Thursday, April 17, 2008

The man in the Jeep

In a place like Cuba, where those in charge for the past 50 years have always made their decisions behind closed doors, you never know what is really going on.

That’s why Cubans had no idea that Fidel Castro had nearly died on the operating table … until a cryptic announcement was made on television a couple of days later.

Always in the dark, treated like mushrooms.

Still, we can make reasonable assumptions … For instance, we can assume that the semi-retired dictator, still supposedly “recovering” at some secret Havana location, is not entirely happy with the potential side-effects of some of the minor economic changes unveiled in recent days by the regime.

We know this (or rather, we assume this) from reading the sometimes incoherent ramblings written by Castro and published in the official Cuban media.

In his latest “editorial”, published overnight, he expresses dismay (or annoyance?) at the way these small “reforms” have been interpreted by the international media – and by some overtly optimistic souls inside the island.

In particular, he seems to have been pissed off by a column or commentary published by the Cuban media in recent days but in typically Stalinist fashion, Castro does not identify the text or the author - that way, everyone who has written anything vaguely brave is under suspicion.

He warns the writer (and others) to be careful in what they write and what they say ... and to ensure that in their haste they do not make "concessions to the enemy".

As you can read in this analysis by The Miami Herald, it seems that the column that has so upset El Comandante was published on Friday in Juventud Rebelde, the official mouthpiece of the Union of Young Communists.

It was written by Luis Sexto, who argued that some of these economic changes – like being able to windowshop for DVDs and computers, or stay in luxury hotels previously reserved for tourists – should be welcomed. What's more, Sexto even applauded the decision to give farmers a greater say in what crops to plant and when.

But I reckon the paragraph in the column that really irked the ailing old man in his labyrinth was a thinly-veiled criticism of the way Castro used to micro manage just about every significant decision made in Cuba until recently. Especially his continuing interference in agricultural policies, with predictably disastrous results.

"Of course,” Sexto wrote, “the man who is accustomed to issue dictates from his office or from his Jeep - what to sow, how to harvest - may be distressed to see producers gaining autonomy, gaining the ability to make their own decisions."

Dictating from his office? From his Jeep? That’s Castro, alright.


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