Fidel Castro's funeral cortege makes its way across Cuba

SANTIAGO, Cuba, Dec 3 (Reuters) - Flag-waving Cubans leaned from windows and lined the streets as Fidel Castro's funeral cortege approached the end of three-day journey on Saturday, rolling into the city of Santiago de Cuba where the revolutionary leader's remains will be laid to rest.

High-profile leftist friends of Castro, including Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and soccer's Diego Maradona, were expected for an evening farewell in the city where Castro launched his revolution six decades ago.

On Sunday morning, his ashes will be entombed near the remains of Cuba's independence hero Jose Marti in a cemetery in the eastern city, in what is likely to be a solemn ceremony.

Drawn in a trailer behind an olive green army jeep, Castro's ashes have made a 600-mile (1,000-km) journey in which hundreds of thousands of Cubans, many chanting "I am Fidel!," have lined up on roadsides and gathered in plazas for a final tribute.

Castro, the fiery revolutionary who built a Communist state 90 miles (145 km) from the United States and survived a half century of U.S. attempts to topple him, died on Nov. 25 at 90 years old.

See his funeral cortege below:

28 PHOTOS
Fidel Castro's funeral cortege
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Fidel Castro's funeral cortege
People react as the caravan carrying the ashes of Fidel Castro passes them in Las Tunas, Cuba, December 2, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Barria TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
People line a road to watch as the caravan carrying Cuba's late President Fidel Castro's ashes passes through Las Tunas, Cuba, December 2, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
People react after the caravan carrying the ashes of Cuba's late President Fidel Castro passed through Las Tunas, Cuba, December 2, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
Cuban soldiers rest after participating in the celebration of the 60th anniversary of the arrival of Fidel Castro and fellow revolutionaries in the Granma yacht, in Playa Las Coloradas, Cuba, December 2, 2016. REUTERS/Ivan Alvarado
People lining a road cheer while watching the caravan carrying Cuba's late President Fidel Castro's ashes as it passes by in Camaguey, Cuba, December 1, 2016. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido
People line a road watching the caravan carrying Cuba's late President Fidel Castro's ashes as it passes by in Camaguey, Cuba, December 1, 2016. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido
People hold posters while awaiing the arrival of the caravan carrying the ashes of Fidel Castro in Las Tunas, Cuba, December 2, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
People await the arrival of the caravan carrying the ashes of Fidel Castro in Las Tunas, Cuba, December 2, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
People await the arrival of the caravan carrying the ashes of Fidel Castro in Camaguey, Cuba, December 2, 2016. REUTERS/Enrique De La Osa
People await on their balconies the arrival of the caravan carrying the ashes of Fidel Castro in Guaimaro, Cuba, December 2, 2016. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido
REFILE - CORRECTING BYLINE - A student holds an image of Cuba's late President Fidel Castro while awaiting the caravan carrying Castro's ashes in Camaguey, Cuba, December 1, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
A woman awaits the arrival of the caravan carrying the ashes of Fidel Castro in Guaimaro, Cuba, December 2, 2016. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido
A miniature replica of the Granma yacht carries figures of Fidel and Raul Castro, as people await the arrival of the caravan carrying the ashes of Fidel Castro in Guaimaro, Cuba, December 2, 2016. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido
Children await the arrival of the caravan carrying the ashes of Fidel Castro in Guaimaro, Cuba, December 2, 2016. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido
Soldiers take position along a highway as they wait for the ashes of Fidel Castro to pass during a three-day journey to the eastern city of Santago, in Cardenas, Cuba, November 30, 2016. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A military vehicle transports the ashes of Cuba's late President Fidel Castro at the start of a three-day journey to the eastern city of Santiago, in Havana, Cuba, November 30, 2016. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini
People line a road as they await the caravan carrying Fidel Castro's ashes in El Maja, Cuba, December 1, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
Children stand along a street while waiting for the ashes of Fidel Castro to pass during a three-day journey to the eastern city of Santago, in Cardenas, Cuba, November 30, 2016. REUTERS/Enrique De La Osa
Guillermo Enrique Cadiz, 82, who fought with Fidel Castro in the Sierra Maestra, watches as Castro's ashes pass him during a three-day journey to the eastern city of Santiago, in Jovellanos, Cuba, November 30, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Barria TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
People are transported to greet the caravan carrying the ashes of Fidel Castro in Colon, Cuba, November 30, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Jose Ramos, 69, holds an image of Fidel Castro as he awaits the caravan carrying Castro's ashes in Colon, Cuba, November 30, 2016. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini
A police car sits in front of a movie theatre with a marquee reading "Thanks Fidel" as the late Fidel Castro's ashes are driven through the country in a caravan, in Santa Clara, Cuba, November 30, 2016. REUTERS/Ivan Alvarado
Military vehicles transporting the ashes of Cuba's late President Fidel Castro pass along the Malecon seawall at the start of a three-day journey to the eastern city of Santiago, in Havana, Cuba, November 30, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Barria TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A student stands next to a road as he awaits the caravan carrying Fidel Castro's ashes in El Maja, Cuba, December 1, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
Soldiers take position along a highway as they wait for the ashes of Fidel Castro to pass during a three-day journey to the eastern city of Santago, in Cardenas, Cuba, November 30, 2016. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido
The caravan carrying the ashes of Fidel Castro pass along a street on the way to the eastern city of Santiago, in Colon, Cuba, November 30, 2016. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini
Schoolchildren wait on a roadside for the military vehicles transporting the ashes of Cuba's late President Fidel Castro at the start of a three-day journey to the eastern city of Santiago, in Havana, Cuba, November 30, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
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The government of his brother, current President Raul Castro, 85, declared nine days of mourning that ends on Sunday with his interment in Santiago, Cuba's second largest city.

