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Posted November 29, 2006 by publisher in Castro's Cuba

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The Latell Report

He could still surprise all of us who have concluded he is suffering from terminal cancer. However, as unlikely as it seems now, Fidel Castro could yet emerge in public and deliver another speech before a live Cuban audience. That might even occur on December 2 when his belated 80th birthday observances were rescheduled to take place. If he were to rally sufficiently he could talk briefly via a video link from his convalescent quarters or be televised propped up in a studio or auditorium sharing homilies with Cuban audiences. There is perhaps nothing he would like to do more.

But what would the man who has spoken more words on the public record than any human in history want to say? Recent rumors emanating from the island that he is experiencing a deathbed religious catharsis, possibly even repenting and recanting, seem wildly improbable. He has never during nearly forty-eight years of public life openly confessed to morally indefensible behavior or admitted to regrets about his treatment of others. All his life he has been incapable of introspection of any type in the presence of witnesses. So if he were in fact to rally and deliver another oration it would most likely resemble his two most recent ones, both of which were void of any personal or emotional content or policy initiatives.

Castro’s speeches on July 26, 2006, the first delivered at dawn in Bayamo, in Granma province, in eastern Cuba, and the second, more perfunctory one only a few hours later in the provincial capital of Holguin are likely to be recorded as his last. He was already gravely ill on that 53rd anniversary of the Moncada attack that launched his revolutionary odyssey. He was operated on the next day for what the official announcement described as “severe intestinal bleeding,” although the surgery was not announced for another four days.

Raul, or some third tier leader could have substituted for him on July 26th as happened some years in the past. But perhaps Fidel knew that his condition was so grave that he might not have another chance to preside on his favorite revolutionary holiday. He had personally selected Bayamo, near the Sierra Maestra where he had fought as a guerrilla, to host the observances. He wanted to be with the humble guajiros of the eastern countryside, back possibly for the last time in that remote region where he had spent his troubled youth, where he had also both pejoratively and affectionately been called “guajiro.”

It was a sentimental journey for an old and sick man who had still never publicly acknowledged he had any interior life at all and whose health remained as always a state secret. But no matter how debilitated he was immediately following an exhausting journey to Argentina, the festivities in Bayamo were for him an obligatory ritual.

It was in the early morning when he walked slowly to take a seat at the front of a crowd assembled downtown. On cue, thousands of little paper Cuban flags began to flutter in greeting, waved by an otherwise subdued audience. It was only about seven A.M. Many had come a long way, from mountain hamlets and crossroads villages, bussed in by local communist party officials over rough roads in the middle of the night.

The Cuban media said that 100,000 were there in the spacious Plaza de la Patria, though other observers put the number much lower. Politburo members and top civilian and military leaders were also in attendance in a show of solidarity, but Raul was not present. He was no doubt preoccupied with organizing the military and security forces that would be deployed and ready for any eventuality once Fidel’s condition was revealed to the populace.

The sun was just beginning to rise when Castro began speaking. In earlier years it had been more common for him to conclude speeches in the early morning hours near sunrise, but he and his doctors knew he would have to avoid the summer sun that day. Reading from a prepared text, he boasted of accomplishments in reducing infant mortality, improving health and education, increasing construction projects, and generally improving the quality of life in that remote region. But his recounting of excruciating statistical details was in a passionless monotone.

He said nothing memorable or at all revealing of his state of mind in those moments of what must have been personal anguish, suspecting that the speeches that day might well be his last. Unlike many of his previous July 26 appearances, there was no reminiscing about his triumphal revolutionary feats, no boasting of victories against “imperialism.” He criticized the United States and capitalism, but vaguely and with no real feeling. He went through some bouts of coughing, sipped tea, and once became annoyed that the crowd was not waving their little flags energetically enough.

“It is good exercise,” he told them, “so keep on waving them.”

