Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Visiting day

Just a few days after releasing video footage of Fidel Castro looking not all that well, the Cuban media today published supposedly new photographs of the 80-year-old dictator seemingly on the mend.

Gone is the red dressing gown, the unkempt beard, Hugo Chavez and the Tiffany lamp.

This time, the photographs show Castro playing the part of the perfect patient, sitting down in a rocking chair in a corridor somewhere and wearing sensible slippers and a pair of new pyjamas. Actually, make that two pairs of new pyjamas – one is navy; the other in what some interior decorators would describe as "baby blue". Peculiar, isn’t it?

His beard has been trimmed and his hair combed, much as you would do for an elderly relative in a nursing home when expecting visitors on Sundays. The perfect patient.

To accompany the photographs, the newspaper Granma has also published another one of those Messages to the Cuban People, in which Castro confirms that yes, he has lost a lot of weight but says the worst appears to be over.

Curiously, however, the tone of the message remains very tentative, adding weight, it would seem, to the theory that while Castro may be getting better, he remains ill and unlikely to return to power soon - if at all.

In his missive, he even apologises to Cubans for keeping them in the dark about his health (it’s “a State secret”, of course), and warns that everyone “needs to be realistic” because full recovery “may take quite some time”.

“I am in no hurry,” adds the man who has ruled his 11 million subjects for 47 long years.

As if we didn’t know.
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