Fidel Castro Celebrates 85th Birthday — Having Avoided 638 CIA Assassination Attempts

August 16th, 2011 - by admin

The Associated Press & Rory Carroll / The Guardian – 2011-08-16 20:49:25

Fidel Castro Turns 85 Quietly
Associated Press

HAVANA (April 13,2011) — Fidel Castro marked his 85th birthday outside of the public spotlight Saturday, with little fanfare around the aging revolutionary icon who is rarely seen in public these days but still casts a long shadow over Cuban society.

There were no announced celebrations of Castro’s birthday, though the previous night two dozen musical acts from across Latin America held a concert in his honor.

“What we say in the songs of our invited artists will be little next to what he deserves,” Alfredo Vera, one of the organizers, said late Friday. “Congratulations, beloved and eternal comandante.”

The former president didn’t make it to his own birthday bash — hardly a surprise since he appears infrequently since he stepped down in 2006, at first temporarily, and then permanently in 2008, due an intestinal illness that he later said nearly killed him.

Nor did his younger brother and presidential successor Raul Castro attend. Instead, first Vice President Jose Ramon Machado Ventura, who also delivered the keynote address on Revolution Day July 26, was the highest ranking among several government officials in the presidential seats at Karl Marx Theater.

A gregarious public speaker as president, Castro is seen publicly these days in official still photographs and video footage, such as recent images showing him with Raul and a convalescing Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

Castro seemed unsteady on his feet when he made a surprise showing at a Communist Party Congress in April, walking to his seat with the help of an aide. It was at that same gathering that the party for the first time named a leadership council without him on it, as Fidel left his last official position.

Yet even in retirement, Castro has continued to be a player on the island. Raul has said he consults with his older brother, and some Cuba-watchers say his presence has acted as a brake on reforms that Raul is betting will save the island’s economy by loosening some state control.

“I think the issue is how long (Fidel) is going to linger on and how long he’s going to meddle in the government,” said Ann Louise Bardach, a longtime Cuba watcher and “Without Fidel: A Death Foretold in Miami, Havana and Washington.”

“As long as he is alive and he is compus mentis, he’s not going to change his thinking,” Bardach said. “He’s not going to have an epiphany about economic policy. He’s going to do what he always did, which is the preservation of the revolution at all costs.”

Castro has publicly backed Raul’s reforms, however, even though he expressed ideological dislike for similar openings while president.

In retirement, Castro has been a prolific writer of newspaper columns and a series of books, including autobiographical accounts of the events that led him to take power after the 1959 revolution.

“Nobody better than he understands the basic, primordial part of our history,” official biographer Katuska Blanco said in an interview aired Friday on state TV. “He also has always said that history is made by leaders and the people.”

Castro is currently on a hiatus from the opinion pieces, publishing just one column since late May, though it’s not unusual or unprecedented for his pen to go silent for extended periods.

Omara Portuondo, the Grammy-winning singer of Buena Vista Social Club fame, was the headliner for Friday night’s show, dubbed the “Serenade of Fidelity.”

But the real star was the absent Fidel, whose defiance of the United Sates continues to inspire leftist movements around the world.

“Tonight in Havana … we pay homage to the brother of humanity, our friend, the friend of all, comandante Fidel Castro, as he hits 85 years of fruitful life,” Vera said.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

Fidel Castro TV Series Charts 638 Assassination Attempts
Rory Carroll, Latin America Correspondent / The Guardian

LONDON (March 2010) — Illness has forced him from public view but Fidel Castro is back in Cuban living rooms via a lavish television series that celebrates his escape from 638 assassination plots.

The eight-part series, He Who Must Live is an extravagant departure from Cuban TV’s typically low-budget fare: more than 1,000 actors and extras are used in a mix of CSI-type fiction, docu-drama and archive material.

The interior ministry, institute of police sciences and state-sanctioned film-makers teamed up to tell the story of how the CIA spent decades trying to murder the US’s tropical communist foe.

“As a historical series we turn to a mix of genres to help us and give the viewers more information about the facts,” the director, before the first 70-minute installment aired last Sunday.

The prime time show, unprecedented in its glossiness, is to run over eight weeks, each episode focusing on a different period. It marks an unexpected starring role for a leader who relinquished power and vanished from public view four years ago after serious intestinal problems.

Dan Erikson, an analyst at the Inter-American Dialogue thinktank and author of The Cuba Wars, said: “Fidel Castro may be leaving the stage but it’s already clear that he has no plans to go quietly. By commissioning a major television series about how Fidel Castro outwitted and outlasted his foes in the United States over the past 50 years, the Cuban government is reviving one of its favourite story lines and burnishing the mythology that swirls around Cuba’s revolutionary leader.”

The series took three years, 243 actors, 800 extras and a possibly significant chunk of Cuban TV’s spartan filmmaking budget.

The inaugural programme focuses on efforts to kill Castro when he was a young revolutionary in Mexico in 1956 preparing to lead several dozen guerrillas on a mission to overthrow Cuba’s US-backed dictator, Fulgencio Batista.

Later instalments feature the CIA’s notorious and much derided efforts to kill the Soviet ally after his insurgency triumphed and he established a communist state 90 miles off Florida.

Some are well known: the exploding cigar, the ballpoint hypodermic syringe, the gift of a poisoned wetsuit. Others less so: a bacteria-infected hankie, an aerosol can filled with LSD.

Cuban security services counted 638 assassination plots by the CIA or their many proxies. A retired agent, Fabián Escalante, wrote about them in his book, 638 Ways to Kill Castro. His colleague, Xavier Solado, wrote a pamphlet of the same name. There was also a 2006 Channel 4 documentary of the same name.

Cuba’s TV series features actors playing Batista, the CIA director Allen Dulles and, it is thought, presidents Dwight Eisenhower, John Kennedy and Richard Nixon, who authorised the murder attempts. A thaw after Barack Obama’s election has ended with Washington and Havana trading insults but the US has forsworn killing Castro.

The series airs at a difficult time for the revolution. Raúl Castro has tinkered with the centrally planned economy he inherited from his big brother, but with little success. The state is struggling to pay international creditors and ordinary Cubans are suffering food shortages, electricity rationing and meagre wages.

“The gigantic paternalistic state can no longer be, because there is no longer any way to maintain it,” the economy minister, Marino Murillo, said in a recent video shown to communist party cadres, according to Reuters.

With gloom widespread, the TV series may not set pulses racing, said Erikson. “While some older Cubans may be intrigued by this trip down memory lane, the reappearance of Fidel as a telenovela star will likely prompt younger generations of Cubans to reach for their remote controls.”

(c) 2011 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.