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Cuba nears end of mourning for Castro with second big rally

SANTIAGO, Cuba — Cuba is nearing the end of its nine-day public mourning for Fidel Castro with a second massive rally in honor of the revolutionary leader.

The 90-year-old former president died Nov. 25. His ashes arrived Saturday afternoon in the eastern city of 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 in Santiago to shouts of "Fidel! I am Fidel!" Hundreds of thousands 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, expected to end with a speech by Cuban President Raul Castro, 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.

Mourning for Castro has reached near-religious peaks of public adulation across Cuba since his death, particularly in rural eastern Cuba. Huge crowds have been shouting his name and lining the roads to salute the funeral procession carrying his ashes from Havana to Santiago.