Cubans line streets as Fidel Castro's ashes begin journey
Surrounded by white roses and drawn by a green military jeep, Fidel Castro's ashes began a more than 500-mile (800-kilometre) journey yesterday across the country he ruled for nearly 50 years.
Just after 7 a.m, an honour guard placed a small, flag-draped cedar coffin under a glass dome on a trailer behind the Russian jeep.
Thousands of soldiers and state security agents saluted the 90-year-old leader's remains as they rolled slowly out of Havana's Plaza of the Revolution and the cortege made its way to the Malecon seaside boulevard and east into the countryside.
Tens of thousands of Cubans lined the path of the funeral procession, which retraced the path of Castro's triumphant march into Havana nearly six decades ago. Many waved flags and shouted "Long may he live!"
Others filmed the procession with cell phones, a luxury prohibited in Cuba until an ailing Castro left power in 2006 and his younger brother Raul began a series of slow reforms.
The ashes will be interred Sunday, ending a nine-day period of mourning that saw the country fall silent as thousands paid tribute to photographs of Fidel Castro and sign oaths of loyalty to his socialist, single-party system across the country on Monday and Tuesday.
Wednesday's procession was the first moment in which ordinary Cubans saw the remains of Castro.
For many Cubans, seeing his coffin made the idea of a Cuba without Fidel Castro real for the first time since his death Friday night.
Some slept on sidewalks overnight to bid goodbye to Castro after attending a massive Revolution Plaza rally Tuesday night.
The presidents of Cuba, Mexico, Ecuador, Bolivia, Venezuela and South Africa, along with leaders of a host of smaller nations, offered speeches to pay tribute.
Castro's younger brother and successor, Raul, closed with a speech thanking world leaders for praising his brother, whom he called the leader of a revolution "for the humble, and by the humble."
Outside Havana, the caravan passed through rural communities transformed by Castro's social and economic reforms.
Many residents now have access to health care and education. But many towns are also in a prolonged economic collapse, the country's once-dominant sugar industry decimated, the sugar mills and plantations gone.