Havana Cuba Business Travel Culture and Politics

Havana Cuba News

Cuba Politics News

Posted October 03, 2007 by publisher in Castro's Cuba

Email this article | Print this article | Search Havana Journal        

by Eliza Barclay | The New Republic

With the probable exception of Osama bin Laden, no one individual’s death is more anticipated that Cuban leader Fidel Castro’s. After 48 years at the helm, he is the longest-serving current ruler of a country. Eager anticipation of the 81-year-old’s death is nothing new, of course: Since seizing power in 1959, he has been the target of as many as 638 assassination attempts, and various injuries and illnesses in past years have also fueled speculation that his end was near. His most recent affliction, an unidentified intestinal illness that forced him to cede power to his brother Raul last summer, has only increased his many opponents’ impatience for his final departure.

In the last two months the rumor mill had taken on a new intensity, with louder and more aggressive assertions that he was long-gone. For several consecutive Fridays in August, reports detonated in the blogosphere, the mainstream media, and on the streets of Cuban-exile communities around the world that Castro’s passing had finally arrived. No official announcement from Havana ensued, suggesting that the rumors were false, but many people who generated the rumors stood firm on their sources, and insisted that the Cuban government is hiding the fact that Castro is truly dead.

One of the allegations that generated the greatest hype came from a surprising source: Mario Lavandeira, a.k.a. Perez Hilton, a Miami-born celebrity blogger of Cuban heritage, who typically doesn’t cover international politics. Lavandeira announced on August 24 that high-level sources had revealed to him that Castro was dead and that the announcement from Havana would happen at exactly 4 p.m.
According to Univision, the Spanish-language media giant, readers of Univision.com called in around the same time claiming that the news was “confirmed” and demanded that the company update its website with the news immediately.

Both Hilton and many members of the Miami Cuban-exile community, including posters on Univision message boards and callers on local radio stations, believe that Castro has been dead for weeks, if not months, despite the lack of acknowledgment from Havana. Even though Castro was interviewed in September on Cuban television and appeared in a photo with Angolan President Jose Eduardo Dos Santos, Lavandeira and others have refused to take back their assertions that he is dead.

But right now, obviously, there isn’t any conspiracy to conceal Castro’s death. And when he does pass, there won’t be. The Cuban government has acquired an image as adept at lies and cover-ups. Though the reputation has stuck, it’s in large part a myth of the government’s own making. Insofar as it speaks to a desire to conceal Castro’s death, there isn’t much behind it.


  1. Follow up post #1 added on October 03, 2007 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    Seems to be a pretty bold statement based on the opinions of some people she interviewed.

    By reading this article I don’t get the sense that the author has that much knowledge about the Cuban government and just might be blinded by her own belief in the propaganda that comes out of Cuba.

    The subtitle of this article is “Our Still-Living Man in Havana”. I just get the sense that the author wants to believe that the Cuban government operates openly. I don’t think she knows how fragile Raul’s succession is.

    Cuba consulting services

  2. Follow up post #2 added on October 03, 2007 by cubanpete with 127 total posts

    The Long Goodbye continues.  All of this speculation is the result of the Cuban regime not having the PR smarts to issue timely and accurate health updates during the past year.

    For change (cambio) we can believe in.

  3. Follow up post #3 added on October 03, 2007 by abh with 244 total posts

    You guys are funny. 
    The author says a bunch of things that I’ve been saying for awhile.  You two accuse such people if not having “much knowledge about the Cuban government”, but does that mean that you also dismiss Phillip Peter’s assertion that everything is going to plan and they don’t fear the death announcement?  The more this story plays out, the more the public realizes that it’s not the bloggers who know the real story.
    You guys need to realize that you are big time spin doctors.

  4. Follow up post #4 added on October 03, 2007 by edward with 65 total posts

    Hi ABH

    I agree, I think they still wouldn’t believe it if Fidel himself popped up and offered these guys a Havana Club Ron 7 Anos personally.

    So what happens when the old man does pop his clogs…status quo, that’s what. It’s going to take a change of direction from Washington in order to instigate real change, coupled with the good work of people like Oswaldo Paya. It won’t happen via a bunch of vultures with their hysterical conspiracy theories, ultimately out for themselves.

  5. Follow up post #5 added on October 03, 2007 by abh with 244 total posts

    I have always believed that the institutional revolution is firmly entrenched.  Sure there’s tons of anxiety around Fidel’s death, but I think the regime has proven that it will survive his passing.  It seems that there might not be many of the “structural changes” that Raul has mentioned before his older brother leaves the scene.  I think most people are in agreement that any change will be gradual and will be closely overseen by the current power structure.

  6. Follow up post #6 added on October 03, 2007 by cubanpete with 127 total posts

    The “Thousand Year” revolution?  Heard that one before; didn’t work out.

    For change (cambio) we can believe in.

  7. Follow up post #7 added on October 03, 2007 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    I have written many times here that I just don’t think Raul will be able to withstand the internal and external pressures after the announcement of Fidel’s death.

    So, I don’t see a smooth transition.

    Cuba consulting services

  8. Follow up post #8 added on October 03, 2007 by publisher with 3905 total posts


    I don’t agree with Philip Peters. He sees a stable transition with little to moderate change after the announcement of Fidel’s death and I strongly believe that he is very wrong.

