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Fidel Castro Infected With the Brevity of Twitter

Fidel Castro Infected With the Brevity of Twitter / Yoani Sánchez

Translator: Unstated, Yoani Sánchez

Fidel Castro's latest "Reflections" columns, published in the Cuban

press, have left many readers inside and outside the Island in a mild

state of shock. Without exceeding a hundred words, the ex-president's

most recent texts seem to be infected with the brief style of the

Twitter social network. An undoubtedly great contrast, if we compare

this conciseness with the extensive writings that have been published

since he began his convalescence, after surgery in July 2006.

The man who was characterized by his habit of speaking for hours from

the podium in the Plaza of the Revolution and in front of television

cameras in the studio, now appears to be opting for minimalism. But that

is not the only change operating in the commentaries coming out under

his signature, his attention has also shifted from global to domestic


For six years the most recurring themes in the "Reflections of Comrade

Fidel" had been the world crisis of capitalism, environmental problems,

reproaches directed to the government of the United States, and the

portent of a nuclear explosion. He has especially emphasized criticisms

of Barack Obama's administration and the presence of American soldiers

in Afghanistan and Iraq.

However, since the beginning of June his allusions to our own national

events have occupied his brief lines, always appearing on the front page

of the newspaper Granma. A timely obituary on the death of the boxer

Teofilo Stevenson; his proposal to appoint former runner Alberto

Juantorena as president of the Cuban Olympic Committee; these are some

of the issues addressed lately.

Not only do we have the unaccustomed terseness in the former head of

state, but some have even interpreted his writings as actual riddles and

metaphors. Hunting for certainties, Cubans search among his phrases,

looking in each letter for a key that will help them unravel what

happens at the highest echelons of power. Lacking transparency of

information, a simple syllable could constitute a clue.

Such was the case with the note where the Comandante en Jefe expressed

his profound solidarity with Erich Honecker, whom he called "the most

revolutionary German" he'd ever known. Many readers quickly established

a parallel between Honecker who "bitterly paid the debt contracted by

someone who sold his soul to the devil for a few sips of vodka," and

Fidel Castro whose political ascendancy is shrinking with advancing age

and the reforms drive by Raúl Castro.

Moringa tree. From

It is, however, one of the latest reflections in this minimalist series

that has provoked the most comments. In it he addressed the possibility

of "massive" plantings in Cuba of "Moringa Oleífera and Mulberry," two

types of trees. The first of these plants, native to India, has great

nutritional value and, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture

Organization, contains a high percentage of proteins and vitamins.

Meanwhile mulberry leaves are the natural food of silkworms.

According to Fidel Castro, both trees are "inexhaustible sources of

meat, eggs and milk" and their production could "provide work and shade,

regardless of age or sex." His words have generated a certain unease

among the inhabitants of a country where agriculture has suffered

successive defeats after previous bets on intensive plantings of some

miracle product.

So Monday morning, at the newsstand in a central Havana neighborhood, an

old man looked with surprise at the box with 57 words, counting the

title "Reflections." When asked why he was so surprised, the distressed

gentleman could only come up with "he must be ill to have written so

little." A lady was looking at the inside pages of the newspaper for the

rest of the text, unable to accept that the box on the front page

contained its entirety. After confirming that was the case, she mused in

a whisper, "surely he's taking a break and will soon return with his

more long-winded texts."

The truth is that in parallel to the distress caused in some by Fidel

Castro's change in style, popular jokesters have had a field day with

the already famous "moringa and mulberry." Cubans laugh as they express

their fears that voluntarism will return and the Comandante en Jefe's

plans will replace the pragmatism that — bit by bit — has been spreading

through Cuban agriculture.

19 June 2012

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