Castro talked for almost two and a half hours. That speech, and the shorter one a few hours later in Holguin, were sodden rhetorical anticlimaxes to the nearly six decades of his remarkable public performances. His audience in Bayamo was tired and sullen. There was nothing he said that rallied or inspired them or raised new hopes for a better day. They were merely going through the motions with him.

He announced no new policies or initiatives, shared no new visions or hopes, and in fact did not speak at all about the future. He gave perhaps a single hint of his deteriorating condition, the only sentence he spoke that day that was both personal and uncharacteristically reflective.

“I will fight for the rest of my life, until the last second, as long as I have the use of my reason, to do something good, something useful.”

So in what may prove to have been the last of his public utterances, Fidel Castro was as unyielding and unchastened as ever in his long career.


Dr. Brian Latell, distinguished Cuba analyst and recent author of the book, After Fidel: The Inside Story of Castro’s Regime and Cuba’s Next Leader, is a Senior Research Associate at ICCAS. He has informed American and foreign presidents, cabinet members, and legislators about Cuba and Fidel Castro in a number of capacities. He served in the early 1990s as National Intelligence Officer for Latin America at the Central Intelligence Agency and taught at Georgetown University for a quarter century. Dr. Latell has written, lectured, and consulted extensively.


The CTP, funded by a grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), can be contacted at P.O. Box 248174, Coral Gables, Florida 33124-3010, Tel: 305-284-CUBA (2822), Fax: 305-284-4875, and by email at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

The Report, analyzing Cuba’s contemporary domestic and foreign policy, is published monthly except August and December and distributed by the electronic information service of the Cuba Transition Project (CTP) at the University of Miami’s Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies (ICCAS).

The Latell Report is a publication of ICCAS and no government funding has been used in its publication. The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ICCAS and/or the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

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  1. Follow up post #1 added on November 29, 2006 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    Great insight into Fidel’s final days…of his political career anyway.

    After sending a “no show” letter to VIPs at his birthday party, he may be going out with a whimper instead of a bang.

    Cuba consulting services

  2. Follow up post #2 added on November 30, 2006 by BERNIE

    Castro going out like everybody eventually does, but still a bang, look who he outlasted.  Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Carter, Bush, they just faded away who will remember them 100 years from today.  Castro will be remembered in Cuba history a long long time. The guy was tough and he did hang in there a long time.

  3. Follow up post #3 added on December 04, 2006 by Pete Chavez

    Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Carter, Bush did not fade away.  They ceded power to the incumbent democratically elected president as did all the presidents before them.  The rule of law above all else.  That’s what makes this a safe and prosperous country with the possibility of ever expanding human rights for it’s citizenry.  Castro dissolved the 1940 constitution of Cuba (which by the way is an even more enlightened document than the American one).  and consolidated his power (in cuba only) by handing himself and our country over to the Soviet Union.  They in turn trained him and his cronies on just how to stay in power by establishing and institutionalizing mechanism of repression plus economically disenpowering the population (ie nationalizing small businesses and private property).  The list of tyrannical measures goes on and on as to how you can as you say “Hang in there a long time”.  Castro will in deed go down in history but not along side Jefferson, Danton, Lincoln, Roosevelt and DeGaule.  He will go down in history along side Stalin, Franco Mussolini, Ceausescu, Pinochet, Zamoza, Papa Doc and Baby Doc Duvalier
    and Trujillo.  In that company is where you can draw a fare comparison of staying power and there I would agree with you, he has hung in there but that makes it a dubious achievement not anything to be praised for.

  4. Follow up post #4 added on December 05, 2006 by MiamiCuban

    I think that like it or not, Castro will be remembered for the good he’s accomplished, not the mistakes.  And to deny he’s done anything good for Cuba and for millions of marginalized people around the globe is just plain ignorant.

