Friday, January 2, 2009

Fidel Castro's 16 words

HAVANA - Fidel Castro signed his last Reflection, as his essays are called, at 6:12 p.m. on Dec. 15. The column appeared in Granma, the Communist Party newspaper, and was entitled, "The unjustifiable destruction of the environment."
The next words attributed to Fidel came at 7 p.m. on Dec. 31. The message was brief:
With the 50th anniversary of the triumph just a few hours away, I congratulate our heroic people.
Imagine that: Just 16 words (17 in the English translation) from the man who is said to have spoken more words on the public record than anyone else in history.
Now that could have been all that Fidel wanted to say. But it doesn't seem to fit his style. I would have expected more words from the leader who holds the Guinness World Record for longest speech at the United Nations.
Those fleeting 16 words make me wonder if Fidel's health has perhaps deteriorated. I know rumors about Fidel's health are always floating around and it seems they're usually wrong. I don't want to contribute to that. But I can't help but wonder what's going on.
Some Cubans are certainly buzzing about it. One Havana resident told me he's heard people speculating this week that Fidel is in very bad shape or has perhaps even died. There's no evidence of this, but some Cubans are whispering and wondering, and some darkly suggest that authorities are keeping the legendary guerrillero on ice until after George Bush leaves office on Jan. 20 to deprive the American president the satisfaction of seeing Fidel's demise during his watch.
What seems a fairly safe bet is that the United States won't drive Fidel from power, the same Havana resident told me.
"You'd have to be an imbecil," he said, to continue with the same strategy toward Cuba for 50 years even though it hasn't worked.
As for 50th anniversary, it's been a low-key affair. I wrote two stories about it for the San Antonio Express-News. The stories are here and here.

4 comments: said...

VERY interesting. For you to post this observation is very telling of what might be Castro's last Reflexion.

Perhaps he wanted to die 50 years to the hour after Batista left Cuba? I could see Fidel deciding to end his life exactly at that moment so the date of his death will live forever.

I know that's a long shot but Fidel loves power and by dying on the 50th anniversary of the Revolution that would make him the martyr that he never was... and wanted to be?

Tracey Eaton said...

It would be fascinating to know more about what goes on behind the scenes.
Like I said before, there has always been a lot of speculation about the health of Fidel. The lack of information fuels some of the speculation, I think.
Remember when Fidel broke his kneecap and arm when he fell down after a speech? The Cuban papers were full of blow-by-blow details from Fidel on what happened, and what medical treatment he followed. But since Fidel fell ill in July 2006, there has not been much official information.
I am sure that there are security concerns. Cuba is "on a war footing," as Raul Castro says. And I think Cuban officials must think that if they make the wrong move that could somehow give the U.S. government the upper hand.

~Zurama~ said...

At the rate Chavez is going, he might beat Fidel's record soon.


Tracey Eaton said...

Haha! Yeah, I think you're right!