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The Latest: No shifts in US posture toward Cuba after Castro

Posted November 26

— The latest on the death of Cuban leader Fidel Castro (all times local):

9:20 p.m.

There has been no obvious shift in U.S. government posture toward Cuba following the announcement of Fidel Castro's death.

Nearly two years ago the U.S. and Cuba began restoring formal diplomatic relations. President Barack Obama has taken numerous steps to chip away at the U.S. trade embargo on Cuba in an effort to put the U.S.-Cuba relationship on more positive footing, including the resumption next year of commercial flights to Havana after more than 50 years.

Obama also made a historic visit to the island with his wife and daughters in March.

But Obama does not have the authority to single-handedly end the embargo. Only Congress can do that.

U.S. lawmakers have shown no inclination to support Obama on this particular issue so as long as the Castro family remains in power. Some of those lawmakers have ties to the island and oppose Castro and the Cuban government's treatment of its people.

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2:30 p.m.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is going to stage a tribute to Fidel Castro at the military barracks in Caracas where the remains of his closest ally, former President Hugo Chavez, are interred.

The ceremony will take place Saturday night.

Maduro earlier declared three days of official mourning for Castro, who provided key assistance and mentoring to Chavez after he was released in 1994 from imprisonment for a failed attempt to overthrow Venezuela's government with a military coup.

In the poor Caracas neighborhood of 23 de Enero, pro-government residents have hung Cuban flags outside their homes while a loud speaker blasted Cuban salsa music and played excerpts of Castro*s anti-imperialist harangues. Doctors sent by Cuba in exchange for Venezuelan oil are in mourning while attending patients.

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1:05 p.m.

Havana's 23rd Street commercial center is bustling with shoppers toting plastic bags and youngsters checking the internet on their smartphones like a normal weekend afternoon — just hours after former Cuban leader Fidel Castro's death.

One notable difference is a lack of amplified music in Cuba's usually sonorous capital.

The government has declared nine days of national mourning and public spectacles and performances have been suspended. Concerts and bars shut down Friday night after the news was announced by President Raul Castro, the former leader's younger brother.

Official newspapers were published Saturday with only black ink instead the usual bright red or blue mastheads.

Many people tell The Associated Press that they are still in shock and it's hard to speculate about what may come next for Cuba.

But 30-year-old shopkeeper Javier Garcia says he believes the future depends not on whether Fidel is around, but rather on the outcome of economic reforms begun by Raul. Garcia says the younger Castro may now have "a little more freedom to deepen" the changes.

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12:35 p.m.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is citing what he calls the "outsized role" that Fidel Castro played in the lives of Cuban people, and says Castro "influenced the direction of regional, even global affairs."

But Kerry also is looking to the future, and not back at the past.

America's top diplomat says that as the United States and Cuba move ahead on the process of normalizing relations, "we do so in a spirit of friendship and with an earnest desire not to ignore history but to write a new and better future for our two peoples."

He says the U.S. is committed to "deepening our engagement with the Cuban people now and in coming years."

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11:30 a.m.

The top Republican in the U.S. House says that with Fidel Castro's death, "the cruelty and oppression of his regime should die with him."

House Speaker Paul Ryan says that there is much left to do to bring freedom of the Cuban people and that the United States "must be fully committed to that work."

Ryan adds that Castro's passing is a time to "reflect on the memory and sacrifices of all those who have suffered under the Castros."

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11:15 a.m.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is offering his condolences to the Cuban people and the family of Fidel Castro over the death of the island's longtime leader.

Ban says that "at this time of national mourning, I offer the support of the United Nations to work alongside the people of the island."

He says that under Castro, Cuba made advances in the fields of education, literacy and health, adding that he hopes "Cuba will continue to advance on a path of reform and greater prosperity."

Ban recalled that he met with Castro in January 2014. He described it as "a lively discussion that covered developments around the world as well as sustainable development and climate change."

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11 a.m.

Donald Trump is sparing no words when it comes to Fidel Castro.

The U.S. president-elect calls the former Cuban leader "a brutal dictator who oppressed his own people for nearly six decades."

Trump says Castro leaves a legacy of "firing squads, theft, unimaginable suffering, poverty and the denial of fundamental human rights."

But Trump also is looking ahead.

