Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Fidel Castro Infected With the Brevity of Twitter

Fidel Castro Infected With the Brevity of Twitter / Yoani Sánchez
Translator: Unstated, Yoani Sánchez

Fidel Castro's latest "Reflections" columns, published in the Cuban
press, have left many readers inside and outside the Island in a mild
state of shock. Without exceeding a hundred words, the ex-president's
most recent texts seem to be infected with the brief style of the
Twitter social network. An undoubtedly great contrast, if we compare
this conciseness with the extensive writings that have been published
since he began his convalescence, after surgery in July 2006.

The man who was characterized by his habit of speaking for hours from
the podium in the Plaza of the Revolution and in front of television
cameras in the studio, now appears to be opting for minimalism. But that
is not the only change operating in the commentaries coming out under
his signature, his attention has also shifted from global to domestic

For six years the most recurring themes in the "Reflections of Comrade
Fidel" had been the world crisis of capitalism, environmental problems,
reproaches directed to the government of the United States, and the
portent of a nuclear explosion. He has especially emphasized criticisms
of Barack Obama's administration and the presence of American soldiers
in Afghanistan and Iraq.

However, since the beginning of June his allusions to our own national
events have occupied his brief lines, always appearing on the front page
of the newspaper Granma. A timely obituary on the death of the boxer
Teofilo Stevenson; his proposal to appoint former runner Alberto
Juantorena as president of the Cuban Olympic Committee; these are some
of the issues addressed lately.

Not only do we have the unaccustomed terseness in the former head of
state, but some have even interpreted his writings as actual riddles and
metaphors. Hunting for certainties, Cubans search among his phrases,
looking in each letter for a key that will help them unravel what
happens at the highest echelons of power. Lacking transparency of
information, a simple syllable could constitute a clue.

Such was the case with the note where the Comandante en Jefe expressed
his profound solidarity with Erich Honecker, whom he called "the most
revolutionary German" he'd ever known. Many readers quickly established
a parallel between Honecker who "bitterly paid the debt contracted by
someone who sold his soul to the devil for a few sips of vodka," and
Fidel Castro whose political ascendancy is shrinking with advancing age
and the reforms drive by Raúl Castro.

Moringa tree. From

It is, however, one of the latest reflections in this minimalist series
that has provoked the most comments. In it he addressed the possibility
of "massive" plantings in Cuba of "Moringa Oleífera and Mulberry," two
types of trees. The first of these plants, native to India, has great
nutritional value and, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture
Organization, contains a high percentage of proteins and vitamins.
Meanwhile mulberry leaves are the natural food of silkworms.

According to Fidel Castro, both trees are "inexhaustible sources of
meat, eggs and milk" and their production could "provide work and shade,
regardless of age or sex." His words have generated a certain unease
among the inhabitants of a country where agriculture has suffered
successive defeats after previous bets on intensive plantings of some
miracle product.

So Monday morning, at the newsstand in a central Havana neighborhood, an
old man looked with surprise at the box with 57 words, counting the
title "Reflections." When asked why he was so surprised, the distressed
gentleman could only come up with "he must be ill to have written so
little." A lady was looking at the inside pages of the newspaper for the
rest of the text, unable to accept that the box on the front page
contained its entirety. After confirming that was the case, she mused in
a whisper, "surely he's taking a break and will soon return with his
more long-winded texts."

The truth is that in parallel to the distress caused in some by Fidel
Castro's change in style, popular jokesters have had a field day with
the already famous "moringa and mulberry." Cubans laugh as they express
their fears that voluntarism will return and the Comandante en Jefe's
plans will replace the pragmatism that — bit by bit — has been spreading
through Cuban agriculture.

19 June 2012

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