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The Latest: Mexicans gather outside Cuban embassy to mourn

Posted November 27

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

6:55 p.m.

About 300 people have gathered outside the Cuban embassy in Mexico to mourn the death of Fidel Castro.

Chanting "Cuba Si, Yankee No!", the crowd carried white flowers and Cuban flags. Some left flowers outside the embassy gates.

Some choked back tears, as they listened to speakers and musicians playing songs like "Playa Giron."

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3:45 p.m.

The Brazilian author of a Fidel Castro biography that the Cuban leader cooperated with says she had trouble processing the news of Castro's death at age 90.

Claudia Furiati says, "I always thought I would be shocked" by the announcement when it came. But she wasn't. She says that since Castro turned over Cuba's presidency to his younger brother more than a decade ago, "he was preparing himself for the final moments." She says that "in several of his reflections, his thoughts, he gives signs here and there of this final moment."

In an interview at her home in Rio de Janeiro, she recalled challenging moments of Castro's reign that shook him to his core.

One of them was in 1994 after a string of boat hijackings, unprecedented rioting and the killing of a Cuban navy lieutenant prompted Castro to suggest that those Cubans wanting to leave could do so. Over about five weeks, more than 35,000 Cubans took Castro at his word and sailed away on makeshift rafts while authorities stood by. Many didn't make it.

Furiati says Castro went to Havana's bay after a shipwreck and arrived very angry. In her words: "I saw him almost reach the point of fighting and being severe." But, she adds, "His objective was to avoid a social explosion at that moment."

Furiati was a supporter of Castro and had close ties with his family. She was allowed to often tag along with the leader before she wrote her book on his life: "Fidel Castro — A Consented Biography."

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3:20 p.m.

Nobel literature laureate Mario Vargas Llosa predicts Fidel Castro's death will change the face of Cuba.

The Peruvian author is a longtime critic of Castro and contends the loss of the longtime revolutionary leader will weaken Cuba's government, even though Castro's younger brother Raul has been president for a decade.

Vargas Llosa says that "the structures of the nation, of control, will gradually begin to crack." He adds, "Let's hope this process is quick, and above all painless, that it brings no more violence than that already suffered by the Cuban people."

Vargas Llosa considered himself a Marxist as a youth, but he gradually moved away. For years, he has described Cuba's government as a dictatorship, which has earned him criticism within Latin America's intellectual circles.

The writer spoke with reporters Sunday at the Guadalajara International Book Fair in Mexico.

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11 a.m.

The Cuban who as a boy survived a shipwreck and became the center of an international custody battle in Florida in 2000 says Fidel Castro will still be with Cubans even after his death.

Elian Gonzalez says in an interview with Cuban state television that it's "not right to talk about Fidel in the past tense ... but rather that Fidel will be." He says Castro "is the present and the future."

Gonzalez said Sunday that Castro was a friend to his family at a difficult moment and made it possible for him to return to Cuba and be reunited with his father.

Gonzalez was a young boy when he, his mother and others attempted the sea crossing between Cuba and Florida nearly two decades ago. His mother drowned on the voyage, but he survived and was taken to Florida.

A bitter dispute broke out between his relatives in the United States, who wanted him to stay there, and his father back home in Cuba.

Castro made the issue a national cause and led huge demonstrations demanding the boy be returned to his father. U.S. authorities eventually sent Gonzalez back.

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