Thursday, November 20, 2008
You’ve got to hand it to the Castro brothers – they sure know how to put on a show for visiting dignitaries, especially if the visitors arrive carrying bags of money and promises of further cash to come.
Take the just-concluded visit to Havana by President Hu Jintao of China, who spent two action-packed days in Havana as part of a whirlwind tour of Latin America.
During the visit, Mr Hu signed a number of agreements with his hosts, promising at least USD78 million in donations, credit and hurricane relief, as well as agreeing to “postpone” repayment of Cuba’s sizable debt to China for at least another 10 years.
As the Associated Press reported, “it is unclear if Beijing ever expects to be paid back”.
In return for such generosity, lucky Mr Hu got to have a brief meeting with Fidel Castro, the 82-year-old semi-retired dictator who has not been seen in public since being taken seriously ill more than two years ago.
As you can see from the photograph above, issued after the meeting by the Cuban government, Castro I is still around but looking very frail and clearly not a happy chappy.
But it seems the highlight of the visit came when the Chinese president was serenaded in Chinese by Raul Castro, who sang parts of "The East is Red", a 1950s “revolutionary” song praising the late Chairman Mao.
According to The Daily Telegraph in London, Mr Hu “looked on rather uncomfortably”.