Fidel Castro death Cuba holds commemoration in Havana

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Fidel Castro death: Cuba holds commemoration in Havana

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Images of Fidel Castro overlook the crowds gathered in Revolution Square, Havana

Tens of thousands of people have filled Revolution Square in the Cuban capital, Havana, for a rally honouring Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro.

Proceedings began with the singing of Cuba”s national anthem and speeches are being given by visiting dignitaries.

Castro, who came to power in 1959 and ushered in a Communist revolution, died on Friday, aged 90.

Left-wing Latin American leaders are attending the event but many other world leaders have sent delegations.

Opinion on Fidel Castro, who ruled Cuba as a one-party state for almost half a century, remains divided.

Supporters say he returned Cuba to the people and praise him for some of his social programmes, such as public health and education.

But critics call him a dictator, who led a government that did not tolerate opposition and dissent.

Attendance at the commemorative event reflects this division.

Revolution Square is where Cubans once gathered to listen to Fidel Castro”s fiery speeches.

The crowd chanted “long live the revolution!” and “Fidel! Fidel!” as the rally got under way.

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Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, centre, joined Cuban President Raul Castro for the rally
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Zimbabwe”s President Robert Mugabe is in Havana for the commemoration

Earlier on Tuesday, the left-wing presidents of Bolivia and Venezuela, Evo Morales and Nicolas Maduro, were among those signed a book of condolences at the Jose Marti memorial where a photograph flanked by an honour guard has been on display since Monday.

Another admirer of Fidel Castro, Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa, is joining the two presidents at the commemoration.

But many Western leaders are not attending the event in person.

Cooling relations?

The White House announced that its nominee for the post of ambassador to Havana, Jeffrey DeLaurentis, and Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes would attend the commemorative event but that it was not sending an “official delegation” to Cuba.

Ben Rhodes was one of the US officials who negotiated the thaw between the US and the Cuban government announced in December 2014.

President-elect Donald Trump on Monday threatened to end the detente if Cuba did not offer a “better deal”.

On Wednesday, Castro”s ashes, which according to Cuban state media have been kept in a room at the defence ministry, will be taken on a journey to the south-eastern city of Santiago.

The route will recreate the victory tour taken by Castro after he won power in 1959, only in reverse.

His ashes will be placed on Sunday in the Ifigenia Cemetery in Santiago, where Cuban independence hero Jose Marti is buried.