Maduro makes surprise visit to Havana as Cuba marks Castro’s death anniversary

HAVANA, Nov. 26th (AFP) Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro made a surprise appearance in Havana Thursday at the inauguration of the Fidel Castro Ruz centre, which preserves the late president’s writings, five years after his death.

Maduro makes surprise visit to Havana as Cuba marks Castro’s death anniversary

Maduro, who had not travelled to Cuba since December 2019, accompanied his Cuban counterpart Miguel Diaz-Canel at the ceremony, which was broadcast by state television. With them was Castro’s brother and former president Raul Castro.

The Fidel Castro Ruz centre in the capital Havana is the first and only Cuban building to carry his name.

A law passed a month after his death in 2016 bans the naming of institutions, squares, parks, roads or other public places after the former president and Communist Party leader.

Also banned, following Castro’s wishes, is the erection of monuments, busts, statues or plaques in his name or image – though this has not prevented the proliferation of murals and placards honouring the late leader on the streets of Havana.

The only exceptions to the rule are made for institutions created solely for “the study and dissemination of his thinkings and work”.

‘It inspires me’

A national hero for most Cubans, but a villain to the West, Castro fell ill in 2006 and handed power to his brother and fellow revolutionary fighter Raul.

Castro led the revolution that ousted dictator Fulgencio Batista in 1959 and is credited with creating Cuba’s social welfare system, which provides healthcare and education for all.

Cuban President Diaz-Canel, who took over from Raul Castro in 2018, tweeted on Thursday that Fidel Castro’s office at the seat of government, the Palace of the Revolution, “is as he left it on his last day there”.

“I try to imagine him in the midst of the hard battles of so many challenging years. It inspires me, it excites me. And I’m still fighting,” the president said.