Thursday, August 03, 2006

Mr Alarcon speaks

Still no sighting of Raul Castro, who is supposed to be in charge in Cuba at present while his older brother, Fidel, undergoes a serious operation. Or so we have been told.

In fact, the only Cuban official to be saying anything at all in public (and only to reporters outside Cuba, it seems) is Ricardo Alarcon, who heads the rubber-stamp National Assembly, or parliament.

Described variously as suave, diplomatic, intelligent and fond of the occasional Romeo y Julieta, he had been regarded by observers outside Cuba as a possible successor to the elder Castro. He has been in the past the foreign-friendly face of the regime, wheeled out whenever there was need to look and sound half-way sensible or sophisticated to the world media. And he does it quite well.

But to the surprise of many outside Cuba, the announcement on Monday night regarding Castro’s transfer of power to Raul and his junta did not mention Alarcon at all. Left out entirely, despite his supposedly important role in the scheme of things. Talk about the mother of all snubs.

Curiously, Alarcon made himself available on Wednesday night, Cuban time, to speak to a public radio station in the United States. During the interview, he claimed to have spoken to Fidel Castro for half an hour on Tuesday after his surgery and found him “alert” and “in good spirits”. As one would expect, of course.

“He’s in, I would say, a normal period of recovery after an important surgery,” Alarcon said, according to a report in The New York Times, which you can read here. “But very alive and very alert, as always, very interested in what’s going on around him and around the world.”

Sadly, it seems Alarcon was not pressed to reveal exactly what illness Castro was suffering from, what the operation entailed, the name of the hospital where he is recovering or when exactly he’d be expected back “at work”. Oh, and no word about Raul, either.

All very curious.


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