  5. Follow up post #5 added on December 05, 2006 by Pete Chavez

    Ha Ha Hee Hee the obese shut-in got lured in!  I’ll tell you what Miamicuban! Since you live in Miami why don’t you open up a museum/memorial dedicated to Fidel in Little Havana.  If you say he’s done so much good in the world (and of course since I am ignorant) then it must be true and people will just pour in by the truck load to learn from all the great things he did and to honor his memory.  It is not possible to have a serious conversation with you.  Your opinions are perverse just for the sake of perversity.  Just remember Pinochet brought in the “Chicago Boys” (a group of Chilean men educated in the University of Chicago’s Econmist School) in the 70’s and turned Chile into the richest economy and most stable country in all of Latin America (what a great thing!) but it means nothing if you topple an elected president then murder and torture hundreds of thousands of Chileans who’s only crime was to dissent.  That in the end means Pinochet (in spite of anything good he did)is in the end a murdering piece of shit that I hope gets hanged some day.

  6. Follow up post #6 added on December 05, 2006 by MiamiCuban

    Pete, no matter how much this debated, in time we’ll see who gets absolved by history and who doesn’t.

  7. Follow up post #7 added on December 05, 2006 by Pete Chavez

    Murder, torture, executions, abductions, slavery,“PAREDONES” are not debatable if you are going to agree with what it means to be a civilized human being.  This country’s foundation was built on free labor aka slavery.  I have never heard anyone reckon it as history one day absolving the slave industry because it helped to create a great nation.  Even we Americans know that it was beyond a shameful footnote in history and more tantamount to genocide than anything else and yet plenty of time has gone by.  And the list goes on Miamicuban.  Great men/women in history only do great things.  They never do great things at the expense of peoples lives and freedoms.  You’ve gotta get off of your “end justifying the means” dogma.  Why should I let some dictator make me give up my freedom and life so that somebody could be better off than me 100 years from now.  I should be the one to be better off right now (which I am because I live in an open society)!  So you go ahead and make Fidel a demi-god,a diety or submit him to the Vatican for Canonization.  I’ll keep my feet firmly on the ground.  And hopefully someday these last 108years (punctuated as it’s end only by the old man’s death and from American intervention on to Batista and Castro) will go down in Cuban History as our DARK AGES.

  8. Follow up post #8 added on December 06, 2006 by MiamiCuban

    Pete, first, I’m not making Fidel a demi-god.  Second, you claim that “Great men/women in history ONLY do great things.”  Really?  How do you reconcile that with the fact that Columbus and others we now consider “heroes” took part in the butchering of hundreds of thousands of Native Americans, burned their villages and sent them into exile on their own land?  It seems to me those were pretty DARK AGES for millions of innocents.  I then began to list for you examples of “great men” who did bad things, and also “bad men” who did great things throughout history, then I thought, why bother.  Let’s just say that no one is entirely bad, nor entirely good.

  9. Follow up post #9 added on December 06, 2006 by Pete Chavez

    I think the only people that think Columbus was a great man are Italians.  Being that they are the only Western European ethnicity that didn’t colonize and settle any parts of the new world, I would imagine that in their collective psyche, they feel that Columbus is where they have a stake in the new world since they are at suffrage in every new world country that they have immigrated to.  And I am glad that you stated Columbus as your case in point because you actually make my point for me very well.  One hundred years ago Columbus was considered a great man and yet today with our western cultural evolutions/revolutions “modern enlightenment” (whatever you want to call it), his legacy is at a point today where it is openly questioned whether he was a great man or the first modern day genocidist.  That is why I would never include him on a list of great people (I think he did some great things but was not a great man).  And yes all great people are flawed like the rest of us but being flawed is not a synonym for murder and genocide.  Just think that only a few years after Ghandi’s death it became pretty evident that by fifty years time, statues of him were going to be erected in every corner of the Earth.  What did your fellow Miami citizens (his own country men, I might ad) do with a statue of Fidel that wound up in Miami a few weeks ago?  I really think history will judge the old man with a great deal of sobriety and justice.  And just as with Columbus, the murdered and ensalvened eventually make their way back and have their voices heard.

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