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Thousands pay respects to Cuban revolutionary hero

Tens of thousands of Cubans lined up to pay their respects to Juan Almeida Bosque, a vice president and hero of the country’s 1959 revolution whose death at the age of 82 further thinned the ranks of this communist-run country’s old-guard leaders.

world Updated: Sep 14, 2009 09:47 IST

Tens of thousands of Cubans lined up to pay their respects to Juan Almeida Bosque, a vice president and hero of the country’s 1959 revolution whose death at the age of 82 further thinned the ranks of this communist-run country’s old-guard leaders.

President Raul Castro led the ceremony at Havana’s Revolution Square yesterday, somberly placing a pink rose in front of a large photograph of Almeida. Flags flew at half-staff throughout the country.

There was no sign of Castro’s older brother, former leader Fidel Castro, who has not been seen in public since turning over power to his brother in 2006. He released a statement later Sunday, writing: “I didn’t know, neither did any of us, just how much pain news of his passing would bring.”

“I was a privileged witness of his exemplary conduct during more than half a century of heroic and victorious resistance,” he added.

Raul Castro did not speak at the ceremony, but other Cubans filing past hailed Almeida as a great and simple man.

“We have lost a party stalwart,” said Manuel Perez, a 59-year-old laborer. “He was a man of great importance in the revolutionary fight.”

Osmar Orozco, a 61-year-old retiree, added that Almeida’s loyalty.