President Raúl Castro and Mohamed Abdelaziz during his last visit to Cuba in 2014. Photo: Estudio Revolución

The Council of State of the Republic of Cuba decreed an official mourning period on June 1-2, following the death of the President of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic and Secretary General of the Polisario Front, Mohamed Abdelaziz, who passed away after a long battle with cancer.

Abdelaziz, as leader of his people, waged an intense struggle against the occupation of Morocco, which invaded the territory in 1975 after the withdrawal that year of Spain, details Prensa Latina.

Following the death of the leader of the Polisario Front, the Sahrawi television broadcaster RASD TV reported that the presidency of the Sahrawi Republic will be assumed on an interim basis by Khatri Addouh, speaker of the parliament, for a maximum period of 40 days, as reported by teleSUR.

In March, Abdelaziz received the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, during a tour that included a visit to the Tindouf refugee camps in Algeria, where Ban issued statements in which he recognized the Moroccan occupation of the Sahrawi Republic.

Ban's trip had among its objectives the renewal of the mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO). The peacekeeping mission of the United Nations was established in 1991 to also observe the ceasefire with the neighboring country. Morocco is hampering efforts, in particular for the preparation of a census of the Sahrawi population.

During an official visit to Cuba in 2014, during which he was received by President Raúl Raul Castro Ruz, Abdelaziz stressed the island's solidarity with his people's struggle for the right to self-determination.

He also noted that Cuban support for his people had extended to different areas, despite the blockade imposed by the United States for over 50 years.

“More than a thousand Sahrawi professionals have been trained in (Cuban) universities and national academic institutions,” he stated.

In addition, Abdelaziz expressed thanks for the efforts of Cuban medical teams, who frequently travel to refugee camps in North Africa to serve Sahrawis.

This fraternal encounter confirmed the historic relations of friendship between the two peoples, and the support of Cuba for a just and definitive solution in the Western Sahara, guaranteeing self-determination for the Sahrawi people.

In March this year, the Cuban President sent a congratulatory message to Mohamed Abdelaziz, on the occasion of the celebration of the 40th anniversary of the proclamation of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, this past February.

The message, delivered by Cuban Ambassador, Raúl Navas Barzaga, reaffirmed the country's will to further strengthen the fraternal bonds of solidarity and cooperation that unite the two peoples and governments.

Mohamed Abdelaziz was born in the city of Marrakech, Morocco, in 1947. Last December he was re-elected for the twelfth time as Secretary General of the Polisario Front.

Abdelaziz participated in the founding of the Polisario Front in 1972. Following the death of El-Ouali Mustapha Sayed, he became Secretary General of the Front in 1976. In 1982, he was elected President of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic.