HAVANA (AP) – Celebration has turned to somber reflection and church services as Cuban-Americans in Miami largely stayed off the streets following a raucous daylong party attended by thousands to mark the death of Fidel Castro.
The pot-banging, car horn-honking, flag-waving throngs were largely absent Sunday from Little Havana and other Cuban-American neighborhoods.
At St. Brendan Catholic Church in the Miami suburb of Westchester, a member of the chorus read a statement by Archbishop Thomas Wenski about Castro’s death before the service. There was no mention during the Sunday Mass of Castro specifically.
Outside the church, Nelson Frau, a 32-year-old Cuban-American whose parents fled the island in 1962, said Wenski’s statement reflected the role of the Catholic Church in Miami as a mediator toward peace between the Cubans in Miami and those on the island.
Retired pastor Rev. Martin Anorga says he participated in anti-Castro groups in Miami for years. But in church services, he only would talk about the victims of Castro’s regime, not the man himself.
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio says changes in relations with Cuba must be tied to reforms on the communist island such as free elections and freedom of the press.
The Florida Republican said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet The Press” that Fidel Castro’s death will not by itself usher in major democratic changes. Rubio says current Cuban President Raul Castro is dedicated to protecting the communist system created largely by his brother.
Rubio, who is Cuban-American, has opposed much of the thaw in U.S.-Cuba relations pushed by President Barack Obama. But Rubio also says he’s not against all such reforms, only those in which the U.S. or the Cuban people get little in return.
Rubio says he believes President-elect Donald Trump will closely re-examine U.S.-Cuba relations once he takes office in January.
Bio author had trouble processing Castro’s death
The Brazilian author of a Fidel Castro biography that the Cuban leader cooperated with says she had trouble processing the news of Castro’s death at age 90.
Claudia Furiati says, “I always thought I would be shocked” by the announcement when it came. But she wasn’t. She says that since Castro turned over Cuba’s presidency to his younger brother more than a decade ago, “he was preparing himself for the final moments.” She says that “in several of his reflections, his thoughts, he gives signs here and there of this final moment.”
In an interview at her home in Rio de Janeiro, she recalled challenging moments of Castro’s reign that shook him to his core.
One of them was in 1994 after a string of boat hijackings, unprecedented rioting and the killing of a Cuban navy lieutenant prompted Castro to suggest that those Cubans wanting to leave could do so. Over about five weeks, more than 35,000 Cubans took Castro at his word and sailed away on makeshift rafts while authorities stood by. Many didn’t make it.
says Castro went to Havana’s bay after a shipwreck and arrived very angry. In her words: “I saw him almost reach the point of fighting and being severe.” But, she adds, “His objective was to avoid a social explosion at that moment.”
was a supporter of Castro and had close ties with his family. She was allowed to often tag along with the leader before she wrote her book on his life: “Fidel Castro – A Consented Biography.”
Nobel literature laureate Mario Vargas Llosa predicts Fidel Castro’s death will change the face of Cuba
The Peruvian author is a longtime critic of Castro and contends the loss of the longtime revolutionary leader will weaken Cuba’s government, even though Castro’s younger brother Raul has been president for a decade.
Vargas Llosa says that “the structures of the nation, of control, will gradually begin to crack.” He adds, “Let’s hope this process is quick, and above all painless, that it brings no more violence than that already suffered by the Cuban people.”
Vargas Llosa considered himself a Marxist as a youth, but he gradually moved away. For years, he has described Cuba’s government as a dictatorship, which has earned him criticism within Latin America’s intellectual circles.
The writer spoke with reporters Sunday at the Guadalajara International Book Fair in Mexico.
The Cuban who as a boy survived a shipwreck and became the center of an international custody battle in Florida in 2000 says Fidel Castro will still be with Cubans even after his death.
Elian Gonzalez says in an interview with Cuban state television that it’s “not right to talk about Fidel in the past tense … but rather that Fidel will be.” He says Castro “is the present and the future.”
Gonzalez said Sunday that Castro was a friend to his family at a difficult moment and made it possible for him to return to Cuba and be reunited with his father.
Gonzalez was a young boy when he, his mother and others attempted the sea crossing between Cuba and Florida nearly two decades ago. His mother drowned on the voyage, but he survived and was taken to Florida.
A bitter dispute broke out between his relatives in the United States, who wanted him to stay there, and his father back home in Cuba.
Castro made the issue a national cause and led huge demonstrations demanding the boy be returned to his father. U.S. authorities eventually sent Gonzalez back.