Is Fidel Castro laughing himself silly as he watches readers of his recent Haiku-like commentaries try to make sense of them? Is he sending serious but thinly veiled messages? Or is he just slipping mentally?
In cryptic paragraphs of never more than 65 words, the former Cuban president has written about yoga poses, edible plants, a criticism of Cuba by a Chinese leader who died 15 years ago and a former leader of communist East Germany who died even further back.
Castro’s pronouncements have sparked quizzical looks, jokes about his mental state as he approaches his 86th birthday on Aug. 13 and convoluted efforts by supporters to explain his odd words.
“I respect all religions, though I don’t believe in them. Human beings, from the dumbest to the wisest, search for an explanation for their existence. Science constantly searches for the laws that guide the universe. At this time, it is in an expansion started about 13,700 million years ago,” he wrote in a short missive published Tuesday by government websites.
“Yogis can do things with the human body that escape our imagination. They are there, before our eyes, on images that arrive instantly from enormous distances through Pasage a lo Desconocido,” he noted in a 35-word post earlier Tuesday.
A pro-government website later tried to explain that the reference to Pasage a lo Desconocido was praise for Passage to the Unknown, a Cuban TV and radio program hosted by longtime Castro crony Reinaldo Taladrid.
But some of the other mini-columns that he began writing June 10 — in contrast to the long “reflections” he once penned and his famously long speeches — have just been baffling.
One referred to an unexplained “insult” to Cuba by China economic reformer Deng Xiaoping, who died in 1997, and another praised former East German leader Erich Honecker, who died in 1994.
Castro used another one-paragraph column to praise Moringa, an edible plant from India that is an “inexhaustible fountain of meat, eggs and milk, silk fibers that can . . . provide jobs, in the shade and well paid, regardless of age or sex.”
Cuba analysts don’t agree on what might be behind Castro’s new penchant for one-paragraph posts.
For Miami analyst Eugenio Yañez, Castro needs to stay in the limelight. “Like a mediocre starlet of cheap and superficial shows, [he] needs to feel like he’s in the center of the spotlight, even though at his age he’s only getting boos and hisses,” Yañez wrote in an Internet column.
Marzo Fernandez, a former Havana economist now living in Miami, said the mini-columns may be a way of showing Cubans that Castro, who has not been seen in public since March, may be old but remains alive. Castro is still politically powerful “and is needed, alive and complicit” in all the economic reforms that President Raúl Castro has promised to put in place, Fernandez said in an email.
“Evidently he does not feel coherent enough to write longer pieces,’’ said Jaime Suchlicki, head of the Institute for Cuban and Cuban American Studies at the University of Miami.
And Phil Peters, a Cuba expert at the Lexington Institute, joked in an Internet post that perhaps Castro “is getting in shape for Twitter,” which restricts users to 140 characters.