Fidel Castro’s half a dozen public appearances in the last fortnight have led to many speculations both in the home front and abroad. The octogenarian who turns 84 on August 13 first appeared dressed in Nike sportswear last July 10th in photos supposedly shot by his son, Alex, during a visit a few days earlier to the National Centre for Scientific Investigation (CENIC) in La Havana. Since then, he has made been seen in other public acts, the most relevant of which have coincided with the 57th anniversary of the unsuccessful rebel assault to the Moncada Barracks in Santiago de Cuba on July 26.
A rosy-cheeked stooped Fidel Castro smiled at his first public act on July 7 and spoke slowly in a rather short speech as he commemorated the Moncada assault in a read speech dressed in his green-shirt uniform the eve of what Cubans consider the commencement of their revolution. He, however, did not attend podium at the official ceremony of the commemoration presided by his successor and younger brother, Raul. He only laid a wreath at the statue of national hero, José Martí, situated at the Plaza de la Revolución.
What goes on in Cuba after the pact between the Cuban authorities and the Cuban Catholic Church with the mediation of Spain’s Foreign Minister, Miguel Ángel Moratinos, has not been mentioned by either of the Castro brothers or by the 79 year-old Vice-President, José Ramón Machado Ventura. Nevertheless, 20 dissidents and their families have thus far accepted the terms of exile to Spain in exchange of prison term cancellations. An expected 52 of the Group of 75 are expected to benefit from this special arrangement.
Has change started to crop up in Cuba?
There are those who say ‘yes’ and yet others claim that no change worth mention has occurred. In spite of discrepancy, one cannot avoid admitting that with Fidel Castro almost 84 and his younger brother just turned 79, chances are that neither of them be around much longer. A younger generation of Cuban socialists must pick up the challenge of keeping the flame of the Moncada Assault alive, if such is the will of the Cuban people.
Fidel Castro’s recent public appearances seem to me more a last farewell tour just before his definite bowing out of the public scene and probably of dying. In spite of comments about his apparently good health, no medical certification warrants those four years of retirement after his 2006 surgery have brought the Communist leader back to his usual health. His irrevocable resignation in 2008 in favour of his brother, Raúl, was a clear sign that Fidel Castro had decided to take a back-stage role even if he did recover himself.
The ‘Fidel Castro’ that ruled Cuba for 49 years is long gone and the image of Fidel during this past fortnight is that of a wandering soul on his way to purgatory.