    He may know a little bit more about Cuba and have some higher level contacts but he is still just a “blogger” like the rest of us with insights and opinions.

    Cuba consulting services

  9. Follow up post #9 added on October 03, 2007 by abh with 244 total posts

    I accept your point, I guess we always get back to the same square one realization that everyone is just guessing.

    MY point is that I think some people get “What will happen” confused with “What I want to happen”.  As I’ve said before, I believe that any ground-level analysis will find that Cuba’s power structure is too firmly entrenched, especially through the armed forces, and the opposition is too small and fractured, to provide an engine for swift change.  Have we seen ANY hints, aside from previous erroneous posts on this and other blogs, of internal dissention with the military?

  10. Follow up post #10 added on October 03, 2007 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    Dissidents are just one possibility and a military coop is just another possibility. I have about 20 different possibilities for internal and external pressures.

    What if the Cuban Americans from Miami “invade” Cuba and Raul orders to have them blown out of the water?

    What if the CIA sends in a couple hundred “journalists” to cover the funeral?

    What if Hugo Chavez invades or threatens to cut off oil to Cuba because he doesn’t like Raul?

    What if Raul’s reforms are too swift? What if they are too slow?

    Your idea of dissidents rising up is just one of many possible pressures that could surface all withing days or weeks.

    Can any man handle such an upheaval especially in a centrally controlled environment.

    I know I keep bringing up the same points but I think that anyone who thinks Raul will have things his way is mistaken.

    Cuba consulting services

  11. Follow up post #11 added on October 03, 2007 by abh with 244 total posts

    See this is exactly what I’m talking about.  Most of these ideas are very far fetched.  Hugo Chavez invading Cuba?  I think we all no there’s no chance of that.  He’s not gonna cut off the oil either. 
    The CIA clearly does not have anyone on the inside who is able to freely move around, gather information, and make things happen.
    If Cuban Americans “invade”, they’ll be slaughtered.
    This is just adding to the hype of the (as you call them) Plan A Embargo crowd.

  12. Follow up post #12 added on October 03, 2007 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    Point taken.

    Cuba consulting services

  13. Follow up post #13 added on October 03, 2007 by Cuban Dan

    The common misconception is that all Cubans love there “Commandante”, because that is all we ever see in the mainstream media.  Military service in Cuba is mandatory….. it woudn’t be far fetched to say that an army formed of men who are forced to participate is far less loyal then an army full of men who volunteered don’t you think?  The amount of public demonstrations has gone up significantly and people are starting to speak out.  The fact that Oswaldo Paya has been able to get as many signatures as he has in a country where something like that is punished by physical abuse and lost of jail time…. is extremely significant.  Not everyone is fearless enough to speak out, but that doesn’t mean they don’t want change.  When the time is right the people will demand change, the passing of Fidel could be that time or it might not, none of us will know until that day. 

    About the whole death thing, history repeats itself.  The old saying is you have to cut off the head of the snake to kill it.  I am not saying that he is dead, but it isn’t hard to believe that he has look alikes just like Sadam had and just like Hitler had, and just like Osama has.  Which means that we won’t know the day he dies until much later.

  14. Follow up post #14 added on October 04, 2007 by wanderer

    the assertion made by this article is no less speculative than the “fidel is dead” brigade it criticises. i think that on the balance of probabilities the cuban government could very well hide castro death. let’s examine a simple fact we all know (or dont know!), fidel’s ailment. i still do not understand how it can be kept a state secret. a normal government would have disclosed this simple fact to give certainty to the markets, its partners, and importantly, its citizens. but this is not a normal or transparent government so i am inclined to believe that it could hide his death. my view has nothing to do with hype or the wish for fidel to die. it’s an observation of a government bent on painting itself in a corner as if sickness and dying are a sign of weakness.

  15. Follow up post #15 added on October 04, 2007 by manfredz with 464 total posts

    since we’re all just speculating (and therefore all our opinions and scenarios are of equal value), I’d like to add a couple thoughts of mine .....
    As mentioned before, if there is an invasion of Florida Cubans, i agree that they’ll be blown out of the water.  Think the see themselves as acting to save the home country. If the US military were to also get involved in such an invasion, I still see the Cuban military fighting back….

    If there is a small uprising, I also see the military and police acting strongly to put it down.

    If on the other hand there is a mass uprising (something i don’t expect) I can see it possible that the military and police folding.

    Just my 2 pesos worth.

  16. Follow up post #16 added on October 04, 2007 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    I wonder if the Cuban Americans will “invade” Cuba trying to pick up family members. You know the CIA will be in there posing as Cuban exiles. Some might bring guns.

    If ONE American dies by the hand of the Cuban coast guard, you can be sure there will be public outcry and retaliation from the US government.

    Some Cuban Americans would be happy to be martyr’s that would lead to the invasion of Cuba.

    Cuba consulting services

Would you like to add more information?

Only members can add more information. Please register or log in

  • Advertise at Havana Journal Inc
We recommend this AirBnB Food and Drink Experience... Cuban flavors: Food, Rum and Cigars
Images of Cuba
Capitolio in Havana in 1920s
Follow Havana Journal
SUBSCRIBE to our Cuba Watch newsletter
LIKE us on Facebook

FOLLOW us on Twitter

CONNECT with us on Linked In

Section Archive
Havana Journal, Inc. BBB Business Review

Member of the Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy