They were both born to rich migrant families, they both went onto lead a country, but that’s where the similarities end. Fidel Castro, the bearded firebrand who orchestrated a revolution and governed his country with an iron grip for 49 years. Mauricio Macri is a somewhat aloof businessman who worked his way up the ranks of father’s construction company before taking power via city and country wide elections. Castro gave brilliant monologues that could last almost as long as a winter’s day (7 hours and 10 minutes is the record), whereas Macri – wooden and cold in style – prefers dialogue. The former defied the United States for almost half a century, outraged by what he perceived to be double standards and imperialism, and the latter received President Obama with open arms early this year in Buenos Aires.
It comes then as little surprise that Mauricio will not be going to the Fidel Castro’s state funeral. Macri, a cool nine hours after the passing of the Comandante, wrote a short, standardized message on twitter, expressing his condolences for the “Cuban government” (no mention of the Cuban people). He will not be making the journey from Buenos Aires to Havana – an eleven hour odyssey that takes you from one tip of South America to the other – instead sending Foreign Minister Susana Malcorra, who will spend two days on the island.
Mis condolencias al gobierno cubano por el fallecimiento de Fidel Castro
— Mauricio Macri (@mauriciomacri) November 26, 2016
Macri´s approach is in stark contrast to former President Cristina Kirchner, who, in an article written for Pagina 12, gushed that her relationship with Fidel was almost one of family (she also emphasized this intimacy in a tweet, writing “Big hug to Dalia, his companion. To his children and grandchildren. And to his brother Raúl. #Fidel.”) Cristina and Castro shared a similar leadership style in some ways, characterized by their long, passionate monologues, fervid self-belief, sympathy for social movements, and a tendency to concentrate power in the executive.
It also contrasts with the acute grief of footballer, Diego Maradona, who started “crying like crazy” when he heard the news. Maradona, who, at the height of his cocaine addiction, was flown to Cuba to convalesce, has deep affection for the Comandante. “He was almost a second father to me,” said the footballer come general loose-cannon, who has Fidel’s face tattooed “on his skin and heart” (at least half of that is literally true).
The government has, in a fairly diplomatic way, attempted to cast the passing of Fidel as the symbolic closure of the era of the populist, social movements in Latin America. Malcorra said that Fidel’s death “closes an important chapter in Latin American history,” and that it is important to “learn” from these chapters, so that one can “construct from the positive, but also learn from the negative.” Which some are quick to say means Cristina is the past, Macri is the future.
When confronted on the issue of the funeral snub, the Argentine ambassador to Cuba, Ernesto Pfirter, said that the only heads of state attending the funeral were those “anti-imperialists” who enjoyed an “important” “personal relationship” with Fidel. Perhaps getting a little desperate, he also said there just weren’t that many flights going to Cuba. Then getting even more desperate, he said it wasn’t for him to comment on the actions of his superior.
El Comandante, still causing controversy from beyond the grave?