Venezuelans reacted to Fidel Castro’s death today along the political lines that have deeply divided the country, with PSUV officials and their supporters mourning the death of a man they consider to be a hero, and opposition figures and supporters lamenting the deceased leader’s influence on Venezuelan politics and history.
The Minister of Communication and Information has published an article outlining PSUV officials’ reactions to Castro’s death, many of whom shared their views on Twitter using the hashtag #HonorYGloriaAFidel [#HonorAndGloryToFidel]. National Assembly deputy Elias Jaua tweeted the following:
#HonorAndGloryToFidel and the heroic people of Cuba. A hug to President Raul [Castro] and all of the Cuban revolutionary leadership during this time.
Minister of Oil Eulogio del Pino tweeted:
You flew so high, Commander Fidel. We will remain here following your example and that of Chavez. You will live on in your beloved people. #HonorAndGloryToFidel.
Carabobo state governor Francisco Ameliach responded to Fidel’s death by tweeting:
Onward towards victory always, Commander Fidel Castro! A universal man undefeated in one thousand battles. #HonorAndGloryToFidel
While Minister of Health Luisana Melo said:
#HonorAndGloryToFidel, who demonstrated through his example that the self-determination of a people is non-negotiable. We send our deep love to the people of Cuba.
Maduro responded to the news of Fidel’s death late last night, saying on Twitter:
It is up to all revolutionaries in teh world now to follow [Fidel’s] legacy and carry his Flag of Independence, Socialism, and a Human Homeland….
Opposition Reacts To Fidel’s Death
The head of the Vente Venezuela party and one of the most outspoken government critics in Venezuela, Maria Corina Machado, reacted to Fidel’s death by saying:
Today, Cuba begins its day closer to freedom. And Venezuela as well. Just [as it happens] in Cuba, [it happens] in Venezuela: Venezuelans flee from hunger on boats.
National Assembly deputy for the Voluntad Popular party Freddy Guevara responded to the news by saying:
[Fidel Castro] was the last one to attempt to invade our country militarily. A brief reminder to the few that I see eulogizing him.
Guevara was likely referring to the 1967 Machurucuto Incident, a failed Cuba-backed assault on Venezuela that had the intent of overthrowing President Raul Leoni.
Carlos Vecchio, another Voluntad Popular figure, said:
Fidel Castro has died, but the oppression continues. It is time from the people of Cuba to open up irrefutably towards liberty.
El Hatillo mayor David Smolansky tweeted:
An island submerged in stunted poverty. More than 2 million Cubans in exile. A dictatorship.
For his part, National Assembly deputy Luis Florido said:
Fidel has died. His main crime: murdering the dreams of six generations. Viva Cuba libre.
Gov’t-sponsored Concert Postponed
The government-sponsored Suena Caracas music festival, which was scheduled to run from November 25 to December 3, has been postponed out of respect for Castro’s death. News of the postponement came from the festival’s official Twitter account in the form of the following message:
We are informing the Venezuelan people that the Suena Caracas Festival joins the rest of the continent in mourning, [and as a result] has suspended the activities that had been scheduled [to take place]. Our organization is in the process of re-scheduling [the festival] alongside the artists.
The music festival, now in its third year, has traditionally drawn the ire of Venezuelans who feel dismay at the government spending state funds on concerts while the country suffers from its worst humanitarian crisis in living memory. This festival’s official cost runs at approximately $2 million dollars.
Others, like Miranda state governor Henrique Capriles, lamented the fact that while the government suspended the concert due to Castro’s death, it would not had suspended it due to the deaths of Venezuelans who were unable to receive proper medical care due to the chronic medical shortage affecting the country. Through his Twitter account, Capriles said:
But they never would have suspended [the festival] for the thousands of Venezuelans who go hungry, who have no medicine and who fall victims to violence.
Suspicions Over Festival Cost Point to Possible Embezzlement
The fact that this year’s Suena Caracas festival only cost $2 million to organize – according to official sources – has caused suspicion and given rise to fears that an unknown about of money has been embezzled through the event. The reason for the suspicion comes from the budgets of the festival’s two previous iterations.
In 2014, the PSUV-controlled National Assembly approved a budget for the festival of $16.83 million dollars, and of $21.5 million in 2015 (at the official exchange rate of Bs. 10/US$). In other words, the budget for the festival this year is officially $19.5 million less than it was last year, despite being similarly-sized event.
Earlier today, residents from the Libertador municipality in Caracas – where the festival is scheduled to take place – staged a protest outside the Comptroller General’s Office to call attention to the massive budgetary discrepancy and demand that an audit be conducted on the event’s finances.
Jorge Rodriguez [the PSUV mayor of the Libertador municipality] isn’t being accountable to the people, and he is telling a bold-faced lie when he says that Suena Caracas 2016 cost $2 million when the one from 2014 cost $26.8 million [sic – I’m not sure what calculation Rojas is going by]. The levels of corruption has reached stratospheric heights.
Rojas also called attention to what he considers the absurdity of holding a music festival in the middle of a city that is undergoing levels of decay unprecedented in its modern history:
It seems like that Maduro government is only thinking about holding a circus without bread. People will dance in the Diego Ibarra Plaza when in the area around the park there are people who, like dogs, open up garbage bags [on the street] in order to find a bit of food.
It is heartless to go sing and dance at a concert that costs millions of dollars without thinking about the fact that at the same time there are children dying in hospitals due to a lack of medicine…
Maduro Almost Addresses Flores Case, Blames US of Attacking His Wife
One week after his nephews – Efrain and Francisco Flores – were convicted of attempting to smuggle 800 kilograms of cocaine into the United States, Maduro almost addressed the case for the first time, but instead skirted around it and suggested that his wife, Cilia Flores, was the target of a US attack.
Speaking before supporters at an event in Caracas yesterday afternoon to mark the beginning of a women’s initiative, Maduro said:
Do you think it was a coincidence that the imperialists fabricated a case whose sole objective was to attack the first lady, the first combatant, the president’s wife? Enough of attacks against revolutionary women, including my wife Cilia Flores!
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