The Cuban dictator Fidel Castro died at the age of 90. Castro became an icon of revolution in 1959 when he and his supporters Deposed the previous dictator, Fulgencio Batista. Castro’s long rule saw Cuba draw close to the Soviet Union and fiercely oppose the United States. He also imprisoned and tortured his political enemies. In 1998, John Paul II accepted an invitation to Cuba and publicly criticised its human rights abuses. Castro had stepped down as leader in 2008.
What commentators are saying
Two politicians provoked consternation with their tributes to the dictator. Canadian President Justin Trudeau called Castro “a larger than life leader who served his people for almost half a century. A legendary revolutionary and orator, Mr Castro made significant improvements to the education and healthcare of his island nation.” Likewise, Jeremy Corbyn paid tribute to a “massive figure” who had showed “heroism” in his youth.
The Cuban-born historian Carlos Eire wrote in the Washington Post that Castro’s supporters showed “gullibility”. Castro’s reputation, he said, should be defined by his many crimes: that, for instance, he “was responsible for so many thousands of executions and disappearances in Cuba that a precise number is hard to reckon”; that he “claimed all property for himself and his henchmen, strangled food production and impoverished the vast majority of his people”; and “established an apartheid society in which millions of foreign visitors enjoyed rights and privileges forbidden to his people”.
Eire was one of many Cubans who fled to Miami. Newspaper, the Miami Herald, noted: “Millions cheered Fidel Castro on the day he entered Havana. Millions more fled the communist dictator’s repressive police state, leaving behind their possessions, their families, the island they loved and often their very lives.”
The paper said that Castro not only treated his own people mercilessly, but was also a threat to world peace. “His alliance with the Soviet Union brought the world to the brink of nuclear war in 1962,” it noted.
The most overlooked story of the week
✣ US abortion rate falls to lowest level in 40 years
The US abortion rate has fallen to its lowest level since 1971.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a government agency, in 2013 there was an abortion for every 80 women. Since 2004, this figure has declined by a fifth.
The data is collected from 47 of the US’s 50 states.
Why was it under-reported?
The aftermath of Donald Trump’s election has dominated US news to the exclusion of all else. Although Trump successfully courted the pro-life vote, the abortion debate has not featured much in post-election discussion. It is also hard to find a clear narrative for the decline. Pro-lifers are likely to suggest it results from states making abortion clinics abide by tough regulations, which have forced many to close. Pro-abortion campaigners say that increased access to contraception should take the credit for the decline.
What will happen next?
Trump has said he will appoint pro-life justices to the Supreme Court, and would like to see the 1973 Roe v Wade judgment overturned: a decision which would allow individual states to ban abortion.
But that is not the only reason the pro-choice movement is worried. Polls suggest that younger Americans are more pro-life than their parents. And state restrictions have already made abortions less accessible: a 2011 study found that four in 10 American women live in a county with no abortion clinic.
✣The week ahead
Pope Francis will address many of the world’s top CEOs tomorrow. His speech will mark the end of a two-day conference organised by Time Inc, the American publisher, and Fortune magazine. According to the Fortune magazine website, the gathering will discuss an “economic system that both encourages growth and spreads its benefits more broadly”.
The cause of Mother Marie Adele Garnier, foundress of the Tyburn nuns, will be opened by the Bishop of Langres in northern France tomorrow. The nun brought her community to London to escape French anti-clerical laws.
Next Thursday is a public holiday in Italy to celebrate the feast of the Immaculate Conception. Pope Francis will make his annual visit to the Column of the Immaculate Conception in Rome’s plush shopping district, where he will pray and leave floral tributes to the Virgin Mary.
The tradition of the papal visit dates back to 1953.
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