Leftist Latin American leaders vowed to carry the torch of Castro’s revolution as they addressed the rally on Tuesday night and the crowd chanted “I am Fidel!”
“Today it is up to us to raise the flags of independence of the great fatherland, today it is up to us to hold the flag of dignity and freedom of the people,” said Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, whose late mentor, Hugo Chavez, had a special bond with Castro.
Allies praised Castro in almost religious tones, with Bolivian President Evo Morales saying, “Fidel is not dead. …Fidel is more alive than ever, more necessary than ever.”
Castro’s death, however, comes as Latin America’s left is losing ground.
Maduro is facing a deep economic crisis and fighting opposition attempts to hold a recall referendum, while Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff was impeached in August and a conservative took over in Argentina last year.
Castro — who ruled from 1959 until an illness forced him to hand power to his brother Raul in 2006 — died Friday at age 90.
US President Barack Obama, who along with Raul Castro ended decades of enmity to restore diplomatic relations, did not attend the rally, sending an advisor and a diplomat without the status of a “presidential delegation.”
“We continue to have some significant concerns about the way the Cuban government currently operates, particularly with regard to protecting the basic human rights of the Cuban people,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.