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Fidel Castro Talks and the Media Jumps
By Circles Robinson* /02-03-2007/ 12:30 p.m

Fidel talks on the phone to ChavezCuban President Fidel Castro crashed his own media funeral and now has the corporate press at his beckoned call. Recovering from intestinal surgery last July, Fidel is calling all the shots.

The mainstream media went hook and sinker at first with declarations of "wishful thinking" about his health from supposedly "in the know" Bush administration officials and representatives of Miami Vice [not squad].

Now they are obligated to give front page space every time he takes part in a televised or audio conversation. The Cuban leader, who is no spring chicken at 80, said months ago that he would undergo a slow recovery that would take him out of public life until further notice.

Vice President Raul Castro took over the day-to-day helm but he and other top Cuban officials have repeatedly said Fidel keeps up-to-date on all important matters and works the phones to get his concerns across.
Cuban Vice-President Raul Castro

Each time Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, a close friend and intellectual counterpart of Castro, visits or speaks with Fidel it becomes a top international news story.

For the majority of Cubans who are accustomed to their president and hope he returns to public life, the emotional and informational exchanges with Chavez are a feel good pill.

In their half hour phone conversation on Tuesday, broadcast live on Venezuelan TV and radio on Chavez' "Alo, Presidente" program, the two leaders embraced with words and discussed the major issues facing their nations and the world.

Castro sounded lively and the media contemplated a fuller comeback than expected. The two presidents spoke about the recently announced expanded Venezuelan-Cuban cooperation that in 2007 will include 1.5 billion dollars in projects.

They also discussed one of their favorite issues, energy, and Chavez spoke of his intention to set up a joint venture with Vietnam to manufacture energy-saving light bulbs and suggested that Cuba could also take part. "I think that sounds wonderful," answered Fidel.

Cuba and Venezuela will join forces to build nearly a dozen ethanol plants to make fuel alcohol out of sugar cane. However, the two leaders were quick to state their strong opposition to the use of grains like soy or corn for that purpose because it would drive up food prices in a world where billions go hungry.

Another topic was President Bush's upcoming trip to Mexico and several Latin American countries. Chavez told Fidel, "You know that we are a preparing a welcoming in South America."

The two leaders spoke on the anniversary of the 1989 "Caracazo" upheaval in Caracas, and Chavez recalled the causes of that event, "the plundering of the country, capital flight, privatizations, inflation accompanied by a terrible recession, unemployment and a breakdown of even the middle class."

Fidel said he feels more energetic and is taking advantage of his private time to do a lot of reading, a passion the Cuban leader shares with Chavez, who like Fidel, is known for burning the candle at both ends.

*Circles Robinson is a US journalist living in Havana. His articles and commentaries can be read at: www.circlesonline.blogspot.com






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