Tuesday, February 19, 2008


My last visit to Buenos Aires, in July 2006, coincided with Fidel Castro's visit in Cordoba, Argentina. He was there to attend a regional summit of Latin American leaders on international trade issues. At the time no-one knew that this would be Castro's last visit abroad, at least as the leader of his country. But I took these two photos because I was captivated by the amazing expectation surrounding his presence. The two pictures I took from my hotel room of the TV screen show how the regular programme was suspended as soon as Castro's plane was about to land: "Llega Fidel", [Fidel's coming]; and then as soon as the aircraft's door opened, the caption changed: "Llegó Fidel" [Fidel made it].

I had also witnessed previously at UN summits the sort of excitment [mixed with irritation for some] surrounding Castro's presence [or even only the rumour of his presence]. At the Cordoba summit, there were a lot of contemporary leaders who had something to say [regardless of whether you like them or not; Michelle Bachelet or Lula for example]. But no-one was able to create anything resembling the buzz that always surrounded the old man [regardless of whether you agreed or disagreed with him].

The old man has just announced that he was dropping out. [Curiously, or maybe not so curiously, although Fidel apparently made the annnouncement in a letter to the Cuban Communist Party paper Granma, three hours after the announcement, Granma had not yet reported it; and I pressed F5 several times to be sure]

Too bad he's dropping out so late. It has become fashionable for former statesmen to form or join an NGO in their late days [see Mandela, Billy Clinton, Al Gore, Gorbachev, Mary Robinson and even Chirac]. Maybe Fidel would have been better as an NGO leader than as Cuba's líder máximo. And if he had joined/formed a true NGO, it'd mean civil society's voice would be tolerated in Cuba. Or maybe even respected.

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