Castro at 80: An obsessive autocrat
But who'd have guessed that Fidel Castro would become boring? By Oakland Ross
May 28, 2006. 07:45 AM
A withering tropical sun beats down upon the teeming Plaza of the Revolution, where a familiar bearded gentleman in olive-green fatigues leans against a dark wooden podium and does what he does best.
He goes on and on and on.
How many rice-cookers did this Caribbean outpost of communism produce last year? (More than 3 million.)
How many electric stoves? (Some 2.4 million.)
How many refrigerators? (More than 250,000.)
By what proportion did the Cuban economy grow during the first trimester of this year? (A sprightly 12.5 per cent, if you believe the official figures.)
The hours plod past, slow as a splay-legged burro under a mountainous cargo of sugarcane, but the bare-headed man at the microphone scarcely seems to notice the passage of time, so engrossed is he in his words and ideas. No economic statistic is too inconsequential for him to highlight. No suspected act of U.S. aggression is too outlandish to denounce.
Meanwhile, a crowd officially estimated at 1 million swelters in the vast plaza and waits with almost superhuman patience for His Excellency Fidel Castro Ruz, first secretary of the Cuban Communist party, commander-in-chief of the Cuban Revolution, and president of the republic, to be done.
They have been waiting now for more than 47 years — and they are waiting still.
"The Cuban population is increasingly tired of the situation," says a European diplomat in Havana. "But they are accustomed to waiting."
Lately, however, the waiting has begun to wear thin, while the presidential lectures — albeit somewhat shorter than the five-hour epics of the past — have become downright painful.
"He goes around in circles now; he loses his place, forgets what he is talking about," says the European. "He is boring."
Fidel Castro — boring?
Autocratic, certainly. Obsessive, no doubt. Steadfast, to a fault. But boring?
Who could have dreamed it would one day come to this?
But so it has.
The land of salsa and cigars has travelled nearly 50 times around the sun since Castro and Ernesto "Che" Guevara marched down from the Sierra Maestra and advanced westward toward Havana, seizing power on Jan. 1, 1959.
Much has changed since then.
By any standard, Castro is an old man now — he will turn 80 on Aug. 13 — and he is definitely showing his age.
He can still soldier through one of his trademark marathon speeches — such as the magnum opus delivered at this year's May 1 celebration of Cuba's workers and the proletarian state — but his voice is reedy and he reads much of the text in an uninflected drone. He frequently loses his train of thought and sometimes fumbles helplessly among his papers in a state of pitiable confusion.
"He used to be like a magician, but he has lost a lot of power in his speech," says the European diplomat. "The end cannot be very far away."
Some observers might question that prediction, but everyone agrees aging is an irreversible process — and Castro is old. Read the rest of this long ass story here.
Sunday, May 28, 2006
Castro: Windbag running out of steam
Here is an article from the Toronto Star that starts with few good nuggets about the failing and aging Cuban dictator, and it quickly folds into a lamentation that their incoherent revolutionary windbag is slowy disintegrating.