Despite relations between their countries having been strained over the years, outgoing American president has offered his condolences over the death of Cuban revolutionary Fidel Castro.
Castro’s younger sibling Raul Castro, who took on the country’s presidency when his brother fell ill a decade ago, announced the death of the 90-year-old with an address on state television.
Discord and disagreement
While Mr Obama conceeded that there had been “discord and profound political disagreements” marking a strained relationship between the US and Cuba for more than half a century, he said that hard work had been put in to try to “put the past behind us”.
Mr Obama, set to step down when President-elect Donald Trump takes the keys to the White House in January, said that Cubans would now be thinking about the past while looking to the future. He added: “As they do, the Cuban people must know that they have a friend and partner in America.”
Meanwhile, Mr Trump has not reacted fully to the situation, simply tweeting: “Fidel Castro is dead.”
The Cuban government has now declared the country will be in a state of official mourning following his death, which will come to an end when his remains are interred on December 4. He is to be interred in Santiago as he has a special connection to the city, having gone to school there as a youth.
All public events and activities have now been cancelled during that period, when the Cuban flag will be flying at half mast as a mark of respect.
The Council of State has announced that state radio and television will by airing “informative, patriotic and historic” programmes.
Cubans are now being invited to pay their own tribute to the revolutionary and controversial leader by signing a “solemn oath of complying with the concept of the revolution.”
He will be cremated in keeping with his wishes and his ashes will be taken on a tour of Cuba from Havana to Santiago to reverse the route taken by Castro when his revolution won in 1959.