The anniversary of Fidel Castro's death comes just ahead of the first round of municipal elections that will mark a turning point in Cuban history
With little fanfare, Cuba on Saturday commemorated the first anniversary of the death of revolutionary leader Fidel Castro as it prepares to move into the post-Castro era.
Since his death at the age of 90 on November 25 last year, Castro’s wishes have been respected. No street, square or building bears his name, and no statue or monument has been erected in his honour.
But Castro remains present in the minds of Cubans, and state media recalls his exploits, speeches and writings on a daily basis.
The most important commemoration will be held at nightfall at Havana University, where Castro often delivered his lengthy and fiery speeches.
The Union of Communist Youth has organised a “political-cultural evening” marking the “physical death” of El Comandante.
Raul Castro, the 86 year-old leader who took power when his older brother Fidel became ill in 2006, may make an appearance.
But the government has scheduled no major events marking the death of Fidel, who governed Cuba for 48 years.
‘I am Fidel’
Still, signs and slogans painted on walls that read “I am Fidel,” “Fidel will always live” and “Fidel is among us” can be seen around the country.
Cuba’s two newspapers, the state-run Granma and Juventud Rebelde, dedicated most of their issues to the late communist leader.
“This year we, the people of Cuba, have within us great sadness but mixed with joy because he (Fidel) left a youth that… is much better than us old folk,” said Emerido, a 75-year-old retiree who declined to give his last name.
Leisi Chi, a 22-year-old history student, recalled the pain she felt upon hearing of Fidel’s death.
“It touched us, especially the youth and the people here, even if some people rejoiced,” she said.
Fidel Castro “is alive in our thoughts, our culture, our battle of ideas,” added elementary school principal Gladys Garcia.
When Fidel Castro died, Cuba went into mourning until his ashes were interred in the southeastern city of Santiago de Cuba. An event marking the anniversary may be held there on December 4.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro – the Castro regime’s closest ally – wrote to the Cuban president to say that his mentor, the late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez, loved Fidel “like a father.”
Fidel Castro’s eldest grandson, Fidel Antonio Castro, shared personal memories of his time with the aged leader in an interview published Saturday.
He recalls reading to the convalescing old man, and “suffering more myself when I saw him in pain, rejoicing more than him when I saw his smile.”
Landmark vote looms
The anniversary of Fidel Castro’s death comes just ahead of the first round of municipal elections that will mark a turning point in Cuban history.
The polls will kick off a series of elections ending in February 2018 with the first top government generational change in 60 years – the election of Raul Castro’s replacement, who will, for the first time, be a post-revolutionary figure.
President since 2008 when he took over from Fidel, Castro said he will not run for re-election.
First Vice President Miguel Diaz-Canel, 57, is favoured to replace him.
Born after the revolution, Diaz-Canel would have the tough task of forging the first post-Castro government, consolidating the revolution’s gains and executing an economic transition plan.
Raul Castro, however, will remain head of the all-powerful Cuban Communist Party until the next Congress scheduled for 2021, when he would be 90 years old.