Cuba's Raul Castro to attend Mandela funeral

2013-12-09 06:46
Cuban President Raul Castro delivering a speech during the closing of the first annual session of the National Assembly, at the Conventions Palace in Havana. (Marcelino Velazquez, AFP)

Cuban President Raul Castro delivering a speech during the closing of the first annual session of the National Assembly, at the Conventions Palace in Havana. (Marcelino Velazquez, AFP)

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Havana - Cuban President Raul Castro will attend the funeral of South African anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela, state media reported on Sunday.

It was unlikely, however, that Castro's ailing older brother Fidel, the Cuban communist revolutionary leader, would make the long trip to pay final respects to his long-time friend.

Castro will be accompanied on his visit by Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez, according to the official statement read on television.

The Cuban authorities had decreed three days of national mourning in tribute to Mandela, a "close friend" of Cuba, where he paid one of his first foreign visits after he was released from 27 years in prison for anti-apartheid activities.

About 400 000 Cuban troops fought in Angola during the 1980s and defeated the South African Army in a battle that helped trigger the fall of the apartheid regime.

Castro's arch-rival US President Barack Obama - and three other former leaders of the United States, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter - are set to attend services in honor of Mandela.

On Tuesday, around 80 000 people are expected to attend a memorial service for the anti-apartheid hero at the Soweto sports stadium that hosted the final of the 2010 World Cup.

Presidents, religious leaders and cultural figureheads from all corners of the world are expected for the funeral, which will see a cortege with Mandela's coffin pass through the streets of Pretoria on three consecutive days.

The memorials and events will culminate in Mandela's burial on December 15 in his boyhood home of Qunu.

It's an emotional time for South Africans, and many around the world. Share your fondest memories of Madiba with us by either e-mailing or uploading.

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