Monday, December 5, 2016

Fidel interred quietly in Santiago (Dec. 5, 2016)

Cuba will prohibit naming public institutions after Fidel Castro, and statues of him will also be barred, in keeping with his wishes, said his brother, President Raúl Castro yesterday. "The leader of the revolution rejected any manifestation of a cult of personality,” Raúl Castro told a crowd gathered before the elder Castro's funereal, "and was consistent in that through the last hours of his life, insisting that, once dead, his name and likeness would never be used on institutions, streets, parks or other public sites, and that busts, statues or other forms of tribute would never be erected," reports the Associated Press.

The Guardian has video of the speech, which was attended by Latin American allies including Nicolás Maduro, Daniel Ortega, Evo Morales, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, and Dilma Rousseff.

The internment of ashes itself, in the Santa Ifigenia cemetery in Santiago de Cuba was a private affair without media, reports the Associated Press. Plans to broadcast the ceremony, which appeared to last 90 minutes, were cancelled last minute. It was "a subdued ending to a busy week of remembrance marked by large, government-orchestrated tributes in public squares and nonstop television and radio coverage," reports the New York Times.

For the Wall Street Journal, "it was the closing spectacle for a firebrand beloved or loathed by millions for installing a socialist state 90 miles off Florida, fomenting revolution in Latin America and aligning Cuba with the Soviet Union to challenge the U.S."

The crypt itself is a simple, boulder-like structure, sealed with a metal covering that simply says "Fidel," reports the Miami Herald. The tomb's site has been a tightly guarded secret up until now, though its location near independence hero José Martí's indicates that some sort of public access will be permitted, according to another Associated Press piece. It's also near a monument to rebels who died in an attack on the Moncada military barracks at the start of the revolution, reports Reuters.

The Guardian has a piece on the full trip Castro's ashes made across Cuba in La Caravana de la Libertad, a story that focuses on the revolution's victories and shortcomings.

Though it might seem a natural turning point for Cuban policy, the fact that Castro ceded the reins of power ten years ago to his brother, blunted expectations and emotion for many citizens, according to the NYT. "The nation’s response was generally stoic, with public displays of unchecked emotion rare."

The New York Times has a photo-essay of Cubans mourning the iconic leader.

A piece by Brian Latell, author of After Fidel, has a piece in Politico speculating that Fidel's death will liberate Raúl to govern outside of the shadow of his brother. "It has been a challenging decade for Raul who often found that his boldest reform initiatives were undermined by his weakened but still meddlesome brother who demanded until the end fidelity to his decades-long revolution. But the economic and social pressures facing Cuba give Raul little choice except to make the dramatic changes that he has long wanted to enact."

News Briefs
  • Thousands of Brazilians protested yesterday against a bill passed by the Chamber of Deputies, which critics say would muzzle judicial attempts to pursue corruption, reports the Associated Press. Military police estimate 15,000 demonstrators in Sao Paulo and another 40,000 around the country. But the main unifying cause appeared to be disgust with elected officials. Many protesters say they were supporting judges and prosecutors in the face of a bill that would threaten them with jail time for overzealous investigations, and expressed anger towards Temer allies in Congress, reports the Wall Street Journal. Former fringe movements, like backing the monarchy or military government, also made an appearance, notes the New York Times. (See last Thursday's post.)
  • The Brazilian government is seeking to pass a constitutional amendment that would effectively freeze public spending at 2016 levels for 20 years. The signature Temer administration policy has already been ratified by legislators, and is expected to receive final approval by Dec. 13. But the proposal would most harshly affect the country's poorest, writes human rights lawyer Mariana Prandini Assis in a Guardian op-ed. "As it is structured, PEC 55 is an open attack on the voting rights of the poor: no matter who they elect in the next two decades, they will have to endure under an unalterable austerity policy." This despite the fact that austerity policies do more harm than good, she writes. "As the amendment process moves ahead, the authoritarian political agenda behind the proposed rolling-back of public spending is ever more apparent," she says, citing protests against the measure that have been met with tear-gas and rubber bullets. (See last Wednesday's briefs.)
  • The Brazilian city of Chapecó mourned the death of most of it's cherished soccer team in an airplane accident this weekend. The tragedy has ended the rise of a soccer legend and gripped the country. The funereal at the local stadium was attended by Brazilian President Michel Temer, and Pope Francis sent a message, reports the Wall Street Journal.
  • Increasing numbers of Central American's are giving up on moving to the U.S. in order to flee violence and lack of economic opportunity at home, and are instead setting their sites on Mexico as a haven, reports the Los Angeles Times. Estimates of illegal migrants, many of whom obtain false Mexican papers, are hard to come by. But applications for humanitarian asylum have tripled over three years and are set to double again this year.
  • A commission tasked with making recommendations over how to make Panama's financial sector more transparent -- set up in the wake of the "Panama Papers" scandal earlier this year -- fell apart when the government refused to make its findings public. (See April 4's briefs.) That lack of transparency spurred the resignation of Nobel laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz and Swiss anti-corruption expert Mark Pieth. (See Aug. 12's briefs.) "With the world’s economic powers intensifying their attack on tax havens, the commission’s failure to speak in one voice illustrates the difficulty of trying to reform a financial system, particularly in a small country where familial ties run deep and the financial interests of elite lawyers and bankers are embedded in offshore businesses," according to the New York Times.
  • Venezuela's central bank announced the emission of six new bills ranging from 500 to 20,000 Bolivars. They will begin circulating next week, in an attempt to keep up with triple-digit inflation. Currently the largest-denominated bill is 100 bolivars while a single U.S. dollar is worth as much as 4,400 bolivars, reports the Associated Press.

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