73ºF

Fidel Castro's last journey continues with mixed reactions from Cubans

Huge crowds idolize Fidel Castro during farewell journey to Santiago de Cuba

SANTIAGO DE CUBA, Cuba – Huge crowds lined up to salute Fidel Castro's funeral procession on a four-day journey from Havana to Santiago de Cuba, as the Cuban government continued to enforce the island's official nine days of mourning.

The cortege made it through the eastern towns, where farmers plow with oxen, people still travel by horse-cart and weeds choke unproductive fields. Despite the poverty, boisterous crowds expressed their devotion. 

Those who are tired of the Castro brothers one-party socialist government were mostly discreet about their feelings -- not out of respect for Castro but out of fear, according to dissidents. 

"Three days ago a known police official came to my house and threatened to beat me," Rafael Molina, who lives in Santiago de Cuba, said in Spanish. "That tells you that Fidel is dead, but nothing has changed and things are worse."

Government critics said Cuban officials have increased surveillance on them and in some cases harassment has blown up into violent arrests this week. 

For the first time in 13 years, the Ladies in White, a group of women related to political prisoners, suspended their weekly protest.

Some of the dissidents arrested include Danilo Maldonado MachadoEduardo Marcos Pacheco Ortiz and Leandro Miguel Hernandez Ferreira. Molina, who has been arrested before, chose to be defiant again. 

"I don't understand why you would respect a man, who doesn't respect a human being or respects the dignity of his people," Molina said. 

Cuban television and websites are focused on Castro and the legacy of a heroic man who did no wrong. Molina views their perspective of Castro as unrealistic propaganda meant to use Castro's death to strengthen the acceptance of a one-party socialist government system. 

"In reality the people here don't know the concept of liberty," said Molina, who is an activist with the Cuban Patriotic Union, a democratic organization. The supporters of the current government "live in conformity because that is what they know -- what has been imposed on them."

Near to where Molina lives, thousands are expected to turnout to honor Castro. Students, government workers and volunteers are setting up for a rally that will be attended by dignitaries from all over the world -- including two U.S. officials.