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Recovering Cuban leader now writing for posterity
Nearly a year since he last stood before a throng of thousands for one of his usual hourslong speeches, Fidel Castro has found something to replace his podium: his pen.

Castro has written more than a dozen articles in the past two months, in what experts view as a move to position himself as an ombudsman of world affairs. More than half of his essays take on global energy issues such as ethanol, but they never tackle Cuba's myriad domestic problems.

Others have been reflective or even melancholic. Some meander in incoherent directions.

Castro is writing for posterity now, experts say, creating a paper trail to show that though he's still recovering from a life-threatening illness, he's alive.

''You have to hand it to him. Above all, Fidel is a ham actor, and this is the corniest, longest-running death scene ever!'' said Alfredo Estrada, author of Havana: Autobiography of a City. "It's quite a show, but no one is applauding.''

Castro, 80, fell ill in July, handing over power to his brother Raśl after announcing that he required intestinal surgery. Since then, he's been seen only in orchestrated photos and videos.

GHOSTWRITER DEBATE

The articles seem to be carefully sourced and researched and cite detailed statistics, suggesting help from his staff, experts said.

''I don't think he's the one writing them,'' said Jonathan Benjamin-Alvarado, a University of Nebraska Cuba expert. "They sound like the stuff coming out of the mouths of the energy analysts I met last time I was there. I'm also hearing the MINFAR [Defense Ministry] briefing.''

Other paragraphs, he said, ring of Castro's son Fidelito, an energy expert.

Estrada disagrees: "If they'd been ghost-written, they'd be better crafted.''

Experts agreed that it matters little who writes them. What's important is that Castro is trying to establish himself as a global thinker who is alert and aware of current affairs.

His media strategy began to change in March, when Castro published a front-page editorial about using food crops such as corn to produce ethanol. Titled, More than 3 Billion People in the World are Being Condemned to a Premature Death From Hunger and Thirst, Castro blasted ethanol as a rich man's fuel that would rob the poor of food.

A SECOND CAREER

The article launched a new pet topic and a second career of sorts for Castro: president emeritus-turned commentator. Seven of his essays have touched on energy, including one that directly criticized usually friendly Brazil for embracing sugar cane-based ethanol as an energy source.

He has waxed poetic about his childhood, wistfully recounting how he was born with the help of a midwife in a one-room country house, the child of a Galician immigrant and a ''young, very poor Cuban peasant girl'' who never went to school.

Castro calculated the number of doctors who could be trained with money President Bush uses to wage war in Iraq (999,990) and recalled the black army lieutenant who captured him after his band of rebels tried to overrun the Moncada army barracks in 1953.

''Ideas cannot be killed,'' the lieutenant declared -- providing Castro with a catchy headline for his 13th editorial, published Tuesday. ''I am not the first nor will I be the last that Bush has ordered to be killed,'' he said in that piece.

Reacting to Castro's accusation, White House spokesman Tony Snow said simply: "Look, it's Fidel Castro.''

In another article, Castro went on a tangent about millions of bees missing in the United States, the high cost of a new class of British submarines and the drawbacks of free trade. Only once has he discussed his health.

The Cuban state newspaper Granma has posted the entire series, Reflections by the Commander in Chief, on the web in Spanish, English, French, Portuguese, Italian, German, Arabic and Russian.

''On March 28, less than two months ago, when Bush proclaimed his diabolical idea of producing fuel from food, after a meeting with the most important U.S. automobile manufacturers, I wrote my first reflection,'' Castro wrote. "The head of the empire was bragging that the United States was now the first world producer of ethanol, using corn as raw material.''

To make his point about the sugar industry that enslaved millions of Africans in the New World, Castro recounted his own stint the summer of 1969 working sugar fields as a ''moral duty,'' including an incident in which he slashed his foot cutting cane.

UNINTERESTED IN CUBA

''These articles tell you he is not interested in Cuba,'' said Jaime Suchlicki, who heads the University of Miami's Center for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies. ". . . He is writing for posterity now, because when you have no future, you talk about the past.''

That the articles never discuss Cuban problems underscores the fact that the daily decisions are being made by Raśl, analysts said.

''What's clear is he is trying to recast himself as an international player when things at home are being held together with spit and bailing wire,'' said Benjamin-Alvarado.
12 Jul 2007 by admin
The Havana Journal



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