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Comandante Strikes Back - Fidel Castro opens his archives
Comandante Fidel Castro has always closely guarded his privacy against outsiders. Foreign reporters in Cuba will forever remember the furor over an article written in 1990 by Komsomolskaya Pravda correspondent Alexei Novikov, titled From Fidels Private Life, as a result of which the journalist was immediately ordered to leave Freedom Island. He was followed by correspondents from several Latin-American publications who had been tempted to quote from the juicy story.

But now Fidel has finally understood that if you do not open up your private life, others will be rummaging in it. And so it was decided to give Brazilian journalist Claudia Furiati access to the comandantes personal archive. Ms. Furiati, 47, screened personally by Manuel Piсeira, chief of the Cuban special services, had an opportunity not only to examine the Cuban leaders documents and old photos, but also meet him in the flesh on four occasions. The publication of her two-volume work, Fidel Castro. Uma biografia consentida, caused a sensation.


It so happens that, just like characters in Gabriel Garcia Marquezs The Autumn of the Patriarch, Cubans do not know exactly when their great leader was born, which is hardly surprising: The patriarchs entire life is one eternal spring. Even so, Ms. Furiati found out that Castro was born not on August 13, 1926, but exactly a year later, on August 13, 1927. In 1941, his father bribed an official to change his sons date of birth to let him enroll at a military college. However, the figure of 1926 has already become a symbol of the revolution and cannot be altered. Nor can other myths around the figure of the evergreen barbudo. The main myth is the magnetic effect he has on women. This ability, which is indeed very useful in everyday life, also proved Fidels salvation.

Back in 1959, when Castro came to power, CIA Director Allen Dulles passed his favorite, Marita Lorenz, an ampoule with poison to kill her unfaithful lover. Marita agreed, but at the sight of her idol forgot her past grievances, and poured the poison down the drain.

Advantages of Socialism

The CIAs other attempts to get rid of the rebellious Castro smashed against Cubas socialist economics. Thus, once a CIA agent dropped a poison pill into the comandantes milk shake. The undercover mans mistake was that he left the infernal concoction in Fidels personal refrigerator. Built at the Moscow-based ZiL plant, it was so powerful that the pill never dissolved, freezing solid with the cocktail.

Another time a hireling of imperialism tried to kill Castro with a poison-filled hypodermic syringe, disguised as a fountain pen. But because by then pens of that particular design had long ceased being produced on the island, the malefactor was instantly exposed.

When in 1980 Jimmy Carter said that people were prevented from freely leaving Cuba, Castro sent him a bargeful of emigrants, picked from mental hospitals and high-security prisons for hard-core criminals. In the end, Carter and Reagan had to humbly implore him to take back the "cargo."

"He has always been a pure pragmatist, leaving reflection to Che Guevara," Furiati sums up, and it is difficult to disagree with her.

In Synch with the Times

True, Castro keeps learning also from capitalism. In the 1960s, he brought from Europe special shoe-making machines, hoping to resolve the footwear problem once and for all.

Unfortunately, the comandante forgot that footwear has the treacherous quality of becoming unwanted when a particular model goes out of fashion. As a result, the machines had later to be thrown away. Castros daughter, Alina Fernandez, describes the story in her memoirs.

But now, at his seaside mansion in Jaimanitas, Castro gets the latest news from all major agencies. "He is a real news addict," Furiati writes.

The comandante got his children to work mainly in science. His eldest son, Fidelito, obtained a degree in the Soviet Union, in 1980 through 1992 heading the State Atomic Energy Commission. Alex and Alexis are computer specialists; Antonio is an orthopedic surgeon, while Alejandro runs a software firm.

His only daughter, Alina, has been a disappointment to her parent: She failed to become a doctor, marrying several times, and in 1993 fleeing to the class enemy, in Miami.

A Record Worthy of Don Juan

Castros five sons, all with names starting with the letter A, were by Dalia (nicknamed Lala), a teacher from the town of Trinidad whom Castro met in the course of a campaign to fight illiteracy in 1961.

Castros eldest son, Fidelito, is an offspring of Fidels first marriage - to Mirta Diaz-Balart, a Cuban aristocrat. The union was formed in the 1950s and proved short-lived. Seсora Diaz-Balart now resides in Spain.

Castro did not formally marry Dalia until 1980 - almost 20 years after meeting her. According to him, he did not formalize such a productive union out of respect for his main life companion - the revolutionary Celia Sanchez. The latter wore mens clothes a la Mao Zedong, and gave Castro valuable political advice. Her death in 1980 enabled Castro to marry Dalia, but his spouse did not put in a public appearance until 1999 - in the course of a visit by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

The comandantes Don Juan track record would be incomplete without Naty Revuelta - yet another lady from Cuban high society who bore Castro his daughter, Alina, before he came to power in 1959.

Taking a Break

All of these Herculean labors pale beside his main achievement - the building of socialism on a single island. "He is the only national-liberation movement leader who has seen the fruit of his efforts within his lifetime," Furiati points out. True, according to her, he proved ill-prepared for the dismantling of the Berlin Wall and other unpleasant surprises of the 1990s, his discourse increasingly punctuated with sad pauses.

Well, a real artist is never entirely happy with his work. Especially an artist of the absurd.

From th book Fidel Castro. Uma biografia consentida by Claudia Furiati
14 Jul 2005 by admin
The Havana Journal

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