Friday, December 01, 2006

It's goodbye from him ...

In Havana, the celebrations continue ...

It was supposed to be a happy birthday party for Fidel Castro, complete with flag-waving school-children, a giant cake and cheerful snaps of the dictator being fawned over by international writers and movie stars who have no shame.

Instead, it has turned into a long and macabre farewell.

A premature wake.

At least that’s the way the festivities in Havana (how much are they costing?) are being described by Western journalists visiting the island – and you know how perceptive they can be.

So, here are the facts as I see them:

1. Contrary to the rubbish published by the official Communist-controlled media, Castro is seriously ill. He has not been seen in public since late July, when it was disclosed he had undergone emergency surgery for intestinal bleeding.

2. The orchestrated PR campaign to convince Cubans that Castro is getting better – the videos, the photographs, the endless messages – has backfired badly. Instead of reassuring Cubans that all was well, the last video broadcast of Castro in his Adidas track-suit confirmed that the man who has ruled Cuba with an iron fist for nearly half a century was far from recovering.

3. This all means that Castro is unlikely to attend the big military parade on 2 December – which will be a clear sign to Cubans that the Fidel era is over.

4. Raul Castro is in charge, but far from secure in the post and happy to share the public workload for now, at least, with a small group of ministers and Communist Party officials.

5. The Cuban people are being gradually prepared for the inevitable news ...

All of which may explain why Ramiro Valdes, the hardline Minister for Communications, told a public rally in Santiago de Cuba yesterday that Raul was the “guardian” of the Revolution, according to this Reuters report.

Valdes, better known to Cubans as a one-time secret police security chief, told the crowd that four months after the older Castro “temporarily” relinquished power, "all our people, the Party, the Revolutionary Armed Forces, the Interior Ministry, the revolutionary cadre, have grown stronger, should-to-shoulder with Raul”.

The end is near.
Photo: Roberto Candia (AP)


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