In front of a live audience
During that trip, Anderson managed to have lunch with Ricardo Alarcon, head of the rubber-stamp Parliament, as well as other bigwigs in the regime, including Mariela Castro, who is Raul Castro’s daughter, and Abel Prieto, the Minister for Culture.
And he managed to witness Fidel Castro at one of those interminable revolutionary ceremonies where El Comandante en Jefe gets to lecture his subjects for hours on … well, on whatever he feels like.
This has been the case for 47 years, of course. As I retell in Child of the Revolution: Growing up in Castro's Cuba, it was not uncommon during the 1960s and early 1970s for Castro to give speeches that went on and on and on. Sometimes for six hours! It was Revolution by exhaustion.
Anyway, here is Anderson describing what happened during another marathon speech by Castro just a few months ago, when the man who has ruled Cuba with an iron fist and a heavy-duty microphone since January 1959 was supposedly in good health:
"Castro then began shuffling some clippings he had brought with him; he grumbled that they were out of order. A couple of minutes rolled by before he found what he was looking for, an article praising Cuba’s performance in the Classic from one of the international wire agencies, and he proceeded to read it out loud.
Castro’s voice was tremulous. He finished reading the dispatch, and then he read another, and another, and another, for more than a half hour. The students in the bleachers around me were, by now, clearly bored. Many fidgeted or talked. Some slept.
As Castro read commentaries from Miami’s El Nuevo Herald, ESPN, and the BBC, it struck me that he was sharing information from sources that were out of bounds to most Cubans. But if he was aware of the paradox he didn’t show it.
When he was done with the articles, he talked for another hour about Cuba’s achievements in medicine and education. The restless din in the stadium grew, but Castro seemed oblivious. I tried to read the faces of the members of the Politburo who were seated near Castro, but all I saw was their disciplined and neutral expressions."
Read the whole thing here.