Oh, the irony! In a bit of macabre burlesque comedy worthy of Mel Brooks or SNL, the remains of Fidel Castro were paraded through Santiago, Cuba en route his final resting place Saturday afternoon.
The somber parade was interrupted, when, like Soviet communism itself, the Russian-made, Jeep-style military vehicle carrying Castro’s ashes broke down and had to be pushed by a group of soldiers.
You simply cannot make this stuff up. To paraphrase Mark Twain, “truth is ‘funnier’ than fiction.”
According to Fox News, The Russian-made jeep ferrying the ashes of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro broke down and needed to be pushed on Saturday en route to the late leader’s final resting place.
Castro’s ashes were interred in a private ceremony Sunday morning, ending nine days of official mourning.
The breakdown of the jeep in the midst of adoring crowds chanting “Long live Fidel!” was symbolic of the dual nature of Castro’s Cuba. While his legacy inspires fierce adulation by many of the nation’s citizens, others continue to grumble about Cuba’s autocratic government, inefficient bureaucracy and stagnant economy.
Rural Cubans’ lives have improved with the arrival of doctors and teachers in once-ignored backwaters, however, it has been a struggle to earn a living under the island’s one-party socialist government and its stifling economic rules.
But those realities were seemingly not at the forefront of the minds of the throngs crowding the two-mile route the Russian jeep traveled to Santa Ifigenia cemetery.
Castro’s tomb stands to the side of a memorial to the rebel soldiers killed during a 1953 Castro-led attack on Santiago’s Moncada barracks. Castro’s final resting spot is in front of the mausoleum of Cuban national hero Jose Marti.
The Cuban military fired a 21-gun salute and crowds at the entrance to the cemetery sang the national anthem as the ashes entered about 40 minutes later. The ceremony lasted more than an hour and took place out of the public eye after Cuban officials made a last-minute cancellation of plans to broadcast the events live on national and international television. International media were also barred from the ceremony.
The decision to hold a private ceremony came the morning after Castro’s brother, President Raul Castro, announced that Cuba would prohibit the naming of streets and monuments after the former leader, and bar the construction of statues of the former leader and revolutionary icon, in keeping with his desire to avoid a cult of personality.
“The leader of the revolution rejected any manifestation of a cult of personality and was consistent in that through the last hours of his life, insisting that, once dead, his name and likeness would never be used on institutions, streets, parks or other public sites, and that busts, statutes or other forms of tribute would never be erected,” Raul Castro told a massive crowd gathered in the eastern city of Santiago.
Fidel Castro, who stepped down in 2006 after falling ill, kept his name off public sites during his near half-century in power because he said he wanted to avoid the development of a personality cult. In contrast, the images of his fellow revolutionary fighters Camilo Cienfuegos and Ernesto “Che” Guevara became common across Cuba in the decades since their deaths.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.