UN Holds a Third Minute of Silence for Fidel Castro

Patrick Goodenough | December 21, 2016 | 5:01am EST
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U.N. General Assembly President Peter Thomson leads the gathering in holding a minute of silence in honor of Cuba’s Fidel Castro, in New York on Tuesday, December 20, 2016. (Screengrab: UN Webcast)

(CNSNews.com) – The United Nations on Tuesday once again paid tribute to the late Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, at a “special commemorative event” presided over by the president of the U.N. General Assembly.

For the third time since Castro died on November 25 aged 90, members of a top U.N. body stood in silence with heads bowed in honor of Castro. Earlier minutes of silence were held at the General Assembly several days after his death, and at the U.N. Human Rights Council when it convened in Geneva earlier this month.

Tuesday’s event, which was organized by the Cuban mission, was promoted in the U.N.’s official journal, and made use of U.N. resources including webcast and translation services.

The meeting, which also featured a message read out on behalf of U.N. secretary-general Ban Ki-moon, ran for two-and-a-half hours.

American taxpayers account for 22 percent of the United Nations’ regular operating budget.

U.N. Watch, a Geneva-based non-governmental organization that monitors the world body, was sharply critical of the session.

“It was bad enough that both the U.N. General Assembly and the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva already held separate tributes with a minute of silence to honor the human rights abuser’s memory,” said the group’s executive director, Hillel Neuer.

“Holding this third shameful and Orwellian tribute at the U.N., however, is only rubbing salt in the wounds of Castro's thousands of victims.”

Opening the meeting, UNGA president Peter Thomson of Fiji said the world body was gathering “to pay tribute to one of the 20th century’s most iconic and influential leaders.”

“For many,” Thomson said, Castro “embodied the struggle of the global south for independence, justice and development,” as he staunchly advocated against “what he saw as the inequities of the prevailing world order.”

“His activism in pursuit of a fairer and more just world made him a symbol of resistance and inspiration to people across the world – in Latin America, Africa, and beyond.”

Thomson said that “for most Cubans” Castro was the man who bought them dignity and progress in social development, including free public education and healthcare. He cited infant mortality and illiteracy rates among the lowest in the world

Alluding to the U.S. economic embargo, he added that, “bearing in the mind the major restrictions on the development of the Cuban economy and the lives of its people, Cuba’s accomplishments throughout this period become even more impressive.”

Thomson made no reference to the communist regime’s poor record on political rights and civil liberties. The closest he came was a single mention of “reforms.”

“With the modifications to the Cuban embargo and the implementation of domestic reforms, Cuba is currently experiencing a period of renewal and readjustment,” Thomson said. “And I know that I speak for all member-states when I wish the Cuban government and its people the very best in this endeavor.”

“As we honor the life, and mourn the passing of this uniquely influential figure,” he said, “we take solace in the fact that his core ideals – solidarity, development, peace, justice and mutual respect – will continue to endure.”

After Thomson led the gathering in a minute of silence, numerous speakers filed to the podium to praise and reminisce about Castro, with many quoting from their national leaders’ tributes to the “comandante en jefe.”

The Assad regime’s envoy, Bashar Ja’afari, called him “a role model for those who resist hegemony and occupation.”

Russian ambassador Vitaly Churkin said Castro had “enjoyed undisputed authority at home” and “the respect of the entire world.”

Iranian ambassador Gholam-Ali Khoshroo marveled at Castro’s achievements in the face of “over five decades of illegal, unjust, unilateral sanctions.”

Neuer called it “obscene” that the UNGA would pay tribute in this way to “a brutal dictator.”

It was not really a surprise, however, he added, since the General Assembly recently elected the Castro regime onto the Human Rights Council, as it has done many other despotic governments.

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