Sunday, August 06, 2006


You know that Monty Python film, The Holy Grail? Nothing to do with Dan Brown or The Da Vinci Code. No, The Holy Grail, released back in 1975, is a very funny, very British take on the legend of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table. Highly recommended.

In the film there is this terrific scene where The Dead Collector, played by John Cleese, is visiting ye olde English village, collecting people who have died overnight, presumably from the plague or some such pandemic. And there is this big guy trying to get an elderly relative taken away. Here, take him away - he is dead, he tells the Dead Collector. Except the relative insists that while he may look dead, he is not. I am not dead, he says. I am fine - and I am getting better!

Okay, so you had to be there. But it reminds me about what is happening in Cuba at the moment - the whole Pythonesque manner in which the regime on the island insists that everything is normal when quite clearly, it is not.

We have been told that Fidel Castro is recovering somewhere in Havana from a very delicate operation. Delicate enough for Castro to do something he had never done before in his 47 years at the top: transfer power - temporarily, we have been told - to his brother Raul and a junta of six others. That was Monday night, Cuban time. Since then, no sightings of either of the Castro brothers, leading to never-ending speculation that Castro the Elder may be dead.

No, he is not. He is fine, according to the Cuban media, quoting senior ministers and other officials.

Here is the very eloquent Ricardo Alarcon, head of the rubber-stamp Parliament and a favourite with the foreign media because he can be so, well, so reasonable. He told CNN that Castro was recovering but refused to say what the problem. Why? ''We are discreet."

Then there is Carlos Lage, who is part of the junta set up to handle affairs while Fidel Castro is ... wherever he is. But instead of staying home, he is in Bolivia on an official visit. How is Castro, he is asked. Doing well. He doesn’t have stomach cancer ... Same with Abel Prieto, the Minister for Culture. How is Castro? He is fine. He is not dead.



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