Today the ashes of Fidel Castro will be laid to rest at a cemetery in Santiago de Cuba, on the southern tip of the Caribbean island.
Today also marks the end of a long weary week of mourning in which the Mexican media as a whole was filled with reminiscences of the Communist dictator who indeed made his dent in Latin American history as the mouse who put a bellwether on the cat (the almighty United States) and put in on the verge of an atomic confrontation with Russia back in the Kennedy year of 1963.
All television stations sent their leading anchors (men and women) to broadcast their daily newscasts from Havana and the newspapers like El Universal and Excélsior – the nation’s oldest papers – pulled out their dusty archives from their newsprint libraries to reminisce Fidel’s life not just as a guerrilla fighter and a Commie dictator, but also as a child, as a law student and his multiple love affairs with U.S. spies, all of whom, so claimed the propaganda, had their chance to murder him but couldn’t because they had fallen in love with his beard.
Mexican politicians both from left and right had an opinion of his stature as the leader that left behind a nation that’s literally bankrupt.
The epitome of Mexican political showmanship was indeed President Enrique Peña Nieto who on Wednesday attended the massive ceremony at Plaza of the Revolution in Havana to pay a last homage to Fidel and be heavily criticized in Mexico for accepting to be second fiddle as a seating presence as the main seats in the visiting presidents’ podium were for Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro and Bolivia’s Evo Morales, the last socialist dictators left in Latin America.
Mexicans who see Mexico as the leader of Latin America in terms of politics resented Peña Nieto’s presence as he could have easily have declined the invitation – and avoid being treated as a second-class Latin American.
Another Mexican politician who not unusually blew the horn for Fidel was leftist presidential candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) who went as far as comparing Castro to South African Nelson Mandela. Gimme a break, AMLO! Mandela was what you want to be, an elected leader, while Fidel Castro was a brutal dictator who arrived on power with the promise of establishing a democracy. Mandela’s was a different story.
Many a columnist who actually knew him personally described him as “a snake charmer” because at interviews he would turn on the charm and disarm even the toughest reporters when they asked question about him leaving power. He had a ready answer to that question saying that whoever wanted his power had to take it the same way he earned it. And he would warn, “Remember the Bay of Pigs invasion.”
But he was also known as a snake charmer because he could hold a crowd of 8,000 followers at Revolution Square for a seven hour long speech and keep them cheering. What wasn’t said was that all those in the cheering crowd were in Fidel Castro’s payroll. Or at least that’s the info I’ve got.
Conservative columnist and National Action Party (PAN) philosopher Juan José Rodríguez Pratts described on Thursday in Excelsior the arrogance of Fidel as he stood by his Marxist-Leninist beliefs even when Gorbachev stepped down from power in Russia and Mandela rose to power the democratic way:
“The worst in politics – and history confirms it – is the resistance of Fidel Castro to assume the consequence of his errors and act accordingly, but in his sin he paid the penance. Or as (Nobel Prize winning novelist) Mario Vargas Llosa correctly states: ‘History will not absolve him.’ What a beautiful beginning! What a sad ending!”
In any case, the week of mourning has come to an end and from now on Fidel Castro will be but a faint memory in history of a Communist dictator but brilliant leader who shook up the United States to its foundation, even if his dream of inheriting an ideological legacy to the rest of Latin America is still crumbling.
But the question for the vast Catholic majority in Latin America is: Will he rest in peace?
The answer could easily be hell no!
In any case, it will be good to start next Monday following the news on TV and print and no longer hear or read the name of Fidel Castro.