August 1st, 2008
08:25 AM ET

Fidel Castro – 21st Century Man

Fidel Castro, 1996

Fidel Castro, 1996

Shasta Darlington
CNN Producer/Correspondent

It was two years ago exactly. A Cuban TV anchor announced there would shortly be a message from Fidel Castro. I canceled dinner plans and waited. Then the bomb fell.

Castro’s personal secretary read a proclamation from the Commander-in-Chief announcing he had temporarily handed power to his younger brother to undergo emergency surgery.

We later learned the operation had already taken place and it was successful. We also learned that hundreds, perhaps thousands, of reservists had been confined to their barracks.

But instead of invasions or uprisings, Cubans have seen a virtually seamless transition to Raul Castro.

Fidel Castro has not appeared in public since. And every day, fewer Cubans take notice.

But he has managed to get his message out.

He’s written 140 messages while recovering from a still undisclosed illness. They were initially published in state newspapers and read on state television.

And then, last month, Castro discovered the power and reach of the Internet.

Now, he posts his writings, called “Reflections of Comrade Fidel” on the official web site www.cubadebate.cu even before they hit the newsstand.

The government’s media handlers send foreign correspondents cell phone text messages the minute they’re posted – even if it’s 2 a.m.

Castro writes about world affairs and problems in Cuba, and also gives a rare glimpse into his daily routine.

In one entry he described a lunch with Colombian poet Gabriel Garcia Marquez, insisting he stuck to his “strict diet.”

Some Cubans have dubbed him “Blogger-in-Chief.”

Analysts say Castro is trying to reach a wider audience – especially since Cubans are less and less interested in his columns. And most people on the Communist-run island don’t have access to Internet.

But while Castro may not be reaching the popular masses, he still exerts political influence. The million-dollar question is: how much?

Some Cuba observers believe Raul Castro’s attempts to reform the economy have been slowed by his brother. But it’s a balancing act.

Fidel Castro is loved by many as the “Father of the Revolution.” But his younger brother has a growing fan club of young Cubans anxious for some improvement in their daily lives. And they won’t wait forever.

soundoff (8 Responses)
  1. Filip Pet

    Well , well
    it sounds interesting the factt he(Fidel) is still learning.
    That makes the difference , i fell so , in comparison with world leaders and high officials who know about everything , everywhere and better than anyone.
    Castro has managed to take a country from a non existed status and make it something known to everyone about its music, athletes, dancers, ,film directors ie.Cubans are more proud about being cubans then have ever been
    and in fact Cuba for the first time in history is indepentent. That has a cost to be paid especialy in todays world
    Regarding democracy, what a nice word , when thousands are building for you a Parthenon, while you are enjoying your massage....

    August 2, 2008 at 11:52 am |
  2. Annie Kate

    If Castro is confined to his house and its surroundings because of his health I'm betting he wants to keep in touch with his citizens or maybe anyone that will talk to him – being sick and disabled is not only not fun but its lonely too. I'm glad he is using the internet and blogging – shows that you can still learn something new even when you get old and your health isn't the greatest. Thanks for the url – might be worth a look.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    August 1, 2008 at 9:00 pm |
  3. Victor in Saanich, B.C. Canada

    Gee Shasta, pro Cuban or what!! If it is so wonderful then why doesn't the ' Revolution ' allow political dissidence and multi party elections. Even the Sandanistas got that right and they didn't wait fifty years!! One's ideas about political harmony can actually find few who would be of the same opinion in any society!! VIVA DEMOCRACY!!

    August 1, 2008 at 5:27 pm |
  4. Concerned Canadian

    This may be hard for many in the U.S to understand but there is more democracy in Cuba than in the United States.

    It would help if the label communist was dropped. The United States once had two major power enemies; communist Russia and red communist China. You don't call them communist anymore. Strangely these two countries are now friends with the U.S. So drop the communist label and just refer to the Cubans and the Cuban government. Cubans have a high respect for Fidel Castro.

    The Cuban embargo now almost 50 years old has not worked. Today Cuba has a very capable medical system, one that has exported more doctors to more countries in need of medical aid that any other country. Their medical system is free. Their education system is free. And they have a very high regard for the role and education of women in their society. Their political system is not run on money- in fact it is the opposite and their local constituencies are well represented in their assembly.

    Cuba has done exceptionally under the enforced U.S embargo.
    At the same time the U.S continues in a downward spiral in almost every important category.

    August 1, 2008 at 1:04 pm |
  5. Saad, Ramsey, NJ

    I used to think of Fidel Castro as the biggest idiot in the world and a curse of innocent Cubans but then I realized I was wrong. He is an idiot and a curse but the biggest in the world. There are Musharraf's, and Putin's, and Mugabee's of the world of the world who will cling to power at any cost and in every way, by amending the constitution and suffering of the innocents of their respective countries. Castro, Musharraf, Putin, Mugabee are sad people.

    August 1, 2008 at 11:22 am |
  6. Teresa, OH

    "...insisting he stuck to his “strict diet.” I think I would have used the word "adhere" instead of "stuck".

    But what do I know, I'm just an old hillbilly wannabe.

    "insisting he stuck to his “strict diet.” It's gettin' funnier the more's I reads it.

    August 1, 2008 at 11:07 am |
  7. Ayse-London

    That was a great article & since you published Castro's blog address I will sure check it out.

    How can you expect an uprising, when a country is living within a dictatorship and we have the craziness of Iraq,Iran and Afghanistan as powerful examples of closed societies dominated by dictators? There is nothing to gain.

    August 1, 2008 at 10:54 am |
  8. Cindy

    So Fidel is a blogging man now huh!? LOL I knew he'd find some way to try and stay in the public eye. But I think more and more Cubans will go to his brother Raul's side for change and a better life. No one likes being held down and living in poverty when they have a chance to rise above it.


    August 1, 2008 at 8:51 am |