Fidel Castro Publishes “Reflections” in Chinese and is Named Hero of the Poultry Industry
Sergio Valdivieso (Café Fuerte)
HAVANA TIMES — Though he made no public appearance and no photos of the living room of his home in a secure Havana location were televised, Fidel Castro has made headlines in recent Cuban news.
In addition to recent events, it so happens that a selection of 38 of Fidel Castro’s now less-frequent “reflections” have been published in Chinese. The book was launched in Beijing last weekend, thanks to the joint efforts of the Cuban Embassy and the Chinese Association for Peace and Disarmament.
Days before, in Havana, the elderly leader enjoyed singular acknowledgment “for his dedication and commitment to the development of Cuba’s poultry industry.”
During the main ceremony of the festivities celebrating the 50th anniversary of Cuba’s National Poultry Plant (CAN), Castro was awarded the special, “50 Years of Service to the People” distinction by Emiliano Diaz Lopez, the current CAN director.
Since his current health condition does not allow Castro to attend such functions in person, as he used to, Diaz handed the trophy to Minister of Agriculture Gustavo Rodriguez, so that he would have it reach the Comandante (history has proven that he, not Hugo Chavez, is the true, eternal comandante).
According to Cuba’s official press, the award expresses the “gratitude, pride and sincere feelings of all poultry farmers in the country.”
During the ceremony, the Minister of Agriculture reminisced about Castro’s “advice for the poultry industry” and talk of reaching production levels similar to those registered in 1991 (when the production record of 2.7 billion eggs was reported) by 2020. Currently, egg production indices barely exceed 2.65 billion and the promise made by CAN’s creator during a 1965 speech, when it was said Cuban chickens had superseded all goals and the country would soon be exporting eggs, has not yet been fulfilled.
These are two peculiarities of the personality cult that continues to exist under Cuba’s anachronistic totalitarian system. The most curious note published during this time, however, was addressed to Granma newspaper by the leader himself, who, this past Monday, complained about not having been informed of the death of volleyball coach Eugenio George by Cuba’s National Sports Institute (INDER) in a timely fashion.
According to his brief missive to the newspaper, “several comrades thought it curious that no floral wreaths from us were placed on his coffin.”
“I, a life-long admirer, was not informed of his death until several hours after the burial,” Castro added.
The Proclamation: Eight Years Later
The three incidents above – linked only by the name of Fidel Castro – all point to one certain fact: the growing irrelevance that is beginning to bury the figure of Cuba’s formerly omnipresent leader in life. I am not speaking of his declining influence over the nation’s affairs or the younger generations, but over the very members of the government.
It will soon be eight years since Castro proclaimed that he was stepping down (on July 31, 2006), following a surgical procedure that would put a definitive end to his leadership. Caught up in the maneuvers and blunders of Raul Castro’s administration, I believe we haven’t yet become aware of how much the figure of Fidel Castro has withdrawn at the discursive and symbolic levels.
A quick glance at the last, massive projects he set in motion prior to his illness make us aware of how insignificant those efforts are to today’s Cuba: the energy revolution of electronic contraptions, intensively-trained teachers (who succumbed under the challenges of the education system), social workers (who ended up as custodians at gas stations), etc. The last strike was the promotion of moringa and morena plants as dietary supplements, something the State media has long ceased to do.
Between the Weekly Movie Package and Fidel’s Reflections
Cuban society has changed a lot since. It’s not that Raul Castro has become a reformer or anything of the sort. He has merely been forced to mold and make more flexible a number of rigid norms inherited from Fidel’s time in order to remain in power.
Let us be honest about it: what room could there be for Fidel Castro’s “reflections”, news published by Granma and aired on the TV Round Table program between the shy steps towards increasing Internet access, the two million cell phones now in the hands of the population, illegal cable television and the weekly “package” of foreign TV shows, soap operas and informative materials?
Who cares, at this stage in the game, if the man has his reflections published in Chinese, is named a hero of the national poultry industry or complains about being kept in the dark about something?
I have the impression it is less and less important for the Party leadership itself, regardless of how many vows and promises of future abundance we hear about in the propaganda of the regime, caught between a past that can offer us nothing and a present characterized by unproductiveness, the hunt for foreign investment and the demands of an incredulous and alert population.
I want to think that the greatest grief weighs on whatever is left of Fidel Castro, on the eve of his 88th birthday.