HAVANA – Fidel Castro’s ashes began a four-day journey Wednesday that will take them via caravan from the Cuban capital’s emblematic Revolution Square to the eastern city of Santiago de Cuba, where the revolutionary leader’s funeral service will take place on Sunday.
Draped in a Cuban flag, a cedar chest containing the ashes was taken from the Armed Forces Ministry building in the western city of Havana at 7:15 am by a pair of soldiers and placed in a trailer decorated with bouquets of white flowers.
Castro’s younger brother, Cuban President Raul Castro, presided over the brief military ceremony, which was also attended by other top government and Communist Party officials as well as the late revolutionary icon’s widow, Dalia del Soto, and two of their children.
The armed forces minister, Gen. Leopoldo Cintra Frias, and first deputy minister, Gen. Ramon Espinosa, traveled in the vehicle just in front of the one carrying Castro’s ashes.
Lines of people gathered for the send-off in Revolution Square, where a mass outdoor farewell ceremony was held Tuesday night. Many of those in attendance also took part in an all-night vigil.
The caravan will stop in several villages before arriving and stopping for the night in the central city of Santa Clara, which is home to a mausoleum containing the remains of revolutionary icon Ernesto “Che” Guevara.
The convoy will trace – albeit in reverse – the route of the triumphant “Freedom Caravan” that Castro led from east-to-west across Cuba from Jan. 1-8, 1959, after his rebels had defeated Gen. Fulgencio Batista’s forces.
Castro died on Friday night at age 90 in Havana.