On Saturday night, foreign dignitaries and Raul Castro are set to commemorate a man who was loved by leftists and the downtrodden in the developing world but hated by Cuban exiles driven from the island by his brand of Soviet-sponsored communism.

Among the current presidents expected are Maduro, Nicaragua's Daniel Ortega and Bolivia's Evo Morales, according to official Cuban media.

Former Brazilian presidents Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff were also due.

Lula was a close ally of Cuba when he was president from 2003 to 2011, as was his successor Rousseff until she was impeached this year.

Maradona, the Argentine considered one of soccer's greatest players, struck up a friendship with Castro and came to Cuba for rehabilitation for cocaine and alcohol abuse in 2000.

On Tuesday night, sitting presidents and prime ministers from around the world said goodbye to Castro in a four-hour ceremony attended by tens if not hundreds of thousands of Cubans.

The funeral cortege departed Havana the next day, retracing the route Castro and his bearded rebels took from Santiago to Havana from Jan. 1 to. Jan. 8, 1959, upon toppling U.S.-backed strongman Fulgencio Batista.

How the world responded to Castro's death:

12 PHOTOS
Global reactions to Fidel Castro's death
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Global reactions to Fidel Castro's death
A man looks at newspapers' front pages at a kiosk in La Paz on November 26, 2016, the morning after Cuba's historic revolutionary leader Fidel Castro died aged 90. One of the world's longest-serving rulers and modern history's most singular characters, Castro defied 11 US administrations and hundreds of assassination attempts. / AFP / AIZAR RALDES (Photo credit should read AIZAR RALDES/AFP/Getty Images)
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - NOVEMBER 26, 2016: Flowers at the Cuban Embassy in Moscow in memory of Cuba's revolutionary leader and former president Fidel Castro. Castro died aged 90 on November 25, 2016. Artyom Geodakyan/TASS (Photo by Artyom Geodakyan\TASS via Getty Images)
People watch a TV broadcasting news about the death of Fidel Castro of Cuba at the George F. L. Charles airport in Castries, St. Lucia, November 26, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
People celebrate after the announcement of the death of Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro, in the Little Havana district of Miami, Florida, U.S. November 26, 2016. REUTERS/Javier Galeano
The Cuban flag flies half-mast as police prevent supporters of late Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro from advancing towards anti-Castro demonstrators outside the Cuban Embassy in Madrid, Spain, November 26, 2016. REUTERS/Susana Vera
A woman combs her hair as a television set shows the news of the death of Cuba's former President Fidel Castro in Havana, Cuba, November 26, 2016. REUTERS/Stringer EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVE
People celebrate after the announcement of the death of Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro, in the Little Havana district of Miami, Florida, U.S. November 26, 2016. REUTERS/Javier Galeano
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - NOVEMBER 26, 2016: Flowers at the Cuban Embassy in Moscow in memory of Cuba's revolutionary leader and former president Fidel Castro. Castro died aged 90 on November 25, 2016. Artyom Geodakyan/TASS (Photo by Artyom Geodakyan\TASS via Getty Images)
People celebrate after the announcement of the death of Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro, in the Little Havana district of Miami, Florida, U.S. November 26, 2016. REUTERS/Javier Galeano
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - NOVEMBER 26, 2016: Flowers at the Cuban Embassy in Moscow in memory of Cuba's revolutionary leader and former president Fidel Castro. Castro died aged 90 on November 25, 2016. Artyom Geodakyan/TASS (Photo by Artyom Geodakyan\TASS via Getty Images)
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - NOVEMBER 26, 2016: Flowers at the Cuban Embassy in Moscow in memory of Cuba's revolutionary leader and former president Fidel Castro. Castro died aged 90 on November 25, 2016. Artyom Geodakyan/TASS (Photo by Artyom Geodakyan\TASS via Getty Images)
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Castro went on to rule for 49 years until illness forced him to resign and he ceded power to his younger brother.

Castro's critics have kept a low profile during the mourning period, when Castro's supporters have displayed loving admiration, even under the tropical heat.

"A little bit of sun is not going to stop us from honoring our commander the way he deserves," said Alba Rodriguez, 29-year-old school teacher, from the city of Bayamo.

Cuba's government has not revealed the cause of Castro's death, but he had been frail ever since a severe stomach condition nearly killed him in 2006. (Additional reporting by Nelson Acosta; Writing by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel and Alistair Bell)

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