He says that while Cuba "remains a totalitarian island," he hopes Castro's death "marks a move away from the horrors endured for too long, and toward a future in which the wonderful Cuban people finally live in the freedom they so richly deserve."

Trump says his administration will do all it can "to ensure the Cuban people can finally begin their journey toward prosperity and liberty," and he says he's joining many Cuban-Americans in the hope "of one day seeing a free Cuba."

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10:10 a.m.

President Barack Obama says the United States is extending "a hand of friendship to the Cuban people" at the time of Fidel Castro's death.

Obama says in a statement that "history will record and judge the enormous impact of this singular figure on the people and world around him."

The U.S. president notes that "discord and profound political disagreements" marked the relationship between the United States and Cuba for nearly six decades, and says he has "worked hard to put the past behind us."

Obama says that in the coming days, Cubans "will recall the past and also look to the future. As they do, the Cuban people must know that they have a friend and partner" in America.

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9 a.m.

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump has gone on Twitter to react to the death of former Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

In a short burst, he says: "Fidel Castro is dead!"

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6:40 a.m.

The Cuban government has declared nine days of national mourning for the death of Fidel Castro, ending when his remains are interred on Dec. 4.

Public activities and events will be canceled, and the Cuban flag will fly at half-mast. The Council of State says state radio and television "will maintain informative, patriotic and historic programming."

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5:20 a.m.

Cuba's government says the remains of Fidel Castro will be interred in the eastern city of Santiago that was key to his early life and his revolution.

State media say Cubans throughout the country will be invited to pay homage to Castro on Monday and Tuesday by signing a "solemn oath of complying with the concept of the revolution."

There will then be a mass gathering in Havana's Plaza of the Revolution, where Castro often addressed huge crowds.

His ashes will make a cross-country tour starting Wednesday from Havana to Santiago, retracing in reverse the route Castro took when the revolution triumphed in 1959.

He's to be interred in a Santiago cemetery on Dec. 4. Castro grew up near Santiago and attended school there as a youth.

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4:30 a.m.

While Fidel Castro's foes celebrate his death, his friends across Latin America mourn.

The leftist government of El Salvador is expressing "eternal gratitude" to Castro and the Cuban people for help "in the most difficult times." That's apparently a reference to Cuba's support of the guerrilla bands battling a U.S. backed, military-dominated government in the 1980s.

The government statement issued Saturday says Castro's "example will live forever in our struggles and will flower in the noble ideas of new generations."

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4:15 a.m.

Cuban state television is carrying special programming celebrating the life of deceased former leader Fidel Castro.

The programming includes footage from years past of Castro giving speeches on revolutionary struggle.

Castro stepped down from the presidency provisionally in 2006 due to a severe illness, and left office permanently two years later.

He was succeeded by his younger brother Raul, who announced Fidel's death on state TV.

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4 a.m.

Within half an hour of the Cuban government's official announcement that former President Fidel Castro had died, Miami's Little Havana teemed with life — and cheers.

Thousands of people banged pots, waved Cuban flags and whooped in jubilation on Calle Ocho, the heart of the Cuban exile community in Florida. Honking and strains of salsa music from car stereos echoed against stucco buildings, and fireworks lit up the humid night sky.

Police blocked off streets leading to Cafe Versailles, the quintessential Cuban American hotspot where strong Cuban coffee was as common as a harsh words about Fidel Castro.

Castro has cast a shadow over Miami for decades, and in many ways, his policy and his power have shaped the city and its inhabitants, many of whom fled from his socialist rule.

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3:35 a.m.

The nightly news had started as usual on Cuban state television when suddenly something changed.

President Raul Castro appeared, seated before a desk in military uniform and delivered somber news: His brother Fidel Castro had died, nearly 58 years after leading a rebel army to a victory that led to one of the globe's most durable socialist states.

The president said his brother's remains would be cremated on Saturday and news about tributes would follow.

He closed with his brother's decades-old slogan: "Toward victory, always."

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2:45 a.m.

The death of Cuba's Fidel Castro has caught many people in Havana by surprise in the wee hours of the morning.

Mariela Alonso is a 45-year-old doctor. She calls the retired Cuban leader "the guide for our people."

In her words: "There will be no one else like him. We will feel his physical absence."

Mechanic Celestino Acosta was sitting on a porch in the capital's central neighborhood of Vedado.

He called the news of Castro's death "a painful blow for everyone."

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