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SANTIAGO, Cuba – President Raul Castro announced that Cuba will prohibit the naming of streets and monuments after his brother Fidel, and bar the construction of statues of the former leader and revolutionary icon in keeping with his desire to avoid a cult of personality.
The announcement late Saturday came after a week of national mourning for Fidel Castro that reached near-religious peaks of adulation and a half-day before his ashes are interred in Santiago's Santa Ifigenia cemetery, ending the official mourning period.
"The leader of the revolution rejected any manifestation of a cult of personality and was consistent in that through the last hours of his life, insisting that, once dead, his name and likeness would never be used on institutions, streets, parks or other public sites, and that busts, statutes or other forms of tribute would never be erected," Raul Castro told a massive crowd gathered in the eastern city of Santiago.
He said that Cuba's National Assembly would vote in its next session on the law fulfilling the wishes of his brother, who died last week at 90. The legislature generally holds a meeting in December and under Cuba's single-party system, parliament unanimously or near-unanimously approves every government proposal.
Fidel Castro, who stepped down in 2006 after falling ill, kept his name off public sites during his near half-century in power because he said he wanted to avoid the development of a personality cult. In contrast, the images of his fellow revolutionary fighters Camilo Cienfuegos and Ernesto "Che" Guevara became common across Cuba in the decades since their deaths.
Mourning for Castro has been fervent and intense across the country since his death, particularly in rural eastern Cuba, where huge crowds have been shouting Castro's name and lining the roads to salute the funeral procession carrying his ashes.
"All of us would like to put Fidel's name on everything but in the end, Fidel is all of Cuba," said Juan Antonio Gonzalez, a 70-year-old retired economist. "It was a decision of Fidel's, not Raul's, and I think he has to be respected."
Raul Castro, 85, spoke at the end of a second massive rally in honor of Fidel as Cuba neared the end of a nine-day period of public mourning. Castro's ashes arrived Saturday afternoon in Santiago, ending a four-day journey across Cuba that began after a massive rally in Havana's Plaza of the Revolution.
Thousands of people welcomed the leader's remains to shouts of "Fidel! I am Fidel!" Hundreds of thousands more gathered in Santiago's Revolution Plaza Saturday night, cheering speeches by the heads of state-run groups of small farmers, women, revolutionary veterans and neighborhood watch committee members.
The event was attended by Bolivian President Evo Morales, Nicaraguan leader Daniel Ortega and Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela, along with former Brazilian presidents Dilma Rousseff and Lula da Silva.
Castro's ashes will be interred Sunday morning in Santiago's Santa Ifigenia cemetery, ending the official mourning period.
_____ Weissenstein contributed from Havana.
Andrea Rodriguez on Twitter: https://twitter.com/ARodriguezAP
Michael Weissenstein on Twitter: https://twitter.com/mweissenstein