International News Desk – At Home: Newfoundland sees funeral crime wave in January – In Foreign News: Cuba votes 2008

International News Desk – At Home: Newfoundland sees funeral crime wave in January – In Foreign News: Cuba votes 2008

At Home: Newfoundland sees funeral crime wave in January

A 46-year-old Newfoundland woman has been charged with theft following a funeral on January 7. The police who made the arrest say that the woman had been a volunteer at the Anglican church in Harbour Breton where the funeral was held, and thus in a prime position to collect and take off with cash donations from mourners.

The money was taken from various sympathy cards that were collected at the church; the woman is being charged with theft under $5,000. The scheduled court date for the suspect is March 25.

So far, police are unsure whether the same woman might be connected to recent similar crimes in the province. On January 15, another Anglican church, this one in Corner Brook, fell victim to theft during a funeral. It appears that while mourners were in the main hall of the church for funerary services, the thief went down into the basement to search through their coats and purses. The thief stole a wallet and money from two purses, although police will not say how much was taken. The placement of the purses and the circumstances of the church service apparently provided exactly the right conditions for such a theft to occur.

Constable Robert Edwards remarked that it was sad to know that an individual’s financial difficulties were enough to make him or her feel the need to steal from churchgoers during a time of mourning; he also asked for the public’s help in identifying the criminal.

In Foreign News: Cuba votes 2008

Cubans headed to the polls on January 20 for the scheduled round of federal elections and despite much criticism of the Communist electoral system from Western countries?particularly the United States?voter turnout was extremely high and there appears to be no anxiety about the future of the Partido Comunista de Cuba following the lengthy illness of leader Fidel Castro.

After being hospitalized a year and a half ago, Castro handed control of the Cuban government over to his brother Raul; Cuban legislators and voters have come to terms with the idea that if Castro is not elected president this February, Raul is the likely candidate.

Although Cuba is a Communist state and has been since the early 1960s under the leadership of current President Castro, its government is actually elected by the voting public. Since the latter half of the 1970s, voter turnout in Cuba has been above the 90 per cent mark and the Communist government frequently hails this statistic as a success on the part of Democratic Communism.

The major difference between Cuba’s electoral system and those of traditional democratic countries is that it operates via a one-party system. The ruling party is the only official national political party; apart from individual party members being drawn up on the ballots for their respective constituencies, voters can also vote to elect every Comunista Party member into Parliament. This does not mean that independent candidates cannot run for Parliament or that any votes for them are discounted; what it generally means is that these candidates are not expected to be voted into the presidential office.

After Parliament is voted in by the electorate, the elected politicians will decide amongst themselves who will occupy the Senate and who will become president. Due to his ailing health it is very unlikely that Castro will be re-elected to this position, which will end an incredibly long run in office. Under his leadership Cuba has retained a cool relationship with the United States but has prospered under its own accord; the Cuban government currently boasts one of the highest percentages of women and mixed-race representatives in the world.

Castro needs to decide whether he would accept the presidential position by February or March, when the new government meets to cast its votes.