Tuesday, August 01, 2006

This time?

Could it be true this time? Is Fidel Castro, who turns 80 later this month, really on his deathbed?

The truth is that the man who has ruled Cuba with an iron fist for 47 long years (count them), has died many times before. He is the master of the death foretold. Only a few weeks ago there was speculation again that he may have had a heart attack and died, or at least been seriously incapacitated. The dictator had not been seen in public for weeks and the Cuban media, which is entirely controlled by the regime, started publishing cringe-making, adulatory articles about his brother Raul, the designated successor who is a spring chicken by comparison, at the grand old age of just 75.

And then, as if by magic, Castro the Elder reappears at a meeting of South American leaders, alive and looking in relatively good health for someone of his age, joking about those nasty rumours of his impending death and warning, once more, of an imminent American invasion that never seems to eventuate.

That level of uncertainty and that sense of never knowing what is really going on in the upper echelons of the regime has been a constant of Cuban life for close to half a century. You just never really know what the man referred to as El Comandante en Jefe is up to at any time. It makes the old Kremlin look positively transparent. But this time it may be different.
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