Procession in honour of Fidel Castro begins four-day journey across Cuba
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The ashes of Cuban leader Fidel Castro began a four-day journey across Cuba on Wednesday to his final resting place, retracing the late communist leader's revolution victory tour of 1959.
The "caravan of freedom" left at 7:16 am (1216 GMT) from Havana, and will make symbolic stops along a 950-kilometer (590-mile) route that will end in the eastern city of Santiago de Cuba over the weekend.
The urn containing the remains of Castro, who died Friday at age 90, was covered by a Cuban flag and protected by a crystal covering as it was transported.
Senior officials of the government and Communist Party, and Castro's longtime partner, Dalia Soto del Valle, attended the farewell ceremony at the armed forces ministry before the caravan headed out to travel through 13 of the Caribbean island nation's 15 provinces.
Hundreds of thousands of people lined the streets, waving Cuban flags and shouting "Vivas!" to the late leader as the seven-vehicle motorcade passed by, escorted by police on motorcycles.
The trip follows two days of tributes in Havana where massive crowds were encouraged by the government to view a picture memorial to Castro at the Revolution Square.
The commemorations in the capital ended with a massive rally Tuesday night at the square attended by Latin American, African and Caribbean leaders, along with the Greek prime minister -- the only European leader at the event.
Raul Castro, 85, expressed his gratitude for the "countless gestures of solidarity and affection from around the world" after his brother's death. The rally ended with the revolutionary battle cry, "Until victory, always!"
Castro ruled from 1959 until an illness forced him to hand power to Raul in 2006.
The "caravan of freedom" will take the reverse route that Castro's band of guerrilla fighters followed after defeating dictator Fulgencio Batista.
From January 2 to January 8, 1959, the bearded rebels traveled from Santiago to Havana, stopping in Castro's home region, Holguin, as well as the cities of Camaguey, Las Tunas, Sancti Spiritus, Santa Clara and Matanzas.
One of the most symbol-filled stops of this last trip will be in Santa Clara, where the ashes of his Argentine comrade-in-arms, Ernesto "Che" Guevara, rest.
The urn containing Fidel's ashes will be laid to rest on Sunday at the Santa Ifigenia cemetery, next to the mausoleum of 19th century independence hero Jose Marti.
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