Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Absolute genius

Those of you who have read Child of the Revolution: Growing up in Castro's Cuba will know that I devote a little bit of space in my book to some of the many wacky schemes dreamt up back in the 1960s by Fidel Castro to feed his subjects.

Like Castro's plan to genetically engineer a socialist "super cow" that would provide so much milk it would solve Cuba's milk rationing problems overnight.

Or his plan to grow giant pineapples, bigger, juicier and sweeter than plain old capitalist pineapples.

Or his ill-fated 10 million tonne sugar harvest of 1969-70 that was to make Cubans extremely wealthy but ultimately only served to destroy what little was left of the island's once-thriving economy.

Now, another of Castro's loopy schemes from that era has come to light - in one of his own newspapers.

A column in Juventud Rebelde reveals that Castro was seriously worried about the nutritional intake of the North Vietnamese in the 1960s, at the height of the war against the US-backed South Vietnamese.

Ever the practical dictator, he came up with an ingenious solution.

He ordered his diplomats to carry an unknown number of live toads from Havana to Hanoi, where the animals would be supposedly farmed and then distributed to the populace. A case of 'Food problem? What food problem?'

Of course, these were not ordinary toads but ranas toro, a type of native North American toad that is very high in protein.

Back in those days, the trip from Havana to Hanoi would involve at least 24 hours of flying, with Cuban planes having to make as many as four stops along the way.

The paper confirms that one of the diplomats was so concerned (or scared) about the fate of these valuable toads, he was forced to keep them in the bath of his Moscow hotel overnight and then fish them out one by one, before flying on to Hanoi.

Unfortunately, the paper does not reveal what happened to the toads in the end, or whether they arrived safely. Nor does it reveal how the North Vietnamese reacted to Castro's lunatic scheme.

H/T to our friends at Penultimos Dias.


Anonymous Marta said...

How do you spell arrogance?
f-i-d-e-l. =D

2:51 am  
Blogger Henry Gomez said...

I'm sure that some of the toads survived creating an ecological disaster in Vietnam. That's the way of castro, he's midas in reverse. Everything he touches turns brown.

4:26 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Castro is a classic megalomaniac of the worst kind, the kind that manages to get absolute power. Such power, to his mind, fully validates his delusional view of himself as suprahuman. Of course, he has never lacked for sycophantic lackeys to applaud his imaginary genius and stroke his monumental ego, which only compounds the problem. Hence the ludicrous, lunatic schemes you mention. When they've inevitably failed, he's simply blamed others, or circumstances, or the "empire" or anything except himself. Being a superman means never being wrong.

Some of this, such as the plan to create, in effect, a magic cow, might be comical if it weren't so deadly serious, and if it wasn't such a disgrace to Cuba and its people. If this were ancient Rome, Castro would have declared himself a god by now, like Caligula. The fact that such a person, even in his current physical decrepitude and highly dubious mental state, remains at least nominally the most important and influential person in the country, is not only absurd but deeply humiliating. Cubans have been reduced to abject, servile obeisance to an old, broken down tyrant who has, in fact, ruined their country and made their lives miserable. Disgrace indeed.

6:42 am  

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