Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Fidel Castro leaves people guessing as he writes cryptic, Haiku-like notes

Posted on Wednesday, 06.20.12

Fidel Castro leaves people guessing as he writes cryptic, Haiku-like notes

The former Cuban leaders has been writing cryptic one-paragraph notes on
Yogis, an eatable plant and long-dead communist leaders.
By Juan O. Tamayo

Is Fidel Castro laughing himself silly as he watches readers of his
recent Haiku-like commentaries try to make sense of them? Is he sending
serious but thinly veiled messages? Or is he just gaga?

In cryptic paragraphs of never more than 65 words, the former Cuban
ruler has written about Yogis, eatable plants, a criticism of Cuba by a
Chinese leader who died 15 years ago and a former leader of communist
East Germany who died even further back.

Castro's Delphic pronouncements have sparked quizzical looks, jokes
about his mental state as he approaches his 86th birthday on Aug. 13 and
contorted efforts by supporters to explain away his odd words.

"I respect all religions, though I don't believe in them. Human beings,
from the dumbest to the wisest, search for an explanation for their
existence. Science constantly searches for the laws that guide the
universe. At this time, it is in an expansion started about 13,700
million years ago," he wrote Tuesday in a note published by government
Web sites.

"Yogis can do things with the human body that escape our imagination.
They are there, before our eyes, on images that arrive instantly from
enormous distances through Pasage a lo Desconocido," he noted in a
35-word post earlier Tuesday.

A pro-government web site later tried to explain that the paragraph was
praise for "Passage to the Unknown," a Cuban TV and radio program hosted
by long-time Castro crony Reinaldo Taladrid that sometimes deals with
sensitive topics like food shortages.

But some of the other mini-columns that he began writing June 10 — in
contrast to the long "reflections" he once penned and his famously even
longer speeches —have been tougher to parse.

One referred to an unexplained "insult" of Cuba by China economic
reformer Deng Xiaoping, who died in 1997, and another praised former
East German leader Erich Honecker, who died in 1994.

The Honecker post also mentioned an unidentified person who "sold the
soul to the devil for a few lines of vodka" — interpreted as perhaps
referring to Boris Yeltsin, Mikhail Gorbachev or even his brother Raúl
Castro, a Russophile known to like vodka.

Castro used another one-paragraph column to praise Moringa, an eatable
plant from India that is an "inexhaustible fountain of meat, eggs and
milk, silk fibers that can … provide jobs, in the shade and well paid,
regardless of age or sex."

Cuba analysts don't agree on exactly what lies behind the former Cuban
ruler's apparent decision to write one-paragraph posts and all but
abandon his longer screeds.

Miami analyst Eugenio Yañez wrote that Castro, who surrendered power
after emergency surgery in 2006 and was officially succeeded by younger
brother Raúl Castro in 2008, is trying to create a buzz so he can stay
in the limelight.

Castro, "like a mediocre starlet of cheap and superficial shows, needs
to feel like he's in the center of the spotlight, even though at his age
he's only getting boos and hisses," Yañez wrote in an Internet column.

Instead of writing longer columns to space out his "foolishness,
senility, ignorance or cynicism," he added, Castro now achieves "a
concentration of nonsense per line that is the envy of noted dummies
like … Granma newspaper chief Lazaro Barredo."

More seriously, Marzo Fernandez, a former top Havana economist now
living in Miami, said the mini-columns may be a way of showing Cubans
that Castro, who has not been seen in public since Pope Benedict XVI's
visit in March, may be old but remains alive.

Castro is still politically powerful "and is needed, alive and
complicit" in all the market-style economic reforms that Raúl Castro has
promised to put in place, Fernandez added in an email to El Nuevo Herald.

Fernandez, in a more light hearted Internet column last week, wrote that
he simply could not understand what Castro was trying to say in his
mini-commentaries and added that if Castro had been in Miami, "I would
have suspected he was using bath salts."

Jaime Suchlicki, head of the Institute for Cuban and Cuban American
studies at the University of Miami, said Castro "evidently he does not
feel coherent enough to write longer pieces." So the shorter columns are
"a way of remaining in the limelight, something that he has always
cherished. "

Cuban-born Miami blogger Emilio Ichikawa noted that the short columns
were "a logical reduction" because in fact many of Castro's recent long
columns were little more than one or paragraphs wrapped around
interminable quotations from other sources.

And Phil Peters, a Cuba expert at the Lexington Institute in suburban
Washington, joked in an Internet post that perhaps Castro "is getting in
shape for Twitter," which restricts users to 140 characters.

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