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Fidel Castro dies: Music, dancing, parades fill Miami streets

The news that much of Miami has been waiting decades to hear finally arrived Friday night when Cuba's state-run television announced that Fidel Castro was dead.

Within hours spontaneous celebrations had broken out on the streets of Little Havana. The party rumbled right into Saturday as hundreds gathered outside the neighborhood's Versailles restaurant, an iconic gathering spot for Cuban exiles for nearly as long as the 90-year-old Castro held power over the island nation.

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Police were forced to block off several streets as revelers, many draped in Cuban flags, uncorked bottles of champagne, sang '"Guantanamera" and "La Vida es un Carnaval" and danced salsa and merengue while partying like it was 1959 — the year Castro's rule began.

"This is going to go on for a week — at least," said Elliete Rodriguez, of Miami, adding she was on hand to honor her father whom she said died in exile without ever returning to Cuba.

>> Related: Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro dead at 90

By 10 a.m. Saturday, the cacophony created by honking horns, blaring car stereos and the banging of pots and pans along Calle Ocho — Eighth Street — had reached rock-concert decibels with no end in sight.

"It's a huge moment in history," said Michael Porta, who said his grandfather was imprisoned by Castro's government for his political views. "One of the last tyrants of the 20th century just passed away. It may not change much on the island right away, but it is a cause for celebration in the exile community and anybody who loves freedom."

>> Related: Fidel Castro dies: Exiles recall pain with sorrow, freedom with joy

Rumors of Castro's death had toyed with exiles' emotions for years.

Speculation of his demise began ramping up after Castro fell ill in 2006 and peaked in 2012 when a Venezuelan doctor who treated the Cuban leader said Castro had suffered a heart attack and was unresponsive.

In January 2015, Castro's death became the source of conjecture again following his prolonged absence from public appearances.

That caused Univision anchor Jorge Ramos to warn on his Twitter account: "Careful. Remember that here in Miami, almost like a ritual, Fidel Castro is killed several times a year."

Like the boogeyman in a horror movie, Castro emerged every time.

Until Friday.

>> Related: Fidel Castro dies: Florida leaders hope Cuba knows more freedom

"No one is eternal," said Angela Williams, who held a sign in one hand stating "Cuba Libre" and another placard denouncing "57 years of dictatorship and suppression of human rights" in the other. "You have to die some time."

Williams stressed that she was not "celebrating" the death of another human being as much as she was honoring loved ones and extolling political freedom.

But that view was certainly in the minority Saturday.

"I'm a Christian, so I feel a little like a hypocrite, but I'm happy inside," said Claudia Ortiz of Miami.

Damian Maytin, 17, was less diplomatic. His family left Cuba eight years ago after Raul Castro took the reigns of power from his older brother. Raul Castro, 85, has announced that he will not serve beyond 2018, but Maytin believes he will maintain control as long as he lives.

"One Castro is down, and we hope the other one dies soon," Maytin said.

>> Related: World reacts to death of Fidel Castro

Exiles once believed that Fidel Castro's death would result in the collapse of Cuba's one-party, totalitarian system.

But Henry Marinello said that as long as Raul Castro and other Communist party stalwarts remain in power, nothing will change.

Marinello arrived on Calle Ocho early Saturday holding a sign with the names "Che, Fidel and Raul" written inside bubbles. The names Che — for Cuban revolutionary figure Che Guevara — and Fidel had lines crossed through them. Under the bubbles were the words, "Falta uno," Spanish for "one's left."

>>Related: President Obama releases statement on Fidel Castro's death

Marinello said that he and his brothers came to the U.S. as children in the 1960s while their father stayed behind working with anti-Castro dissident groups. His father was eventually arrested and then executed by a firing squad, he said.

"My father was an idealist," Marinello said. "He believed in freedom. He stayed trying to overturn the Castro regime, and he died doing it."

Beyond the abundance of Cuban and American flags flying in Little Havana Saturday were those from Brazil, Israel, Venezuela and other countries.

