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Havana Hosts Massive Commemoration Event For Fidel Castro


In Cuba yesterday, there was a massive commemoration of the late Fidel Castro.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: (Speaking Spanish). Fidel Castro Ruz.

GREENE: Cubans filled the huge Plaza of the Revolution and spilled down side streets. And as NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro reports from Havana, there were many, many, many speeches lauding Fidel Castro.

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, BYLINE: Dignitaries from Iran...


UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: (Foreign language spoken).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: ...And Moscow...


UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: (Speaking Russian).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: ...And Vietnam...


UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (Speaking Vietnamese).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: ...Not to mention the leftist leaders from Latin America, like Nicaragua's Daniel Ortega and Bolivia's Evo Morales, all gave lengthy addresses to the crowd. It was a heavily orchestrated affair - long on official speeches and revolutionary slogans. The top Cuban leadership was arrayed on the side of a hill underneath a huge stone obelisk, which is the monument to Cuban hero Jose Marti. A picture of Fidel Castro as a young revolutionary was hoisted above the mall, a reminder of the powerful young man he had once been and not the frail 90-year-old he died as.

His ashes were, again, not on public display, and Cubans have still not been told how Fidel died. Many of those in the audience were bussed in for the event. The government here, led now by Fidel Castro's brother, Raul, clearly wanted a show of force, and they got one. Cuba, though, is in uncertain waters. Its economy is struggling, and its main ally, Venezuela, is also in a dire economic situation. President Nicolas Maduro, who flew in from Caracas, was seated next to Raul throughout the proceedings.

Many of Latin America's remaining leftist presidents used the commemoration to rail against the United States and praised Fidel's uncompromising stance fighting imperialism. Unacknowledged, though, was how much has changed with Cuba's new opening with its old enemy to the north and the thousands of American tourists here, thronging the island to see Cuba for the first time. Lulu Garcia-Navarro, NPR News, Havana. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Lulu Garcia-Navarro is the host of Weekend Edition Sunday and one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. She is infamous in the IT department of NPR for losing laptops to bullets, hurricanes, and bomb blasts.