His intellect is one of the most broad and complete that can be found. He is an expert on genetics, on automobile combustion engines, on stock markets. On everything.
Combined with a Herculean physique and extraordinary personal courage, this monumental intellect makes Fidel the giant that he is.
He is something of a superman. My father once told us how he had expressed to Fidel his desire to do some diving in Cuba. Fidel took him to the most enchanting spot on the island and set him up with equipment and a tank. He stood back as my father geared up and began to dive alone.
When my father had reached a depth of around 60 feet, he realized that Fidel was down there with him, that he had descended without a tank and that there he was with a knife in hand prying sea urchins off the ocean floor, grinning.Then there is the ever so slightly muted criticism:
Cubans remain very proud of Castro, even those who don't share his vision. They know that, among the world's many peoples, they have the most audacious and brilliant of leaders. They respect his intellectual machismo and rigour.
But Castro's leadership can be something of a burden, too. They do occasionally complain, often as an adolescent might complain about a too strict and demanding father. The Jefe (chief) sees all and knows all, they might say. In particular, young Cubans have told me that an outsider cannot ever really imagine what it is like to live in such a hermetic society, where everyone has an assigned spot and is watched and judged carefully. You can never really learn on your own, they might say. The Jefe always knows what is best for you. It can be suffocating, they say.
I met a young man in the small provincial town of Remedios who worked there as a cigar roller. We shared a great love for the works of Dostoyevsky. When I expressed to him my excitement at meeting a fellow aficionado of Russian literature, he flatly told me: "Yes, Fidel has taught me to read and to think, but look what work he sets me out to do with this education: I roll cigars!"
Cuba under Castro is a remarkably literate and healthy country, but it is undeniably poor.But fortunately all this is because of ... guess who?
Historians will note, however, that never in modern times has a small, peaceful country been more subjected to unfair and malicious treatment by a superpower than Cuba has by the United States.
From the very start, the United States never gave Castro's Cuba a choice. Either Castro had to submit himself and his people to America's will or he had to hold his ground against them.
Which is what he did, in the process drawing the Cuban people into this taxing dialectic that continues to this day. Cubans pay the price and may occasionally complain of their fate, but they rarely blame Castro. The United States never fails to make the Cuban people well aware of its spite for this small neighbouring country that dares to be independent.If Cuba and Catro can excite such raptures I wonder what Alexandre would write if someone were to let him visit that other worker's paradise - North Korea? We know that he finds much to love in Soviet Russia and he manages to find quite astounding interviewees - such as the leader of the National Bolshevik Party, Victor Anpilov, who manages to blame Beslan on free market capitalism:
When I ask Anpilov about it, he says with his usual sense of formality, "Beslan proves what I have been arguing for years: the free-market economy is forcing us to behave like animals to each other."One might assume that this is merely the journalist quoting the man to make it clear that he is an idiot, but possibly not since he ends that article with a truly bizarre interview with Gorbachev:
Knowing my time is limited, I get straight to the point: "Is there a future for socialism in Russia?" He looks at me as if I am out of my head. Then I quickly remember that socialism is what the Soviets called Marxism, even Stalinism, and add, "I mean socialism as we understand it in Canada or Sweden."Yes, Sacha it seems still hankers after the cold war and communism.