Ben Lightfoot of New Zealand biked to Calle Ocho with his 3-year-old son Niko in tow.

"We wanted to see a little history," Lightfoot said.

>> Related: Key dates during the Fidel Castro era in Cuba

Salvador and Celena Parisi of Venezuela said they were on hand to show solidarity with Cuban-Americans. When Fidel Castro and Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez were alive, they formed a close bond that many Venezuelans say has led to the South American country's collapse.

"We're living through what many Cubans have already experienced," Salvador Parisi said. "The body of a totalitarian system remains in Cuba, but now the head has been cut off."

One celebrant reminded a reporter that Cuban-Americans have long toasted the New Year with the refrain: "Next year in Cuba!"

With Castro's death, Claudia Ortiz said that hope may be closer to reality.

"I don't think Cuba is going to change overnight," said Ortiz, born in Cuba before moving to Miami 23 years ago. "You can't change 57 years in a week or even a month. We're going to need years to change. But it's a beginning."

Fidel Castro dies: Florida leaders hope Cuba knows more freedom

A durable communist dictator at home and a romanticized icon of the left throughout much of the world, Cuba's Fidel Castro was also a towering figure for decades in Florida politics.

>> Read more trending stories

Exiles who fled Castro's oppression reshaped the cultural and political landscape in Miami, where they and their descendants have dominated elected offices and established themselves as an influential constituency in statewide politics.

Younger generations of Cuban-Americans are more open to engagement with the communist island, but a hard-line approach remains prevalent in the GOP, with candidates for president and other offices making regular trips to Miami's Little Havana to sip cortaditos and denounce the Castro regime.

President-elect Donald Trump, for whom large rallies were the main mode of campaigning, did a rare small-scale event last month at Miami's Bay of Pigs Museum, which commemorates the failed 1961 effort by U.S.-backed Cuban exiles to overthrow Castro.

Trump, who is spending Thanksgiving weekend at his Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, first reacted to Castro's death via Twitter.

"Fidel Castro is dead!" Trump tweeted on Saturday morning.

Read the full story from The Palm Beach Post

Fidel Castro dies: Exiles recall pain with sorrow, freedom with joy

The bar was working overtime at Copacabana Cuban Cuisine on Saturday, muddling mojitos and stirring up Cuba Libres and their intrinsic promises.

"It's the beginning. It's the beginning of the end," said the restaurant's effusive owner, Gustavo Garcia, who was offering two-for-one cocktails all day and late into the night. "I'm very happy, and my people here are very happy."

>> Read more trending stories

The grand parenthesis that was Fidel Castro's 49-year rule over Cuba closed some years ago. But Friday's announcement that the dictator was dead offered a kind of finality that local Cuban exiles have long dreamed about. It also offered a touchstone moment by which to measure their lives.

>> Related: Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro dead at 90

For school custodian Lazaro Camacho, the news sent him back to the six years he endured in one of Cuba's more notorious prisons, Kilo 7 in Camaguey. During his time there, 40 prisoners died in a revolt. Camacho was sent there at age 19 for simply trying to leave the island.

"Only in Cuba. In any normal country, or democratic country, it's not a crime to leave," said Camacho, who described the prison as a "terrible concentration camp." And while he is not one to cheer anyone's passing, he believes Castro's death merits demonstrations of joy. "He was a cruel dictator who ruined too many lives."

Read the full story from The Palm Beach Post

Photos: World reaction to Fidel Castro's death

President Obama releases statement on Fidel Castro's death

President Barack Obama released a statement on the death of former Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

In the statement, Obama offers condolences while acknowledging the history between Cuba and the United States. Obama notes that during his presidency, he worked on establishing more cordial relations with Cuba.

>>Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro dead at 90

>>World reaction to Castro's death

In March, Obama traveled to Cuba and met with President Raul Castro. Air travel restrictions between the two countries have been eased, with commercial flights resuming in August, a result of the Obama administration's new diplomatic policy with Cuba.

