Fidel Castro

John Paul Rathbone

2013 may well be the year that biology trumps ideology – if not in attitudes to global warming then in the increasing actuarial possibilities that both Fidel Castro and Hugo Chávez will soon die, writes JP Rathbone.  Read more

John Paul Rathbone

Che-mania may be facing the fate of so many brands that have reached consumer saturation: exhaustion, writes JP Rathbone. Read more

John Paul Rathbone

Cuba's one-time richest man, Julio Lobo, wearing a bow tie and guayabera. Havana c.1955

Cuba's one-time richest man, Julio Lobo, wearing a bow tie and guayabera. Havana c.1955

Fidel Castro may be old and infirm, but he hasn’t lost his ability to provoke and amuse. The Cuban caudillo’s latest sally is against Barack Obama and his plans to wear a guayabera – a tropical shirt that is Cuba’s official garment – during this weekend’s Summit of the Americas in Colombia. The irony is that the Communist-ruled island will not be represented at the meeting as it does not meet the democratic requirements of the Organisation of American States. Ecuador is skipping the meeting in protest.

“The curious thing, dear readers, is that Cuba is prohibited in that meeting; but the guayaberas, no. Who can stop laughing?” the 85-year old former president wrote in the latest of his rambling “Reflections”, which are published in Cuba’s official media.

The item has been picked up by several news wires. What none of them mention however (although it may be implicit) is that this time the joke is on Mr Castro. Read more

John Paul Rathbone

Every Sunday for the past eight years a group of elderly women – each wearing white and carrying a white gladiolus – has attended mass and then walked through the streets of Havana in silent protest at their husbands being held as political prisoners.

The Cuban government never quite figured out an internationally-acceptable way of handling the “Ladies in White”. So it let their quiet marches continue, even if they were routinely assailed by pro-government mobs who screamed insults in officially-sanctioned “Acts of Repudiation”. Last Friday, the Ladies in White’s leader, Laura Pollán Toledo, a 63-year old Spanish literature teacher, died in a public Cuban hospital of respiratory complications. The following Sunday, the march went on as usual. Read more

John Paul Rathbone

Amid so much uncertainty and change, it is cold comfort that at least some things remain the same: Fidel Castro is still alive. A long absence from the public eye had prompted rumours that the 85-year-old revolutionary icon might have died. But on Monday, the former Cuban president, who handed power over to his brother Raúl in 2008 because of ill health, published another of his Reflections.  Read more