally passed away exactly on the day he along with his 81 other comrades had set forth in the Granma yacht from Mexico, for the liberation of Cuba – November 25. 60 years ago, it was on a December 2nd that the revolutionaries including Fidel, Raul Castro and Che Guevara landed on Santiago in Cuba and once again it was on the same day, 2 December, that the convoy carrying the mortal remains of Fidel had reached Santiago. It is for this reason and to honour the triumphant march of the revolutionaries to Havana that they had called the journey of the convoy as the retracing of the route in reverse, of the Caravan of Liberty of 1959.
On its way to Santiago, the convoy had passed through the town Santa Clara. This town has played an important role in the liberation of Cuba. Troops under the leadership of Che Guevara had won a decisive victory here against the hated Batista troops. This is the place where the mortal remains of Che were cremated. Fidel, had expressed his desire to place his remains at Santa Clara for a night, during his last journey. That dream of Fidel was fulfilled.
Mortal remains of Fidel was cremated on 4 December, near the memorial of Jose Marti who was the leader of the liberation movement for the entire Latin America. Even though people of Cuba fell into deep sorrow hearing the death of their beloved leader, they are dignified in expressing their feelings. People of Cuba gave farewell to their leader with great maturity. They are keeping their sentiments in their heart.
A day before his mortal remains were buried, on 3 December, a memorial meeting was held in Santiago with a few select foreign dignitaries and hundreds of thousands of Cuban people. People from many walks of life came to Cuba to pay their homage to Fidel. Amongst them was Maradona, the football legend. Explaining his love and gratitude to Fidel, Maradona stated: “I came to be with my second dad, with the legend who leaves us a very clear legacy that we cannot betray. Anyone who believes that Cuba is weak because this great has gone is wrong. I want to send my greetings to all Cubans and tell them that my heart is with them; I am a Cuban soldier…I would give my heart and all my body for this flag, for Cuba, Fidel and for Che”, he concluded.
Maradona thanked Fidel for welcoming him during the difficult time of his recovery from drug addiction. He also praised Fidel’s leadership, noting that among many other players, he was the leader of the world team of politicians.
In the memorial meeting on 3 December, 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. He emphasised 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.
The National Secretary of the Federation of Cuban Women, Teresa Amarelle in an emotional and moving speech stated that “with the conquest of a true emancipation, for the first time, Cuban women were protagonists of our own destiny.” She emphatically stated: “We Cuban women are the Revolution” and pledged that Raúl, “can count on Cuban women” for the safeguarding of the revolution.
Representing the younger generations, the youth of the country, the president of the University Students’ Federation, Jennifer Bello, stressed that Cuban students will continue to defend the Revolution. She promised, “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!”
Following her, Sucelys Morfa, secretary of the Young Communists League, noted 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. “Your children and young people have sworn allegiance and commitment. This youth is the fruit of your struggle”, she stressed.
Miguel Barnet, president of the National Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba, Rafael Ramón Santiesteban Pozo, president of the Association of Small Farmers (ANAP), Major General José Antonio Carrillo Gómez, president of the Association of Combatants of the Cuban Revolution, Carlos Rafael Miranda, a member of the Party Central Committee and National Coordinator of the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR) were among others who spoke on the ocassion.
Finally, President Raúl Castro, delivered the central remarks in tribute to the leader of the Cuban Revolution, his brother Fidel. Raul at the outset, on behalf of the Cuban people, the Party, State, government, and family members, expressed his “utmost heartfelt thanks for the innumerable displays of respect and affection toward Fidel, his ideas and his work, which continue to arrive from all corners of the globe”.
Raul then explained to the people Fidel's last wish as: “the leader of the Revolution rejected any manifestation of a cult of personality, and remained true to this position until the last hours of his life, insisting that, after his death, his name and likeness never be used to designate institutions, plazas, parks, avenues, streets, or other public spaces, nor monuments, busts, statues, and other such tributes be erected. In accordance with compañero Fidel’s decision, during the next period of sessions of the National Assembly of People’s Power, we will present necessary legislative proposals to ensure his will is upheld”. This itself signifies the simplicity and humility that portrays the glorious life of Fidel Castro.
Fidel Castro is a great revolutionary whose death is an immense loss to the entire humanity. Both Fidel and Che will forever remain in the hearts of people all over the world and their ideas will continue to inspire all of us. It is indeed my privilege to have participated in the memorial rallies of these two revolutionary giants, when their mortal remains are interned in Cuba.
Fidel paying homage to Che had stated that “Che’s extraordinary character was made up of virtues that are rarely found together. He stood out as an unsurpassed person of action, but Che was not only that — he was also a person of visionary intelligence and broad culture, a profound thinker. That is, the man of ideas and the man of action were combined within him. Che as a revolutionary united in himself the virtues that can be defined as the fullest expression of the virtues of a revolutionary: a person of total integrity, a person of supreme sense of honor, of absolute sincerity, a person of stoic and Spartan living habits, a person in whose conduct not one stain can be found. He constituted, through his virtues, what can be called a truly model revolutionary. Che has become a model of what future humans should be, not only for our people but also for people everywhere in Latin America. Che carried to its highest expression revolutionary stoicism, the revolutionary spirit of sacrifice, revolutionary combativeness, the revolutionary’s spirit of work. Che brought the ideas of Marxism-Leninism to their freshest, purest, most revolutionary expression. No other person of our time has carried the spirit of proletarian internationalism to its highest possible level as Che did”. Further, “Such proof of confidence in himself, such proof of confidence in the peoples, such proof of faith in man’s capacity to fight, can be looked for in the pages of history but the likes of it will never be found”.
But we can say here with all the confidence at our command that if there is another person to whom all these characteristics can be attributed it can be and will be only Fidel.
Farewell Comrade Fidel. Hasta la victoria Siempre.