World reacts to death of Fidel Castro

Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro died Friday night at the age of 90. 

Current Cuban leader and younger brother Raul Castro announced the news on state television.

>>Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro dead at 90

>> Read more trending stories

Cuba's government announced that Castro will be cremated, and his ashes would be interred on Dec. 4 in Santiago, the birthplace of his revolution. 

>>Photos: World reaction to Castro's death

>>Photos: Fidel Castro through the years

The death of Castro has generated reaction from around the world. 

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Key dates during the Fidel Castro era in Cuba

Here are some key dates in Cuba since Fidel Castro came to power in January 1959:

Jan. 1, 1959 — Castro's rebels take power as dictator Fulgencio Batista flees Cuba.

Jan. 7, 1959 — The United States recognizes the new Cuban government.

May 8, 1960 — Diplomatic relations between Cuba and the Soviet Union resume.

 Oct. 19, 1960 — Washington bans exports to Cuba, other than food and medicine.

Jan. 3, 1961 — U.S. breaks diplomatic relations with Cuba after Cuban government demands a drastic reduction in U.S. Embassy staff within 48 hours.

April 16, 1961 — Castro declares Cuba a socialist state.

April 17, 1961 — Bay of Pigs: CIA-backed Cuban exiles stage failed invasion.

Feb, 7, 1962 — Washington bans all Cuban imports.

Oct. 14-26, 1962 — U.S. blockade forces removal of Soviet nuclear missiles from Cuba. U.S. President John F. Kennedy agrees privately not to invade Cuba.

Mar. 13, 1968 — Castro's government takes over almost all private businesses under the banner of the Great Revolutionary Offensive.

April 1980 — Mariel boatlift: Cuba says anyone can leave; some 125,000 Cubans flee.

December 1991 — Collapse of Soviet Union devastates Cuban economy.

August 1994 — Castro declares he will not stop Cubans trying to leave; some 40,000 take to sea heading for United States.

Nov. 19, 1996 — Pope John Paul II receives Castro at the Vatican. The Pope accepts an invitation to visit Cuba.

 July 31, 2006 — Castro announces he has had an operation, temporarily cedes power to his brother Raul.

Feb. 19, 2008 — Castro resigns as president.

July 2010 — Castro re-emerges after years in seclusion, visiting a scientific institute, giving a TV interview, talking to academics and even taking in a dolphin show at the aquarium.

April 19, 2011 — Castro is replaced by his brother Raul as first secretary of the Communist Party, the last official post he held. The elder Castro made a brief appearance at the Congress.

April 19, 2016 —Castro delivers a valedictory speech at the Communist Party's seventh Congress, declaring that "soon I'll be like all the others. The time will come for all of us, but the ideas of the Cuban Communists will remain."

Nov. 25, 2016 — Fidel Castro dies.

Information from The Associated Press and the U.S. Embassy was used in this report.

5 arrested for planning terror attack in Paris

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Five men were arrested this week in France after investigators found they were planning a terror attack in the country, Paris prosecutor Francois Molins said Friday.

>> Read more trending stories  

According to the Associated Press, the men, two of whom were French citizens, were arrested in two French cities: Strasbourg and Marseille.

The attack was planned to be executed as early as Dec. 1, and the men were receiving orders from an Islamic State group member based in Iraq or Syria, Molins said.

Investigators found weapons during home searches and recovered plans to obtain ammunition, instructions for a money handover and a notebook with details of death in martyrdom.

Molins said the men hadn't chosen a specific target, but they had "common instructions to obtain weapons (and) instructions given by a person from the Iraqi-Syrian zone through encrypted applications popular among terrorists" and a "clear will to find and to identify targets to commit an act in the very short term." 

The men were detained after a long-term investigation by French intelligence services, and the Paris prosecutor asked magistrates to hand the five preliminary charges of taking part in a terrorist criminal association and to jail them.

France remains under a state of emergency that was imposed after Islamic State attacks in Paris in November 2015 that killed 130 people.

Read more at the Associated Press.

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