For those of us in Miami (and in Cuba) who have waited decades for dictator emeritus Fidel Castro to disappear from our lives forever, a most unlikely cause for optimism has been provided by Castro himself.
Castro, who hardly is seen in public these days, has revealed that he is senile. Demented. Madder than King George III. And we know that those whom God wishes to destroy, he first makes mad.
He suddenly wants Cuba to be filled with two kinds of Asian trees. In Castro’s words, these two trees will become “inexhaustible sources of beef, eggs, and milk.” Additionally, he says one of the trees can yield silk strands that can be woven into cloth and provide well-paid employment “in the shade” for Cuban workers, “regardless of their age or gender.”
Although he had planned to rule Cuba for life, Castro reluctantly had to yield power to his brother Raul, who is 81, in 2008 after a serious illness that required major surgery six years ago.
Now the island’s potato crop — managed solely by the government — is one of the worst in many years. Potatoes are an essential staple in Cubans’ daily meals. Because of endemic shortages, a pound of potatoes currently sells in the black market, when available, for $1 — in a country where the average monthly wage is about $20.
The Cuban government also admits that national production of milk and meat is down almost 12 percent, and the island is having to import 80 percent of its food, at a cost of $1.7 billion per year.
Faced with such dire circumstances, Castro, almost 86, made a surprise announcement on Father’s Day, in a 51-word column called “Reflections of Comrade Fidel” mandatorily published in all official Cuban media. He triumphantly disclosed that he has single-handedly discovered a miracle cure for the food shortages and chronic underemployment of the last five decades. His solution consists of planting two trees that apparently he has just learned about, although they have been of use throughout the world for centuries.
Castro wants massive plantings of “Moringa Oleifera,” known in English variously as moringa, the “horseradish tree” and the “drumstick tree.” It is a fast-growing tree native to the foothills of the Himalayas in northern India that is popular in Africa, Asia, and Central and South America. It yields various edible parts rich in protein, calcium, potassium, magnesium, iron, and vitamins A and C that can be consumed by people and animals.
Castro also wants the nationwide planting of mulberry, a tree native to parts of tropical Asia whose leaves are the basic food of silkworms. This tree also produces a fruit and leaves that can be eaten by people, and its foliage can be used as feed for cattle, sheep and pigs.
Of course, nobody in Cuba would dare tell Castro, although he no longer holds any public office, that his bizarre pronouncements will not be published in the official press, meaning his delusional “Reflections” are there for all to see.
Now, like the fictional “General of the Universe” in his Colombian friend Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s 1975 novel, The Autumn of the Patriarch
, Castro is in the final ramblings of his long and complicated life. He has arrived “at the ignominious fiction of commanding without power, of being exalted without glory and of being obeyed without authority.”Angel Castillo, Jr., a former reporter and editor for The New York Times and The Miami Herald, practices employment law in Miami.