In his “retirement”, Fidel swims, writes, reads the papers and studies Darwin
By Hinde Pomeraniec
December 3, 2009
A CubaNews translation.
Edited by Walter Lippmann.
All the news we’ve had until now about Fidel Castro’s condition after almost three years of nonstop surgery and illness were his photographs with various heads of State and the articles he writes for the Cuban press on a regular basis. On Saturday, the Argentinean political scientist and sociologist Atilio Boron was in for a surprise while having lunch at a restaurant in Havana: someone came to tell him that Fidel would receive him that day at 5 p.m., so they would come to pick him up in a little while. Two days later, Fidel wrote about their one-hour-and-forty-minute-long meeting and sang the praises of a paper Atilio had presented in a conference of economists. At a later date, Mr. Boron gave Clarín unheard-of details about Castro’s daily life and the conversation they had in a place hitherto undisclosed.
“Truth is, I thought I would see a disabled person, but what I found was quite the opposite: he had a very good color and muscle tone, which I could check for myself in his handshake and hug when we said goodbye to each other”, Boron recalls. It was a summer afternoon, and Fidel was wearing the typical uniform of Cuban athletes, except for the short pants that revealed “very strong legs, a sign that he’s following his therapist’s instructions to the letter. He looks very bright”.
Fidel is not at a clinic, but in a house fitted with medical equipment for emergencies and facilities to move around and work out, and even a small pool where he can swim. He receives few visitors, his contacts with officials limited to “one or two meetings with Raúl”. You don’t see many people working in the house; he’s the one who seems to be working hard as befits “a soldier in the Battle of Ideas” and very happy and relaxed for not being in power.
We met in a living room where there was a desk, a run-of-the-mill PC, no cell phone, and the folders with clippings he’s always kept near since he was President. Boron also noticed a number of blue notebooks, organized by topic, where Fidel writes his reflections. And what about the voice of the great speaker who would talk to his audience for hours on end? “He’s never been one for speaking in a loud voice, on the contrary: he spoke slowly, still his usual self, a Fidel who chews on his every syllable”, Boron assured, adding that Fidel drank nothing nor was ever interrupted to take any medicine.
Always on top of current events, in the days of Darwin’s anniversary Castro reads his work while devouring what text on nanotechnology he can get his hands on. The chat with Boron centered on the economic crisis, and Fidel said he was worried about what he believes its great impact on the region will be like. “He thinks the continent’s certain shift to the left in the last few years will be compromised. Fidel understands the circumstances very well and fears the right will have a new lease on life”, he explained.
Did you talk about President Kirchner’s visit?
Yes, and he said to be quite impressed by how energetically she defends her positions. We also talked about the problems in the countryside, and he was shocked at the way it happened and as much concerned about the consequences as he was about other issues, for instance, Paraguay, as he believes President Lugo has many obstacles in his path.
Did you talk about the United States?
I’ve got the feeling he has taken a certain liking to Obama, but without building his hopes up too much. He said, “Obama will soon learn that the Presidency is one thing, but the Empire is another matter altogether”.
Your meeting took place at the end of a very hectic week in Cuba when changes were made in the government…
He started to talk about that and nothing else, going into greater detail about what he had already said that the enemy outside had built up their hopes with these officials, but it was made clear that what he meant was that Cuba’s enemies had raised their hopes over them. He mentioned they had made mistakes, sometimes because of excessive political ambition or personal impatience…
To get an idea of Fidel’s condition –keeping in mind that he’s almost 83– Boron points out that he can walk without anybody’s help and had even taken a stroll around the surrounding area a few weeks ago, alone and under no escort, to buy a newspaper. He was standing in line like any other Cuban and, they say, a woman recognized him and a small urban tsunami of emotions broke out in that Cuban neighborhood.