Hundreds of Thousands Gather in Havana to Mark Castro's Death

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Hundreds of Thousands Gather in Havana to Mark Castro's Death

'It is indisputable that he took a small Caribbean island and transformed it into a major actor on the world stage, far beyond its geographic size'

Mourners line up at Revolution Plaza, the site of two days of tributes to the late Fidel Castro, in Havana, Cuba, Monday, Nov. 28, 2016.  (Photo: Natacha Pisarenko/ AP)

Hundreds of thousands of Cubans gathered in Havana's Revolution Squre on Monday to pay homage to revolutionary leader and former President Fidel Castro.

Castro, who is said to have survived over 600 assassination attempts, died Friday at the age of 90.

"It was Fidel that led the Revolution and took important steps to eradicate illiteracy, promote health and education," said Guantánamo resident Manuel de Jesús Catalá Balón to Cuban state publication Granma. "Today will be remembered with sadness," he said.

The memorial comes as the first regularly scheduled commercial fight departed from Miami to the Cuban capital, and as President-elect Donald Trump threatens to "terminate" the Obama administration's thawed relations with the island nation.

The Associated Press reports that "[a] nine-story image of a young Castro joined the towering images of fallen guerrillas overlooking the massive square. The government also said Cubans would 'sign a solemn oath to carry out the concept of the revolutionary' as expressed by the late leader, but that activity did not appear to be taking at the site of the tribute of Fidel."

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On Wednesday, his ashes are to begin a slow procession that will wind its way from Havana to Santiago de Cuba 750 miles to the east, reversing the route he and his bearded guerrillas took in late 1958 as they closed in on Fulgencio Batista's government. The remains will be interred in the Santa Ifigenia cemetery there, in the city where the revolution began. Mr. Castro's final resting place will be close to where Cuban independence hero José Martí is buried.

His fans, as Al Jazeera reports,

will mourn a man many here saw as a visionary who stood up to U.S. domination of Latin America, brought healthcare and education to the poor, and inspired socialist movements across the world.

But critics, including exiles concentrated largely in Miami, have celebrated Castro's death, saying he was a tyrant who jailed his opponents, banned opposition parties, and wrecked Cuba's economy with a failed socialist experiment.

"He's going to have a very controversial legacy," said Peter Kornbluh, director of the Cuba Documentation Project and co-author of Back Channel to Cuba: The Hidden History of Negotiations Between Washington and Havana, but it is indisputable that he took a small Caribbean island and transformed it into a major actor on the world stage, far beyond its geographic size."

Castro, Kronbluh told Democracy Now! on Monday, "stood up to the United States. He became the David versus Goliath, withstood all of the efforts to kill him, overthrow him. And that is what he will go down in history for, in many ways."

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