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.
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,"
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
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
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