Wednesday, December 06, 2006

From the dictator's desk

I was interviewed by BBC Radio Five yesterday afternoon (Sydney time) for a program called Pods and Blogs, which looks at the news of the day from the point of view of bloggers.

The inevitable question: just how sick is Fidel Castro?

It’s a difficult question to handle because the truth is, we have no idea.

The health of the 80-year-old dictator is officially a “secret of State” in Cuba, which probably means that even those who are close to Castro really have no idea of just how serious his illness is. Or whether he is truly recovering.

As for ordinary Cubans, well, they continue to be treated just as they have been treated by the Communist regime for the past 47 years – like mushrooms.

What we do know is that Castro, who loves to surprise the world media and to bask in its inevitable limelight, missed his birthday celebrations at the weekend. The whole world was watching and waiting – and he didn’t turn up. Not a good sign. For Castro, that is.

We also know that the regime has not released any new photographs or video footage of the man who has ruled Cuba since 1959 for more than a month now. Not even to mark his postponed birthday celebrations. Bad sign, too.

All we get nowadays are occasional, written messages, supposedly from Castro, that are read on radio or television and published in the official media.

But even these bizarre form of communications is quickly disappearing as the messages become shorter and shorter.

The latest such message was published today in Granma, the propaganda sheet of the regime. It’s a congratulatory note from Castro to his pal Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. It’s just five brief lines.


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