Thursday, January 22, 2009

Visitors and messages

All those rumours about Fidel Castro being dead or very close to death appear to have been … well, rumours.

According to a raft of rather breathless media reports from Havana this morning, the visiting president of Argentina, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, has met with Castro I on the last day of her three-day visit to the island. And wouldn’t you know it? She says she found the semi-retired dictator “looking well” and keen to discuss the inauguration of Barack Obama.

"I was with Fidel about an hour,” the ever-helpful Mrs Fernandez de Kirchner told reporters. “We talked a lot about Obama. He had a very good impression of Obama.”

Thanks, Cristina.

Which reminds me … all this talk about how an Obama administration is likely to “normalise” relations in a hurry with the Castro brothers was put into perspective yesterday by the newly-inaugurated president during his speech in Washington.

After making clear references to communism and fascism, Mr Obama added: "To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history, but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist."

Corruption? Deceit? The silencing of dissent? Sounds like Havana to you?

As for offering to “extend a hand” if such regimes “unclench your fist”, the message is pretty clear, too: yes, we will meet you half way but first you will have to make serious political concessions. In other words, it's not all that different to similar messages to Cuba by past US presidents going back 50 years.

We shall see.


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