International friends and admirers of Fidel Castro were in Havana on Tuesday to pay their last respects to the leader of Cuba’s revolution.
Evo Morales of Bolivia and fellow Latin American leftist President Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela have made the journey as has Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, to attend a mass rally commemorating the 90-year-old who died on Friday.
“It is a great honour to be here to pay tribute to this great personality who was such an inspiration, not only in Cuba and Latin America, but across the entire world,” Tsipras told reporters after his plane landed on the Caribbean island.
Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe is among others attending Tuesday’s rally to honour Castro, the rebel who seized power in a 1959 revolution and ruled Cuba in the face of US opposition for half a century before ceding control to his younger brother Raul a decade ago due to poor health.
Mugabe, 92, himself a former Marxist guerrilla, has led Zimbabwe as prime minister or president since 1980.
“Fidel was not just your leader. He was our leader and the leader of all revolutionaries. We followed him, listened to him and tried to emulate him,” he told reporters as he arrived in Havana, praising Castro’s government for training thousands of Zimbabwean doctors and teachers.
“Farewell, dear brother. Farewell, revolutionary,” he said.
Yet leaders from the world’s major powers are noticeable by their absence.
US President Barack Obama will not send a delegation to Cuba for Castro’s memorial service, the White House said on Tuesday.
Ben Rhodes, the deputy national security adviser, and Jeffrey DeLaurentis, Obama’s nominee to be ambassador to Havana, will represent the United States in paying respects at the late leader’s funeral, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.
Chinese President Xi Jinping stayed in Beijing to pay his condolences at the Cuban embassy, saying China had lost a “close comrade and real friend”, the country’s foreign ministry said.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also paid tribute on home soil, at the Cuban embassy in Moscow. Also skipping the ceremony in Havana was his boss Vladimir Putin who nonetheless described Castro as a “true friend of Russia”.
The Kremlin said President Putin held a different view on Castro’s legacy to that of US President-elect Donald Trump, who has called the Cuban leader “a brutal dictator.”
Hero or tyrant? As nine days of mourning continue for Castro whose ashes will be laid to rest on Sunday, the world as a whole remains deeply divided about the man and his legacy.