Fidel Castro’s Obamania

Google “Fidel Castro”, and you can find an amazing trove of pictures of him with some of the most famous world leaders of the last half-century like Pope John Paul II, Richard Nixon and Nikita Khrushchev – not to mention the very dapper Saddam Hussein above.  But, as I note in a review piece for The National, there’s one leader Castro has never got to do a photo-op with, although I bet he really wanted to…

Of all the nuggets of diplomatic gossip made public by WikiLeaks last year, one of the oddest concerned Fidel Castro’s “doomed love” for Barack Obama. In 2009, US officials in Havana reported that Cuba’s former leader – now in his mid-eighties and forced into retirement by ill-health – appeared obsessed with the new president’s potential to transform American politics and foreign policy. As the year wore on, obsession gave way to dyspeptic gloom, as Castro concluded that Obama was not a true radical after all.

How did the US diplomats know all this? Did they have back-channel communications with Castro or a mole on the inside? The answer is more prosaic. Their analysis was based on Castro’s regular opinion pieces for the official newspaper Granma, which are available online in English. Now Ocean Press has published a selection of these pieces, dating from May 2008 to June 2010, in a slim but prodigiously boring volume.

How boring exactly?

In a reflection published on the eve of the US elections in November 2008, for example, Castro felt it necessary to inform readers that “the Democratic candidate Obama is partly black” and that “the dark skin and features of that race are obvious in him”. Now, my memories of the 2008 campaign are growing a little hazy, but I am reasonably sure that perceptive commentators and even sections of the general public had spotted this earlier than November.

Similarly, Castro welcomes the choice of Hillary Clinton as secretary of state by noting that she was “Barack Obama’s rival and the wife of President Clinton”. Who knew?

Read the rest of the piece, including insights into Castro’s fear of robots, here.

UPDATE: this news just in from Havana proves that Castro’s Obama crush is so over…

HAVANA TIMES, Jan. 28 — Former Cuban President Fidel Castro questioned the State of the Union speech by U.S. President Barack Obama last Jan. 25. In one of his usual Reflections, Castro strongly criticized what the U.S. president said regarding the U.S. economy, renewable energy and international cooperation, among other issues. “It is difficult that God can bless so many lies,” the historic leader of the Cuban Revolution said.