Fidel Castro laid to rest in private funeral

Posted at 12:00 PM, Dec 04, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-04 12:00:24-05

SANTIAGO, Cuba — Fidel Castro’s remains were laid to rest Sunday morning in a private ceremony in Santiago de Cuba, the city where he launched his communist revolution, Cuban officials told CNN.

Castro’s ashes were interred in the city’s Santa Ifigenia Cemetery where Jose Marti, the Cuban revolutionary leader from the 19th century, is buried.

Earlier in the day, people lined the streets to see Castro’s remains carried to the cemetery in a box placed on a simple trailer and towed by a military Jeep.

The press was not allowed to attend the burial but a mix of world leaders, royalty, Marxist guerrillas and Hollywood actors were invited.

French Environment Minister Segolene Royal told the BBC there were no speeches at the gravesite. “It was very simple,” he said.

Cuban officials said they wanted to protect the privacy of Castro’s family. Many Cubans didn’t know Castro had a family because he kept them out of the public spotlight.

Castro died November 25 at age 90. The burial ends nine days of mourning for the charismatic but polarizing revolutionary who led Cuba for more than half a century.

Castro’s ashes arrived Saturday in Santiago de Cuba after a four-day tour across the island nation. Santiago is located on the eastern end of Cuba, about 880 kilometers (546 miles) from Havana.

Starting in Havana, the tour reversed the route Castro took across the island after seizing power in 1959. Crowds of Cubans lined the roads and stood on rooftops to watch Castro’s funeral cortege pass by.

The private funeral service stood in contrast to the public mourning for Castro.

On Saturday night, tens of thousands of people crowded into Antonio Maceo Revolution Square to shout “Yo soy Fidel!” (I am Fidel).

Cuban President Raul Castro, who took over when his older brother fell ill in 2006, spoke at the event and praised Fidel Castro’s accomplishments, especially his willingness to stand up to the United States.

Presidents from Latin American nations and Africa paid their respects. No representative from the United States attended the memorial or the funeral, despite a thawing in relations with Cuba under President Obama.

Raul Castro said his brother insisted that no public spaces or monuments be named after him, saying he wanted to avoid “a cult of personality.”

In 1953, a young Fidel Castro led a group of about 150 rebels who attacked the Moncada military barracks in Santiago in an unsuccessful attempt to overthrow dictator Fulgencio Batista.

Castro later launched another revolt and declared victory January 1, 1959, from the balcony of the Santiago City Hall. He then made his way across the country to Havana.