HAVANA (AP) – The death of Fidel Castro has caught many people in Havana by surprise.
Mariela Alonso is a 45-year-old doctor. She calls the retired Cuban leader “The guide for our people.”
In her words: “There will be no one else like him. We will feel his physical absence.”
Mechanic Celestino Acosta was sitting on a porch in the central Havana neighborhood of Vedado.
He called the news of Castro’s death “a painful blow for everyone.”
In Old Havana, people gathered around their radios, listening to state-run stations play revolutionary anthems and recite facts about Castro’s life.
State television followed Raul Castro’s announcement with more than an hour of normal reruns of international programs, then shifted to biographical documentaries about Fidel Castro.
His tiny island nation, 90 miles from Florida, brought the world to the brink of nuclear war and he defied the power of 10 U.S. presidents during his half century rule.
With a shaking voice, President Raul Castro said on state television that his older brother died at 10:29 p.m., Friday.
He ended the announcement by shouting the revolutionary slogan: “Towards victory, always!”
Castro, who led a rebel army to improbable victory in Cuba and embraced Soviet-style communism, had a reign marked by the failed, U.S.-backed Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961 and the Cuban Missile Crisis a year later that brought the world to the brink of nuclear war.
The bearded revolutionary survived a crippling U.S. trade embargo as well as dozens, possibly hundreds, of assassination plots.
He survived long enough to see Raul Castro negotiate an agreement with U.S. President Barack Obama to move to restore diplomatic ties for the first time since they were severed in 1961.
Castro was 90.