Flags flew at half-staff on Tuesday as Cuba began three days of official mourning for late North Korean leader Kim Jong-il in a show of solidarity with its fellow communist state.
Cuba and North Korea are two of the world’s last communist nations and have maintained good relations since establishing diplomatic ties in 1960, the year after Fidel Castro took power in a 1959 revolution on the Caribbean island.
They were both on the United States list of state sponsors of terrorism until North Korea was removed in 2008.
Cuba was ruled for 49 years by Fidel Castro, 85, who was succeeded by brother and then first vice president Raul Castro in 2008.
Under the constitution, if Raul Castro were to leave office tomorrow, 81-year-old Jose Ramon Machado Ventura, current first vice president of the ruling Council of State, would succeed him until 2013, although he could be replaced sooner.
Government opponents said they feared Cuban leaders could circumvent the constitution and follow North Korea’s lead by quickly replacing Machado Ventura with a Castro family member.